Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority Order 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Graham Brady 

Binley, Mr Brian (Northampton South) (Con) 

Birtwistle, Gordon (Burnley) (LD) 

Clwyd, Ann (Cynon Valley) (Lab) 

Coffey, Dr Thérèse (Suffolk Coastal) (Con) 

Hammond, Stephen (Wimbledon) (Con) 

Hemming, John (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD) 

Keeley, Barbara (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab) 

Kirby, Simon (Brighton, Kemptown) (Con) 

McClymont, Gregg (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab) 

McDonnell, John (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab) 

Neill, Robert (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)  

Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con) 

Simpson, David (Upper Bann) (DUP) 

Skinner, Mr Dennis (Bolsover) (Lab) 

Stuart, Ms Gisela (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab) 

Weatherley, Mike (Hove) (Con) 

Wiggin, Bill (North Herefordshire) (Con) 

Winnick, Mr David (Walsall North) (Lab) 

Glenn McKee, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Third Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 14 March 2011  

[Mr Graham Brady in the Chair] 

Draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority Order 2011

4.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority Order 2011. 

May I say what a pleasure it is to see you in the Chair, Mr Brady? The order relates to a part of the world that will be more than familiar to you as a Greater Manchester Member of Parliament. 

The order will give effect to the joint desire of all the authorities in Greater Manchester to exercise the powers that are available under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 to establish a combined authority for the purpose of improving their joint working in relation to economic development, regeneration and transport. It is key to stress that the proposal is entirely voluntary and bottom-up. Local authorities of all three political parties support it, and in any event, there is a history of co-operation: for 20 years or so, there has been a voluntary partnership. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities carried out a governance review and, as a result, produced this proposal. 

There has been discussion about some of the details and terms, to ensure that all authorities are comfortable with the measure and that it is genuinely localist. The measure involves the authorities having competence concurrently with the joint authority, so the Government are satisfied that this is not a regionalising and centralising model, but that it is something of genuine collaboration. Considering that the order contains appropriate safeguards in relation to voting procedures and the future—if at any stage things need to change—the Government are happy to give effect to what is the local authorities’ desire. Unless hon. Members have any questions, I hope that, without further ado, the Committee will support the order. 

4.32 pm 

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. The Opposition support the order because it will lead to more effective governance and more effective services for the people of Greater Manchester—at least a couple of hon. Members here have an interest in that—across the strategic policy areas of economic development, regeneration and transport. Indeed, there is a conclusive case for re-stamping this the first combined authority, because Greater Manchester is a coherent economic area, as has been laid out by the Manchester Independent Economic Review. 

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Given that support—I shall not finish my speech straight away—I have a comment and a question for the Minister. If the Committee approves the draft order—that seems likely today—and it is approved in the other place, it will be of great potential benefit to transport services in Greater Manchester. As the Minister knows, under the Localism Bill, the 10 authorities in Manchester will have a general power of competence and planning, and the delivery of transport will benefit from the power of those authorities. The Minister will know that my contention is that the same should apply to other transport authorities, and I hope that Ministers are reflecting on that. 

That was the comment; this is the question. Under the Localism Bill, Manchester city council will be singled out to have its leader transformed into a shadow mayor and the Secretary of State will have the power to grant extra powers to that mayor in Manchester. Does the Minister realise that that effectively creates an anomaly? The order does not create an anomaly; the Localism Bill creates an anomaly over and above the order, with different powers for Manchester among the 10 authorities who will work together as equals in the new combined authority. 

4.33 pm 

Robert Neill:  I shall endeavour to answer the hon. Lady’s question as much in the spirit of the order as her point is. As she rightly says, the key bit is the creation of a mayor or otherwise—ultimately, that will be a matter of choice for the residents of Manchester—but that does not affect the combined authority itself because the authority’s powers are set out in the order. The representation of Manchester will not be changed, and the intention is that there should be one member per authority. That will normally be the leader, although it might be an elected mayor if there is an executive mayor. However, in each case, that will be a matter for the city to change. The measure does not, in fact, affect the authority’s competence. 

Our question was what the appropriate power of competence for a single-purpose authority would be. The hon. Lady served on the Committee that considered the Localism Bill, so she knows that we concluded that it was appropriate to grant what one might term the full-blown power of general competence to all-purpose authorities—to principal local authorities of one kind or another. However, with what are in effect single-purpose authorities—normally, fire and rescue authorities, although they could be police authorities—it may not be appropriate to grant the general power of competence. That applies here because this authority is the first of its kind. Read in a certain way, such a power could enable this authority to set up schools, for example, which would go beyond the purpose for which the authority is established. Therefore, we have limited its powers, just as we limited the powers of fire authorities. 

If there are future issues relating to such authorities and it is thought to be necessary to go further, the best thing would be to discuss that with the Department for Transport. Importantly, the constituent authorities are happy with the powers in the order, and it seems sensible to proceed on that basis. 

4.35 pm 

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD):  It is sad that we in Birmingham cannot find the same

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co-operation between the black country and Birmingham that there obviously is in Greater Manchester, where people have done well to get all the local authorities to work together. In Birmingham, we have managed that with all the authorities except those in the black country, which do not want to play. 

Integrated transport authorities have a representative system, whereby there is a balance of political parties. This system has a representative and an alternative. Was that requested by Greater Manchester Combined authority? Do the Government have a view? Will that issue be kept under review, given that this might not be an entirely pluralistic way to proceed? 

4.36 pm 

Robert Neill:  I am helpfully reminded about that by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, who served on the Committee that considered the 2009 Act—[ Interruption ] and who clearly remembers it vividly.

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The composition—one member per authority—is a requirement of that Act. It seems that the authorities in Greater Manchester are content with that arrangement, and in the current climate, this is not the vehicle with which to revisit that matter. As this authority is the first of its kind, there is scope to learn from experience. The power of general competence might suggest other vehicles that might be more appropriate in other parts of the country. 

4.37 pm 

Barbara Keeley:  I thank the Minister for his answers. I think that there are still some anomalies, and we will therefore have to have to keep an eye on things. I am happy, however, to support the order. 

Question put and agreed to.  

4.38 pm 

Committee rose.