Examination of Witness (Questions 440
THURSDAY 1 JULY 1999
440. I would like to hear from Ms Osbourne.
(Ms Osbourne) As a young black person
in Lewisham when I was elected to be on the panel I felt quite
honoured because 20 years ago I would not have had a telephone
call from the authority unless I owed them money or something
441. I get them!
(Ms Osbourne) For me to be involved in
consultation with what is going to happen in the future is very
important and it can only be a way forward.
(Ms Ryan) I think if central government made the same
effort to listen to the people we would not have a problem with
442. I wanted to come back on something which
was said earlier on about the power of parties in making decisions
behind closed doors, that being a concern that came up in the
conference of the way that Lewisham worked up until May. You also
said that scrutiny is going to be very important for this new
system to work successfully. I was wondering whether or not there
was any discussion about whether or not those councillors who
are elected to be on the scrutiny committees should not be subject
to the same rules that parties have to make them follow an agreed
line that was agreed in private before they turn up for the public
meeting, whether or not whipping should be brought to an end or
at least be brought into the public?
(Ms Ryan) I do not think we talked about
that one explicitly, but we will go home and have a word with
443. I would be interested to hear Lewisham
Panel's view on that, if they are able to discuss it and give
us a view.
(Ms Clarke) I do not think it was discussed.
I am sure you will appreciate that with this new structure coming
into place a lot of these issues are currently being worked through
and the relationships between the assembly and the cabinet.
Lord Bassam of Brighton
444. So there is not an assumption that the
party discipline system will operate within the scrutiny process,
there is no given that that is going to happen?
(Ms Clarke) No. I think it is currently
under quite a lot of discussion.
445. Some of the issues you have raised clearly
are not being addressed within the Bill. Would you accept that
some of the things do need to be looked at, perhaps on the question
of election method, without getting into arguments on PR and all
that, the fact that this would not necessarily solve that particular
problem within the confines of the Bill? You view the scrutiny
committee as important and see that it has an important role.
Having looked at the Bill and you have said you studied the Bill,
do you think it goes sufficiently far in that because it does
not lay down that the scrutiny committee should be not whipped?
I got the impression that you believe the scrutiny committee should
be objectively there to challenge what the cabinet committee or
whatever else is doing and if it has not got that neutrality it
is not doing what you would want it to do.
(Ms Ryan) Exactly. I do not think the
Bill does go far enough in that. I think politicians will always
be scared of somebody seeing their dirty linen.
446. Fine. If you were the Minister drawing
up the Billand you could end up the Mayor of Lewisham,
I do not know and I have to say that my daughter lives in Lewisham
and she is a member of the Labour Party, she lives in Forest Hillwhat
would you want to put in the Bill that is not in there and should
be in there to improve it?
(Ms Ryan) Definitely the issue of making
sure that the scrutiny committees are independent, they do not
have to be dictated to.
447. It defeats the object if it is whipped.
(Ms Ryan) Yes. They would just be a sham.
Sir Paul Beresford
448. How realistic do you think that would be
if any of the councillors belonged to a political party? How realistically
could that be achieved bearing in mind the selection procedures
and so on?
(Ms Ryan) I am just all for changing
the whole political structure!
449. How different were the findings at the
end of the seminar from the poll that you took beforehand? Had
it changed people's mind very much?
(Ms Ryan) We were not polled, as in voting,
at the beginning.
450. But you had a poll.
(Ms Clarke) What I was saying about the
poll was we also did a random survey of 1,000 residents, but that
was separate to this process.
451. Was it significantly different?
(Ms Clarke) The poll of 1,000 residents
found 58 per cent in favour of a directly elected mayor. All they
had was a very short introductory paragraph saying, "This
is how the council is now and this is what we are thinking about.
Are you in favour of a directly elected mayor?" 58 per cent
said yes. These are 75 panel members not necessarily representative
of the population as a whole, but nevertheless people had been
through quite a thorough process of information and discussion.
When we voted at the end of the community workshop the results
were that it was 64 per cent in favour of one of the directly
elected mayor models. Of that 64, 11 per cent were in favour of
the mayor and council manager model.
Chairman: Can I thank you all for coming to
the Committee. Thank you for your presentation and your answers.
We are adjourned until Tuesday at four o'clock.