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Greater London Authority White Paper

6.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, with the permission of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister in another place.

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    "The mayor will directly control two powerful new organisations responsible for transport and economic development in London, will control large resources--currently more than £3 billion--and will be a powerful voice for London at home and abroad.

    "To balance the powers of the mayor, there will be a new type of council and a different role for its members. The new assembly will think and plan strategically for the benefit of all Londoners. It will examine and test the mayor's policies and performance. It will be able to approve or amend the mayor's budget. The assembly will also have a wider role; it will have wide ranging powers to investigate issues on behalf of Londoners.

    "We believe this new form of London government demands a new type of voting system, tailor made for London. We want the mayor to have a clear mandate. With an electorate of over 5 million and a potentially long list of candidates, we must have a system which ensures that the mayor has the backing of the largest number of people possible. We believe that the supplementary vote system--known as SV--for the election of the mayor will achieve this. This allows voters to mark their first and second choices of candidate, and will therefore give the mayor a strong mandate to implement his or her manifesto.

    "The assembly will have a different role and the way it is elected will need to reflect that difference. It needs to ensure a direct link with local constituencies and also broad representation of all Londoners. We believe the system must also enable women and members of ethnic minority groups to be more fairly represented.

    "The assembly will therefore be elected by a system similar to the one being used for the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly--the additional member system. This means that 14 of the assembly's members will be directly elected from 14 constituencies (by first-past-the-post) and 11 others will be drawn from London-wide lists to reflect the proportion of votes the parties receive.

    "The GLA will have eight significant areas of responsibility. It will develop and manage an integrated transport system; create jobs and promote economic regeneration; tackle crime; ensure Londoners have adequate fire and emergency services; improve London's environment; devise a strategy for land use planning; promote London's arts, sport and tourism; and improve the health and quality of life of Londoners. Each of these has an impact on the others, so it will be essential for the mayor to tackle London's problems in an integrated and sustainable way.

    "A number of important organisations under the mayor's control will assist in this task. We will create a new London development agency which will implement the mayor's economic and regeneration strategy. It will have powers to attract new investment, create jobs and tackle the problems of rundown areas. It will be one of nine similar regional development agencies we are creating across the English regions. It will be responsible to the mayor

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    and not to the Secretary of State. As the first democratically accountable development agency, it will be a trailblazer for the other regional development agencies.

    "An efficient, integrated transport system is essential for the health and prosperity of the capital. Transport for London will be responsible for the Underground, London buses, taxis, most main roads, river transport and the Docklands Light Railway. It will also have a say in how other commuter railways are run. The mayor will appoint the chair and board, and will set its budget and be responsible for its strategies and performance.

    "I have already set out our proposals for an accountable police authority. We want to ensure that in tackling crime we bring together all those London organisations who have a part to play.

    "Londoners have confirmed that they would expect the mayor to oversee the fire service. The mayor will therefore appoint assembly members and London borough councillors to a new fire and emergency planning authority.

    "The state of London's environment is an important element in its competitiveness and crucial to the quality of life and health of those who live in, work in and visit London. The mayor will have substantial new powers and responsibilities, working with the boroughs and others, to improve air quality, tackle noise and London's growing waste problem and improve the quality of life of Londoners in other ways. This will contribute to improving the health of Londoners and encourage tourism and inward investment.

    "Matching economic regeneration, social, and environmental needs will require the best use of the resources available. The mayor will be responsible for drawing up strategic planning guidance. Boroughs will continue as local planning authorities but their development plans will have to conform with the mayor's strategy.

    "Culture, tourism and media and the related leisure services are the second biggest component of London's economy--currently totalling £9 billion. London's culture acts as a magnet to visitors both nationally and internationally. It is essential that the quality and diversity of the capital's cultural achievements is maintained and improved.

    "A new forum will be established by the mayor, which will include existing cross-London cultural and sports organisations. It will play a major part in developing the mayor's strategy; and government funding for tourism in London will be channelled through the mayor.

    "Madam Speaker, you will understand from what I have said that we are creating new and radical institutions to give London the means to solve its problems and maximise its potential. We will also require new ways of working to ensure that the GLA is genuinely accountable to the community it is elected to serve. The GLA will be an open, accessible authority. The assembly will meet regularly and in public. The mayor will have to notify the assembly of

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    all major decisions and give reasons. Each month, there will be a "question time" where the assembly questions the mayor and senior officials. Twice a year, there will be a "people's question time", where the mayor and assembly can be questioned in public and by the public. And every year, the mayor will deliver a "State of London" address, which will be debated in an open, public forum. This is just the starting point. We expect the GLA to develop other imaginative ways to consult and to involve people in its decisions.

    "Our aim is also to simplify the structure of governance in London. A number of organisations will be absorbed wholly or in part by the GLA. This will mean change, but we will work closely with the affected organisations. I would like to reassure staff that transfers will be within the public sector and will be on existing terms and conditions. We will be looking at the pension arrangements, with the view to ensuring that the GLA offers broadly comparable arrangements within the public sector.

    "The financing of the GLA will come from a range of sources. The GLA will inherit existing funding for the services it provides for Londoners. The grant, council tax, business rates and credit approvals currently amount to some £3.3 billion. The mayor will decide how this money is spent. The assembly will approve the mayor's budget and there will be safeguards to protect service standards. The greater part of the authority's funds will be spent on transport, economic development, policing and fire services. The mayor, assembly and their small staff will cost about £20 million a year, less than 1 per cent. of its budget.

    "The Government will also spend up to £20 million in preparation for the GLA, including providing its headquarters.

    "These are exciting and radical proposals which I am proud to present to the House. They are a significant part of the Government's programme of constitutional reform. They correct one of the previous government's most foolish, undemocratic and reckless acts. They secure the role of the boroughs. They place responsibility for taking decisions at the right level. London will have an elected mayor for the first time in British history. Above all, these proposals provide a choice and a voice for London and return government to the people of London."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

6.49 p.m.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and, indeed, for the publication of this White Paper within the time limits which we were promised when we discussed the referendum for London Bill. The White Paper is a long document and it gives rise to a number of questions. I say to the Government that questions do not necessarily mean hostility, and I hope that the Benches opposite will accept that. Furthermore,

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the fact that we may not raise particular questions this afternoon does not mean necessarily that everything in the White Paper is accepted.

The structures proposed are unique, at least for the present. Since they may represent a system of government for some 7 million people, we should be quite clear about what we are creating. Therefore, I hope the Minister can say whether the proposals are for the provision of regional government for Greater London, or does she see it as the restoration of an upper tier of local government? Certainly the proposals for the regional development agency for London and its relationship with the authority are remarkably similar to the possible relationships which regional development agencies elsewhere would have with the regional chambers, if those were established.

On the other hand, the White Paper emphasises in a number of paragraphs that the authority is to be a local authority for certain purposes. If the Minister does not see it as regional government, perhaps she could tell the House whether she envisages, in the event of matters moving on and regional government being established in the rest of the country, a further structure to add to those which are already being created and imposed in London.

Perhaps the Minister will tell us also what consultation there will be with existing local government in London in relation to the powers proposed for the authority. The Government have said repeatedly that they do not want to take away powers from the London boroughs. But the White Paper speaks of many matters which are currently within the boroughs' areas of responsibility. To save the time of the House, I merely refer the Minister to paragraph 3.11 of the White Paper. Is it not the case that the White Paper's proposals, in so far as they relate to roads, represent a massive shift of responsibility away from the boroughs to the new authority and the restoration of the old position as under the former GLC, including, it seems to me, a loss to the boroughs of their transport policy programmes?

I do not know whether it is the intention that there should be parallel or dual roles in all those matters. But no doubt the Minister is aware that that was at the root of many of the problems which arose under the previous arrangements between the GLC and the London boroughs. It was particularly so with regard to development control. Therefore, I must say to the House that I believe that the proposal to allow the mayor a role in development control is extraordinarily unwelcome. The power to direct a refusal is a return to the old days of the GLC and its dual role in planning, which caused much concern to business in the capital and resulted in much lost time and lost opportunity costs.

Central to those proposals is the balance of power between the mayor and the assembly. Does the Minister believe that the proposals will create a strong mayor or a strong assembly? It is not good enough to say that we are creating a system of checks and balances. The Green Paper spoke of mechanisms to resolve conflict between the mayor and the assembly. What are those? Where does the real power lie? Who has the last word?

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In paragraph 1.15, the White Paper refers to the assembly's prime duty to hold the mayor to account, and its scrutinising role of all the mayor's activities and the two new authorities responsible for transport and economic development; and it refers to its key role in setting the budget, which it can either agree or reject. I wonder how that squares with the description of the mayor as a powerful figure needing considerable powers, as set out in the Statement. If the mayor is to be the powerful leader described, how will he deliver in the event of that conflict? If all the decisions of the mayor can be overridden by the assembly, how will the mayor achieve the aspirations which have been expressed for the office?

How is the assembly to be funded? I thought that for something of that importance the Statement was remarkably short on the detail. It appears from the White Paper that, like its predecessors, it is to be a precepting authority, although the leaflet to be circulated to the public talks somewhat coyly of the public being asked to make perhaps a 3p. contribution at Band E council tax level.

Apparently the capping regime is to apply to the new authority. Indeed, to revert to my first question, do all the provisions relating to a local authority and its finance apply to the Greater London Authority? Does the estimate of 250 staff in the White Paper include the staff to be taken over from the London Planning Advisory Committee and other bodies?

The Statement made an early and unequivocal reference to the devolution of central government powers. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what powers the Government Office for London is going to give to the Greater London Authority and what are the specific functions of central government that are being given to the mayor and the authority?

Furthermore, perhaps we can be told how much money is likely to be transferred from the boroughs to the new authorities. If virtually no functions are to be transferred from existing authorities, which has been the promise, how will they cope with any loss of funds if that is not accompanied also by a reduction in their obligations?

The proposals for the police authority for London mark a significant constitutional change in the position of the Metropolitan Police. I ask the Minister to assure the House as to how the national responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police will be met and looked after and how its funding will be protected.

Lastly, the method of election of both mayor and assembly will need careful consideration. I regret very much the absence of any direct link with the towns and cities of Greater London in these proposals. Does the Minister not agree that there is a great danger that their voice will not be heard in the assembly? Does she not agree that the directly elected members will have constituencies of some 0.5 million by population and that it will be extremely difficult for them to be represented in what is, in the view of some, a local authority because it is extremely difficult to represent constituencies of that size?

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It seems to me that the assembly should have been constituted as we tried to achieve when the referendum Bill went through; that is, 33 representatives, one from each borough to ensure that the local voice is heard. The proposal before us seems to be a deliberate attempt to obscure and defeat the legitimate interests which the towns and cities of Greater London have in the capital. To suggest that that has been done to ensure a non-parochial view is somewhat demeaning and, if translated into parliamentary terms, would suggest that no national view could be taken in the other place because of the danger of local constituency interest prevailing. That is an element which I believe to be thoroughly bad and will create an atmosphere of detachment on the part of the assembly and seriously weaken democratic accountability.

Inevitably, there are important questions which remain unanswered and will not be answered until the Bill is published. We, from these Benches, said that that would be the case and it is so. The White Paper is a welcome contribution to the debate, but it makes quite clear that there is a lot of further work to be done. Therefore, the referendum will go ahead, with the Government pressing for a yes vote but with an incomplete case for the people of London. In that respect, it is a poor start to what was supposed to be a new deal for London.

6.58 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. On these Benches, we welcome all progress towards democracy and an effective strategic authority. But I agree very much with the comments that the organisations mentioned by the Minister simply cannot fill that gap. I simply add to the list the indirectly elected committees which have been struggling with London-wide issues over the past few years.

We too have many reservations, but I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, that the questions do not necessarily indicate hostility. The greatest of my reservations is the degree of centralisation both in the role of the mayor as compared with the members of the assembly and, indeed, in the control of the mayor by central government. The level of prescription which I read in the White Paper indicates what I believe is a sad lack of confidence on the part of the Government. Terms such as "diversity", "plurality" and "partnership" are very much the language of government these days, but they require a letting go by central government which I do not see in these proposals.

There is inevitably much interest in the amount of financial discretion or, as it appears, constraint, on the authority. I heard the Minister for London say on a radio broadcast this morning that the mayor's ability to get things done was not to be the ability to tax and spend. I agree that those things are not the same; but nor are they unrelated. I note the ceiling on expenditure--continued capping by central government of local government--and also the floor to expenditure. I hope that the Minister will give us any other example that there may be of a floor to spending by local or regional

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government. Indeed, we discussed the matter privately before the noble Baroness repeated the Statement, and I can assure her that I spell the word "floor" as floor.

If the floor is to ensure a minimum standard of service, why is there a concentration on the process rather than on the outcome; in other words, why are there not to be obligations about the level of service rather than on the amounts of money to be spent? Indeed, are there to be any fund-raising powers which will be free of central government control? Will there be any guarantee that the funding for the new authority will not result in a loss of money to the boroughs, other than a direct transfer of funding which relates to functions which will be transferred such as those of the London Planning Advisory Committee? I couple that with the comment that we on these Benches want to see powers taken from central government and not brought up from local government. Further, with regard to business rates, can the Minister say whether the authority will have an obligation to consult businesses in the same way as boroughs do at present?

I note from the White Paper that there is to be a precepting power in respect of the Metropolitan Police. Of course, that organisation operates outside London. Therefore, perhaps the Minister will confirm that people in Hertfordshire, for example, will be taxed but without representation. If that is the case, does that not suggest that the issue of coterminosity of the Metropolitan Police with London deserves further review, if not in the context of this Bill, then, at any rate, at some time in the near future?

For me, the Government's approach is in part encapsulated in the line to be found both in the leaflet and in the White Paper, which says that the,

    "Mayor and the Assembly would have very different roles and responsibilities";

In other words, and as the Statement makes clear, these proposals are not so much one whole with constituent parts, but rather two different operations. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that members of the assembly will not have any policy-making powers. I shall take one example which concerns me, although it is perhaps not a headline point. The mayor alone is to have responsibility for strategic planning guidance. I have to express my concern that, unless the mayor is very imaginative as regards the way in which the boroughs are to be involved, such a top-down approach could lead to many difficulties.

I believe that I am correct is saying that the role of assembly members will be more that of a scrutiny committee, comparable to a Select Committee. Indeed, I have concerns about what effective mechanisms there would be to hold the mayor to account. I recognise that my approach is quite distinct from that of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, who was more concerned about freedom for the mayor, away from the constraints of assembly members.

As has been mentioned, the members of the assembly will be elected by an additional member system with a closed list. Can the Minister say how that will achieve greater representation of women and ethnic minorities,

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as predicted by the White Paper? That leaves aside, of course, the fact that, when creating the lists, the parties may attend to such issues as, indeed, I hope they will.

Can the Minister confirm that the wording of the Statement, of the White Paper and, more importantly perhaps, of the leaflet is not quite correct as regards the ability to vote in the referendum and in local borough elections? The wording refers to the fact that people must live in one of the 32 boroughs, or in the City of London, and be on the electoral register. Perhaps the noble Baroness can confirm that the wording should read that people must have been living in London on the qualifying date in October.

I appreciate that my questions indicate a degree of disappointment, but that is in the context of welcoming strategic government for London and hoping to see some changes made in the course of the passage of the legislation.

I have a distaste for personality politics. Indeed, I must admit to being somewhat old-fashioned in that respect. I noted the comment on the "Today" radio programme this morning, in a feature on the mayoralty of Barcelona, that there is, as a Spanish woman said,

    "a lot of posing for photographs".

There will, of course, be much posing for photographs between now and the elections and no doubt afterwards. It is not for that reason--or, at any rate, not for that reason alone--that we urge the Government, when considering the possible dates for the elections of the mayor and the members of the assembly, to decide that it really would be better to have them in the autumn of next year and not in the year 2000. That would enable the shadow authority to prepare for the work when it comes into full effect. Indeed, it would mean that the authority would be putting into effect work which it, the mayor, and the assembly had started and would not be any more dependent than is absolutely necessary on arrangements made by central government before it comes into effect in March 2000.

7.6 p.m.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to both speakers who have contributed for their eschewing of hostility in terms of their welcome for the Statement, although I have to say that the parting shot of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, did not sound particularly welcoming as regards the denigration of the start that has been made. I do not believe that it is a poor start; indeed, I believe that it is a very impressive start. It is about a programme of decentralisation of power from Whitehall and Westminster to where it more appropriately lies. Moreover, as has been made very clear, it is not about sucking up powers from the boroughs.

The overwhelming majority of powers will remain at borough level. It is important to bear that factor in mind when considering the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, about the geographical link of assembly members with boroughs. Constituencies for the assembly will contain two or three boroughs. I take the noble Lord's point that they are larger than the

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conventional parliamentary constituency or borough electorate. However, I believe it is important to note that assembly members are not there to usurp the role of local government and local councillors or of constituency Members of Parliament. They are there to ensure a proper geographical balance within the assembly, but a balance also, under the additional member system, reflecting overall the views of Londoners. They have a strategic role, and they have to look city wide.

That brings me to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, raised about whether this is regional or local government. London is unique and this is a unique system, tailor made to our capital city. It has elements of local government and local governance and that is completely understandable. But when one looks at a body like the proposed London development agency, it is absolutely appropriate, for democratic accountability, that it should go to the city-wide strategic authority, comprising the mayor and the assembly, which we are creating. It is unique and provides for democratic accountability at a local level, if I may use that term in a non-technical sense. I hope that answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, about powers being devolved from central government. Powers will be devolved from the Government Office for London.

The noble Lord had concerns about planning. At the moment the planning guidance for London is drawn up by the Government Office for London on behalf of the Secretary of State. That will now be carried out by the mayor at the proper and appropriate level. That is an example of power being devolved to the appropriate level. Other regional development agencies will initially be responsible to the Secretary of State in Whitehall. However, the London Development Agency will be responsible to the mayor and not to the Secretary of State.

The noble Lord was concerned about the strategic routes that would no longer be the responsibility of the boroughs. However, 95 per cent. of roads will remain the responsibility of the boroughs. There is also the question of the strategic roads which at the moment are the responsibility of the Secretary of State through the Highways Agency and which will be transferred to the Greater London Authority.

At the moment the police are accountable to the Home Secretary at national level. However, in future they will be accountable to a city-wide form of governance. These are clear examples of decentralisation. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the Police Authority. I reassure her that we do not have plans to change the boundaries and make coterminous the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Greater London Authority. However, we wish to ensure that those people outside the boundary who are within the Metropolitan Police area are represented. We shall ensure that there is democratic representation on the Police Authority for those people who are part of the Metropolitan Police area but not within the GLA area.

Questions were asked about who would be the stronger in terms of power, the assembly or the mayor. I believe that reflects a misunderstanding of what is

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implicit in checks and balances. We need both the mayor and the assembly to be strong in order to have balance. However, they need to be strong in different ways and they need to have clear differences of function. In that way we shall not set up conflicts but we shall ensure that they work in partnership. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about that. The powers of the assembly are not simply powers of scrutiny, important though those are. The assembly members will have powers as members of all the authorities to which I have referred. I refer to the Police Authority, the development agency and transport for London. There is also the extremely important power to approve or to amend the budget. Without being cynical I think all of us know that how the money is spent will reflect priorities that are established. The power with regard to the budget will be a crucial one for the assembly.

It is important that the mayor and the assembly co-operate. But the position should not be too cosy. It is important that the assembly fulfils its role of scrutinising the performance of the mayor. We believe that it can do that. It is important that the Greater London Authority should co-operate with the boroughs when they are fulfilling the functions which are properly theirs and should ensure that those functions are carried out in a way that benefits Londoners both as regards their local London situation and as regards their position as citizens of the capital. I reassure those who have anxieties in this regard that the boroughs will retain day-to-day development control in their areas. They will have control over local issues, but as regards the strategic planning responsibilities of the mayor it is appropriate that he should have a role to play with regard to developments that have strategic implications.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that it is important that the mayor has the ability to get things done. It is also important that we manage finances prudently throughout the governance of this country, at whatever level. That is the reason for the upper limitations. However, the mayor will have a substantial budget under his or her control. He or she will be able to be flexible. The noble Baroness asked about the floor for service provision. It is important that we recognise that where government grants are given for specific purposes they should be used for those purposes. We have to strike a balance between the flexibility that the mayor needs to reflect priorities and the funding that is provided for specific purposes, such as funding for emergency fire cover and for the police service. I shall try to find a precedent and write to the noble Baroness. If I have not covered all the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, I shall also write to him.

7.16 p.m.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone: My Lords, I also thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Is she aware that I regard this as one of the better Statements that have been made here in the past 17 years? Nevertheless a number of questions need to be asked, as already outlined by my noble friend Lord Bowness. I have two questions. As regards paragraph 2.22, why is the cost of the mayor, the assembly and their staff to be met by central government and not from the budget

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of the mayor? As regards paragraph 4.31, is the appointment of the 11 London-wide members by the political parties intended to be a new variant of the old aldermanic system in order to bring in people of specialist knowledge who will not face the polls?

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