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Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 9, line 41, leave out ("determined by the Secretary of State") and insert ("authorised by the Representation of the People Act 1983")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 54, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 55. The expenses of the first ordinary Greater London election

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for the mayor and the assembly will be borne by the Consolidated Fund because, as the assembly will not until afterwards exist, it will not have any money of its own.

In future the funding of ordinary and by-elections will follow the normal procedure for local elections. Clause 18, as drawn, is objectionable on two grounds. First, it leaves it to the Secretary of State to decide what may be spent. That is another example of the control that the Secretary of State is trying to exercise over the Greater London Authority which the Government claimed would be a truly independent organisation and a model of decentralisation.

    "Local government should be less constrained by central government" they proclaimed in their manifesto.

We have a simple, tried and tested, universally accepted method for working out what election expenses are permissible both for candidates and officials. Why change it? Why give this additional power to the Secretary of State? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

There is another element of uncertainty. Clause 18(2) states that the returning officer may not recover more than the maximum amount authorised by the Secretary of State and even then only for the purposes determined by him under Clause 18(1)(b). How will the returning officer know what these two undetermined items will be unless the Secretary of State announces them in advance of the commencement of the election process before the very first day?

The Bill imposes no obligation on the Secretary of State to do that. Once again, use of the established statutory procedure and guidelines would resolve that problem. I believe that in this case we should simply let the Act say that the existing laws of England apply to the election. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am afraid I am still rather unclear as to the intended purpose of the amendments. On the face of it, they seek to remove from the Secretary of State the ability to determine the categories of expenditure which returning officers may seek to recover in respect of the first ordinary elections, and instead to specify that recoverable expenditure should be only that expressly authorised by the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Returning officers' recoverable expenses are specified either in respect of parliamentary elections, in an order made by the Secretary of State under Section 29(3) of the 1983 Act, or at local elections by the responsible council by virtue of Section 36 of that Act.

The amendments could not apply the provisions described in the orders made under Section 29(3) to the authority because the order-making power relates only to parliamentary elections. However, the clause as presently drafted confers similar power on the Secretary of State in respect of the first ordinary elections as that described at Section 29(3).

The power at Section 36 of the 1983 Act provides that a returning officer at a local election is entitled to recover all his expenses which are properly incurred, subject only to any scale which the relevant council may

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have set. As the scales are not specified in the 1983 Act, these amendments would, as they stand, have nothing on which to bite.

I stress that Clause 18 relates only to expenditure in respect of the first ordinary elections which will be organised centrally and paid for out of the Consolidated Fund. Since authority elections will be treated as local government elections for the purposes of the RPA, in future years the cost of those elections will be met from the authority's budget and the provisions of Section 36 RPA will apply. I therefore feel that it is reasonable to ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I am not certain how reasonable or otherwise it is to ask me to withdraw the amendment. However, I shall certainly read carefully what the Minister said. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Clause 19 [Qualification to be the Mayor or an Assembly member.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 56.

Page 10, line 29, leave out ("21") and insert ("18")

The noble Baroness said: I rise to speak to the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. For several years now there has been support cross-party for reducing the age at which people can stand for election from 21 to 18. At one time or another, each party seems to have supported the idea and yet successive governments have totally failed at every opportunity to introduce it. It is a matter of great regret to me that the Local Government Bill, going through this House at present, does not seem to be addressing the matter either.

As was said earlier, this Bill seeks a different type of assembly and gives us an opportunity to offer young people the chance to become candidates at the age of 18. It is extraordinary that we leave young people in such limbo. To a large extent, at 16 they become adults. Lots of the benefits of being a child are removed from them and lots of the responsibilities of being young adults are placed upon them. However, many of us probably feel that 18 is a reasonable age to accept that they reach majority. But, having reached that majority when they are expected to support themselves, to go out and get a job, when they can marry and be responsible for raising children, for deciding where to send those children to school and so forth, they are still not allowed to represent their own peer group.

The assembly is expected to a take a long-term view, otherwise there would not be much point in it. The London boroughs can do most of the short-term work, though they take a long-term view in some things. But the assembly is expected to take a much longer-term view; it will prepare strategies for the long term. We

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only need to look at some of the subjects it will be addressing to see that the long-term effect is what will count; for instance, health, biodiversity, transport and so forth. And those who need a voice on that assembly, among others, are those who in 10 years' time can be expected to have children; those who in 20 years' time will have the families using the cycle routes, the transport and the sports and cultural facilities; and those who expect to have grandchildren in 30 or 40 years' time. That is a long-term view.

It might be said that three years does not make a big difference. But it does, in two ways. First, the candidate's birthday would need to fall in the right place. It may be that he or she would be 24 before being able to stand for the assembly because the elections took place just before their 21st birthday. Secondly, it sends out the regrettable message that we are not interested in hearing the voice of young people and it is a sop to say that we are only interested in hearing them in a consultative capacity.

If we believe young people are adult at 18--and in law they are--we should be willing to accept them as candidates at 18. It is no surprise to learn that the turnout of young people at every election is so poor. They cannot vote for one of their peers; they do not hear their voice in any council chamber in the land. It would be of enormous regret if once again in this assembly their voice is not heard as of right. London is a Mecca for young people; it offers them a huge amount. It also presents enormous problems for them. There are likely to be only one or two people in an assembly of this size who will truly be regarded as young. Given the tone that they could bring to the assembly, their long-term view and the fact that they understand what it is to be young in a way that those of us who are 30, 40 or 50 cannot, it is extremely important that the Government take this opportunity to reduce the age of candidates to 18. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: We do not support the amendment. The minimum age for a Member of Parliament is 21, and we think that it should be left at that. We are not talking about someone being a local councillor. The Minister and the Front Bench of the Liberal Democrats said that the reason they did not wish to accept our amendment proposing a member from each borough making up the assembly was because people should not decide matters from a parochial point of view but from a strategic point of view. The constituencies, whether of London members or constituency members, are extremely large, and there is a responsibility to represent a large number of people and to take a strategic view. We feel that the age of 18 is too young for that important role.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The issue of lowering the age at which one can stand for a position raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, was debated in another place. On that occasion the Minister for Transport in London made clear that the Government have an open mind on this issue. The Minister re-stated the Government's position that there is a difference in terms of capacity and suitability

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between what is required to be a voter and what is required to be a representative, and that the case for a reduction of the age at which a person can stand for election has not been fully made.

The Home Office working party on electoral procedures chaired by George Howarth, the Minister responsible for such matters, is reviewing a wide range of electoral practices. This issue properly falls to that working party. It would be inappropriate to legislate in the Bill on the age at which a person may stand for election. Electoral law should be consistent across the board.

The Committee will note that the working party was adjourned until the local Scottish, Welsh and European elections were completed, and it is unlikely to have the opportunity to meet for more than one or two sessions before the Summer Recess. It is doubtful, therefore, that the working party will be in a position to take up this issue in the current Session. However, as I have stressed, the Government do not have a closed mind on this point, and I am sure that my Home Office colleague will listen carefully to any representations which the noble Baroness may wish to make to that working party. In those circumstances, I hope that she will withdraw the amendment.

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