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Lord Dixon-Smith: I should not like to let this occasion pass without drawing the attention of the Committee to the significance of Clause 25. This situation is unprecedented in the law of this country. We are ruled by law, and even the Government cannot act outwith the law. If the Government want to do something that is not permissible within existing law, they must pass a law to provide the relevant authority.
That is the distinction that we are making in the Bill by giving the Greater London Authority a general power. A general power is not limited, and that is why Amendment No. 70 is on the Marshalled List. It would require additional amendments to the Bill. We have not yet been able to work our way through that.
The previous government, dare one say, on occasions found themselves susceptible to the limits of the law. They did not have a general power. I support the idea of a general power, but I am concerned that this power is so open and so limitless that it might create problems for the future. I should not like the Committee to pass by these few simple words without being aware of the full implications.
Lord Whitty: There has been a wide-ranging attack on this provision. I think that noble Lords opposite are exaggerating the import of this matter and that they are revealing a degree of schizophrenia in their approach by saying that they do not want to give the authority wide-ranging powers, and yet they are objecting to the constraints that the Secretary of State's guidance or intervention powers might place on it.
The provisions of Clause 26 explicitly prevent the mayor intruding into areas which are the statutory responsibility of other authorities and bodies. The GLA cannot incur expenditure in directly providing housing, education, health or social services. The guidance that the Secretary of State will provide about the use of the general power, under the provisions of Clause 25(7), will make it absolutely clear that the GLA should not use the general power to provide services where these are provided by other authorities or public bodies. Should it seek to do so, the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers in Clause 26(7) to add to the list of services in relation to which the GLA is prohibited from incurring expenditure. The Opposition object to those powers of the Secretary of State to curtail any abuse.
I do not think it sensible, therefore, to delete this general power. Indeed, it goes to the heart of the Bill and what the GLA can do. We want it to be able to exert the powers contained in the Bill and to co-operate with authorities in co-ordinating or facilitating the provision of services at a strategic level, which would conform to its general purpose.
Amendment No.71 would place too great a restriction on the mayor's freedom to act, although I accept the intent behind it, which is to ensure that the mayor acts in co-operation with the London boroughs and the City of London as far as possible in pursuit of the authority's purposes. Their interests should be common, and the successful achievement of the GLA's purposes will often rely on co-operation with the boroughs. Even in a situation where he or she chooses to do so, the mayor cannot ignore the boroughs or the Common Council of the City.
Before the mayor can exert the general power of the authorities, he or she must consult the boroughs or Common Council where their interests are affected. In preparing or revising any strategy, the mayor must consult. There will therefore be every opportunity for the boroughs to make their views known, and the mayor must act reasonably in the knowledge of those views. That does not give the London boroughs or the City a veto. The mayor's actions cannot be proscribed by being made subject to the agreement and co-operation of the boroughs. There may be occasions when the mayor wants to do something which he or she thinks will further one of the principal purposes of the authority, but is unable to secure the co-operation of one or some of the boroughs whose interests are affected. In those circumstances, the mayor must be free to act. This matter is therefore subject to very substantial consultation. There are substantial areas of co-operation laid down in the Bill, but there is no veto by the
An interesting aspect of the opening speech by the noble Baroness was the statement that she wishes to delete from the Bill the provision on social development. It was almost as interesting as her attempt to interfere in the internal workings of the Labour Party at one time. In the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Archer, I shall not attempt to reciprocate!
It is essential that the authority engages in strategies which further the social development of London. Those strategies would include elimination of poverty and tackling the problems of social exclusion and discrimination against the disabled. We shall address those issues more widely in the subsequent debate. The idea that the Conservative Party wishes to delete any reference to "social development" within the powers of the Greater London Authority seems to me very revealing. It is not an idea I intend to follow. To substitute "quality of life" as an option is fairly wide-ranging. "Social development" needs to be part of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 appear to be mutually contradictory. One seeks to delete subsection (3). The other amends it unnecessarily. The purpose of subsection (3) is to ensure that when the mayor exercises his general power in pursuit of one of the principal purposes he does not lose sight of the need to consider all its purposes and the need to ensure a reasonable balance between the pursuit of each of them over a period of time. As I understand it, the implication of Amendment No. 75 is that it would delete that very requirement which, on balance, other Members of the Committee were seeking.
Amendment No. 76 would require the mayor to have regard to any national policy for the time being in force. That is unnecessary and probably undesirable because the GLA must act within the law and therefore must have regard to extant legislation. Clause 33 requires the authority to ensure that each of its strategies is consistent with national policies and international obligations. Therefore, that provision would be unnecessary.
Amendment No. 78 seeks to delete subsection (5). It requires the authority, in exercising its general power, to do so in a way it considers best calculated to promote improvement of people's health in London and contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked for an assurance that that does not override the principal purpose. I give that assurance. The Bill aims to set down the "how" of what the authority does in pursuit of its purposes. The deletion of subsection (5) would delete all reference to those objectives. Members of the Committee generally would be opposed to that deletion and it would certainly limit the role of the authority.
The two amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrats would add a specific reference to the need to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in Greater London as well contributing towards it in the UK. The amendments are unnecessary and may cause a problem. It
I return to the central thrust of the remarks by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller; namely, to delete the whole of the general powers within the Bill and thereby deprive the Greater London Authority and the mayor of the power to do things in pursuit of principal purposes which are not specifically set out in the Bill. Every general power is subject to the statutory provisions, whether internally in the Bill or elsewhere. I refute the suggestion that these are open-ended powers given to a potentially irresponsible GLA. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
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