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Baroness Miller of Hendon: Before the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, says what she intends to do about the amendment, perhaps I may say that we would not support Amendment No. 80, which leaves out subsections (7) to (9). I believe that the Minister and the noble Baroness know full well that we have some objection to the control that the Secretary of State would have regarding the authority. We believe that it is appropriate that he should be able to issue guidance about which, at the end of the day, the authority does not have to do too much if it does not want to. I believe that that provision is needed.

As regards issuing guidance to the authority, we would oppose substituting the assembly for the Secretary of State. On the first day in Committee we debated the role of the deputy mayor, and we said that we believe that it is important that the executive and the legislature should be separate. To my mind, these amendments would mix it up yet again. We oppose these amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister asked about the logic. He had it spot on when he realised that the first amendment is our preference and that the others are substitutes. We thought we might have to move to them as we were not optimistic about the success of the first amendment.

In answer to that, and indeed in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, we do not see handing over power to issue guidance to the assembly as illogical. The mayor has the executive powers; the assembly does

21 Jun 1999 : Column 716

not. The assembly has scrutiny powers and, therefore, guidance, to quote the words of the Bill,

    "concerning the exercise by the Authority of the power conferred by subsection (1)" seems to be entirely properly reflected in the division proposed in the later amendments in the group.

The Minister talked about the need for balance and ensuring that the authority does not abuse its powers, and does not, for instance, intrude on the responsibilities of other bodies. That gives me concern, as it appears that the Bill is fairly explicit and detailed about limiting the authority's powers. If it is proposed that the Secretary of State should, through guidance, further limit the mayor's exercise of the powers that he is given which, in other words, is limiting the functions, I believe that that should be in primary legislation, and I thought that it already was to be in primary legislation.

I am not surprised by the response because it is clear that that is the kind of division and the kind of control that the Government see as applying throughout the Bill. I am disappointed, but for the moment beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 81 to 83 not moved.]

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 84:

Page 15, line 5, at end insert--
("( ) In determining whether to issue guidance under subsection (7) above the Secretary of State shall have regard to the views of--
(a) the Mayor,
(b) the Assembly,
(c) the London borough councils,
(d) the Common Council, and
(e) bodies of each of the descriptions specified in section 27(3).")

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 84 deals with the issue of guidance. There is no guideline or guidance to the Secretary of State as to how his guidance is to be prepared and as to how it is to be issued and whether the Secretary of State should issue guidance.

This contrasts considerably with the detailed obligations to consult, which are laid on the authority by other provisions in the Bill. I ask myself whom the Secretary of State will consult in deciding whether guidance is required and, if it is required, what it should say. We propose that the Secretary of State should have regard to the views of the mayor because we believe that mainly the mayor will be affected by such guidance. He should also have regard to the views of the assembly because of its scrutiny role and, above all, we believe that the assembly is likely to have views as to how-- I stress how--the power is to be exercised; that is the thrust of subsection 25(7). Regard should also be taken of the boroughs and the common council because of the relationship with those bodies, and of the entities listed in Clause 27(3). If those entities are to be consulted about the exercise of the power, as is provided there, it is illogical that they should not be consulted on the guidance on the exercise of the power.

21 Jun 1999 : Column 717

Perhaps the question that underlies this amendment--I accept it may be a rhetorical question--is what happens if the views of these individuals and bodies conflict with the views of the Secretary of State. Whose views are to override whose? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I cannot discern a pattern in the amendments from the Liberal Democrat Benches which, effectively, are to put a further hurdle in the way of the Secretary of State being able to issue guidance to the mayor about the exercise of the authority's general power. I feel that, although in certain cases consultation will be desirable, it is for the Secretary of State to determine what guidance he or she issues. The requirement that those listed in the amendment plus everybody in Clause 27(3) should be consulted before any guidance is issued on any item by the Secretary of State seems to be a curiously onerous one. Consultation of the assembly and the London boroughs raises exactly the kind of constitutional issues, to which the noble Baroness referred, as to who should prevail in those circumstances. It is not normal, where the Secretary of State is issuing guidance, for that to be laid down in this way and certainly not where the scrutiny part of the authority to which the guidance is being issued is involved.

The power to issue guidance is a safeguard against the misuse by the authority of the general power that the Bill provides. The guidance will ensure that the interests of all the various elements listed will be recognised and protected. However, to go through the formal business of consultation on every piece of guidance under the general power places an unnecessary burden on the Secretary of State exercising his appropriate powers in relation to this new authority. I do not support the amendment, therefore, and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

Baroness Hamwee: Yes, this is a hurdle, because it seems that, quite literally, there is to be one law for the Secretary of State and another for everybody else. That is one of our objections.

I thought that the Minister was going to say that it is not normal for the Secretary of State's wishes to be overruled, whatever other people's views. He did not actually say that, but that might have been an implication. Again, I make the point that we are not happy with the balance here; we do not agree with the Government that it is the appropriate balance. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 85 to 87 not moved.]

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Limits of the general power]:

[Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 not moved.]

21 Jun 1999 : Column 718

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 16, line 6, leave out paragraph (b)

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 90 stands in my name, those of my noble friends, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon. The amendment seeks to leave out paragraph (b) of Clause 26(7).

This amendment seeks to prevent the authority doing anything that the Secretary of State orders it not to do, subject to the affirmative procedure under Clause 325 of the Bill. We are aware that it is intended that it will be a reserve power for the Secretary of State so that, as the DETR's memo to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee said,

    "if [the authority is] encroaching on [the activities of other] public bodies, the Secretary of State could restrict or remove its power to do so".

That seems to assume that every encroachment would be entirely unjustifiable. We believe that the Secretary of State is given far too much freedom by this provision. The DETR's memo also used the example of the present framework being too restrictive to exercise the general power effectively.

Perhaps the Minister can explain whether anything on the face of the Bill will limit the Secretary of State's power to prevent the authority doing things. This is a hugely wide discretion and, whatever the intention, to keep such a wide discretion on the face of the Bill is "inappropriate", to use a polite word. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My name too is attached to this amendment. Clause 26(7) permits the Secretary of State to prohibit the GLA doing anything that can be done by a London borough, the common council or a public body. That is an excellent concept--no poaching, no empire building and so forth. We would prefer the clause to say that the Secretary of State should prevent the authority from doing any of those things and interfering with things that the London boroughs or the common council could do. However, the second part of the clause, which this amendment addresses, adds the words,

    "which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order". In other words, the Secretary of State can cherry-pick which acts of poaching and empire building he will permit.

Why does the Secretary of State want powers to permit, or at least not to ban, encroachment on the activities of the boroughs of the city and public bodies by an ambitious mayor or assembly? If they do such a thing, what is to stop the councils continuing their lawful activities, thus producing a case of too many cooks?

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, gave the reasons for the Liberal Democrat Party wanting to table this amendment, which it tabled just ahead of us, and we were glad that there was space for us to add our name to it. It is sufficient to say that we fully support this amendment.

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