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Page 22, line 20, at end insert--
("( ) The mayor shall additionally respond in writing within a reasonable time to any written question from any assembly member about matters in relation to which statutory functions are exercisable by him.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment envisages that the mayor may be subjected to questions for written answer in the same way that Members of this House can put down Questions for Written Answer by Government Ministers. That would be a very worthwhile procedure. On that assumption, Amendment No. 139 would also require that the answers should be published. Clearly, a procedure would have to be established to make a distinction between a written question and what might be regarded as normal correspondence. It would be an enhancement if assembly members undertook the function of monitoring, supervising and questioning the way in which the mayor fulfils his function, and therefore it would be worthwhile to include Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 in the Bill.

Amendment No.140 deals with Clause 37(4) and refers to "The duty of the mayor under subsection (3)". I am not sure whether that is restrictive, but if there is any possibility that it is, it would be better if it referred to the duty of the mayor under the whole section and not just under subsection (3).

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Amendment No. 141 adds a duty for the mayor to publish his answers under subsection (4). I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: We support the amendments. We have tabled a similar amendment, Amendment No. 192A, but it is not so elaborate and would not be as effective.

The noble Lord's reference to correspondence made me realise that access to information, in the way we are accustomed to dealing with it in relation to local authorities, may be relevant here, because certain correspondence is available to members of the public on inspection. I now realise that this may be a more complicated issue than I had anticipated when drafting the later amendment. Nevertheless, these provisions regulate the relationship between two constituent parts of the authority, and therefore it would be appropriate to have some provision which ensured that the mayor could not avoid answering the questions.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 138 is intended to place a duty on the mayor to answer in writing and within a reasonable time, any written question from an assembly member about his or her statutory responsibilities. Amendment No. 139 would require the text of such questions and the mayor's responses to be sent to each London borough and the Common Council and to be made available on an Internet site which the authority would be obliged to maintain.

Amendment No. 140 would allow the mayor not to disclose advice from GLA staff in answering written questions from assembly members as well as questions put to him at the monthly assembly meeting.

Amendment No. 141 would require the mayor to send his monthly report to each of the London boroughs and the Common Council at the same time as he sends it to the assembly.

The Government made it clear in another place that it is certainly the intention that the mayor should be required to answer written as well as oral questions put to him by assembly members at their monthly meeting. Similarly, it is the intention that if the mayor is not able to answer all the questions assembly members put to the mayor at a monthly meeting because there is not enough time, he should send written answers to assembly members whose questions were not reached. We also intend that written answers to questions put at the monthly meeting, including those given after the meeting, should be publicly available.

We shall be bringing forward amendments at Report stage to clarify these intentions.

I am not persuaded by other aspects of the provision which the amendments would make. I do not agree that the mayor should be required to answer written questions put to him by assembly members other than at the monthly meeting. If an assembly member writes to the mayor asking him a question, we fully expect that the mayor will reply, but the monthly assembly meeting is the key forum in which the assembly will hold the mayor to account, and a statutory duty to answer questions should rightly be reserved for it. We should

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not be looking to replicate for the GLA the arrangements for MPs to question the Government in Parliament. The mayor, unlike the Government, is required to submit a report to the assembly each month. If the assembly urgently wishes to put questions to the mayor on handling a major crisis, for example, it can summon the mayor.

A duty to answer questions put at any time would detract from the arrangements for a monthly report and questions at a monthly meeting which are the centrepiece of accountability for the GLA. The mayor and assembly will of course be free to agree their own procedures for handling written questions put to the mayor other than at the monthly meeting. No doubt the resources available within the GLA to handle questions will be an important consideration in reaching such an agreement. it would certainly not be in Londoners' interests if the burden of assembly members' questions was so great that the mayor was left with little time to get on with the job.

I have made it clear that we do not intend to require the mayor to send to the London boroughs and the Common Council those documents which the mayor is required to send to the assembly and/or make available to the public. The assembly's statutory right to receive documents from the mayor derives of course from its status as part of the same authority.

I have assured the Committee that amendments will ensure that the mayor is obliged to answer written assembly questions put to him or her at the monthly meeting. The text of the questions and the answers will be publicly available, including those which the mayor answers after the meeting.

I appear to be repeating at every point at this stage that we will carefully consider the views that have been expressed. The reason for that is that obviously a bigger picture is emerging from the questions raised by the amendments, and we wish to consider them as a whole. I say that without commitment, but I certainly promise careful scrutiny.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Is the Minister saying that access to information by the public will be legislated for in the Bill? If that is so, will it include a provision for the authority to charge for that information in the way the legislation allows in the case of local government?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Yes.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I have to admit to a certain disappointment at the response of the noble Baroness, particularly in relation to Amendments Nos. 138 and 139.

The Bill establishes a totally new type of authority. Not only will it have full-time professional members, but it will have a full-time professional mayor. He will need to be quite an exceptional mayor if he is to fulfil Londoners' expectations. If he is not a thorough-going professional, then he probably should not be doing the

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job. If he cannot handle a quantity of written questions in between meetings and answer them, then perhaps the priorities should be different.

Baroness Hamwee: We on these Benches have been very grateful for the care the Government have taken when referring to the mayor, either to refer to "the mayor" or to say "she or he", in that order. I hope that in the legal formulae the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will accept that the male embraces the female because we would like to be assured that he accepts the possibility that there could be a female mayor.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Baroness is in danger of tempting me to make the observation that certain psychologists' surveys indicate that the female brain is more capable than the male of grasping more than one activity at once.

Lord Dixon-Smith: We are trespassing on to dangerous territory. I was always taught that under the Sexual Definitions Act 1936, for "him" read "she". In any event, I am afraid that I am an optimist and I always hope that the female embraces the male.

I heard what the Minister said about considering the debate on these amendments. I am grateful to her for that and shall hope optimistically for some favourable response in due course. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 139 to 141 not moved.]

Clause 37 agreed to.

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 141A:

After Clause 37, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The Mayor shall produce and publish a report on the state of the public health in Greater London to be known as a "state of public health report".
(2) The report required of the Mayor under subsection (1) shall be published--
(a) in the case of the first state of the public health report, before the end of the period of three years beginning with the day of the first ordinary election, and
(b) in the case of each state of the public health report subsequent to the first, before the end of the period of four years beginning with the day on which the previous state of the public health report was published.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment is framed in similar terms to the duty to report on the state of the environment in Greater London, which is set out in Clause 281. The Secretary of State for Health recently said that public health is central to the Government's strategies. He then went further and said that he would be setting up an observatory in every NHS region to advise on impact health assessments and to evaluate progress towards cutting health inequalities.

All that is very good so far as it goes. But Sir Donald Acheson made clear in his report last year that health inequalities occur in a wide variety of other areas, such as a housing, education, planning and transport. Those

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in Greater London come under a wide variety of authorities. Sir Donald said that unless we can eradicate inequality in these areas, we cannot eradicate all health inequalities. Without a general overview at regional level by the mayor on the state of public health, we cannot expect to tackle London's considerable health inequalities in all those areas.

The amendment is designed to ensure that the mayor takes regular stock of this and publishes key indicators in order to measure progress on public health. Without such a report, it will not be possible to assess how well the mayor is carrying out his or her duties under Clause 33(7)(a). There is a huge demand for information about the state of London's health, particularly by the Chief Medical Officer and by the King's Fund, and that needs to be drawn together for the benefit of Londoners and for the benefit of the strategy being developed by the GLA.

Currently Clauses 37 and 38 do not provide a duty to report on public health. Failing the Government placing a specific duty on the authority to produce a full health strategy, on which I moved an amendment in Committee, we believe that this is the next best option. I urge the Minister to consider it carefully. I beg to move.

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