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Baroness Blatch: I believe my noble friend is about to withdraw her amendment. If that is the case, before she does so, I wonder whether the Minister can help me further in answer to my question about why there is an inconsistency between the use of "chairman" and "chair" throughout the Bill. On page 235, in Schedule 14, there is a reference to "chairman" but no reference to an Act of Parliament. The Minister said it occurred when it refers to Acts of Parliament. On page 279 there is also a reference to "chairman"; again there is no reference to an Act of Parliament. On page 303 there is a reference to "chairman" and "vice-chairman"; again there is no reference to an Act of Parliament. It would be helpful to know to which Acts of Parliament the examples I have mentioned refer, which gives the right for the distinction to be made between the use of "chairman" and "chair".

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The first example the noble Baroness gave referred to the London Transport Users' Committee, which is established under a different Act of Parliament. I have not had time to check whether that is the case in every example she gave. It is my understanding that that is the way the Bill has been drafted.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: As to that particular point, I have said that I shall check all of those issues. Perhaps officials will manage to check the other side of the matter for the noble Baroness because we shall return to it. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 166 to 169 not moved.]

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9.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 170:

Page 24, line 15, leave out from ("conferred") to end of line 16 and insert ("upon him by the Assembly pursuant to section 45").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 170. I think it will not detain the Committee as long as the previous group of amendments. Clause 42 deals with the functions of those who hold the chair and deputy chair of the assembly. Clause 42(2) deals with the function of chairing. I am trying to choose my words carefully so as not to alienate the Conservative Benches. Clause 42(2)(b) provides that the chair of the assembly shall have,

    "such other functions as may be conferred or imposed ... under this Act or any other enactment". My amendment proposes that, rather than functions conferred by primary legislation, the functions will be those conferred by the assembly under Clause 45, which deals with assembly procedure--in other words, under standing orders.

I wish to make two points. The lesser is that the details of the functions, in addition to chairing meetings, will be matters for the standing orders. The other point is: if any functions are to be conferred by legislation, are they to be conferred on the authority rather than the individual person who is to chair meetings or act as chair of the assembly? This provision seems to open up an inappropriate opportunity to confer functions which, if they are set out anywhere, should be in the Bill. What we are really talking about is a procedural matter which would be best dealt with by standing orders.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The first element of the noble Baroness's amendment would delete the reference to the chair of the assembly having those functions conferred or imposed on him by the Bill. That simply means that the chair will have the functions that Parliament decides that he or she should have; for example, presiding over assembly meetings or standing in for the mayor if there is both a mayoral and deputy mayoral vacancy. So I do not accept the proposed deletion from Clause 42(2)(b).

As to the second part of the noble Baroness's amendment, it is unnecessary. Clause 45 allows the assembly to determine its own procedures and Clause 46 enables the assembly to arrange for its functions, other than where expressly prohibited, to be discharged by a single assembly member. The assembly will, therefore, be able to confer other functions on the chair if it so wishes. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for that reply. In the hope of slightly decreasing the average time that is spent on groupings, I simply beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 171 not moved.]

Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 [Appointment]:

[Amendments Nos. 172 to 186 not moved.]

23 Jun 1999 : Column 1027

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Meetings of the whole Assembly]:

[Amendments Nos. 187 and 188 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 188A:

Page 25, line 8, leave out from ("election") to ("there").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 188A and 188B were tabled for entirely humanitarian reasons. As drafted, the Bill requires the assembly, after its first meeting, to meet,

    "thereafter at intervals of not more than one month ... to consider the Mayor's monthly written report". It is not unknown for this House to become somewhat edgy if it is required to sit into August, and it becomes even more concerned if it has to return in September. We are probably asking a great deal of both the mayor and the assembly that they should have to meet monthly, year in, year out, non-stop, without the facility for any break at all.

It is for that simple humanitarian reason that I move Amendment No. 188A and commend Amendment No. 188B. These two amendments remove the requirement to meet at intervals of not more than one month and remove the adjective "monthly" from the subsequent paragraph (a). That is in order to allow those who, we hope, are as human as Members of this House to have a short break during the summer. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: If everything has a humanitarian intention--I take the noble Lord's word for it and I know him to be fairly humanitarian--I hope we will not be kept up too long on this Bill in the subsequent Committee days. Nevertheless, if the amendment has a humanitarian intention, the noble Lord should have moved an amendment stating, "except for August" or words to that effect. The effect of what the noble Lord suggests would be far more drastic than he intended. It would delete the requirement in Clause 44(2) to ensure that the mayor appears regularly before the assembly and provides a written report to that assembly. If we delete "monthly" then the mayor would have to present himself or herself to the assembly not later than 15 days after the election and never again thereafter.

The noble Lord entertained us earlier with the story of his acquaintance, a French mayor, who disappeared to Mexico. The amendment would enable the mayor to do so without any further requirement for him to appear and produce a report. Clearly that was not the noble Lord's intention, and if he wishes to consider the matter, I am sure that the deletion of August could be given reasonable consideration. It is in most local government standing orders that they meet monthly. Nevertheless, in practice some monthly meetings are cancelled.

If that was the noble Lord's intention, he put forward the wrong amendment and may wish to consider it for a later stage.

Lord Tope: I entirely share the humanitarian concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, but I also agree with the comments of the Minister. For those reasons I shall not support the amendments as drafted because of their effect. Nevertheless, the noble Lord

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raised an important point. Perhaps rather than the Opposition bringing back an amendment, it is a small point that the Government should consider. It is probably not correct that most local authorities' standing orders require them to meet monthly, but it is a matter for those authorities to determine. Here we are talking about legislation which has the effect of requiring the assembly to meet in August. I doubt whether the Government gave that any thought; it is hardly a major matter. However, since it has been raised and I expect that the assembly would prefer not to meet in August, at the very least it should be free to determine itself whether to do so. Perhaps the Government should consider the point before a later stage.

Lord Whitty: I will undertake to consider the point.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, who made a proper point. I am not certain at this stage whether it is I or the Minister who should bring forward an appropriate amendment. I am glad that the point is taken. There is sometimes virtue in moving an amendment incorrectly because it produces the desired response. That is exactly what I received. If the Minister would be kind enough to say that he would bring forward the appropriate amendment, he might do it on terms with which he would not have to argue. However, if he invites me to do it, I might have to use terms with which he would still wish to argue. That would take more time, so perhaps he would consider it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 188B to 191 not moved.]

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Assembly procedure]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 192:

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