Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am becoming accustomed to being urged by the noble Baroness to withdraw my amendment. She does it with such superb eloquence that it is an irresistible temptation. I am grateful to her for her reply which I will study with care. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 349A:

Page 274, line 22, leave out ("In").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment and, with it, speak to Amendments Nos. 349B and 349C. The amendments correct a lacuna in the grant-making provisions of Parts III and V of the Bill. Part V currently deletes from the Regional Development Agencies Act the power for the Secretary of State to make grants direct to the LDA, in line with the general policy that all government grants should be made to the mayor.

Part III contains a general power for the Secretary of State to make grants to the GLA for its purposes and those of the functional bodies. But it does not allow sums to be earmarked for particular purposes.

It has always been our intention that the functions of the LDA could be financed by specific grants if Ministers thought that that kind of funding was appropriate. The alternative would be to provide the necessary funding as part of the GLA grant. These amendments achieve that by inserting into the RDA Act the power to make grants to the GLA for the purposes of the London Development Agency. The amendments are framed so that Clause 88 of the GLA Bill will oblige the mayor to hand over these grants to the LDA.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7 Jul 1999 : Column 918

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 349B and 349C:

Page 274, line 22, at end insert ("shall be amended as follows.
(2) At the beginning there shall be inserted "(1)".
(3) In the subsection (1) so formed,").
Page 274, line 24, at end insert--
("(4) After the subsection (1) so formed there shall be inserted--
"(2) The Secretary of State may, with the approval of the Treasury, make to the Greater London Authority grants of such amounts, and on such terms, as he thinks fit.
(3) Any grant made under subsection (2) shall be made for the purposes of the London Development Agency."").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 349D:

Page 274, line 25, leave out paragraph 6.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment relates to the borrowing limits of regional development agencies and is intended to ensure that I understand the regime as it relates to the London Development Agency. Paragraph 6(3) of Schedule 20 to the Bill provides that Section 11 of the Regional Development Agencies Act is not to apply in relation to the London Development Agency. In paragraph 6(2) above a lower collective borrowing limit is applied to the agencies on the face of the Regional Development Agencies Act. Am I right in thinking that this provision is included because the regime provided elsewhere by the Bill deals with the borrowing that is required for the purposes of the LDA? Can the Minister say something about the collective borrowing limit, and in particular the amount which it is anticipated will be available for London?

The implication of paragraph 6(2) is that £200 million, less £177.77 million (possibly recurring), is the amount that the Secretary of State has in mind for the work of the LDA, given that provision is made for a lower limit for all the other agencies. The Minister looks puzzled, in which case I was right to raise the question. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness may have been right to ask the question, but I am not sure that I follow her arithmetic sufficiently to provide an answer. We do not wish to see this clause modified. We decided to remove the LDA from the controls related to the other agencies in the RDA Act because of the special circumstances of the LDA, which effectively operates within a local government structure. If the noble Baroness asks whether the reason for it is that we are providing the borrowing structure for the GLA as a whole, the answer in general terms is yes. The borrowing controls relate to the GLA and the functional bodies within the local government financial regime, not the system of borrowing controls designed for non-departmental public bodies.

I shall read the remarks of the noble Baroness related to the arithmetic and see whether I can provide clarification. I did not recognise her final figure. Perhaps

7 Jul 1999 : Column 919

she will allow me to reply to that part of her observations in writing and, on that basis, withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: To avoid any confusion, I referred to paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 20, which in the Regional Development Agencies Act substitutes a collective borrowing limit of £177.77 million in place of £200 million for all the development agencies. I asked whether £200 million, minus £177.77 million, was the amount that we could be assured the Secretary of State has in mind for the LDA, perhaps not as the borrowing limit given its particular structure, but for the work of that agency. I hope that that makes the point clear. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 349E:

Page 275, leave out lines 19 to 21 and insert--
(""(4) Subsection (1) has effect in relation to the London Development Agency as if the reference to the Secretary of State was a reference to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
(4A) Subsection (2) has effect in relation to the London Development Agency as if the reference to the Secretary of State was a reference to the Mayor of London.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 349E in my name and that of my noble friends is grouped with Amendment No. 350 in the name of the Conservative Front Bench. Amendment No. 349E is a simple amendment which requires that the LDA sends a copy of its annual report to the assembly. I hope we shall be told that not only is it inconceivable that it would not be provided, but that somewhere the point is covered in the legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Amendment No. 350 is coupled with Amendment No. 349E. The specific aim of our amendment is to achieve openness so that everybody can understand the way in which the London Development Agency works. The amendment provides that,

    "The report shall include the criteria used by the London Development Agency for granting financial support to other institutions". The LDA will have considerable financial power and influence, and it is important that the public at large understand and have confidence in the management systems which the agency uses, particularly when it handles sums of public money and makes them available to institutions or individuals. The amendment requires that the criteria used are open. I believe that if that was stated on the face of the Bill, it would represent a considerable improvement.

Lord Whitty: The first of these amendments is unnecessary and the second is inappropriate. Amendment No. 349E is unnecessary because it is already provided for in the new subsection (6) which has been added to Section 17 of the RDA Act by virtue of paragraph 11 of Schedule 20 to the Bill. Obviously, the noble Baroness should have known that, but there we are.

7 Jul 1999 : Column 920

As to Amendment No. 350, it would oblige the LDA and the mayor to include in the LDA's annual report notice of the criteria to be used for the grant of financial support. There are two issues here: clarity for the benefit of potential recipients and propriety. The LDA will, in the main, be dispensing money for the achievement of functions delegated by Ministers. There will normally be criteria in the public domain for each of these, at least in broad terms. The single regeneration budget is a good example. Here we have national criteria that are widely known. At present, the Government Office for London, subsequently the authority, publishes its more specific guidelines which tailor the national guidelines to the specific circumstances of London. No doubt the LDA will wish to do likewise.

The LDA will have a chief finance officer and monitoring officer following local authority practice in this instance. Its accounts will be audited annually, which is a check on the use of defensible criteria for dispensing funds. But the amendment will not help either objective. The annual report is not the appropriate vehicle either for detailed bidding advice as to criteria against which bids can be set or audit information. In any case, bidding guidance needs to be issued when bids are being sought and should not wait for the annual report. Therefore, in the terms it was put I do not believe that this amendment is appropriate, and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I welcome the noble Lord the Minister back on to his perch. I assure him that he has been adequately substituted for in his absence. I shall not say that he has not been missed; it is nice to see him back again.

I heard what the noble Lord had to say, and I shall study it with care.

Baroness Hamwee: I am glad to be assured that my amendment is unnecessary. I realise that the Official Report will not record that when the Minister told me that I should of course have realised that paragraph 11 applied, he did so as a humorous comment. I say that now to protect my good name. I thank the noble Lord for pointing that out, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 350 to 350B not moved.]

6 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 351:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page