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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is rather trying his luck in being so condemnatory of people who forget their keys and lock themselves out. It has been my experience in life that tempting fate in that way can cause all sorts of things to happen.

Lord Tope: It has happened to me, and I am sure that it could happen to any one of us. I do not deny that. Fortunately, I did not need the fire brigade to let me into my house. My point is not that such things will not happen but that I would not expect the taxpayers to bear the cost if it happened to me--whatever the reason.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: So long as the noble Lord has plenty of paper and a torch, he can reply to all the letters from cat lovers who are cross about his wanting to leave cats up trees.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will be pleased to know that the Government's intention that the duties undertaken by the present fire authority, the LFCDA, shall become the responsibility of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority is covered in the Bill.

Clause 259(2) substitutes the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority for the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority in Schedule 11 to the Local Government Act 1985, the legislation which established the present fire authority. Sub-paragraph 2(1) of that schedule provides that the LFCDA shall be the fire authority for London. Sub-paragraph 2(2) provides that all references in fire service legislation are to be construed in accordance with sub-paragraph (1). This includes Section 1(1) of the Fire Services Act 1947, which sets out the duties of a fire authority. The Bill also provides that the LFEPA is the authority on which functions may be conferred under civil defence legislation. It will therefore be the case that the LFEPA will inherit the statutory duties previously undertaken by the LFCDA. I feel sure that in those circumstances the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

As regards Amendment No. 356, there were reviews in 1970 and 1985. The result was to support the continuance of local discretion in the provision of and charging for special services, which has applied since before the fire service was established as the local authority service. Fire authorities often seek to recover costs through charges for special services where possible, but they would not usually do so for emergency or humanitarian purposes, both of which would cover the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, with her head in the railings when young!

We believe that as a matter of principle it would be wrong, particularly in the light of a recent review, to impose restrictions on the London Fire and Emergency

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Planning Authority which did not apply to other fire authorities. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and for her reassurance. However, I am bound to say that had she thought it entirely appropriate that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, should have been charged to be rescued I should have taken a different view. In all the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: Before the noble Lord does so, perhaps I may make it clear that I was only two at the time!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 356 not moved.]

Clause 258 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 357:

After Clause 258, insert the following new clause--


(" . The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority shall provide annually, within three months of the end of its financial year, a report to the Authority which sets out its performance in fulfilling its functions, its financial report and any Audit Commission recommendations with regard to its performance.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment introduces a new clause along the continuing line of amendments we have tabled dealing with openness and accountability. It suggests that the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority shall provide annually, within three months of its year-end, a report to the authority setting out its performance in fulfilling its functions and so forth. It ensures that at the end of the year the service properly reports in an accountable way to the mayor. We should expect that procedure to be entirely reasonable. The Minister may say, "Of course, it will do that anyway.". If so, she could accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The proposed new clause would introduce an extra and unnecessary layer of accountability for the fire authority. A similar point was raised by the Opposition at Committee stage in another place. We explained at that time that the Government are in favour of accountability, but that we must make sure that we do not impose unnecessary bureaucracy.

The clause would cut across the Government's proposals under the best value provisions of the Local Government Bill under which the LFEPA would be a relevant authority and would be required to carry out fundamental performance reviews at specified intervals (Clause 5 of the Local Government Bill) and prepare and publish annual performance plans (Clause 6) which would be subject to audit arrangements.

The proposed provision would also cut across the requirements in Part II of this Bill under which the mayor would be required to prepare an annual report (Clause 38) including information requested by the assembly and to hold an annual state of London debate

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(Clause 39). In those circumstances, and because matters are now even more accountable since the Committee stage in another place, I am sure that the noble Lord will wish to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: As always I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I accept her comments about the Local Government Bill, but it is not yet law. I am not quite sure what is the etiquette for the Committee stage of one Bill and whether one should consider as law another Bill at a similar stage going through the House. Here we are dealing with the London Bill as it is and the law as it stands and not as it will be in a few months time. However, that should not cause us any prolonged difficulty. I noted what the noble Baroness said, and I will consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 23 [The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357NA:

Page 302, line 6, leave out ("appointed by the Mayor") and insert ("elected by the Assembly").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak to the other 10 amendments that are grouped with it. This amendment relates to the membership, tenure of office and so forth of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. It concerns the nine assembly members of that authority. It is very much the same issue as the one that we argued as regards the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The assembly members are described as the "assembly representatives". It is right and proper that the assembly itself should decide by elections and appointments who its representatives shall be and not that they should be chosen and appointed by the mayor. We made these arguments in relation to the police authority. They apply equally strongly here. They are described as "assembly representatives" and they clearly will be representing the assembly on the authority. There will also be borough council representatives there. It seems a fundamental democratic principle that the assembly should have the right to choose and appoint its own members and not have something that the mayor is able to foist on them, although in practice that may not be the case.

There is no reason why the mayor should make the appointments. It is not the issue that we argued many times about the executive powers of the mayor and the scrutiny powers of the assembly. It is a question of who appoints the assembly representatives. Under this amendment we say that the assembly itself should appoint its own representatives.

Amendment No. 357PA refers to the eight borough representatives who will be members. We are proposing that they should be appointed by the Chair of the assembly rather than by the mayor on the nomination of the London Borough Councils, acting jointly. It seems appropriate that it is the chair of the assembly who makes such appointments. It is not a matter for the mayor.

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Most of the other amendments are consequent upon those two proposals, except Amendment No. 357TA, which seeks to give the assembly, rather than the Secretary of State, the power to vary the number of members of the authority, should that be necessary. If there is a need to vary those numbers, we believe that it is a need that should rest with the elected representatives of London and not with the Secretary of State. That seems to us to be the proper democratic and accountability line.

Amendment No. 357ZA is slightly different, but it gives the authority the right to elect its own chair. The schedule says that the chair shall be appointed by the mayor. We see no reason that the mayor should have power to appoint the chair and impose that upon the authority. That is not the case in relation to the Metropolitan Police Authority that we have just debated. For that body the authority chooses its own chair. If the Minister is to resist this amendment, I hope that he will say why he feels that the fire authority is different. It seems to be a fairly fundamental, democratic principle, but also a matter of common sense that the authority should be able to choose its own chair from among its numbers, however they have been appointed, whether by the mayor or by the assembly and/or by the chair of the assembly.

This group of amendments reflects our view of the role of the assembly. More importantly in this respect, it institutes proper democratic accountability in relation to the membership of the authority. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord says that this has nothing to do with the ongoing argument about the difference between executive powers and scrutiny powers, but it has. These amendments would mean that the mayor, who has the executive responsibility for the fire authority, would no longer have any role in the appointment process for the assembly and borough representatives on that authority.

The argument is the same as before. These amendments are designed to weaken the mayor's position and to hand over executive power to the authority. Our policy, which has been reflected throughout our approach to this, is that the mayor would be responsible for the appointment of both assembly and borough representatives. The other powers which have been given to the mayor which these amendments seek to remove--to determine the length of a member's period of office; to renew a member's appointment or to terminate it in exceptional circumstances; and so on--are all consequences of our proposed approach. In addition, the reserve power of the Secretary of State to alter the size of the fire authority would be given to the assembly. In our view, that should rest with the Secretary of State.

These amendments, if adopted, would have the effect of severing the constitutional links between the mayor and the fire authority. Those links are important if the new arrangements are to function effectively. They ensure that the authority is suitably accountable to the mayor for the service that it provides.

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I believe that we shall have this argument over and over again. This has a slightly different structure, but the principle is the same: that the mayor should have executive authority for those functional bodies within the GLA as a whole. While we shall not agree on this, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

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