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Baroness Hamwee: The Minister assures the Committee that the mayor can make arrangements to be advised. I am very glad to hear it, but I did not really doubt it. However, the amendment puts down a marker about the budgetary consequences and the need for the mayor to be properly funded. Reading this amendment, I wondered whether the advice that the mayor would undoubtedly require would have to be paid for out of the budget for the two political advisers and the 10 other staff, or whether it would be covered in some other way.

I see the attraction of ensuring that the mayor has advice from people who know what they are talking about on environmental matters. That applies also to other areas, but in this case it is particularly important. However, I do not believe that this amendment, or any other, can provide that the people who are appointed are not just individuals who confirm the mayor's own prejudices in the particular area of concern. Although I sympathise with the need to ensure that the mayor is careful to obtain high quality advice, I am not convinced that this is the way to do it.

Amendment No. 452ZAA in this group refers to the London Ecology Committee. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, intends this amendment to be dealt with in this group, or whether he intends to leave it and speak to it later.

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Lord Dixon-Smith: The short answer to that last question is that I must have slipped, because I had not thought it was my amendment, but perhaps it is.

Baroness Hamwee: The amendment provides for a group to replace the London Ecology Committee. I am not sure whether that means that an ecology group will be put into place within six months or whether it will take the place of the Ecology Committee. I am aware that there is concern among those involved with the London Ecology Unit. The committee is a committee of borough representatives and the unit is the professionals. We on these Benches would be very concerned about the loss of that expertise. Whether this is the way to deal with the matter I am less convinced.

Lord Whitty: I was slightly confused by the reference to the committee. The anxiety that the noble Baroness expressed earlier about its coming out of political advisers is not justified. Clearly, the mayor would have environmental staff, and the entire staff of the London Ecology Unit would transfer to provide that kind of expertise to the mayor.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: I believe that this is the moment to mention a matter that arose during the passage of the legislation relating to the rural development agencies, if noble Lords can cast their minds back to that. The rural development agencies were all going to have people who, the Government assured us, knew something about rural affairs. The sole exception was London, where we were told that it was not necessary.

I rather suspect that it is very necessary for London. It may be that London is such a great wen that it is very difficult to identify its hinterland, but every city has a hinterland, every city has problems of communication and representation with that hinterland, and every city should pay attention to what that hinterland wants. At some stage there should be written into the Bill a provision that there should be someone whose job it is to serve on the committee in question, or perhaps one of the other committees appointed under the Bill, someone with real experience and knowledge, and almost a representative capacity for what happens in the countryside outside London.

I ask the Minister to consider this, and I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, if he is bringing the matter back on Report to consider the possibility of producing an amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I apologise to the Committee for my slight delay in rising; I am still scribbling notes to myself.

I should like to deal first with the question of Amendment No. 452ZAA. I apologise to the Committee for a failure of memory. The amendment is worded in

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the form that it is because Clause 299 abolishes the London Ecology Committee, and we therefore judged it necessary to put this source of advice to the mayor in place.

I regret that because I was trying to deal with two things at once I shall have to study in Hansard what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said. I shall have a word with him, and I hope that he will forgive me.

I shall also have to study the response of the noble Lord the Minister to what we have said. He has given some reassurance, but I would put it no higher than that. I accept that the amendment as drafted might not contain the necessary read-through across the whole of the Bill, but the best one can do in putting down amendments is to go for a principle, and if the principle is accepted as right and worthy I would have hoped that the Government might provide that necessary read-through. The Minister feels that because the read-through already exists in the Bill the amendment is unnecessary. I shall need to study what he said and think more about the issue before I am confident of that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 358YAB not moved.]

Clauses 259 to 262 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358ZA:

Insert the following new Clause--


(" . The Mayor and the GLA will, by 2030, reconstitute the pension scheme of the London Fire Brigade moving it from the present unfunded scheme to a fully funded pension scheme.").

The noble Lord said: A little while ago, we had an interesting debate on Amendment No. 354N on the pension problems of the police service. My noble friend Lord Cope tabled an amendment that found an elegant solution by placing the responsibility for the funding of police pensions directly on to the Treasury. Amendment No. 358ZA, which I tabled, goes in completely the opposite direction. That was partly an exercise in testing the intellectual capacity of the Minister, because we wanted to see whether he could argue against both cases consistently, and it was partly because my inclination is to go one way and my noble friend's inclination, with perhaps greater experience and wisdom, is to go the other way because it is simpler.

The problem with police pensions is not as severe as the problem with firemen's pensions. The fire service demands of those who work for it an extraordinarily high degree of physical fitness. It demands that degree of physical fitness right the way through to chief officer rank. Firemen have to be able to go and fight fires. That is what they are for, but fighting fires is a very harsh job and they cannot do it unless they are physically fit and in robust good health.

The consequence is that the wastage to the fire service--and I pay tribute to its work--for fitness reasons is quite high. I would not say that it is unreasonably high, because it would be unreasonable to expect an unfit fireman to go and fight a fire. However,

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that imposes costs so high that, on the projections I have seen, it is only a matter of time before the fire service becomes a pensions organisation with the provision of fire fighting services being a corollary to the business of paying pensions. That would be an extraordinary situation for a major aspect of public safety, and it would not be satisfactory.

There are two options, and we heard one explained earlier in relation to the police. In response, the Minister was good enough to say that the Government were setting up a study to consider the problem. I have no doubt that that is what he will tell me in response to this amendment. That might appear to be an answer, but the problem has been around for a long time. We have known about it for a long time and it is not study groups that are required but action.

I accept that the solution of going to a fully funded scheme is a high cost one, but if we do not face that cost now, we shall have to face it later. I suggest that that is the way to go, but it requires a decision. I would rather see a decision and the facing of the consequences of that decision than see another study. Another study would simply put the matter off; and every time it is put off, it becomes more expensive to put right. This is a most serious matter from the point of view of the provision of an important and significant safety service for the community at large. It has its own implications for London. This is an opportunity to start an essential process. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Tope: I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in raising this important issue, although not necessarily in the solution that he suggests, any more than I supported the very different solution suggested in respect of the same problem for the Metropolitan Police. However, the noble Lord is right to say that the unfunded pension scheme, currently with the LFCDA, is a huge and growing burden for many reasons, including those which he gave. Just as with the Metropolitan Police, it is an important issue which sooner rather than later the Government must address. It is on such a scale that only government can address and deal with it. Therefore, I support the raising of the issue, although not necessarily the solution suggested, and I urge upon the Minister, if he needs urging, the need for the Government to address this problem.

I am not as cynical about a study group as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, because I understand that it is a complex issue which needs to be studied. But I certainly support the noble Lord in saying that we need not just a study but a solution to the problem as soon as possible. On that basis, I support the issue if not necessarily the substance of the amendment.

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