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Lord Whitty: I recognise the nature of the concern and the size of the problem, although the history of the structure of the pension scheme is different in the police from in the fire service.

The firefighters' pension scheme is a national scheme which is set out in an order made under the Fire Services Act 1947. But we adopt the same principle; namely, that

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we should not make changes which affect one fire brigade and not others, any more than we would do so with regard to the police. In any case, the arrangements for the scheme are already under review. The scheme, in common with a number of schemes in the public service, does not have a pension fund. One of the main purposes of the fund--the guaranteeing of employees' pension rights--is in this case guaranteed by statute.

In a technical sense, the scheme is an immature scheme in that the balance between levels of income and expenditure has not yet reached a stable state. That means that there are serious long-term problems. The Government have recognised in recent local government finance settlements the extra pensions costs for fire authorities and have included amounts for pensions in the fire share of the total standard spending.

Other changes being proposed would not provide an easy solution; for example, new entry funding would be likely to make matters worse. The authority would still carry the costs of existing pensions, but because it would have to be funded separately as a pension fund it would lose the contributions from the new entrants which would go straight into the fund.

This review of the provisions of the FPS was published as a consultative document last year. Ministers are still considering the position in the light of responses. The general emphasis of that consultation was more on the management benefits rather than the funding question. However, the Government are now considering the possible study of the costs and benefits of a funded approach for new entrants. But that would provide no easy solution to the costs. At present the cost to fire authorities is covered under the fire settlement. Until we have a more permanent long-term solution that should continue to be the case. The London fire brigade should be treated no differently from those in other parts of the country.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I understand his concern that we cannot treat the employees of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority separately from the fire and emergency planning services across the country because that is the way the system is structured at present.

However, I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. The debate has given us a chance to raise an increasingly significant problem. I am grateful to the Minister for his reassurance that the Government are meeting, and will continue to meet, the pensions costs of the fire service pension scheme. But the matter calls for urgent action. I shall study what the Minister said. I may return with a provision if I can think of an appropriate one. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 263 agreed to.

Clause 264 [The spatial development strategy]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358A:

Page 141, line 6, after ("shall") insert (", after consultation with the Common Council and the London boroughs,").

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The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 358A returns to a familiar theme which, if I am not advancing it, my noble friends on my right are inclined to do. However, we now move from the field of fire into the more fiery area of planning. Planning can cause immense difficulties if there is not a great deal of co-ordination and co-operation. Amendment No. 358A raises the issue of consultation with the Common Council and the London boroughs in arriving at the spatial development strategy. Amendment No. 359, grouped with the amendment, includes the words, "based on the boroughs' views", for the same reason.

Amendment No. 419 picks up a different point. It introduces into Clause 273, which deals with matters to which the mayor must have regard, specific mention of the unitary development plans of the London boroughs. The mayor is obliged to have regard to the existing planning situation in drawing up any plans. We believe that it is a sensible provision. We do not think that it is unreasonable to have it on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The amendments seek to ensure that the mayor's spatial development strategy is based on the views of boroughs. I have no doubt that any sensible mayor would want to work in co-operation with the boroughs and involve them closely in the preparation of the strategy. Indeed, Clause 265 already provides that the mayor should consult the boroughs when preparing the strategy and take their views into account. In that sense, Amendment No. 358A is redundant.

To provide, as Amendment No. 359 suggests, that the strategy should be based on the views of the boroughs is going too far. Of course, their views will carry great weight, but all of the boroughs will not agree about all aspects and there may be disagreements between the boroughs and the mayor. At times, the mayor will have to take account of strategic considerations that may conflict with his or her view. That is precisely why we need a new strategic body. The mayor is meant to take responsibility for the strategic overview for London in this instance, and Amendment No. 359 is--perhaps unintentionally--a pretty substantial curb on that ability.

Similarly, Amendment No. 419 attempts to ensure that the mayor has regard to unitary development plans when producing or revising the development strategy. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The strategy sets the overall framework for London, and the UDPs, which are far more detailed and specific documents, must be in general conformity with it. That is the proper hierarchy of relationships and that is the logic of the position.

I think that these amendments are misconceived and, if taken literally, would hamstring the mayor in developing the strategy. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, which I shall study with care. At this late hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 359 not moved.]

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Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 359A:

Page 141, line 6, leave out ("to be known as the "spatial development strategy"") and insert ("dealing with the matters provided by subsection (2) (in this section called "the spatial development strategy")").

The noble Baroness said: We discussed earlier during the passage of this Bill its prescription of titles for the plans, strategies, meetings, question times, reports and so on that the mayor is to produce and undertake. Although a title such as the "spatial development strategy" is not quite as exciting as talking about "the people's question time"--it does not raise issues of political correctness, for example--we do not think that it is necessary or desirable to prescribe for the title. It will be perfectly adequate to provide that the mayor shall prepare and publish a document dealing with matters of spatial development, as I suggest in my amendment.

For the sake of convenience and to avoid amending other clauses, I am prepared to concede that, for the purposes of definition in the Bill, it can be called "the spatial development strategy". However, I do not see why the mayor should be "hamstrung"--to use the term that the Minister applied in another context--by Parliament's and the Government's terminology. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This amendment appears to carry the danger of creating some confusion if it allows the mayor to stray from using the terminology in the Bill and to use another description elsewhere. I have had a hasty look around the Chamber, and I think that no one present will take offence if I explain again what was outlined when we discussed Part II.

Although the term is new in its provenance within the United Kingdom, it accords with the Government's proposals on revising regional planning guidance and with broader concepts of spatial planning that are familiar in the European context. For this reason, we have chosen the term advisedly and are happy with it. It is a good concept for this part of the Bill, and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

11.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister may recall that I supported the Government in the concept. I am arguing from their view that the mayor shall not have the autonomy to call her or his own strategy by whatever sensible title the mayor wishes. The mayor might want to call it the London spatial development strategy. The mayor cannot do so; it has to be the spatial development strategy.

That seems to be taking regulation to extremes. That is why I challenge the amendment. I do not challenge the concept for one moment; indeed, I support it. Reluctantly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 360 to 364 not moved.]

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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Dean of Harptree): If Amendment No. 364A is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 365 to 366A.

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