Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 450RB:

Page 149, line 22, leave out ("to be known as a") and insert ("dealing with the matters provided by subsection (3) (in this section called the").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 451ZE, 451ZN, 451ZP and 451ZS. This amendment takes us back to the role of the assembly in the production of the report on the environment; to consultation before directions given by the Secretary of State on the waste strategy; to commenting on boroughs' recycling plans; and to consultation before directions are given by the Secretary of State on the air quality strategy.

The Minister may think that, from these Benches, we have dealt with these matters to the point of tedium. However, we are merely repeating what we believe to be extremely important; namely, that the experience of assembly members, and in particular their role of keeping the mayor up to scratch, is essential. The exchange on the two amendments with which my noble friend Lady Miller dealt rather illustrates that. Members of the assembly could have a role in assisting the mayor to make connections. We talk a great deal about cross-cutting issues. The last group of amendments was about precisely that. It was about making the connection between, for example, the state of the environment and human health.

I repeat that the assembly should be able to make its comments in advance through a formal process. I have mentioned the question of health. In relation to recycling, the members of the assembly may well have an overview of how recycling fits within the jigsaw of other environmental issues in London.

The White Paper Local Leadership, Local Choice referred to the scrutiny committee which is proposed by the Government in their forthcoming local government

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1491

organisation and standards Bill. At paragraph 3.19 it states that it should:

    "consider and investigate broad policy issues and make reports and recommendations to the executive",


    "provide advice to the executive on major issues before final decisions are made".

The next paragraph goes on to state that scrutiny committees,

    "would therefore be able to address cross cutting issues ...making a key input to the council's policy development process. They would also tackle issues to do with the policy framework for a particular council service and the effectiveness of the delivery of that service".

It went on to say that:

    "These overview and scrutiny committees would make reports and recommendations on future policy and practice to the council or the executive as appropriate".

That is a close and useful analogy with the role of the assembly and the way in which the assembly can best work. I hope that we shall be given some assurances that the assembly members can make the sort of input to which I have referred in quoting from that White Paper. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness rightly says that we have been round this course before. I should never accuse her of tedium although I may accuse her of relentless consistency perhaps. However, there is a fundamental difference between us in this regard. These amendments pursue the way in which the Liberal Democrats view the structure of the authority. They would enhance the role of the assembly and give it the right to make executive decisions alongside the mayor.

We do not consider that that is the right approach. There need to be clear checks and balances and there must be a clear separation of powers. Proper scrutiny can only take place in that context. The assembly cannot scrutinise decisions and the implications of decisions in which it is implicated. To a greater or lesser extent, the amendments would undermine that principle. For example, they would give the assembly the right to decide what should be included in the state of the environment report. That would undermine the assembly's subsequent ability of scrutiny.

We have debated this issue many times. I have no doubt that we shall return to it at a later stage. In our view, the separation of functions would logically not allow these amendments. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will not pursue the matter.

10 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I am not sure that I follow the point that if the assembly has a role in advance, it prejudices its scrutiny role after the event. I shall consider that. I think that the Minister paid me a compliment. I would rather have had the amendment accepted, but I shall make do with the compliment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1492

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 450SB:

Page 150, line 9, at end insert--
("( ) A state of the environment report shall also set performance targets in the above areas and assess progress in achieving those targets.")

The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 450J. Amendment No. 450SB seeks to insert that,

    "A state of the environment report shall also set performance targets"

--in the areas it is to cover--

    "and assess progress in achieving those targets".

On another Bill, we have heard relentlessly--I do not say "tediously"--about assessment of performance targets. We have a vast array of systems enabling council leaders to be assessed on them. If they fail, the Government have another set of systems to ensure that those targets are achieved. Yet we do not seem to be placing anything like the same requirements on the mayor in his state of the environment report.

I am aware that in another place the Minister argued that it was inappropriate and unreasonable to require a mayor to set targets in areas outside his or her responsibility. However, if the mayor cannot set the targets, who can? The mayor is able to set goals and aspirations even though those areas may be outside his responsibility. In seeking to raise the quality of life for Londoners, I should have thought that the mayor should be able to raise the aspirations of every sector of the community he serves.

Amendment No. 450J seeks to do the same, but relates to a more specific area: the London biodiversity action plan. Again, there is little point in having a biodiversity action plan if there are no performance indicators. How will the success or otherwise of the plan be measured? Both amendments are extremely important. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I can sympathise with the intention behind the amendment. The Government are a strong advocate of the use of performance indicators to encourage improved performance in a range of public bodies. The Greater London Authority should not be an exception to this principle. As the Committee will already know, and as the noble Baroness is aware, my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government has promoted a Local Government Act this Session. It will establish a best value framework for local authorities which will include a series of performance indicators across the range of public services.

The GLA will be covered by best value and will, therefore, need to have a series of performance indicators in place to assess its level of performance for all its functions, including the environment. Performance indicators will play a part in the GLA's make up as a requirement of best value. We expect that relevant nationally applied indicators will apply to the authority.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1493

However, we cannot support the amendments. They seek to require the mayor to set performance targets for all the areas which the state of the environment report will cover and to include performance indicators in the biodiversity action plan.

As I have already explained to the Committee, the state of the environment report will contain several sections on areas of indirect interest to the mayor, in which he has no strategic role, but where we consider London would benefit from his interest and scrutiny; for example, litter and water quality.

The Government consider that it would be inappropriate and unreasonable to require the mayor to set performance indicators in areas which are not within his or her responsibility. On whom would the indicators bite? Would it be the GLA or perhaps other bodies, such as the London boroughs?

If the indicators applied to the GLA, they would inevitably be meaningless as the GLA would have no direct responsibility for achieving them. If they applied to local authorities, they would be seen as unfair and ineffective because the mayor would have no remit to set indicators and no ability to enforce their achievement.

However, I am more sympathetic to the noble Baroness's suggestion that the biodiversity action plan should contain performance indicators. As she may be aware, my honourable friend in another place made a commitment to examine the case for including performance indicators in the mayor's strategies. We are still completing our considerations of this point and I guarantee that we shall return to it at a later stage. I hope that, in the light of these assurances, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for her reply and I am encouraged to hear that an amendment similar to our Amendment No. 450J is likely to appear before we reach the final stage of the Bill. Naturally, I am slightly disappointed in her reply to Amendment No. 450SB because I believe that the setting of targets for London's society as a whole is desirable, even though no one obvious person may be responsible for them. However, in the meantime, I accept the Minister's reply and shall read it with interest. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page