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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 455AXE:

After Clause 315, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) A scheme under section (Information schemes) above may at any time--
(a) be revoked by the Mayor; or
(b) be varied by the Mayor in accordance with the terms of the scheme or by agreement between the Mayor and at least two-thirds of the London local authorities.
(2) Before deciding whether to revoke or vary a scheme by virtue of subsection (1) above the Mayor shall consult each London local authority.
(3) Where the Mayor revokes or varies a scheme by virtue of subsection (1) above he shall notify each London local authority of the revocation or variation.
(4) For the purposes of this section "London local authority" means a London borough council or the Common council.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 316 [Accommodation for Authority and functional bodies]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 455AYA:

Page 165, line 38, after ("for") insert ("the Authority or")

The noble Lord said: The amendment seeks clarification from the Minister. Clause 316(4) states:

    "The Secretary of State need not provide accommodation for a body under subsection (1)".

We seek clarification from the Minister that, although the subsection refers to a body, it does not mean only the functional body but also includes the authority. If the authority should say that it does not need or wish to have the accommodation, the Minister is not still required to provide it. I am sure that the Minister will be able to clarify the provision.

Lord Whitty: Since subsection (4) refers back to subsection (1), its reference is to include paragraphs (a) and (b): that is, the authority and each of the functional bodies. The objective of the noble Lord's amendment is met.

Lord Tope: I felt sure that that was the case. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 455AZA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 316 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 455AZAA:

After Clause 316, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The functions conferred or imposed on the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the provisions of Schedule 1 to the London Government Reorganisation (Pensions etc.) Order 1989 ("the 1989 Order") specified in subsection (2) below are transferred to the Mayor by this subsection.

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(2) Those provisions are--
(a) paragraph 1 (appointment of members etc.);
(b) paragraph 2(b) (which makes provision about tenure of office by applying paragraph 2 of Schedule 13 to the Local Government Act 1985);
(c) paragraph 2(c) (which makes provision about determinations relating to remuneration etc. by applying paragraph 3 of that Schedule);
(d) paragraph 2(f) (which makes provision about reports and information by applying paragraph 10 of that Schedule).
(3) In the application of paragraph 3 of Schedule 13 to the Local Government Act 1985 (determinations relating to remuneration etc.) by virtue of subsections (1) and (2)(c) above, sub-paragraph (5) (which requires the consent of the Treasury to any determination) shall be omitted.
(4) In the application of paragraph 10 of that Schedule (reports and information) by virtue of subsections (1) and (2)(d) above, in sub-paragraph (2) (which requires the authority to send a copy of its annual report to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State to lay copies of it before Parliament) the words from "and the Secretary of State" to the end of the sub-paragraph shall be omitted.
(5) Any appointment--
(a) made by the Secretary of State under sub-paragraph (1) or (2) of paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the 1989 Order, and
(b) in force immediately before the coming into force of subsection (1) above, so far as relating to subsection (2)(a) above,
shall have effect as from the coming into force of subsection (1) above, so far as so relating, as an appointment made by the Mayor under and in accordance with that sub-paragraph (and subject accordingly to the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 13 to the Local Government Act 1985 as they have effect by virtue of subsections (1) and (2)(b) or (c) above).")

The noble Lord said: The new clause implements our White Paper commitment to bring the London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA) under the control of a democratic London-wide authority. Further amendments dealing with the detailed consequences for financial accountability and audit arrangements will not be tabled, I regret, until Report stage. The LPFA is currently a quango accountable to the Secretary of State. We consider that a body focused on London and affecting the lives of many people across London should be answerable in some way to a democratically elected London authority. This clause puts right that anomaly in a simple way. It transfers from the Secretary of State to the mayor responsibilities for the appointments and tenure of office of members of the LPFA board, for determining their remuneration, and for receiving reports and information. This will be to the benefit of the pensioners and others for whose interests the fund is responsible, and to London as a whole. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 317 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 318 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Young of Dartington: When I spoke in favour of urban parish councils on the Second Reading of the Bill I was urging the Government to bring London into line with the rest of the country. Scotland and Wales, as I said then, have small community councils and the whole of England has the right to urban parish councils by virtue of the Local Government and Rating Act 1997.

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This Act was supported by all parties and is now being vigorously promoted by the same Department of the Environment which has been refusing London the same rights as other parts of England. Urban parish councils are being set up in Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Portsmouth, Tameside, Hartlepool and quite a number of other places and so the question inevitably arises: why the rest of the country and why not London?

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is to be congratulated on his stamina and skill in bringing us so far with this complex Bill. He argued powerfully in the course of the debate on 7th July, when opposing amendments about the Metropolitan Police, that the Met should be under the same statutory obligations as the rest of the country. The noble Lord urged consistency about police authorities, and I hope that tonight he will accept that there should also be consistency across the country about urban parish councils.

Clause 318 is in an unusual position. It was introduced, I understand, into the original Bill as a government amendment late in the discussions in the other place and so was not very fully debated. It confers very sweeping catch-all powers, or it seems almost catch-all powers, on the Minister to make orders for,

    "incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision as appears to him to be necessary or expedient ... in consequence of the provisions of any other Act passed previously",

like the Act to which I have just referred.

I seek from the Minister--I wrote to him in advance to give him an idea of what I was proposing to say--an assurance that these wide powers include the power to apply the provisions of the Local Government and Rating Act 1997 to London. That would be an important step forward for those who do not want London to be excluded from what has become a national movement for urban parish councils everywhere else.

I am pushing this issue, and have been doing so for 40 years, because I believe rather passionately in communities of place. It is often argued that communities have changed their character, and of course they have. They consist in particular of all sorts of special interest groups: football clubs, religious groups, people who use the Internet to join up with other people who believe in black magic, or special diets for cancer and all sorts of other things. There is a great host of worthy voluntary bodies and groups which exist.

Of course I accept that it has happened. There are more specialist interest groups than there used to be, and the Internet is adding to their number. However, communities of locality are still, in my submission, of enormous importance. The community formed around the place where people live still matters. People's homes are obviously precious to them. This is the bit of the world to which they have a special attachment and in which they feel most fully themselves. But some of that attachment also spreads out into the little districts around their homes. If you ask people where they belong--as I have, in a number of surveys--they may say "England." They would certainly say "London" and often, with most feeling, one finds, they would refer to

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the little district--their own street and the streets around that, the district that has shops which they use; the district which has a church and a few local pubs, a post office and a primary school and maybe a small local park and a swimming pool.

London is not a vast undifferentiated urban area. It is made up of a series of much smaller places within the whole, which are living cells of that whole. Gertrude Stein, of blessed memory, said about Los Angeles, the world's largest city in terms of territory, "There is no there there." She could not have said that about London. There are many local "theres" in London. Here are many "heres" in London: from Pimlico to Bow, from Kentish Town to Brixton.

David Hume, the great Scottish philosopher, wrote a lot about propinquity as a basis of common association. It is now a quaint word, but one that I much like. I believe that people's sense of their own identity, even now in this small mobile age, is still partly bound up in their own home, in their own homeland territory around it and in their local public realm, as the recent report which appeared under the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, called it.

If they care about it, as so many people do, that is a good basis for local political life, focused on the common concerns and aspirations of the citizens who are near enough to each other to have a sense of propinquity--that word again--and a recruitment ground for people who are going to seek wider public responsibility. This is where people can become engaged in their common affairs at their most basic. This needs to have its most democratic institutions if democracy at higher levels is to be enhanced.

All we are saying is fully compatible with what the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, in his report, is recommending about home zones. The new parish councils could introduce such home zones. Based on the best German and Dutch examples, home zones would be groups of streets which create living spaces where pedestrians have absolute priority and cars travel at little more than walking pace, suitable to a parish. Why, if it all happened, children might emerge from their homes and once again be playing in the streets.

I think I can recommend any of the candidates for mayor of London to put elected grass-roots councils into his or her manifesto. I believe that could yet be, strange as it may seem, a winning card which makes much of the little and puts himself or herself on the side of the small man or woman in a big world and a big London.

Anyway, back to my question: I want to ask the Minister whether he can confirm that the sweeping powers given to the Minister by Clause 318 could be used to apply the relevant parts of the 1997 Local Government and Rating Act to London, as it does to the rest of the country. I beg the Minister to help us.

8 p.m.

Lord Borrie: I want to speak in support of my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington, as I did during Second Reading. The points which he then made and has repeated today have a great deal of force. People identify most closely with the immediate neighbourhood

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in which they live. In London, there are numerous villages not unlike the rural villages with their parish councils; and certainly not unlike the areas where neighbourhood councils are permitted. The residents of those areas petitioned for them to be allowed. Perhaps because London can be so impersonal, there may be a greater need for community councils than elsewhere. It is remarkable that only in London are they not permitted.

The Bill, which my noble friend has been so diligent in taking through nine days of Committee, is concerned with setting up an authority with a mayor and an assembly. The members of the assembly, apart from those who are chosen on the basis of party lists, will each represent some 300,000 electors. Surely, there should be a link between them and the electors. Let us hope--although I do not have great hopes--that the electors will be larger in number than we have become accustomed to in recent months. The greatest enemy of local government, as my noble friend said on other occasions, is apathy. But there would be no apathy about electing small neighbourhood community councils.

I recall that the White Paper, which preceded the Bill, indicated that when the members of the assembly are concerned to discuss strategy and policy they should be sure that they reflect people's views. Let them have, to aid them, the eyes and ears of community councils in local neighbourhoods where people feel they belong.

Will Clause 318 enable an order to be made by Ministers to allow in London what is feasible and allowed in other parts of the country without difficulty? That is all that is being asked for and I hope that the Minister will be able to give encouragement to my noble friend who has raised this important matter tonight.

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