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Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has said, just as I had great sympathy with the then Labour opposition, who made precisely the same complaints when the previous government were in office. The fact is that we do not handle the business of this House in a competent fashion. We had a report of a committee chaired by Lord Rippon of Hexham which made recommendations in the lifetime of the previous government. Unhappily, many of those recommendations have not been implemented. Lord

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Rippon made the point that it was for the House to determine the number of hours that it sat but that, by and large, it should not regularly sit after 10 o'clock at night.

As the noble Lord who has just spoken pointed out, we sat until 2.30 this morning. That is not a sensible way to conduct our business. I very much hope that the Government Chief Whip will return to this matter in the Procedure Committee in the next Session of Parliament so that we can review the recommendations of Lord Rippon of Hexham and his colleagues and avoid complaints of this kind. It is wholly unreasonable for the House to sit as long as it is now regularly sitting. I hope that the complaints made this afternoon will be taken very seriously by the Government, as I am sure they will be.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for giving me notice of his intention to raise this matter today. I accept that this will be a very busy spillover, and there is a lot of work still to do. In that respect, it is no different from any other spillover; it is always a very busy time of year. I always try to be conciliatory, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is aware. As for the GLA Bill, the Government listened carefully to points made by the Opposition and others in Committee and have responded positively with amendments to deal with 80 per cent of the issues raised. It is a little strange. I understand the point that the noble Lord makes, but we have had to take time to make concessions on matters such as equal opportunities, consultation with the disabled on transport, and a new appeals process for bus licensing.

Notwithstanding the fact that many of these amendments relate to such concessions, we have been at pains to send advance copies of draft amendments and explanatory notes to opposition spokesmen. Most, but not all, of the amendments were tabled at least a week in advance. Meetings were organised last week in which my noble friend Lord Whitty discussed the remaining stages of the Bill with the Opposition and other noble Lords. I know that he is willing to hold further meetings if that would assist.

No new areas of policy are being raised for the first time at Report. We would have expected the Opposition to be pleased that the Government had made a substantial number of concessions in this very important Bill. It is true that the GLA Bill will go back to the House of Commons with a large number of amendments in it, but the House of Lords is a revising Chamber; its role is to improve legislation where possible and to amend it where necessary.

Without speaking in any partisan sense, we became used to very large numbers of amendments being tabled by the previous government on a whole variety of Bills. Only this morning I was given a graphic description of the telephone directory of amendments tabled on the Financial Services Bill. The suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, about the Procedure Committee again considering the Rippon report in the new Session is a good one. This

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is a problem for all governments, and I shall put with some force to the departments involved the points made by the Opposition Chief Whip.

As to the GLA Bill currently before the House, most of the amendments that the House is being asked to consider are technical or relate to concessions by the Government. As to the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill, I understand that there will be 60 fewer amendments than the 260 that the previous government tabled at the same stage to their Pensions Bill in 1995. I do not want to go backwards and forwards on the number of amendments tabled at different stages.

As regards the point about the amendments that were tabled on Monday for consideration today, I think there were only four and they were all technical. I suppose a little more time could have been found if we had sat last week but, in the spirit of good will, I try to avoid sitting the week of the Conservative Party Conference so that Conservative Peers can fully enjoy their week in Blackpool.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was not prepared to be slightly more conciliatory. As he will be aware, we were quite prepared to sit into August and it was the Government themselves who resisted such a move. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, boasts that many of the amendments were available last week, but can he confirm that my noble friend Lady Miller, who is leading for us on much of this Bill, was able to see those amendments only on Friday? As I am sure the Government expected her to be, she was in Blackpool earlier in the week.

I imagine that a certain number of Ministers and officials were in their offices for part of August and September. Nine weeks have elapsed since we completed the Committee stage of this Bill. It is simply not satisfactory to bring the amendments to us at this stage and then still have further amendments to bring forward. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, confirmed that four more amendments, which he described as merely technical amendments, were laid today. We do not have the resources of the Government to establish whether they are technical. It takes quite a long time to get to grips with these amendments.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not prepared to be slightly more conciliatory in this matter. As I stressed, we sat--because we are a very co-operative Opposition--until 2.30 this morning to assist the Government in getting their business through on the Welfare Reform Bill. However, this Bill, the London Bill, which has had fewer than eight days in Committee, is the biggest Bill that has ever been before this House. It is bigger than the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Bills put together, and it is likely that four days will not be adequate for its proper consideration at Report stage. We, as an Opposition, reserve our right to consider how to deal with this matter later if the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not prepared to offer more time.

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As I said earlier, we have in the past insisted on our right, as the the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, to “down tools", and we might have to insist on that right again in the future.

Lord Carter: My Lords, as regards the point about August, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, knows, we agreed that if we could finish all Committee stages before the Recess, we would then rise. We did finish all the Committee stages by the end of July and that is why we did not sit into August.

As regards the amount of time required, that is a matter for the usual channels, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, knows. We meet each other, and I also meet the noble Lord, Lord Harris, every week. That is the time to discuss the problem. I do not like sitting until 2.30 in the morning any more than the noble Lord, Lord Henley. He, I and our Whips are the people who are here with the Ministers. We are as keen as anybody not to sit late. We do have a problem. This is a very large Bill. We have made a large number of concessions. Because of the size of the Bill and the concessions we have made, there have to be a large number of amendments. I am entirely willing to talk to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to see if we can organise things a little better. The spillover is always heavy. This is not the first time and this is not the first Government to have a Bill before the House in the spillover with a large number of amendments presented a little later than we would all like.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Membership of the Authority and the Assembly]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 15, after (“London;") insert (“and the Deputy Mayor, who will exercise the executive power of the Authority")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I would like to speak to the group of amendments which start with Amendment No. 1 and go on to Amendment No. 159 on the Marshalled List. Not consecutively, I hasten to say; only to the amendments in the grouping.

As I said in Committee when I moved almost identical amendments, it really is not as formidable a number as it might appear because all of the amendments relate to one key point: that the deputy mayor should be elected and not merely nominated by the mayor and plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen. Other amendments in this group are consequential or rectify the omission of reference to the deputy mayor where it would have been appropriate.

I shall deal with the principal amendments in this group, and I certainly will try to avoid taking up your Lordships' time by repeating the same arguments that I made in Committee, without much success I have to say. I will try to shorten what I wanted to say because of the lack of time.

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If the deputy mayor is not just to be an ornament standing in at an engagement when the mayor is double-booked, we propose that the deputy mayor should be directly elected by the citizens of London in the same way and at the same time as they elect the mayor. The purpose of the amendments that I am proposing at this stage is to make it clear, which I clearly failed to do last time, that the mayor and his deputy shall be elected at the same time and on the same ticket.

Amendment No. 7 provides for the candidate for mayor to nominate his deputy to run on this joint ticket. Some of your Lordships might argue that that is not democratic, but at least the voters themselves will have some say in who is deputy mayor. If they do not like the mayoral candidate's choice, presumably they will vote for neither. It is certainly more democratic than the Government's proposal contained in Clause 41(3) which empowers the newly elected mayor to foist--I do not use that word lightly because he can do that--his choice on the electorate after they have elected the mayor when it is too late for the electors, who may not like that choice, to do anything about it.

All of the arguments that the Labour Party mustered for the election of a mayor apply equally to his deputy. Electing the deputy will give him not only status but also a greater degree of authority than he can expect if he is merely selected from among the assemblymen by the mayor to whom he will thereafter obviously be beholden.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in responding to my amendments on the previous occasion, argued:

    “Our intention is that the deputy mayor should act as a link between the two directly elected bodies".

A few lines further on in Committee he said,

    “It does give a separate position which ... can provide a bridge between the two parts of this authority".--[Official Report, 14/6/99; col.25.]

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, earlier in that speech also used the same phrase to describe the deputy mayor as a bridge between the two parts of the authority.

Obviously, this connection, whether they call it a link or a bridge, is exactly what the Government wanted; or at least what they wanted at that time because that is what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, told us. That is the direct antithesis of what we all understand as the separation of powers. A distinct separation between the executive, in the person of the mayor, and including his deputy whenever he is performing those executive duties on the one hand, and the legislature in the form of the assembly on the other. At Committee stage I argued for a clear application of the doctrine of separation of powers but, in opposition to that, the Government spoke, as I have just quoted, of “links" and “bridges".

In August the Minister for London issued a consultation paper regarding the proposed interim organisation which is needed to be in place before the

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mayor assumes office. On page 1 of that consultation paper, at point 1, the Minister says,

    “There will be clear separation of powers between a directly elected executive mayor and a 25 member assembly".

We do not believe that there will be that clear separation of powers when there is a link or bridge in the person of the deputy mayor plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen; someone who will then owe the mayor his support in the assembly as the price of the mayor's patronage. The amendments will put into effect what the Government now say, in the person of the Minister for London, they want to achieve--the separation of powers.

The Minister's statement is the very reason why I believe the Government should simply accept this series of amendments.

If the deputy were to be selected from amongst the assemblymen, there is a grave danger of a conflict of interests should the mayor and the assembly disagree on some topic or other, as they are more or less bound to do at some time, even assuming that the mayor is of the same party as the majority in the assembly. One neutralised assemblyman taken out of the assembly to become the deputy mayor from a mere 25 members represents the equivalent of four per cent of the votes.

For the first time we have in statute a separation of powers between the executive, in the form of the mayor, and the legislature, in the form of the assembly. The mayor is elected on his own manifesto and carries out his own polices. The assembly is there to scrutinise how he does that and only to a limited extent to exercise a check where they disagree. That check and balance disappears when four per cent of the legislature has a dual role as a member of the legislature and as a member of the executive. It is poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously. The mayor's authority comes directly from his having been elected as an individual. The Government's whole raison d'etre for having a directly elected mayor was to secure his total independence. Here they are trying to tie him into the assembly.

In Committee, I asked the Minister how, when the deputy was performing his duties he could simultaneously find the time to perform his duties as an assemblyman. At that stage the Minister did not answer me; he may have thought of something now. But, most importantly, the deputy mayor temporarily acts in place of the mayor if a vacancy occurs, but with extremely circumscribed powers. I pointed out that those powers are so circumscribed that there is a virtual hiatus in many of the functions of the mayor's duties until a replacement is elected. I also drew the Committee's attention to the anomaly that there was no provision in this badly drafted Bill to cover the temporary incapacity of the mayor. I am glad to see that the Government are now attempting to rectify this although I shall comment on their proposals.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, was kind in the way that he mentioned that we have real difficulties. The Chief Whip said that the Government had taken note and that that is why there are so many amendments. The truth is that the measure was extraordinarily

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badly drafted, so they had to take note. We did our duty properly in Committee. We wish to continue to do so at Report stage.

If the deputy mayor is to perform some of the mayor's functions, the voters are entitled to pick him for themselves, with a properly elected deputy with the authority of having been elected by the voters. The natural thing would be for him to take over the office on a permanent basis in the event of a vacancy or during a mayor's long-term incapacity. If the Government were to accept the amendment, there would be some consequential amendments. However, I assure the Minister that we would be co-operative in seeking to get them through as quickly as possible.

I should like to touch on the provisions that the Government have proposed with regard to Schedule 4. The production of four pages containing 22 amendments covering a possible vacancy in the office of mayor, the refusal or inability of the deputy mayor to be the acting mayor, and the consequent situation of the chairman of the assembly who then has to cease to be the chairman of the authority, looks like the creation of a deputy deputy mayor. I believe that that complicated machinery might very well have been avoided by the election of a deputy mayor who is divorced from the assembly.

Amendment No. 4 makes it clear that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. I still believe that omitting the reference to the deputy mayor from the list is demeaning to that office. I hope that the Government may feel that it is worth accepting our wording so that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. Whether or not the deputy mayor is directly elected, there is no justification for making him a virtual non-person in the definition of the authority. I hope that the Government will accept that provision.

I hope that the Government will agree that the direct election of a deputy mayor is far more democratic than the mayor selecting his own deputy without the assembly or electors being able to gainsay it. Perhaps that last thought may make the Government pause and reflect on the matter and accept the amendment and the resulting consequential amendments. I beg to move.

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