Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Renton: My Lords, Clause 25 is arguably the most important clause in the Bill because it deals with the powers of the proposed Greater London Authority. I support Amendments Nos.61, 62 and 63 which stand in the name of my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon. I should like to comment briefly on each of them.

Amendment No. 61 is a very neat piece of drafting on her part. It shortens and clarifies the meaning of subsection (1).

Amendment No. 62 states:

I should have thought that that was essential in order to avoid conflict.

Amendment No.63 incorporates the concept of observing

    “any national policy for the time being in force".

That is a very good idea, but I should like to make a minor drafting point and to draw the attention of my noble friend Lady Miller to the fact that those words, instead of coming after the word “to" in line 28 should come after the word “further". That would make greater sense and clarify the situation.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones has spoken very powerfully about community safety. I should like to add that I, and no doubt he, heartily agreed with the Minister's words at the last stage which were used to argue against our amendment, but which entirely supported it, and that is that the mayor's strategies and his or her activities would clearly be directed at crime reduction and community safety. He asked what other logical role there could be for the mayor. Quite so. The new authority has a strategic role, but crime prevention and community safety is one of those holistic subjects that should be the aim of London's strategic government.

Amendment No. 66 is also, a little oddly, grouped with these amendments. It proposes the deletion of Clause 26(8) which provides that the Secretary of

12 Oct 1999 : Column 309

State may, by order, impose limits on the expenditure which may be incurred by the authority by virtue of Clause 25(1).

The Minister stated that the new authority must be small and streamlined, as designed, but that reserve powers are needed in case an irresponsible mayor funded a significant expansion of the GLA or essential services were starved of funds as a result of those decisions. He said that they are reserve powers that would be used sparingly. From the drafting of subsection (8), it is not clear to me that they are reserve powers which would be used sparingly.

Why is this subsection necessary, given that all the normal constraints on local government spending will apply to the new authority? This sledgehammer of a clause could undo all the good which we hope that the GLA will do. To take one of the worst reasons, it is perhaps because we have a centralising government in power who do not like the success of the authority. We have been through arguments time and again in this House as to whether it is appropriate for electors to judge whether an administration has more or less hit the right level of spending. I shall not take up time by repeating those arguments. I am sure they are well known to all of your Lordships.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, a number of different and contradictory points have been raised. Contrary to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, the effect of Amendment No. 61 would be to deny the authority the ability it must have to co-operate with other statutory authorities and organisations to ensure that London receives the level and quality of strategic services it deserves and needs.

The noble Baroness seems to think that this would give the authority an open-ended power. I am not sure about the Trojan horse aspect. Clearly, I need to watch my metaphors. However, this is not an open-ended power. As I explained in Committee, the GLA is a statutory corporation and, as such, has only the functions--in other words, the powers and duties--conferred on it by statute.

Clause 1(3) clearly states:

    “The Authority shall have the functions which are transferred to, or conferred or imposed on, the Authority by or under this Act or any other Act".

It cannot, therefore, simply adopt new functions on an ad hoc basis.

Clause 25 confers a general power on the GLA but limits that power to particular purposes which, to differentiate them from other purposes for which the authority may exercise functions--for example, functions for the purposes of the four functional bodies--are defined as its “principal purposes".

The provisions of Clause 26 prevent the mayor from intruding into areas which are the statutory responsibility of other authorities and bodies. It is therefore clear that the GLA cannot incur expenditure in directly providing, for example, housing, education, health or social services. The guidance that the Secretary of State will provide about the use of the

12 Oct 1999 : Column 310

general power, under the provisions of Clause 25(7), will make it absolutely clear that the GLA should not use the power to provide services where those are provided by other authorities or public bodies.

If the GLA did seek to do so, the Bill also gives the Secretary of State powers under Clause 26(7) to add to the list of services on which the GLA is prohibited from incurring expenditure.

The Secretary of State also has the reserve power to limit the expenditure of the authority using its general power in pursuit of its general purposes. That is here, in subsection (8), which Amendment No. 66, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks to remove. That provides a safeguard against an irresponsible mayor diverting such a large proportion of the authority's resources to discretionary activities so that essential services are starved of funds.

As I have stated in earlier debates on this Bill, we have always made it clear that the GLA will be a relatively small authority, streamlined in terms of staff and costs. It will spend the money on services which Londoners wish to see and not on extravagant, diversionary expenditure of the kind alluded to or on activities other than those which the Bill decides should be the functions of the GLA.

However, it is the case that the GLA should be able to co-operate with those authorities in the London area in co-ordinating or facilitating the provision of services at a strategic level. That is clear from the main clauses of the Bill.

I would argue therefore that Amendment No. 62 is unnecessary in dealing with the question of co-operation with other authorities, because the mayor would both need and want to act in co-operation with the London boroughs and the Common Council of the City in pursuit of the authority's purposes. Their interests are common and the successful achievement of the GLA's purposes relies on co-operation not only with the boroughs but with all London's major players. We have tabled amendments to Clause 31 to enable the mayor to delegate his or her functions to the Common Council of the City where such an arrangement is agreed. Before the mayor can exercise the general power of the authority, he or she must consult the boroughs or the Common Council where their interests are likely to be affected. In preparing or revising any strategy, the mayor must always consult the London boroughs and the Common Council of the City.

There is, therefore, already every opportunity for the boroughs and the Common Council to make their views known to the mayor, and the mayor must act reasonably in the knowledge of those views. On the other hand, we do not believe that the mayor's actions should be prescribed by being made subject to--and to the veto of--the boroughs or the Common Council of the City. That is what Amendment No. 62 would require. They do not want to perceive the mayor as overriding the legitimate concerns of the boroughs, yet we do not want the boroughs to veto the mayor's actions in the exercise of his legitimate functions.

12 Oct 1999 : Column 311

Amendment No. 64, to which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, spoke, would require the authority, in exercising its general power, to do so in a way which is calculated to prevent crime and to promote community safety. Again, I argue that this amendment is unnecessary, as are the other amendments to which he spoke. It is quite clear that one of the principal purposes of the authority--to promote social development--must include crime prevention, community security and other matters related to the safety and security of citizens. Therefore, crime prevention is not simply the role of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but that factor is subsumed under the general requirement to promote social development. The general power may be exercised only in pursuit of those purposes, and strategies must have regard to those purposes.

I understood the noble Baroness to say that she would not move Amendment No. 63, so I shall not refer to that. In relation to the other amendments, I think that some of them could be damaging as regards constraining the mayor's powers unnecessarily. Others could be damaging, particularly Amendment No. 66, which seeks to delete the power of the Secretary of State to constrain the mayor, in extreme circumstances, from engaging in extravagant and unnecessary expenditure.

Other amendments, such as Amendment No. 64, are unnecessary in that they are covered by the general purposes referred to in the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will not press these amendments. They would undermine the purpose of the authority, and in some cases they are unnecessary.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I wonder whether I may remind your Lordships that this is Report stage and it is not possible for noble Lords to speak after the Minister.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page