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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I would not wish to undermine the purposes of the clause, as the noble Lord the Minister has suggested my amendments might do. I shall read very carefully what he has said. I know he will forgive me if I say that I am amused when he says that something is not necessary--and he says it to me very often. I often reply that such amendments are therefore not necessarily unnecessary.

Perhaps I may comment on Amendment No. 63. I shall not be moving it now because Clause 33 appeared to be a better place to put that particular amendment. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 61.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 62 to 64 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Limits of the general power]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 65:

Page 15, line 30, leave out paragraph (b)

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 26 sets out to define the limits of the general power in Clause 25. Therefore, I am somewhat puzzled by the drafting. I propose the amendment so that we can explore exactly what the limits might mean in one specific area. Clause 26 begins:

    “The Authority shall not by virtue of section 25(1) above incur expenditure in doing anything which may be done by a functional body other than the London Development Agency".

Subsection (3) says:

    “The Authority shall not by virtue of section 25(1) above incur expenditure in providing--

    (a) any housing".

That is fine, but subsection (4) says:

    “Any reference in subsection (3) above to the provision of housing--

    (a) includes a references to the management of housing; but

    (b) does not include a reference to the acquisition by the Authority of existing housing accommodation and the making of that accommodation available on a temporary basis for one or more of the principal purposes of the Authority".

I must admit that I would like to hear from the Minister in his reply what the limits of that particular phraseology might be.

If the GLA can acquire housing but cannot manage it, I am not quite sure what it is to do with it. Presumably, the authority would have to make it available for someone else to manage. But who else? As far as I can see, it would probably be one of the other statutory authorities. I do not know who else would be likely to want to manage housing in this way. In that case, it seems to me that it ought almost certainly to fall within the prohibition of Clause 26(3).

I may have misunderstood the purpose of the provision. Of course, it is possible that the authority might wish to purchase existing housing accommodation in order to demolish it for some other development. That would be a perfectly acceptable reason for purchasing housing. However, I am not sure that “demolition" would count as the management of housing, although it is a form of management. If that is the purpose of the provision, I think that the clause could perhaps have been drafted somewhat more felicitously. In any event, it seems to me that the existing drafting leaves an element of uncertainty. I particularly wish to hear the Minister's explanation regarding the exact nature of the restrictions and limitations of this power and why subsection (4) appears to be in some conflict with subsection (3) of the clause. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord has raised too many anxieties in this respect. Amendment No. 65 would prevent the authority from acquiring and providing housing on a temporary basis--covered by Clause 26(4)(b)--for one or more of its principal purposes or for purposes incidental to such purposes.

The provision in subsection 26(4)(b) will not provide the authority with an opportunity to become a housing authority and, therefore, go into housing management in that general sense. However, it would permit the authority to exercise a rational approach in, for

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example, its regeneration programme where it might be necessary to engage in the temporary decanting of tenants and rehousing, or the acquisition of property, short-term, which was tenanted. There would be other projects. I am not entirely sure whether, for example, if what is now the Highways Agency--which will become part of the TfL--is covered by this clause or a later clause, but very frequently it acquires houses for road schemes which need to be tenanted for a number of years. That is for a temporary purpose incidental to the main purpose and the Highways Agency therefore has housing on its books. To some extent TfL will inherit some of that. There will no doubt be similar issues in regeneration schemes and a number of other building projects.

The amendment would deny the authority and its functional bodies the flexibility it will need to act in this way and undermine its ability to act in relation to the purposes and functions we have given it. Our proposal is not the thin end of the wedge to it becoming a housing authority.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. He has done a great deal to calm my concerns. He has defined the purposes behind the subsection which might otherwise have caused concern. I shall study the reply with some care. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 16, line 8, at end insert (“except where it is the case that the Secretary of State is empowered under any other enactment to impose limits on any expenditure which may be incurred by the Authority,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, had indicated in tabling Amendment No. 66 her wish to excise Clause 26(8) from the face of the Bill. I have considerable sympathy for that wish to see this particular phraseology outwith the Bill.

I wonder why we spent so long working in the House on the Local Government Act last summer. The Local Government Act begins with defining local authorities and determines that the Greater London Authority is a local authority. If one goes on through the Act, Part II, which deals with the regulation of council tax and precepts, says that Schedule 1 shall have effect. Schedule 1 goes on:

    “If in the Secretary of State's opinion the amount calculated by an authority as its budget requirement for a financial year (the year under consideration) is excessive, he may exercise his power to designate or nominate the authority under Section 52D below".

If one goes further, under Section 52E, which deals with designation for the year under consideration, one sees:

    “He shall notify the authority in writing of...

    “(d) the amount which he proposes should be the maximum for the amount calculated by the authority as its budget requirement for the year".

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It seems that we have a wonderful duplication of legislation here. Rather than proposing to excise the phrase--which, it seemed to me, the Government were unlikely to accept--my amendment merely suggests that the power in Clause 26(8) should not be used except where it is the case that the Secretary of State is empowered under any other enactment to impose limits on expenditure; in other words, the Local Government Act should take precedence over this Bill and, therefore, the power would not be used.

It may be that I have missed something somewhere. Some of us in the House did a considerable amount of work--as did the Minister himself--to get the Local Government Act through. When we had done so, we thought we had done some good. When I see such a clause in this Bill, it makes me wonder whether one part of the relevant government department talks to another part of the relevant government department. It is possible that those responsible for drafting one Bill do not talk to those who are responsible for drafting another. In any event, it seems to me that we do not need both provisions. If the Bill is not appropriate, we should seek to amend subsection (8). In the mean time, I await the Minister's reply with considerable interest.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord paid me the compliment of agreeing with my Amendment No. 66. I am not surprised; it repeated exactly an amendment that he tabled at the previous stage. I am afraid that I cannot pay him quite the same compliment, as I am not sure what is the proposed effect of his Amendment No. 67. However, I strongly agree with his point that we should be relying on other existing legislation. I am simply not sure about the way in which the proposal is framed.

The noble Lord's amendment enables me to ask the Minister to explain, if he can, in rather more detail than he did in regard to Amendment No. 66 how subsection (8) relates to Clause 25(1). In the previous debate he said that the subsection is to prevent expenditure on peripheral matters. But Clause 25(1) seems to deal with everything. It states that the authority,

    “shall have power to do anything which it considers will further any one or more of its principal purposes".

In other words, it covers all the functions of the authority--what the authority does in order to promote its principal purposes. I am unable to see how Clause 28 is limited in the way that the noble Lord has argued. I hope that he will be able to assist me further on that point.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely sure that I follow the noble Baroness's last point. I understand that she is concerned about the inter-relationship between Clause 26(8) and Clause 25(1). But as I understand it, the point of the noble Lord's amendment is that in this whole area there are adequate powers within the Local Government Act 1999, on which he rightly spent some happy hours before the Recess.

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The point about the local government legislation, to which the GLA will clearly be subject, is that by and large it provides powers relating to the total budget and precept of the GLA. The provision in Clause 26(8) is not a power to limit the total expenditure of the GLA; it can only limit the amount within that total budget which is spent on activities other than those specific statutory functions under the general powers. That is why in the previous debate we were diverted into references to extravagant activities that were not part of the general purposes of the authority. So while the Local Government Act certainly deals with the total budget, it does not deal with that specific power in those specific circumstances. Therefore, we need that power within the Bill.

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