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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have been generous about what we have achieved. In reply I shall deal with the points of concern that have been raised. We do not believe that this amendment is a token provision. The Bill provides for a number of ways in which the mayor must report on progress. Clause 38 already requires the mayor to prepare an annual report which must include an assessment of progress in implementing the strategies, a summary of information which relates to the performance of the authority in its statutory functions and information which the assembly, prior to the beginning of the financial year to which the report relates, has asked the mayor to include. It also requires that the report be sent to the assembly and published.

Given that the mayor will be required to include in the strategies targets or bench marks which he or she has set and that all strategies specifically must now have regard to the achievement of equal opportunities, we believe that this new clause is a strong point.

I understand the issues raised by noble Lords. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that I fear that I too would be unable to take part in handstands. However, to me, the issue of equality of opportunity relates to the fact that the country, and individuals in the country, are being denied the skills of large numbers of people. Unfortunately, that includes disproportionately large percentages of people from certain sections of the community who have the capacity to achieve an awful lot given those skills. My capacity to achieve handstands departed more years ago than I care to remember, but I look, as do other noble Lords, at the enormous pool of talent. I am aware, as are other noble Lords, that all too often the children who end up with the most difficulties in life are those who have enormous talent which is not recognised because they are not given equality of opportunity to develop that talent.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I agree with everything that the Minister says about this particular point. But I hope that she will realise that I was not suggesting that there are equal opportunities for all. I was saying that they cannot exist in the terms of the wording of the amendment. I would have thought that the wording was simply not suitable to be tested in court, unless it is already defined somewhere in a way that makes it possible to test it in court. It is simply a vague phrase that should not appear in legislation. Of course I agree with the Minister and, furthermore, I

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think it excellent to put this clause in--of course I do. But I am questioning the wording of the part which refers to,

    “due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people".

If someone could not stand on his head, then there would not be equality of opportunity for all people. It is just nonsense.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am sorry. Perhaps, because it is getting late, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and I ought to continue our duologue outside the Chamber.

My point is not that there should be an assumption that all people can achieve equal success in all fields in which other people are able to achieve high levels. That is not equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity is absent when a child who has the potential to be a brain surgeon ends up, for a variety of reasons, not even being literate. That, when other children get through, to me is a total failure to achieve equality of opportunity. It would be difficult to take the issue further.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, that if the population of London--indeed, of anywhere in the country, but of London in particular--does not have an opportunity to develop its talents and its cultural diversity, not only will London be the poorer for it, but so will the rest of the country. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that there is always an opportunity for those with a responsibility to challenge and question and scrutinise and that that has not always happened. I put to him the point that this is a totally new model of governance and that the specific role for scrutiny envisaged within the Bill or the assembly will--I hope and I am sure he hopes--develop a sharper edge and sharper focus.

I appreciate the point made by my noble friend Lord Harris. We believe that the proposals now within the Bill will strengthen and put a hard force before the need to tackle the issue. No one--including Members of this House speaking for the Government at this Dispatch Box--ever claims that they have discovered every single phrase which could possibly strengthen and enhance a particular part of a particular piece of legislation. Of course we stand fully prepared to take into consideration any points raised. It is quite clear from the contributions in your Lordships' House that we have one common goal regarding this item, and that is that we get it right. We must make sure it is as effective as possible and that it delivers the conditions that must apply in this country because of European commitments. I pay tribute to the reference from the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 17, line 5, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 72. I confess that Clause 29(1) has given me more

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difficulty than any other provision in this Bill or, indeed, so far as I can recall, any other clause with which I have ever had to deal in any other Bill.

As drafted, the clause would enable any of the functions of the Greater London Authority to be exercisable by, in the alternative, the mayor alone or the assembly alone or the mayor and assembly jointly.

When the Bill was first published after being introduced in the other place, my initial reaction was that I did not like the provisions of this subsection because it seemed to me that we could end up with a situation where there was a lack of accountability. Each of the parties--the mayor on the one hand and the assembly on the other--could blame the other for actions they did not specifically agree or decisions in which they had not specifically participated.

It would create a huge potential for conflict if the two had different views on which policy should be pursued. It would create the potential for good old-fashioned demarcation disputes that would put the inter-union conflicts in the shipbuilding industry into the shade if the mayor on the one hand claimed that something was within his jurisdiction and the assembly on the other hand claimed it was theirs, while a disgruntled resident of Greater London might claim that a decision by either one or the other should have been made by the two bodies jointly under subsection 29(1)(c).

My response to this problem was to suggest that there should be only one choice as to who should be responsible for exercising the functions of the authority. My initial choice was that the function should be exercised by the mayor and assembly jointly; in other words, deleting subsections (a) and (b). That was the effect of Amendment No. 98 which I tabled for the Committee to consider. However, when I came to prepare my speaking notes I had a change of mind. I came to the conclusion that, as the office of the mayor was to be the executive of the authority, then logically it should be the mayor who should exercise the functions of the authority. After all, when we consider the governance of the United Kingdom, the functions of Westminster Parliament--the equivalent of the assembly--do not involve it in taking any part in the exercise of its powers by the executive in the form of the government. It grants the executive its powers and supervises the government as best it can. However, I repeat that Parliament itself does not take an active part in the exercise of the functions of the government.

Therefore, having changed my mind about who should exercise the functions of the authority, I withdrew Amendment No. 98 before it was reached and substituted Amendment 98A, which was to delete paragraphs (b) and (c), leaving the functions to be exercised by the mayor. The Government, as is their wont, rejected my amendment and in withdrawing it I said that I was sure that the Minister would not expect me to accept his explanation. I am pleased to tell the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, possibly to his great

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surprise, that, having since carefully read his remarks, I now find that I certainly do agree with him. He said--and I streamline his remarks--that:

    “The Bill provides for the majority of the authority's functions ... to be exercised by the mayor ... and it is right that the assembly ... should exercise certain functions on behalf of the authority ... There are other instances where perhaps the mayor and the assembly could jointly have responsibility".

He then concluded by saying that,

    “in general there needs to be some differentiation in function--[Official Report, 21/6/99; col. 758]

It is that one phrase that contains the nub of the point. On reflection, I entirely agree with the noble Lord.

I am not one to be persuaded by rhetoric but, as an eminently reasonable person, I most certainly can be persuaded by logic. If I may tell the House of my thought processes, following the noble Lord's most logical remarks, I then asked myself the equally logical question, what is the purpose of subsection (1)? In what way does this subsection improve or explain the Bill? My answer has to be: in no way. The individual, separate and joint functions of the mayor and the assembly are clearly set out and defined throughout the Bill. So what does this subsection mean? In my opinion, and with due respect to the draftsman, I believe it is mere verbiage. It does not improve the Bill in any way. As I said a few minutes ago, what it does do is to provide fertile ground for disputes, arguments and uncertainty.

I apologise to your Lordships for raising this point at such a late stage of the Bill, and in particular at such a late hour. I should have questioned it at Second Reading, or I should have introduced a probing amendment in Committee. However, I was so engrossed in adopting a minimalist approach to the amendment that although I realised that there was something drastically wrong with the clause, I did not appreciate that it really was beyond amendment and that the only solution to its basic flaw would be to excise it altogether. I have tried to make up for this by giving the Minister advance notice of my opinion and argument. I look forward with interest to his reply.

I turn now to the minor drafting amendment, Amendment No. 72. It calls for two words, “in particular", to be deleted from subsection (10), which reads:

    “This section is subject, in particular, to Part II of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994".

But why “in particular"? This section, and this entire Bill, and indeed every Act of Parliament, is subject to every other part of the law of the land, whether or not mentioned, unless specifically excepted. I can understand that the Government wish to adhere to this Act by an appropriate declaration, but why “in particular"? It is an unnecessary and indeed most odd phrase to use in legislation. Again, it could provide fertile ground for a future nitpicker to suggest that this Act is not “in particular" subject to some equally relevant law.

Just as subsection (1) is not relevant, I believe that the two words “in particular" are mere tautology. I hope the Government will agree to their deletion to prevent any future problems. I beg to move.

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10.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not understand, or at least I did not understand until three or four minutes ago, what the noble Baroness was trying to do in moving to delete subsection (1) of Clause 29. The clause provides that all powers under this Act are exercisable by the mayor, the assembly or a combination of the mayor and the assembly as specified under those particular powers. That clarifies the position that there are no powers under this Act that fall outside one of those three areas.

The individual powers are based on the separation of powers which we have described at great length during the course of the Bill. It makes clear that the mayor will play the role of an executive decision maker, and the assembly will provide scrutiny of the mayor's actions. The clause makes it clear that all powers contained in the Bill will be exercisable by either subsections (1)(a), (b) or (c), and not in any other way. Other clauses therefore develop from that point.

If we were to remove the clause, it would open the way for those future nitpickers referred to by the noble Baroness to put forward the possibility that not all actions of the authority are exercisable in this way. They could be exercised in an entirely different way. We therefore need this clause as a safety net, and I resist its removal.

The noble Baroness is correct in stating that in relation to Amendment No.72 any relevant legislation will apply to the provisions of the GLA Bill. Clause 29(1) simply draws attention to Part II of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, which is particularly significant. Deletion of the words “in particular" would probably have the opposite effect to the one intended by the noble Baroness because it would suggest that it was only subject to Part II of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act and not to other legislation. Whether that provision in itself can alter the basic, fundamental position that all Acts are subject to other relevant legislation unless specifically prescribed, I am not sure, but it would confuse the issue. That Act is singled out because it is particularly significant in these circumstances. It could be argued that the deletion of “in particular" suggests that other Acts that are relevant to carrying out powers under this Act would not apply. It is therefore better to leave those words there, although, as the noble Baroness stated, it does not alter either way the general position that all other legislation, unless specified in this Act, shall apply. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue the matter.

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