Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, it may be because of the time of night, but I found the argument of the noble Baroness perplexing, because surely it is the duty of the Government and the Secretary of State to point out to the authority, as stated in Clause 33(5)(a), what are the

12 Oct 1999 : Column 347

relevant international obligations. Otherwise it will impose on the mayor the impossible task of having to identify what is relevant and what is not. Therefore I believe it is a helpful provision and not a hindrance as regards this subject matter. It is quite clear that international obligations are paramount. Having said that, as a matter of convenience it is right that those issues should be pointed out by the Secretary of State to the mayor.

I am a little bewildered by paragraph 5(d). That is why I suggested that it might be wise to leave it out, at least for the purpose of this debate. Does it not, as it stands, contain a question mark about whether in fact the mayor might even suggest that the river is closed down with respect to passenger transport services and the transportation of freight? That is unlikely to take place, but it is an ambiguity and one which should be dealt with in the legislation, although not in the way in which it is represented in paragraph 5(d). I will be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say on those points.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we shall not be speaking to the amendments on community safety and crime prevention which are tabled in this group. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones spoke to the subject matter earlier. However, I shall speak to Amendment No. 116, which relates to Clause 34(6). It proposes a small amendment in connection with revision of any of the mayor's strategies. We propose that the assembly--this is one of the few places where we are going to make the point--has a role in determining whether a revision to a strategy will or will not materially affect it and therefore whether there should be further consideration on it.

At the last stage of the Bill, the Minister indicated on a similar amendment that the provision was to allow the mayor to make minor and drafting changes to a strategy. Of course we have no objection to provision being made for that possibility. However, the provision in this subsection is rather wider. The clause is about far more than minor or drafting amendments. Amendment No. 116 seeks to provide some sort of brake on the mayor, because, if the mayor is acting slightly ambitiously by suggesting merely a small revision that does not require further consultation, the assembly with its scrutiny role will be well placed to determine whether or not that is actually the case. It will thereby act as a guardian for the interests of Londoners who would, if the mayor did not take such a restrictive view, be able to contribute to a consultation. We have proposed that the decision under this subsection as to whether a proposed revision will or will not materially alter the strategy is not one for the mayor alone, but should also involve the assembly.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, this is a slightly mixed bag of amendments. Through Amendment No. 106 the noble Baroness has again sought to address the issue of strategies being consistent with international obligations and national policy. The noble Baroness

12 Oct 1999 : Column 348

has referred to my previous explanation that the Bill makes it clear that the mayor's strategies must be prepared within the context of national policy decisions and those national policy decisions will include some international obligations, some international treaties and some international co-operation. The GLA is a city-wide governance of supreme importance within the United Kingdom, but it is not a nation state or even a city state.

It is therefore important that the mayor's strategies are consistent with international obligations, but those international obligations are the responsibility of the state and not of lower tiers of government. Therefore, it is important for the state to decide which of those obligations will be carried out and met by the mayor. That is why the Bill provides for the GLA to meet those obligations where the central state has notified the obligations to the GLA and where guidance has been given about the contribution which it is to make in relation to those obligations.

It is not unique for national bodies to be subject to government policies. In this as in other areas, the Government set targets which authorities are expected to meet and use as a basis for their own strategies. That applies in relation to international targets as well as to other targets.

I turn to the other main point made in this discussion, which I believe relates to Amendment No. 116 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. That amendment would require assembly agreement to be given before the mayor could waive the consultation requirements set out in Clause 34 in relation to revising strategies. Again, I believe that that is a reflection of a quite deep-seated difference between us in relation to the mayor and the assembly. We believe that that must remain a matter for the discretion of the mayor. The mayor would obviously have to be able to demonstrate that he had good reason for deciding not to consult on a particular strategy and he would have to be able to justify the view that the revision did not materially affect the strategy. Those reasons could be challenged and tested by the assembly in its normal procedures and in its regular statutory meetings with the mayor and others. However, we believe that the discretion should be a matter for the mayor.

Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness would not pursue this amendment. I hope also that the noble Baroness will not pursue Amendment No. 116 in due course.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I agree with the Minister that the hour is late. However, I did not totally understand his answer. We have no objection to the fact that the mayor of London must have policies which are consistent with this country's international obligations. That is very much the point which we are making. The Bill refers to obligations such as those that are notified by the Secretary of State. It may be that, for one reason or another, even by some sort of omission, the Secretary of State did not notify the

12 Oct 1999 : Column 349

mayor of a particular international obligation, which, if the mayor did not take note of it, would cause quite a lot of problems. We certainly do not consider London to be a nation state.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, with respect, if the Government were to breach their obligations in that way, there is a legal remedy to deal with that. Surely that is sufficient.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, we are not going to argue about the wording at this time of night. All that I am saying is that we have no objection whatever to the mayor's policies having to be consistent with international obligations or with other obligations about which the Secretary of State tells him; but we shall not argue about that now.

With regard to the national policy, the Minister was busy talking about national targets and so on. My amendment does not refer to targets but to policies. The fact remains that this would be a complete break away from the current position as regards local councils throughout the country. The mayor of London is either a special person and a model for something else, or he is not. It seems extraordinary that that strong position which is now being created will be less powerful than is any local leader of a council who could do something different from national policies.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, shakes his head but I can tell the House that I have been lobbied by numerous councillors across the country who are concerned that this is a new move. What the Bill should properly provide is that the mayor should have regard to national policies when he is making his policies. That is what would happen in local government. However, my amendment seeks to provide that his strategy is consistent with national policy.

At the beginning I said that I wanted to degroup the amendment because I consider it to be very important. I shall certainly not pursue the matter today. I shall read very carefully what the Minister has said. It is rather late and I believe I may have misheard him. I thought he was talking about targets and I am talking about policies. I urge the Minister to read very carefully what I have said and to take note of what other local councillors are saying because this is a new move which could be extremely dangerous. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 107 and 108 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 109:

Page 20, line 11, at end insert (“; and
( ) the views of such organisations representative of business as the Mayor considers it appropriate to consult having regard to the impact of his strategy on business")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 109, 110 and 115. The three amendments have a common theme. They

12 Oct 1999 : Column 350

require the mayor, at the barest minimum, to consult with business on the impact of his strategies on commerce and industry and to consider the compliance costs of his strategies. Consultation with business interests will not mean that commerce will have a veto over the mayor's strategies or compel him to modify them in any way. However, it does mean that the mayor will not simply be able to blunder in and produce strategies that may have long-term or unforeseen effects simply because he has not sought advice from appropriate sources.

There are some of us who recall the former Greater London Council's disastrous experiment in banning lorries in Central London. Attractive as no doubt that was to the green lobby, it produced a bureaucratic nightmare and heaped untold costs on everyone, especially businesses trying to receive stocks or dispatch goods. Before that there was a no less disastrous direction of industry perpetrated by both political parties. “Make industry move out of London", they said. That is why there is a shortage of unskilled and clerical jobs for the youth of our capital city.

I shall not indulge in any further recrimination. However, the point I wish to make is that we must ensure that we do not, by accident or through ignorance, make the same mistakes. Further, we have to be sure that London will not be used as the guinea pig for a social engineering experiment. I shall also not comment on the business experience of any of the declared or would-be candidates for the office of mayor. This debate has neither the time nor is it the place for electioneering. However, let me instead point out the irrefutable truth that since there are no qualifying examinations for political office, and no apprenticeship requirements--more is the pity, some of us might say--it is not impossible that the person elected as mayor may never have been in commercial employment. He or she may never have had the problem of covering the employees' payroll on a Friday afternoon. They may not know the meaning of the three most dreaded words in business: negative cash flow.

A lifetime politician, a political adviser, or even a journalist, teacher or lawyer may not necessarily be a business orientated mayor. That is what the amendment aims to address. It requires the mayor to seek advice, even if in the end he chooses to ignore it. Let him take the political risk, when it all goes wrong, of having someone say to him, “Well, I told you so".

The issue raised in Amendment No. 110 relates to compliance costs. It is surprising that this is not part of the proposed requirements. In the case of new legislation passed by Parliament, this is a factor to be considered, so why does it not have to be by the mayor? Restraints on noise are superficially desirable, but in an area where there is a great number of restaurants and bars, what would be the effect on local jobs? The mayor should at least be able or be made to consider the matter.

12 Oct 1999 : Column 351

When imposing requirements for recycling more waste, as distinct from handing it over to the dustman, what will be the effect on small businesses? The mayor should at least give that a passing thought before deciding on his strategy.

We can all think of numerous examples where one desirable objective can also result in an undesirable effect. It is only a question of weighing up the pros and cons. That is all that the amendment requires him to do.

It is convenient to include Amendment No. 115 in the same group, even though it relates to Clause 34. Clause 34(1) requires the mayor, when preparing or revising any strategy, to consult the assembly, functional bodies, the London borough councils, the Common Council and any other body or person he considers appropriate. The amendment simply adds “business" to the list of those specifically named, rather than leaving it to the mayor to decide whether to include businesses in the catch-all of “any other body or person".

As has become the invariable practice of the Government, the Minister dismissed the identical amendments by saying that they were not necessary. He prayed in aid Clause 34(2) and Clause 27(3), claiming that they covered these issues. With respect, they do not. Clause 34(2) refers back to Clause 27(3) for a definition of those to be included in the phrase “any other body or person". Clause 27(3) includes,

    “bodies which represent the interests of persons carrying on business in Greater London".

Consulting the usual trade and employers' associations goes a long way to achieving what is required, but the vast body of commercial firms, the small businesses, do not belong to those organisations. Why should unattached businesses not have the right to make their views known?

My own experience of these “bodies" is that they do very little consulting with their members; instead, they rely on the decisions of their policy sub-committees. Without naming names, my husband and I resigned our separate memberships of one such body, not because it announced its policy on a particular topic, but because it had not sought members' views before it did so.

It should be clear to the public and to businesses in particular, especially those which are not members of trade associations, that they have a right to be consulted. That right should be clear on the face of the relevant clause. It should not be discoverable only by someone having to hop backwards and forwards through the various subsections of this extremely lengthy Bill.

It is a common theme of the amendments that both the assembly and the mayor should have regard to the views of the wealth creators in our capital city. After all, the three principal purposes of the authority have at their head,

    “promoting of economic development and wealth creation in Greater London".

12 Oct 1999 : Column 352

If that is the first function of the authority, why should the Government be so coy about boldly including business in the list of those to be consulted, rather than burying it in a pile of verbiage or hiding it in a completely different quarter?

Before the general election, the Labour Party claimed that it had reformed and that it was now extremely friendly to business. By accepting the amendments, that would enable them not only to put that fine sentiment into practice, but also to be seen to be doing so. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page