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Lord Henley: My Lords, before my noble friend responds, I have to say that I find this somewhat extraordinary. As I understand it--obviously, I was not present when Amendment No. 136 was debated--Amendment No. 226 was grouped with it. The noble Lord withdrew that, and his group. No doubt other noble Lords who took some interest in the group then decided to disappear because they thought that that amendment was not likely to come up later. My noble friend has now made the point that she thinks that this amendment was withdrawn at that stage. It would be unusual for the noble Lord to try to press ahead with it. I accept that the whole thing is perfectly within order. We all know the mantra at the top of the groupings list, which states:

but I think that that is slightly more binding on the Government than on the Opposition. We think that it is fairly peculiar for the Government to start behaving in such a manner whereas we all understand perfectly well when Back-Benchers wish to decouple such groupings. The noble Lord should give us a slightly better explanation before my noble friend decides how to exercise her particular rights.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is making such a meal of this, I believe--and I think that the record will show--that I made quite clear which provisions I was taking away for another look. Nevertheless, in the interests of proceeding with this Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and to come back at Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 227:

Page 29, line 9, leave out (“, 53 and 54") and insert (“to (Proceedings under section 51(1): openness)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall also speak to Amendments. Nos. 229 and 236. This group of amendments clarifies that the assembly's openness arrangements under Clause 48 apply to proceedings held under Clause 51. It also adapts those arrangements, where necessary, to take account of special features of assembly hearings.

That means that assembly hearings will generally be open to the public and the papers supplied by witnesses, minutes of the hearings and records of oral evidence will generally all be open to public inspection. The usual rules on excluding the public from meetings and not disclosing papers and minutes will apply in line for those with local authorities generally.

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The main changes to the usual arrangements are as follows. Papers supplied by witnesses and transcripts or other records of evidence will be available for inspection as if they were reports or minutes for any assembly meeting. Rights to inspect background papers will apply to any papers in addition to those summoned which witnesses provide and to papers prepared for assembly members to use for the hearing. These amendments clarify the arrangements for the openness of assembly hearings. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 228 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 229:

Page 29, line 16, at end insert (“and
(c) any reference to proceedings is a reference to proceedings at a meeting.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 230:

Page 29, line 16, at end insert--
(“( ) The Assembly shall not refuse a request by the Mayor that it invites to attend its proceedings the Secretary of State or any person who has, within the previous 5 years, been the Secretary of State for the purpose of explaining any guidance or direction or draft guidance or direction given or proposed to be given by him under this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, from time to time during debates on this Bill we have mentioned that the Secretary of State will have very considerable powers over the Greater London Authority, both the mayor and the assembly. He will have power to issue guidance on a range of matters to require a number of things to be done. It is entirely reasonable that the Secretary of State should be expected, when required, to come to the assembly and to the mayor to answer questions and give explanations as to why he has issued guidance and other matters which perhaps need clarification.

We discussed this in Committee. At that time our amendment said that the assembly may require the Secretary of State to attend. There was concern, which we did not accept in the sense that we agreed with it. However, we accepted that there was concern that that would be a blurring of responsibilities and would somehow imply that the Secretary of State was accountable to the assembly whereas he or she is accountable to Parliament.

We now have a different wording which takes care of that point very well. The amendment states,

    “The Assembly shall not refuse a request by the Mayor that it invites to attend its proceedings the Secretary of State".

When such an invitation is issued, I hope that the Secretary of State will give it all the weight and consideration it deserves. He or she should be prepared to attend and explain the reasons for the guidance that has been issued and be prepared to answer questions in the same way through this legislation as he requires others to do. That is the purpose of this amendment.

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In responding to it I hope that the Government will recognise that we have acknowledged their concern about the blurring of the lines of responsibility and that we have tried to deal with it. We accept that the Secretary of State is not accountable to the assembly but to and through Parliament. Nevertheless, there is a reasonable expectation that, should an invitation be issued, the Secretary of State will be prepared to attend.

The other issue which we have come up against many times is the division of powers. Again, this amendment makes it very clear that power rests with the mayor, not the assembly, to request that an invitation be issued. I hope that we have dealt with the only concerns raised by the Minister in responding to the previous amendment. We have tried to meet them in this amendment. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will feel able to meet us on this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I understood the purpose of the noble Lord's previous amendment, but I do not really understand the purpose of this one. The purpose of the previous amendment was to require the Secretary of State to appear before the assembly. It is worth legislating for that. In my view it cut across the accountability of the Secretary of State and I opposed it. Nevertheless, it seemed a matter for legislation.

However, what we are discussing here is the ability of the mayor and the assembly to invite the Secretary of State to attend. That implies that he does not need to. Clearly, he can be advised and he can request an invitation. He or she can also try to persuade the assembly to invite the mayor. But I do not see that as a matter for legislation. Unless there are some powers or duties involved I do not see the point of this amendment.

I hope that from time to time the assembly will invite the Secretary of State or his or her successors to attend. As I have said, there are no powers or duties involved here. It is a question of sensible political relationships. It is not a matter for legislation.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he not agree that a provision framed in these terms is very close to the point that the Secretary of State may give guidance and so forth? It is not dissimilar in terms of powers or otherwise.

Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. This gives a power to the Secretary of State to issue guidance which must then be observed. This is simply a question of political relationships, not of powers, duties or functions, which are the business of legislation.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am sorry that the Minister does not recognise what we are trying to achieve here--or perhaps he does. Maybe it is a matter for legislation. I can certainly envisage, without too much difficulty, a situation where the mayor may wish the Secretary of State to come but the assembly may not.

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Indeed, as with an earlier government amendment on a different issue, it is to be clear as to where the final decision rests. If I quote the Minister correctly from earlier this evening, “the final decision rests with the mayor". If the mayor wishes the Secretary of State to come, it is not for the assembly to refuse.

The Minister has not given us an answer, even within the need for legal definition; nor has he given us any indication as to whether he accepts that it is reasonable that the Secretary of State should come. I know he does not accept that it is reasonable that the Secretary of State may be required to come. However, he has given us no reasonable expectation that the Secretary of State, and any predecessor secretaries of state, should come to the assembly if so invited by the mayor.

I can see that I shall not get further with this tonight. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 [Procedure for requiring attendance.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 231 to 233:

Page 29, line 19, leave out from beginning to (“is") in line 21 and insert (“an ordinary committee of the Assembly, if the committee").
Page 29, line 22, leave out (“a simple majority of those present and voting at a meeting of the whole") and insert (“the").
Page 29, line 24, at end insert--
(“( ) Except in the case of a committee which is authorised by standing orders to exercise the powers of the Assembly under section 51(1) above, section 46 above shall not apply in relation to--
(a) the Assembly's function of deciding to exercise its powers under section 51(1) above; or
(b) the Assembly's function under subsection (1) above of authorising a committee to exercise those powers.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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