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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, yes. I accept that answer to the first set of amendments. However, I believe that if the noble Lord considers the term “bid" as against “requirement", he may see that I make the very point that he makes. As I said, the most important amendment in this group is the one to the schedule. The paragraph before the one where we propose an insertion--that is, paragraph 3(i) of Schedule 5 on page 222--reads:

That is because the consolidated budget comprises the totality of the draft component budgets. I am relieved that the Minister described the process in precisely the way we would like to see it carried out. However, I am

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not convinced that the wording in the Bill provides for that. I shall reconsider the matter, in the context of the Minister having had a go at my drafting. However, that is all right. His assurances have been helpful and he has put the matter in terms he may have used at the previous stage, but which at the time I did not entirely take in. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 282 and 283 not moved.]

Clause 72 [Provisions supplemental to section 71]:

[Amendment No. 284 not moved.]

Clause 73 [Procedure for determining the budget requirements]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 285:

Page 39, line 44, leave out (“procedural").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 285, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 299, which is the nub of the matter. I make no apology for returning to the issue of amendments to the mayor's budget. Schedule 5 to the Bill provides that such amendments shall not be made unless they have the agreement of a two-thirds majority of the assembly. We are proposing here that, in accordance with the normal democratic process, an amendment should be agreed if it has a simple majority.

One of the very few powers of the assembly is that it may scrutinise and approve the budget of the mayor. It is hoped that that will be done by discussion and agreement. However, if the assembly is to do its job properly, it must have, to use the phrase loosely, a reserve power enabling it to amend that budget if it so chooses. To achieve a two-thirds majority for an amendment--not for approval of the budget as a whole, but only an amendment to the budget--will be extremely difficult, given the likely composition of the assembly. It seems to me that in drafting the Bill in this way, the Government have made it clear that, while they are happy for the assembly to look at and comment upon the mayor's budget, they would be unhappy if the assembly had any real power to affect that budget.

To accord with the democratic process, if a simple majority supports an amendment, that amendment should be made. For the Government to give so much power in relation to the budget, and in effect no power, or power only in the most extreme circumstances to the assembly--namely, when a two-thirds majority can be commanded--is to take too far even the Government's desire for a strong mayor and a weak assembly. The point of this group of amendments is to return to the democratic principle and to give the assembly at least some power in terms of the duties it has to scrutinise and to approve the mayor's budget. The assembly should be able to agree amendments by a simple majority. That is the case in any other democratic institution in this country. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I understand completely the noble Lord's point of view on this matter. However, the noble Lord must recognise that here we are dealing with a new and unique structure. It is clear

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that the executive power rests with the mayor and a power of scrutiny rests with the authority. For the executive power to be effective the mayor needs to be able to allocate resources to carry out the priorities that he or she has set in the relevant strategies. That means that the mayor must set the budget and that in general that budget should be delivered.

It is therefore quite right, as the noble Lord says, that we are dealing with the slightly extreme circumstances in which the assembly would have the right to amend the budget. The circumstances are not that extreme. Providing for a two-thirds majority is fairly well known in various circumstances in terms of constitutional change. However, the provisions would mean that, if a simple 51 per cent of the assembly took a different view, perhaps being of a different party from the mayor, or if that simple majority of the assembly temporarily took a different view from the mayor, they would not be able to amend his budget. If there were a reasonable degree of consensus within the assembly to achieve that two-thirds opposition, an amendment would be carried.

In a sense, we are moving slightly towards the noble Lord in giving greater power to the assembly than perhaps obtains in other circumstances, because setting the budget is clearly the mayor's key executive power. All the other strategies of the assembly will be as paper if there are not the resources to carry them out. Therefore, being able to set his or her own budget is a powerful part of the mayor's executive function. Nevertheless, we recognise that there should be some restriction in extreme circumstances and we have therefore provided for the two-thirds majority in this case.

I think that it is a reasonable balance. I know that the noble Lord has a slightly different view and, as we have seen at various points in this debate, he and his party consider that the assembly should have powers wider than those of the mayor. We take a different view, as does the structure. To be consistent but still to provide a safety net, we think that it is reasonable to require a two-thirds majority before an amendment to the budget can be made. We believe that that fits in with the other provisions in respect of the structure of the authority. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment tonight.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 300 is part of this group. It too deals with the budgetary purpose and addresses particularly the points raised by the Minister in his last remarks.

Under the schedule, the budgetary process provides that the mayor will produce a draft budget which will then be considered by the assembly. At that stage, the assembly has the right, by a simple majority, to approve the budget with or without amendment. Therefore, the assembly has the right to amend the budget by a simple majority at the first stage. Continuing through the schedule, one sees that the mayor then takes away the budget, produces a final

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draft and takes it back to the assembly. This is where we come to the question of a two-thirds majority in the assembly if the budget is to be amended further.

My problem with this, as a practical man--I think that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will have had similar experiences, as will anyone who has been deeply involved in the preparation of a local authority budget--is that it is not a process with a series of separate, identifiable steps. It is a long and continuous negotiation. Sometimes it is a ghastly haggle and an agreement is achieved usually only with extreme difficulty. Everybody has to make adjustments.

I can imagine that before the mayor produces his first draft budget he will have had considerable discussions with interested parties in the assembly. He is bound to have discussions with all those whose functions relate to the Greater London Authority. At that point he goes to the assembly with his draft budget. As I say, it can approve it with or without amendment, by a simple majority. Let us suppose that the assembly has amended the budget, which is highly likely. The mayor reconsiders the budget and what has been said. It may be that in the process of that negotiation--I shall not diminish it by describing it as a “haggle"--he does not agree with the assembly. He then sends the final draft budget back to the assembly.

My amendment is to put into the Bill that, where at the first stage of its consideration the assembly has produced an amendment, it has the right to insist on it at the second stage by a simple majority. That would not permit the assembly to introduce new considerations.

I call in aid the Government's own document. I admit that it is a slightly questionable one. It is entitled The Shape of Things to Come? The reason why I say it is slightly questionable is that the Government are so confident about it that a question mark is put at the end. Perhaps it is not the shape of things to come. But in Box 3 of that document one finds the assembly's functions. They are to approve or amend the budget. One can have a debate about whether amending it at the first draft stage is amending the budget or not. I suggest that amending it at that stage is not amending the budget.

If the assembly choose to amend it at the second draft stage that is amending the budget. I disagree with the Government over their approach to this matter. The assembly should have some authority here. As I have said, my amendment is to give it some authority to insist on an amendment on which it has had negotiations with the mayor. I do not believe that that is particularly unreasonable given that what we are discussing is likely to be continuous negotiation, with disagreements ultimately refined to fairly small items which are too often almost matters of taste. This amendment has considerable merits from a practical point of view. I commend it to the House.

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