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Page 150, leave out lines 39 and 40 and insert--
(“(8) Removal under Schedule 2 shall be subject to approval by two-thirds vote of the London Assembly.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in this group I have tabled Amendments Nos. 528A, 529A to 529D and 534A. All relate to improvements that we would like to see to Clause 263 which sets up the London Development Agency within the context of the Regional Development Agencies Act.

Amendment No. 528A seeks to give the assembly a somewhat different power from that for which we applied previously. It seeks to give the assembly power to constrain the mayor's somewhat arbitrary powers of dismissal of members of the London assembly under Schedule 2. If there is to be such arbitrary power, we believe that the assembly should have some control over it. I do not expect the Minister to agree. I am not optimistic that he will see the light suddenly. However, we thought that it was worth attempting to do this once again.

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Amendment No. 529A (line 3, page 151) deliberately sets out to create a situation in which the membership of the London Development Agency will always include one member of the London assembly, one member of the Common Council of the City of London, and one member who is a member of a London borough council. At present the legislation requires that people be appointed from those categories. However, such people can cease to be members of those bodies but still continue to serve on the London Development Agency. That would mean the possibility that no member of each of those three important sectors of London's commercial and political life would be involved directly with the agency. We do not believe that that is right. Amendment No. 529A takes care of that issue.

Amendment No. 529B involves a small point. It simply requires that at least two-thirds of the members of the London Development Agency--rather than half of them--should be people who have experience in the business and commercial world. Again, we believe that would be appropriate.

Amendment No. 529C removes from the face of the Bill the little phrase, persons

    “who appear to the Mayor to be persons".

We do not believe that the London Development Agency should necessarily consist of people who “appear" to the mayor to be persons of experience in business and commerce; we believe they “should" be people with that experience. Amendment No. 529D covers a similar point.

Amendment No. 534A deals with a provision in Schedule 20. If the amendment were accepted, it would make it a condition that the person whom the mayor appoints holds elected office. At the moment the mayor can appoint someone who holds elected office, but such a person can cease to hold that office as a result of which a situation could arise in which the London Development Agency consisted of former elected officers as opposed to people actually in office. We do not believe that that is right.

We believe that these small amendments will improve and strengthen the London Development Agency. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, rarely have I seen what I was going to call “daft" amendments, but perhaps that would be unparliamentary language. In this respect, I do not refer to Amendment No. 529. I refer to those about which the noble Lord has just spoken.

The amendments are revealing because they indicate that the Conservative Party now recognises that it has absolutely no hope of gaining the mayoralty or a majority in the election. I greatly respect the noble Lord, notwithstanding what I have said. He is an old friend of long duration, or at least has been until now! I cannot imagine that he would have contemplated these amendments in any circumstances other than those which I have described. They are designed to “hobble" and to hamper, but not to improve the situation.

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I have no doubt that my noble friend will not entertain these particular amendments. They grasp at straws. With respect, they are not for the real political world at all. I do not believe that my noble friend will need much urging from me to reject the amendments, but they ought to be rejected.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, although Amendment No. 529 is in this group of amendments, I am glad to have been excepted from the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. We shall not speak to Amendments Nos. 530 and 531 in the group.

Amendment No. 529 addresses the membership of the London Development Agency and in particular its members who come from the assembly, from the London borough councils and from the Common Council of the City of London. The Bill provides that there will be at least four members--it may be more--of the London Development Agency who are at the time of their appointment elected members of any of those bodies. As we proposed at the previous stage, we now propose that there should be at least two members from the assembly and at least two members from the London boroughs or the Common Council.

We are glad to see the acknowledgement on the part of the Government of the interest of the London boroughs in regeneration and the need to ensure that the boroughs are firmly part of the partnership arrangements which will deal with the matters for which the LDA has responsibility.

At the previous stage of the Bill, the Minister said that the Government want,

    “people who can contribute to the aims of the board, in particular its economic ones, and who can act together with the various private and public institutions within the region".--[Official Report, 7/7/99; col. 884.]

We feel that those representatives will be among them. When I suggested that the Minister had not addressed my point, he said that my amendment at that stage, which was the same as this one,

    “fixed the requirement too rigidly in relation to local authority representation".

The Minister also accused me of going over old ground. I did not think then and do not think now that that is the case. However, since we went over so much ground so many times I can well understand that we all begin to have a sense of dejavu about certain matters.

The point was not answered then. I am concerned that the mayor may be tempted either to appoint all of the four members from London borough councils, perhaps because he is going through a rough period with members of the assembly, or only appoint chums who are members of the assembly and who might come from any party because he feels that that is a nice cosy arrangement and it would be uncomfortable to have members of the London borough councils on the LDA board.

The Government have gone a long way to recognise the contribution that may be made by the different spheres of London's government. I hope that they feel that they can go that little bit further to ensure that

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that contribution will be made and will not be sidelined by the mayor, who might take a different view from the Government.

6 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I shall say a few words about Amendment No. 529C. I shall not comment on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, when he described a group of amendments as "daft". I am sure my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith will do that adequately. The noble Lord said that he wished to remain a friend of my noble friend. I am sure he will. And, despite his remarks, he will certainly remain a friend of mine outside this Chamber.

It is important that the chairman of the London Development Agency should be a person who has experience of running a business. The reason we do not like the words,

    “persons who appear to the Mayor to be persons",

is simply that the mayor himself does not have to be a person who has experience of business. That is not accepting, as the noble Lord suggested, that we have given up on our candidate; far from it. People who write books may not necessarily be considered business people in this sense.

It is important that Amendment No. 529C should be accepted by the Government. It is essential that the mayor, in designating who is to be the chairman of the London Development Agency, should choose someone who “is" experienced in business, not somebody who “appears to him" to be experienced in business.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I was slightly astounded by the last remarks of the noble Baroness. Many writers may not be business people, but the noble Lord, Lord Archer, in view of the income he receives from his writing, cannot be regarded as anything but a successful business person.

The model of government that we are proposing means that the mayor takes an executive decision-making role and the assembly provides scrutiny of the mayor's actions. Amendment No. 528A would undermine that. It would allow the assembly to remove members of the London Development Agency.

There is no equivalent in the RDA Act as regards regional development agencies elsewhere. I remind your Lordships that under Schedule 2 of that Act, RDA board members can be removed from office only on the grounds of bankruptcy, prolonged absence or other unfitness for office. That is the appropriate position rather than it being a political decision to remove from office a member of the London Development Agency.

In their different ways Amendments Nos. 529, 529A and 534A would specify more closely the composition of the local authority representation on the LDA board. Again, they will reduce the mayor's discretion to appoint LDA board members in a way which is representative of diverse London interest groups. It is

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fundamental to our whole approach to regional development agencies that their boards bring experience of various different kinds to regional life. That applies equally to London. Members are not tied to specific regional interest groups and regional bodies. If we were to prescribe the balance of the local authority membership, that would undermine that overall approach. They are there for their own qualities, experience and expertise. I hope, therefore, that those amendments will not be pursued.

Amendment No. 529B would change the requirement that half the board members have to have business experience by a requirement that it be two-thirds. It has been clear throughout that it is our intention that the board of the LDA should be business led. However, we also recognise the need to require representation on that board of other interest groups and economic interests as well as local government. Were we to prescribe that the business element should always be two-thirds, it would reduce the discretion of the mayor in making such appointments and, if it were to be prescribed rigidly by statute, it would limit the mayor's ability to ensure representation of groups from other important walks of life, skills and experience on a board of no more than 15 persons. I therefore cannot accept Amendment No. 529B.

I shall not use the same terminology as that used by my noble friend in relation to Amendments Nos. 529C and 529D. They replace the requirement that half the board members must be persons who “appear" to the mayor to have experience of running a business. The words, “appear to the mayor" leave some judgment and discretion with the mayor, which is the point of establishing the mayor in the first instance. Were we to prescribe on the face of the Bill direct experience of running a business, which is an allegedly objective criteria, it could lead to substantial litigation were it ever to be challenged. It is clear “appears to" in this and other contexts--for example, the same phrase is used in the Welsh Development Agency legislation--leaves an element of judgment (in those days to the Secretary of State and now to the Welsh Assembly) to the mayor, whereas if we were to prescribe flatly “experience of business" who would judge whether or not the mayor fulfilled that requirement? In other words, the final judgment is down to the mayor but the mayor has to be able to demonstrate that it is reasonable that the person appears to him to have business experience. If Amendments Nos. 529C and 529D are intended to take discretion out of the mayor's hands, I understand that, though I do not agree with it. The reality is that it would open up arguments as to what amounts to appropriate business experience.

I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to say that she would not refer to Amendments Nos. 530 and 531 in this group. I shall therefore refrain from commenting on those.

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