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Lord Harris of Haringey: I rise to speak in support of Amendment No. 12 standing in my name. The

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amendment requires local authorities, in exercising the new power relating to well-being, to have regard to the achievement of social inclusion in their areas. That is an important provision because I take the view that the creation of a socially cohesive community in a local authority area is a central part of the work of local government. Local government should be about delivering for all the people of the area represented by a local authority. As many local authorities have diverse areas, including extremes of poverty and wealth--many less deprived areas contain pockets of severe deprivation--it is critically important that a local authority in carrying out its functions, particularly in considering the exercise of these new powers, should try to achieve social cohesion. Local authorities should consider the social inclusion of people in such areas.

Social cohesion requires service delivery and the effective delivery of well-being for everyone in the area. In particular, it should require special efforts to be made to deliver well-being to those who suffer from deprivation. In practice, that is about making sure that the local authority delivers for all the people in that community, whether black or white, rich or poor, young or old. That seems to me to be a fundamental requirement. For that reason I believe that there should be an expectation that local authorities, in considering the exercise of these new powers, should have regard to their effect in relation to achieving social inclusion in their areas.

I take the view that this subsumes the implications of Amendment No. 11 in that a key part of social inclusion is to ensure that the health of all those in the community is taken account of and respected. I have heard the points already made in this debate. It seems that the matters of social inclusion and health go closely together. I hope that the Minister can take those matters on board and consider them at a later stage in the course of this legislation.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I speak to Amendment No. 14 in this group. It is designed to make local authorities, in particular, consider the impact of their decisions on their neighbours. I ask the Minister to consider this amendment seriously. It states:

    "In determining whether or how to exercise the power under subsection (1), a local authority must have regard to the effect which the proposed exercise of the power would have on neighbouring authorities".

Of course, this is a simple and basic matter: do unto others as you would that they do unto you. It is a simple exercise in "neighbourliness".

There is a serious purpose behind the amendment. In some circumstances, development in one area may have a dramatic effect on another. In relation to economic development, a small laboratory may potentially pose a major industrial accident hazard. We all know of such installations because they have to be inspected properly and they operate under strict regulations. In fact, if a local authority has such an installation within its boundaries, it is necessary to have a major accident plan to deal with the consequences of something going wrong. If there is an

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oil refinery, such as we have in Essex, major evacuation plans are put in place to deal with the consequences of something going wrong.

Such a disaster could occur, for the sake of argument, in a small laboratory working in the bio-medical field, causing a huge disease hazard. Again, if that happens a major plan must be involved. Such plans do not stop at local authority boundaries. In Essex we have a nuclear power station. If that went "bang", Ipswich and the county of Suffolk would also have to evacuate if the prevailing wind was blowing in its normal direction, to say nothing of a great deal of Essex and possibly a considerable proportion of Norfolk.

It may be said that those are extraordinary events. The big issues, which I used for illustrative purposes only, would normally be dealt with by somebody other than just a local authority. But when a local authority gives permission to a developer to develop a small industrial estate consisting of 20 or 30 units, it does not seek to control who goes into that estate. That is when problems can arise. Of course, the authority soon finds out because a laboratory of the type I described would have to be registered with the appropriate authorities.

That is not to say that local authorities should not permit that kind of development. We need that kind of development if the economy is to move forward. But as a matter of prudence, and indeed of neighbourliness--to go back to where we began--it would be wise if the local authority consulted the neighbours it placed in that situation. Amendment No. 14 is tabled with that in mind and I hope the Minister will consider it with slightly more favour than he has been able to dismiss the previous amendments.

5 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: It is with trepidation that I intervene among so many experts on local government. My experience is obviously many years out of date and was only that of an ordinary constituency Member of Parliament. But I do so because, at enormous expense, the statute book continues to swell more and more through the insertion of a number of quite unnecessary provisions. The main classes of unnecessary provision are twofold: first, line after line teaching grandmothers how to suck eggs; secondly, page after page of departmental standing orders. That is cumulatively at great expense, and cumulatively far more than the £105 million which so concerned Members of your Lordships' Chamber last Thursday.

At great expense, Amendment No. 11 seems to fall clearly in the first class; that of teaching grandmothers how to suck eggs. Of course, any local authority will have regard to the health of persons in its area. If it does not do so, the members are not suitable to be members of a local authority and are highly unlikely to be re-elected as such. The provision is entirely unnecessary.

Amendment No. 12 is barely more acceptable. Amendment No. 14 is arguable because it asks a local authority not merely to concern itself with its own

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affairs, but with the repercussions of its actions on neighbouring affairs. However, I feel obliged to venture to warn the Committee that such a provision is bound to encourage massive, expensive litigation. With those observations, I hope the Minister will look charily on these amendments, in the same spirit in which he looked on previous amendments.

Lord Whitty: I regret that in relation to these amendments I have to exhibit a degree of chariness. They are unnecessary and could lead to confusion.

Reference to having regard to sustainable development and to social well-being subsume very much the matters with which my noble friend Lord Harris and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, were concerned. We do not therefore need a further specific amendment in relation to health or social exclusion. Clearly the Government are concerned about social exclusion, health and well-being, but spelling them out in this way is not necessary. There is no direct read-over from the GLA Bill, where we were dealing with a new authority with strategic powers. Here we are talking of the duties, when exerting their power, of all local authorities.

Clearly it is important that local authorities, in exerting their powers, pay some attention to their effect on neighbouring authorities, as I said in the previous debate. That is integral to sustainable development. We shall need to issue some guidance in that area. Whether or not that is teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, some guidance is probably necessary, though not on the face of the Bill. We shall also return to this issue of neighbouring councils under Amendment No. 17.

Therefore, while I understand the spirit behind this group of amendments--to which I am sympathetic--I do not believe they fulfil those objectives. I hope therefore that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I am devastated to be the target of the extremely skilled advocacy of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I would have done almost anything to avoid such condemnation. Nevertheless, I am not entirely convinced by the Minister's response. I shall read carefully what he said and consider the context in which the clause appears in the GLA Bill. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 12 not moved.]

Lord Harris of Haringey moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 2, line 10, at end insert--

("( ) In determining whether or how to exercise the power under subsection (1), a local authority must have regard to the effect which the proposed exercise of the power would have on equal opportunities and on the promotion of harmonious race relations in that local authority's area.").

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The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 13 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 33. I have just spoken on the subject of social inclusion and hope that I am not already pre-judging my noble friend's response to this group of amendments.

Clearly, social inclusion and social well-being could be deemed to cover issues surrounding race and equal opportunities. But Amendment No. 13 would have the effect of placing at the centre of the new power an obligation to have regard to the effects of the exercise of that power on equal opportunities and the promotion of harmonious race relations. That is something which should be explicitly reflected on the face of the Bill. It is important to do that given the discussions which have taken place following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and the implications of the Macpherson Report, not just for the police service but for all public services.

Quite clearly, that report was saying to local government, as it was saying to other public services and to the police, that local government needs to look at the way it operates and that part of the exercise of its powers should be promoting equal opportunities and thereby helping to achieve harmonious race relations. That is a critical responsibility of local government.

Britain is certainly a multi-racial society. That is something I am sure Members of the Committee would wish to welcome and foster. By the same token, local authorities should welcome and foster that multi-racial society within their boundaries. In practice, this means that at the centre of the power should be the expectation of promoting harmonious race relations, coupled with the achievement of equal opportunities and progress made towards that end.

Amendment No. 33 would require local authorities to publish an annual report on the use of their power under the clause and its effectiveness in promoting well-being, equal opportunities and harmonious race relations. I submit that it is a rather helpful requirement in the legislation that there should be an annual report on the use to which the general power of "well-being" is put. Whether or not Members of the Committee accept Amendment No. 13, I believe that the requirement for an annual report on how that power is used would be a very salutary exercise for local authorities in considering what they have done in the preceding year to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their communities. The production of such an annual report would enable the community at large to assess the extent to which the local authority is being effective in that regard.

If the powers have been exercised, the way in which Amendment No. 33 is phrased would also require the local authorities to report back to their communities on whether or not they regarded those powers as having been effective in achieving what they set out to do. Again, that seems to me a salutary requirement on local government. But, specifically, in that amendment are expectations to report on the implications for equal opportunities and for the promotion of harmonious race relations. In the spirit of the lessons learnt from the Stephen Lawrence case and in line with the recommendations of the Macpherson inquiry, it

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would be very valuable for local authorities to be required to report regularly to their communities on the way in which they have looked at these matters and promoted harmonious race relations in their area. I beg to move.

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