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Lord Hunt of Tanworth: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask him one question. I very much agree with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, concerning the right of the Government to prescribe the form of local government. After all, in the committee system itself the requirements for political balance and so forth are enshrined in legislation. Furthermore, I cannot join the school of thought that says, "Let all the flowers bloom" and allow a council to set up any arrangement that it thinks best. Powerful arguments have been advanced that the executive/scrutiny split will probably provide, in most cases, the best balance of transparency, efficiency and accountability.

However, what appears to worry many people is the fact that in a relatively few cases--whether because councils are of an independent composition or they are small--it may well not suit their circumstances. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State can approve other models. However, as I understand it--although this is not in the Bill--the intention is not to approve any model which does not involve that split. Can the Minister say whether my understanding is correct and whether there is a measure of flexibility on this? I believe that it is crucial to say explicitly that the three

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models are in place, that it is possible to look at others, but not if it does not involve the executive split, which might not be suitable for some councils.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has given a correct exposition of the case. The Government believe that there is wide scope for different balances within the executive structures that we have proposed. As the noble Lord said, we are prepared to consider further models and we shall be open-minded towards proposals for further categories, but with a structure of executives. We do believe that that is the sine qua non of the kind of structures that are necessary for local authorities in the 21st century. Therefore, we are open to other proposals within and outside the three models, but the executive structure is important to us and we believe that it is important to local government.

10 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: We have had a most interesting debate. I am grateful to those who have taken part in it. I shall run through what seem to me to be some of the salient points, because this is truly one of the crunch points in our debate on the Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was generous in her support for the principle of the amendments. I suspect that she and I could debate the detail for some time. The fact of the matter is that we come down on the same side of the fence--that is, essentially against the Government. The noble Baroness said that there have been some particularly successful pilot schemes. It is good to acknowledge that, but pilot schemes of volunteers have been moving in this direction anyway. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for all the points that she made.

The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, rightly said that local government is not in particularly sound health; nor does it enjoy strong public confidence. That is an immensely sad fact. I regret it, but it is something we all have to live with. I have to say--I say it with immense regret--that those who have done most to erode public confidence in local government have been in central Government. Again I ascribe no political blame for that; but nothing in the Bill will remove that. That is sad.

My noble friend Lord Hanningfield mentioned the changes that are already taking place. Indeed, authorities of all political persuasions are moving in the direction in which the Government would like to see local government move. They do not need legislation if there is merit in the proposals. That is a reality. When you come to compare what we do in this country with what is done in other countries, it is as well to remember that that comparison must include the totality of the systems that exist abroad. The fact of the matter is that in other countries there are far fewer members in all major authorities. I once went to Essex County in Massachusetts. It was a very interesting experience. There were five county commissioners. In order to be a county commissioner in Essex, Massachusetts, you had to have 10,000 signatures on your nomination paper. That was a little political device by the Democratic Party to keep out the

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Republicans. I had some very interesting discussions with the first Republican Member who managed to achieve that target and be elected. But the systems are not always what they appear to be.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, mentioned two points. She referred to councillors' fear of this enforced change. She may well be right to suggest that it is a disincentive to stand for election. She is also right to mention the possibility, not to say probability, that this will impose considerable strain on the allegiance, loyalty and, indeed, enthusiasm of officers. That is particularly so in smaller authorities where the staff is not sufficiently large to permit the easy building of "Chinese walls" between the executive function and the function of oversight and supervision.

The noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, mentioned the views of independents who, likewise, are concerned about their prospects. Unlike national government, with the exception of this House, they are a rare and special commodity. If the independents are concerned, we should be concerned.

My noble friend Lady Hanham gave me general support. My noble friend is concerned about the impact the provision will have on both the members and staff of authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, made a most interesting point. He said that opposition members are always opposition members. That is sad but true. I remember impassioned argument with the previous government behind closed doors--trying to tell them that that was a fact of life. Noble Lords sitting opposite would do well to remember that. There was a time when all three local government associations, as they then existed, were under Conservative control. If one looks at the pattern of results in local government elections, we are moving in that direction. That is a political reality. The political reality is that this country deals in participative democracy.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Tanworth, expressed concern about the Government's approach, which appears to be that one size fits all--or all three sizes fit all. I am not sure whether that is appropriate. In his remarks the Minister acknowledged that there is room for tweaking at the edges as long as it is within an executive system so that there will perhaps be a number of variations on a theme. Of course, the criticisms of the existing system are valid. They are valid because local authorities vary immensely across the country. Some are good; some are less good; some are not good; and some are probably something worse than that. But we are talking about human organisations. We are talking about people. If we in this Chamber are all good, we are extremely fortunate. Some of us are good; some of us will be less good; and some of us will certainly be less good than that. That is the nature of mankind.

What concerns me about the Minister's remarks is that he did not say why we need to compel this revolution. There was a revolution in 1917 in another country. It had painful effects both in the short-term and in the long-term. That, of course, has nothing to

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do with the Bill. However, when one sets about compelling change, the law of unforeseen consequences usually comes into play. We do not know what the law of unforeseen consequences will do as a result of this part of the Bill. Evolution would be better than revolution. The Minister hinted at it in his response, but he did not say that he would accept the theory of evolution, even though it may receive general scientific acceptance nowadays in a somewhat different context.

We have had an interesting debate. I do not intend to take up the Committee's time further except to say that this is a matter to which we shall undoubtedly have to return. I do not think that there will be any ducking of the issue. I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. It helps us to be informed in our response to the debate. I am sure that there will be a further response. However, the Minister will be glad to hear that it will not come tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 59:

    Page 5, line 6, leave out from ("authority") to end of line 7 and insert (", and

(b) under which certain functions of the authority are the responsibility of the executive.
(2) Executive arrangements by a local authority must conform with any provisions made by or under this Part which relate to such arrangements.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall refer to the large number of other amendments in my name in this group. The amendments make provision on the definition, construction and detailed operation of the executive arrangements and the public availability of the details as part of the council's constitution.

Amendment No. 59 clarifies the meaning of "executive arrangements". Amendment No. 237 introduces a new clause requiring an authority that is operating executive arrangements to maintain a copy of its constitution available for inspection. Amendments Nos. 62, 63, 66, 76, 153, 157 and 158 are intended to improve the Bill by providing clearer labels for the different types of executive provided for in Clause 10 and using those labels in later provisions of this part of the Bill for the sake of consistency.

Amendment No. 82 provides that only the full council may discharge certain functions. These are: the election of the leader of the authority in the leader and cabinet form of constitution; the appointment of the other members of the executive in those authorities where these appointments are made by the council rather than the leader in that form of constitution; and the appointment of the council manager in the mayor and council manager form of constitution. Amendments Nos. 261 and 262 are technical.

Amendments Nos. 154, 155, 156, 159, 160, 161 and 162 provide for an elected mayor to appoint a deputy mayor who must be (and continue to be) a member of the authority. The mayor may bring to an end the appointment of a deputy mayor and appoint a

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replacement at any time. The deputy mayor will act in the place of the elected mayor if that post becomes vacant. In the case where the mayor and the cabinet form an executive, the whole executive will act in their place and arrange for representation in the mayor's place or on any bodies on which he or she was a member on behalf of the authority. In the case of the mayor and council manager form of executive, the council manager will act in the mayor's place.

Amendment No. 242 provides that where an elected mayor is a councillor of his or her authority, the circumstances of his absence will be short-lived. If the post of elected mayor is vacant, there should, under the existing law as it relates to councillors, be a by-election unless the next normal election is due within the next six months. Amendment No. 242 also has the wider effect of bringing elected mayors within the legislation on allowances.

Amendment No. 165 makes provision for a political assistant for a directly elected mayor. Amendments Nos. 163 and 164 clarify the rights of the council manager to attend and speak at meetings.

Amendment No. 238 makes it clear that the statutory guidance that may be issued by the Secretary of State under Clause 24 can apply to any provision in, or made under, Part II of the Bill.

All of these amendments spell out the Bill's general approach and do not raise many new issues. If noble Lords have any questions on the amendments I hope that I can respond to them. There are a number of other amendments to which I shall refer when I wind up the debate. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I have a lone amendment in this group, Amendment No. 240, which seeks clarification of a point that I have raised already this evening. Clause 24 provides for guidance--what a surprise!--and under subsection (3) that guidance

    "may make different provision for different cases or descriptions of local authority".

Amendment No. 240 seeks to replace "cases or descriptions" with "categories" for reasons that I have already given; namely, that for the purposes of parliamentary drafting "categories" is accepted as a clear term in this situation. I wondered what a different case of local authority might be.

I should like to put to the Minister a question the answer to which I should perhaps know already. In Amendment No. 242 provision is made for the elected mayor to be treated as a member and councillor of the authority. Can the noble Lord explain to the Committee the difference between a member and a councillor? I have used those terms interchangeably and I must have been wrong all these years.

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