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Lord Whitty: I recognise that a number of local authorities consider that in order to carry out the new system effectively they need additional staff. I should dispute that that was necessarily the general rule. Local authorities will need to look at their total functions within the new regime and within a best value climate. Therefore, I should not draw any overall conclusion as to numbers of staff. It is important that we all recognise, first, that this administration have in general provided substantial additional resources to local authorities; but, secondly, they have also left it to them to decide how best to deploy their resources. We have moved, and intend to move further, towards providing overall central government support to local government. Its representatives will then themselves decide on their priorities and staffing.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 132 to 135:

    Page 8, line 25, at end insert--

("(1A) Executive arrangements by a local authority must ensure that their overview and scrutiny committee has power (or their overview and scrutiny committees have power between them)--").

    Page 8, line 26, after ("to") insert ("review or").

    Page 8, line 26, after ("scrutinise") insert ("decisions made, or other action taken, in connection with").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 136:

    Page 8, line 26, after ("scrutinise") insert ("decisions made or which may be made or other action taken or which may be taken in connection with").

The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 141. Amendment No. 136, which provides that an overview and scrutiny committee may look at decisions which may be made or actions which may be taken in the future, seeks to continue the debate about the role of the executive and the scrutiny committees. We believe that it would be a great pity if they were constrained from offering advice and making policy proposals.

Clause 15, if the government amendments are taken into account, is largely, although I accept not entirely, about decisions made and action taken. The new government provision allows a call-in if a decision has not yet been implemented. The Select Committee of the House of Lords and of another place--of which a number of your Lordships were members--which

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examined the distant relative of the Bill last summer, took evidence from a number of people, including academics. As well as oral evidence, written evidence was submitted to us. Among that evidence was a memorandum from Professor John Stewart. He described the potential of an overview and scrutiny committee well. I shall quote fairly extensively from one paragraph of his memorandum. He said:

    "It is important to recognise that while non-executive councillors scrutinise the executive and hold it to account, they also can have an important role in supporting the executive. Certainly councillors from the same party as the executive will see themselves as having such a role and such support will be required. The executive will need support from other councillors, because it faces the danger of overload if it is to take over executive responsibilities, form committees, develop policies, propose strategies, provide community leadership and be involved in partnerships. That is being recognised in some of the transitional arrangements with the appointment of deputies, support groups of councillors and councillors as advisers. ... It is recognised that the executive may seek advice from an overview and scrutiny committee, but it is seen as advice from a separate body. The executive is likely to wish to work with council members in developing policy. Thus it might set up a group of councillors led by a cabinet member to develop policy in a particular area. An individual councillor could be invited to advise the cabinet on a particular topic. The executive might wish other councillors to sit upon cabinet committees".

I could quote far more extensively from the evidence given to the Joint Select Committee, but I tabled the amendment simply to make clear again our concern that the role of the overview and scrutiny committee should not be so constrained as to not take advantage of what it might achieve.

Amendment No. 141 seeks to extend the power of the committee to require the executive to refer to it decisions which the executive is about to make. I have described that as being either specific decisions or regarding an area of functions. I am concerned that the Bill will not give the real opportunity that should be given to the new committees to stop decisions being made. It will be all too possible for executives so to organise their affairs that they will not give the chance for the proper scrutiny which we all hope the new committees will achieve. In other words, they will implement decisions before they can ever be questioned. That is not how a good executive should behave as it would rapidly lose the confidence held in it. The role of legislation is not just to set out a framework but to set out some minimum standards. However, the Government appear not to wish to incorporate such a provision in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: To some extent we are the victims of how the amendments have been grouped. I accept some of what the noble Baroness says but feel that the amendments in the previous group go as far as I am prepared to go. I hope the noble Baroness will recognise that I have gone some considerable way towards meeting the concerns which she expressed.

In relation to Amendment No. 136, which seeks to amend Clause 15(1)(a), we have just agreed to Amendment No. 135, which deals with this issue. Overview and scrutiny committees have two broad roles: to scrutinise the decisions as such and to take an overview of broad policy issues and give advice to the

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executive and the full council on how they are carrying out their functions. Amendment No. 135 deals with the first of those roles. The wording which the noble Baroness seeks to add goes into the second of the two roles--the overview of future policy. We have made it clear that overview and scrutiny committees will have the power and responsibility to look at matters which the executive is considering in future.

Our next amendment, Amendment No. 137, to which we shall come shortly, makes clear the wide-ranging role that overview and scrutiny committees will have to make reports or recommendations on any matters which are before the executive. In addition, the guidance which we have published makes it clear that in order to ensure good and effective decision-making the executive should itself be involving the overview and scrutiny committees in these decisions at a much earlier stage. I therefore think that the combination of the amendment which we have just agreed and the one we will move shortly meets the noble Baroness's concerns.

Amendment No. 141 seeks to allow overview and scrutiny committees to be able to require the executive to refer proposed decisions to them before they are taken. We believe that Amendment No. 140, to which we shall come shortly and to which I have already spoken, will achieve a similar effect and therefore the noble Baroness's amendment is unnecessary. Our amendment gives overview and scrutiny committees the power to ask the executive to reconsider a decision which has been made but not implemented. I believe that that power and the other powers in the two earlier amendments have broadly the same effect as that which is set out in the noble Baroness's amendment, in that the executive can review decisions before they have an effect, the overview and scrutiny committee can oversee the activities of the executive prior to the making of a decision and it can review decisions and the policy as a whole. I therefore think that the point is already covered by the various amendments which we have put forward and by the guidance which in draft form has been before the Committee. I therefore ask the noble Baroness not to pursue the amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: As has already been said today, guidance is guidance and legislation is something more than that. I was aware of Amendment No. 140. Yes, indeed, we are the victims of groupings, as we always are when dealing with complicated Bills. My amendment raised perhaps rather broader points. I understand that it is not practicable to allow an overview and scrutiny committee to require the review of a decision which has been implemented as well as made. I do not expect it to have the power to undo what has become history. What I am concerned about is getting the balance right. I want to give a broad hint to an overview and scrutiny committee that it might make sure that it gets in ahead of the game and reviews the decisions which are about to be taken and implemented.

I shall not pursue the matter now. It would probably be easier to review some of these points when we have the Bill as amended following the Committee stage.

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However, I remain a little concerned about whether the Government have gone far enough. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 137 and 138:

    Page 8, line 26, leave out ("the executive functions, and") and insert ("any functions which are the responsibility of the executive,

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