some default text...

Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



( ) to make reports or recommendations to the authority or the executive with respect to the discharge of any functions which are the responsibility of the executive,
( ) to review or scrutinise decisions made, or other action taken, in connection with the discharge of any functions which are not the responsibility of the executive,
( ) to make reports or recommendations to the authority or the executive with respect to the discharge of any functions which are not the responsibility of the executive,").


On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 139 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 140:


    Page 8, line 32, at end insert--


("( ) The power of an overview and scrutiny committee under subsection (1A)(a) to review or scrutinise a decision made but not implemented includes power--
(a) to recommend that the decision be reconsidered by the person who made it, or
(b) to arrange for its function under subsection (1A)(a), so far as it relates to the decision, to be exercised by the authority.
( ) An overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority may not discharge any functions other than its functions under this section.
( ) An overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority--
(a) may appoint one or more sub-committees, and
(b) may arrange for the discharge of any of its functions by any such sub-committee.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 140A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 140, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 140 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 141 and 142 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 143:


    Page 8, line 33, leave out subsection (2) and insert--


("(2) Not more than one-fifth of the members of an overview and scrutiny committee or sub-committee of such a committee may be members of the authority's executive.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 147A. To an extent we are again the victims of groupings. The amendment covers similar ground to that covered by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. Nevertheless, as I have the opportunity, I shall once again make the point that we are not happy with the proposed complete divide between the executive and the overview and scrutiny functions. Amendment No. 143 suggests that, rather than having a complete demarcation between the

1 Feb 2000 : Column 114

two, a limit should be written into the Bill. Amendment No. 143 provides that up to one-fifth of the members of an overview and scrutiny committee or sub-committee may be members of the authority's executive. I accept that that fraction was plucked out of the air. It is not a large fraction.

In suggesting a limit, I make the point again that we believe that some overlap would be valuable. To have no overlap at all risks losing flexibility, future effective changes in the role of individual councillors, individual development--by that I mean the development of the experience of individual councillors--and cross-fertilisation between different parts of the local authority.

Amendment No. 147 refers to the question of the chairing of the committee and seeks to obtain assurances from the Government that guidance, which is the subject of the clause, will include chairing in its provisions for operation. I raise this issue because the comment has been made to me from a number of quarters that the what I might call more old-fashioned authorities may well put in place as chair of the new executive and scrutiny committee a member who regards himself or herself as a member of the controlling group who may merely continue the current unsatisfactory practices which the Bill seeks to remove. I refer to a lack of openness and to a too cosy set-up. I am concerned that if the chair is a member of the majority party, where the chair sees the primary loyalty as being to a party rather than to the public service, the existing position will simply be reinforced.

The amendment does not state that the chair must be a member of another party. After all, in some authorities there is only one party. It does not seek to provide that there should be no such committee if that is the case. Government guidance would be valuable in giving the public and the opposition material to use when arguing against any such proposal from the majority group, which, as I say, may simply reinforce current bad practices and not move forward under the new agenda set by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I am afraid that this is just a further move to dilute the general clarity of distinction that we want to achieve through the Bill between the scrutiny role and that of the executive. The position is not altered by the fact that the amendment provides for a maximum number. A size restriction does not detract from the fundamental principle; namely, that we do not consider it sensible for an executive member to be allowed to sit on a committee that is charged with scrutinising that executive. I therefore cannot accept Amendment No. 143.

Amendment No. 147A would be slightly altered by government Amendment No. 147, which, so far as concerns the regulation-making power, would delete the reference which it amends. As we have not reached that amendment in terms of ordinal progression, it is slightly difficult for the noble Baroness to take that on board when referring to the amendment in this group. If the noble Baroness is, broadly speaking, happy with Amendment No. 147, Amendment No. 147A cannot stand.

1 Feb 2000 : Column 115

I should point out also that the question of chairing, covered by the amendment, is, par excellence, a matter for the local council. It should not be regulated or heavily defined in guidance. Therefore, even if the noble Baroness were able to reformulate the amendment, taking account of the fact that, as I hope, the Committee is about to accept Amendment No. 147, it would not be appropriate to pursue it.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before my noble friend replies, perhaps the Minister will clarify a point regarding Amendment No. 143. If executive members have portfolios that go wider than the traditional committee line, as many people are interested in developing--so that, for instance, an executive member has a portfolio for social inclusion work--may that person be a member of a scrutiny or overview committee dealing with some of the functions included in that portfolio? My noble friend spoke about cross-fertilisation. The Government's model is too rigid. It envisages that executive members will have exactly the same lines of definition for their portfolios as the scrutiny overview committee. I thought that the Bill envisaged a more flexible possibility.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness confuses the issue somewhat. Under the Bill, a councillor could not sit on any scrutiny committee overseeing an executive function for which that councillor was responsible. That applies across the board, with a clear distinction between the executive as a whole and the scrutiny committees as a whole. The definition of "portfolio" is not a relevant issue. A councillor cannot be both an executive member and scrutinise that executive function. That needs to be clear.

We wish to have broader portfolios and more innovative structures that will lead to more joined-up local government. We also want to see some interaction. The clear separation of membership does not represent a barrier to interaction. There will be continuous interaction between the executives as a whole and the overview and scrutiny committees as a whole. The noble Baroness referred, for example, to the memorandum submitted by John Stewart. That kind of interaction will take place, and will do so on a broader range of policy strategy than has been the case with the compartmentalised committee structures in many traditional local authorities. We shall not achieve those objectives by relaxing the general distinction between the executive and the scrutiny functions.

Baroness Hamwee: I am sad that the Minister did not seek to answer the substance of my comments on the second of the two amendments in this group. I am among the first to support the idea of local authorities organising their own affairs. I chose my wording as delicately as I could in referring to some old-fashioned authorities. However, there is genuine concern that the new mechanisms should not simply reinforce old bad habits. We may well return to the point at the next stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

1 Feb 2000 : Column 116

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 144:


    Page 8, line 33, after ("authority") insert (", or a sub-committee of such a committee,").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 144 and 145. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 145:


    Page 8, line 34, at end insert--


("(2A) An overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority, or any sub-committee of such a committee, may include persons who are not members of the authority, but (subject to subsection (2C)) any such persons are not entitled to vote at any meeting of such a committee or sub-committee on any question which falls to be decided at that meeting.
(2B) An overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority, or a sub-committee of such a committee, which has functions in relation to any education function which is the responsibility of the executive must include persons appointed--
(a) to represent parent governors at maintained schools in the authority's area, and
(b) to represent persons who appoint foundation governors for voluntary schools in the authority's area.
(2C) Any person appointed to an overview and scrutiny committee or sub-committee by virtue of subsection (2B) is to be entitled to vote at any meeting of the committee or sub-committee on any question which relates to any education function mentioned in that subsection and which falls to be decided at the meeting.
(2D) An overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority, or a sub-committee of such a committee, is to be treated--
(a) as a committee or sub-committee of a principal council for the purposes of Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972 (access to meetings and documents of certain authorities, committees and sub-committees), and
(b) as a body to which section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (duty to allocate seats to political groups) applies.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 146 not moved.]


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page