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Lord Whitty: I shall endeavour to answer those points. First, in response to my noble friend Lord Harrison, I agree completely with what he said. However, I must point out, as does my noble friend Lord McIntosh from the Dispatch Box, that my agreement with my noble friend Lord Harrison does not imply any change in the Government's position to the euro.
In relation to the question which my noble friend raised on the fall-back position and clearance of that with the Secretary of State, clearly it is important that we identify at what point the Secretary of State approves. My noble friend is quite right. I am glad that he has drawn our attention to that point and to the slight inconsistency which exists between the guidance and the White Paper and the submission to the Joint Committee. We are still considering what is the best process for the prior approval of the outline fall-back proposals which are not otherwise provided for. However, we are clear that the fall-back proposals must not include the status quo. That applies also to a number of the amendments to my amendments, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is addressing. I assure my noble friend Lord Harrison that we shall return to the matter if we feel we need to at a later stage, making sure that we clarify what is the Secretary of State's role in those circumstances.
I shall now deal with the noble Baroness's amendments to my amendments. She has proposed Amendment No. 188 which appears to seek a requirement for a second referendum before an authority can implement detailed fall-back proposals. That is likely to increase rather than decrease the uncertainty. The Joint Committee asked us to try to increase the certainty in that regard. Therefore, we wanted to make sure that the government amendments are agreed to because they make clearer what is being put to the electorate.
Amendments Nos. 182A, 196A and 196B seek seriously to modify the principle that the status quo cannot be maintained. Amendment No. 182A seeks to provide a way for the local authority to get round the fact that the status quo is not an option. It would allow local authorities to implement their proposals by not passing a resolution under Clause 20 and they would not therefore be required to alter to an executive-based structure. Clause 19 makes it clear that in all circumstances a referendum would be binding and if the referendum supported the proposals for an executive arrangement, the authority must implement that. If not, it must implement the fall-back. All of that would require change.
Amendments Nos. 196A and 196C seek to allow the Secretary of State to allow local authorities to abandon executive arrangements in favour of some other arrangements. Again, I presume that that includes the status quo or something like it. The Government believe that the executive arrangements are the best way to ensure the objectives of the Bill. Therefore, we do not believe it is right that a council which has adopted executive arrangements--which if they involve an elected mayor would have been approved by a referendum--should be able to abandon those arrangements and implement arrangements which do not provide for a separate
Amendment No. 198A in the name of the noble Baroness seeks to allow the Secretary of State to enable local authorities to abandon alternative arrangements in favour of some other arrangements, again reintroducing the possibility of the status quo. For our part, that is not an option. That is why we have proposed that an authority operating alternative arrangements should be able to cease operating those arrangements only if it implements other executive arrangements in their place.
Amendment No. 196B seeks to prevent regulations which require the consent of the elected mayor if all executive arrangements which involve an elected mayor can be changed. I offer two reassurances in that regard. First, the Government do not propose that the mayor's consent would be required to change executive arrangements which relate only to overview and scrutiny arrangements. Secondly, we do not propose that the mayor's consent should be required to change from an executive arrangement involving an elected mayor to some other arrangement. That would have to be the subject of a referendum and the mayor should not and would not be allowed to veto the will of the people expressed through a referendum.
But we believe that it is not right for the council to be able to change the executive arrangements without the mayor's consent; for example, by deciding that some functions over which it has a choice and which are not mandatorily required to be the function of the executive by the Bill would no longer be executive functions. In that case, the mayor would have been elected to deliver a programme which might include those functions and if the council took them away from him, it would be able to undermine that programme. That would be undemocratic in a sense and, therefore, we should not wish to provide explicitly for that situation.
As regards the first substantive amendment, I want to make it clear that when I referred to industrial relations duties in terms of consultation with staff I was in no way disparaging that. Industrial relations duties are of the very highest order. But they are not duties which should be provided in the constitutional section of this Bill which deals with the responsibilities of the council to its electorate.
This debate has left me with a very big question mark about what alternatives are on offer when a referendum is called. I shall certainly want to reflect on that because it seems to me that the Bill which the Government are promoting is so narrow in its prescriptions that the
(b) must comply with any directions given by the Secretary of State").
Page 9, line 23, at beginning insert ("such").
Page 9, line 23, leave out from ("arrangements") to end of line 26 and insert ("as the Secretary of State may direct").
Page 9, line 30, leave out subsection (5) and insert--
("(5) A copy of proposals under this section which is sent to the Secretary of State must be accompanied by a statement which describes--
(a) the steps which the authority took to consult local government electors, and other interested persons, in the authority's area, and
(b) the outcome of that consultation and the extent to which that outcome is reflected in the proposals.
(6) The Secretary of State may by order specify a date by which every local authority, or every local authority falling within any description of authority specified in the order, must comply with this section.").
After Clause 18, insert the following new clause--
Page 9, line 32, leave out ("an") and insert ("a form of").
Page 9, line 33, leave out ("which includes an elected mayor") and insert ("for which a referendum is required").
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