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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I hope it has not been felt that the time spent on this discussion has been other than useful. I am asked if I will take the amendment back, and I am fully prepared to do so. I may return to the matter at a later stage when I have read what has been said in the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 2.

("(a) the promotion or improvement of economic development and wealth creation in their area,
(b) the promotion of social development in their area, and
(c) the promotion of the Improvement of the environment in their area").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment further probes the provision for the new powers spelled out in Clause 2. The wording of the amendment is taken from the Greater London Authority Act. I have tabled the amendment not because of my feeling, as the Minister suggested at the last stage, that what was good enough for the GLA is good enough for the whole of local government. I take the same view he does: one looks at the generality of local government first. The amendment does not seek to impose GLA provisions but is a genuine request for clarification. I should like to understand the nuances of a comparison of the Bill with the GLA Act. It is the wording of the GLA Act that I have incorporated.

I appreciate that we are not starting with a clean sheet in regard to local government, but I should like to understand the distinction between the two sets of drafting. If we do not clarify the matter, it could be left to a local authority to answer that question if its actions were to be challenged by an individual through an application for judicial review. The differences between the two sets of wording, which are very close

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but not identical, would, I am sure, be picked over at length by lawyers. I prefer to get the point out of the way at this early stage of the legislative procedure.

The amendment seeks clarification of the distinction between the well-being powers expressed in the Bill and the powers to promote economic development, wealth creation, social development and the improvement of the environment. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness asks for clarification, and, by implication, indicates that she will not press the amendment. The noble Baroness has to some extent reflected the fact that there is a difference, as I explained in Committee. The terms of reference for a new organisation are spelt out in a different way to those that build on existing statutory and customer practice functions. These are already contained in the raft of local authorities' statutory and other functions.

I can give the noble Baroness some comfort in regard to her central concern. Notwithstanding the differences in the way the two powers are drafted, the well-being power given to local authorities under Clause 2 is in no sense narrower than that given to the GLA in Section 30 of the GLA Act. If the amendment is accepted, it could narrow the well-being power and leave local authorities with less scope to act than the GLA. For example, paragraph (c) refers to allowing local authorities to take action only to promote the improvement of the environment. The GLA has a power to do anything that furthers its principal purposes, but this might be construed as meaning that the local authorities could not do it themselves but should promote it among others. I am sure that that is not the intention, but there is a possibility, remote though it may be, of it being construed in that way.

We believe that Clause 2 is drafted in a way that best fits its purpose and gives the widest scope to local authorities to take action to improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of their communities. I hope that the noble Baroness is reasonably happy with my explanation and will not pursue the matter.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, can the Minister confirm in terms that the provisions set out in the amendment are all within the well-being powers as expressed in Clause 2? I appreciate that it is a technical point, and that that may be difficult.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is right, subject to the qualifications we referred to in our previous debate because, clearly, other statutory limitations may apply.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for putting that on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 3.

    Page 2, line 23, at end insert--

("( ) Action by a local authority outside its own boundaries shall only be undertaken with the consent of the authority within whose boundaries the action is to be taken.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment allows us a brief reprise of a debate in Committee when the Minister said:

    "We need to make it clear that we expect local authorities to co-operate. On the other hand, we do not want to be over-prescriptive on the face of the Bill. We would not want to be quite as limiting as the noble Lord is tempting us to be. None the less, I am happy to go away and to look at the matter in order to see whether there is a better way in which we can make it absolutely clear that local authorities should act in co-operation".--[Official Report, 25/1/00; col. 1457]

The amendment is tabled in a form designed to tease the Minister into giving noble Lords further clarification because the Bill would permit one local authority to act within the area of another local authority in a singular way rather than in a co-operative way, which I know is not the Government's intention. Equally, I am sure that in normal circumstances no local authority would behave in that way. Unfortunately--and I use that word advisedly--when legislating it is incumbent on us all to consider the aberrant behaviour that every now and again we are all guilty of as human beings. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I support what my noble Lord has just said. I have not been present at previous stages of the Bill, but I have read the proceedings with great interest. It is the intention of the Government that local authorities of various kinds and at various levels should co-operate, and that is of course right. However, the noble Baroness, who herself has great experience of local government, will know that it is quite possible for one local authority to be somewhat interfering in the responsibilities of another, and that there many devious ways in which mischievous people can act.

If one authority wished to take action within an area for which another authority is responsible, surely it would be right to make it absolutely clear in the legislation that the other authority should be in agreement. It is a simple suggestion. I rather hope that the noble Baroness will accept that the position should be clear in the Bill, especially when one thinks about how this will operate in practice between various local authorities.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Whitty said in Committee, we have sympathy with the intentions that lie behind Amendment No. 3. The success of both community planning and action taken under the well-being power depends on local authorities, including different tiers of authority, working together for the common good of their communities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, drew our attention to something that we in England and Wales have never come across; namely, conflicts between local authorities. I am sure that that must be a totally Scottish phenomenon. As the noble Baroness

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implied in her contribution, we certainly expect authorities to adopt a sensible and responsible attitude to the new freedoms that the Bill will give them. Those freedoms are intended to allow local authorities to work together and take action for the common good of their communities. We shall make this point very strongly in the guidance that will accompany the powers.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, asked whether we are still considering some way of legislating in this area. I can assure him that we are still giving the matter consideration. However, we want to do so without imposing a disproportionate burden on local authorities. We do not want to be overly prescriptive. A requirement to obtain consent would go further, for example, than the current economic development powers, which require only consultation between authorities. Therefore, we need to continue to give this some thought.

If the noble Lord could stretch his patience a little further, I can assure him that we will bring forward proposals very soon. With that assurance, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my patience, like that of many other people, is considerably elastic. With the assurance that thought is still being given to the matter, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 2, line 24, leave out ("affects") and insert ("limits").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment relates to a matter of preference for one word against another. Clause 2(6) says:

    "Nothing in subsection (4) or (5) affects the generality of the power under subsection (1)".

I have some difficulty with that wording. If subsections (4) and (5) do not affect the generality of the power in subsection (1), I cannot, for the life of me, think why they are there. If they do affect the generality of that power, it seems to me that subsection (6) is wrong. I have chosen to take the view that subsections (4) and (5) do affect subsection (1) and, therefore, the word "affects" is perhaps the word that causes a problem in subsection (6). It seems to me that the House should consider deleting that word and replacing it with "limits"; otherwise, we shall have a quarter of a page of unnecessary verbiage on the face of the Bill. I should like to think that neither the Government nor the parliamentary draftsmen who are responsible for the legislation would create such a situation willingly or voluntarily. I beg to move.

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