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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, responded to my amendment by telling me that the consequences it would bring about are not clear. But the consequences are quite simple. First, there would be absolutely no delay; secondly, the scrutineering side of the authority would have immediate knowledge of what was going on. That is all that was intended.

The Minister said that it will be for the executive to justify the urgency to the overview and scrutiny committee. That may be right, but doing it one or two months later is really a bit late and would not be satisfactory. However, he offered the siren words, "It is for the local authority to decide how it makes the arrangements". That is something with which I am happy to agree. I make the blithe assumption, though it is probably sometimes incorrect, that proceedings in this House are valid and that even local authorities will pay attention to what is said in this Chamber. With that, I am happy to have had the debate and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Discharge of functions: s.10(5) executive]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 15:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, concern has been expressed by members of my party and the Welsh Assembly as to whether the prescriptive nature of Part II would act as a fetter upon the way in which local government is organised in Wales. Perhaps that fear has been overtaken by events and by the votes we had recently where some degree of discretion has been introduced into the English provisions.

Perhaps I may follow that through. The National Assembly for Wales would have power, under Clause 10(5) of the Bill, to prescribe a form in regulations by which executive arrangements are to be made. As I understand it there is cross-party agreement in the National Assembly for Wales that the form of executive arrangements for Wales should mirror the machinery that has been introduced into the Welsh Assembly. It is thought it would be useful if the 22 local unitary authorities in Wales operated in a way similar

9 Mar 2000 : Column 1201

to that in which the Assembly itself works. Consequently, when one turns to Clause 15,

    "Discharge of functions: s.10(5) executive",

it is my concern that subsection (2) should not make it mandatory that the provisions referred to in that subsection should necessarily mirror the provisions of Clauses 12, 13 or 14.

I do not think that, as drafted, the subsection does that. I believe that it is the intention to put a straitjacket on the provisions to be made under those regulations. However, the purpose of my amendment to delete the word "includes" in line 22 and insert "may include" was to put beyond all question that the nature of those regulations would be within the discretion of the National Assembly for Wales and would not be bound by the terms of the primary legislation now going through the House.

If the Minister can give me an assurance that nothing in this subsection constricts in any way that discretion, I shall be happy not to pursue the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that I can reassure the noble Lord. Clause 15(2) does not require provisions similar to Clauses 12, 13 and 14; it merely enables such provision to be made. The subsection in question states that such provision,

    "may be made by regulations",

not that it must be made by regulations. Moreover, Clause 15(3) states that nothing in subsection (2) restricts the general nature of the powers set out in subsection (1). That means that subsection (2), which the noble Lord seeks to amend, does not restrict the scope of the regulation power simply to applying or reproducing the provisions set out in Clauses 12, 13 and 14, with or without modifications. I believe that the objective of the noble Lord's amendment has been met in the Bill as it stands.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. It certainly removes concerns that may have been expressed in Cardiff. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 16:

    After Clause 18, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Unless the matter is certified by a proper officer of the authority to be urgent, no decision by a local authority taken under its executive arrangements shall be implemented within less than five working days after the decision.
(2) The proper officer of an authority for the purposes of subsection (1) shall be its monitoring officer unless the authority has designated another officer or officers.
(3) This section shall not apply to decisions solely requiring the preparation of advice or the undertaking of research.").

9 Mar 2000 : Column 1202

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when the Minister responded to this amendment in a previous grouping he voiced his concern about delays while awaiting a decision of the proper officer. As is the case at present, nothing will be in place to prevent the executive from agreeing to delegation either to an individual member of the executive or to an officer. The overview and scrutiny committee is likely to agree to any sensible delegation.

I have to tell the Minister that I do not believe that that criticism provides an adequate response to what I believe to be a very important issue. The Minister has been good enough to acknowledge that the rest of my amendment, at least in its spirit and intention if not in the technical sense, meets the points made by the Minister at the previous stage. If the Government, as I do, truly saw that the issue of delay while waiting for the certification of a proper officer is important, they would have brought forward a form of words to tackle that. I do not believe that this point cannot be addressed. In the hope that the Minister will be able to give me further reassurance, I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness has alighted on one of my objections to introducing such an amendment to Clause 16 relating to the designation of an appropriate officer. It may well be that the overview and scrutiny committee or even the council as a whole may be prepared to delegate such responsibility to an officer, but I do not think that it is the role of primary legislation to require those bodies to do so. This is basically a procedural issue.

I simply repeat that different councils will arrange these matters in different ways. It is important that the Bill leaves them the flexibility to ensure that that is the case. If such a provision is prescribed on the face of the Bill, we will inhibit proper co-operation between the overview and scrutiny committee and the executive rather than enhance it.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I fear that I am not convinced by that response. There is already a great deal of prescription in the Bill and I am not convinced when I hear the Minister say that it is not appropriate for primary legislation to prescribe in this area. I do not believe that this is a peripheral matter. It goes to the heart of how authorities operate. For that reason, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

6.4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 16) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 76.

Division No. 2


Addington, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Courtown, E.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goodhart, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Haslam, L.
Howe, E.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Kingsland, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Maddock, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B. [Teller]
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Rennard, L
Renton, L.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L. [Teller]
Tordoff, L.
Tugendhat, L.
Vivian, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.


Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Christopher, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Eatwell, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Peston, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9 Mar 2000 : Column 1204

6.15 p.m.

Clause 19 [Overview and scrutiny committees]:

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