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Baroness Hanham: I thank the Minister for his response. I remain cynical about the estimate of the population, as published by the Office for National Statistics. The Bill has regard to the most recent estimate. The one thing we do know is that if the estimate is wrong to start with, then it becomes increasingly wrong as years pass. In Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster they are tens of thousands out, not thousands. Those councils are not going to be affected by this Bill, but it will affect councils in other parts of the country. The estimates could be wildly out by the time the matter is taken into account. None the less, I thank the Minister for his response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 97:

The noble Baroness said: This amendment would remove paragraph (b) of subsection (6). The paragraph states that when considering the effects of a local government review on the relevant local authorities in a region, and differences in the effect a local government review will have on relevant local authorities, the Secretary of State,

    "must ignore any effect of the implementation of recommendations of the Boundary Committee following a review."

It is arguably wrong to expect the Secretary of State to ignore pragmatic considerations, such as the upheaval and cost of reorganising local government. Can the Minister clarify what,

    "effects of the implementation of recommendations of the Boundary Committee"

could justifiably be ignored in accordance with this paragraph? I can think of none myself. I do not see what this paragraph is designed to cover. It seems to have been included to provide a get out clause for the Government. If there was a complaint that some pertinent factor had not been taken into account, the

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reply could simply be, "Clause 12(6)(b) says we shouldn't take into account the effect of implementation of the recommendations."

I believe that the paragraph adds nothing to the Bill and could be omitted. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker: I hope to show that the amendment is superfluous. As drafted, Clause 12 (6)(b) means that in applying the criteria in Clause 12(5) the Secretary of State could not consider the effect on the affected local authorities of reorganising local government structure and boundaries. The amendment would give him the ability to consider the effect of implementing the Boundary Committee's recommendations following a review. He would be unable to consider that ahead of knowing what the Boundary Committee was going to recommend. The amendment is superfluous because it would give the Secretary of State a discretion which he would be unable to exercise.

Baroness Hanham: I shall read what the Minister said. It may be that he wants to re-read it. I will certainly read it, because I do not understand his reply. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.15 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 not moved.]

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 100:

    Page 6, line 44, leave out subsection (8) and insert—

"(8) A direction to the Boundary Committee to carry out a local government review of a region or regions must specify the timetable in accordance with which the review must be carried out and recommendations made to the Secretary of State.
(8A) The timetable referred to in subsection (8) must include the following steps which the Boundary Committee are required to take—
(a) upon receipt of the direction, publicise to people living in the area the making of the direction and the timetable under subsection (8);
(b) make provision for people living in the area to make representations upon the review;
(c) prepare draft recommendations as to the matters considered by the review;
(d) publicise the draft recommendations to people living in the area;
(e) deposit copies of the draft recommendations at the principal offices of every district and county council in the region;
(f) take account of representations received from people living in the area upon the draft recommendations.
(8B) Not later than the date specified in the timetable for the submission of their recommendations the Commission must—
(a) submit their recommendations to the Secretary of State;
(b) take such steps as they think sufficient to secure that persons living in the area who may be interested in the recommendations are informed of them and of the period specified in the timetable within which it may be inspected;
(c) deposit copies of the recommendations at the principal offices of every county council and district council in the region."

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The noble Lord said: We come to an important part of our deliberations today. The Bill directs the Boundary Committee simply to specify a date on which the review of local government structure will begin in a region and the date on which the Boundary Committee will make its recommendations. It does not spell out the process which the Boundary Committee should go through.

We have had a great deal of important discussions about reorganisation. It is most important that the review process is open and transparent and that people can participate in it locally and are aware of what is happening.

Amendment No. 100 sets out the processes which the Boundary Committee should go through and they are similar to those which the Government suggest the Electoral Commission should do in establishing the electoral boundaries for the elected members of any region. It is vitally important that the process is undertaken in establishing the reorganisation of local government.

As we have said several times during the past few days—and I feel it most strongly—the local government part of the legislation is the most difficult and important. It is the most heart-searching and I have been through it. I remember during the 1990s the trauma of reorganisation. There was then some public participation; for example, at one stage Buckinghamshire was to disappear into unitary authorities, as did Berkshire. As the public were involved in Buckinghamshire, there was considerable discussion and involvement and ultimately the then Secretary of State reversed the decision of the Boundary Commission, as it then was, and Buckinghamshire remained as a county without being reorganised.

It is therefore most important that in any review of local government there is a transparent process in which the public can participate. We are therefore setting out processes in which the public and local government can be involved. There will be a draft set of recommendations which can be debated and people can put forward other solutions.

The Minister has said that local government provides services but these regions will not. Surely, providing services to the public is the most important thing that happens; for instance, care for the elderly, looking after schools and so forth. That should not be disrupted, so it is important that local people are involved in the debate on local government reorganisation.

Amendment No. 103 allows the public to inspect what the Boundary Committee is doing. The information should be available for the public to see and the whole process made as transparent as possible. I beg to move this important amendment.

Lord Greaves: These useful amendments relate to an important topic. They give the Government the opportunity to say exactly how local government reviews will take place. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said that he had experienced local

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government reorganisation in the 1990s. Some of us went through it in 1972, 1973 and 1974 and it gets no better or easier. There will be in the areas involved a furore of local argument. Local politicians and the staff of local authorities will be involved and will devote a huge amount of time, effort and energy. Inevitably, it will be to the detriment of local services—that is the way it works—so it is crucial that local people know exactly what will happen, exactly how they will be able to take part and exactly how their views will be taken into account.

When the draft recommendations are produced there will be another round of local discussions and debates and vast arguments and rows within each of the political parties. For at least 12 months while this is taking place, the normal political process of strutting between the parties will grind to a halt while everyone tears each other's eyes out within their own parties. That is the way it works. It is a useful amendment and I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The noble Lord will be delighted to know that I agree wholeheartedly with the substance of Amendments Nos. 100 and 103. He will be equally delighted, I hope, that we have anticipated them. The substance of both amendments is already provided for in the provisions of Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1992, which are imported into the Bill by means of Clause 14. Both satisfy the requirements of the amendments. The amendments are unnecessary and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw them.

Lord Hanningfield: I thank the Minister for those comments. I understand from what he said that Clause 14 clarifies the review procedure. However, I shall have to look at the issue again. The Minister accepted that the process has to be transparent. It is a pity that it could not be included on the face of the Bill so that everyone is aware of the process involved in local government reorganisation. I do not understand why this could not be included on the face of the Bill to enable everyone to understand the process. Perhaps the Minister will come back on that point.

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