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I am sure that the Minister will tell us that it would not be like that really, and that the requirement for information would be restricted only to a particular aspect, and so on. However, that is not what the clause says.
I repeat: I look forward to the Minister's explanation about the purpose of the clause. It is jolly lucky that he has some written notes; otherwise, he would not know what I had been saying. I also look forward to his explanation of how it is proposed to limit any information being sought, including the requirement on local government officials which potentially will increase the bureaucratic paper mountain.
Lord Rooker: Yes. In a way, I am absolutely astonished that Clause 32 is in the Bill. I am amazed by the idea that it was necessary to include it in the Bill. I should have thought that there was loads of legislation involving what Ministers could ask local authorities, such as, "What are you doing on this, that or the other?". That happens all the time. We write letters asking for information. We are always told by officials, "Do not put burdens on local authorities. We must not ask them for too much information", and so on.
The power is specific to Clause 31. Someone obviously thought that it was necessary to include it in the Bill; one needs information to operate the clause. Applications for a grant can be on a one-off basis from the authority or Ministers may have an idea about a new scheme that requires a grant; one needs information or some eligibility criteria on which to pay the grant but not necessarily to ring-fence it. I should have thought that there were loads of ways in which
That is all I have to say, really. I feel totally and utterly inadequate that I cannot give chapter and verse about why Clause 31 could not have been added to all the other thousands of pages of legislation in which Ministers ask local government for information. That would enable us to say, "Under Section 31", as it may turn out to be, "Ministers can ask for that information". However, that clearly was not thought to be appropriate. Inadequate though I feel the answer isin fact, if I were in opposition, I should not accept itit is the best that I can do, I am afraid.
Baroness Hamwee: Whatever parliamentary counsel may be, does the Minister agree that it is not a very good psychologist? Is not the short point that if a Minister wanted information to assist in a decision to make a grant under Clause 31 and the local authority did not give it, that authority would not get the dosh?
Lord Rooker: No. The Minister may have paid the grant and then thought one day, "I wonder whether I got the outcome that I required from the grant?". There is an outcome to be measured. I have said that there is no problem with this; ring-fencing is not the same as measuring the outcome. Ring-fencing is highly prescriptive but the grants are paid for a purpose. Ministers should be able to check on the purpose. I return to planning. In due courseit may be in the next Sessionthe House will receive the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. Another place is debating it todayit should be done with by nowand I hope that the carry-over Motion will be agreed to.
This is a classic example. We want to be able to measure the outcomes in improvement in planning performance without being prescriptive about how the money is spent, so the authority needs to be able to do that.
Baroness Hamwee: I agree that measuring outcomes is hugely important, although, given that Clause 31 is about paying the grant rather than reviewing it, I wonder whether Clause 32(1) achieves that. I am not sure whether I should not shut up, however, because I might be on the way to suggesting to Parliamentary Counsel that further duties are imposed on local authorities.
Baroness Hanham: My understanding of the procedures of this Committee is that if everyone agrees to an amendment, it can be accepted. Is the Minister agreeing with me, after all that conversation, that Clause 32 is not a useful part of the Bill and we could therefore remove it, or will I be forced to bring it back on Report for the Minister to agree once again that it is not very valuable? I hope that the Minister might agree with me that it should not be part of the Bill and therefore this amendment might succeed.
Baroness Hanham: This Motion is intended to probe the special provisions under Clause 33 for grants made to the Greater London Authority. Clause 31(1) gives the Secretary of State wide-ranging powers to pay a grant to a local authority. The local authority may subsequently transfer this grant to any functional body which requires funding for expenditure incurred. Clause 33 seems to confuse the matter. Under subsection (2), the Secretary of State may set conditions in any grant to the Greater London Authority which requires the Mayor to transfer funds to a particular local authority. Or, under subsection (5), the Mayor may receive a grant which he can decide either to transfer to a functional body or not, as he thinks fit.
Is the Greater London Authority devolved or not? Under Clause 31, the Secretary of State may already pay grants directly to functional bodies. So there are two options: first, that the grant has passed through the Mayor, with or without conditions about its final use, depending on whether or not Clause 33(2) has been applied. The second is that the Secretary of State has cut out the middle manthe Mayorand pays a grant directly to a functional body under the control of the Greater London Authority, which we all know is not a local authority.
Baroness Hamwee: I shall not repeat the questions the noble Baroness has asked which occurred to me as well. In subsection (5), I would particularly ask about another use of the word "may". One would have expected it to be "shall" or "must" in this context rather than "may". This does not quite seem to fit with the thrust of this part of the Bill. I am one of those who supports the autonomy of the Mayor. I am certainly not arguing against grants to the GLA or for the functional bodies, but I should like to understand the workings of this clause better.
The grant power will operate in basically the same way as for other authorities, but any grants intended for the functional bodies will have to be paid via the Mayor of London. As Clause 33(4) makes clear, if a grant is earmarked by a Minister for one of the four bodies, the Mayor will have to pass it on to the named body immediately. Clause 33(5) allows Ministers also to pay grants to the Mayor which are not earmarked for any of the four bodies. In that case, the Mayor would have the option of using the grant himselfnot personally, of courseor distributing it in a way he thought fit between the bodies.
This modification to the grant power for the GLA reflects the current arrangement for the issue of credit approvals to the GLA, which again has to be done via the Mayor. The arrangement acknowledges the central role of the Mayor in the GLA structure. It does not disadvantage the bodies at all and it is not possible for the Mayor to divert resources in a way contrary to Ministers' intentions. So this is a twin approach which reflects the current practice. I hope that the Committee will find it acceptable.
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