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I agree with the noble Baroness that the dispute about LFEPA may be discussed later; I am not sure that I particularly want to cover it tonight. However, the principle needs to be addressed at this point in the Bill. I tabled this amendment before the dispute blew up.
It is for the Assembly to judge which are the important appointments. The measure is presented as if the Assembly has to pass some sort of test on how
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Amendment No. 8 was tabled in response to what the noble Baroness said in Committee about the oddity of the amendments then tabled applying to Members of the Assemblyof the Assembly holding hearings about the appointment of its own Members. As I had hoped I had explained, it is not a matter of protecting colleagues. Assembly Members and borough councillors have a qualification for appointment which is different from that of the board members of Transport for London and the LDA.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 13 and 19, and I can be fairly brief. The whole group, in which the Government also have amendments, relates to procedure around confirmation hearings. Amendment No. 9 provides for a copy of the candidates application to be attached to the notification by the Mayor of the proposed appointment. Taking on board comments made in Committee, I have provided that the candidates address and phone numbers may be deleted from the application. That is for practical reasons. It would be odd if the applicant did not provide all the relevant and sensible information but, as has been pointed out, confirmation hearings are not job interviews. It will not be possible to construct a list of standard questions to be applied every time. For the Assembly to have the application form will assist it to construct appropriate questions and hold confirmation hearings in the best way possible.
Amendment No. 13 would allow for the flood of appointments following an election. The Government have an amendment to a similar effect in the group. Amendment No. 19 extends the ability of an
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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I have in this group Amendments Nos. 10 and 11, which were tabled in Committee. I want to press the issues a bit further. The Government believe that the Assembly should have extended powers of scrutiny over certain of the mayoral appointments. We believe that increased scrutiny is an appropriate way of ensuring that the positions are filled with properly qualified, independent people who have the support of the Mayor and the Assembly. However, the Bill does not provide that. Instead, we have a rather toothless power for the Assembly to request a hearing and ask the appointees some questions; no more or less. Any decision that might flow from the hearing has no effect on whether a person is finally appointed, because it is left as a mere recommendation by the Assembly.
My amendments instead ensure that the Assembly will have a real power of scrutiny over the appointments, by a majority vote. Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 would achieve that by replacing the current provision for the Assembly to make recommendations to the Mayor with a requirement that the Assembly may make that recommendation with much more force by having a vote, and a simple majority of the Assembly could make the recommendation. Amendments Nos. 14 to 17 go hand in hand with Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. They are consequential and set out the procedure by which the Assembly would approve an appointment.
We believe that these are reasonable measures that would allow the Assembly to carry out confirmation hearings and set a time frame within which it would be required to respond to the Mayor. If three weeks passed with no response from the Assembly, the Mayor could go ahead without its approval. Our amendments are reasonable and allow for flexibility.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, this is another set of amendments from the parties opposite that seem designed to write into the Bill powers that the Assembly does not have at present but which were available when the GLC was in operation. As I have said previously, the Assembly is not the GLC. We now have a new set of legislative provisions before us that provide for a powerful Mayorwhich everyone has accepted, apparentlywhich means that he is obliged to perform certain functions.
I would have thought that that was the most important point. The amendment would add an enormous amount to what is written into the Bill and is not required at all. The Government have provided clarifications in their own amendments and I would have thought that they were sufficient. The amendments of the two parties opposite are quite unnecessary.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I very much endorse and welcome my noble friends comments. Her memory perhaps goes back slightly further than mine, but I remember the GLC and appreciate that we are talking about a very different authority.
The three government amendments to Schedule 1 respond, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out, to concerns raised in Grand Committee about ensuring that the Assembly has sufficient time to make a recommendation to the Mayor on whether he should appoint a candidate to one of the offices listed in Clause 4. Schedule 1 sets out the procedure for conducting confirmation hearings. Paragraph 4(3) states that the Assembly has three weeks, from the day that it receives notification from the Mayor of his proposed candidate, to make its recommendation on the appointment.
The Government accept that the Assembly may find it difficult to make a recommendation within this timescale following an ordinary Assembly election. It takes time for any elected body to find its feet following an election, and the Assembly must focus initially on appointing its chair and deputy chair, which under Section 52 of the GLA Act it must do within 10 days of an ordinary election. Government Amendment No. 12, therefore, exempts the period from the day of an election until the day the Assembly meets to elect its chair and deputy chair from counting towards the three-week period within which the Assembly must make its recommendation to the Mayor. In practice, this means that if a newly elected Mayor notifies the Assembly of his preferred candidate for a relevant post shortly after being elected, the clock would start ticking on the three-week deadline only on the day after the Assembly elects its chair and deputy chair. As I said earlier, that must be within 10 days of an election.
Turning to government Amendments Nos. 18 and 20, paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 precludes the Assemblys functions in relation to confirmation hearings from being exercised by anyone other than the Assembly itself or an ordinary committee. This means that in practice the Assembly or an ordinary committee would need to meet in order to take any decision required under Schedule 1, including whether to hold a confirmation hearing with the candidate before making a recommendation to the Mayor. The Government agree that it would be
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Amendment No. 13, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, goes further and allows the Assembly to delegate to any Member of the Assembly any decision under Schedule 1(6) to decide whether a confirmation hearing should take place and what documents to request from the candidate. While it is sensible to allow the Assembly or an ordinary committee to delegate only to the chair of the Assembly, I would like to consider further the case for extending the scope of that delegation to any decision under paragraph 6 of Schedule 1.
Turning to the other amendments in the group, I am somewhat incredulous, if that is the right word, at Amendment No. 9, requiring the Mayor to provide the Assembly with a candidates application form as part of his notification. I resist this most strongly. I can assure noble Lords that I have been involved in an awful lot of recruitment in my career, and application forms are not everything they sometimes need to be. But I really cannot see the need to descend into detail in primary legislation. The Mayor must already provide the Assembly with reasons why he should appoint the candidate to the given office. I think that those reasons will provide the information that the Assembly is looking for on the candidates background and to help it frame the questions that the noble Baroness mentioned. It would be in the interests of the Mayor to provide a full and robust rationale which, I am sure, would go far beyond an application form, given that he will want the Assembly to recommend in favour of the proposed appointment.
The Assembly may also request any candidate to produce any documents relating to the proposed appointment which are in his possession or under his control. That is a wide power, and I am sure that the Assembly would want to make the most of it. The Assembly is free to draw its own conclusions should the candidate refuse any such request. Obviously, refusal to provide information could raise questions that the Assembly would want to pursue. There is absolutely no need for the Mayor to be required to supply further information.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, recently the press reported the case of someone who was about to be appointed to the main board of a major FTSE 100 company. It transpired that he possessed neither of the degrees to which he had laid claim. Is the Minister giving us a guarantee that anything of that sort will have been verified by the Mayor or his human resources advisers and is, therefore, irrelevant to those in the Assembly who might be cross-examining him?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am trying to make clear that the Assembly can request specific information from candidates, and the candidate then may or may not provide that information. If the candidate chooses not to provide it, I am sure that the Assembly will make its conclusions from that lack of information. The Assembly will receive the reasons from the Mayor as to why he would like to appoint a candidate; they may well include formal qualifications or experience on other boardswe are talking about chairs or deputy chairs. What the right information is for the right appointment will be a matter of horses for courses. We are talking about primary legislation. It would be a mistake to be too prescriptive about the inclusion of an application form. There is a wider opportunity in the Bill for the Assembly to request the information that the candidate has in their possession; if the candidate refuses, it can draw its conclusions.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am sorry; I had not quite finished. I got confused about where I was in my speech. I am sure that everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear my response to Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 14, 15 and 17, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham.
The overarching theme of those amendments, as the noble Baroness clearly explained, is whether it is the Mayor or the Assembly that decides whether an appointment is made. I want very much to resist those amendments because they would overturn the otherwise clear lines of accountability between the Mayor and the Assembly; they would compromise the Assemblys clear focus on scrutiny by giving it the executive function of appointment. As we discussed in Committee, the difference between executive decision and scrutiny is very important if scrutiny is to be absolutely effective.
I resist Amendment No. 16, which was tabled by noble Lords opposite, but only because it is not necessary. The Assembly is clearly able to meet without the candidate being present. The Bill defines a confirmation hearing as being a meeting at which the candidate is invited to attend. It is perfectly within the Assemblys rights to meet, without the candidate being present, as often and as frequently as it likes to discuss the appointment. Amendment No. 16 is not necessary.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her willingness to consider Amendment No. 19. The government amendment covers the points raised in my Amendment No. 13. The Minister said that she was incredulous at Amendment No. 12; I think that her incredulity-stat is set a bit too low. She said that application forms are not everything; indeed, they are not. The Mayor will give a full and robust rationale for his proposed appointments. Having the application form would allow the Assembly to test his rationale. Clearly, I am not
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( ) In calculating the period of 3 weeks, no regard shall be had to the period beginning with the day of the poll at an ordinary election, and ending with the day on which the Chair of the Assembly and the Deputy Chair of the Assembly are elected under section 52(2) of this Act.
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