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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am tempted to say yes, yes and yes, but the right reverend Prelate deserves a little bit more than that. I could not agree more that it is essential that underpinning all thisI can take no credit for it being in the Statement, though the right reverend Prelate gave me someis the work that we do with our own communities, developing those relationships and dealing with the issues. As the right reverend Prelate will see in the document, global issues such as poverty have their part to play in destabilising societies. We should foster those voices, as the right reverend Prelate described them. I agree that it is important for the faith communities to play their part together. I pay tribute to the work that the church and other faiths have already done. It is important that we do not marginalise. DfID has played an important and valuable role in understanding that and working with other Governments, especially in developing our strategy in other countries.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the name proposed for the new quango to be established by the Bill is misleading to the point of falsehood. The name proposed in my Amendment No. 1 is the minimum required in the interests of truth.
This office should not really be called the Local Better Regulation Office; it should be called the National Office for Regulating Local Government Regulatorsor something of that sort. That is its purpose and what it is going to do. The body is not local but national. As a test of that, imagine oneself sitting in an office somewhere, picking up the telephone and somebody on the other end saying, I am from the Local Better Regulation Office. Would you suppose that he or she came from a local or a national office? You would assume at once that they came from something local. That proves the point I am trying to make.
The formulation in the amendment was suggested in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is the minimum rather than the ultimately desirable and I put it forward on that basis. I do not consider myself a pedant, although I realise that no pedant ever does. I am a disciple of Lynne Truss and was a disciple of Sir Ernest Gower, who wrote an excellent book on plain words. The Civil Service guide to clear English was written in about 1948 but lasted a long time in Civil Service circles; I do not know whether it is still used.
The name should be made clearer. Perhaps the body should be called the Temporary National Regulator. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Jones, is not with us. He described it as a temporary
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It is important that we describe things correctly. The Bill does not do so. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, was kind enough to remind me in correspondence that all we are doing here is putting on a statutory basis something that is already done voluntarily to a considerable extent. Yet there is a world of difference between something done voluntarily and something done statutorily, particularly for the local authorities whose powers are in effect being taken away or certainly impinged on. At present, both the primary authority and the local authorities involved must agree. In future, that will all be laid down. Later amendments, notably my Amendment No. 39, attempt to remedy this. The difference is that when a dispute arises, ultimately the matter, if it is statutory, can come to the courts to be decided in a way that it could not if it was voluntary. There could be appeals all the way up to what we should call the Middlesex Guildhall by the time this gets going. Putting this on a statutory basis is one thing; we can discuss that in later amendments. Yet the body is really a national office and we should recognise that at a minimum by accepting Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, has made a good case for his amendment. It is certainly a much better case than that made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on behalf of the Opposition, when she wanted to change regulation to deregulation. That seemed to me nonsense. We all know that regulation is necessary, whether we are talking about food safety, health and safety of workers, consumer protection or whatever. What is needed is better regulationor better administered regulationwhich is fairly and adequately enforced.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, makes a good case for altering the name. What are we about? We are about better regulation and he wants to say Better Local Regulation Office instead of Local Better Regulation Office. Of course, he is quite right that it is a national body and the existing name could confuse people in the way that he described.
MY only qualification is that we are where we are. The name Local Better Regulation Office has been with us for some time; the noble Lord admitted that it was there as a corporate body before it was suggested that it become a statutory body. The name is familiarthe LBRO has advertised posts under that nameso what is the case for changing it now? I very much doubt that that case has been made, as distinct from the case that could have been made if we were starting from scratch.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Cope on both amendments. As he has extensively argued, the appellation Local Better Regulation Office is an obvious misnomer, as the office is an attempt at central, national co-ordination. What is currently regulated by local authorities will come under the jurisdiction of this new national body. Names of bodies should indicate the functions of those bodies and, while the Minister might pick at our argument for being pedantic or irrelevant, I argue that it is important to have clarity of intention from the start. Misinterpretation can lead to mistakes and the regulatory system cannot afford to suffer mistakesnor should it.
We are rather spoilt on this Bill and in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform by having the noble Lord, Lord Jones, as our Minister of State as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, as our Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, with the whole thing backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, who is one of the most experienced members of the Governments Front-Bench team. We are being spoilt rottenand I am only too delighted to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, to the Bill, which she has now taken over and on which, I presume, she will be with us to the end.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for tabling Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. I take this opportunity also to thank noble Lords for the time and attention that they have accorded to this important Bill. We have listened and considered carefully all the amendments proposed. We have made numerous concessions which we believe will improve the Bill, please noble Lords and enable us to complete our consideration of the Bill today. However, the first amendment is not one that we can accept.
I shall explain to the House why we chose the name Local Better Regulation Office. We completely accept that the office is not a local but a national body. However, the phrase Better Regulation, which appears in the middle of the LBROs name, refers to a well recognised concept in policy-making. The Better Regulation Executive, which leads across government on regulatory reform, is a part of my own department; indeed, I am the Minister for Better Regulation. The LBRO is about better regulation at a local level, which is local better regulation. I would not dream of suggesting that anyone is being pedantic, but we could have quite a long debate on semantics. The key issue is that the LBRO will promote better regulation locally. That could be phrased as local better regulation or better local regulation, but the former name maintains the better regulation brand and is therefore, I believe, the correct sequence of words in this case.
As my noble friend Lord Borrie suggests, the LBRO has been in existence since last year. It already has brand recognition. It has written to every local authority in England and Wales. It has a draft
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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, that was an interesting short debate. I am grateful for the support for my proposal not only from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, from whom I got the idea in the first place and whose support was therefore to be expected, but from the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. However, the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, also argued, as did the Minister for Better Regulation, that it would be a mistake to alter the name now. I am mildly shocked by that suggestion. What is being said is that, because the Executive decided something a few months ago off their own bat, Parliament is going to be ignored and whatever we say should not be taken seriously. What is being said is, We have already decided that. It was all settled. We cleared that up in government. If we accept that sort of argument in Parliament, we will, if we are not careful, waste our time discussing legislation at all. There is a considerable danger in that. I am not sure what the Government are doing presuming to lay all these things down and then saying, Sorry, we have decided that already. Forget it. Do not bother even discussing it.
The Minister herself accepted that this body is not a local body, which is what its title suggests. She also advanced the idea that the cost of changing the name was too great. Frankly, coming from this Government, that is rather amusing. This Government have changed the names of departments of state more frequently than any Government I have known. They have mucked about with the titles of Ministers, sometimes very frequently, reshuffled departments, rewritten everything and moved departments about, sometimes in large ways and at enormous expense. Yet they say that they cannot possibly afford a little money to change this name, which they decidedwrongly in my opiniona few months ago.
I am not happy with the answers that have been given to me and I urge the Government to think again. This Bill started in your Lordships House. It has not yet been to another place, so there is plenty of time for the Government to think again when it is passed down the Corridor. As a matter of fact, they have taken a lot of time between Committee and Report. The Bill has not been overpressed through this House. I make no complaint about that, but the Government have time to rethink this matter, as I think they should, for the reasons that I have advanced. I have made the case
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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I once again bring for us to debate a sunset clause to ensure that the provisions of the Bill cannot continue past 1 January 2014 without parliamentary scrutiny. The Minister may have been a little too quick to dismiss my initial
Baroness Vadera: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, for giving way so early in her remarks. I intervene with a view to assisting the House on this matter. It may help the House to know that, when I respond, I will propose making a statutory provision for a review of the LBROs effectiveness in three yearstwo years before the proposed date in the sunset clause. This provision would be similar to that in Part 3 of the Bill. We believe that it would be a more tailored approach, which would achieve the aims intended by the noble Baroness and noble Lords but without the uncertainties and unintended consequences that the sunset clause would bring.
Baroness Wilcox: Well, my Lords, I have a wonderful speech here. It took my researcher Violet and me ages to write. Where did I stop? I said that once again I bring for us to debate a sunset clause to ensure that the provisions of the Bill cannot continue past 1 January 2014 without parliamentary scrutiny. If I heard the Minister correctly, she will propose an undertaking to review the Local Better Regulation Office in three years. If that is what I heardI would like to think that that was what I heard, and she is not interrupting me again to tell me that I am wrongI do not need to continue with this speech.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I would prefer to say that that would be a welcome and reassuring measure. I look forward to what she will say. It is not for us to prevent the Government from getting their business through; it is our job to improve the Bill where we can. If that is what we are about to do, that would be very helpful. I beg to move.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, I entirely endorse the remarks of the noble Baroness welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, to the Front Bench. I am slightly disappointed, because I was about to place a
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Lord Borrie: My Lords, I just make the point that Clause 17 already provides for the possibility of a government order to be made to dissolve the Local Better Regulation Office when its purpose has been achieved. That is surely much better than an arbitrary date chosen by this amendment. We also have my noble friends point about the review, so that, well before the date chosen by the Opposition for a complete but arbitrary cut-off point, there will be a review. No doubt there would have been one anyway because of the power in Clause 17 to dissolve the office at some future date.
Baroness Vadera: My Lords, the House already knows what the Government intend to do and I do not believe that I should detain noble Lords any longer on this issue. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I am grateful for what she said and for the gracious way in which the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, spoke. He always says nasty things about us. I do not know why he goes on like that. I will give him £10 if he wants £10: he does not have to gamble on how many times we mention the noble Lord, Lord Jones. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, that politics is a messy old business. Perhaps is not good enough for us, so I am much happier to have the Ministers reassurance today. I am now happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, raised an important point in Committee about the provisions in the Bill for board membership. As he said, the Bill allows the chair to appoint ex officio membersin other words, employees of the LBROto the board. Currently, the number of ex officio members may not exceed the number of ordinary members. This may allow the chairman to form an effective majority over the ordinary members of the board simply by appointing the maximum number of employees as ex officio members. While we think this is unlikely in practice, it is clearly unacceptable if we wish to make the right provision for the good governance of the new body.
We agreed in Committee to consider restricting further the number of ex officio members. Having considered the matter, we believe that the approach suggested by the noble Lord in Committeein other words, that the number of ex officio members should be limited to half the number of full board membersis the right one and we are grateful to him for raising the issue. The effect is that employees may only ever form one-third of the committee, removing the risk that they might make up an effective majority.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I briefly thank the Minister for his kind comments and, indeed, for his amendment. When we discussed this in Grand Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested the idea of half less one. I tabled an amendment to this effect but when I played around with the practical implications for the structure of the board, it was clear that the original idea was better. Therefore, I shall not move my amendment and I am grateful to the Minister for adopting the proposal.
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