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Lord Greaves: I think that I understand the answer. The board could sit either on top of all the top-tier authorities or below counties and above districts. However, it could be a combination of the two if unitaries, counties and districts were taking part in the same
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Baroness Warsi: I shall speak also to Amendments 185 to 188 inclusive. This group of amendments concerns the constitution of economic prosperity boards. Clauses 84 and 86 as drafted would allow the Secretary of State to impose a managerial structure on to EPBs and influence membership, voting powers and executive arrangements. It will therefore come as no surprise to noble Lords that we are not at all pleased with these arrangements.
Once again, the Secretary of State is reserving for herself the right to micromanage and direct things to her liking. Once again, I struggle to see how this state of affairs can be compatible with a desire to pass more power back to local communities. I have tried to reconcile these clauses with the Ministers enthusiasm for empowering local people, but creating economic prosperity boards to which local authorities can appoint some members but where it ultimately remains in the gift of the Secretary of State to determine how many of those members there can be, how they can vote and what their executive arrangements should be, seems to be an exercise more in empowering the Secretary of State than in empowering local communities. I am sure that noble Lords will be intrigued to hear how the Minister squares this circle. I do not simply wish to hear more about how the EPBs will operate in practicealthough I would be delighted to hear that, toobut to hear how these top-down arrangements can possibly be presented as a measure to empower local communities.
My other amendments in this group focus on the membership of an economic prosperity board. It should, as I have said, be a matter for the local councils to set these schemes up. Therefore, I question why there need to be non-elected members, even if they do not have full voting rights. That is the reasoning behind Amendments 185 and 186, on which Amendment 186 is consequential.
Amendment 187 suggests that the political make-up of the economic prosperity board should reflect the local authorities of which it is made up. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has refined that further with her Amendment 187A. The point that we are both trying to make is that if there is to be a new tier of local government, there is no justifiable reason why it should be of a different political form from the council from which it derives its democratic legitimacy. These are not particularly contentious suggestions and I hope that the Minister will look on them favourably when she re-examines the whole of this part of the Bill before Report. I beg to move.
Baroness Hamwee: I part company with the noble Baroness only on her optimistic analysis that this matter is not contentious. We have put our names to Amendment 184, whereby guidance could be issued, rather than for all of this to be subject to order-making powers. It has just occurred to me that it may be that order-making powers are required for the matters dealt with by this group of amendments, because this is local government reorganisation, although we have been assured that it is not.
Amendments 184A, 185B, 187E and 188A are consequential on that. Regarding Amendment 185A, I am curious as to why it is necessary to make orders about executive arrangements. The implication is that these will be imposed and that the EPB will be very like the Governments model of a local authority. We have tabled Amendment 187A, which as the noble Baroness has said would amend her Amendment 187, not because we disagree with it, but merely because we wish to build on it by extending proportionality when there is a representative council under Clause 85(3). The amendment is for completeness.
We also have our names to the noble Baronesss Amendment 186. If the members of the board are not councillors, who do the Government expect they will be? We have the example of regional development agencies which are dominated by individuals who come from different backgrounds. This is particularly important because we are talking about local authority functions which may be carried out by individuals who are not democratically elected. I come back to my point about this issue being, in our eyes, local government reorganisation.
To some extent my amendment follows the comments just made by my noble friend Lady Hamwee about the members of the EPB who will not be elected councillors. Is it expected that their remuneration will be the same as members of the board who are elected councillors?
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Lord Greaves: Yes, I have obviously missed something. There are obviously councillors sat around this Table looking forward to their fat pensions when they get booted off the council. That is not a world in which I live and I do not think that it exists in Lancashire. But I have learnt something by putting down this amendment.
The amendment probes what kind of remuneration and allowances will be expected for people sitting on these bodies. There is a general view that some councillors who sit on all kinds of bodies and partnerships and the rest of it get rather more money than they ought to nowadays. This seems to me to be adding to that. This may be a minority and unpopular view among some Members of this Committee, but it is certainly my view and I shall continue arguing the case.
There is the question of remuneration of non-councillors and who they might be. My noble friend asked who they would be if they were not councillors. I shall tell you who they will bethe modern version of aldermen. They will be unelected people appointed by members of a quasi-local authority, sitting as members of that quasi-local authority. They will be just like aldermen of the past, expect that I do not think that aldermen of the past ever got paid any money.
I turn to what the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, saidI almost called her a councillor; I was upgrading her. My heart warms when I listen to the noble Baroness, as the Conservative spokesman here, trumpeting the values of devolution, local democracy, community government and so on. I hope that she speaks for the Conservative Party and I hope that if the Conservative Party ever gets the opportunity to do anything about it, it sticks to the kind of principles that she is putting forward, because it is not what we have been hearing from the Conservative Party for the past 30-odd years. However, the last great flowering of local democracy and the last occasion when central government put real trust in the councils was the Local Government Act 1972 and the reorganisation of 1973 and 1974. It might not have got the structures right in all cases, but it was an expression of confidence and trust in an elected local government. It has been downhill all the way since then, through Governments of all persuasions, so I wish the noble Baroness the very best of luck in keeping her party on the right track.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I apologise to the Minister, but my intervention is prompted partly by what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has just said. I shall not prolong this debate by uttering a word on that subject, save to say that I shall have a private conversation with the noble Lord about the internal arrangements of the Conservative Party at a later date and outside.
In the case of him I am alluding to the present Administration. I am not in any way alluding to the Minister as their living representative in this Chamber. But throughout my life I have been brought up to believe that the lower in an organisation, entity or Administration decisions were made, the better and healthier those decisions are likely to be. That may make me in sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. The problem with the part of the Bill that we are discussing is that that patently is not the case because of the powers that the Secretary of State is going to retain. In that respect the Bill is internally inconsistent and incoherent. The first part of the Bill was devoted to teaching us that we should be teaching the world, in our various communities, about the powers of local government and how they work. The complications that are writ large in this part of the Bill are just another part of the agenda that is going to have to be explained to voters so that they can understand how things workand, frankly, we would be better off without them. The Bill is gradually on the way to becoming a municipal oxymoron.
Baroness Andrews: I hope that noble Lords will take the time to read what I have said in response to the amendments today on this part of the Bill. I am deeply disappointed and depressed by the parallel universe in which we seem to be living and by the fact that what I say about the arguments that are put to me does not seem to be sinking in at all.
The Bill is for local authorities. It is not a Bill where the Secretary of State has powers to impose anything on local authorities; it is about local authorities finding their own best route to developing the economic potential of their areas. The two parts of the Bill are perfectly consistent. We are about both promoting democracy and giving local authorities more powers, greater autonomy, greater flexibility and greater freedoms to achieve what they need to meet the challenge of the economic and social situation, not only for the next year but for the foreseeable future. We will need every instrument at our disposal at local and regional level to make the necessary choices, based on intelligence. I hope that noble Lords will do me the courtesy of reading what I have said in response to their arguments in the course of this afternoon.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said that it should be a matter for local government to set up EPBs. Yes, and it is. I confirm again that it is not our intention for central government to make any appointments to EPBs; rather, the membership arrangements should be a matter for the local authorities involved. The noble
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I can deal with Amendments 184, 184A, 187E and 188A quite swiftly by confirming that while the membership and other constitutional arrangements for an EPB should be set out in a statutory order as confirmation, for all the reasons I gave earlier, rather than being left to guidance, the membership of an EPB will be decided by the group of local authorities that wish to establish an EPB and will be set out in their scheme. This is not micromanagement. The scheme should include details of how the members will be appointed, what type of members will be permitted and the voting powers that will be given to different types of member. Likewise, in relation to Clause 84(2) and Amendment 184B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, just as the local authorities themselves will determine the membership arrangements, so they will determine the remuneration arrangements of members of the EPB. It will be entirely up to them what they want to do and what is appropriate.
Clause 84(4) details what provision may be made about the executive arrangements of an EPB. The effect of Amendment 185A would be to remove any information in the Bill about what executive arrangements meant or what they included. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised an important question here, but, as with many of these clauses, there is a precedent for our approach in the Local Transport Act 2008. Our view is that the executive arrangements are important and should be transparent. That is why it is necessary to include details of what they can and cannot cover in legislation. Similarly, Amendment 185B, laid by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, would remove from the Bill the stipulation that the EPBs budget must be agreed by the EPB itself and not delegated. That is an important safeguard; it should be mandatory, and needs to appear in legislation.
Amendments 185, 186 and 188 would prevent any non-local authority members being on the EPB. The issue is about who will sit on the EPB. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said that it will be alderman. However, as I said before, the majority of EPBs will be local authority-led and will have elected members of local authorities, and that will provide the accountability. But we want them to have the flexibility to have a board that is right for the constituent authorities and for the task in hand, and additional members may bring specialist expertise.
Baroness Andrews: The majority of people on this board will be elected members of the authorities. We are saying that they should have the freedom and flexibility, if they so choose, to bring alongside them people who will help them to achieve their objectives. They could be, for example, people with medical expertise or employment expertise; it will be entirely up to the EPB. They could even be drawn from local authorities in adjoining areas so that there is a wider scope of
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On Amendment 188, we want to keep the subsections because they mirror provisions made for ITAs in the Local Transport Act 2008. They are designed to ensure that EPBs are local authority-led by restricting the voting rights of non-local authority members, but again they give local authorities the freedom, if they so wish, to make the change to amend that. Again, the intention is to provide flexibility. It is not something the Secretary of State will determine but something the authorities may find helpful.
Amendment 185 would also remove the flexibility for local authorities to give different weights to different kinds of members if they wished to do so. They may wish, for example, to give more weight to the votes of authorities which represent larger populations. It will be up to them.
Amendment 187 provides that the membership of an EPB should be politically representative. That is added to by Amendment 170A. I support the intention behind the amendment. Local authorities will be subject to the rules on political balance set out in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 when they appoint members to an EPB. Indeed, by virtue of paragraph 81 of Schedule 6, EPBs and combined authorities will also be subject to those rules. I hope that noble Lords concerns will be allayed on this point. Rather than accept the amendment and have to decide what constitutes a political make-up which is reflective of the constituent local authoritieswhich would be open to extensive interpretationit is better to apply existing rules from the 1989 Act and to allow authorities to come up with arrangements with which they are content than to try to make provision for this on the face of the Bill. It is another example of how we are leaving the decision to the constituent authorities on the EPB to do as they see fit and appropriate.
Baroness Hamwee: I shall not ask the Minister to respond now but in a letter which may be getting longer as we talk about it, but perhaps she can explain how political proportionality will be applied in the case of a board which contains non-councillors.
The Minister is clearly taken aback and distressed by the attacks that have come from this side of the Committee. I started todayor certainly this part of the Billby saying that no one doubts her own good intentions and those of the Government, but the problem is reconciling what she says with what is on the face of the Bill. This leads me to my next request. Will she justify, in writing, each order-making power as expressed in the Bill? None of these says expresslyalthough some might be linked to thisan order-making power at the request, and only at the request, of the EPB. We are being told that that is the situation. It may be that if one joins some bits one can arrive at that, but I do not think that it applies to everything and it is not always entirely clear. On justifying an order-making power, it would not be sufficient to say, because this is how we normally do this sort of thing.
This is a serious request, because the problems that this side of the Committee has with this part of the Bill are perfectly obvious. The further the Government can go in justifying the way in which they are setting about this, the greater the chance they will have of it sticking. At the moment, there is not that much of a chance.
Baroness Warsi: The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, went to the nub of the issue. I am sure that the intention behind these clauses is right; the Minister has again passionately explained it. However, the clauses as they are drafted do not reflect that intention, especially Clause 84 on the constitution and the roles of the Secretary of State. I ask the Minister to take them back and look at whether we could draft them in another way.
Baroness Warsi: I think I referred to that when I said that his heart warms as I speak. I am not sure that many Liberal Democrats would be able to share that view. However, I have the privilege of being a member of the shadow Cabinet, so I can assure the noble Lord that the views that I present from the Dispatch Box are on behalf of the Conservative Party. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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