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There are many cases where the catchment area for most of the schools pupils does not coincide with the area of a local authority. People might travel long distances to schools in some areas in London but in most places this problem, in relation to this part of the Bill, is a matter of a school which is on one side of a boundary. Located near a boundary and clearly on one side of that boundary, it is in one local authority area but will be attended by lots of students from the other local authority. I explained this in some detail in Committee when I gave two examples from just outside the city of Bradforda part of the world which I think the noble Lord, Lord Patel, knows fairly well, as do I. One school serves people in the Oakenshaw area and the other people in the villages around Keighley, with one school in Kirklees and the other in north Yorkshire. Significant numbers of pupils attend those schools. It is ridiculous that someone turning up at the city hall in Bradford or looking on the website in search of how to become a governor at one of the schools should be told that, as the school is not in Bradford, they do not include that information. Surely the question ought to be whether the information that is available to people is useful in answering the questions they are likely to ask and the inquires they are likely to make, not whether the school is on one side of the border or the other and therefore ruled out bureaucratically because it is on the wrong side. If a lot of parents and children live in Bradford and go to school just outside Bradford, or any other situation throughout the country, then surely they ought to be helped by this information.
The same applies particularly to primary care trusts and hospital trusts and boards. In many parts of the country there are traditional arrangements where people in one part of a district or county go to a hospital in another district or county and they are in different primary care trust areas. If they are in the same area and county, I suppose that the county might provide that information anyway. The example I gave concerns people in the eastern parts of Pendle, particularly the parts which before 1974 were in the West Riding of Yorkshire, who traditionally go to Airedale Hospital, which the Minister revealed he also had close contacts with and knowledge of. In that situation, most people in Barnoldswick and Earby go to Airedale. So if they go to their local Pendle council shop in Barnoldswick to get this information, they will be told, No, we cannot provide this information. It is not available here. Youll have to go and ask someone in Bradford or Keighley. That is nonsense. It is not a sensible way to do it.
I cannot understand why the Government are resisting these amendments. They are common sense and easy to operate. They rely on local knowledge about what is sensible and what is not sensible. They really ought to go in. I beg to move.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will remember, we had a canter over this course in Committee. I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, in the Chamber.
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As the noble Lord will remember, in Grand Committee I mentioned living in Loughton, which makes me an Essex man. I was very pleased to introduce to the proceedings a piece of my knowledgethat Epping Forest College, in Debden, is the recipient of a considerable sum which has lately been spent on it to vastly improve its facilities. It intrigues and delights me every time I travel from Loughton and into Debden to see the stream of youngsters coming to the college. They come from the Debden Central Line station, a 10 to 15-minute walk, and they are always impeccably dressed and well behaved. I would imagine that they appreciate the education they are receiving in that facility.
I raise that point because I am trying to understand the significance of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on this issue. I imagine that he knows where he is coming from; he wants people who are interested in the democracy of the institution, whether it is this place or any other that he mentioned from his wide knowledge, and have the ability to participate in it.
I am intrigued to know about a place such as the Epping Forest College in Debden. When I said that the majority of its pupils must come from somewhere else, the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, told me, sotto voce, that 70 or 80 per cent of its pupils do not live in the area. As Debden, which is on the Central Line, is just into Essex, the students come from further afield, so a dozen London boroughs must provide students and take advantage of the facility. I do not have a clue about the financial arrangements and so on, but if we are all in favour of young people taking advantage of the quality of the courses at that college, and if they are convenient, we say good luck to them. We, the politicians, have sort out the nitty gritty of that process.
I can understand, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has told me, that it is a frustration when one believes that one is entitled to participate in the democracy of an institution to find that, although it is local, it is not within a local catchment area. So I would be grateful to the Minister, when she replies as effectively as she always does, if she could explain the significance of this in a place like the Epping Forest College, where 80 per cent of pupils do not live in the catchment area. The 20 per cent do have rights, but the rights for the other 80 per cent are so scattered that they are very difficult to marshal. I rest my case.
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that my noble friend is not answering the question. Unfortunately, he will have to put up with me, and I hope I can be as persuasive as she absolutely would have been. I thank him for his input on this issue.
Amendments 9 and 9A seek to extend the scope of the duty on local authorities beyond their geographical boundaries. They seek to provide local people with information about the democratic arrangements of
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While I appreciate the intentions of noble Lords here, and as we discussed in great detail in Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed out, we do not believe that these amendments are necessary. Nor do we believe that these are reasonable or practical requirements to place on local authorities. These duties will require all principal local authorities to promote understanding of the democratic arrangements of the local authority and connected authorities, among other things, to people who live, work or study in their area. Let us remind ourselves that this duty is about promoting understanding of the democratic arrangements for public bodies set up either to be influenced by citizens, directly or indirectly, or run by lay citizen representatives. It is not designed to cover all conceivable information about public services in general.
Inevitably there is a fine balance in addressing the needs of the community and minimising the burden on local authorities. In doing so, we are also very mindful not to increase duplication of information where this is not necessary. We ask all local authorities to promote democratic understanding in their areas, and we do not only mean providing information by newsletters, leaflets and on websites, although this is important.
It would be the responsibility of the local authority in which the hospital or school is based to promote understanding of its democratic processes to all of its local people. This is additional to the information that these services provide directly to their students, patients and other users. This amendment would lead to unnecessary duplication that would affect the local authorities which are under the duty, the local people who are the target of the duty, and the connected authorities mentioned here: schools, NHS trusts and foundation trusts. I will explain further.
First, there would be a duplication of effort between councils in gathering this information, as they would each be collecting information on bodies in both their own and their neighbouring areas. As such, there would be a significant overlap in the scope of the duty on local authorities.
Secondly, a larger volume of information would be aimed at individuals: they would receive information about services both in the local authority in which they live and about facilities in neighbouring areas. Local people could be bombarded with information about all the NHS trusts in all the local authorities surrounding their home area. From the citizens perspective, many of these facilities will not be relevant to them and this could lead to the information being confusing and unclear. This would also, of course, add to the burden on local authorities.
Lastly, the amendments would lead to duplications in requests for information, as these bodies would receive requests not only from the local authorities in
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As noble Lords know, it is usual that requirements on local authorities relate to their geographical area. This provides a clear limit to expectations, and fits with the funding regime. There is nothing to stop local authorities working together if it is more practical to do so. But that is a decision for the local authorities involved. As noble Lords know, we are providing new money to cover this new duty, but this is based on working with local people, according to our definition and within the local authority boundary.
We are also concerned about using a phrase such as significant number, and although the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has said that some common sense would have to be applied, this would not provide sufficient clarity as to when a local authority must provide information, and when not. What constitutes a significant number? would be the question that would be continually asked. There is nothing to stop a local authority providing this additional information if it chooses to do so. We just do not believe it is right to require it.
I hope I have reassured the noble Lord that the best way to achieve what we both want to see happen, which is that information reaches those people who have a genuine connection with and are affected by these services, is to focus on targeting information by suggesting intelligent methods to do this in guidance, rather than creating overlaps by broadening the scope of the information that councils must gather. In this way, the information is sure to reach the right people, and councils burdens are minimised.
We expect local authorities to take a sensible approach; to consider how to imaginatively promote democratic understanding, as we have set out in these duties, in a way that is relevant to their local communities. We will work with the LGA to ensure that we cover these points in guidance. I remind noble Lords that the aim of the duty to promote understanding of connected authorities, which will be made clear in the guidance, is to give local people an overall picture of local democracy in their area. We emphasise that it is open to local authorities to promote connected authorities that are not on the list, where they are relevant to local people. As such, we consider both amendments to be unnecessary, and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am very tempted to call a vote after that. With great respect to the Minister, he did not answer the local questions I asked him and about which I thought he would have local knowledge.
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The noble Lord, Lord Graham, mentioned London. I accept that London is a different case but one or two of the other big conurbations may also be different cases, particularly Greater Manchester. The place that everyone thinks of as Manchester is divided into different councils, in the same way that London is, although it has nothing like as many as London. However, everyone thinks of Trafford, Salford and Manchester as just Manchester, unless they happen to live there and know differently. Therefore, I agree that there are problems.
Perhaps I may go through one or two things that the Minister said. He said that our proposal is not necessarily reasonable or practical. I am not in favour of doing anything that is not necessarily reasonable or practical. He also said that not all conceivable information can be given. I am not suggesting that it should be all conceivable information; I am suggesting that the information given should be the sensible information that most people who live in a particular place require. He said that we do not want duplication where it is not necessary. I agree entirely with the Minister. However, the whole purpose of the amendments is to assert that in some cases it will be necessary to make councils do what the Government want them to do under Chapter 1 of the Billthat is, to provide sensible information. He suggested that councils should have to promote the information to all their own local people. However, boundaries do not respect things such as a councils own local people; they cross community boundaries and the catchment areas of hospitals and schools. It does not seem right to promote the information to your own local people but not to other people who use your facilities.
The Minister said that the information should relate to a geographical area. I agree. Later in the Bill, when we talk about the results of the sub-national review and multi-area agreements and even economic prosperity boards, the Government will tell us that what matters is not the precise boundaries of a particular local authority but the economic geography of the areathat is what people keep calling itthe area which is economically and geographically sensible because it is a unit. It may be the city region or in other areas it may be something different. The Government would no doubt argue that Workington, Whitehaven and perhaps Barrow in West Cumbria are part and parcel of the same economic geographical area, and I would
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Finally, the Minister used the words genuine connection. There is nothing more genuine in terms of a connection than the hospital that you always go to, whether for an appointment or when the ambulance turns up. When the ambulance men ask, Where do you want to go?, you reply, That hospital, because that is where everyone in the area goes. There is nothing more genuine than the school that all the children in a village or suburb attend. With regard to the concept of connected authorities in the Bill, I can only refer to the authority of which I am a member. When Airedale General Hospital wanted to put in a bid to become a foundation trustI do not know how far that bid has got or how far it is goingit came to Pendle council over the border in Lancashire and said, We recognise that traditionally a third of the people in Pendle come to us rather than go to Burnley. We recognise that the East Lancashire Primary Care Trust has had a contract with Airedale for many years in order to pay for these patients. We would like Pendle to have representation on the primary care trust board. There cannot be anything more connected than that in the Governments concept of the word. There will be direct connectivity with representation from one authority over the border in a hospital in a different authority.
The Government say that they cannot accept most of the amendments that we put forward. They say that they understand them and, although they may not agree, they recognise that there is a sensible case to be made. However, in this case, I think that the Government are being resistant and obdurate, and I do not understand why. To me, it is common sense that this option should be written into the Bill. As I said, I am extremely tempted to test the opinion of the House. However, I shall not do so because this Bill has a lot of track to go down yet. It has to go to the House of Commons, and the Government have a lot of time to continue to think about this matter and to put something sensible into the Bill. I hope that they will do that as the Bill progresses through its further stages in this House and the House of Commons. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Tope: I shall speak also to Amendments 17 to 20, 24 and 25. We return to an issue that was subject to some considerable debate in Committee. Amendment 15 proposes to leave out Clause 3 relating to monitoring boards, courts boards and youth offending teams, and Amendment 17 would leave out Clause 4 relating to lay justices. The other amendments are consequential on those two principal amendments.
This will probably be one of those areas where we simply disagree with the Government but perhaps I may start with where we do agree. We certainly agree that a better understanding among local peopleindeed, the public in generalof the functions of all those bodies is desirable. It is certainly desirable that people understand better how they can become involved in, or even in some cases become a member of, those bodies. All that is desirable. We recognise that the membership of the magistracy, in particular, needs to be very much more diverse than is currently the case. Therefore, all that is common ground between us. We certainly recognise that any assistance that local authorities can give in bringing about that greater understanding and involvementenabling people to understand what is involved if, for example, they seek to become a magistratewill be beneficial. All that is desirable and no one would think otherwise.
However, there is a huge difference between local authorities assisting voluntarily with the various bodies in bringing that about and the Government placing a statutory duty on them to do so. That is simply a step too far. For instance, it is not, and should not be, the statutory responsibility of a local authority to encourage people to know more about becoming, and then to become, magistrates, desirable though that may be. It is good if a local council, in discussion with its local magistrates or, indeed, with the Magistrates Association wishes voluntarily to put something on its website or to make available leaflets that explain those roles. That is desirable. I hesitate to say it, but this could even be suggested in the guidance. However, to make it a statutory duty of the local authority is a step too far. Making it a statutory duty is also inconsistent with what the Minister has assured us throughout is intended to be a light-touch approach. The roles of a local authority and the local magistrates are not close enough, in this sense, to be consistent with a light touch.
When we discussed Clause 4 in Committee, several concerns were raised. I wondered, without making too much of an issue, whether there was a potential difficulty between the relationship of a local authority, in its use of a magistrates court, and this duty. That could happen, although I do not want to exaggerate. The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, several times asked what a local authority would do better than those bodies
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The Ministers only reply was that this will be in the wider context of civic engagement and that is desirable. Somebody looking at a council website, wondering what is involved in becoming a councillor, will not suddenly say that they would much rather be on a prison monitoring board than become a councillor. It is unlikely that anyone who wishes to be involved with an independent monitoring board for a prison or a visiting committee, or who wants to become a magistrate, will look at the local authority website in the first instance. They are more likely to look at the appropriate website for that authority. It is just inappropriate and wrong to make it a statutory duty.
I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, is not in his place. In Committee, he expressed qualified support for my view. He said that if we are talking, as we are, about lay justices, why is there no similar duty for tribunals? I am not for one moment arguing that there should be. Indeed, for the same reasons, there should not be, but it seems to be an inconsistency and the Minister agreed that she would think about that inconsistency. I would like to believe that her thoughts have led her to believe that having the statutory duty for lay justices is inappropriate and that we are not now, as a result, going to add tribunals to the list. That is a point for consideration. Clauses 3 and 4 are simply wrong. It is wrong to place a statutory duty on local authorities in this respect and it is inconsistent with the proclaimed light touch. I beg to move.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Warsi and I have added our names to Amendments 15 and 17. I declare my interest as leader of Essex County Council, past vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, chairman of the Essex Management Board and numerous other interests associated with my leadership of Essex County Council.
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