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In a sense, the Minister is saying that, in the end, the Government do not trust local authorities. I understand the desire to bring everyone up to the best standards, as the Minister said, but that will never be achieved, because by definition if you are best, you are better than everyone else. We all want to improve standards. I perhaps have greater faith in local government than the drafters of the Bill do, because although not all local authorities will operate the petitions process as well as othersthat will always be the casegenerally authorities will want to do this well and many are doing it already. They will want to make it work, and that will happen. I hope that the Minister is right in her reassurances that it is very unlikely that these provisions will ever be used. We all join in hoping that. If they are, the intentions of the legislation will have failed, and none of us wants that to happen. I will of course beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, government Amendments 88, 89, 90 and 91 give effect to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committees recommendation that any order-extending provisions on petitions to parish or community councils should be subject to affirmative resolution. The DPRRC agreed that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate for any orders extending petitions provisions to the other bodies listed in Clause 20(2). Parish councils are often at the heart of local communities and deliver services which communities care strongly about. It is, therefore, right and proper that local people should be able to raise their concerns with their parish council, and we will work closely with the sector to develop the most appropriate way that people can do this through petitions.
I confirm that we have no current intention to apply a petitions duty to all local authorities included in the list in Clause 20(2). However, if there was evidence in the future that a requirement on these bodies to respond to petitions would increase peoples feelings of influence
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Amendments 88, 89, 90 and 91 resolve an issue which I know the Conservative Front Bench felt strongly about in Grand Committee. It responds to the argument that greater parliamentary scrutiny is needed when new requirements are imposed on parish and community councils, which have more limited resources than other types of local authority. I hope the noble Lords will welcome this amendment, which I commend to the House.
Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I raised my concerns about the duties and responsibilities potentially being placed on small and under-resourced authorities at Grand Committee. I cited the burdens that would be placed specifically on parish councils and the concerns about the placing of such burdens without clear affirmative action rather than by default. I am pleased that the noble Lord has taken away those concerns and I am pleased with the amendments tabled. My noble friend Lord Hanningfield and I are pleased to give our names to them.
(2A) The Secretary of State may not make a statutory instrument containing an order under section 20 which relates to the handling of petitions by a parish council in England unless a draft of the instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by, a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(4) The Welsh Ministers may not make a statutory instrument containing an order under section 20 which relates to the handling of petitions by a community council in Wales unless a draft of the instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by, a resolution of the National Assembly for Wales.
(a) the person designated in the petition as the person with whom the authority may deal in relation to the petition, or
(b) such other person as agrees with the authority to be the person with whom the authority may deal in relation to the petition;
I will deal with the government amendment first, and then I will address Amendment 97, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I hope the noble Lord does not mind if I address his amendment although he has not spoken to it.
Amendment 96 is a minor technical amendment to take out the reference to an economic prosperity board and combined authority in subsection (2)(j). I explained in Committee that this amendment was required because economic prosperity boards in combined authorities are in fact best-value authorities by virtue of the amendment already made to Section 1 of the Local Government Act 1999 by paragraph 91 of Schedule 6
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Amendment 97, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, proposes adding all those partner authorities to which the duty to co-operate to agree local performance targets applies, as listed in Section 104 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. As I have already explained, this amendment is unnecessary. We used the list in Section 104 as a basis for those partner authorities to which we are extending the duty to involve. However, it is not a straightforward matter of adopting the same list. It has been necessary to consider each of the bodies and whether it is necessary or desirable to include them in the list for the duty to involve in this Bill. A number of the bodies on the list proposed by the amendment are best-value authorities, which already have a duty to involve under Section 138 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.
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