24 Jun 2015 : Column 1581

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1581

House of Lords

Wednesday, 24 June 2015.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

Message from the Queen

3.07 pm

The Lord Chamberlain (Earl Peel) (CB): My Lords, I have the honour to present to your Lordships a message from Her Majesty the Queen, signed by her own hand. The message is as follows:

“I have received with great satisfaction the dutiful and loyal expression of your thanks for the Speech with which I opened the present Session of Parliament”.

Retirement of a Member: Lord Luke

Announcement

3.08 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza): My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from today, of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his much-valued service to the House.

Prisons: Mental Health

Question

3.08 pm

Asked by Lord Patel of Bradford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to achieve parity of esteem between mental health and physical health in prisons.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, achieving parity of esteem between mental health and physical health in prisons is a government priority. Following the 2009 review by the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, we ensured that prisoners can access equivalent health services to people in the community. The Government’s mandate to NHS England has objectives to achieve parity of esteem, including in health and justice settings, and to develop better offender healthcare that is integrated between custody and community, including developing liaison and diversion services.

Lord Patel of Bradford (Lab): I thank the Minister for that Answer. I am sure he will be aware that a great deal of effort has been made to improve data accuracy and the quality of recording of mental health diagnosis in NHS trusts, including new coding standards, all as part of preparation for a national payment tariff for mental health, similar to those for people in hospitals

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1582

with physical health conditions. Can the Minister describe, first, how this will be implemented in the prison setting? Secondly, what support will his department be giving to implement the standards for prison mental health services, which the Royal College of Psychiatrists published recently due to, as it said, the lack of a national blueprint for mental health services for people in the criminal justice system?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I thank the noble Lord for his two questions. On the first, about coding, it is very important that we get the tariff right and that it does not become just another measure of activity but that outcome is built into that tariff. Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, is preparing a report for NHS England, which will include proposals for the tariff and payment systems. That will include health in prisons as well as outside prisons.

The second question was about the standards issued recently by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The noble Lord, Lord Bradley, in his foreword to The Bradley Report Five Years On, referred to the importance of having a national blueprint, which of course is now possible given that NHS England is the commissioner of specialist services throughout the country. I will also draw those standards to the attention of Paul Lelliott, the chief inspector of mental health within the CQC. I am sure that the CQC will wish to incorporate those standards into its inspection regime

Lord Walton of Detchant (CB): Can the Minister say what qualifications are now required of doctors who are recruited to work in prisons? Can he further say what proportion of those who are now employed to work in prisons have had formal psychiatric training?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I thank the noble Lord for that question. I hope he will think it acceptable if I reply to him in writing after this session.

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, could the Minister explain why we lock up so many mentally ill offenders in prison institutions that are not fit for the purpose? Has he read yesterday’s report by the prisons inspector, which describes one prison as containing “shocking” squalor, high levels of violence and drug abuse, and high levels of staff sickness? Would the Minister explain how many mentally ill offenders are in our prison institutions and what efforts are being made to place them where proper mental health care and social care are available?

Lord Prior of Brampton: There are, as the noble Lord knows, some 85,000 people in prison, of whom more than 70% have two or more mental health conditions. Many of them suffer from drug or alcohol abuse, and I think it is generally accepted that a number of those people could be better treated outside a prison environment. He will also know that the liaison and diversion services that were so highly recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, now cover 40% of the prison population. There is a proposal that that should cover the whole population by the end of the year, subject to evaluation of those pilot schemes.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1583

Lord Bradley (Lab): My Lords, it is vital that a prison has all relevant information about an offender’s health needs when they arrive at prison reception. Does the Minister agree that an evaluation of the current health screen should be undertaken to improve the identification of mental health problems at prison reception and that the identification of learning disabilities should be part of that screen?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord raised this in his report five years ago and in the follow-up report that was published more recently. A very early assessment of a prisoner when he arrives in prison is of course extremely important.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, given the complex needs of so many prisoners and the fact that those needs have to be addressed consistently, does the Minister agree with me that the risks associated with such prisoners could be greatly reduced were all operational staff in prisons given training on mental health awareness?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The right reverend Prelate’s comments are true throughout the whole healthcare system and would also apply to nurses in physical health surroundings. Training in how to recognise and deal with people suffering from mental health problems would be a huge benefit.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, the figures that the Minister cited come from the last survey of psychiatric morbidity in prisons, published in October 1998. Since then, the morbidity profile has changed. Is there any intention to conduct another survey so that the figures are up to date and people know the size and shape of the problem with which they must deal?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I am not aware of any current plans to conduct a survey similar to the one to which the noble Lord referred from 1998.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, what action will the Government take in Wales, where health is devolved to the Welsh Assembly but prisons are part of the Home Office remit? How will those two different aspects of government work together?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord raises an issue to which, I confess, I have not given sufficient consideration to give a proper reply today. Perhaps I may take that away and come back to him. The simple answer to that question is: dialogue.


Renewable Energy

Question

3.16 pm

Asked by Viscount Ridley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the cost (£/tCO2e) of greenhouse gas emissions abatement in the most recent year for which there is data from each of wind offshore,

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1584

wind onshore and solar, taking into account the additional electricity system costs appropriate to each technology.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con): My Lords, based on support provided through the renewables obligation, the estimated abatement cost in 2014 was £65 per tonne of carbon dioxide for onshore wind, £121 for offshore wind and £110 for solar PV.

Viscount Ridley (Con): I thank my noble friend for that reply and declare my interests in energy as listed in the register. Does he agree that the Ed Miliband/Chris Huhne energy policy that he inherited has been extremely effective at taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich but much less effective at decarbonisation—and particularly at decarbonisation in an affordable way? The numbers he gave for the abatement costs per tonne of carbon dioxide from those three technologies are higher than the numbers given for the total cost of climate change—the so-called social cost of carbon—as estimated by all economists, including even the noble Lord, Lord Stern. Would my noble friend guarantee to investigate these numbers to see whether we are getting value for money as consumers through these subsidies?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, it is fair to say that there is a decline in the cost of renewable generation technologies. The steepest decline is in solar PV. On my noble friend’s point about the fact that the last leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, had a policy on energy that was not in the interests of the country, I am pleased to say that one of the first actions of the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was to write to the energy companies to say that we look forward to seeing a reduction in bills consequent on the fact that the last leader of the Opposition is not now Prime Minister.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, by what date do the Government expect renewables to be cost-competitive so that hard-working families and businesses will no longer have to subsidise wealthy landlords and other green investors?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, it is not merely a question of cost. If it were the case that renewables were the cheapest form of electricity, we would not face the same challenge on climate change that we do. As I indicated, it is true that the cost of renewables is coming down. Meanwhile, it is the policy of the Government to focus on energy that is affordable, secure and clean.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, will the Government compensate the increasing number of British people forced into fuel poverty by the man-made climate change policy if climate change turns out not to have been man-made at all?

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1585

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I suspect that the noble Lord may be in a minority of one in his view of the position on climate change. Obviously, we are very pleased that the fuel poverty statistics are on a downward trend and that fewer people are in fuel poverty this year than last year.

Baroness Worthington (Lab): My Lords, thanks to the Government’s Energy Act in the last Parliament, virtually every element of our energy system is now subject to a subsidy, and we are currently paying to keep old, unabated coal stations open and paying to shut them. Is that not the real scandal, since all of this coal is now imported?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that by 2025 electricity generation from unabated coal will represent only 1% of our generation.

Lord Geddes (Con): My Lords, in the context of this Question, what is the Government’s policy on tidal power?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the Swansea tidal lagoon has had planning permission, and we are now looking at the position of tidal power in relation to contracts for difference. It certainly represents an exciting possibility and one that has a lot of support—but I had better say no more than that as I made the planning decision.

Lord Broers (CB): My Lords, on a simple point of clarification, would the Minister confirm that these numbers are calculated from the actual delivered power and not the gross generating capability of these sources?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, a bear of small brain such as myself will have to get back to the noble Lord on that point, as I am uncertain.

Lord Richard (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): Order. This is one of these occasions when it is necessary for the House to recognise that there are a range of conventions. One is that each party in the House gets at least one go in a Question. There is also the respect that we pay to former Leaders of the House who are also trying to get in and ask a question. So I am going to sit down—bearing in mind that we have two minutes left and there is a former Leader trying to ask a question, and a Member of the Lib Dem Benches, and the Lib Dems have not yet asked a question—and leave it to the House to decide.

Lord Purvis of Tweed: My Lords, I am grateful to the former Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The Committee on Climate Change report on the cost-effective path to 2050 indicated that nuclear and onshore wind are likely to have broadly comparable

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1586

costs to new, unabated gas. Given the fact that the predominance of the situation in Scotland has been affected by the recent government decision, should not the Government be open to amendments to the energy Bill that could be coming forward to make sure that there is a distinct case for Scotland, so that support for Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy is put on a comparable level as support for Chinese investors and the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, when the energy Bill comes before us—it will come to this House first—we will have an opportunity to look the questions that the noble Lord raises.

Lord Richard: My Lords, the Minister said in answer to the Question today that unabated coal would account for 1% of electricity by 2025. On the last occasion, last week, when this was raised, he said in one column of Hansard what he said today, while in another column of Hansard he said that it would account not for 1% of electricity supply but for 1% of emissions. Both cannot be right, and I would be grateful if he could tell us which is.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, following a conversation with the noble Lord yesterday, I went back and checked. That is why the version that I gave today was the correct version.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): My Lords, has the Minister considered the option, if we are going to take away subsidies from some energy sources, that we should take them away from all energy sources, including nuclear?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, nuclear is a vital part of the mix. We do not get through this energy situation without an important contribution from nuclear energy, not least because many of the renewables, such as wind and solar, are intermittent.

Severn Bridge: Tolls

Question

3.23 pm

Asked by Baroness Randerson

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what analysis they have conducted of the economic impact of the Severn Bridge tolls.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, this Government and the previous Government have not made any assessment of the economic impact of the tolls on the Severn River crossings. However, the existence of the bridges, as funded by tolls, has provided significant economic benefits. The Government have announced that they will consider the future of tolls, working with stakeholders involved.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1587

Baroness Randerson (LD): My Lords, tolls are rare in the UK, and the Severn Bridge tolls are by far the most expensive in the country. It costs commuters £1,500-plus per year to use the bridges. Surely that is an unfair tax on employment in the area. Does the Minister agree that these tolls should be scrapped, and does he agree with the Welsh Government report stating that the economy of Wales would benefit by £107 million a year if they were?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We have of course noted the Welsh Government report but I do not agree with the noble Baroness. When the crossings were put together, particularly the second one, the financing necessitated operating the tolls to recover not only the maintenance costs but the ongoing costs. The concessions agreed at that time still need to be applied. Tolls need to be applied until the end of that concessionary period.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, does the Minister accept that employers and trade unions alike see these tolls as a direct tax on the Welsh economy that is militating against the economic development that is greatly needed? What is the Government’s estimate of the cumulative backlog of maintenance costs for the bridge? After the contract period is over, who will be responsible for paying for that maintenance?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble Lord raises a valid question about the issue of maintenance costs. It is estimated that by the end of the concessionary period, £88 million of the actual costs of construction will still need to be recuperated. On current estimates, on the basis of what is currently collected, a period of one to two years will be required after that concessionary period ends. There is no specific calculation with regard to maintenance costs.

Lord Kinnock (Lab): My Lords, few would argue that a toll was not justified in order to finance the construction and early development of the second Severn crossing. The question now being posed, as it has been posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is what is to happen in future. At the very least, should not the toll be hugely modified to cover the essential maintenance costs, while no longer being at a level that will impede the development of the Welsh economy by inflicting unnecessary and abnormal costs?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: This Government support the Welsh economy. Indeed, the usage of both crossings has actually shown a marked increase. The noble Lord raises the valid issue of the continuation of the tolling. However, if the tolls were taken away today, that would have an impact on the concession agreement that was reached. For that to be recovered, a further period of time would have to be taken into consideration. That said, at the end of the concessionary period all stakeholders, including the Welsh Government, will be part and parcel of the discussions on the ongoing maintenance and management of the two crossings.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1588

Lord Brabazon of Tara (Con): I remind my noble friend that when the Dartford crossing was built, the plan was that when the thing had been paid for the tolls would be stopped. It was the party opposite who decided to continue with them, and they continue now.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I am always grateful for my noble friend’s interventions.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): Is the Minister aware that in Scotland, all parties agreed to the abolition of the tolls? There have been no adverse effects and it has all been beneficial. If it is good enough for Scotland, why is it not good enough for Wales?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Crossings in Scotland are a devolved matter, as the noble Lord is aware.

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, will the Minister put travellers’ minds at rest and confirm that over the period of this Parliament the Government, through Highways England, will not introduce tolls on new roads in England? Clearly, tolls are a blunt instrument and should not be used for roads because they divert traffic—just as, indeed, the tolls over the Severn have diverted a lot of traffic through the villages of Gloucestershire.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I am sure the noble Lord is aware that where tolls are used, there is a specific purpose. As I have already said, the issue concerning the crossing we are discussing relates to ongoing maintenance. As far as the Government’s commitment to the roads programme is concerned, I am sure the noble Lord is aware that we have already committed to £24 billion-worth of road improvements, and that will continue over the next five-year period.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, following the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, could my noble friend assist me? Is there any reason at all why the Welsh Government could not pay for this if they chose to do so?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: One of the crossings is actually in England. When we come to the end of the concession period, we will discuss such management issues with the Welsh Government.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, talking of Wales, Jones is a very good Welsh name, and 100 years ago today the body of Commander Loftus Jones was washed up on the shores of Sweden, his having fought to the last with his ship at Jutland, surrounded by cruisers and destroyers, manning the last gun even though his leg had been blown off and a tourniquet applied. I am sure the Minister will agree that in our country we are very fortunate to have large numbers of men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line and be brave. In the Navy’s case, is it not important that it has ships if it is to look after the country?

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1589

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As I have said previously from this Dispatch Box, the lessons of history I gain from the noble Lord are always welcome. I put that down to the pages of history, as well.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, the economic impact of the tolls is felt not just in Wales but in the Forest of Dean. I think the Minister said that there has not been an economic impact study. Will he consider doing one, because the tolls have a huge impact on the people of the Forest of Dean?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble Baroness raises a valid point about the people of the Forest of Dean—and, indeed, further afield in Gloucestershire. There have been some calls for a third crossing. That is a case to consider at local level, and I am sure the local LEP will put forward a case. On the economic impact study, once we have reached the end of this concessionary period, we will consider the Welsh Government report and that will inform the final decision on how these crossings are managed in future.


NHS: Immigration Rules

Question

3.30 pm

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what their response is to the Royal College of Nursing report concerning the impact of immigration rules on the employment of foreign nurses within the National Health Service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, ensuring we have the right number of nurses is vital. That is why we are taking the issue of nursing recruitment seriously and have prioritised and invested in front-line staff, so there are over 8,600 more nurses on our wards. Health Education England’s workforce plan for England for 2015-16 forecasts that, following further increases in the number of training commissions, the proposed levels for nurse training will deliver over 23,000 more nurses by 2019.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord will know that the RCN report estimates that as a result of the migration rules around 7,000 nurses will be forced to leave the NHS because they do not reach the £35,000 per annum employment threshold. Despite the modest increase in the number of training places, is he confident that that gap can be filled, alongside dealing with the current recruitment crisis, the extra nurses needed for seven-day working, the extra nurses needed for improved patient-staff ratios and the Government’s indication that they want to rule out the use of agency nurses in future? When will all those policies be adopted alongside the 7,000 reduction in overseas nurses?

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1590

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the Royal College of Nursing figure I saw was closer to 3,000 than 7,000, but in a sense that is not what is important. What is important is that over the long run we train our own nurses in this country. Although we recruit some exceptionally wonderful nurses from places such as the Philippines, it does not seem a good long-term strategy to rely on recruiting nurses, often from third-world, quite poor countries, so I am very pleased that we are going to train 23,000 new nurses over the next five years. That is the right answer to any short-term, temporary shortage.

Lord Fowler (Con): My Lords, surely the central point is that we should review the policy of recruiting nurses from overseas, as I think my noble friend is indicating. Should we not in a bipartisan way now concentrate on training our own nurses in this country rather than permanently taking them from other countries, for example, in Africa, which often desperately need their care?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend; it cannot be right for a rich country such as ours to recruit nurses from much poorer countries. I will just say that the Philippines, for example, produces more nurses on a deliberate basis than it needs for itself, so that they can go overseas, usually for temporary periods, not permanently. Interestingly, over the last five years, the number of non-EU overseas nurses working in this country has reduced by 41%.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, if we need more home-grown nurses, what are the Government doing to address the flood of nurses leaving the profession, and the appalling attrition rate during training? My noble friend Lord Willis’s report on the Shape of Caring review showed that every year 20% of student nurses do not complete the year, and 40% of nurses do not complete the first five years in the profession. Since it costs £78,000 to train a nurse, is that not a terrible waste of money, and could we not do more to support student nurses to finish their training?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Baroness makes a strong point. The drop-out rate of nurses is between 20% and 30%; it varies hugely from one nursing school to another. I am told that the peak of the drop-out rate is after their first clinical placement, which indicates that the way some nursing schools recruit their students is far from satisfactory. I hope that Health Education England will change the way it remunerates some nursing schools to ensure that they recruit the people with the right qualifications, temperament and vocation before they offer them places.

Baroness Emerton (CB): My Lords, the Royal College of Nursing’s underlying concern in its report was the safety of patients due to shortage of nurses. The royal college is greatly concerned that there has been a cutback in training places because of the inclusion of overseas nurses over the last three years. Can the Minister see whether the report will result: first, in an

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1591

increase of nurses in training back to the level of three years ago; and secondly, in revisiting the levels of safe staffing?

Lord Prior of Brampton: As usual, the noble Baroness is more than familiar with the latest developments in the world of nursing. Health Education England is committed to commissioning an additional 23,000 nurses over the next four years. On safer standards of nursing, I know that she has taken a keen interest in the work that has been done around nurse staffing levels in relation to the numbers of patients. It is the Government’s view that the actual decisions about safe staffing should be taken at a local level, based on the acuity of patients on the ward, and should largely be up to the judgment of the ward sister and senior nurses within the hospital.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. How are we to reconcile the dilemma that we have just heard about from the Department of Health and from Monitor—cutting back on agency staff—with the impact that this legislation will have on nurses in our hospital and in many others? It will affect not just nurses; lots of people who work in hospitals, whether in ophthalmics or pharmacy, will have the same kind of issue. How do we reconcile the fact that we are trying to run a hospital that ensures the best experience for patients while this will have the opposite effect?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Baroness makes a strong point. There is a dilemma, but we have to differentiate between the long term and the short term. In the long term, it is very important that we develop enough nurses for our own healthcare system. In the very short term, there will be ups and downs. Unquestionably, in the light of the Francis report into the awful happenings at Mid Staffordshire, there has been a spike in demand for nurses, particularly those to be employed in acute hospitals. That has caused short-term difficulties, leading to problems with the agency staffing that she referred to. It is worth pointing out that last year 3,500 nurses—largely from the Philippines—came from overseas to this country. In the short term that provides an escape—a way out, if you like—but it is not a permanent solution.

Calais: Border Management

Statement

3.40 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place earlier today.

“Mr Speaker, industrial action by striking French workers yesterday caused significant disruption at the ports of Calais and Coquelles in northern France. This action resulted from a dispute between local trade unions and the owners of the French ferry operator, MyFerryLink. As a result of this disruptive

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1592

strike, the port of Calais was shut for a period of over 13 hours and train departures were suspended at the Channel Tunnel rail port of Coquelles. Sadly, the strikers damaged SNCF railway tracks outside the tunnel, which led to the cancellation of all Eurostar services until 6 o’clock this morning. More generally, the disruption caused backlogs of traffic in the Calais area, which presented existing migrants around the town with opportunities to attempt to enter slow-moving lorries.

The French and UK Governments were well prepared for this event. Tried and tested contingency plans were quickly put into place. Despite the extra pressure caused by the French strikers, Border Force maintained border security by following plans to put additional staff in place to search freight vehicles passing through the affected ports during the industrial action and thereafter. All freight vehicles passing through the Calais ports undergo searching by both the French authorities and the UK’s Border Force before boarding a ferry or train. During the course of yesterday’s disruption and since, the Border Force and the French authorities have successfully identified and intercepted a significant number of would-be migrants.

Last night, I spoke with the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. He was as grateful as I was for the strong co-operation between UK and French authorities during yesterday’s incident, and I thanked him for the French police’s efforts to maintain law and order in the Calais area. Our two Governments have been working closely and constructively in recent months to bolster security at the juxtaposed border at Calais and other French ports. Last September, Her Majesty’s Government committed £12 million to this work. This has led to the installation of fencing around the port of Calais and the approach road and improvements to the layout of the port to speed up flows of traffic and create secure buffer zones for heavy goods vehicles. This is in addition to £3 million spent on the provision of new scanners and detection technology to assist with the searching of freight vehicles and additional dog searching undertaken by contractors. At the port of Coquelles, we have already provided significant investment in upgrading perimeter security and freight-screening technology. We will continue to work with Eurotunnel and the French authorities on installing additional security measures at the site to prevent migrants from making incursions into the port.

More broadly, the ongoing situation in Calais serves as an important reminder of why EU member states need to work together to tackle the causes of illegal immigration in source and transit countries. We are already co-operating closely with the French to tackle the organised criminal gangs that facilitate the movement of migrants into and across Europe. UK and French law enforcement organisations have already had considerable success in dismantling criminal networks behind people trafficking and smuggling on both sides of the channel, resulting in the prosecution of 223 individuals, and Monsieur Cazeneuve and I have agreed to build on this important work. As the Prime Minister and I have repeatedly made clear, the most important step to resolving the situation in the Mediterranean is breaking the link between migrants making this dangerous journey and achieving settlement in Europe.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1593

Traffic on both sides of the channel is moving again. There will, however, continue to be a significant border security operation as the backlogs of traffic are cleared at the affected ports. The inconvenience caused by the French strikers to the travelling public and lorry drivers is deeply regrettable. Though yesterday’s incident was caused by events that were beyond the control of Her Majesty’s Government, our law enforcement organisations reacted to the events extremely well. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in commending the excellent work done by the Border Force, Kent Police and others on both sides of the channel who have worked tirelessly to maintain border security and minimise disruption to the travelling public. I commend this Statement to the House”.

3.44 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer. The situation at Calais has, over time, reflected the humanitarian crisis and the activities of human traffickers, which are both issues that need to be addressed at source. Co-operation between the French and British authorities in their work is to be welcomed, but on the issue of the events of the last day or so, could the Minister say what specific action has been taken to protect British citizens delayed in northern France in the light of reports alleging harassment and threats to car and lorry drivers waiting to travel back to this country—also implied in the Answer—and reports that some hauliers no longer use Calais?

The Answer also referred to the interception of a number of would-be migrants by Border Force and the French authorities. What is the Government’s current estimate of the number of would-be migrants who are likely to reach this country as a result of the recent disruption in northern France, and how does that figure compare with the estimated usual number of would-be migrants thought to reach this country through the ports of Calais and Coquelles over a similar period?

Lord Bates: To answer the first question, the Home Secretary has spoken to Monsieur Cazeneuve about the safety of British and other travellers travelling to the UK. There is a promise to provide extra resources during this time to help secure vehicles. It is a very fast-moving and difficult situation, as has already been mentioned.

As to the effect on the number of people arriving into the UK, the juxtaposed controls, which are at the heart of this and were actually introduced by the previous Labour Government, have worked very well in Calais, Dunkirk and Coquelles. They are staffed by a pool of about 800 Border Force officers based in France. It is estimated that, in the past year, 40,000 people have been stopped travelling into the UK. The message to take from yesterday is very clear: the UK border was not breached. There was significant disruption for travellers and freight vehicles as a result of the action, particularly for those using the tunnel, but we do not anticipate that having a direct effect on the numbers entering the UK.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, the problems we saw in Calais yesterday did not begin with the strike; they began with the plight of people many miles away

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1594

in Africa. Will the Government continue to support spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid, as provided for under the Act that was proposed by the Liberal Democrats as a Private Member’s Bill and passed by this House in the last Session, to ensure that the reasons these people are seeking to move from Africa into Europe are dealt with at source?

Lord Bates: I am very happy to give that assurance. Reaching 0.7% was one of the great achievements of the previous Government and certainly something that we are committed to maintaining. We are providing the second-largest amount of money, in absolute terms, to Syria—some £800 million. We talk about committing £12 million to the work at the juxtaposed borders, but £800 million is going towards helping the people fleeing the awful situation in Syria. That is absolutely the right balance in trying to move this problem forward and tackle it at source.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers (CB): My Lords, I was one of those trapped in a car just outside the terminal at Calais yesterday, together with a very large number of lorries and their drivers. The road was thick with would-be migrants to this country. I did not feel at all threatened by them—they seemed to be relatively benevolent. But I had great sympathy for the lorry drivers, who were faced with attempts to break into their lorries. I also had great sympathy for this large army of would-be migrants. What steps are being taken to find a permanent solution for their plight?

Lord Bates: The juxtaposed controls were introduced in response to the situation at the Sangatte camp. Some interesting things are going on at an international and even a European level—for example, the idea of trying to create secure areas within north Africa where people could be safely returned to and where their applications, if they were genuine, could be processed and tested. We should certainly look more closely at an idea of that kind.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, in the event of the Italian authorities giving temporary residency to boat people coming in from north Africa and landing on Italian shores, what would the position be at Calais? Would be we able turn those people back?

Lord Bates: There is an issue in relation to Italy. We would like to see the Italian authorities recognise that they have a major crisis on their hands and take care to ensure that, when people arrive in Italy, they are fingerprinted, registered and recorded as the Dublin regulations require. Her Majesty’s Government’s position is that, if that were to happen in Italy, it would reduce the flows heading north beyond that area.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that, if non-EU citizens enter the UK from France, they are not entitled to claim asylum in Britain, because the rules require non-EU citizens who arrive in the EU to claim asylum in the first country that they arrive in?

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1595

Lord Bates: That is what the Dublin accord or regulation requires: such people should claim asylum in the first place in which they arrive. If it is Italy, it should be Italy; if it is Greece, then it should be Greece. That is a principle which everybody has signed up to and we want to see it implemented.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, in that case, why are these unfortunate people so desperate to come to this country rather than to stay in France?

Lord Bates: There could be a whole range of reasons. I am proud of this country; it is a wonderful country; it is a privilege to live here. I have no doubt that many people would want to come here. The point is that we cannot have an open-door policy; we need to have a managed immigration policy for people who have gone through the proper channels to arrive here. People who try to circumvent that clearly need to be stopped.

Lord Higgins (Con): Following on from the previous question, has my noble friend noticed the comments by Mr Vaz, the chairman of the relevant committee in another place, who said that the attraction of this country is not simply the benefits system but the fact that illegal immigrants are able to obtain employment?

Lord Bates: I do not want to stray into what might be considered a partisan point, but when a country has created 2.2 million jobs while there is still a high level of unemployment in the EU, particularly in France, that will clearly be in the minds of people who are making economic decisions. Economic migrants should be returned—that is not what we are looking for. If people are genuinely fleeing for their lives and for asylum purposes, their applications need to be considered in the proper way.

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, is there an answer to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours?

Lord Bates: I tried to give one; I accept that it might not have been adequate. I was simply making the point that we would prefer the boat people to be recorded and registered in Italy, as is specified under the Dublin regulations.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, is there not a risk of contamination of vegetables and food coming into this country when lorries are held up and contaminated with people?

Lord Bates: That is a fair point. My noble friend Lord Taylor, the Chief Whip, has mentioned that a lot of that food goes to waste, which is an unfortunate and sad by-product of the industrial action which took place.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1596

European Union (Finance) Bill

First Reading

3.55 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL]

Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL] 1st Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Committee (2nd Day)

3.55 pm

Relevant document: 1st Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Clause 2: Deputy mayors etc

Amendment 18

Moved by Lord Beecham

18: Clause 2, page 3, line 4, at end insert “, with the consent of the combined authority”

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, the amendments in this group relate to the delegation of functions to the deputy mayor who under Clause 2 would be appointed from the members of the authority by the mayor. They relate more generally to the sweeping powers contained in Clause 3 for the Secretary of State to render any function of the authority to be exercised only by the mayor or, even more remarkably, the deputy mayor or any other member or officer of the combined authority whom the mayor might choose. That represents a massive concentration of power in the hands of an elected mayor. It is an unacceptable vesting of power, which he can delegate to anybody, in effect, whom he chooses.

The very authorities that have blazed the trail of innovation that led to this Bill in the Greater Manchester area did so without this effectively unfettered power. The great local government leaders of the past—from Joseph Chamberlain to Herbert Morrison and others, some of whom adorn the Benches to this day—did not have such power. It is unnecessary for the Bill to include that measure.

Amendment 18 would require the consent of the combined authority to the appointment of the deputy mayor and Amendment 20 would require the consent of the authority to the delegation by the Secretary of State of the functions exercisable only by the mayor. Amendment 21 would require the mayor to consult the combined authority on the further delegation of general functions by the mayor to a deputy. Amendment 22 deals with the provision of Section 107D(5) under which:

“Any general function exercisable by the mayor”,

may be exercised,

“by the mayor individually, or … by a person acting under arrangements with the mayor”,

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1597

only with the consent of the combined authority. The purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that the combined authority has some influence over the delegation of hugely important powers otherwise left in the hands entirely of the elected mayor. I beg to move.

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I support the main aim of Amendment 18, and will speak in particular to Amendments 19 and 37 in this group. As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said, the Bill proposes a massive concentration of power in the hands of the mayor. In the context of the appointment of a deputy mayor, there has to be an appointments process that is understood publicly and has public consent. We cannot have a decision just emerging from a set of private decisions. Our Amendment 19 is designed to make the process more transparent. We do that by saying that the appointment by a mayor of a deputy mayor should be,

“subject to approval by the overview and scrutiny committee”,

and that approval can be secured,

“by a simple majority of members of the oversight and scrutiny committee”,

agreeing that the appointment should be made. We also say in proposed new subsection 1(D):

“An overview and scrutiny committee may”—

at its discretion—

“in pursuit of making a determination … hold a confirmation hearing for the deputy mayor”.

That is clearly defined in proposed new subsection 1(E) as meaning,

“a public meeting at which members of the overview and scrutiny committee may question witnesses and where the committee can compel—

(a) the mayor;

(b) the proposed deputy mayor; and

(c) any other persons that the committee considers relevant to attend”.

This is a much better way of proceeding. There are a number of examples around the world where such confirmation hearings are held, and it seems to me that it would be justifiable in this case, given the dangers that we addressed on Monday during our first day in Committee about the creation of a one-party state. So Amendment 37 would require the approval of the appointment of the deputy mayor by the overview and scrutiny committee.

This is an important issue of principle for us, and I hope that the Government will give due weight to the need to ensure that in a Bill which is proposing such a massive concentration of power, some protection of the public interest can be secured by means of our amendment.

Lord Adonis (Lab): Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to reflect on the clear problem that could arise, which is that you might well have a mayor and a deputy mayor who do not get on. The mayor of course is elected with a popular mandate and so has a clear mandate to take office under the provisions of the Bill. It is important that the executive of the combined authority should operate smoothly, efficiently and with a sense of common purpose. Given the limited number

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1598

of members of a combined authority, how does the noble Lord propose that a mayor should seek to build relations with a deputy with whom they may have little in common?

Lord Shipley: It is possible that the mayor would not get on with the deputy mayor, but what the amendments are trying to secure is the approval of an overview and scrutiny committee of the mayor’s nomination. If the members of the committee refused, other people could be nominated by the mayor. It does not say much for local government if, among all the leaders of the councils which are members of the combined authority, there is not one who can get on with the elected mayor.

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, I want to support the view which has just been expressed by my noble friend Lord Shipley and to make a particular point about the process that we are now engaged in. This is an important issue of principle; in this Bill we are being asked to support a very novel procedure for which there is no precedent. I do not have a problem with major reforms, and indeed sometimes I feel that your Lordships’ House is not sufficiently radical, as other Members may be aware. But on this occasion we should pause and think carefully about what we are doing. I draw the attention of noble Lords to the recommendations made by the Constitution Committee, which says at paragraph 15 of its report:

“Although these proposals are the development of an on-going process started in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, we note that they are being taken forward very quickly. There has been no green paper, white paper or draft bill for pre-legislative scrutiny”.

That lays upon us particular responsibilities. When, in the normal course of events, we have had a Green Paper, White Paper and even discussions between the two Houses in a Joint Committee of a draft Bill, obviously such important and valuable proposals that we have before us could be examined in considerable detail.

However, it is an unfortunate fact that shortly after a general election when there is a change of Administration, they want to get going on new legislation very quickly. That is understandable, but it lays upon this House a special responsibility, particularly when a Bill comes to us first. Again, these are new procedures and the Constitution Committee is echoing concerns that we dealt with on Monday when we were looking at the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Paragraph 14 of the Constitution Committee says:

“One result is that local government in England is likely to become more complicated, as different combined authorities receive different packages of powers.This is a significant departure from past practice which has operated on the basis of a finite number of different council models. The Bill, by contrast, creates the possibility of bespoke arrangements for each combined authority. It might be argued that the proposed system is a paradigm example of demand-and-supply devolution, responsive to local needs. On the other hand there are real concerns about the complexity of the system that may result, and the degree of asymmetry which these changes may bring about. In particular, there is a potential for a significant divergence between urban and rural local government arrangements”.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1599

We on these Benches very much welcome the statement constantly made by the Minister that these are bespoke arrangements, but there are potential dangers of confusion, not least in terms of the way in which the people of the areas concerned will view these new authorities. How precisely the relationship between the combined authority and the mayor will work out in practice is critical to that confidence in the new system. It is extremely important that the deputy mayor should at least be seen to be representing the confidence of choice of the wider group in that area, which is currently represented by the constituent authorities.

I entirely endorse the general concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and hope that the Government will think very carefully indeed about these arrangements before Report.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, I hope that the Government will in fact do exactly the opposite. That last speech explains why I am so much in favour of what is being proposed. One of the problems with Britain is that we mistake neatness for civilisation. We constantly think that if we get everything in the same sort of box we can then defend it. I want to compliment the Government on producing something that is designed to meet the needs of particular places and which will, in fact, be different from one place to another. There is an idea that it will cause confusion—but confusion for whom, and between what? It will not concern people in one place that, if they stood outside these shores, there would be a difference between their position and some other people’s position. Inside, there need be no confusion whatever. It seems perfectly reasonable to say that this is a good answer for a particular place. The Government may have the answer wrong but one cannot argue that the reason they have got it wrong is that it is different from the answer somewhere else. I believe very strongly that it is sensible to do what we are doing.

On the issue of the deputy mayor, the idea that you elect a mayor and then have a situation that makes it difficult for him to have a deputy mayor with whom he or she works is rather odd. I would much prefer to have the system that is being proposed, and if it is argued that we have not done this before, thank God, because we have not been very successful with what we have done before—so let us not be too pusillanimous about doing something new.

We should look at any of the successful cities in the rest of Europe—it is about time that we learnt from the rest of Europe instead of constantly telling them that they should listen to us. The British seem to have a very interesting one-way system: we know it all and tell them, and if they happen to have something that is more successful we complain about it. I want to learn from the rest of Europe because I think there is a great deal to learn. One thing is the way they organise cities. The urban success of most of the countries of Europe compared with us is very notable. Part of that is because we have been foolish enough to remove the local powers of finance and the rest. I accept that; I fought against it and lost, but that is one of those things.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1600

Another part of it is that we have lost the historic position of quite distinguished individuals becoming, in a real sense, representative of their cities. It is suggested that they did that without all these powers; the noble Lord opposite made that point. But we live in a different world. I think that they did it by having those powers, whatever the law said. It is remarkable: if you look at some of the powers that these individuals used, they were very much closer to what is being presented now.

I hope that we will give this a fair wind because we need to give real expression to the feeling of place that, I am happy to see, is growing in our great cities. There has been a gap and I want that gap filled. The way to do that is to let people feel that this is their place. Let us do it differently, so that it fits each of them. Let us not be afraid of real experiment. In particular, let us not muck it all up by insisting that the elected mayor has somebody that they do not want as deputy mayor because that happens to fit some particular view of how you should run a democracy.

Lord Grocott (Lab): My Lords, I hope that I am not misrepresenting the noble Lord, Lord Deben. I think that he said the British have an obsession with constitutional neatness, or words to that effect. That is rather odd coming from a Member of this House. The one thing that this House does not have is constitutional neatness; none the less it works pretty well most of the time. Certainly most of our dealings on constitutional matters show exactly the opposite, if that is an accurate reflection of what he said; we certainly are not obsessed with constitutional neatness. For example, we have accepted for a long time that the government of Scotland is different from other parts of the United Kingdom; this long predates the strong movement that exists at present for independence. But that is not the main point that I wanted to make.

I have great sympathy with these amendments, but only because they are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, if I can put it like that. They all derive from a kind of fear or anxiety of this potential authoritarian figure without qualification or checks and balances that we are creating in the form of a directly elected mayor. As I have said several times, I infinitely prefer parliamentary systems to directly elected, presidential systems. These amendments express a recognition of what I have always feared about such systems: you elect someone and they can pretty well act in an untrammelled way for the next four, five or six years, or however long it happens to be. These amendments are designed to say, “Let’s be a bit worried about this now. Let’s write in a number of qualifications that ensure that the mayor is not in a position to do that”.

To that extent, I support amendments along the lines being proposed. But—and it is a colossal but—we must recognise that the system we have at present, both in Parliament in the House of Commons and in local authorities up and down the length of the United Kingdom, is one in which the Executive are subject to genuine, democratic checks and balances in the form of a council, or a House of Commons, that checks the Prime Minister or the leader of the local authority to make sure that they do not get too big for their boots,

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1601

if I can put it in those terms. That is the joy of that kind of system. If, for some reason or another or for some ideological principle, we decide that it works well in the United States and we ought to do it here—or whatever the motivating factors are behind the obsession that all three parties seem to have with directly elected mayors—we certainly need to make sure that a directly elected mayor is subject to some kind of ongoing scrutiny, and checks and balances on the powers that he or she decides to exercise. So I support the drift of the amendments.

4.15 pm

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I would have sympathy with my noble friend Lord Grocott if the mayor were able to act in an untrammelled way. Coming back to the reality of the Bill rather than grand constitutional fears about what might happen if circumstances took a different course, new Section 107C says:

“The mayor for the area of a combined authority must appoint one of the members of the authority to be the mayor’s deputy”.

In fact, the choice of deputy is very severely constrained. The deputy must be a member of the combined authority, which will limit the choice to a small number of people.

The issue before us is not a great constitutional principle of whether the choice of deputy should be constrained in a way that acknowledges the representative credentials of the combined authority—it is so constrained under the Bill—but whether there should be a further process, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, of consent by the scrutiny committee to the choice of one of those members as deputy. This is a practical issue, in my view, not a constitutional issue. The practical issue is that it is important that the mayor, who comes with a mandate, appoints a deputy with whom he or she gets on.

Those of us who have been engaged in these relationships all know that in practice a deputy mayor will not be appointed who significantly constrains the authority of the mayor, because the mayor is sitting there with a large mandate. There are checks and balances. The combined authority has significant powers to constrain the mayor and to agree the mayor’s actions. If the mayor does not get on with or have confidence in the deputy, what will happen in practice is that the mayor will rely on advisers rather than the deputy mayor. That is not a healthy state of affairs. The mayor has a mandate. The mayor is constrained in the choice of deputy to appoint only a member of the combined authority. It seems a constraint too far to require that choice to be agreed by the scrutiny committee. Of course, in the nature of the political relationship between the mayor and the scrutiny committee, the scrutiny committee itself may well be fairly hostile to the mayor. It is perfectly possible that that will be the position that the scrutiny committee takes.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to Amendment 19 but what does he think about his own party’s Amendment 18, which requires the combined authority to agree the appointment of the deputy?

Lord Adonis: I would have more sympathy with that because of course that will be the colleagues from the executive of the combined authority agreeing. But

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1602

there will still be an issue if it is not possible to appoint a member of the combined authority in whom the mayor has confidence. There are some practical issues here. The choice is already constrained. If you constrain it still further, that will not enhance accountability and democracy but may just oblige the mayor to rely on informal rather than formal officeholders.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I will deal first with Amendments 18, 20, 21 and 22.

Amendment 18 would require the mayor to obtain the consent of the combined authority before appointing the deputy mayor. As the Bill stands, the deputy mayor is appointed by the mayor from the members of the combined authority, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said. The mayor may, if she or he thinks fit, remove the deputy mayor from office and appoint a new deputy mayor. The Bill’s provisions align with a local authority mayor’s current powers to appoint a deputy mayor. In practice, a mayor will consult some or all of the members of a combined authority about a deputy mayor appointment. At the very least, the mayor will consult the person she or he is minded to appoint, and may well take the views of other members of the authority about this.

For mayoral governance to be effective the mayor and the deputy mayor must be able to work together and the mayor must have confidence in her or his deputy, as again the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said. More significantly, the mayor has been directly elected by the people of the combined authority area and has a clear mandate, a mandate which the deputy mayor will have a role in helping the mayor to fulfil. It would be wrong in both principle and practice for the members of the combined authority to have an ultimate say over who is the deputy mayor, which would be the case if this amendment were made. It is wrong in principle since the mayor, with his or her mandate, needs to be able to have a say over who is the deputy who will assist the mayor to deliver what he or she has promised the voters. It is wrong in practice, since giving the members of a combined authority the ultimate say as to whether a person can or cannot be deputy opens up the possibility of appointments being made which would frustrate or hinder the mayor and create division almost from the outset, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said.

We need to remember the purpose of all this. It is not about forms of governance for their own sake. It is about putting in place the governance needed to support that devolution of powers which is now so urgently needed, as my noble friend Lord Deben said, if this country is to achieve the economic competitiveness and productivity on which the prosperity of all depends. Requiring the combined authority to consent to the deputy mayor’s appointment is not a sensible check or balance on the exercise of executive functions. It risks creating arrangements which frustrate the exercise of these powers, and hence I invite noble Lords not to press this amendment.

Amendments 21 and 22 would likewise simply risk frustrating the exercise of the mayor’s executive functions, and hence frustrate the very purpose of a devolution

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1603

deal. These amendments would require a mayor to consult the combined authority whenever the mayor wishes to delegate a general function to the deputy mayor, another member or, indeed, an officer. As the Bill stands, the provisions relating to delegation align with the policy for a local authority mayor or leader, who may arrange for the discharge of functions by members of the executive or officers of the authority. Although the mayor may delegate functions, the mayor remains accountable for any actions taken. The mayor is accountable directly to the electorate.

I understand the motivation behind these amendments, which is to ensure that a mayor is indeed effectively held to account, that the executive actions of the mayor are transparent and that people can have confidence that the mayor will properly exercise his or her functions; in short, that while there is the capacity and scope for strong executive action, there are equally the right checks and balances to give that confidence, to ensure accountability and to deliver transparency. However, confusing executive and non-executive actions by involving members of the combined authority in decisions such as how the mayor decides to do his or her job is not providing these checks and balances. These are provided by strong and effective scrutiny, as we will discuss.

I turn back to Amendment 20, which would require the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of the combined authority before making an order providing for a function to be exercisable only by the mayor. I must make clear again that a devolution deal will be agreed only where there is consent from the combined authority or, in the case where the deal also creates the combined authority, the constituent councils. The devolution deal would set out the functions to be exercised by the mayor—the mayoral functions—and those that are to be exercised by the combined authority. The details of the deal will be implemented through an affirmative order, so the arrangements regarding the scope of the mayoral functions will also be fully scrutinised and approved by each House of Parliament, and any order creating or modifying a combined authority is made with the consent of the constituent councils. Hence, we are very clear that the combined authority and/or its constituent councils must agree which functions are mayoral functions and which functions are to be exercised by the combined authority. I am ready to look to ensure that the Bill makes this clear in every circumstance that can arise.

I turn to Amendments 19 and 37. As the Bill stands, the mayor appoints a deputy mayor from the members of the combined authority. This is an action that properly belongs to the mayor and aligns with a local authority mayor’s power to appoint a deputy. The mayor has been directly appointed by the electors, with clear responsibilities and the accountability that goes along with them, and a deputy mayor will have a role in supporting the mayor to fulfil these responsibilities. For an effective partnership and the successful devolution of powers, the relationship between the mayor and deputy needs to work. The requirement for an overview and scrutiny committee to approve the appointment, and to have the power to void it, may frustrate and very much damage this relationship. In practice, a mayor will consult some or all of the members of a

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1604

combined authority about a deputy mayor appointment, and may well take the views of other members of the authority about this. Adding an extra requirement of consent for a deputy mayor’s appointment is to add an extra layer of bureaucracy, which we are so keen to avoid, and may obstruct the successful devolution of powers that we are trying to achieve.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about confirmatory hearings. Those hearings are used but their place is usually where the executive is making an appointment to a public office. The appointment of a deputy mayor is not in this process; rather, it is part of the process for creating the executive.

My noble friend Lord Deben made the point about the clarity of the Bill, on which I commend the Government, and the need for individual areas to do exactly what fits their area; hence the bespoke nature of each deal. With these assurances and the explanations that I have given, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, maybe I should know this, and I do not, but what provision is there without going via the courts for the public removal of a mayor who is regarded as underperforming in their duties? A lot of the Minister’s comments were about transparency, accountability and the authority and legitimacy that they get from direct election, and therefore that they must have a deputy who is aligned with their own views. I understand that argument, although I do not necessarily accept it. But at the moment, within Parliament and certainly within local government, most leaders—apart from having to win their elections every four years—may be required to stand for re-election annually for votes of confidence by their group. They can be removed if they are not regarded as performing appropriately.

On the assumption that a mayor may be elected only every four years or every five—we do not yet know, as we have not had that discussion—how is the accountability to the electorate to be exercised unless the Minister is willing to consider some sort of recall motion? It is clear that the combined authority does not appear to have any leverage over the mayor, in the way that a group would at the moment over the leader of their local authority. Maybe I should know this and it is in some subset of the briefing on the Bill but I cannot find out how, short of going through the courts, you could hold the mayor to account for their actions until that mayor stands for re-election, which may be four, five or six years down the line.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the noble Baroness has answered the first part of that question herself because it is indeed through the ballot box that the mayor could be removed. I do not know whether she is aware that there is an assumption now in local government that leaders have four-year terms, unless they are indeed removed at the ballot box through election.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: But does the Minister agree that the leaders would have four-year terms unless their group decided that they were not appropriately

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1605

fulfilling the functions for which they were chosen, in which case there would be either quiet or less-quiet discussions, and that person would stand down?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, authorities which fail to fulfil the duty of best value go into statutory intervention. If things were that bad, that would be the process but there is now an in-built assumption in local authorities that a leader has a four-year term, unless removed by full resolution of the council. However, for the mayor it would be via the ballot box. On the recall mechanism, there is no such mechanism within local authorities and this provision multiplies the local authority provisions up. If a mayor is corrupt we are on to a different level, as I think the noble Baroness understands.

4.30 pm

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I understand absolutely that it is a different ball game when corruption is involved, as with some of the issues associated with Tower Hamlets. I am not talking about that. My experience of both district councils and county councils is that there may be a regular turnover of leaders within the four years if they are not driving through the agenda on which their group fought the election and they have failed to deliver the manifesto. Leaders on Norfolk County Council, in that case from the opposition party, have been overturned. In my city council, the leader has to be re-elected each and every year and there is occasionally, if not regularly, a change of leadership in the course of that because the leader has lost the confidence of their group. That is perfectly proper and usually happens because the ward councillors, one-third of whom may have had elections each year, are getting that feedback on the door-step from their constituents.

In other words, there are quite effective, if subtle, ways of ensuring that the current leaders of local authorities continue to deliver their manifesto and carry the consent of their group, who are also regularly standing for election. However, as far as I can see, once a mayor has been elected, he or she is free from any such scrutiny, let alone from recall, by his or her electorate. The leader of a group is indirectly elected, and can be recalled by that group; the mayor is directly elected but apparently cannot be recalled by the electorate. Could the Minister help me on this?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I certainly can. With other mayoral systems—for example, the Mayor of London and mayors elsewhere—accountability and the way to change the status quo is via the ballot box. There is no provision for recall within local authorities that I know of. Unless something has recently been introduced, there is no mechanism of recall. In the discussion that the noble Baroness is having with me—I am sure she will tell me if I am wrong—there is perhaps an additional suspicion around a mayor which there is not around local authority leaders. I take her point that local authority leaders are removed in subtle or not so subtle ways, depending on where you are, but for mayors the ultimate accountability is via the ballot box.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1606

Lord Woolmer of Leeds (Lab): Can the Minister enlighten me on one point and agree with me on a second? First, when it is said that the deputy mayor must be a member of the combined authority, does that mean a councillor on one of the local authorities that comprise the combined authority rather than someone on the board, as it were, of the combined authority? Secondly, would she agree with me that, in practice, once one moves away from London, the number of local authorities that comprise the combined authorities is relatively small? We are not talking about 30 or more—in South Yorkshire it is four and in West Yorkshire five or six. It is inconceivable that an elected mayor could make an appointment without careful consultation and discussion with the leaders of that small number of constituent local authorities. In practical terms, the mayor would have to consult carefully, as he or she would consult carefully on any policy issues, because without that the mayor could not govern effectively. There is a degree, I think, of suspicion about the mayor. If a mayor is appointed, that person is not going to be dealing, in most parts of the country, with 30 or 40 local authorities. The proposal being put forward is unnecessarily cumbersome and flies in the face of the reality of how the mayor would have to work.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I thank the noble Lord for that very useful intervention. First, he asked whether choosing a deputy mayor from the combined authority would mean choosing a councillor. Yes, it would, and that councillor would in fact be a council leader. Could the mayor make an unpopular appointment? He could, but it would be a very foolish mayor who made an unpopular appointment or chose someone who did not resonate and engage with the other members of the combined authority.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Am I right in understanding that it must be not simply an elected councillor but a leader of one of the constituent authorities? In practical terms, that means that a mayor would look extremely foolish if he or she selected somebody as a deputy who was not accepted by the leaders of a small number of local authorities.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Lord is absolutely correct.

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, I have a slight correction on this. In those cities with elected mayors—that is, Liverpool—those elected mayors are not councillors. They have to give up their local council position when they become the elected mayor.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Lord is absolutely correct.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): My Lords, we must take into account and deal with the important point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, which would mean that an elected mayor, whatever he or she does, cannot be dismissed. That could be a very serious

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1607

problem. After all, the House of Commons in the last Parliament decided that Members of Parliament could be recalled if they do not produce the goods or do their jobs properly. Surely an elected mayor with enormous responsibilities ought to be able to be removed under certain circumstances in the same way as Members of Parliament.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, Members of Parliament can be dismissed via the ballot box. If Members of Parliament behave in a way that brings Parliament into disrepute by their actions, they can have the Whip withdrawn from them. In the same way, a mayor who behaved in a disreputable manner could see intervention by government and be dealt with in that way. There are checks and balances. We are talking about levels of unpopularity, bad behaviour or behaviour ill-fitting the position of mayor.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The point I was making was that in the last Parliament new legislation enabled electors to get rid of their MP by a certain process if they did not come up to scratch. That was something new and never done before. I cannot see why Members of Parliament should be able to be recalled but not a directly elected mayor.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, there is not a process for local authority councillors to be recalled—or for local authority leaders or any other local authority mayors. This would be an anomaly were it to be introduced.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I will stop pushing on this point, but I have one last question that I am still not clear on. That may be because we have not yet got to the point about the length of the mayor’s term of office and the co-terminosity or otherwise of other elections. However, one could easily see a combined authority with, say, five bodies where one or two might be NOC while the other three, because their elections do not occur at the same time as the mayoral elections, might have leaders of different political persuasions so that none of the leaders was of the same political persuasion as the directly elected mayor. I assure the Minister that, as I am sure she is aware, that will happen. We have seen it between elections for local government and elections for MPs where we get very different results. Indeed, some people quite deliberately cross-vote to get precisely that outcome. I have seen that in Norwich on many occasions. What then happens if the mayor has no leaders politically sympathetic to the views on which he was elected?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very interesting point. Other points have been made at length in this House about single-party states, but in terms of election periods or cycles being out of kilter because of different types of elections, I would imagine—although I will confirm this with the noble Baroness—that they are the sorts of things that would need to be ironed out when a devolution deal was done on how that combined authority’s elections

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1608

would pan out. I am thinking of the Greater Manchester situation, where we are in thirds and all synchronise nicely. But I can foresee that process.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I am not sure whether I am going to be helpful to the Minister, but would it be possible that, between elections, the Secretary of State could remove all the functions from the mayor, so that they would stay with the combined authority members?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, if that were to happen, the Secretary of State would have to disband the combined authority and something in its place would have to be set up.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Perhaps the Minister would reflect and write on that point.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I would like to correct the comment that I have just made and come back to it in a future group, because I have clearly got it wrong.

Lord Beecham: That just illustrates the complexity of the matters that we are discussing. I refer to one matter that the Minister mentioned, when she said that the deputy mayor must be the leader of a council which is part of the combined authority. I am not sure whence that arises, as it is not in the Bill. It may or may not be the case that combined authorities consist purely of council leaders.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Lord is correct, in fact—it would usually be a local authority leader, but would not necessarily always be. It has to be a member of the combined authority, but it would in usual circumstances be a leader.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: That comes back to the clarification that we asked for—and we are getting a little lost in it. Is an elected councillor in one of the constituent authorities who is not a leader a member of the combined authority in the sense that it is being used? In other words, could a mayor choose somebody as a deputy who was a back-bencher in any of the local authorities, to put it simply, and not a decision-maker on the board of the combined authority? Would that be possible?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: That is a good question—particularly if there were no leaders in political sympathy with the mayor and therefore he or she had to scrabble around to find a deputy and had to go to a minority party, which might be very minority indeed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the deputy mayor has to be a member of the combined authority, not just a councillor in one of the councils.

Lord Beecham: So the shape and construction of combined authorities may vary, but there will be a distinct membership, as the Minister has just confirmed, of the body defined in whatever way ultimately emerges

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1609

as the combined authority. That much is clear to me —it may not be clear to others, but then so much of this debate is, I suspect, not going to be entirely clear to all of us. I think we can move on from that point, unless the Minister wants to come back.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I just want to confirm that the noble Lord is correct.

Lord Beecham: Well, we have agreed on something. Whether there will be any more agreement before the afternoon is over remains to be seen.

Much of the discussion that has taken place has been about the appointment of deputies. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, and my noble friend Lord Adonis have spoken particularly about the question of the choice of deputies. That is an important issue, but by no means the only issue.

4.45 pm

To me, the major concern is the question of the delegation of powers by the mayor to deputies or, as the Bill makes clear, to any other member or officer of the combined authority that the mayor might choose—not just a member of the combined authority but an officer, whether a council leader or otherwise. That is a significant power that raises significant questions of accountability. It is those matters in particular that the amendments that I have moved seek to rearrange, requiring, as they would, consent to the appointment of a deputy mayor from the combined authority and, more particularly in relation to the delegation of functions exercisable only by the mayor—a decision which would be made by the Secretary of State and limited to the Secretary of State—it seems to me that they ought to be matters on which the combined authority would agree. The issue goes further than that, though, because there may well be a further delegation of general functions by the mayor to a deputy. The amendment requires only that the mayor should at least consult the combined authority about those matters; at the moment, there is no requirement to do so under the Bill.

Amendment 22, as I said, deals with the provisions in new Section 107D(5), where any general function may be exercised by the mayor or any individuals appointed by the mayor. Again, the amendment seeks to ensure that there is a degree of consent to what could be a very extensive delegation of powers. The experience of the past few years is that not all mayors have been as responsible as one might have wished. There have been a number of cases in which mayoral powers have been exercised in a way that ultimately has led people in the locality, not just councillors, to reject the mayoral role. As I say, three councils have abandoned it. We are not necessarily dealing with people whose judgment can be relied on, and all that we are seeking here is that there should be a proper measure of consultation between members of the combined authority and the person who would be vested with these very wide powers by the Bill.

Lord Tyler: The noble Lord of course makes a very important point. One of our difficulties at the moment is that we have not yet reached the role and responsibility

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1610

of the scrutiny committees. In addition to the point that he is making, consultation with the combined authority on these matters of delegated powers, which is absolutely valid, may well be something that we think in due course the scrutiny committee should have some sort of role in. At the moment, though, we have no idea what that role might be. I entirely endorse the point the noble Lord is making but reinforce it with my own point. As often happens in your Lordships’ House, we are trying to take carts and horses in the right order but they tend to get muddled up together.

Lord Beecham: I am grateful to the noble Lord. He will be less grateful to me when I say that I am afraid I do not agree with the amendment that his noble friend Lord Shipley moved in relation to the role of the overview and scrutiny committee in the appointment process; I do not think that that is a proper function for such a committee. We will come later, as the noble Lord has just said, to the functions of the overview and scrutiny committee, and it seems to me that its job should be to look at how the mayor and the combined authority are working, in terms of both looking at policy as it is made and looking forward to future policy. I do not think it appropriate for those committees to play a role in making the appointments, and we will not be supporting the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in that respect.

Between us, the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and I led Newcastle City Council for something like 20 years—with varying degrees of success over time, no doubt. There have been many distinguished local authority leaders. Right now I am looking at a distinguished local authority leader taking his place on the Benches behind the Minister, who was herself a distinguished council leader. My noble friend Lord Woolmer was a distinguished council leader, although I detect a slight difference of opinion between us on some of these matters today—but then nobody is perfect.

It seems to me that those who see in the mayoral system something infinitely better than anything we have had before are making a great mistake. What worries many of us—certainly on the Labour Benches, I think on the Liberal Democrat Benches and perhaps in other parts of the House—is the enormous concentration of power which will be granted or withheld by the Secretary of State in a manner which diminishes accountability locally. For those reasons, we shall certainly wish to return to these matters.

Viscount Eccles (Con): Would I not be right to say that the noble Lord is going to have at least part of the privilege of deciding whether the north-east wants to have a system with a mayor and the devolved powers that will go with there being a mayor? If he does not like the system, I assume he is going to decide that the north-east should not have a mayor in its combined authority.

Lord Beecham: Much as I would like to be able to take decisions on behalf of the whole population of the north-east, I would not be able to do that. My view, which may be shared by others, is that we would much rather not have imposed upon us a requirement

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1611

for an elected mayor for the combined authority which, as the noble Viscount well knows, would run from the Tweed virtually to the Tees and from the Cumbrian border to the North Sea coast—a very large area and somewhat different from some of those which have been mooted. Of course, the people will not be given a choice as matters at present stand. It will be a take-it-or-leave-it decision that councils or the combined authority will have to take on behalf of the people; otherwise, it is said, they will not receive the powers. That is part of the problem.

So far as the detailed arrangements are concerned, our amendments would deal with the situation where, by agreement or otherwise, a mayoral system is created within the combined authority area. We will need to return to some of these matters on Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 18 withdrawn.

Amendment 19 not moved.

Clause 2 agreed.

Clause 3: Functions

Amendments 20 to 23 not moved.

Amendment 24

Moved by Lord Beecham

24: Clause 3, page 4, line 31, at end insert—

“( ) Where the geographical boundary of a combined authority does not correspond with the area of the police and crime commissioner in question, the Secretary of State shall bring forward proposals to make alternative arrangements.”

Lord Beecham: My Lords, this is a probing amendment in relation to the controversial proposal under new Section 107E to permit mayors to assume the role of police and crime commissioner. In fairness, this is not a case in which the Government are imposing that as a requirement—at this stage, at any rate—but it is an option on the table that the authorities in Greater Manchester have chosen to adopt, which is no doubt satisfactory at least to the police and crime commissioner in that area, since he has become the interim mayor of Greater Manchester. He is a very able person, and if we have to have somebody in that role I have no doubt he will do an excellent job.

However, the problem that may arise, and does arise in the case of the north-east, is that the boundaries of the combined authority include more than one police and crime commissioner area. In the north-east we have two police forces and two police and crime commissioners, one for Northumbria and one for Durham. The same difficulty may well arise in other areas, such as the West Midlands or the south-west. Not only may there be two or more distinct police forces with their own police and crime commissioners within the boundaries of a proposed combined authority; there may be police authorities and areas represented by police and crime commissioners which are only

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1612

partially within a combined authority. There may be an overlap between the boundaries of a combined authority and police authority areas.

It seems that in that event, it would be inappropriate simply to consign all or part of an existing area to the responsibility of a combined authority mayor. Therefore, the amendment calls on the Secretary of State to propose alternative arrangements to meet these geographical difficulties, if I may put it in that way. I invite the Minister to explain how the Government intend to approach the issue and what kind of parliamentary approval would be sought. For example, would further amendment to the legislation which established the position of these police and crime commissioners be required? I hope the Minister can deal with that point today, but if not, perhaps it can be discussed before we reach Report. I beg to move.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, I agree with the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I want to ask the Minister about the nature of a police and crime commissioner appointment. I recall that when we debated the terms of those appointments in your Lordships’ House not that long ago, these were clearly full-time appointments—substantial salaries were to be paid. Does the Minister agree with me that if a decision can be made that an elected mayor can undertake those functions along with all the other functions that may be devolved or delegated to them by the Secretary of State, it is very hard to see the basis on which a PCC appointment should be seen as full time? If it should not, what is the implication of that for other police and crime commissioners?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, Amendment 24 would insert a new provision within new Section 107E to require the Secretary of State to bring forward proposals to make alternative arrangements where the geographic boundary of a police and crime commissioner area does not correspond, as noble Lords have said, with the area of a combined authority.

New Section 107E would enable the Secretary of State to provide, by order, that the mayor of a combined authority area would exercise the functions of a police and crime commissioner, subject to the necessary consent from the appropriate authorities. If such an order were made, new Section 107E would also require the Secretary of State to provide that there is no separate police and crime commissioner for the area of the combined authority. The Bill also enables secondary legislation to be made which creates the position of mayor for the area of the combined authority, while retaining a separate position of the police and crime commissioner for the policing area.

The Bill does not prevent a mayor also being given police and crime commissioner functions where the relevant combined authority area does not correspond to a single police area. Should it be considered appropriate to transfer functions to a mayor in such a case, powers in existing legislation would enable police areas to be altered to facilitate such a scenario. On this basis, mechanisms are already available to enable alternative arrangements to be made. However, as we know, Greater Manchester’s devolution deal is the only one to date

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1613

which will include a directly elected metro mayor also taking the police and crime commissioner function. We also know that in this area the police force boundary corresponds to that of the combined authority.

We will consider any future proposals to transfer police and crime commissioner functions to the mayor for a combined authority area on a case-by-case basis, and will transfer these functions where appropriate. Clearly, geographic issues will be an important consideration in this regard. With these explanations and assurances, I hope the noble Lord will feel content to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Baroness has answered the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley.

Lord Shipley: I am quite happy to have the question answered later. We will be going on to another set of amendments that deal with the nature of the appointment of a police and crime commissioner, and I would be very happy if the Minister wanted to reply at that point.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, as I indicated, we will not be pressing this matter at this stage. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.

Amendments 25 and 26 not moved.


5 pm

Amendment 27

Moved by Lord Beecham

27: Clause 3, page 4, line 42, at end insert “all”

Lord Beecham: My Lords, my noble friend Lord McKenzie is resting temporarily but will occupy centre stage shortly, which will give me some relief and perhaps your Lordships as well.

This group of amendments deals not so much with the boundaries of the proposed arrangements for police and crime but with the functions of the police and crime commissioner that would be taken over by an elected mayor if a combined authority and its mayor chose to take that particular route. The amendments clearly address the controversial concept of transferring powers and functions. PCCs were created, as we have heard, with a great fanfare three years ago and were met by a public response of virtually total indifference.

The Government’s proposals in new Section 107E at least have the virtue of requiring the consent of the appropriate authorities. Amendment 27 makes it clear that this consent must be unanimous. However, the section does not deal with the issue raised in the debate on the previous amendment of where the boundaries do not coincide. That is why Amendment 24—to which we will return—requires the Secretary of State to,

“bring forward proposals to make alternative arrangements”.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1614

It will be recalled that the turnout in the PCC elections plumbed the very depths of political engagement, barely exceeding the total share of the vote achieved by the Liberal Democrats in the recent general election. However, the notion that the mayoral role should encompass that of the police and crime commissioner gives a whole new meaning to the hallowed phrase “one man, one vote”, given the more extensive powers vested in the so-called metro mayors. One man’s vote would, as the Bill stands, effectively be the only vote that would count over a huge range of budgets, services and policies, and, if the Bill’s permissive proposal were activated, over a huge area of public policy and administration in relation to police and crime. That becomes part of the mayoral function, possibly carried out by the mayor himself or herself, or possibly delegated—and we have talked a little about delegation.

The question is: what is the Government’s long-term vision for the police service? Do they see a mix of mayoral and PCC models, and how sustainable would such a binary system be, especially in the light of hugely difficult financial pressures across all public services? Already the police service is suffering significant cuts, with more apparently to come as the Home Secretary airily dismisses concerns about what is happening to our police service.

Amendments 29 to 32 deal with a range of issues. Amendment 29 establishes the need for a proper appointment process where the PCC functions are to be exercised other than by the mayor himself. Apparently it will be for the mayor to choose whether that will be the case or not. Amendment 31 gives the Secretary of State power to allow the equivalent of the police and crime panel, which currently exists, to suspend any relevant person exercising PCC functions on behalf of the mayor. Amendment 32 applies the same disqualification procedure for a mayor’s appointee to a PCC function. There needs to be some mechanism to deal with that situation, which does not on the face of it appear to be dealt with in the Bill.

Finally—and, it might be thought, crucially—Amendment 30 requires the Secretary of State to provide for the protection of police budgets transferred to the mayor, should the mayor opt to take the police and crime commissioner functions into his functions and those of the combined authority. That would be an important safeguard, should that take place. It would effectively ring-fence the expenditure which hitherto had been the responsibility of police and crime commissioners and, before that, of the police authorities. I trust that the Minister will be able to give some assurances about that crucial financial issue. I beg to move.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, a number of issues arise from this group of amendments. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the point that I raised in the debate on Amendment 24. I am getting very confused about the Government’s proposals for the election or appointment of police and crime commissioners. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised a set of points that need to be very carefully examined and responded to. Therefore, in addition to the question that I have already posed about whether or not these are full-time appointments, I am really very concerned about the

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1615

public interest. For example, will the general public know when a mayoral election is taking place that the person elected as mayor may, in due course, also become the police and crime commissioner? If there is a set of elections for these full-time posts now, what are the implications and how will it work for someone standing as elected mayor who may then become the police and crime commissioner?

Interestingly, in the Bill, the Government have proposals to suspend or disqualify a PCC, but, as I understand it, the Bill does not provide similar powers for the suspension or disqualification of the elected mayor. We have to tidy this up. At the moment, we have elections for a police and crime commissioner. Will the election of a mayor include clarity in advance of the ballot that they are also a candidate to become the police and crime commissioner? We seem to be giving the Secretary of State enormous power to change the terms under which an elected mayor has been elected, to enable them to do something else—become the PCC, which is, by its nature, a full-time post.

I am absolutely at one with the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and the amendments that ask for an appointments process. If we do not have an electoral process for the PCC, surely there should be an appointments process if the person elected mayor is also to become the police and crime commissioner.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. I apologise for omitting reference to two amendments in my name, which partially deal with the points that he has made—Amendments 31 and 32. The Bill permits the suspension of a mayor’s PCC role, and Amendment 31 would allow for any person who has had a PCC function delegated to them by the elected mayor to be suspended also. Similarly, where there is a disqualification of a mayor’s PCC role, the amendment would allow for the disqualification of any person who has had that function delegated to them. I apologise to your Lordships for not having referred to those points in my relatively brief opening remarks. I hope the Minister will be able to deal with them in due course.

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, I hesitate to disagree with my noble friend Lord Beecham, for whom I have enormous respect. However, my recollection of the police and crime commissioner thing is that, when it came to this House a few years ago, on this side of the House we all thought that it was a pretty bad idea. We were rather confirmed in that view by the fact that the percentage polled by these people in the elections was pathetic and they really have very little democratic legitimacy.

Certainly in my own area, the commissioner is seen to regard himself as a very big noise, to be driven around in chauffeur-driven cars at public expense, employing advisers on his behalf. Surely we want to get rid of all this. Surely, being able to transfer those functions into the functions of an elected mayor is something we should welcome. The whole point of an elected mayor is to bring a breath of fresh air into the democratic politics of local government. I have devoted

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1616

not nearly as long a part of my life to local government as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, but I have done about 15 years of service one way or another on local authorities and I think the elected mayor idea has the potential to bring democratic life to big cities and to introduce a new style of politics. If we are to have elected mayors, the police and crime function naturally fits in.

There are obviously boundary issues that someone has got to sort to out, but that must be the Secretary of State—no one else can do it. The idea that everything has to be done by the agreement of existing authorities is a recipe for the status quo, and I feel that we are somehow on the wrong track.

Lord Storey: My Lords, it has to be about more than swapping the police and crime commissioner’s police car for the mayoral car; the appointments process is hugely important. However, I want to speak to Amendment 28 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Unfortunately, he cannot be here at the moment, so I volunteered to say a few words on it. It makes perfect sense—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I wonder whether the noble Lord might withhold his comments. A very important issue is raised by that amendment, but perhaps we could continue to explore the issue that we are on and then move on to the new amendment.

Lord Storey: I am awfully sorry, my Lords. As I sat down, I squeezed my mobile phone and suddenly a voice was saying something into my ear, so I did not hear a word that the noble Baroness said. I mean that as no disrespect.

I shall try to continue. Amendment 28 is quite clear. If an elected mayor takes on the position of police and crime commissioner, we should be clear as to what those functions and roles are. I have, and had, grave reservations about the whole notion of police and crime commissioners, but we have them. If we look throughout the land, we see that they have interpreted and developed their powers in all sorts of interesting ways. Not only did the Select Committee’s report show that there have been significant variations in the interests and approaches taken across the country; it criticised the weak accountability of the police and crime commissioners. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, suggests in his amendment that we might have an opportunity to develop the policing and crime functions should they be taken up by an elected mayor.

5.15 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, having listened to the debate so far on the various amendments, I am mightily glad that I am not the Minister. I hope that this does not sound patronising, but she has handled this Committee with good humour and has attempted to answer all the questions. However, my word, if she can square this particular circle of fitting the police and crime commissioners into directly elected mayors, that would be an achievement worthy of note and a chapter in Erskine May.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1617

We have to have a history lesson for a moment. I do not know where the idea for police and crime commissioners came from— whether from the Liberal Democrat part or the Conservative part of the coalition.

Lord Shipley: Not guilty.

Lord Grocott: It is always interesting to unravel these bits and pieces. We might test a few more policies on that basis. So it was a Conservative policy to have police and crime commissioners, but I think I am right in saying that it was Liberal Democrat policy to have the first election in November. I do not think we can remember that particular contribution with great affection and admiration, or wish to repeat it. But the system was set up with grand language surrounding its inception, stating that in this crucial area of policing there should be a democratically elected leader accountable to the public, so that the public know whom to go to for this defined area of public life—all police and crime activity and policy in a particular part of the country. At least that was a clear objective. It fell at the first hurdle, as some of us predicted it would, because of the appalling turnout of 15% overall—in an area I know very well, Stoke, it was 9%. But at least there was clarity about the objective and the function that was being addressed.

This is where there is complete confusion. I am sure the Minister will try to square this circle, but I fear she will find it extremely difficult. We have police and crime commissioners, which for all their faults and criticisms were about a defined, agreed policy and pattern common across England. However, the virtue, almost, of the devolution pattern that we have discussed at such length is that it will be in different areas, with different functions and different managerial styles, and arranged differently between groups of leaders and the Secretary of State. If it is not completely random, its whole strength and legitimacy is that it is enabling and there will be no common pattern.

Now an attempt is being made to graft an agreed common pattern about a specific and very important service on to the myriad different structures that are planned for devolution, largely regarding directly elected mayors. It simply cannot work for all the reasons that have already been spelled out. How on earth will people know when they are electing a directly elected mayor what pattern will be established as to when the elections will take place? I will not repeat all the questions that have already been asked, but I can at least spell this fundamental problem out. We are trying to graft a common pattern on to a randomly different pattern across Great Britain.

It is almost beyond the power of parliamentary counsel to answer all the questions that are being raised in this debate. I wish the Minister well, if just for the sheer fun of watching someone try to square this circle. But surely the time has come to acknowledge that, worthy though some of the objectives may be in having police and crime commissioners directly elected, somehow or other this needs to be started from scratch. If we are to have devolution, police and crime must be part of that devolution package and there must be some consistency in the service across the country as to the type of devolution structure that will be applied in different areas.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1618

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Grocott, who is absolutely right. Let me give an example. In many of the shire counties there may well be a combined authority around the leading city of the county, together with its neighbours. There may or may not be, as part of the individual bespoke package, an elected mayor. Let us assume that the authority agrees and negotiates an elected mayor for the city and the adjacent authorities. That would mean that the rest of the county is not in such a system, although there will still be the county council, of course. In the mayoral authority the police powers would come to the mayor, but unfortunately for the rest of, say, Norfolk, the police headquarters and all the resources are in the city, along with all the senior superintendents. All of the police functions spill out from the city, but the heart and the head of the police service has just been moved out of the territory of the police and crime commissioner, who will be left to look after a scattering of marginal, rural districts with no resources, no buildings and no senior staff. I simply do not see how this is even faintly possible.

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, having not spoken on the Bill before, I must declare a few interests as a former president of the National Association of Local Councils, a vice-president of the LGA and a practising chartered surveyor with urban interests of all sorts. Apart from apologising for my lack of involvement in the earlier stages through a clash of diaries, my reason for intervening is to remind noble Lords that the Committee on Standards in Public Life will shortly produce a report on the subject of police accountability. I suspect that part of it will look at the role and efficacy of police and crime commissioners. Before the Minister responds, she might like to bear in mind that that particular issue is in play.

Your Lordships would not expect a comment from these Benches that is unequivocally in favour of the normal democratic processes for deciding the best way of governing accountability. I always think of my late father’s nostrum that vox populi is not necessarily vox Dei—he was a man of great religious conviction—and I think that the saying may possibly apply here. I am not convinced that mixing these two functions together is necessarily a great idea. It may be, but I do not see that it is guaranteed to be so.

At the moment, I suspect that we have a growing problem that boils down to the question of who has oversight of the regulator. That is an issue where powers are extensive and largely not subject to any sort of external oversight. They gradually accrue to themselves things that perhaps should not be accrued. There is a natural tendency—it is a tendency in human nature and I do not apportion blame for that—to try to exclude those who might loosely be termed the prying eyes of external forces. The question is one of accountability: how it sits with elected mayors, who are elected on a rather different template, and how it actually keeps the two functions separate. I would hesitate to suggest that it would be appropriate for the hard-nosed commercial thrust used by the elected mayor of one of these great metropolitan combined authorities to be applied to dealing with the police. I do not think the two are quite at one.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1619

I thought that I should flag up those points—particularly the Committee on Standards in Public Life which, as your Lordships will know, is under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Bew. I think that its deliberations and its report will throw some light on this whole question of accountability.

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I had concluded, perhaps wrongly, that we would not see very many combined authority mayors in any great hurry. Since the deal that will be negotiated in order for there to be a mayor of a combined authority and a transfer of powers is a complicated matter, and since this is an enabling Bill to enable those deals to take place, the question of whether the commissioner’s authority is passed to the mayor will be one of the subjects of negotiation when the deal is being struck. If a combined authority—let me take the north-east—decided that it would like to see whether it could negotiate “yes” to become a mayoral combined authority but “no” to taking over the powers of the police commissioner, it would not be outside the bounds of negotiation. Some of what we are discussing comes to the point at which one would say, “Surely if a mayor is to take over the powers of the police and crime commissioner, it should happen from the start”. It should not be something which, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, suggested, could be done at any time in the future; it should be part of the deal.

One problem we have in debating the Bill in Committee is that from our point of view it is starting from the wrong end. It is starting from local authorities putting up their suggestions as to how their area of the country might be better governed as a matter of local government. This is not where we usually find ourselves. We are usually in the position of saying, “This is what will happen and you will obey the rules”. That is not the situation here, for better or for worse. Certainly for my part I am trying to think through as carefully as I can the implications of this change in direction. They are very complicated but I hope that we will find a way of supporting the endeavour for the devolution of much more power to local authorities.

It has been said several times in our proceedings that the problem may then become a fiscal one: where is the money coming from? I am certainly very conscious of the fact that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Perhaps I could suggest that if this whole system becomes successful in one or two places, maybe some fiscal changes will follow upon that success.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I, too, start with an apology, having not answered the point of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Riddle—Liddle, sorry—brought up the same point, which was about how police areas would be changed. Power to change police force boundaries exist in Section 32 of the Police Act 1996. I referred to that mechanism in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, a moment ago.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, also asked a question, which I shall answer now because he asked it previously as well, about the full-time nature of the PCC role and how we will ensure capacity to cover PCC matters.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1620

It will be for the mayor to ensure that there are sufficient resources to fulfil all PCC functions and we have included the ability for a mayor to delegate these functions to a deputy PCC mayor. We anticipate that there will also be a wider police governance administration structure taking over the role of the PCC’s office.

Lord Beecham: If it is convenient, could the Minister indicate whether there is any intention to make arrangements equivalent to that of the police and crime panel, as well as the two points that she has already made?

5.30 pm

Baroness Williams of Trafford: If the noble Lord will indulge me, I will get on to that a bit later.

Amendment 27 seeks to amend new Section 107E, which enables the Secretary of State to provide by order that the mayor for an area of a combined authority may exercise the functions of a police and crime commissioner. Subsection (4) of this new section sets out that such an order can be made only with the consent of the appropriate authorities, as defined in new Section 107B(6). Noble Lords have asked that new subsection (4) be amended to make clear that all the appropriate authorities defined by new Section 107B(6) must consent before such an order can be made.

I reassure noble Lords that, under the current draft, all the appropriate authorities in the area would, indeed, have to give consent before an order to transfer police and crime commissioner functions could be made. As my noble friend Lord Eccles neatly said, it is part of the deal. Therefore, I do not believe that such an amendment is necessary. I would be concerned that, if adopted, the amendment might suggest that consent would be required from all the different kinds of authorities set out in new Section 107B(6), not all of which would necessarily be relevant in a given area.

Amendment 28 seeks to amend new Section 107E to place a requirement on the Secretary of State to outline, in a report to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, plans to develop policing and crime functions for mayors who take on the functions of a police and crime commissioner. The principle behind the Bill is to ensure broad consistency between existing police and crime commissioners and mayors who take on police and crime commissioner functions. On this basis, we have set out in the Bill specific functions that will be applied to every mayor for a combined authority area who takes on police and crime commissioner functions. We envisage that, generally, all remaining functions will transfer across. That is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle—not “Lord Riddle”—made.

However, the Bill maintains a degree of flexibility at this stage, as there may be functions that would not be relevant in the context of a mayor exercising PCC functions, to enable transfer arrangements to be appropriately tailored to the local circumstances of the area concerned. I reassure noble Lords that there are no plans to develop the PCC functions transferred to mayors separately from the wider functions of PCCs. We will ensure that the level of accountability, transparency and service applied to a mayor taking on a PCC function will be the same as is the case for PCCs across the rest of England and Wales.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1621

At this point, I will answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on scrutiny. The mayor will be required to establish a scrutiny panel, which will perform the same task as the existing police and crime panels. The scrutiny panel will support the effective delivery of the mayor’s PCC functions, assess the police and crime plan, monitor the budgets and retain the ability to suspend a mayor from the policing functions in certain circumstances.

For the mayor of a combined authority area to take on PCC functions, the Secretary of State will be required to lay an order setting out the detail of how PCC functions will be transferred to the mayor. Parliament will have the opportunity to fully consider that.

Amendments 29, 31 and 32 would place a requirement on the mayor to implement an appointment process for any person exercising PCC functions on their behalf, and to extend the disqualification and suspension criteria to such persons. It is our policy that the arrangements for mayors with PCC functions mirror as closely as possible the arrangements for police and crime commissioners and those to whom a PCC delegates their functions, and that is what the Bill does. It ensures that the process for delegation of responsibilities from the mayor and any appointed deputy is consistent with that for the delegation of functions from a PCC and a deputy PCC.

Schedule 1 to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 sets out the process of scrutiny for senior appointments made by a PCC. This scrutiny process, which covers the appointment of deputy PCCs, provides the relevant police and crime panel with an opportunity to scrutinise senior appointments and to make reports to the PCC. We consider that the current arrangements work well, and it is our intention to apply them by order in areas where the mayor for a combined authority is taking on PCC functions.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about mayoral elections. It is not the case that a person will have two roles—both mayor and police and crime commissioner. The position is that a mayor can be given the policing powers so that among his other functions he exercises the functions of a police and crime commissioner. When people vote, they will know what the mayor’s functions are. They will vote for the mayor on this basis. Orders setting out the arrangements will be made so that this is clear before the mayoral election, and we will consider how, if necessary, to ensure that this is always the case.

On the issue of disqualification and suspension, I am aware that there are additional restrictions on deputy PCCs that are not set out in the Bill. However, I assure your Lordships that it is our intention to apply these provisions by order.

Finally, Amendment 30 would insert a new provision into new Schedule 5C to require the Secretary of State to make provision by order for the protection of police budgets where this responsibility is transferred to the mayor. To be clear, the transfer of functions from a PCC to a mayor will not directly change the way in which central government funding for the police is calculated. This will continue to be done in line with existing policies, with the funding transferred to the mayor rather than the PCC. It is also our intention

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1622

that the mayor will set the level of the policing element of the precept, and we have ensured that, in line with PCCs, the Home Secretary retains the power to intervene if the police budget is set at a level that would put the safety of people in the area at risk. Additionally, the mayor will be required to set up and maintain a separate fund in relation to receipts arising and liabilities incurred in the exercise of their PCC functions, and to prepare a separate annual budget in relation to the exercise of such functions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, asked about the continuity of areas and what would happen if, say, there was a combined authority with a mayor for part of a police force area and that mayor was given police and crime commissioner powers to exercise. The essential point is that if this were to happen, there would need to be an adjustment of force areas as necessary so that the mayor’s area and the surrounding force area made sense in policing terms. There would not be a messy arrangement in the way that she suggested. If a mayor’s area did not make sense in policing terms, the mayor would not be given policing powers.

On the basis of those explanations, I hope the noble Lord will feel content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, perhaps I might pursue the Minister’s answer on the right of the general public to know in advance of a ballot for a mayor exactly what it is that they are voting for. I think she said that the public will know in advance of polling day what the duties of a mayor would be. Will she confirm that no responsibilities of a police and crime commissioner will be transferred following an election—in other words, a decision will not be made after an election by the Secretary of State, working with the combined authority—and that it will always be clear to the general public which responsibilities of the PCC will be part of the obligations of the mayor, and that they will not be changed afterwards?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I can confirm that when people vote they will know what the mayor’s functions are.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, will the noble Baroness clear up one other point for me? She referred to the panel in new Schedule 5C. The panel has one extremely important role. Under paragraph 6—headed “Suspension”—of new Schedule 5C:

“The Secretary of State must by order provide for the panel mentioned in paragraph 4 to have power to suspend the mayor, so far as acting in the exercise of PCC functions, in circumstances corresponding to those mentioned in section 30(1) of the 2011 Act in relation to a police and crime commissioner”.

This relates back to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, because, of course, there is a very interesting discrepancy here. As far as the police functions are concerned, there is a body that has the right to suspend the mayor. However, will the Minister confirm that that is not, of course, the case in relation to all the other functions that the elected mayor may have? Perhaps she could clarify that at this stage as it will affect later amendments.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1623

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I can confirm what the noble Lord says. I go back to a previous question that relates to this issue which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and which I did not answer, about the powers that the mayor has being prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State. We have said we will ensure that in all circumstances such an order will be made only with the consent of the local authorities. What can be done—I was not clear on this earlier—is for such an order to be revoked or amended, changing or withdrawing the functions that a mayor has. What cannot be done without abolishing the combined authority is to end the authority’s having a mayor. Abolishing a combined authority requires the consent of the councils concerned. I think that the noble Lord made that point earlier.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I begin by taking up the penultimate point that the noble Baroness made in relation to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about the mandate, as it were, for police functions being transferred. She said that the electorate in a mayoral election for a combined authority area would know whether or not the police powers were to be transferred. However, I do not see how that fits with new subsection (1) of new Section 107E in the Bill, which states:

“The Secretary of State may by order provide for the mayor for the area of a combined authority to exercise functions of a police and crime commissioner in relation to that area”.

That looks as though the Secretary of State will take that decision before a mayoral election. If that is the position, it does not become an optional matter at all on the face of it, does it? The mayoral candidates will be stuck with a decision that has already been made and will have no choice over whether they wish to take on that role. Therefore, I am puzzled by the position which the noble Baroness described.

I am also still not entirely clear about the police and crime panel position. Is it intended that within a mayoral authority which, one way or another, ends up with the police and crime commissioner role, there should be a separate police and crime panel, as is now the case, or will that role be exercised by members of the combined authority, which is a rather different scenario? Perhaps we need that to be elucidated but, again, if the noble Baroness cannot do that tonight there will no doubt be time before Report to determine the issue.

5.45 pm

The real problem here is the one that has run through all our debates, which is about the degree of powers to be exercised by an individual. My noble friend Lord Liddle is comfortable with the concept of these powers being transferred to a mayor but many of us in your Lordships’ House are not, for the reasons very effectively given by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. These are two huge jobs. Certainly, the police commissioner job was designed to be huge and the mayoral job will be huge. In any event, it is of course a matter for the mayor whether he delegates that job—and if he does, the virtues of the combination that are lauded by my noble friend are, I submit, somewhat diminished. In effect the job would be being done by

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1624

an appointee of one individual—the mayor—as opposed to what we have now, which is an elected position, or what the position was before with the police authorities. I am afraid I do not find that I can share my noble friend’s enthusiasm for this proposition. This matter seems fraught with potential difficulty and, again, I think we will have to return to it at a later stage.

There is just one other matter. The noble Baroness indicated that the boundaries might be tailored, as it were, to suit the existence of a combined authority. If there was an overlap, she appeared to suggest that the additional area would be separated out. What then happens to the policing in those areas? Will they have to have a separate police and crime commissioner or will they be consigned to an adjoining non-mayoral police authority? What will be the process for determining the policing for that area which will not be included within the combined authority area? Again, the Minister may need some time to reflect on this—or more particularly, to get others to reflect on it— and perhaps we can have that discussion before we get to Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 27 withdrawn.

Amendment 28 not moved.

Clause 3 agreed.

Schedule 2 : Mayors for combined authority areas: police and crime commissioner functions

Amendments 29 to 32 not moved.

Schedule 2 agreed.

Clause 4: Financial matters

Amendment 33

Moved by Baroness Wheatcroft

33: Clause 4, page 6, line 18, at end insert—

“( ) enabling the mayor to raise funds for the carrying out of specified development projects by the issue of bonds to be made available only to those resident within the combined authority area.”

Baroness Wheatcroft (Con): My Lords, this is a broad enabling Bill. Amendment 33 is a narrow amendment, intended to enable mayors to build their local communities and enhance local democracy. The Bill, according to the Prime Minister, is intended to widen civic engagement in the UK. This amendment is geared to help in that endeavour.

The Victorians left a wonderful legacy of public assets, built with the funds of local people. In Blackheath, where I lived for a long time, the 600-seat concert hall that was opened in 1895 is a tremendous and very well-used local facility, built by public subscription. The Holywell Music Room in Oxford, built even earlier, in 1748, is believed to be the first building geared entirely to the performance of live music, and concert performances are still played there regularly. It was funded by public subscription. Elsewhere, hospitals,

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1625

village halls and sports fields have all been funded by local people and helped to build thriving local communities.

This amendment would give mayors of combined authorities the power to continue in that vein by issuing municipal bonds to fund specific schemes, thus involving local people directly in funding the developments that they want in their communities. Only local residents would be eligible to buy the bonds. This is all about local democracy. It is not a charter for extravagant mayors to rack up vast debts, imperilling the finances of city hall in order to fund their grandiose schemes. This is a way of allowing mayors to do what the local people want them to do.

It is right to be wary about a tendency to be extravagant that might exhibit itself among some mayors. Allowing mayors free rein to borrow would perhaps be dangerous, and in its extension of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, the Bill does not include the power to borrow. In extending the Local Government Act 2003 in order to provide financing for this restructuring of local government, the Bill does provide for new authorities to have borrowing powers, but in order for the mayor to issue the municipal bonds that this amendment envisages, he or she would have to have the agreement of the new combined authority. That of course would depend on public opinion. As I say, this is all about giving local people what they want and what they are prepared to fund.

I know the Government wish to avoid putting specifics in the Bill, but sometimes there is merit in spelling out just what might be possible rather than leaving too much entirely to the discretion of the Secretary of State. Merely putting the ability to issue municipal bonds in the Bill does not in any way put a duty on mayors to issue them—but just think what might be achieved with such an option available. Your Lordships will hear from my rather sportier colleague about the sports facilities that could be provided with municipal bonds, but I like to think about the concert halls and the community centres—the buildings that might put life back into the heart of those estates and villages where there is no longer a real sense of community.

The bonds would provide the capital to enable such projects to be built. The coupon would not need to be high—certainly not with interest rates at their current level. In fact, in some cases, it may well be sufficient to say that those who subscribed would be entitled to a number of free entries or tickets every year. However, those subscribing to these bonds would be looking for far more than a meagre couple of percentage points on their investment: they would be investing in their community, which is surely what this Bill is all about. Of course, they would want to be assured that the project was workable, and those issuing the bonds would have to be able to demonstrate that the income generated from the new facility would cover the running costs and be sufficient, in the end, to pay back the capital.

Municipal bonds are not by any means a new idea, nor are they entirely in abeyance. For example, the Local Government Association is planning a new

24 Jun 2015 : Column 1626

generation of municipal bonds. However, these are a very different category: the plan is that the LGA, in the guise of a new financial corporation, will pool the demands of local authorities and issue big bonds to the usual suspects—the major institutions that will be able to take a large chunk of them. That is very different to the sort of thing that this amendment proposes, and any link between the LGA’s version of municipal bonds and the actual municipality would be purely coincidental.

If we are serious about empowering local communities, devolving power away from the centre and building up mayors, surely the ability to issue bonds to build what people want to see and what they need in their local communities is something that we ought to at least be considering. Putting it in the Bill would be an encouragement to our new generation of mayors to think about what amounts to a new variation of crowdfunding. When I mentioned this at Second Reading, my noble friend said that she was “open” to all suggestions about the financing of the new structure. I hope that this is still the case—I trust that it is—and that we will therefore be able to pursue this idea. It is certainly in the spirit of the Bill.

Lord Flight (Con): My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft’s excellent amendment. If you go to America, you will find that cities have retained the right to finance infrastructure projects with municipal bonds. Indeed, income from bonds even enjoys the advantage of being tax-free. However, as she pointed out, much of the heritage of our great cities of the last century and much of their infrastructure investment were financed by municipal bond issues. That came to an end, sadly, during the Attlee Government after the Second World War. The argument was that the Government could borrow more cheaply via gilts and thus dosh out the money. What actually happened was that the money never got doshed out and the municipalities were unable to have their own bond issues.

For me, this subject is absolutely central to the reality of devolution to cities. It is about their ability to raise money and to invest in their own infrastructure. I, too, look forward to hearing of the opportunities in the sports world, but there is masses of scope for infrastructure investment. I raised this issue at Question Time in the House earlier this year I think, and got a response which seemed to be saying that, yes, the Government agreed with this and would include it in future legislation. Over a year ago, when I discussed the territory with the Mayor of London, he absolutely supported the idea that it should be a fundamental part of devolution to our cities.

I very much hope that the Government will accept my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft’s amendment, which, quite rightly, is designed to be cautious and not to allow the ability to go overboard. It would make a start and a crucially important contribution to real devolution.