HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc793-6

Lords amendment: No. 489, after clause 304, to insert the following new clause—Delegation of Authority's functions

".—(1) Any function exercisable on behalf of the Authority by the Mayor under or by virtue of this Part shall also be exercisable on behalf of the Authority by any of the bodies or persons specified in subsection (2) below, if or to the extent that the Mayor so authorises, whether generally or specially, and subject to any conditions imposed by the Mayor.

(2) Those bodies and persons are—

  1. (a) the Deputy Mayor;
  2. (b) any member of staff of the Authority;
  3. (c) the Cultural Strategy Group for London;
  4. (d) the London Development Agency;
  5. (e) the Common Council;
  6. (f) any local authority.

(3) In the case of the Common Council or a local authority, an authorisation under this section—

  1. (a) may only be granted or varied with its written consent; and
  2. (b) shall cease to have effect if notice of the withdrawal of that consent is given to the Mayor.

(4) Where, by virtue of an authorisation under subsection (1) above, a duty is exercisable by any of the bodies or persons specified in subsection (2) above, that body or person shall discharge the duty in accordance with the authorisation and any conditions imposed by the Mayor under subsection (1) above.

(5) Subsection (4) above is without prejudice to the exercise by the body or person concerned of any power to arrange for the discharge of functions by—

  1. (a) a committee or sub—committee, or a member, officer or employee, of the body or person, or
  2. (b) a joint committee on which the person or body is represented,
except to the extent that the terms of the authorisation or any conditions imposed by the Mayor under subsection (1) above otherwise provide.

(6) Subsection (1) above does not apply—

  1. (a) in relation to functions under this section; or
  2. (b) in relation to any function of making byelaws under section (Byelaws)(1) below.

(7) An authorisation under subsection (1) above which relates to—

  1. (a) any function under section 301 above; or
  2. (b) the exercise of any function under or by virtue of section (Trafalgar Square)(1) or (Parliament Square)(3) below to the extent that it involves a determination as to whether to permit a public demonstration to take place in Trafalgar Square or Parliament Square Garden;
may only be given to the Deputy Mayor or a member of staff of the Authority.

(8) An authorisation under subsection (1) above which relates to any function of enforcing any byelaws made under section (Byelaws)(1) below may only be given—

  1. (a) to the Deputy Mayor,
  2. (b) to any member of staff of the Authority,
  3. (c) to the Common Council.
  4. (d) to any local authority.

(9) Each of the following bodies, namely—

  1. (a) the Cultural Strategy Group for London,
  2. (b) the London Development Agency,
  3. (c) the Common Council,
  4. (d) any local authority,
shall have power to exercise functions on behalf of the Authority in accordance with this section, whether or not they would have power to do so apart from this subsection and irrespective of the nature of the function.

(10) Subsections (3) and (4) of section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 (delegation of functions to committees, officers etc, and continued exercise by local authority concerned) shall apply in relation to any authorisation under subsection (1) above given by the Mayor—

  1. (a) to a local authority,
  2. (b) to the Cultural Strategy Group for London, or
  3. (c) to the London Development Agency,
as they apply to arrangements under that section between one local authority and another.

(11) An authorisation under this section may be varied or revoked at any time by the Mayor.

(12) Any authorisation under this section, and any variation or revocation of such an authorisation, must be in writing.

(13) In this section— Trafalgar Square" has the same meaning as in the Trafalgar Square Act 1844; Parliament Square Garden" means the central garden of Parliament Square, within the meaning of section (Parliament Square) below.

Mr. Raynsford

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

With this, it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 490 to 495 and 820.

Mr. Raynsford

We have been coming closer to home with the amendments. We now reach Trafalgar square and Parliament square, which are the subject of the amendments. We are considering the amendments together because, although they involve two distinct topics—delegation and the transfer of management responsibilities for Trafalgar and Parliament squares—they are closely related. The amendments cover the transfer from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to the GLA of day-to-day responsibility for Trafalgar square and Parliament square. Both squares will remain Crown land.

The mayor will be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the fabric of the squares, including cleaning and lighting, and for regulating their use, with functions such as giving permission for rallies and events in Trafalgar square and the control of trading, which is a controversial and significant issue.

I think there will be general agreement that Trafalgar and Parliament squares are of huge importance to London—and, indeed, to the whole nation. The Government consider that the mayor should have responsibility for them and be able to take the lead in implementing the World Squares for All master-plan project.

Amendment No. 494 gives the GLA the power to make byelaws that will replace the regulations through which the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport currently manages the squares. The mayor will be the confirming authority for the byelaws, through which he or she will be able to exercise new enforcement powers, which the Secretary of State does not have, equivalent to those of Westminster city council—the neighbouring local authority—to control illegal trading in the squares. That will allow the mayor to deal effectively with the long-standing and ever-increasing nuisance caused by illegal traders in Trafalgar square, and to prevent such problems from arising in Parliament square.

The amendments will also give the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport the powers to issue guidelines to ensure the effective care, control, management and regulation of the squares. We intend to issue guidelines initially to reflect current policy for the management of Trafalgar square in particular. That approach recognises the national significance of the squares and provides scope for a policy steer without constraining the mayor's discretion to carry out his or her new responsibilities. The mayor must have regard to such guidelines, but he or she will remain the ultimate arbiter.

It is envisaged that the mayor will make contracts and arrangements with other organisations in respect of most of those functions. For example, officers of Westminster city council could undertake policing functions in the squares, specifically in relation to unlicensed traders. However, decisions on whether a particular public demonstration should take place in the squares are to be taken by the mayor, representing a democratically elected Authority. The Government believe that it is right to ensure that decisions affecting such sensitive matters cannot be delegated.

That brings me to the general powers of delegation for this part of the Bill. Amendment No. 489 largely substitutes for the general power of delegation in respect of part X. The new clause, which will follow clause 304, makes part X largely self-contained in that respect. Its effect is generally to mirror the mayor's other powers of delegation, for example to the deputy mayor and staff of the GLA and to local authorities. However, it removes the possibility of delegating cultural functions to Transport for London. Instead, it adds the essential power for the mayor to delegate to the cultural strategy group for London. That is a consequential, technical amendment.

Apart from the limitations already outlined, the mayor will not be able to delegate the making of byelaws or his or her own decisions on the culture strategy. Delegation of the policing of the squares is also restricted. There are specific provisions requiring delegation to be in writing and, in the case of delegation to a local authority, with its written consent. There are technical subsections ensuring, for example, that the delegates have the requisite powers to accept delegation and to act through committees or staff where appropriate.

Earlier, I inadvertently described the mayor as the confirming authority for the byelaws. In fact, it is the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The mayor will make the byelaws, which will be subject to approval by the Secretary of State. I hope that that clarifies the purposes of the amendments. I urge the House to agree with the Lords in them.

Mr. Brake

I wholeheartedly support the amendments. One can imagine the disappointment of the mayor if, on election, he or she found that they had no control over two of London's greatest squares. I am certain that one of the first things the mayor will want to do is to get cars out of, and to get pedestrians, bicycles and public transport into, those squares, and to turn them into squares of which we can be proud and which register internationally. The squares could be places where people could walk in relative tranquillity and safety in the middle of London's frenetic bustle. Londoners want more squares, and it will be the mayor's job to deliver them.

Mr. Brooke

I join the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) in support of the amendments. I enjoyed the Minister's reference to coming "closer to home," and there was a touch of the Monopoly board about his sequence. I can only assume that Parliament square has never appeared on the Monopoly board because it has no residential accommodation—other than that of Madam Speaker. If the procedure is as successful as the Minister was adumbrating, the sooner the mayor takes responsibility for the illegal vendors in the royal parks, the better I shall be pleased. There is nothing that the Bill can do about that, but I join the Minister in the belief that what has been done so far has been thoroughly sensible.

Mr. Raynsford

With leave of the House, Madam Speaker. I endorse the views of the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) and the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake). It is essential that we carry the improvements forward and make Trafalgar square and Parliament square accessible to pedestrians and a pleasant environment for people to enjoy. That is the objective of the world squares initiative, which we are determined to take forward—the Deputy Prime Minister has given a strong personal commitment to it.

I enjoyed the reference by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster to the Monopoly board. I hope that, as a consequence of this, neither of us will go to jail. I strongly endorse the amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 490 to 511 agreed to.

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