HL Deb 07 July 1999 vol 603 cc966-1014

House again in Committee.

[Amendment No. 354MD not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 256 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Clause 256 is a short clause of just over one line. Nevertheless, it is of some importance because it abolishes the office of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District. This is another part of the Victorian structure of the Metropolitan Police which is not replicated anywhere else in other forces. There is no equivalent at present, and there will be no equivalent in the Metropolitan Police set-up. That is an inevitable consequence of the new outline arrangements. The functions of a receiver outside London at present fall to the police authority for the area, its clerk and treasurer; and in part to the chief constable. I assume that that will be the case in the metropolitan district so far as concerns the police.

However, that is not the end of the receiver's powers and duties at present. He also has statutory powers with regard to the Inner London Magistrates' Courts Service and the Inner London Probation Service. Neither of those are compatible with the new arrangement which is being set up for the Metropolitan Police. New arrangements are required for an alternative set up for the Magistrates' Courts Service and the Probation Service. I suppose that the part relating to the magistrates' courts goes back to the old police court days. But it is statutory; it is not just a matter of convenience. I understand that the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 began the process of unravelling the statutory provisions in that respect.

The necessary legislation must be put into practice. There are some complications involving the capital expenditure, pensions and so on of the magistrates' courts service. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us when the receiver will eventually be able to relinquish responsibility for that service or whether he is in a position to do so now. The same question applies to the Probation Service.

There is also a statutory responsibility to meet the cost of school-crossing patrols, for example, under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Outside London, this sort of expenditure is commonly provided by local authorities, and I expect that that is where it will finish up as far as Greater London is concerned. However, I am not sure that this legislation—or, for that matter, any other that we have seen so far—will achieve that aim. Westminster City Council sponsored a private Bill, but it apparently did not cover the whole of the Metropolitan Police District. Therefore, it will not wholly achieve the objective.

The principal reason for opposing the Question that Clause 256 stand part of the Bill is not to try to keep the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in the same statutory position that he has occupied for the past century—or nearly two centuries. We seek to draw out of the Government the way in which the different responsibilities of the receiver will fall in future and when the Government expect the receiver to complete all his duties and wind up all the loose ends in respect of the different aspects of his responsibilities. I have no doubt that the Minister will be shortly in a position to fill in all of those details and assist the Committee in that respect.

9 p.m.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lord is correct about both the history and the current functions of the receiver. As has occurred in other parts of the country, the central role of the receiver will be moved to the Metropolitan Police Authority. I think that my noble friend Lord Williams wrote to the noble Lord and other Front-Benchers indicating that we were unable to bring forward amendments to clarify the position in Committee. However, we intend to table such amendments in good time for Report stage.

Apart from those duties that will pass to the Metropolitan Police Authority on a basis similar to outside London, the office of receiver has also taken on the various financial and other responsibilities in respect of magistrates' courts and probation services in Inner London, to which the noble Lord referred. It is the Government's intention—our amendments at Report stage will state this—that the receiver's responsibilities in respect of magistrates' courts will be taken over by the Greater London magistrates' courts authority when, subject to the passage of the Access to Justice Bill, it comes into being on 1st April 2001. That deals with the court side, including the complications alluded to by the noble Lord.

As for the probation responsibilities, the long-term repository for these will depend on the arrangements put in place in London following our nation-wide review of the Probation Service. In the short term, we intend that a residuary receiver will continue to carry out the magistrates' courts and probation functions of the post. As I have said, amendments to give effect to this policy will be brought forward at Report. Subject to the short-term retention of certain functions that I have outlined and which are unrelated to police matters, the office of receiver will become unnecessary when the Metropolitan Police Authority comes into being.

The other area to which the noble Lord referred was school crossings. As is common elsewhere, that function will be transferred to the London boroughs and to the counties in those parts of the Metropolitan Police area that are outside the GLA area. Funding adjustments will be made accordingly. In light of those comments, I hope that noble Lords will agree that the clause should stand.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

That was an interim reply, looking forward mainly to Report stage. However, it appears to be the best that the Minister can do at present. As he said, it reflects the contents of the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, wrote to me on 15th June. The noble Lord also wrote in similar terms to others who are concerned about these matters. Having opened up the question and received a promise that we shall return to it later, I withdraw my opposition to the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 256 agreed to.

Clause 257 agreed to.

Schedule 22 [Further amendments relating to Metropolitan Police etc]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354N: Page 292, line 30, at end insert—

("Pensions liabilities

. After section 14 of the Police Act 1996 there shall be inserted—

("Pensions liabilities of Metropolitan Police Authority.

14A. The liabilities of the Metropolitan Police Authority in relation to pensions being paid subject to regulations made under the Police Pensions Act 1976 to or in respect of persons who, having served as members of police forces, have ceased so to serve, shall be met out of moneys provided by Parliament.".").

The noble Lord said: This is another, admittedly slightly crude, device for raising an extremely important matter concerning the finances of the Metropolitan Police. The effect of the amendment as drafted would be to transfer entirely the responsibility for the payment of police pensions to the Home Office and to central government rather than, as occurs at present, leaving the moneys to be paid from police funds.

As Members of the Committee will be aware, the police pension arrangements—like many others in the public sector—are a pay-as-you-go scheme, and the pensions of retired police officers come out of the existing annual budget of each police force. They constitute a considerable proportion of police expenditure, particularly because police officers, given the nature of their job, tend to retire earlier than most of us do—even from conventional jobs, never mind from this House. That places an additional burden on police budgets. It is a growing burden and, inevitably, it is quite a heavy one. It is a difficult burden for police constables to manage.

That fact has been recognised because the Government propose to issue a consultative document on police pensions. It has been promised for some time, but so far as I am aware no one outside government has yet seen a copy. It would be helpful to know when it will be circulated.

It is no part of my purpose to mount a major debate on police funding in general, but in transferring responsibility for the Metropolitan Police from the Home Secretary to the new authority we need to understand the seriousness of the situation. The settlement for 1999–2000 allows for an increase of 2.7 per cent. I understand that, according to current plans, over the lifetime of a Parliament the real increase in spending on the police will be 0.7 per cent.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation have stated that a 6 per cent increase is necessary to allow the police to "stand still." The Metropolitan Police force has lost some 680 officers since the general election and press speculation is that another 1,000 officer posts will be lost as a result of the present settlement. That is a serious responsibility. It means that the new MPA will not start from a strong base either in tenns of manpower or funding. We are transferring to the MPA enormous responsibilities, but the resources and manpower which it will take over in order to fulfil them are less than satisfactory.

The issue of pensions, at which the amendment is directed, is an important piece of the larger jigsaw. No doubt the consultation document will make everything much clearer, but we do not know when that will be issued. I beg to move.

Lord Tope

I support at least the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, although I am not sure what he proposes is the right way to solve them. Supporting the Metropolitan Police pension fund currently takes 13 per cent of its total budget. Within five years, that will be 20 per cent. This is at a time when, rightly or wrongly—and I clearly believe wrongly—government policy is to transfer resources away from the Metropolitan Police to other police forces, thus increasing the problem.

> I hope that the Minister will tell us when the consultation document will be issued. There is a major problem with the funding of the Metropolitan Police pension fund. It will be an issue of considerable concern to the MPA. I am sure that it will be of considerable relief to the authority to know that the Government have not only recognised the problem but have resolved to grasp it. It is of such a scale that it cannot be resolved until and unless the Government do grasp the nettle.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for raising the issue. I hope that the Minister has something to say which will alleviate the real concern in the Metropolitan Police, and within London generally, over an increasing problem.

Lord Whitty

I recognise the concern within the police force and elsewhere about pension funding. It is true that we are talking about substantial sums of money. However, I should not wish to see support for the solution put forward in the amendment. It treats the Metropolitan Police differently from police forces elsewhere. There are practical difficulties in that the Metropolitan Police will continue to pay pension contributions into the force's fund. In any case, any national police funding formula already contains an element to enable police authorities to meet their pension costs.

We recognise the widespread concern. Following a thorough review of the police pension scheme, we have agreed among other things to seek Treasury agreement for a study of the costs and benefits of introducing a funded scheme for new entrants. But even that will not be a panacea. The initial cost will be high and there are substantial transitional problems for the funding. The rising cost of police pensions is recognised in the police funding formula. Nationally as well as in London the proportion of resources allocated to police authorities to cover pension costs has increased from 3.2 per cent to 14.5 per cent of the total allocation for this financial year. That allocation is based on the projections of pension costs made by the Actuary's department on figures from the funds themselves.

A review of police pension schemes is nearing completion. After that we intend to publish specific proposals and at least a pension scheme for new entrants. Those proposals are intended to apply to London as well as to other police forces. In the meantime, we do not believe that it would be sensible to leave the funding of the pension schemes with the Home Office. We wish to put the Metropolitan Police Authority on the same basis as other police authorities around the country.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Dholakia

The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and my noble friend Lord Tope asked about the consultation process. I understood the Minister to say that the Government will bring forward a proposal rather than enter into a consultation exercise. That does not answer the problem of what is going to happen in terms of the very substantial burden not only on the London local authorities, but across the country and what can be done within the consultative process to which police authorities can contribute.

Lord Whitty

I believe I said that the police funding formula would continue to reflect for other police authorities, and now the Metropolitan Police Authority, the burden of the current police pension scheme. The consultation referred to will follow on from the general review of the police pension fund and the proposals that flow from that review. We are not yet at the point where we can make specific proposals and engage in consultation. However, I am assured that that is not too far away. In the meantime the Metropolitan Police Authority will be put on the same funding basis as the other police authorities.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

It is no part of my case that the Metropolitan Police Authority should be treated differently from any other authority. They have the same problems to a severe degree. They are more severe for the Metropolitan Police than for other police authorities. I would not want the Metropolitan Police to be treated separately. I hope I made that clear. I certainly do so now.

We look forward to the consultation document. I know from experience that government Ministers have a number of ways of saying that a document is expected shortly. We have got no nearer than phrases of that kind today. That implies that the document is still a little way off. I hope it will include all the relevant factors, one of which is the possible proposal to take away pensions from officers who have already retired where there are disciplinary proceedings. If that proposal goes ahead, it will have profound effects on the management of the scheme. It will mean that, where they can, the police will be much more inclined to transfer to private pension schemes outside the police scheme. That kind of thing has to be taken into account in the course of considering these matters.

The main issue is the heavy burden which police pensions place on the funding of police forces and authorities generally. From what the Minister has said, I do not believe that there will be much relief in the near future. It is an increasing difficulty. It is sometimes said that chief constables have a responsibility for the size of the burden because of retirements on medical grounds and issues of that kind. That is an extremely small factor in the matter and not one which can dictate the way ahead for police pensions. For the time being we shall have to be content with what the Minister has said. We look forward to the consultation document and no doubt further and more detailed discussions on this matter in the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 354YP: Page 297, leave out lines 36 and 37 and insert— ("(b) the Authority shall appoint a person to investigate the complaint provided that in default of this duty the Secretary of State shall make an appointment."").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 354YP seeks to allow the police authority to appoint a person to investigate complaints against the most senior officers and only in default of that process shall the Secretary of State make that appointment.

This, in effect, is a probing amendment. Our main concern is that a satisfactory independent complaints procedure is instituted in which everybody has confidence. At present there are many doubts about the independence of the various complaints procedures relating to the police. I hope that the Minister will address that matter in his reply. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia

I rise to support my noble friend in this amendment. Earlier we discussed a provision concerning the appointment of the commissioner. We made it clear that when an appointment is made, any recommendation made to the Secretary of State by the Metropolitan Police Authority and any representation made to him by the mayor of London would be taken into account.

If that is the case, is it not right that when talking about the conduct of a senior police officer—in this case, the commissioner or the deputy commissioner—the authority whose views have been taken into account in his appointment should also be the authority that should make recommendations in terms of the investigation of the complaint? When that authority fails to make a particular appointment or to recommend an appointment, it should be the duty of the Home Secretary to make such an appointment. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Lord Whitty

The effect of the amendment would be to place the duty on the Police Complaints Authority rather than the commissioner, as at present, or the Metropolitan Police Authority, as proposed in the Bill.

Lord Dholakia

I am sorry to interrupt. The Police Complaints Authority is involved when the matter is neither criminal nor disciplinary. We are talking about the conduct of a police officer, which is different from a disciplinary matter, for which the Police Complaints Authority is responsible.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

For the sake of clarification, I did not say that the Police Complaints Authority should make the appointment; I said that the Metropolitan Police Authority should make the appointment.

Lord Whitty

As I understand the amendment, the original part of the Bill would provide that the Metropolitan Police Authority, rather than the commissioner, would deal with complaints against senior police officers.

I think I see where the confusion arises. In the amendment the word "authority" would refer to the Police Complaints Authority because it modifies a provision in the Police Act 1996 relating to the Police Complaints Authority. Therefore, as drafted, I think the amendment would do something which I do not believe that the noble Baroness intended. The whole of my argument was about the fact that the Police Complaints Authority should not have that role.

We are providing that, because of the special position of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner, the Home Secretary retains a role. That role would be limited to appointing an investigating officer, who may be subject to the approval of the Police Complaints Authority, and the report would go to the Metropolitan Police Authority. So the Home Secretary would have limited involvement. The report would not go to the Home Secretary, but to the MPA. By virtue of paragraph 90 of Schedule 22, the MPA would be responsible for dealing with disciplinary matters of senior officers. In the present context, the commissioner himself is responsible.

The Bill makes specific provision for the appointment of an investigating officer in complaints against the commissioner or deputy commissioner because of their special status. There is no equivalent in any other ACPO grade in other authorities outside London. There might be occasions when it would be better to have a person investigating a complaint against the commissioner or deputy commissioner who was not a police officer. By definition, any police officer would be of lower rank and there may perhaps be some difficulties in that respect. It is another justification for reserving some role for the Home Secretary.

Although there may be some confusion in my mind, I believe that there is also some confusion here as regards the effect of the amendment as drafted in that it refers to the Police Act rather than this Bill.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I understand the difficulty in which the noble: Baroness finds herself. By definition, "the Authority" in the Police Act 1996 is the Police Complaints Authority, whereas the authority that she wishes to refer to falls within the definition of this legislation. However, be that as it may, it seems to me that it would help us to decide the proper course of action if we knew what the position is as far as concerns other chief officers of police. I did not quite gather that from what the Minister said.

If a complaint is made about the conduct of another chief constable or someone of ACPO rank, so it speak, in another authority, who appoints the person to investigate that complaint? I appreciate that the commissioner is senior to any other chief officer of police in that he is regarded as being one rank above an ordinary chief constable of another force, but there are also Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary who, in a sense, are over all police officers—be they chief officers or more junior officers—as well as the commissioner. Presumably, if it is a policing matter as opposed to a complaint of a different character, it is likely to be one of Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary who looks into the matter.

The right person to set an inspector of constabulary in motion in such a case seems to me to be the Secretary of State, rather than the Police Complaints Authority. It would indeed help us to know how other chief constables are treated in this respect. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us such details. Members of the Committee will much appreciate it if he is able to do so.

Lord Whitty

I very much appreciate the efforts of the noble Lord in spelling out exactly what he required in a time-scale within which I could respond. For chief constables in such situations it would be the police authority which would appoint the investigating officer who would, as I understand it, sometimes come from a different authority. The Metropolitan Police Authority would be in that position for assistant commissioners and commanders because they are the equivalent of chief constables in other forces. So, grade for grade, the MPA would be in the same position. It is just the unique position of the commissioner and deputy commissioner which makes this a special case.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, for explaining this to the Committee. He clearly outlined where the error or misunderstanding had occurred. Indeed, I found his remarks enlightening; I am sure that they are correct. This is an important matter. It is probably something about which we will need to think again and we might even wish to communicate with the Minister about it between now and the next stage of the Bill. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 354ZP not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354P: Page 298, line 36, leave Out paragraph 98.

The noble Lord said: This amendment brings us back to the question of consultation. I believe that as it stands the Bill will remove the duty on the commissioner of police to consult the boroughs. Earlier we discussed the position of the boroughs as regards this matter. As I said, the boroughs will still have a duty to produce strategies for the reduction of crime and disorder under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Until now Section 96 of the Police Act has imposed a duty on the commissioner to consult the boroughs on appropriate policing arrangements.

Borough policing within London has had a high profile recently. Changes have been made in borough policing to bring the police closer to local authorities and to communities and to make the structure of the police clearer to ordinary citizens. If the boundaries of Metropolitan Police areas are different from those of boroughs, that can be confusing. People know which borough they live in because they know to whom they pay their council tax. I believe that in moving towards borough policing, the Metropolitan Police have moved in the right direction. I believe that without this amendment boroughs would prepare plans without a corresponding duty on the Metropolitan Police to consult on them.

That presupposes that in terms of policing, the assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people of London. I do not take that view. If that position were adopted, it would create a situation unique to London. That is not the position in other parts of the country. It is illogical to remove the duty I am discussing and it would undermine the philosophy of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which recognises the paramount importance of tailoring anti-crime and disorder strategies to take account of the circumstances of individual boroughs. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Elton)

If this amendment were agreed to I should be unable to call Amendments Nos. 354Q to 354SB inclusive.

Lord Clement-Jones

In many ways the amendment anticipates the next group of amendments. We on these Benches support the amendment. The existing borough consultative process is borough based and equates with local government boundaries in London. We wish to see that preserved. The police consultative groups in London, their co-ordinators and the voluntary organisations involved with them feel strongly that they wish to see the existing structures continue. Our motto is, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

When we reach the next group of amendments I shall want to describe in more detail how these structures work. Experience has shown that in situations such as bombings in Brixton or Brick Lane the local consultative processes must be in place to reassure local people. They have worked on a borough basis since 1984. They were set up in the aftermath of the traumatic Brixton disorders. I speak as one who lives in the borough of Lambeth. I do not believe that we should be tampering with these processes at this time. In view of the fact that we have erected another pillar in the form of the Crime and Disorder Act—which we very much welcomed on these Benches in terms of statutory partnership and crime and disorder strategy—like the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, I cannot understand why we should be trying to knock the other pillar away when it is an equally important part of the whole consultative process.

We have fears that in these circumstances the police may well be tempted not to maintain the consultative processes if they are not statutorily obliged so to do. That may sound rather suspicious but, if those processes are not statutorily based, there will always be a temptation not to engage in such processes but simply to engage in the statutory partnership process with local authorities and with the Probation Service. We feel very strongly about the subject and shall return to it in later amendments.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I hesitate to intervene. I shall have no objection if the Committee wants to discuss Amendment No. 354Q and the amendments grouped with it at the same time as this amendment. Although we are proposing slightly different arrangements, the amendments cover much the same ground. I have no objection if the Committee prefers to discuss those amendments as well.

Lord Clement-Jones

I am tempted to add to my comments. It would probably save time if we grouped these amendments.

As a long-standing Lambeth resident, I clearly remember the aftermath of the Brixton disorders. I remember the huge optimism as a result of the Scarman report which recommended the consultative arrangements. I remember also the way those arrangements came into effect and the success that they have had. I can testify personally to the success of the arrangements. I do not want to go on at great length, but we can point to the lay visitors' scheme that was set up in the 1980s, to the Lambeth knives amnesty and to an investigative report into the recruitment and initial training of ethnic minority police officers in Lambeth which well pre-dated the Macpherson report. Later projects involved investigations into deaths in police custody, the management of police informants, and the founding of a Black Issues Forum. More recently, in the past year we have had huge support from the community police consultative groups for the police's efforts to combat street robbery through the "Respect Not Robbery" campaign. They have spearheaded the debate about provision for young people in the borough. That has resulted in Lambeth Council reconsidering its whole youth initiative programme in this area.

The consultative groups have been extremely active. They have been very active in their responses to the Macpherson report; they have been members of DAC John Grieves's race and violent crime advisory group and they have been providing lay advisers for murder investigations and for that into the Brixton bombing on 17th April. They are highly effective police consultative groups and I know that others can testify to their effectiveness. My noble friend Lord Tope will be speaking from his own experience about his own borough.

In summary, we are convinced that the borough-based consultation structure, which ties in with local government structures, is the right way to go. As I said earlier, the Brixton bombing, the Brick Lane bombing and the Soho bombing demonstrate the need for the police to be very close to the community. We do not believe that it is right to abolish the statutory basis of the consultation. We believe that without that statutory structure there will be a temptation for the police simply to move forward with the statutory structure of partnership under the Crime and Disorder Act.

The arrangements now enshrined in the Police Act, which were formerly in the PACE Act 1984, have worked extremely well for 15 years. They should not simply be done away with as part of this Bill. That would be a retrograde step. We ask the Government to reconsider.

There are other linked amendments, but in the circumstances I do not believe that we should wish to press Amendment No. 354SA if we received a positive response to the earlier amendments. There is, of course, the possibility, and desirability, of the MPA being able to issue guidance to local consultative schemes if it believes that they need to achieve greater consistency. That is what Amendment No. 354SB seeks to achieve. But it in no way cuts across the amendments that we are seeking to press.

I ask the Government to reconsider. This is a very important issue for all the consultative groups. I hope that we shall receive a favourable reply from the Minister.

Lord Harris of Haringey

As we seem to be trading consultative groups, I spent at least 10 years as a member of my local police consultative group; I have not been a member for the past two months. I am slightly confused by the remarks made in the past few minutes. My understanding of the legislation is that nothing is being done that disrupts the position of the existing police consultative groups. They will continue.

However, it is important to recognise that in any local area at various times there will need to be in place appropriate consultative arrangements for the area concerned. The police consultative groups in many instances have done extremely important and valuable work, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, outlined at some length. But there are also circumstances where the police consultative group may not be the most appropriate mechanism.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, talked about the aftermath of the Brixton disturbances. I remember vividly the aftermath of the Broadwater Farm disturbances. In that circumstance, a much more precise geographical area of consultation was needed than a borough-wide consultative group: a consultative mechanism at estate level was needed, rather than one that spanned the whole borough.

I am sure that Members of the Committee would want to see a situation in which the Metropolitan Police at all levels was ready and willing to consult with the local community in whatever was the most appropriate fashion in appropriate circumstances. I see that as the intention of this legislation.

Examining this matter in the context of the Crime and Disorder Act, and the duty that is placed on police commanders in that Act to work with the local authority chief executive in drawing up crime and disorder audits and producing a strategy, that will also be deeply rooted in the process of community consultation. Given that the intention is to ensure that consultation is inclusive and adapted for the particular needs of particular circumstances in particular local areas, and that there is legislation ensuring local community safety strategies achieved after consultation, and given that, so far as I am aware, this legislation does nothing to disrupt the statutory basis of the existing police consultative groups, I am slightly confused as to what all the fuss has been about in the past few minutes.

Lord Dholakia

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he agree that when the matter was debated in the other place, Kate Hoey, in a reply to the Member of Parliament for Southwark, said: The groups will be secure, and many of them will be secure if they are working well and if the MPA feels that they are working well".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee A, 16/3199; col. 1281.] It is the Metropolitan Police Authority that will decide whether or not they are working well. The groups are based at borough level, they are working well, and they ought to continue on that basis. Does the noble Lord dispute that?

Lord Harris of Haringey

What I said was that there are a number of police consultative groups which are doing excellent work, as a number of noble Lords have described. I also said that it is important to have appropriate consultative arrangements in each area.

I have not had the benefit of reading specific extracts from proceedings in another place. However, having heard the extract that the noble Lord repeated, as I understand it the Minister in the other place made it clear that arrangements were safe. But I assume that no one in this—

Lord Clement-Jones

Perhaps the noble Lord will indulge me. He said that nothing would disrupt the statutory basis of these consultations. Of course, if the statutory basis is taken away, as it is by the paragraph in the schedule, it will disrupt the statutory basis. There will be no statutory basis. It will be a purely voluntary arrangement. Does the noble Lord agree?

Lord Harris of Haringey

We will no doubt hear the definitive answer from the Minister but my understanding is that the statutory basis is not removed. The basis for the consultative groups is derived in a different way.

I am concerned about some of the comments made by Members of the Committee opposite in relation to the automatic assumption that arrangements will be working well when they might not be and that therefore they should continue. For example, if in some areas there is a police consultative group mechanism which is not working well, are we saying that it should continue because it works well somewhere else? Surely we should try to ensure that the consultative arrangements in particular areas are as effective as possible. I should have thought that in this legislation we are trying to achieve the intention to have effective consultation arrangements in every area; to build on the arrangements required under the Crime and Disorder Act for close local working, based on consultation; and to make use of the existing structures which, I understand, are not threatened by the legislation.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

As we are in Committee, I shall speak briefly again. I am in no doubt that the amendment which I moved attempts to keep in place the current statutory basis for consultation. One can argue, at a pinch, that there is a new statutory basis being inserted for the metropolitan area, but it is of a much more voluntary character.

Under Section 96 of the Police Act, at present the commissioner is under a duty to consult the council of each London borough as to the arrangements that would be appropriate for the borough. There are various other duties set out in that section, but the subsection and others adjacent are being knocked out by lines 45 and 46 on page 298. To some degree they are being replaced by the earlier part of paragraph 98 of Schedule 22, but that is not nearly such a direct statutory duty as that which has existed until now. That is what I seek to achieve. Members of the Committee on the Liberal Democrat Bench have used a rather different formula, but I believe that their aim is the same as mine. I prefer my formula.

Lord Tope

The noble Lord is right. We seek the same result but we prefer our formula. However, let us not argue about it. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones for giving me a trailer. I was not going to speak particularly about my borough, except that it is the London Borough of Sutton, which contrasts considerably with the London Borough of Lambeth in all kinds of ways—not least the fact that it has been under Liberal Democrat control for 13 years.

I have been a member of our police consultative committee. I was a founder member back in the early 1980s and remained a member continuously until last year. So it is slightly longer service than the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey.

I wish to contribute to the discussion. The police consultative groups on the whole have done and continue to do a good job. There is widespread concern among many, probably all groups, about exactly what is to be the future. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has given even more cause for concern. I can be more specific about the basis. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is right, Section 96(1) of the Police Act 1996 states: Arrangements shall be made for each police area for obtaining … the views of people in that area about matters concerning the policing of the area". It has been confirmed that for that purpose the Metropolitan Police district is regarded as a single police area. In other words, Section 96(1) of the Police Act refers to arrangements concerning the whole of Greater London. The statutory basis under which the borough police consultative groups are set up is Section 96(5) of the Police Act. It states: The Commissioner shall … consult the council of each London borough as to the arrangements that would be appropriate for the borough". It is that subsection which is to be deleted by this Bill. What concerns the borough police consultative groups is that the statutory basis under which they are set up is to be removed. Whether or not that is the Government's intention we do not know. We shall hear the Minister's response in a moment. However, that is the effect of it. Therefore, if that provision is enacted, reliance on Section 96(1) will not ensure the continuation of consultation within each borough, by whatever means, because it deals with London as a whole.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said that we all wanted the police consultative groups to be effective. Everyone wants something to be effective. But the noble Lord implied that some were not. That may or may not be the case. I hope that the Minister can tell the Committee—if he can hear what I say—who will decide whether a particular borough police consultative group is or is not effective. What criteria will be used to judge what is and what is not effective? The effectiveness of the police consultative group in the London Borough of Lambeth would need to be considered against very different criteria from the circumstances that exist in the London Borough of Sutton. If the police consultative group in my borough, which is an outer London suburb with one of the lowest ethnic minority populations in London, is to be judged against the same criteria as Lambeth, it will probably fail. However, that would be ridiculous and grossly inappropriate.

I ask the Minister to recognise the considerable concern among police consultative groups about the removal of the statutory basis under which they are set up and to make clear the Government's intentions as to their continuance. Talk about introducing other arrangements and criteria, as yet unspecified, to judge their effectiveness and appropriateness simply adds to that uncertainty and concern.

Whichever amendments are the most appropriate, they provide the Minister who is to reply with the opportunity to be clear and absolutely unequivocal, in a way that the Government have not yet been, as to the future of the police consultative groups? Are they to continue? If not, what else is to happen? If they are to continue and there is further discussion about judging their effectiveness and appropriateness, how is that to be done, by whom and against what criteria?

Lord Whitty

I suppose that I should declare a non-interest in that I have never been a member of a PCG. Nevertheless, some confusion has arisen in this debate. Certainly, the amendments in both merged groups cut across the intention that the Metropolitan Police Authority and district should be, as far as practicable, under the same statutory obligations as elsewhere in the country.

There are two main differences between the Metropolitan Police and others in the field of consultation. First, in London the duty rests with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, whereas in other parts of the country it rests with the police authority. Secondly, there are specific requirements on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to make separate consultation arrangements for each of the London boroughs. We see no good reason why the police authority in London should be under a different statutory obligation from police authorities elsewhere in this area.

We understand the anxieties that effective consultation arrangements should not be disrupted. We are strongly in favour of improving the links between public consultation and local police objectives, and believe that the new and, for the first time, explicitly democratically accountable police authority should hold the police to account for the objectives set. It is important that the police authority in its operations and strategy is aware of the priorities and concerns expressed by local people.

Consultation is also a central component of the crime reduction strategies in which police authorities are one of the key partners. Section 96(2) of the 1996 Act, as amended by the Bill, will require the MPA to consult the commissioner, so the commissioner is still consulted. As to the rest, it is similar to other police authorities.

In regard to the future of police community consultative groups, there is some confusion, because they are non-statutory bodies. They are based on models proposed in the Home Office guidance issued in 1985. The Bill does not affect their status either way. Their future role will depend on the arrangements set up by the police authority, as is the case with consultative arrangements in other areas. Many police authorities outside London have PCCGs in their area, and we would certainly expect the MPA to continue to operate in that way. Placing a statutory function on the MPA would be to treat it differently from police authorities elsewhere, which do not have an equivalent prescription placed on them.

Lord Clement-Jones

Is the noble Lord the Minister saying that the current PCCGs have n o statutory basis; that they are not governed by Section 96 of the Police Act?

Lord Whitty

What I am saying is that Section 96 requires the commissioner, as the situation is now, to establish appropriate means of consultation for each London borough. That will be altered, but there is no prescription that that should be done by a PCCG in London, any more than anywhere else. The PCCGs are bodies that arise from Home Office guidance, and not from the statute, as I understand it.

In practice, we are quite clear that the Metropolitan Police Authority will continue to operate a system of borough consultation. The Metropolitan Police are already moving towards a borough-based structure. There are separate crime reduction strategies for each London borough. Therefore, it would be inconceivable that the Metropolitan Police Authority would not continue to have a borough-based consultation arrangement, which presumably will involve the PCCGs. But there is no prescriptive requirement on other police authorities to consult in that way, and there is no statutory basis, therefore, for the PCCGs in the metropolitan area, any more than there is for those in other parts of the country.

Lord Clement-Jones

I must express some bafflement, because Section 96(4) says: The Commissioner shall make separate arrangements— (a) for each London borough". I had always thought that that was the basis of PCCGs; certainly the PCCGs think that that is the basis.

Lord Whitty

The provision does precisely what it says. ft is a requirement on the commissioner at present to make separate arrangements for each London borough. No such provision relates to any other police force. What I am saying is that the Metropolitan Police Authority should have the same freedom to establish its own system of consultation as other police areas covering a large number of individual local authorities.

I am also saying that it is inconceivable, given that the police force itself is being managed on a borough basis to a greater extent and that the crime reduction strategies are based on boroughs, that the consultation arrangements would not continue to be based on the boroughs; but that should not be on a statutory basis. The PCCGs as institutions may be the way in which that requirement is carried out, but as institutions they do not have a statutory basis in London or anywhere else—and they exist in many other parts of the country.

Lord Tope

The noble Lord the Minister is telling us that there is no statute which says that there shall be a police community consultative group. I understand that. May I be clear that the noble Lord is saying that the Metropolitan Police Authority will determine the appropriate consultative arrangements in each London borough, which may or may not mean the existing police consultative group; that it will be up to the MPA, in consultation, we hope, with people in the borough, to decide on the appropriate consultation arrangement in each borough and that, therefore, the police consultative groups may or may not continue? In other words, they are as uncertain as to their future existence now as they were before this debate, and they will have to await the establishment of the MPA and the time when it is in a position to consider these matters in respect of each of the 32 London boroughs.

Lord Whitty

I can give the noble Lord even less comfort than he assumes. The MPA will be under the same requirement as other police authorities across the country to consult. The Bill does not provide that it should consult on a borough basis, nor that it should consult the PCCGs, and those are not statutory requirements for any other police authority.

As a matter of practice, it is clearly sensible for the Metropolitan Police Authority to continue to consult on a borough basis, for all the reasons that I have outlined, and in many cases—possibly most or even all cases—that will be under the existing PCCGs. However, as my noble friend Lord Harris indicated, the MPA may develop different and more appropriate methods of consultation. The main point is that we will have a democratic police authority in London which should be treated and trusted in the same way as police authorities elsewhere.

Lord Clement-Jones

Why is it appropriate that the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires a statutory partnership on a crime and disorder strategy on a borough basis for London, but the Minister now says that that will not be required for consultation purposes? I do not understand the logic of the Government's proposals in the light of what they have already done in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Lord Whitty

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires strategies of all local authorities all over the country, not just in London. I return to the point that we are trying to treat London the same as the rest of the country in the way in which duties are placed on the police authority. The statutory consultation under that Act, as elsewhere in the country, includes the local authorities—that is, the London boroughs—and the police authority. It is equivalent to the situation in any police area in England and Wales.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

The Minister has done his best to tell us, with his usual fluency, "Don't worry, it'll be all right. We are changing the statutory basis and taking away the specific statutory requirement, but it will be all right". I was put in mind of when I started my national service. When we all stood terrified on the square, a certain drill sergeant would come round, put his face very close usually to one of the smaller members of the troop and say, "You look worried, lad. Don't worry until I tell you to worry". Then he would go round to the back, put his mouth close to the ear of the person in question and say, "Worry now". It is not surprising that the boroughs, and the consultative committees in particular, should be worrying now.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, expressed his bafflement at what was happening. To express it as clearly as I can, what is happening is that under the present law—Section 96 of the Police Act 1996—the commissioner is under a statutory duty to make separate arrangements for each London borough to obtain the views of the people in the area about matters concerning the policing of the area and to obtain their co-operation with the police in preventing crime in their borough. That is a specific statutory duty on the commissioner that will be abolished by the Bill. It will be replaced by a duty on the new authority to make arrangements after consulting the commissioner.

The Minister says that that process is the same for other parts of the country, but London is different. The forces outside London do not have to deal with 32 different authorities. The police in my part of the country, the Avon and Somerset Police, have to deal with five different authorities—Somerset County Council and the four unitary authorities in what used to be the county of Avon. It is easier to deal with five councils than with 32 separate boroughs.

However, there is another fundamental difference. Those five councils, as in the rest of the country, are represented on the police authority. They are in a position to ensure that consultation takes place. They are the police authority. They are the majority of the police authority who decide how this consultation should take place in the future. But the boroughs, as we heard at the start of our discussion of the clauses dealing with the Metropolitan Police, are not to be represented at all.

Lord Clement-Jones

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord before he offers the usual courtesies. On these Benches, we are rather more worried, after hearing the Minister's response, than we were before, which is unusual in the course of these debates. We have heard phrases like, "There is no good reason for treating London differently" and "It is inconceivable that", and so on, all of which make me count the spoons.

In this situation London needs to be different. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, put it very well. London needs to be treated differently. London is different. The Bill deals with London and there are many differences about the region. We may as well accept the fact that we cannot have "one size fits all" for consultation and that to try to treat the whole of the metropolitan area as if it were one ordinary police authority area is totally impracticable and flies in the face of the experience of the past 15 years. We have had a consultative system in the boroughs which, by and large, has worked extremely well. It is highly retrograde to be moving back from that situation.

After all, the Government have in their party strong roots in London and have considerable support in London. It is deeply disappointing that they should ignore the forces at work in the different London boroughs. They will find that this is one of the most controversial aspects of the proceedings on the Bill.

Lord Whitty

Before the noble Lord, Lord Cope, responds, because I have long experience of London politics I know that in the noble Lord's party and in my own the cry for decades has been, "Why doesn't London have a police authority in the same way as other parts of the country?" Now we are giving it the noble Lord's party finds something else to go on about. I have just consulted my noble friend Lady Farrington. In Lancashire, which ought to be an example to us all, the police authority deals with 14 different local authorities; not 32. Nevertheless—

Lord Clement-Jones

London has almost twice as many!

Lord Whitty

Yes, but Lancashire has a smaller police force. It has 14 different authorities, not all of which are represented on the police authority. I am sure that that is the pattern in the West Midlands and other parts of the country where a good many authorities come under one police area. I repeat: I do not understand why we need an entirely different pattern for London when the Metropolitan Police Authority—the first democratic police authority that we in London have ever had—would almost certainly see that it operated on a borough basis in terms of its consultation structures. But why should we have to lay that down when we do not do so for Lancashire, the West Midlands or any other part of the country?

Lord Clement-Jones

Because over a period of years, particularly in places like Lambeth, where there are deep suspicions historically between the police and the community, it has taken 15 years to build trust in structures between the police and the community. To start even raising the prospect of changing those arrangements is a retrograde step.

Lord Whitty

The statutory status of PCGs is not altered one iota by the Bill.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

One of my grandparents came from Yorkshire, so we cannot be expected to take Lancashire as the be-all and end-all of these matters, even when the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, makes the recommendation. However, as was pointed out in an intervention, twice as many boroughs in London as even in Lancashire are involved in the police area. So this is a matter to which I am sure we will have to return.

The Minister said that this will be the first democratic police authority for London. That is a slur on the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary is there by election and by the fact that his Government were elected. There is nothing undemocratic about the Minister. I do not take that view in the form in which he expressed it; but that goes back to our first debate on this subject some hours ago.

It is a matter to which we shall need to return at later stages of the Bill. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 354Q to 354SB not moved.]

[Amendment No. 354SC had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Schedule 22 agreed to.

Clause 258 [Reconstitution of the Fire etc Authority]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 355: Page 138, line 27, at end insert ("and shall have the same duties as its predecessor Authority").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, for the convenience of the Committee perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 356 which is grouped with Amendment No. 355.

Amendment No. 355 is a simple addition which makes it explicit on the face of the Bill that all we are doing is a rechristening job with a slight change in the lines of responsibility and along which resources come to the fire authority. That is not explicit in the Bill as drafted. The Minister may well say that such an amendment is unnecessary, but I believe that it helps to have the point made plain. It also helps to explain the relative simplicity of the proposals vis-à-vis the fire service.

Amendment No. 356 touches on a more difficult point. There is rot a fire and emergency planning authority in the country of which I am aware which is not under considerable—I almost said extreme—pressure for resources. It is a not unnatural state of affairs. Indeed, it is a state of affairs which in some ways, paradoxically, is beneficial. If one wants to see resources being used well, and to encourage tight management, a shortage of resources is a great cause of ingenuity.

However, in the funding of the fire service, there has been a great temptation to encourage fire services to charge for services which are outwith the firefighting part of their job. The basis on which funding for the fire services is arranged is fire risk. But, as a matter of practice and humanity, and because they are there and the only people with both the resources and expertise, they take on a number of other emergency roles, of which the most obvious is attendance at motor vehicle accidents. That may well have nothing to do with their normal firefighting role, but it is an important and significant part of their work. It is not only an important and significant part of their work; it is also a significant drain on their resources. It is expensive.

Fire services become involved in such activities as emptying flooded cellars and rescuing cats up trees. It is not unknown for them to rescue little children with their heads stuck in fences. All those services are provided for good reasons, but they are outwith the calculation of the resources that the fire service receives.

There is a temptation—I put it no stronger than that—for fire services to start charging for what I would call "off-mainline business" services. We do not think that is right, and we should prevent it. There is an opportunity in this Bill to prevent such charging so far as London is concerned. I dare say the Minister will reply that we cannot treat London differently from any other part of the country, and that is a plausible argument. However, we must begin somewhere. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Tope

I rise to speak particularly to Amendment No. 356. I was for some years a member of the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority—in fact, I am still a substitute member of that authority—and we debated frequently the issue of reclaiming the costs to which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred. I resist Amendment No. 356 as strongly as possible—although I may not need to do so as I suspect that the Government will do that for me.

The noble Lord said, quite correctly, that every fire authority in the country is under considerable budgetary pressure, and that is certainly the case in London. However, I do not believe that we should state in law—whether for London only because it is a place to start and we have the opportunity to do so, or generally—that a fire authority cannot even consider reclaiming such costs, whatever the circumstances. The noble Lord gave a number of examples, one of which enabled me to learn something about my noble friend Baroness Hamwee. I have known her for probably 30 years but I was not aware that she had got her head stuck in the railings as a small child. However, she assures me that she has no interest to declare because it did not happen in London. My noble friend also does not recall who rescued her, but I am glad that someone did.

We discussed many times on the LFCDA our decision to charge people who called us out because they had locked themselves out of their homes. I see no reason why taxpayers should pay for the carelessness or forgetfulness of those who have locked themselves out of their homes. The LFCDA rightly instituted a charge for that service, and it is a matter for the individual fire authority to decide the appropriate circumstances for charging. I would rather not impose a charge for rescuing small people who, like my noble friend, stick their head between the railings. That is a most distressing emergency. I would have perhaps slightly less sympathy for cats who get stuck up trees because they will invariably find their way down if one leaves them to it. I would have absolutely no sympathy for those who forget their front door keys—in fact, I believe that a charge for such a service would be an appropriate deterrent.

It is quite wrong to have a blanket statement in an Act of Parliament that says, "Under no circumstances whatever may a fire authority seek to recover any of its costs". If I were the Minister replying to this debate—I can only dream—I would resist the amendment most strongly.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is rather trying his luck in being so condemnatory of people who forget their keys and lock themselves out. It has been my experience in life that tempting fate in that way can cause all sorts of things to happen.

Lord Tope

It has happened to me, and I am sure that it could happen to any one of us. I do not deny that. Fortunately, I did not need the fire brigade to let me into my house. My point is not that such things will not happen but that I would not expect the taxpayers to bear the cost if it happened to me—whatever the reason.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

So long as the noble Lord has plenty of paper and a torch, he can reply to all the letters from cat lovers who are cross about his wanting to leave cats up trees.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will be pleased to know that the Government's intention that the duties undertaken by the present fire authority, the LFCDA, shall become the responsibility of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority is covered in the Bill.

Clause 259(2) substitutes the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority for the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority in Schedule 11 to the Local Government Act 1985, the legislation which established the present fire authority. Sub-paragraph 2(1) of that schedule provides that the LFCDA shall be the fire authority for London. Sub-paragraph 2(2) provides that all references in fire service legislation are to be construed in accordance with sub-paragraph (1). This includes Section 1(1) of the Fire Services Act 1947, which sets out the duties of a fire authority. The Bill also provides that the LFEPA is the authority on which functions may be conferred under civil defence legislation. It will therefore be the case that the LFEPA will inherit the statutory duties previously undertaken by the LFCDA. I feel sure that in those circumstances the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

As regards Amendment No. 356, there were reviews in 1970 and 1985. The result was to support the continuance of local discretion in the provision of and charging for special services, which has applied since before the fire service was established as the local authority service. Fire authorities often seek to recover costs through charges for special services where possible, but they would not usually do so for emergency or humanitarian purposes, both of which would cover the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, with her head in the railings when young!

We believe that as a matter of principle it would be wrong, particularly in the light of a recent review, to impose restrictions on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority which did not apply to other fire authorities. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and for her reassurance. However, I am bound to say that had she thought it entirely appropriate that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, should have been charged to be rescued I should have taken a different view. In all the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

Before the noble Lord does so, perhaps I may make it clear that I was only two at the time!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 356 not moved.]

Clause 258 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 357: After Clause 258, insert the following new clause—


(" . The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority shall provide annually, within three months of the end of its financial year, a report to the Authority which sets out its performance in fulfilling its functions, its financial report and any Audit Commission recommendations with regard to its performance.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment introduces a new clause along the continuing line of amendments we have tabled dealing with openness and accountability. It suggests that the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority shall provide annually, within three months of its year-end, a report to the authority setting out its performance in fulfilling its functions and so forth. It ensures that at the end of the year the service properly reports in an accountable way to the mayor. We should expect that procedure to be entirely reasonable. The Minister may say, "Of course, it will do that anyway.". If so, she could accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The proposed new clause would introduce an extra and unnecessary layer of accountability for the fire authority. A similar point was raised by the Opposition at Committee stage in another place. We explained at that time that the Government are in favour of accountability, but that we must make sure that we do not impose unnecessary bureaucracy.

The clause would cut across the Government's proposals under the best value provisions of the Local Government Bill under which the LFEPA would be a relevant authority and would be required to carry out fundamental performance reviews at specified intervals (Clause 5 of the Local Government Bill) and prepare and publish annual performance plans (Clause 6) which would be subject to audit arrangements.

The proposed provision would also cut across the requirements in Part II of this Bill under which the mayor would be required to prepare an annual report (Clause 38) including information requested by the assembly and to hold an annual state of London debate (Clause 39). In those circumstances, and because matters are now even more accountable since the Committee stage in another place, I am sure that the noble Lord will wish to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

As always I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I accept her comments about the Local Government Bill, but it is not yet law. I am not quite sure what is the etiquette for the Committee stage of one Bill and whether one should consider as law another Bill at a similar stage going through the House. Here we are dealing with the London Bill as it is and the law as it stands and not as it will be in a few months time. However, that should not cause us any prolonged difficulty. I noted what the noble Baroness said, and I will consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 23 [The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357NA: Page 302, line 6, leave out ("appointed by the Mayor") and insert ("elected by the Assembly").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak to the other 10 amendments that are grouped with it. This amendment relates to the membership, tenure of office and so forth of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. It concerns the nine assembly members of that authority. It is very much the same issue as the one that we argued as regards the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The assembly members are described as the "assembly representatives". It is right and proper that the assembly itself should decide by elections and appointments who its representatives shall be and not that they should be chosen and appointed by the mayor. We made these arguments in relation to the police authority. They apply equally strongly here. They are described as "assembly representatives" and they clearly will be representing the assembly on the authority. There will also be borough council representatives there. It seems a fundamental democratic principle that the assembly should have the right to choose and appoint its own members and not have something that the mayor is able to foist on them, although in practice that may not be the case.

There is no reason why the mayor should make the appointments. It is not the issue that we argued many times about the executive powers of the mayor and the scrutiny powers of the assembly. It is a question of who appoints the assembly representatives. Under this amendment we say that the assembly itself should appoint its own representatives.

Amendment No. 357PA refers to the eight borough representatives who will be members. We are proposing that they should be appointed by the Chair of the assembly rather than by the mayor on the nomination of the London Borough Councils, acting jointly. It seems appropriate that it is the chair of the assembly who makes such appointments. It is not a matter for the mayor.

Most of the other amendments are consequent upon those two proposals, except Amendment No. 357TA, which seeks to give the assembly, rather than the Secretary of State, the power to vary the number of members of the authority, should that be necessary. If there is a need to vary those numbers, we believe that it is a need that should rest with the elected representatives of London and not with the Secretary of State. That seems to us to be the proper democratic and accountability line.

Amendment No. 357ZA is slightly different, but it gives the authority the right to elect its own chair. The schedule says that the chair shall be appointed by the mayor. We see no reason that the mayor should have power to appoint the chair and impose that upon the authority. That is not the case in relation to the Metropolitan Police Authority that we have just debated. For that body the authority chooses its own chair. If the Minister is to resist this amendment, I hope that he will say why he feels that the fire authority is different. It seems to be a fairly fundamental, democratic principle, but also a matter of common sense that the authority should be able to choose its own chair from among its numbers, however they have been appointed, whether by the mayor or by the assembly and/or by the chair of the assembly.

This group of amendments reflects our view of the role of the assembly. More importantly in this respect, it institutes proper democratic accountability in relation to the membership of the authority. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lord says that this has nothing to do with the ongoing argument about the difference between executive powers and scrutiny powers, but it has. These amendments would mean that the mayor, who has the executive responsibility for the fire authority, would no longer have any role in the appointment process for the assembly and borough representatives on that authority.

The argument is the same as before. These amendments are designed to weaken the mayor's position and to hand over executive power to the authority. Our policy, which has been reflected throughout our approach to this, is that the mayor would be responsible for the appointment of both assembly and borough representatives. The other powers which have been given to the mayor which these amendments seek to remove—to determine the length of a member's period of office; to renew a member's appointment or to terminate it in exceptional circumstances; and so on—are all consequences of our proposed approach. In addition, the reserve power of the Secretary of State to alter the size of the fire authority would be given to the assembly. In our view, that should rest with the Secretary of State.

These amendments, if adopted, would have the effect of severing the constitutional links between the mayor and the fire authority. Those links are important if the new arrangements are to function effectively. They ensure that the authority is suitably accountable to the mayor for the service that it provides.

I believe that we shall have this argument over and over again. This has a slightly different structure, but the principle is the same: that the mayor should have executive authority for those functional bodies within the GLA as a whole. While we shall not agree on this, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

This is not, as the Minister says, a matter about executive power. It concerns electoral power. It concerns the assembly representatives—a word used by the Bill—and if they are assembly representatives they must be elected by the assembly. If the people on this authority are merely drawn from the assembly, they are not assembly representatives. The Minister cannot have it both ways. As I said, if they are representatives they must be elected by the assembly.

Lord Tope

Before I decide what I am going to do with the amendment, I wonder whether the Minister can answer two points. First, he made it clear that the nine assembly members are representatives of the mayor and not representatives of the assembly. Therefore, will he agree to an alteration in Schedule 23 which would describe them not as "assembly representatives", as is the case at present, but as "the mayor's representatives?" That is exactly what he is saying. He is saying that they are there to maintain the link with the mayor's executive responsibilities. Let us be open and honest about it: they are not there as assembly representatives, they are the mayor's representatives. I hope that the Minister can tell us that he will bring forward an amendment on Report which will be honest and clear in its reflection of the Government's intentions.

My second point relates to Amendment No. 357ZA to which the Minister made no reference. It relates to the appointment of the chairman of the authority. Can the noble Lord tell us why the Government are content for the police authority to appoint its own chair but insist that the fire authority shall have the chair imposed upon it by the mayor?

Lord Whitty

On the second question, I can tell the noble Lord that the position of the Metropolitan Police Authority is clearly different from that of the fire authority; indeed, the latter's responsibilities fall totally within those of the mayor. As the noble Lord will know from previous debates, the police authority has a wider remit. Therefore, the constitutions are different and, in this context, the executive body of the fire authority will need to have on its board people from the boroughs and nominated by them. They will not be representative of an individual borough but will be nominated by the boroughs collectively.

The mayor will choose the members of the assembly who are on the board. They are not the mayor's representatives. He is constrained by having to choose from among the members of the assembly. They may not be there by vote of the assembly, but they are the assembly's component of that board. Therefore, I do not think it would be appropriate to make the suggested amendment in the schedule of "mayor's representatives." Once again, I do not believe that we will agree on the matter. Therefore, I suggest we move on.

Lord Tope

The Minister is absolutely right: we are not going to agree on this and we shall move on in a minute. I should have thought that the fact that there are borough representatives on the fire authority was even more reason for it being able to choose its own chair rather than having one imposed upon it by the mayor who has no constitutional relationship with the boroughs. Indeed, I would use the Minister's argument to reinforce mine. We are not going to agree. It may well be that the representatives are members of the authority, but they are not representing the assembly; they are representing the mayor. It is the mayor's patronage we are talking about here. I am even more dissatisfied with the answer than I thought I would be. I am sure that we will return to the matter. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 357PA to 357RA not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357SA: Page 302, line 14, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 18 and insert ("in exercising their power to nominate members under sub-paragraph (1)(b) have regard to the balance of parties for the time being prevailing among the members of those councils taken as a whole and to the area of Greater London from which members are appointed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to vary the provision in Schedule 23 and suggests that, in nominating borough members, regard should be had not only to the balance of parties prevailing across London as a whole, which is clearly correct and which we encapsulate here, but also to the areas of Greater London from which members are appointed. In other words, we propose that there should be a geographical as well as a political reflection. I hope that this will be less controversial than our previous amendments because I believe that this is what will happen in practice. Nevertheless, I think it would be desirable to have that reflected in the schedule.

It is well known that in some parts of London one party is rather stronger than it is in other areas. I make no reference to any particular political parties but that needs to be borne in mind when choosing the borough nominees for the authority we are discussing. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

I am slightly surprised that the Liberal Democrats are not prepared to leave these decisions to the London boroughs, which is the logic of their position on other matters. In this situation, the London boroughs act jointly to nominate representatives to the fire authority. They must reflect, as far as is practicable, the political balance prevailing across the London boroughs as a whole. I am sure that in nominating their representatives to a strategic London-wide authority the boroughs will want to be satisfied that there is a good geographical balance as well as a political balance, and will not want all the nominations to be from boroughs north of the river, for example.

However, I think we can leave that matter to the common sense of the boroughs. I do not think that the amendment, which would slightly modify the effect of the political balance element, is helpful. It would make the selection process rather more prescriptive than it is at present without improving it. I do not see the benefit of this amendment. I believe that we should leave this matter to the judgment of the London boroughs.

Baroness Hamwee

I believe that I am the original author of this amendment. My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong, but we are not particularly rivals in that regard. I drafted this amendment quite recently having very much in mind the fact that we believe that this Bill as a whole is too prescriptive, but our view is not being accepted. Therefore, if one accepts that the Bill is prescriptive, one has to look at the prescription. I am delighted to hear that the Government believe that some matters should be left to the judgment of the London boroughs. That is an argument that we have put forward throughout the course of the Bill. We shall note the passage where that is stated so that we can quote it at a future stage!

Lord Tope

We have said time and again—and shall no doubt continue to do so—that this Bill is enormously over-prescriptive in the extent of its detail. If one starts to be so prescriptive, one has to be even more prescriptive to get the matter right. We believe that far more matters should be left to be determined by the London boroughs and the GLA. However, that is not the route that the Government have chosen. They cannot have it both ways. They argue that they need this prescription when they think that they need it. However, when someone else suggests making the provision a little clearer and more straightforward, the Government say that that is too prescriptive. One day a Minister on the Government Front Bench will explain to us the Government's criteria as regards what is or is not necessary to prescribe. However, I do not think that will happen today and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 357TA to 357Z4 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 357A: Page 303, line 3, at end insert— (."() On a casual vacancy occurring in that office, the Mayor shall as soon as reasonably practicable appoint one of the members of the Fire etc Authority to fill the vacancy.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 357A, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 357B and 357C.

Government Amendment No. 357A arises as a result of discussions with the Association of London Government. It sets out the action to be taken if a vacancy arises in the office of chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Paragraph 3(1) to Schedule 23 requires the mayor in each year to appoint a chairman from among the members of the authority. Comparable legislation makes express provision for the filling of a vacancy in the office of chairman. This amendment therefore provides that, in the event of a vacancy arising in that office, the mayor will be required to appoint a new chairman from among the members of the LFEPA as soon as possible.

Government Amendment No. 357B is a minor technical amendment dealing with inconsistent wording. Amendment No. 357C, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, appears to have a similar purpose but the wording is not consistent with that in other local government legislation. We think that our drafting is better. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Tope

Having been provoked by the Minister suggesting that his drafting is better than mine, perhaps I may suggest that he is not right. As it currently stands, sub-paragraph (2) refers to the fire authority electing a vice chair and paragraph (3) refers to an "appointment" under sub-paragraph (2). Until the government amendments are passed, sub-paragraph (2) refers to an election; therefore sub-paragraph (3) as it stands is wrong; it should also refer to an election. I therefore beg to differ with the Minister; our drafting is better on the Bill as it stands at this moment.

The purpose behind the amendment is one that we have rehearsed already, including very recently, and I will not do so again. On a purely drafting point, I believe our amendment is correct until the government amendments are passed, if they are.

Lord Whitty

I can see the logic if not the substance.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 357B: Page 303, line 4. leave out ("elect") and insert ("appoint").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 357C not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 357D: Page 303, line 8, leave out ("for the purpose of enabling him to meet the expenses of his office").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 357D, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 357E. This is a probing amendment. The schedule gives permission for an allowance to be paid to the chairman. That is interesting. I thought the Government had a different view about the use of the words "chairman" and "vice-chairman", but that is what it says here. As the Minister has just told me that their drafting is better than anything I can suggest, he will no doubt explain why it is so gender specific here.

The schedule refers to paying the expenses of office. Perhaps the Minister can inform me of the position with regard to paying expenses generally, not only of the chair or chairman and the vice-chairman but of all the members. What provision is there for the payment of expenses and allowances to all members of the authority? Currently the LFCDA has its own payments scheme for members; it does not rely on the home borough authority to pay them. Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case under the LFEPA or will he tell me that it would be too prescriptive to provide for it in the Bill?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As to the query about the use of the terminology "chair" and "chairman", I am sure that the Committee would not wish me to rehearse the debate that we had on this subject the other evening when some members of the Committee were slightly spikey about being called "spokes". The noble Lord will recollect that on that occasion we conceded that, short of changing and amending all previous legislation, where a reference was made to other legislation in this Bill, we used the terminology used in that legislation.

The proposed amendments would broaden the fire authority's power to pay an expenses allowance to its chairman and vice-chairman so that it need not necessarily be related to the expenses of the office. The linked amendment seeks to make the allowance an amount determined by the authority rather than by what it thinks reasonable. Taken together, we believe that the amendments would be inconsistent with the proper control of payments from public funds. The reference in the linked amendment to "Authority" means the fire authority rather than the GLA.

If the noble Lord wishes detailed information about the different possible levels that could be paid to members, I would prefer to write to him on that subject. I hope with that assurance he feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tope

I am the last person to argue with the noble Baroness about the use of the term "chair" or "chairman". I wholly share her view. I am not sure I entirely understand her explanation. I do not think that this does relate to previous legislation. I suggest very humbly that perhaps the Government's drafting on this occasion is not 100 per cent.

The purpose of our amendment was to debate chairs and chairmen. It was to raise the issue of the payment of expenses and allowances, not only to the chair and vice-chair but to all members. I should be grateful if the Minister would write to me on that subject.

It may be said, for example, that assembly members will be covered through whatever remuneration they are to receive as assembly members. But it would be useful to know what is envisaged to be the position of borough members.

Currently, the LFCDA has its own payments scheme. The costs are borne solely by the LFCDA. It is important for borough councils, and possibly for future representatives to know, first, whether expenses are to be paid—and I expect that to be the case—and, if so, by whom. Will the new authority have its own scheme, or are the boroughs from which the members come expected to bear the costs? That would be very unfair, given that there will be no more than eight boroughs involved. I should be grateful for a reply in writing from the Minister. On that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 357E not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358: Page 303, line 21, at end insert ("; or (d) is otherwise disqualified for any reason mentioned in section 20(1)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to paragraph 4 of Schedule 23 dealing with the disqualification of individuals from the right to sit on the fire and emergency planning authority. The purpose of the amendment is also to refer the reasons for disqualification back to Clause 21, dealing with reasons for disqualification from membership of the Greater London Authority.

The amendment may seem superfluous at this stage, and the Minister may tell me that it is unnecessary. But the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority will not consist exclusively of members of the Greater London Authority. I must confess that I am not absolutely sure whether this particular qualification, which is an important one, applies generally outwith the Greater London Authority. This is effectively a probing amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The proposed amendment seeks to add to the criteria under which a person may be disqualified from being a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The added criteria appear in Clause 20 of the Bill, which covers disqualification from being the mayor or a member of the assembly. However, the amendment is not considered necessary. Under the proposed arrangements for the LFEPA, all fire authority members must be serving representatives of either the assembly or of a London borough council. The individuals concerned could not be assembly representatives unless they satisfied the criteria set out in Clause 20 of the Bill.

As regards the borough representatives, they must satisfy the equivalent criteria set out in Section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, a provision on which the wording of Clause 20 of the Bill is largely based. In the circumstances, I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for that very clear answer. She has given me the reassurance I was seeking. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 24 [Amendments relating to the Fire etc Authority]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 358YA: Page 314, line 13, at end insert—

("The Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Duty to consider crime and disorder implications

. In section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (duty of certain authorities in exercising their functions) in subsection (2) (which specifies the authorities) after "a joint authority," there shall be inserted "the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority,".").

The noble Lord said: Schedule 24 makes miscellaneous amendments to legislation which affects the LFCDA's functions in order to apply them to the LFEPA. It has been the Government's general policy to apply to the reconstituted fire authority all the legislation which applies to the present fire authority.

The amendment will provide that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 should apply to the new LFEPA. Section 17 applies to "joint authorities" under the Local Government Act 1985, a term which includes the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. This amendment should therefore not be controversial; it seeks merely to maintain the status quo. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 24, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358YAA: After Schedule 24, insert the following new schedule—



1.—t 1) The Environment Strategy Group for London shall consist of such number of members as the Mayor may from time to time determine.

(2) The members shall be appointed by the Mayor.

(3) The members shall be individuals—

  1. (a) who are representatives of such bodies concerned with relevant matters as the Mayor considers appropriate; or
  2. (b) who have knowledge, experience or expertise which is relevant to the functions of the Environment Strategy Group for London.

(4) Before appointing any member, the Mayor shall consult such bodies or persons as he considers appropriate.

(5) Before making an appointment by virtue of sub-paragraph (3)(a) above, the Mayor shall consult the authoritative body concerned.

(6) In sub-paragraph (3)(a) above "relevant matters" means any of the matters in relation to which the Environment Strategy may contain policy.

(7) In paragraph (6) above "Environment Strategy" means all strategies on which the Environment Strategy Group is to be consulted.

Tenure of office

2.—(1) The members of the Environment Strategy Group for London shall hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of their appointment.

(2) The terms of appointment of a member shall be such as the Mayor may determine.

(3) But a member may at any time resign his membership by giving notice to the Mayor.

(4) A person who ceases to be a member shall be eligible for re-appointment.

Members' expenses

3. The Mayor may pay members of the Environment Strategy Group for London allowances in respect of travel or other expenses properly incurred by them.

Staff facilities and money

4. The Mayor may provide the Environment Strategy Group for London with—

  1. (a) staff,
  2. (b) accommodation, equipment or other facilities, or
  3. (c) sums of money towards defraying expenses properly incurred by them in carrying out their functions.


5.—(1) The quorum of the Environment Strategy Group for London and the arrangements relating to their meetings shall be such as they may determine.

(2) The validity of proceedings of the Environment Strategy Group for London is not affected by any vacancy among the members or any defect in the appointment of any member.").

The noble Lord said: I confess that I had to make a considerable leap intellectually and in the Bill before I could make sense of the placing of this amendment. Amendment No. 358YAA introduces a new schedule after Schedule 24. Therefore, after I had thought about it for some time, I came to understand the logic of the Committee Clerks in introducing into the midst of consideration of fire service matters a group of amendments which deal entirely with environmental matters. It is passing peculiar, but as I understand it, that is the reason. If other Members of the Committee have had the same difficulty in understanding the placing, that is the only explanation I can find. As the amendment is in that position, we must deal with it.

I shall not go into the details; it would be easy enough to spell them out but it is unnecessary because every Member of the Committee present is familiar with them. The latter parts of the Bill cover a whole host of environmental matters. We do not believe that the mayor will have the necessary expertise to be able to deal with matters in a sufficiently expert way. He should have expert backing. The purpose of our new schedule is to make that expertise available to him.

It can be argued, I suppose, that the mayor may well create this pool of expertise, or that it may be available from within some of the existing staff of the Government Office for London and so on, which may help him to run London in the initial stages.

We have also heard that there will be a certain lack of transparency over the advice that the mayor might obtain from those whom he employs directly. It is written into the Bill, and the Minister's explanation is that to a certain extent the mayor will act in his capacity as does a Minister. A Minister's advisers apparently cannot be called into question for the advice they might give, although that seems to have become somewhat eroded by the BSE inquiry.

We are concerned about the general problem. In environmental matters it is important that the mayor should have expertise available to him. We propose an environmental strategy group for London, and we have given the mayor the executive authority to choose who should serve on it. I accept that he should have that right. He should pick experts who can give him that advice and they should be a properly recognised body on the face of the Bill. I also accept that they replace an existing committee that is to be disbanded, and I do not apologise for that. I do not believe that the mayor will be able to undertake his tasks in the environmental field properly without an independent team of expert advisers, and this amendment gives effect to that. The other amendments in the group are consequential. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Lord Whitty

This amendment is not only in a strange place but it is also a slightly strange amendment which misunderstands the nature of the environmental responsibilities of the GLA. One specific part of the GLA's general purposes is to promote environmental improvements in London as a whole. In addition, the authority will have specific environmental functions in respect of the preparation of strategies on waste, air quality, noise and bio-diversity. However, that indicates that there is no need to set down in primary legislation the way in which the mayor will obtain advice on, and organise the running of, his or her environmental responsibilities. Those responsibilities will run through the whole range of strategies and functions of the GLA. The mayor will have to put arrangements in place to obtain advice from environmental experts on all dimensions of the policies, strategies and proposals. That will have to be built into the management structure of both the authority and the functional bodies.

To put on to the face of the Bill an environment strategy group as this amendment seeks to do will tend to compartmentalise the treatment of environmental matters within the GLA. It will make them the responsibility of a separate statutorily-based environment strategy group without providing for read-across into all the other policy areas. We believe that the mayor should retain the flexibility to make arrangements to ensure that environmental considerations and advice are taken into account in all the authority's actions. We should not prescribe and limit the mayor's flexibility by primary legislation. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

The Minister assures the Committee that the mayor can make arrangements to be advised. I am very glad to hear it, but I did not really doubt it. However, the amendment puts down a marker about the budgetary consequences and the need for the mayor to be properly funded. Reading this amendment, I wondered whether the advice that the mayor would undoubtedly require would have to be paid for out of the budget for the two political advisers and the 10 other staff, or whether it would be covered in some other way.

I see the attraction of ensuring that the mayor has advice from people who know what they are talking about on environmental matters. That applies also to other areas, but in this case it is particularly important. However, I do not believe that this amendment, or any other, can provide that the people who are appointed are not just individuals who confirm the mayor's own prejudices in the particular area of concern. Although sympathise with the need to ensure that the mayor is careful to obtain high quality advice, I am not convinced that this is the way to do it.

Amendment No. 452ZAA in this group refers to the London Ecology Committee. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, intends this amendment to be dealt with in this group, or whether he intends to leave it and speak to it later.

Lord Dixon-Smith

The short answer to that last question is that I must have slipped, because I had not thought it was my amendment, but perhaps it is.

Baroness Hamwee

The amendment provides for a group to replace the London Ecology Committee. I am not sure whether that means that an ecology group will be put into place within six months or whether it will take the place of the Ecology Committee. I am aware that there is concern among those involved with the London Ecology Unit. The committee is a committee of borough representatives and the unit is the professionals. We on these Benches would be very concerned about the loss of that expertise. Whether this is the way to deal with the matter I am less convinced.

Lord Whitty

I was slightly confused by the reference to the committee. The anxiety that the noble Baroness expressed earlier about its coming out of political advisers is not justified. Clearly, the mayor would have environmental staff, and the entire staff of the London Ecology Unit would transfer to provide that kind of expertise to the mayor.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I believe that this is the moment to mention a matter that arose during the passage of the legislation relating to the rural development agencies, if noble Lords can cast their minds back to that. The rural development agencies were all going to have people who, the Government assured us, knew something about rural affairs. The sole exception was London, where we were told that it was not necessary.

I rather suspect that it is very necessary for London. It may be that London is such a great wen that it is very difficult to identify its hinterland, but every city has a hinterland, every city has problems of communication and representation with that hinterland, and every city should pay attention to what that hinterland wants. At some stage there should be written into the Bill a provision that there should be someone whose job it is to serve on the committee in question, or perhaps one of the other committees appointed under the Bill, someone with real experience and knowledge, and almost a representative capacity for what happens in the countryside outside London.

I ask the Minister to consider this, and I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, if he is bringing the matter back on Report to consider the possibility of producing an amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I apologise to the Committee for my slight delay in rising; I am still scribbling notes to myself.

I should like to deal first with the question of Amendment No. 452ZAA. I apologise to the Committee for a failure of memory. The amendment is worded in the form that it is because Clause 299 abolishes the London Ecology Committee, and we therefore judged it necessary to put this source of advice to the mayor in place.

I regret that because I was trying to deal with two things at once I shall have to study in Hansard what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said. I shall have a word with him, and I hope that he will forgive me.

I shall also have to study the response of the noble Lord the Minister to what we have said. He has given some reassurance, but I would put it no higher than that. I accept that the amendment as drafted might not contain the necessary read-through across the whole of the Bill, but the best one can do in putting down amendments is to go for a principle, and if the principle is accepted as right and worthy I would have hoped that the Government might provide that necessary read-through. The Minister feels that because the read-through already exists in the Bill the amendment is unnecessary. I shall need to study what he said and think more about the issue before I am confident of that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 358YAB not moved.]

Clauses 259 to 262 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358ZA: Insert the following new Clause—


(" . The Mayor and the GLA will, by 2030, reconstitute the pension scheme of the London Fire Brigade moving it from the present unfunded scheme to a fully funded pension scheme.").

The noble Lord said: A little while ago, we had an interesting debate on Amendment No. 354N on the pension problems of the police service. My noble friend Lord Cope tabled an amendment that found an elegant solution by placing the responsibility for the funding of police pensions directly on to the Treasury. Amendment No. 358ZA, which i tabled, goes in completely the opposite direction. That was partly an exercise in testing the intellectual capacity of the Minister, because we wanted to see whether he could argue against both cases consistently, and it was partly because my inclination is to go one way and my noble friend's inclination, with perhaps greater experience and wisdom, is to go the other way because it is simpler.

The problem with police pensions is not as severe as the problem with firemen's pensions. The fire service demands of those who work for it an extraordinarily high degree of physical fitness. It demands that degree of physical fitness right the way through to chief officer rank. Firemen have to be able to go and fight fires. That is what they are for, but fighting fires is a very harsh job and they cannot do it unless they are physically fit and in robust good health.

The consequence is that the wastage to the fire service—and I pay tribute to its work—for fitness reasons is quite high. I would not say that it is unreasonably high, because it would be unreasonable to expect an unfit fireman to go and fight a. fire. However, that imposes costs so high that, on the projections I have seen, it is only a matter of time before the fire service becomes a pensions organisation with the provision of fire fighting services being a corollary to the business of paying pensions. That would be an extraordinary situation for a major aspect of public safety, and it would not be satisfactory.

There are two options, and we heard one explained earlier in relation to the police. In response, the Minister was good enough to say that the Government were setting up a study to consider the problem. I have no doubt that that is what he will tell me in response to this amendment. That might appear to be an answer, but the problem has been around for a long time. We have known about it for a long time and it is not study groups that are required but action.

I accept that the solution of going to a fully funded scheme is a high cost one, but if we do not face that cost now, we shall have to face it later. I suggest that that is the way to go, but it requires a decision. I would rather see a decision and the facing of the consequences of that decision than see another study. Another study would simply put the matter off; and every time it is put off, it becomes more expensive to put right. This is a most serious matter from the point of view of the provision of an important and significant safety service for the community at large. It has its own implications for London. This is an opportunity to start an essential process. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Tope

I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in raising this important issue, although not necessarily in the solution that he suggests, any more than I supported the very different solution suggested in respect of the same problem for the Metropolitan Police. However, the noble Lord is right to say that the unfunded pension scheme, currently with the LFCDA, is a huge and growing burden for many reasons, including those which he gave. Just as with the Metropolitan Police, it is an important issue which sooner rather than later the Government must address. It is on such a scale that only government can address and deal with it. Therefore, I support the raising of the issue, although not necessarily the solution suggested, and I urge upon the Minister, if he needs urging, the need for the Government to address this problem.

I am not as cynical about a study group as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, because I understand that it is a complex issue which needs to be studied. But I certainly support the noble Lord in saying that we need not just a study but a solution to the problem as soon as possible. On that basis, I support the issue if not necessarily the substance of the amendment.

Lord Whitty

I recognise the nature of the concern and the size of the problem, although the history of the structure of the pension scheme is different in the police from in the fire service.

The firefighters' pension scheme is a national scheme which is set out in an order made under the Fire Services Act 1947. But we adopt the same principle; namely, that we should not make changes which affect one fire brigade and not others, any more than we would do so with regard to the police. In any case, the arrangements for the scheme are already under review. The scheme, in common with a number of schemes in the public service, does not have a pension fund. One of the main purposes of the fund—the guaranteeing of employees' pension rights—is in this case guaranteed by statute.

In a technical sense, the scheme is an immature scheme in that the balance between levels of income and expenditure has not yet reached a stable state. That means that there are serious long-term problems. The Government have recognised in recent local government finance settlements the extra pensions costs for fire authorities and have included amounts for pensions in the fire share of the total standard spending.

Other changes being proposed would not provide an easy solution; for example, new entry funding would be likely to make matters worse. The authority would still carry the costs of existing pensions, but because it would have to be funded separately as a pension fund it would lose the contributions from the new entrants which would go straight into the fund.

This review of the provisions of the FPS was published as a consultative document last year. Ministers are still considering the position in the light of responses. The general emphasis of that consultation was more on the management benefits rather than the funding question. However, the Government are now considering the possible study of the costs and benefits of a funded approach for new entrants. But that would provide no easy solution to the costs. At present the cost to fire authorities is covered under the fire settlement. Until we have a more permanent long-term solution that should continue to be the case. The London fire brigade should be treated no differently from those in other parts of the country.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I understand his concern that we cannot treat the employees of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority separately from the fire and emergency planning services across the country because that is the way the system is structured at present.

However, I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. The debate has given us a chance to raise an increasingly significant problem. I am grateful to the Minister for his reassurance that the Government are meeting, and will continue to meet, the pensions costs of the fire service pension scheme. But the matter calls for urgent action. I shall study what the Minister said. I may return with a provision if I can think of an appropriate one. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 263 agreed to.

Clause 264 [The spatial development strategy]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 358A: Page 141, line 6, after ("shall") insert (", after consultation with the Common Council and the London boroughs,").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 358A returns to a familiar theme which, if I am not advancing it, my noble friends on my right are inclined to do. However, we now move from the field of fire into the more fiery area of planning. Planning can cause immense difficulties if there is not a great deal of co-ordination and co-operation. Amendment No. 358A raises the issue of consultation with the Common Council and the London boroughs in arriving at the spatial development strategy. Amendment No. 359, grouped with the amendment, includes the words, "based on the boroughs' views", for the same reason.

Amendment No. 419 picks up a different point. It introduces into Clause 273, which deals with matters to which the mayor must have regard, specific mention of the unitary development plans of the London boroughs. The mayor is obliged to have regard to the existing planning situation in drawing up any plans. We believe that it is a sensible provision. We do not think that it is unreasonable to have it on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

The amendments seek to ensure that the mayor's spatial development strategy is based on the views of boroughs. I have no doubt that any sensible mayor would want to work in co-operation with the boroughs and involve them closely in the preparation of the strategy. Indeed, Clause 265 already provides that the mayor should consult the boroughs when preparing the strategy and take their views into account. In that sense, Amendment No. 358A is redundant.

To provide, as Amendment No. 359 suggests, that the strategy should be based on the views of the boroughs is going too far. Of course, their views will carry great weight, but all of the boroughs will not agree about all aspects and there may be disagreements between the boroughs and the mayor. At times, the mayor will have to take account of strategic considerations that may conflict with his or her view. That is precisely why we need a new strategic body. The mayor is meant to take responsibility for the strategic overview for London in this instance, and Amendment No. 359 is—perhaps unintentionally—a pretty substantial curb on that ability.

Similarly, Amendment No. 419 attempts to ensure that the mayor has regard to unitary development plans when producing or revising the development strategy. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The strategy sets the overall framework for London, and the UDPs, which are far more detailed and specific documents, must be in general conformity with it. That is the proper hierarchy of relationships and that is the logic of the position.

I think that these amendments are misconceived and, if taken literally, would hamstring the mayor in developing the strategy. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, which I shall study with care. At this late hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 359 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 359A: Page 141, line 6, leave out ("to be known as the "spatial development strategy"") and insert ("dealing with the matters provided by subsection (2) (in this section called "the spatial development strategy")").

The noble Baroness said: We discussed earlier during the passage of this Bill its prescription of titles for the plans, strategies, meetings, question times, reports and so on that the mayor is to produce and undertake. Although a title such as the "spatial development strategy" is not quite as exciting as talking about "the people's question time"—it does not raise issues of political correctness, for example—we do not think that it is necessary or desirable to prescribe for the title. It will be perfectly adequate to provide that the mayor shall prepare and publish a document dealing with matters of spatial development, as I suggest in my amendment.

For the sake of convenience and to avoid amending other clauses, I am prepared to concede that, for the purposes of definition in the Bill, it can be called "the spatial development strategy". However, I do not see why the mayor should be "hamstrung"—to use the term that the Minister applied in another context—by Parliament's and the Government's terminology. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

This amendment appears to carry the danger of creating some confusion if it allows the mayor to stray from using the terminology in the Bill and to use another description elsewhere. I have had a hasty look around the Chamber, and I think that no one present will take offence if I explain again what was outlined when we discussed Part II.

Although the term is new in its provenance within the United Kingdom, it accords with the Government's proposals on revising regional planning guidance and with broader concepts of spatial planning that are familiar in the European context. For this reason, we have chosen the term advisedly and are happy with it. It is a good concept for this part of the Bill, and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

11.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

The Minister imay recall that I supported the Government in the concept. I am arguing from their view that the mayor shall not have the autonomy to call her or his own strategy by whatever sensible title the mayor wishes. The mayor might want to call it the London spatial development strategy. The mayor cannot do so; it has to be the spatial development strategy.

That seems to be taking regulation to extremes. That is why I challenge the amendment. I do not challenge the concept for ore moment; indeed, I support it. Reluctantly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 360 to 364 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Dean of Harptree)

If Amendment No. 364A is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 365 to 366A.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 364A: Page 141, line 13, leave out subsection (4) and insert— ("() The spatial development strategy must include statements dealing with the general spatial development aspects of—

  1. (a) such of the other strategies prepared and published, or to be prepared and published, under the enactments mentioned in section 33(1) above as involve considerations of spatial development, and
  2. (b) such of the Mayor's other policies or proposals as involve such considerations, whether or not the strategy, policy or proposal relates to the development or use of land.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment is intended to define more succinctly the relationship between the SDS and other of the mayor's strategies.

Following discussion during the Committee stage in another place, we have taken the opportunity to rationalise the wording of the clause, which caused some difficulties. So this is simply a drafting amendment designed to clarify that the mayor's spatial development strategy must cover spatial aspects of other strategies and policies. Taken together with Clause 33(5), which I cite frequently in these debates, this will help to ensure consistency and integration between the various strategies. It will do so, though, in slightly less absolute terms than the existing wording, which might be construed as requiring the SDS faithfully to reflect an existing mayoral strategy even if it were out of date and needed revising. I believe that the amendment provides greater clarity and a little flexibility. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

My Amendment No. 366ZA is grouped with this. I was concerned about the terminology of a "general setting" for the mayor's policies, which is why I chose the phrase "strategic framework". However, I am happy for that to be superseded.

Perhaps I may confirm that, in losing subsection (4)(a), which provides in relation to spatial development a general setting, framework or whatever one chooses to call it, the Government are relying on subsection (2) to describe the spatial development strategy. Subsection (4) as amended will relate only to its relationship with other strategies and policies and one should not use the spatial development aspect. I believe that Clause 264(2) does the job.

Lord Whitty

I believe that to be correct.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 365 to 366ZA not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 366A: Page 141, line 17, after ("Mayor,") insert— ("(c) in respect of the transport strategy, reflect the future land requirements of passenger and freight transport needs,").

The noble Lord said: As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is not present, and I have amendments in this group, I beg to move Amendment No. 366A and in doing so speak to my Amendments Nos. 372 and 372A. They introduce at this stage into the spatial development strategy the need to include environmental considerations. It is late in the evening and I do not believe that one needs to go into the matter in detail. I suspect that the Minister will say again that, of course, these matters will be taken into consideration. It has been said so many times that we are dealing with possibilities in this Bill. The fact that something will be done does not necessarily mean that it will. It could mean that it will be neglected to be done.

Conservation of those parts of London which have not been developed, improvement in its physical environment and the conservation of the beauty and amenity of London are very important considerations in any spatial development strategy. We wanted to call it a London development strategy. The question is fundamental to the improvement of London's environment. It is because it is so important, and we now have the Rogers report on urban regeneration, that it is appropriate to introduce these considerations in this way. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

I fully accept the importance of the areas specified in these two amendments, but I do not consider it appropriate that we should put them on the face of the Bill. Presumably, they do not purport to be the full list of issues to be addressed by the strategy. I suspect that they are attempting to identify some minimum requirements. In practice they do not go much beyond the general purposes of the authority set out much earlier in Clause 25.

The problem with any such list of desiderata is that it is bound to be selective and incomplete. It is also likely that it will need to be reviewed from time to time, which is why we consider that any specification of minimum coverage would have to be dealt with through secondary legislation or guidance. To put these matters on the face of the Bill would not be appropriate. Therefore, I do not believe that we should adopt these changes albeit that I accept the importance of the two areas which have been identified. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. It is reassuring to hear that these are important considerations and, even if they are not to go on the face of the Bill, that he accepts the principle that lies behind the amendment. I shall explore with care what the Minister said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 367 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 368: Page 141, line 26, at end insert ("provided that it has a significant effect greater than the area of a single London borough").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a matter which is of some importance. At page 141 of the Bill we are dealing with matters which will be included in the spatial development strategy. Clause 264(6) states: In determining for the purposes of this Part whether a matter is of strategic importance to Greater London, it is immaterial whether or not the matter affects the whole area of Greater London". Of course, that is unexceptionable. We have no difficulty with that at all.

At the other end of the scale, if something is not put in, there is no bottom end. We are suggesting in the amendment that there ought to be a bottom end, so to speak, and that for a matter to be included in the strategy in this context, it should be a matter that is of such significance that it will affect an area that is greater than that of a single borough. In other words, it puts the mayor's strategy into the genuinely strategic area and removes it from the possibility of conflict with matters that ought more properly to be dealt with by the unitary development plans which the borough will handle. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

In this group, Amendment No. 368A stands in my name. I tabled the amendment in order to explore, as the noble Lord has suggested, what is strategic, and more particularly how it can be determined. I am not convinced that it is possible to provide for every matter that is strategic, listing all of them in advance.

I am aware that regulations are proposed under Clause 274 and I have seen the consultation paper which has been the subject of discussion among various parties in London. That paper sets out the categories of development on which the proposed mayor of London is to be consulted. It lists four broad groups: large scale development, major infrastructure, development that may affect key strategic policies and development that may affect key strategic sites. To a significant extent, that seems to beg the question of strategic importance which will be a matter for judgment. It will be entirely possible and desirable to set out many of the types of development that would be regarded as strategic. I am not sure that it would be possible to deal with them all. If that is not possible, the question arises as to who is to be the judge. In our view Clause 264(5) rightly says that the, strategy must deal only with matters which are of strategic importance to Greater London". That raises some issues.

Amendment No. 368A proposes an arbiter in the person of whoever conducts the examination in public under Clause 268. I do not believe that that is necessarily a perfect solution because, by definition, an examination in public is not an inquiry which comes to a conclusion in the same way. It examines issues, provides advice and so on. I believe it is worth reflecting on whether there may be areas where there will be dispute about what is strategic that simply do not lend themselves to being dealt with by regulation. If that is so, who should reach a view?

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Amendment No. 368B, included in this group, is intended to raise the issue and to allow me to air the anxieties expressed on behalf of the City of London rather than that the amendment should inevitably form part of the Bill.

The Government have in mind that, in due course, there will be an order which will set out the categories of planning application which will be regarded as strategic and on which, therefore, the mayor not only has to be consulted, but on which he may, in the end, have a veto.

We said in earlier debates on Monday that planning was one of the major sources of friction between the GLC., the boroughs and the City Corporation. Indeed, in one sense, we returned to that today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, indicated, there is already quite a long history about this matter. It was necessary for the Government to clarify what kinds of development would be regarded as "strategic". They have clearly learnt the lesson here of the conflict between the boroughs and the GLC and they are trying to ensure that the mayor and the authority will only have a role in planning applications that are genuinely strategic. For everything else, the boroughs and the City Corporation will remain the planning authorities.

In March, the Government answered a Written Question in another place. It is a long answer, so I shall not attempt to try to read or even summarise it, because I want to deal with my own amendment. The essence of it is contained in about seven lines which I shall read out to the Committee: The Mayor must also have a means of representing the broader pan-London view for individual planning applications where issues of genuine strategic importance are concerned. The Mayor will therefore become a slatutory consultee for a limited number of applications of potential strategic importance, to be defined in secondary legislation". Mr Raynsford, the Minister who replied, goes on to say: He or she will also have a fall-back power to direct the refusal of planning permission in these cases where this is considered necessary on strategic grounds".—[Official Report, Commons, 15/3/99; col. WA 472.] The following page sets out a long list, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred, detailing the categories which are likely to be covered in this respect. They were dealt with in greater detail in the consultation paper to which reference has already been made. One of those categories relates to very large new buildings or structures. The proposal was that that would be over 30,000 square metres in the City of London, 20,000 square metres in the rest of central London and 15,000 metres elsewhere. I ask Members of the Committee to note that what is there proposed is the actual size of the buildings. My amendment is directed towards saying that it is not so much the size of the buildings—my amendment is confined to the City of London—as the increase in the size of the buildings.

The general pattern of development and redevelopment within the City is that a large office building becomes outdated, inconvenient and unsuited to modern commerce. It is, therefore, redeveloped. The building may be either substantially reconstructed, or it may be demolished and an entirely new building may be put up in its place. Most of these buildings are already of such a size that they would come within that category of over 30,000 square metres. Indeed, one could quote some examples of buildings which have been constructed recently and which would be caught by this because they are over that limit. However, at this time of night, it will not be necessary to do so.

The effect of the Government's drafting of the Bill by looking at the absolute size rather than the increase in the size is that some 22 per cent of permissions for development and 48 per cent of floor space granted in the City would, on current figures—I am talking about 1997–98 figures—be subject to reference to the mayor. Some 48 per cent of the redevelopments in the City would be regarded as strategic. I submit to the Government that that is absurd. Merely to replace a large building with another one of the same size has no strategic implications at all. It should not lead to any significant increase in employment. It should not lead to any significant increase in traffic. It should not have any impact on any of the general strategic planning in London. However, if it happens to be over 30,000 square metres, off it has to go to the mayor.

However, if there was a substantial increase in the size of a building—my amendment takes the same figure of 30,000 square metres for London—the only developments to be caught would be 3 per cent of permissions rather than 22 per cent. Instead of 48 per cent of floor space the figure would be 7 per cent. It seems inherently probable that it is that small share of the total developments within the City of London that is likely to have strategic implications for the spatial strategy. I therefore believe that the Government must consider adopting a test of the increase in the size of a building rather than the absolute size of a building.

There are few sites within the City of London that are as yet undeveloped. There may be some sites where there will be a change of use. For example, a telephone exchange with few people may be turned into an office block with a large number of people. The amendment does not affect that position. The amendment recognises that if it is a question of a different use class and comes within the limit that is being suggested it may well have strategic applications and should be referred. However, if it is a question of a building in the same use class of the same size as that which is being replaced, I submit that it is absurd to regard that as a strategic matter which has to be referred. In the past year, 48 per cent of the buildings that have been the subject of development in the City would have had to be referred.

There are all kinds of arguments and at this hour of the night I shall not deploy them except to say that the City is proud of its record as a planning authority. It takes great pride in ensuring that the City is capable of meeting the needs of the users who, as I said in an earlier debate, include a great many from overseas running financial services in London. I believe that it would be most unfortunate if such a high proportion of the development were effectively to be taken out of the hands of the City corporation and entrusted to the mayor of London on the grounds that if a figure of over 30,000 square metres is involved the matter must be strategic.

I have made my case and I hope that the Government will be prepared to listen. There is plenty of time. The measure does not have to come into effect until the mayor takes over and an order will have to be made. The consultation has shown that what the Government propose does not make sense. I hope that they will be prepared to reconsider the matter. When we reach that point I shall withdraw my amendment.

Baroness O'Cathain

I support my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding on this matter. The City of London is an important international financial centre and needs to be on an even keel with other financial centres in terms of being able to provide new premises, or to extend premises, or to refurbish premises within the same kind of timescale that applies in cities such as Frankfurt. I am told that the Corporation of London is concerned that if the amendment which refers to the 30,000 square metres is not carried, a serious delay will arise which could militate against the City of London retaining its pre-eminent position as leader in the area of financial services.

Lord Whitty

I understand some of the concerns in the City and other places to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble Baroness have referred. However, we are referring to Clause 264 and it seems to me that we are in danger of confusing what can be regarded as important in terms of the development of the strategy with the thresholds which can be regarded as strategic in terms of planning applications. This clause concerns the development strategy. Most of the issues the noble Lord addressed will not arise until we reach Clause 275 or thereabouts.

The strategy will require the mayor to look at the totality of London and to propose various strategic developments around London, some of which may be of a certain size and some of which may be of a smaller size but have strategic importance. All of the amendments as drafted seek to place some limitation on what the mayor can deem strategically important. One amendment, for example, relates to instances where the mayor cannot propose developments which do not directly affect other boroughs. It may well be that, in the strategic development context, the mayor would wish to establish, or arrange to be established, for example, a major conference centre, sports centre or even a railway station, the effects of which may not be easily assignable to more than one borough but would be quite important from a strategic point of view. It would therefore be unnecessary to try to constrain his ability to include that within the strategy.

Of course, the mayor should not interfere with matters that are best left at borough level. I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that we do not want to reintroduce a two-tier planning structure except for very important planning applications. But here we are talking about a development strategy in a more general sense. Amendment No. 371 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would remove the explicit power to make different provisions for different cases.

Lord Dixon-Smith

If I may interrupt the Minister. Amendment No. 371 is one of my amendments and is not in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

Lord Whitty

I apologise. I am misreading the clauses. In whoever's name it is, the amendment would fetter the mayor's ability to make proper and considered plans for London's future needs. The amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis concerned the River Thames. There was a general consensus that the mayor should be able to replicate what now exists in the strategic planning guidance for the Thames, which is currently the Secretary of State's publication. But the Thames is not homogenous in its character and the implications of development vary from place to place. It is therefore necessary for the spatial development strategy to reflect the power to deal differently with different parts of London. It would not therefore be appropriate to put this constraint on the mayor in that respect.

I have referred to Amendment No. 368B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. It is not appropriate here, but it would impose a restriction on the clause. Its implication is that the mayor could not, in relation to the City of London specifically, designate smaller developments as part of the strategic plan. Again, that is an unnecessary constraint. The argument about the threshold on planning applications probably comes later.


Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps the Minister will give way. I entirely take his point that this matter might have been raised. I do not suggest that in the end this will be an amendment to the Bill. The amendment is a peg on which to hang this request. Perhaps, even at this late hour, the Minister will respond to the request rather than to the idea that this might be an amendment to this clause of the Bill. I accept his point, but the issue is a very real one which I hope he can address.

Lord Whitty

It may well be, and I am aware of that concern. In so far as we are dealing with amendments to particular clauses, it does not seem appropriate that I should go into detail in replying to this point. One has to determine a threshold above which matters automatically come within the planning purview of the mayor. Following the consultation—during the course of which various changes were made—it was felt that these were the appropriate thresholds. I could no doubt go into some lengthy correspondence with the noble Lord on this point. But in so far as we are trying to amend a clause of the Bill, I do not think I wish to detain Members of the Committee further, particularly as the noble Baroness has tabled an entirely different form of amendment which does pertain to the Bill, although I regard it as inappropriate. I understand that we may well return to this matter when we reach the planning process aspects of the Bill, possibly at a more appropriate time of day.

Turning to Amendment No. 368A tabled by the noble Baroness, Clause 264(5) already ensures that the spatial development strategy has to deal only with matters that are strategic. It does, however, imply that the mayor himself must make a judgment as to what is strategic; and while he has some discretion in making that judgment, it is of course the case that his judgment is reviewable in the courts.

The noble Baroness's amendment seeks to transfer the decision on what is strategic in a type of appeals process to the panel holding the examination in public. That is not right in principle, but it would also fundamentally change the role of the EIP panel. Under the Bill, the panel reports to the mayor. It does not take binding decisions just as under planning legislation, generally speaking, inspectors or chairs of the examination in public would report to local authorities which take final decisions on the contents of their development plans. Even if we wished to transform that panel into an appeals and decision-making body over the mayor's own decisions, it would completely change the nature of the relationship and the panel as envisaged here. Given that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

I am sorry that my response has been slightly confused. A number of different points were raised. We shall no doubt return to some of them later. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment—especially as it is row one minute past midnight.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, perhaps I may press the Minister once mere on the particular issue of the criterion as regards the size of the buildings in the City of London. Is he prepared to consider something along the lines that I have suggested? I recognise that this should perhaps have been in a later clause, for which I apologise. However, it is a matter of huge importance to the future of the City. Perhaps even at this late hour, the Minister would be prepared to say that his door is open and he will continue to discuss the matter with the people involved.

Lord Whitty

I am always open to representations from the noble Lord and others. However, the decisions that have been made so far on this and on the consultation which has already been widely pursued throughout London have led the Minister for London to determine that these are the appropriate thresholds. Therefore, while during the progress of the Bill here and elsewhere we are prepared to consider further representations, at this point the Government are determined that the thresholds they set at the end of the consultation are the appropriate thresholds.

That is something short of an absolute "No", but nevertheless it would be misleading for me to say that the Government are still in a consultative mode on it.

Baroness Hamwee

When I was speaking to my Amendment No. 368A I accepted that the role of those undertaking the examination in public was not the same as that of an inspector at an inquiry. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister to confirm that the examiners, those conducting the examination in public, would be entitled, in advising the mayor, to make comments on whether certain parts of the proposed strategy fall short of being strategic.

Lord Whitty

The answer is, yes. I was objecting to the quasi appeals position which I thought the noble Baroness's amendment involved.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I thank the Minister for his reply which indicated sufficient reasons why I should be brief and we should end our debate this evening. The Minister raised points of concern, particularly as to the planning process which will cause me some anxiety, although I shall have the opportunity to raise them again since I have tabled other amendments which will deal with them. For example, a decision to put some major installation in a specific borough would be likely to have strategic implications for the whole of London. It may be a reasonable decision to take, but it could cause acute difficulty in the borough. The borough's unitary development plan may have been through the approval process. Nevertheless, it has to conform to the mayor's special development strategy and therefore it would require amendment after it had been examined in public. That would create a procedural hiatus. However, we can return to the matter.

The debate has gone on for a considerable time, but we have shown that a number of important issues lie behind the debate, even if it was not wholly appropriately placed in the Bill. Those issues are matters to which we will undoubtedly have to return at a later stage. For tonight, that is sufficient. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 368A, 368B and 369 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10 minutes past midnight.