HL Deb 14 June 1999 vol 602 cc14-38

3.20 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [The Authority]:

Baroness Hamweemoved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 12, leave out ("or imposed")

The noble Baroness said I should perhaps apologise to the Committee for the fact that such a substantial Bill has attracted as its first amendment something that is not a bang and is barely even a whimper. The bangs, I am sure, will come later.

Amendment No.1 seeks to leave out of Clause 1(3) the term "imposed"—it is a term used in a number of places in the Bill—and to leave Clause 1(3) providing that, The Authority shall have the functions which are transferred to, or conferred",

on it, but not those which are "imposed" on it. The amendment seeks to do no more than understand whether the term "imposed" imports some other meaning than transferred or conferred. I suspect that it may be to do with responsibilities as distinct from powers, but the implication of the term "imposed" suggests that functions may be laid upon the authority against its will. I simply seek to understand what the Government mean by the term. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

The noble Baroness stole my line about "bangs" and "whimpers" which we shall no doubt experience as the Bill progresses. There is nothing sinister about the wording. The term "imposed" is quite frequently used in legislation. It reflects the fact that the word "functions" includes powers and duties. It is common as a matter of drafting to refer to "conferring" powers and "imposing" duties. For example, the same wording was used without any great controversy in the Government of Wales Act in respect of the functions of the National Assembly for Wales. In short, it means that the Assembly will have the functions that Parliament decides from time to time that it should have.

I understand the noble Baroness's anxiety that governments should consult. No doubt this consultative and inclusive government will always consult on such matters. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, for this and for future governments, it is a matter for Parliament what duties shall be undertaken by local authorities, including the Greater London Authority. How those duties are imposed will therefore reflect the intentions of the government and Parliament at the time, but no doubt from time to time Parliament will impose duties as well as confer powers.

I hope the noble Baroness will not seek to press the matter further. There is adequate precedent for using the word "impose". I hope that she accepts that.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I feel I must comment on the word "imposed". Legislation constantly imposes duties upon local authorities and now on regional authorities but never gives or guarantees the necessary funding to match the impositions. I feel that that point should be made.

Earl Russell

I understand the point the Minister makes. However, can the Government see their way to making it in less imposing language?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I did not speak on Second Reading but I am interested in this Bill and hope to join in debates from time to time. I felt that the Minister replied in a very casual way. What would happen if the authority refused to have the power imposed?

Lord Whitty

I am not sure I can better the comment of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Obviously my original intervention was not sufficiently imposing for the noble Baroness. I hope it was not casual. It is a matter of convention that the term "imposed" is used in relation to local authorities.

I accept in part the more general point that when we impose we should seek to ensure that we provide the resources to ensure that the duty is carried out. That is certainly this Government's intention with regard to the Greater London Authority. However, the word "imposed" is not inappropriate here. We use it in other areas of local government. In this devolution debate it is right that this Parliament should impose functions on local authorities and other assemblies within our devolved constitution.

The sanctions available if an authority refused to carry out the function would depend upon what function we were talking about. There are some sanctions in local authority legislation; there are others where the sanction is left to the electorate. It depends very much on how we draft the legislation. There are different powers within this Bill with regard to different functions. I am trying to resist the implication that the word "imposed" by definition is a draconian measure. It is not. It is one frequently used by the draftsman over the years.

Lord Avebury

I understood the Minister to tell the Committee that in all legislation it is usual to "confer" functions and "impose" duties. In this subsection there is no mention of duties. If we wish to impose something on a local authority, as we may well do, not just in this legislation but also in future legislation, should they not be duties and should not those duties be mentioned in the subsection as well as the functions?

Lord Whitty

This grammatical debate is taking some time. In my initial reply I said that "functions" subsumed both powers and duties, and that indeed is the case. The normal terminology therefore is to "confer" powers and to "impose" duties. In individual areas of this and other Bills, that is the terminology used.

Baroness Hamwee

My noble friend made the point I had in mind; that is, whether "functions" really does subsume powers and duties or responsibilities. When the Minister said he hoped I would not take the matter further, my noble friends, in a chorus, said, "Why not?". That was perhaps being a little mischievous. This may be an occasion—not to set a precedent for the rest of the Bill—when I can say that, although I shall read the Minister's answer, I do not believe I shall want to bring the matter back later. I thank him for his explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smithmoved Amendment No. 2.

Page 1, line 12, at end insert— ("(4) In this Act, the Greater London Authority shall be referred to as "the Authority.")

The noble Lord said: Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, we are beginning this massive task with quite a small matter, but it is nonetheless important.

I must confess that on reading through the Bill, which consists of 328 pages, 330 clauses and 27 schedules, I found it occasionally difficult to remember what I had read before and the relationship between the individual parts. That may be inevitable, but the need for the amendment arose when I read Schedules 18 and 19, which relate exclusively to Clause 112.

Schedule 18 commences with the word "Interpretation" and gives various meanings in a list that fills nearly a page: it goes from a borough scheme to a charging area, to traffic signs and trunk roads. There is no mention of the authority.

On previous occasions when I have looked at legal documents I have always referred to the list of definitions. and everything that is required to be defined has been contained in that section. Therefore, I was surprised, having read the list in Schedule 18, to come across the words "the Authority". I had just read a page of definitions, but "the Authority" was not defined. The same situation applies in regard to Schedule 19.

The Bill is full of references to different authorities: all of the London boroughs are authorities; the Common Council of the City, the Police Authority, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority; and even Transport for London can be called an authority. I could not recall anywhere in the Bill where "the Authority" was defined as meaning the Greater London Authority.

My initial reaction was to put down one amendment to Schedule 18 and a separate one for Schedule 19; but I have to confess to the Committee that I could not remember with sufficient accuracy 'whether wherever the words "the Authority" were used in the Bill they were used exclusively and precisely to mean the Greater London Authority, and that they could not mean anything else wherever they had been used.

I invite the Minister to consider the matter and ask him to give me an assurance that wherever the words "the Authority" have been used, they mean the Greater London Authority and nothing else. That would make me a very happy man. If he is unable to give that assurance, perhaps he can accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

I understand why the noble Lord has raised this point because it is often difficult to see whether definitions relate to part or all of the Bill, and it is a bit like a treasure hunt. I am not sure that it is for me to make the noble Lord very happy, but is he not satisfied with the definition contained in Clause 329 which applies to the whole of the Bill?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am grateful to the noble Lord and even more grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I trust that the Committee will accept that the amendment is unnecessary in so far as noble Lords will be pleased to note, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that Clause 329 of the Bill is an interpretation clause which sets out the meaning of various terms. In common with normal legislative practice, there is a consolidated interpretation clause in which definitions are brought together. Clause 329(1) states: In this Act…'the Authority' means the Greater London Authority". I hope that reference meets the concerns spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am delighted to receive that assurance. The amendment arose out of what I regard as a logical necessity to put definitions at the beginning rather than the end so that one knows what ground one is standing on before one starts. That is why it slipped my memory. I apologise to the Committee and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Membership of the Authority and the Assembly]:

Baroness Miller of Hendonmoved Amendment No.3.

Page 1, line 15, after ("London;") insert— ("() the Deputy Mayor;")

The noble Baroness said: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 3, 9, 10, 15, 17, 60, 61, 153, 64, 65 and 68 together. It is not such a formidable list because all of the amendments revolve around one key point; that the deputy mayor should be elected and not merely nominated by the mayor and plucked out of the ranks of the assemblymen. Other amendments are consequential on this amendment. Other amendments rectify the omission to refer to the deputy mayor in places where it would have been appropriate, unless it was the Government's intention that the duties of the deputy mayor were intended to be largely ornamental. I hasten to say that I do not believe that that is the case.

I shall deal first with the principal amendments in this group, which are Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 15. If the deputy mayor is not just to be an ornament, standing in at an engagement when the mayor is double-booked, we propose that the deputy mayor should be directly elected by the citizens—or should I say the people of London—in the same way and at the same time as they elect the mayor.

All the arguments that the Labour Party used for the election of the mayor I believe apply equally to his or her deputy. Electing the deputy will give hint not only status but a greater degree of authority than he can expect if he is merely selected from among the assemblymen. Furthermore, if he were to be selected from among the assemblymen there would be a grave danger of a conflict of interest should the mayor and assembly disagree, as they are bound to do at some point, even assuming that the mayor is of the same party as the majority in the assembly.

Since the mayor and the deputy will not be running on a single ticket, theoretically—although it is unlikely—the mayor and his deputy might not be of the same party, and this of course would make for exciting times in the authority.

For the first time in a statute there is a separation of powers between the executive, in the form of the mayor, and the legislature in the form of the assembly. The mayor is elected on his own manifesto and carries out his own policies. The assembly is there to scrutinise how he does this, and only to a limited extent to exercise a check in circumstances where it disagrees. That check and balance disappears when one of the legislature of 4 per cent—to be facetious—has a dual role as a member of the legislature and as a member of the executive—poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously. I do not understand why the Government are opting for the choice of a nominated deputy mayor. Perhaps they are drawing on an analogy with the Cabinet, which has a Deputy Prime Minister who has absolutely no constitutional status or duties save for those that the Prime Minister may temporarily and revocably hand to him. The members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, draw their authority from their manifesto and majority in the House of Commons. The authority of the mayor comes directly from having been elected as an individual. The Government's whole raison d'être for having a directly elected mayor is to secure his total independence. Yet here they are tying him into the assembly.

Clause 41(2) states: The Deputy Mayor shall have such functions as may be conferred or imposed upon him by or under this Act or any other enactment, whenever passed or made".

What are those functions? One such function is that the deputy mayor will be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He can have some of the mayor's functions which are delegated to him to if the mayor chooses. Those are defined in Clause 31. While he is performing those duties, how will he simultaneously find the time to perform his duties as an assembly man? Most important, he temporarily acts in place of the mayor if a vacancy occurs, but with extremely circumscribed powers. Those powers are so circumscribed that there may be a virtual hiatus in many of the functions of the mayor's duties until a replacement is elected. There is no provision in the Bill as to what is to happen if the mayor is incapacitated for a while.

If the deputy mayor is to perform some of the mayor's functions either because the mayor delegates them to him or because the mayor becomes incapacitated in some way, or perhaps because the Secretary of State gives them to him under some residual power or other, then the voters are entitled—I stress "entitled"—to know in advance who that deputy will be. Indeed, they should choose him for themselves.

With a properly elected deputy who has the authority which I have already mentioned of being elected by the voters, it would be natural for him to take over the office on a permanent basis in the event of a vacancy or during the mayor's long-term incapacity. In a way, that is just like the vice-president of the United States of America. It would also avoid the rigmarole and expense of a by-election if a vacancy occurred in the office of the mayor.

I acknowledge that if the main amendment is accepted, many amendments will be needed to other parts of the Bill. However, if that must be done to get right the status and functions of the deputy mayor, the extra effort will be a price worth paying. I certainly pledge my co-operation in working out what needs to be done.

I referred to the possible need for amendments to other parts of the Bill if the main amendment is accepted. I do not believe that the Government would complain about that, for the Bill has already grown from 267 clauses and 21 schedules when it was first introduced in the other place to the 330 clauses and 27 schedules which the Committee is now being asked to consider. Legislate in haste and amend at leisure.

That brings me to what I described as consequential amendments, although some stand on their own irrespective of whether the Committee accepts the principle of an elected deputy mayor. Amendment No. 38 makes it clear that the authority consists of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the assembly. Omitting a reference to the deputy mayor from the list is demeaning to the office of deputy mayor, even though the Government's plans were that he should merely be a nominee of the mayor, with very limited powers and duties. Perhaps that omission underlines the absence of status and, perhaps I may say, dignity to which I referred in my earlier remarks.

Whether or not he is directly elected, there is no justification for making him a virtual non-person in the definition of the authority. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment as being right and proper. Amendment No. 17 relating to the term of office of the deputy mayor and Amendments Nos. 60, 61, 63, 64 and 65 relating to the disqualification of persons from being deputy mayor are dependent on it being agreed by the Committee that he should be directly elected. Amendments Nos. 66 and 68 are also entirely dependent on an agreement to elect the deputy.

I hope that the Government will accept that the direct election of a deputy mayor is far more democratic than the mayor selecting his own deputy without the assembly or the electors being able to gainsay it. Perhaps that last thought will make the Government pause and reflect on the matter and accept this and the consequential amendments to which I have just spoken. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

I am not sure whether in this group of amendments the noble Baroness proposes that the deputy mayor should be elected on a joint ticket with the mayor or whether a separate vote is involved. If it were to be on a joint ticket, then the electors would not be presented with any additional choice. If anything, the matter would become rather more confusing and difficult for the electors.

The manifesto on which the mayor will be elected will be very much the mayor's manifesto. I believe that that is right, given that the model which is proposed in this Bill is that it is for the mayor to create and revise strategies and to put forward policies. The proposal that the deputy should be directly and separately elected may be rather confusing. The noble Baroness compared the situation with the US presidency, but the situation in the United States is different in that there the deputy would take over and literally has the possibility of having his finger on the button for the rest of the four-year term. These proposals would involve a by-election. Therefore, we are not comparing like with like.

To my mind, the most important point is the possibility of the choice of a deputy mayor from out of the assembly, which allows for a pluralist approach and a reflection of the diversity of the assembly which is likely to be created, given the form of elections that we shall have. It may well be that there will be no political majority in the assembly and even if there is, the culture of the authority—comprising the mayor on the one hand and. the assembly members on the other—will be co-operative, consultative, cross-party and extremely constructive. To allow for the appointment of the deputy from among the men and women who make up the assembly may be one factor which helps to encourage that.

Lord Whitty

This is a rather novel proposal by the noble Baroness. She may be at a slight disadvantage because it may be slightly more logical for the amendment to be taken with other amendments to be taken later which deal with the assembly being only effectively a delegate body from the London boroughs. The noble Baroness will not be surprised that we intend to resist that amendment. But were the totality of the Conservative vision for the structure of the authority to be adopted, there may have been some scope for discussing whether the deputy mayor should be designated as a member of the assembly.

However, with an elected assembly and a directly elected mayor, I do not believe there is much of an argument, whether on a joint ticket or a parallel election, for a directly elected mayor. I am not aware of a similar situation being pursued elsewhere in local and city government. The noble Baroness tried to give two analogies to the Committee. The first in relation to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister is not entirely correct. The Deputy Prime Minister currently has a wide range of powers, as the Committee will know because I represent him in this Chamber. However, this is an entirely different situation, with a directly elected mayor and an assembly whose main role is one of scrutiny.

Nor is the analogy with the United States entirely appropriate. Indeed, from the early history of the United States, it seems that the case for a directly elected mayor is fraught with difficulties. The Committee may recall that in the early years the vice-president was not elected on a joint ticket but separately, or in effect as the runner-up. One of the early vice-presidents became fed up with the president. He ran off and tried to declare Louisiana independent. Gore Vidal wrote an interesting although probably not entirely accurate book on the man. Subsequently, John C. Calhoun almost went on, as Vice-President, to declare South Carolina independent—after he had fallen out with his President. Vice-Presidents running on a separate ticket are not a particularly good analogy—unless the noble Baroness wants Hendon or wherever declaring UDI within the Greater London Authority.

If the mayor were to run on a separate ticket, the deputy mayor would clearly have a separate but equal mandate. If they were running on the same ticket, what would be the difference between the mayor designating his or her own deputy and the mayor having a running mate? It certainly would not increase the range of choice, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said. It is possible that, if there were parallel elections, the deputy mayor would receive a larger number of votes than the mayor—which would create an interesting problem. Because of the allocation of functions, it is clear that the mayor's view would prevail. Were there to be an equal or arguably higher legitimate vote for the deputy, how would that appear?

If the two were elected on a joint ticket and subsequently fell out over policy, how would that problem be resolved? The whole administration could soldier on but there would be a degree of political stalemate and the authority's energy would be diverted to in-fighting and stand-offs because the mayor would be unable to sack or replace his or her deputy with someone who shared his or her views or whose support the mayor needed in the assembly. That seems a recipe for chaos.

As to whether or not the deputy mayor appointed by the mayor should be a member of the assembly, the whole rationale is that there is some division of powers between the assembly and the mayor. The deputy mayor will, in a sense, be a bridge between the two parts of the authority—so that they have a shared sense of purpose and work together for the people of London as a whole. That is a reflection of consensual politics among the institutions in the authority. We propose one or two specific roles for the deputy mayor, including that he or she must sit on the new police authority. That would provide a vital link between the assembly, mayor and new democratic policing structure that we are putting in place. That link would be undermined by the amendments.

The Opposition argue that if the deputy mayor were an assembly member, the role of the assembly would be blurred. That is not the case. The assembly would have clearly defined powers to call to account the mayor, deputy mayor and other members of the Administration. The mayor would have to answer to the assembly and justify actions and reasons. Other than the deputy mayor, no assembly member would have executive functions. The rest of the assembly's scrutiny role, therefore, would not be compromised. The assembly will be seen to be at the heart of the mayor's accountability. The deputy mayor will perform functions that would help the mayor link to the assembly's priorities and procedures.

Were the mayor to be separately elected there would be considerable constraints on the mayor's ability to act throughout his or her term of office. Were a deputy mayor to be designated by the people, the mayor would not be free to structure his administration as he saw fit—which may change during the course of the period of office. The mayor could not, therefore, appoint a new deputy in mid-term whatever the circumstances. The amendment would rule out that possibility, which would seriously constrain the mayor's freedom of action.

The noble Baroness will see that there are many difficulties in the concept of a parallel and directly elected deputy mayor. She herself indicated that there would have to be a large number of consequential amendments, although I congratulate her on spotting the number that she did in this group. Given the structure that we are proposing, which the House and the London electorate have endorsed, a directly elected deputy mayor would not be sensible. I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Young

Before my noble friend decides, I want to take up some of the arguments used by the Minister. I was surprised when he said that there is no such arrangement in local government. There is no such arrangement as a directly elected mayor in local government anyway, so we are talking about something quite different. As we are entering into an arrangement that is uniquely introduced into British local government for the first time, it is right and proper that my noble friend should raise the points she has.

In my days in local government, the deputy lord mayor played an important role. Reading the Bill, it seems extraordinary that the office of deputy mayor of London is not stated and made. That office must be a significant part of the governance of London. The Minister said the intention was that the deputy mayor would sit on the new police authority and be the link person. That clearly indicates the importance that the Government attach to the office.

The Minister made much of the argument that the amendment might present the opportunity for conflict. From my reading of the Bill and understanding of the assembly's structure, I would have thought it was a recipe for conflict. All the way through, there are to be two lots of directly elected people in London. There are bound to be endless conflicts between the boroughs and the mayor's department—all directly elected and all arguing for different things. If the Minister is in doubt, any of us with experience in local government outside London knows perfectly well that there are conflicts at this very moment between districts and counties. That will be repeated in London.

The question for the Committee is what is likely to make for the most effective form of government in London, on the assumption—it is certainly mine—that we want this set-up to work and be in the interests of Londoners and good government in London. I do not think that has been thought through by the Government. My noble friend has a real point about the importance of the deputy mayor. I fail to see any reason why he or she should not be directly elected.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I apologise to the Committee and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that I did not make it clear that the proposal was for an election on a joint ticket—not a separate election.

The Minister commented on my remark that extra drafting would be necessary. I was trying to make the point that since the Bill left the other place there has already been an enormous amount of redrafting, with 67 new clauses. The Minister said there was more redrafting to come. That is symptomatic of recent Bills. For example, one hardly recognised the Employment Relations Bill when it reached here from the other place. Redrafting is no reason for not being concerned.

The Minister did not answer my point that this is very much a new way of doing things. This is the first statute to attempt to divorce the executive from the legislature. That has to be done carefully and without muddying the waters. Clause 41 definitely muddies the waters. On the one hand, there is an assembly whose duty it is to scrutinise the work of the mayor. Then all of a sudden, the deputy mayor appears to be selected from the assembly. That weakens the whole idea of a separation of powers and must be looked at again.

The other point that I should like to raise with the Minister, because he did not seem to answer it, is one made by my noble friend Lady Young relating to Amendment No. 3. The amendment refers to Clause 2(1) of the Bill, which says: The Authority shall consist of— the Mayor of London; and an Assembly for London, to be known as the London Assembly'. The point I was making was that the wording should read: The Authority shall be the Mayor of London, the Deputy Mayor of London and the Assembly". Whether or not it is decided that the deputy mayor should simply be someone chosen from the assembly, the point is that if the deputy mayor is going to have these roles and functions to stand in for the mayor in certain designated areas under the subsection that I mentioned earlier, he will be an important part of the authority and should be so named. I shall be most grateful if the Minister can comment on that amendment.

4 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before the Minister responds, perhaps he could answer some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lady Young. I believe that he was about to do so before my noble friend rose to speak. I shall be most interested to hear his answers. I should like to say to my noble friend Lady Miller that I do think it makes all the difference in the world that she meant that the mayor and deputy mayor should be on a joint ticket. I was picturing the kind of disagreements that might arise if they were elected separately. I did not rise to support my noble friend because I could not see that working.

However, if it is a joint ticket, that would be a very different thing. No doubt it would be seen by some as a dream ticket, but these two would doubtless work together in tandem satisfactorily because they would have been elected to do so. It is a much more serious amendment if it is a matter of a joint ticket. Therefore, I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in reply, especially to the points raised by my noble friend Lady Young.

Lord Whitty

I was going to intervene on the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in two senses. First, I believe that she misunderstood my reference to equivalence. I was talking internationally in terms of local government or of city governments. To my knowledge, there is no equivalent where you have a separately elected deputy mayor. But I also think that the case is probably true on a joint ticket if there is a mayor and he then appoints the members of his administration. That is how we envisage it.

Secondly, I did not quite follow the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she said that there is already conflict of authority, if not legitimacy, here between two lots of directly elected people when you interpose a third directly elected person with slightly different functions. The point of the deputy mayor from our point of view is threefold. First, he will be deputy in the strict sense of the word. Once appointed, he can take up duties which the mayor requests him to do. Secondly, there are some specific roles, in particular in relation to the Metropolitan Police, where I believe it would probably not he appropriate for the mayor to be on the authority. But it would make sense for a clear link between the mayor, the assembly and the police authority. The general roles of deputy mayor are outlined to a large extent in Clause 41 of the Bill.

Thirdly, our intention is that the deputy mayor should act as a link between the two directly elected bodies, one of which is there primarily for scrutiny while the other is there primarily as the executive. There is an area of conflict clearly envisaged in that demarcation/separation of powers. Giving the deputy mayor some specific recognition will not make him the equivalent of the mayor, with the equivalent legitimacy of the mayor, as perhaps would apply if one included him in every phrase where, if one referred to the mayor, you put instead "the mayor and the deputy mayor". I believe that that is the logic of the noble Baroness's position.

However, it does give a separate position which, on the authority of the mayor and on the authority of the legislation, can provide a bridge between the two parts of this authority. That is unique. I argued against the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, saying that her position was unique, but this is pretty well a unique link that we are establishing here. It is an innovative position to provide separately for an executive power in local government and for the scrutiny power in local government. Therefore, it is important that we also provide mechanisms which give a link between the two. In our view, the deputy mayor is one of the ways in which that function can be carried out. I believe that that would apply whether we were on a joint ticket or whether there were separate elections. Clearly it would apply even more strongly if there were a separate election, but it would also apply were the deputy mayor effectively to achieve the same degree of legitimacy by being on a joint ticket.

Baroness Young

Perhaps I may pursue that point with the Minister. I listened with great interest to what he said. He has revealed a great deal more about what the Government intend should be the role of the deputy mayor. The deputy mayor is obviously an extremely important person. Not only is he the link with the police authority but, if I understood the Minister correctly, he will also be the link person between the executive and the—I am not quite sure how to describe this—assembly of the new authority. Indeed, I should have thought that the parallel with an American vice-president would in fact become stronger, although it is not one that I would have drawn at the beginning of the debate.

Far from actually strengthening the Government's case, I believe that the argument that the Minister has made out has strengthened the case of my noble friend Lady Miller. If you are to have someone who will be so powerful in this organisation, surely that person ought to be linked with the mayor on a joint ticket for the election so that everyone knows; otherwise, you will have an election and the most important person after the mayor will be chosen presumably by the mayor—or possibly by a few of his colleagues, but how are we to know because the procedure is not laid down?—for a position which will be extremely important. I should have thought that that undermined the democratic element involved: the right of electors to know who they are getting for this important job. I wonder whether the Minister would like to think about this again.

Lord Whitty

There are two points I should like to make, one of which I suppose is the trump card that I was keeping up my sleeve. First, the deputy mayor as described in this legislation and as envisaged for this authority would be an important figure. He would be able to represent the mayor, but he would be a member of the mayor's administration. He would not be of equal or of virtually equal legitimacy to the mayor in democratic terms. It is true that he would perform a hybrid role as a member of the assembly and as a member of the executive; indeed, he would be the only person who would be able to do so as distinct from the current pattern of local government within this country. Therefore, it is a new structure. However, if you put on that very important person the additional power of direct election equivalent to the mayor, you would actually be building in a recipe for further rather than less conflict.

Secondly—I hope that this will not be regarded as a throw-away point—we did of course pass an Act in this Chamber for a referendum. The people of London did vote on the structure of the GLA and that had two directly elected components, not three. Therefore, were we to raise the spectre of a third directly elected element within this constitution at this stage of the proceedings, I think it would be possible to argue that that would undermine what the voters of London had already indicated they were prepared to accept. Indeed, from the overwhelming endorsement that that referendum had, it was very much welcomed. If nothing else, I hope that that will help convince the noble Baroness not to pursue the matter.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

As the Minister continued with his response, I have to confess that I became even more confused, especially when he threw down his trump card about the deputy mayor being part of the administration. The point I was trying to make was that either we have separation of powers or we do not. It is my view that this muddies the water. However, at this stage I shall take the matter away and read in Hansard with great care what the Minister said. Perhaps he will consider the arguments that we have put forward today so that we can pursue the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 2, leave out subsections (2) to (7) and insert— ("(2) The Assembly shall consist of 33 members comprising—

  1. (a) one nominated representative from each London borough; and
  2. (b) one nominated representative from the Corporation of London.
(3) The Mayor shall he returned in accordance with the provisions made in or by virtue of this Act for the holding of elections and the filling of a vacancy in the office of Mayor.")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 4 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 19, 21 and 38. They all revolve around another point that would certainly alter the constitution of the assembly. It is, I admit, a pretty forlorn hope that having expended so much effort and parliamentary time on the present set-up, the Government will have second thoughts now and allow the sensible and logical set-up that we propose. I understand the difficulties for the Government. However, I hope that by some miracle the light of reason breaks through and the Government accept some of the amendments and some drastic rewriting of other parts of the Bill that would consequently be required.

However, as I have already pointed out, the Bill has been drastically rewritten once since it started life in the other place. Although further changes would involve more investment of parliamentary time I believe that it would be a sound investment compared with the time that would be needed at some future date to resolve the problems that will face our capital city under the present unsatisfactory scheme. I believe that this Chamber is entitled to an explanation from the Minister as to why the Government have chosen this particular mixture of constituencies and PR. The Labour Party promised us when in opposition to bring local government nearer to the people. Its manifesto stated: Local decision making should be more accountable to local people".

Yet the Government have created another complete layer of government. The 14 elected constituency members are to represent 14 new giant super constituencies that have no historical connection other than that parts of them happen to border on others. How is bigger better?

There are then 11 members elected on the notorious party list system. If they have any ambitions to stay as members of the assembly from one election to the next, to maintain their position as high up the list as possible, they will need to put party loyalty before concern for the welfare of London. They will, of course, represent no constituency and no constituents. So how are they closer to the people? If recent newspaper reports are correct, the Prime Minister has turned the whole concept of representative government on its head. He is reported as reminding some of his Members of Parliament that their job is not necessarily to represent the views of their constituents but to see that the constituents have current Labour Party policy explained to them and to ensure that they understand it.

The 14 super constituencies are by no stretch of the imagination coterminous with any of the London boroughs. Suppose there was a conflict over some issue between two neighbouring boroughs. How would the constituency assemblyman represent the different interests of the two boroughs in his constituency? The ideal solution, as we have consistently proposed from the outset of the consultation and the legislation, is one member of the assembly for each borough, including the City of London. nominated by the borough that he or she represents. That gets rid of the paraphernalia of electing the assembly and the complicated machinery of elections and by-elections because it can be assumed that the party with the majority in a local council will choose to have someone from within that party to represent its borough. That is democratic enough. The only problem that could arise would be in a borough with no overall control where a certain amount of hard bargaining might be needed.

The Government's answer to the question of why each assemblyman cannot represent a single, historically identifiable borough is that he would be too parochial. That word was mentioned many times in the other place. So much for subsidiarity. So much for bringing local government closer to the people. The Government say that they want the members of the assembly to think strategically, not parochially. The Minister in the other place said that he did not want members of the assembly to push forward their case at a local level but to think of London as a whole. My honourable friend in the other place described that idea as "complete twaddle". He added: It ignores human nature but even worse it is an attempt to rewrite the democratic process".

He puts my case precisely.

A survey in the Evening Standard early in 1998 showed that 10 out of 19 town halls were opposed to the Government's proposals on constituencies. The Minister's response on Second Reading in the other place was to trot out a letter dated the day before the Second Reading which stated that the view that the assembly should consist of representatives of the boroughs was, not a view shared by a majority of boroughs in the Association of London Government".

I hope that the Minister does not mind my pre-empting part of his response by anticipating that he might quote from the same letter. It will save my having to point out that the view expressed in that letter was not mooted at an actual meeting of the ALG. According to my honourable friend it was mentioned at the leaders' committee several months previously. No vote was taken and there was no debate on it. I shall not take up more of the Committee's time in arguing this matter. I do not believe that I have to make a case for the assembly that I propose. I believe that it is for the Government to justify the peculiar and ramshackle set-up they have constructed. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I advise the Committee that, if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 5 to 16 inclusive.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

That is not the reason why I do not agree with the noble Baroness with regard to this group of amendments. We think it is essential that the new authority takes a strategic approach. I accept that the noble Baroness has included that in her "job description" in this group of amendments. However, I believe that the model which she proposes would make it difficult for the members to approach their job strategically.

I believe that the assembly will be rather on the small side easily to permit a mix of constituency and London-wide views. The noble Baroness talked passionately about the need to support the different parts of London and the different boroughs. I do not argue against that. However, I think it is particularly important that the members achieve the right mix of a pan-London approach in their work with an understanding of the particular parts of London. The Government's model proposes that the constituency members will have that mix: other members will have it simply through their backgrounds. I do not think it is necessary for each member to represent one identified, discrete borough in order to achieve the understanding and feel for different parts of London which I believe will be a part of the job.

The remit of the assembly is to be scrutiny, not policy making. I suspect that to have direct borough representation could well be counter-productive to the fulfilment of that role. On considering this group of amendments I wondered whether borough representation might even stand in the way of a good relationship between the authority and the boroughs. It is important that the authority has regard to the views of the boroughs and that it liaises with them. I believe that it should liaise with them direct, not through the representatives who are members of the assembly. In other words, we should not have the situation where individual members attend a meeting of the assembly and speak for the boroughs as that in itself could be a block to the right relationship between the authority and all the London boroughs.

One reason for the need for that relationship may be because any given borough will wish to put forward not just a single, simple view on each issue. Some boroughs will not be under the control of one political party, but even if that is not the case I hope that there will be the scope for all council members who have sensible things to say in dialogue with the authority to be able to put their views forward. I believe that to have a single representative might represent something of a block to that. I can even envisage a situation where representatives of the boroughs, as assembly members, could get sucked into the decisions of the authority. One can see that happening from time to time. That would make it even more difficult for such members to argue a distinct borough position.

We on these Benches believe that London needs a London government. The success of the GLA will in part be measured by reconciling the interests or different parts of London—the different geographical parts, different social parts, people in different types of employment and so on; the list is quite long. To sum up, the GLA should reconcile and take forward the interests of the various communities of London, of which we are all members. Those communities need to be pulled together at a strategic level and not taken over from the boroughs. I stress that in making these points we are not concerned to block borough interests—quite the opposite—but the GLA should be more than a collection of boroughs; in our view, the whole must be more than the sum of the parts.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I support the amendments moved by my noble friend. On page 9 of the Explanatory Notes to the Bill it states that there will be 14 members directly elected under the first-past-the-post system and an additional 11 under the d'Hondt formula. As I understand it, that system was used for the European elections. In my constituency in Oxfordshire, under that system, the Liberal Democrats closed list was so closed that we were not sent the names of the candidates. I found that fascinating.

Any borough se-up would be better than the way suggested in the Bill. Even in the 14 constituencies which are to have direct elections, the candidates will be selected, presumably, on a party basis. I do not think the party selection process is as good as a system of direct election. Under the compromise put forward by my noble friend in these amendments, whereby each borough would nominate someone for the assembly, at least the people nominated would have been directly elected by constituents in the boroughs concerned. They will have been through a direct electoral process, which is much preferable to the d'Hondt system. Can the Minister assure us that the Government are prepared to look at an alternative way? This half PR system seems to me to be only half good.

Baroness Young

I was interested when the Minister referred to the referendum on London government. Although he did not say that he was going to play it as his trump card, he clearly regarded it as very important. If my memory serves me correctly there was a very low poll then of approximately 35 per cent; hardly an overwhelming majority. The likelihood is that, except for about 25, hardly any of those voting actually understood the intricacies of the proposed voting system.

I am even more surprised that the Minister can defend such a system after our experience of the European elections last Thursday. Even in the polling station the ballot paper was regarded as a joke. I do not consider it funny at all; it is extremely serious that such a totally discredited system should be employed in London. I do not live permanently in London, but I would not wish on London that kind of an election. Whatever else the Government do or do not do, they should reconsider the whole system, which has been thoroughly discredited.

Lord Avebury

The noble Baroness has used the word "discredited" on a couple of occasions. Is that simply because of the low poll? If so, would not she then apply the same etiquette to elections which have been held for local government in the past, where polls as low as 10 per cent have been recorded? Does not that discredit also her system as well?

Baroness Young

I have fought a number of local government elections and the poll—although, admittedly, not as high as I wished—was always between 40 and 50 per cent. A figure of 23 per cent throughout the country is a very low poll. I dislike what happened because of the number of people who said to me, "Who are we voting for?" From much of the literature which dropped through one's door, one did not know for whom one was voting. Therefore, although we have representatives in the European Parliament, there will be absolutely no means of communicating with them. That seems to me a "discreditable" election and I stand by that word. The Government should think again.

A further difficulty is that the new constituencies are not coterminous with the London boroughs. Perhaps I may make a very serious point about local government. In my experience of local government, one of the great difficulties—I do not think it has yet been resolved; it is a matter about which all local governments are concerned—is the lack of coterminous areas for the different functions which affect the population at large. In local government there are police authorities, water authorities and so on, all operating under different areas. It is very difficult for people to understand. The idea that this will somehow be made more transparent simply is not true. It is a recipe for conflict.

If we are to have a system of voting similar to that of last Thursday, there will be an even lower poll than at the European elections. People will have no idea for whom they are voting or what they are supposed to be doing. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is looking for splendid people who are able to take an overall view of the needs of London and at the same time understand the intricate local details of the London boroughs. She is looking for paragons. If she found them, it would be a triumph of hope over experience. We are unlikely to find people able to fulfil both tasks.

A very complicated structure is being created for London which by no means can be described as democratic in the way that we have always understood. It will have a built-in conflict between the boroughs and the assembly and the party list people. For instance, transport is one of the most difficult issues with which to deal, particularly when one is dealing with road schemes, bus lanes and other matters of public transport. There will be two groups interested in that subject—the new authority and the boroughs—and each group will be represented by different people on different boundaries. It is most improbable that that will be more efficient. The Minister should look again at some parts of this package.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The Minister previously indicated that the Government were not too keen on Amendment No. 4 and the notion of nominated members. If he is to tell us that, will he at the same time give his attention to the notion that there should be 33 members of the authority? Even if the Minister insists on direct election to the authority, if there were to be one member from each authority—and here I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—it would be an enormous advantage to the person taking the strategic view to have been elected from the authority which will have to put matters into practice.

When I was a councillor—it was some time ago; I am not pretending I am up to date but I believe matters have not changed—I was a member of the strategic authority. I came from one of the lower authorities. I would talk to the lower authorities; I would consult them; I knew exactly how the strategic decisions would affect them, but that did not mean that I was not detached when I made a decision.

To be elected from two or two-and-a-half authorities, which is what will happen, is a fairly strange idea. There is something to be said for having 33 members of the authority, even if they are elected. I wonder whether the noble Lord will consider that part of the amendment even if he will not accept all of it. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, who has enormous experience of local government—she knows a great deal more about it than I do—will be able to help him on this matter; perhaps not at the moment, but as time goes on. I think it is one that he should consider.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I may express one or two doubts about the amendment to add to those more serious ones raised by my noble friend. If I understand the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, correctly, she is suggesting that the 33 members will be nominated. Yet the processes for the election of London and individual members are not omitted entirely; they are merely modified. So at the end of the day I am not sure whether we are talking about election or nomination.

Perhaps I may respond briefly to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is true that there is a conflict of interest in a county council between one's duty to consider the well-being of the county council and one's desire to represent one's constituents. However, as I understand the Bill, the position will not he the same under the new authority where the assembly members will have a strategic role but will carry out very little day-to-day detailed administration of individual projects.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I wish to ask the Minister some questions. Why was the figure of 25 chosen? Why has that 25 become a division of 14 and 11? I ask the Minister to take seriously the points made by my noble friends Lady Gardner and Lady Young.

I was in Ireland over the weekend. On the lamp-posts, in the streets and in the houses were names and pictures of human beings who wished to represent that country in Europe. I was very struck by that because the European elections have been the first I remember in 30 years where I hardly saw a poster from one end of Britain to the other. Could that possibly be because no one knew who they were voting for? Is it too late for us to acknowledge that the turnout of 23 per cent was not good? Is it too late for him to go back to the Deputy Prime Minister and say that perhaps strategically it is wise to have 25 and perhaps there is a reason for not having 32, but would it not be wise for those 25 all to have to stand in front of the electorate and state that they wish to be elected to the assembly? Is it too late to ask the noble Lord not to stand at the Dispatch Box and say, "Frankly, we have decided. We have not taken any notice of what happened in last Thursday's election. We will go back and we will reconsider. It is possible that we may even have made a mistake"?

Lord Tope

The noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, has once again provoked me to intervene. I was interested in his experiences in Ireland during the recent European elections. I therefore look forward to his support later on today when we move amendments for elections by the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, a system identical to that which he has just been praising in Ireland. We look forward to his support later today.

Most of today's debate has been about the shortcomings, or the perceived shortcomings, of the Government's proposals. I have considerable sympathy with much of what has been said about the present system. We will be raising our concerns and our alternative proposals a little later on. However, what I wish to deal with are the amendments before us, which is what I think we should be debating, and the proposals coming from the Conservative Benches. I suppose that I have an interest to declare because the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and I are the only two Members of your Lordships' House who could benefit if these amendments were passed by being in the fast-track to the Greater London Assembly, because we have been elected as members of London borough councils. For that reason, I believe that these amendments are absolute nonsense.

I was elected to Sutton Council to represent the people of my ward on Sutton Council. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, would say the same of his authority. I have not been elected, yet, to the Greater London assembly. There is an important difference. We have seen something of the effect of indirect nomination in Greater London over the past 13 years. For example, we see it on all the joint bodies that have been trying to run London. For a few years I served, for my sins, on the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority which is, as its name suggests, an authority. It comprises representatives of each London borough and the City of London. It does its best to do a good job. In saying this I do not wish to criticise the authority, but it is not the same as having an authority which is able to take a strategic view of London. Every year the London Fire and Civil Defence. Authority has a battle over its budget, every year there is a battle over which fire stations to close or which pumps to remove, and every year the borough representatives, absolutely correctly, fight for their borough interests. Of course they do. They were elected to their borough councils, and that is what they are there to do.

There is an important difference between the proposed assembly and any authority in that the assembly will not be an operational body. IL will not have powers like that. But if people go there directly from their borough councils—not directly elected by the people, but appointed by their borough councils, as was said when the amendment was moved—appointed by the majority party, in those cases where there is a majority party, they will be there and will be expected to be there fighting for the particular interests of their borough, and even more particularly for the interests of their borough council, which is not necessarily always the same thing.

We strongly believe that the Greater London assembly and the Greater London authority must take a strategic view. We have concerns that the 14 proposed constituencies would inhibit that. I am certain that if we go there simply as representatives nominated by our borough councils, as if we were appointed to any other outside body, as every council does at its annual meeting every year—perhaps this authority is slightly more important than some of the others—it will be very difficult indeed even for the paragons of virtue that will form this assembly to take a strategic view for London overall. While I do not support the Government's proposals, I think that the alternatives suggested in the amendments are the worst possible, and we will oppose them.

Lord Whitty

In replying to the debate, I, like the noble Lord, Lord Tope, would like to address the amendment that is before the Committee. We have so far ranged rather widely in the debate. The proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, are not to be found on the Marshalled List either in relation to this group of amendments or in relation to the next ones. Many of the issues which lie behind their questions are better considered in relation to later groupings.

This group of amendments directly confronts the issue of whether the assembly should be appointed or elected. That is a fairly simple question. The wider implications that have been raised may well arise when we discuss the mechanics of election once we have disposed of these amendments. Of course, if we were to carry the amendments, we would never reach that point. I trust that noble Lords will appreciate that what we are proposing with regard to election is not precisely the same as that used for the European elections. I hope noble Lords will understand that on today of all days I do not wish particularly to dwell on the European elections. They were, however, very similar to those successfully conducted in Scotland and Wales.

So far as this group is concerned, what is proposed is that the London borough authorities should take one of their number from each authority and make them into the assembly. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, the councillors for those boroughs, worthy and effective though they may be, were not elected for that job. They were elected to look after, not the strategic interests of London, but the interests of their electorates in a particular borough.

Moreover, the people of London have clearly pronounced on the principle here. The referendum was pretty clear: are you in favour of the Government's proposal for a Greater London Authority, an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly? I do not think there is any ambiguity there. If your Lordships now wish to overturn the referendum decision and what was in the Act passed by this Parliament, then we are getting into difficult waters. I think it is clear that there is a different role for the assembly. The assembly must concentrate on representing the electorate of London over strategic decisions affecting the whole of London. It is not a delegated body, with representatives delegated to represent the individual boroughs.

We clearly want to differentiate between the parochial—perhaps in the best sense—interests of the boroughs and the strategic planning for transport and other powers that we are investing in the authority. That requires a direct relationship with the people through directly elected assembly members. They do not need to be indirectly nominated by the London boroughs whose members were elected for a different purpose. This principle has already been endorsed by Parliament and the people of London. We should therefore reject these amendments and proceed to perhaps a more interesting although more complex issue—the method of election to the assembly. I hope that the noble Baroness recognises that she is attempting to reverse decisions already taken. That is not profitable in this context and perhaps we should move on.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I am sorry that I did not explain myself properly. I did not mention proportional representation. I was talking about this amendment and asking the noble Lord whether, if he intended to reject the idea of nominated members, as he has done—and I understand why—he would look at the fact that it might be advantageous to have 33 members, one from each area, coterminous with the authority. I clearly put my question in a muddled way, as I often do. However, there may be something in the amendment which the noble Lord can think about with advantage. I think it worth considering that for a whole host of reasons.

Lord Whitty

I hope that the noble Baroness does not think I was being discourteous. The point I was making was that this amendment clearly includes the word "nominated." As to the size of the assembly, there is an amendment down later suggesting 40 rather than 33, and this question will come up more logically with the next group. I thought therefore I would not deploy the argument here. I apologise to the noble Baroness if she thought I was being discourteous in not directly replying to her point.

Baroness Hamwee

I wonder if I could add one word to what my noble friend Lord Tope said about borough representatives rightly fighting the cause of their own borough. I would have an additional concern: the time and the energy that borough representatives could put into their role on a strategic body. I have had experience of this myself. I have seen the enormous difficulties that borough council members have in carrying out a strategic role. When I chaired a London-wide committee for a number of years, I was impressed by the efforts that were made by individual borough members. I was also very conscious of the great difficulties they had in running the two roles at the same time. It was not for want of interest, but they always had to put their boroughs first. If we got to a point in a meeting where an important decision was coming up, if they had to be back in their own borough for a meeting that evening they would have to go back there. It is not only the balance of interest which would weigh with individual members when approaching the job. There is also a particular difficulty in actually running the two roles.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I served on the regional authority, the Greater London Council, and for eight years at the same time on a local authority. I never had any difficulty. So the generalisation made by the noble Baroness cannot be taken to apply to everyone.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Young

I know exactly what my noble friend means. The serious point—and perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will clarify this—is whether she and her colleagues are seriously suggesting that the new Greater London Authority should override the wishes of the boroughs when considering these strategic matters?

Baroness Hamwee

No, I hope I made that clear earlier. I said specifically that our concerns about the amendment were by no means to be taken as being against the boroughs. It is indeed in part because of my concern that borough interests should be properly represented in dialogues with the authority that I have difficulty with this set of amendments. I hope it will become apparent during the Committee stage that we are very concerned to protect the boroughs and would not want to see the new authority trying to make a takeover bid for the functions of the boroughs.

Lord Whitty

I would ask the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Miller, whether, in other parts of the country where there are two-tier authorities, rightly or wrongly, they are prepared to contemplate a county council consisting entirely of delegates from district authorities. I suggest that the answer must be no.

Baroness Young

I am not sure whether or not that is a hypothetical question but in the far-off days when I was in local government I had the great good fortune to serve on an all-purpose authority. It was the most efficient and most effective form of local authority. It is a matter of much regret that it disappeared under the 1972 Local Government Act. I am on record as saying so at the time. I think that some effort has been made to put it back. It is because I have seen the difficulties that I raise these points.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I was rather disappointed to hear the Minister say that he hoped we would move on to more interesting parts of the Bill because on this side of the Chamber we feel that this group of amendments is very interesting and very important. I hope that the noble Lord did not really mean it.

So far as this group of amendments is concerned, I quite understand when he says that we have moved just a little away from the gist of the matter. I thought that Clause 41 muddied the water in a way. I believe that the whole idea of this assembly muddies the water in regard to the ordinary elector of London—the citizen who is living in London—as to who does what and where they do it, and so on.

There are so many tiers for London under this Bill that I think everything could get very difficult. We felt that in order not to bypass the boroughs and not to cause a conflict between the boroughs and the assembly our proposal would be a very good way of dealing with it. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that he did not think it appropriate for the representatives to be nominated but I believe he also said—he will correct me if I am wrong—that he had been nominated by his borough to serve on the Fire and Civil Defence Authority. Certainly the people in his area would not have known that before, and that does not seem to stop anybody acting in a very proper and strategic way. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that she had no difficulty. My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes also had no difficulty, when she served on the Greater London Council, in dealing locally, parochially and strategically. There is no doubt about that.

I noted the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, towards the end of her first intervention that she had no intention of blocking the views of the boroughs. However, in her earlier remarks I understood her to highlight some difficulty in liasing with the boroughs. I shall read her remarks with care.

I shall certainly not press the amendment. I shall read the report of the debate with great care. 'This is an important matter. The other points made by my noble friends—for example, on the number of people voting—have merely been touched upon. It is important for an elector to know who will deal with his or her problem—whether it will be the local council, the assembly, the mayor, the Member of Parliament, the Member of the European Parliament, and so on. The problem is that. the situation in London is becoming so convoluted. That is quite a danger. My amendments offer a way of solving the problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

In order that my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean may repeat a Statement made in another place, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

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