HL Deb 21 June 1999 vol 602 cc700-22

6.7 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 25.

Lord Harris of Haringey moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 14, line 25, at end insert ("; and (d) promoting the elimination of unjustifiable discrimination with regard to gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age and religion in Greater London")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish to speak in support of Amendment No. 74. Perhaps may say at the outset how grateful I am to those among my noble friends who have indicated their support for the proposal contained in the amendment: the noble Lords. Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare and Lord Dholakia and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for adding their names in support.

This galaxy of support is an example of the cross-party consensus-building that I believe must be at the heart of London's new politics once we have the mayor and the new authority in place.

I am also grateful to those external organisations, including the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Stonewall Trust, Operation Black Vote, Rights Now, Greater London Action on Disability and the National Black Alliance who have also indicated their support for the amendment.

The election next year of a mayor and assembly for London provides a unique opportunity to address some of the institutional inequalities identified by the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The GLA is a new type of city government and I want to make sure that from the start Londoners—all Londoners—have confidence in the new authority.

I therefore believe that London's mayor, supported by the assembly, must give a lead in eradicating discrimination from the outset. The work of the authority must be centred on the objective of developing a genuinely inclusive society and of offering opportunities to all the people of London, black and white, women and men, old and young, whatever their religion, whether or not they have disabilities arid whatever their sexual orientation.

The mayor must see it as central to his or her work that we restore pride in our city, bring people together and celebrate the richness and diversity of modern London. To do this effectively we must make sure that no Londoner faces unjustifiable discrimination. as that would undermine confidence in himself or herself and the city. The GLA should be a model not only of modern local government but in outlawing unjustifiable discrimination.

Perhaps I should also point out—I appreciate that this may not particularly excite those noble Lords who are not members of the Labour Party—that the phrase in the amendment, elimination of unjustifiable discrimination", is a direct quote from the manifesto on which the Labour Party fought the last general election. The promise was to, seek to end unjustifiable discrimination wherever it exists". For those noble Lords who want to check it, that can be found on page 35.

Clause 310 of the Bill explicitly brings the GLA, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority within the scope of the local government provisions of the Race Relations Act. I am also aware that in another place my honourable friend Nick Raynsford, Minister for London, said that the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act would apply to the GLA. That is the minimum that should be done. It would be rather surprising if we were asked to create an authority to which this trio of legislation did not apply. Simply to apply the existing legislation is hardly sufficient to ensure that the Minister's aspiration of an authority that will be, exemplary in the pursuit of equal opportunities", is achieved.

In any event, two of these Acts date back more than 20 years and are widely seen as needing reform, or at the very least updating. These Acts are designed to address discrimination after it has happened but do nothing to prevent it happening. Moreover, the Race Relations Act is silent on the question of discrimination on the grounds of religion and no existing legislation tackles unjustifiable discrimination against lesbians and gay men or on the ground of age.

There are recent precedents for addressing these questions in the establishment of new government structures. The Government of Wales Act places a duty on the Welsh Assembly to, make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that its functions are exercised with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people".

That is an extremely helpful requirement, and it is reinforced by a requirement that each year the Assembly must publish a report on what it has done to meet the requirement and assess how effective that has been in promoting equal opportunities. The Northern Ireland Act places a statutory duty on all public authorities in Northern Ireland to, have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity … between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age. marital status or sexual orientation … between men and women generally … between persons with a disability and persons without; and … between persons with dependants and persons without".

What is more, the same Act places a duty on public authorities in Northern Ireland to promote good relations, between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group". If it is good enough for Northern Ireland and Wales it must be good enough for London.

I have heard the argument put that these Acts relate to national assemblies and that here we are talking about a mere local authority. But this is London and it is a unique authority, as we are constantly told. How can we not have a provision such as this in a Bill about London's government? By the year 2001, 36 per cent of Londoners are expected to be from an ethnic minority community. We know that many of those minorities suffer discrimination and, disproportionately, unemployment and they have low incomes and poor health. We also know that London is a melting pot and brings together an extraordinary number of cultural strands. We all want London to work, and it is in everybody's interests that there are good and harmonious community relations and we celebrate that diversity. To do so is good for Londoners and for London's businesses and visitors; and that must be good for the rest of the country.

The Prime Minister has said: There is no harm in reminding ourselves how much negative discrimination there is in British society. [Britain] cannot be a beacon to the world unless the talents of all our people shine through". With this Bill we have the opportunity to make sure that the new mayor meets the needs and aspirations of all Londoners. We also have the opportunity to make sure that the mayor and the assembly give a clear lead in celebrating diversity, tackling unjustifiable discrimination and providing an example—"a beacon" in the words of the Prime Minister—to the rest of public administration in this country. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Dholakia

I have added my name to this amendment. We on this side warmly welcome the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. Not only does this amendment have our support, including that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, but the support of the noble Lord, Lord Archer.

At Second Reading I said that the minority population was fairly unevenly divided, but that is not so for London. Effectively, nearly half the population of London comes from ethnic minority communities. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to the Minister that if we wish to build a strong and effective partnership with the local community we must ensure that ethnic minorities are part of that process. More importantly, there should not be any obstacles put in the way of progress, particularly discrimination on the ground of race.

Therefore, it is important as a first step to ensure that one of the principal purposes of the authority should be to work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, age, sexual orientation and religion. This amendment has the backing of the Commission for Racial Equality, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. That body was set up by government to eliminate racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations. It has a particular interest in ensuring that the arrangements for the governance of London meet the needs and aspirations of all Londoners, including ethnic minority communities. Because it is a body set up by government I hope that the Government will take careful note of the commission's concern in this matter.

The primary aim of the amendment is to focus on equality issues and to ensure that the mayor and assembly have regard to such matters in everything that they do. Is that not what the clause is all about? The assembly has power to do anything in carrying out its principal purposes: the promotion of economic development and wealth creation; social development; and improvement of the environment. But where is the provision that deals with the elimination of discrimination? Surely, a legal obligation written into the statute will give an unequivocal message that we are against discrimination of any kind and will take steps to eliminate it.

It is expected that the population of the city comprising ethnic minority groups will grow from slightly more than 23 per cent in 1996 to just under 27 per cent by 2006. However, bearing in mind the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, if one includes white minority groups, for example the Irish, those from ethnic minority communities make up almost one third of the population of London.

The clause as drafted sounds hollow. All that it seeks to deliver misses out one major component: the elimination of unjustifiable discrimination. Perhaps I may go back to the Government's words at the time of the Green Paper. They recognised that London's ethnic diversity was one of its strengths that contributed to the capital's vitality and prosperity. The Green Paper also acknowledged that people from different ethnic minorities were evident among the most socially excluded in the capital, with unemployment rates double those for white Londoners and with a higher level of exclusions, overcrowding and illness. The Bill is an opportunity to demonstrate the Government's commitment by laying down in legislation the appropriate framework within which the authority will be required to develop and implement all its policies regarding the objective set out in the amendment.

When I worked at the Commission for Racial Equality, it was evident that some local authorities in London discriminated against minorities in the provisions of their services. There are a good many examples, but I shall resist the temptation to cite them. It was only after formal investigations identified such practices and the threat of a legally enforceable notice not to discriminate that many local authorities followed the provisions of the existing Race Relations Act.

I welcome the statement in another place during debate on the Bill when the Minister said that he wanted the authority to be exemplary in the pursuit of equal opportunities. Unfortunately, we do not have that provision in the Bill before us.

Under Clause 310 of the Bill, the authority, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority should be treated as local authorities for the purpose of Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. However, as I pointed out earlier, that section imposes a general statutory duty on local authorities to secure that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination. If one examines what has happened so far, it is clear that that duty has been ineffective because there are no enforcement powers relating to that part of the provisions.

It is no good saying the Bill provides that the MPA, GLA, and so on, will come within the jurisdiction of Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. It is hardly the way to ensure that the GLA is exemplary in pursuit of equal opportunities. Nor is it in line with what was described as a radical model of government set out throughout the Bill. We cannot agree with the Minister's assertion that amendments in this area are unnecessary.

I wish to make one further point—it has been ably explained by the noble Lord, Lord Harris—as regards the provision in relation to the Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland. If such a provision is good for those assemblies, why is it not good for London? We must have a strong commitment to equality of opportunity. The Greater London Authority Bill gives us the opportunity to provide that now. I plead with the Minister to ensure that such a provision is incorporated. I hope also that the Opposition Front Bench will support the amendment.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am not in favour of the amendment. I wish to give my reasons. The amendment implies that it wants to provide all these good things, but the phrase "promoting the elimination of" worries me. I feel that it may be an attempt to reverse Section 28 of the Local Government Act by the back-door. We should need to debate that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, remarked that the Government want the authority to be exemplary. I should like the authority to be exemplary, but it does not need the passage in the amendment incorporated into the Bill in order for it to be so. Adequate laws already cover these issues. When I was a member of the Greater London Council, we made special traffic arrangements and measures so that people could have easy access to a mosque on a Friday in the same way as we ensured access to a church for Christians on a Sunday. There was no discrimination. But the amendment might produce a similar situation to one which developed in the Greater London Council. In terms of gender, we were encouraged to wear badges. Almost half the individuals walked around wearing a badge saying "I'm gay" or "I'm a lesbian". What did that have to do with governing London? It was unnecessary for that to be part of the scene, yet it became a fairly predominant attitude. I thought that it was damaging to local government.

I apologise that I was not in my seat for the introduction of the amendment. However, I heard the debate from the monitor. Although the amendment reads well and involves a principle with which we all agree, I do not believe that its inclusion would improve the Bill. I therefore oppose the amendment.

Lord Renton

I am fully in favour of the spirit underlying the amendment, as I expect are all noble Lords. But we should bear in mind that three-quarters of what the amendment proposes is covered by existing legislation. We have the race relations legislation. We have the recent legislation which prevents discrimination against disabled people. We have, as between men and women, the sex discrimination legislation, and so on. I have always understood that we do not try in any statute to repeat what is already part of the statute law. Therefore I should have thought that it would be an excess of zeal on our part if we were to pass the amendment.

However, being somewhat of an age myself, I do not remember any legislation which places people above the age of 90 in the same position as those who are still assumed to have the vigour of life at the age of 60—although they do not always.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I was pleased to join with the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Dholakia, on this amendment. It is an issue on which I feel strongly. I have tremendous admiration for the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and the immense knowledge she has in local government. However, we wish to have something positive on the face of the Bill. As I am sure the Minister remembers, there was firm reference to the issue in the White Paper. It is somewhat of a puzzle that that was not continued into the Bill.

There are those who say, as my noble friend Lord Renton hinted, that there is sufficient legislation and we should not continue to highlight the issue. I cannot agree. It is no bad thing for us to be thoroughly aware that the provision is in the Bill and that the mayor should have to consider it.

As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, 36 per cent of Londoners will be ethnic by the year 2001. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, I had the privilege of serving on the Greater London Council. We are only too aware of that 36 per cent. If one lives in the centre of the City and moves in only a small area, one might not be aware of it. They are the people for whom the mayor will be responsible. They are the people whom the mayor will be expected to help. And let us remember that they are minorities.

Many of these minorities can well take care of themselves, and are impressive at doing so. As a young man, I travelled to Romford as a Greater London councillor. The whole of the East End was Jewish. One could not miss it from the moment one came out of the City. The Jews ran the whole area, and very competently. If one travels there now, the Bangladeshis, Indians and Asians are running the area equally competently. Each generation which comes into this City, from the Huguenots onwards, makes it the great city that it is.

I totally support the noble Lord, Lord Harris, because I want to see such a provision in the Bill. When we tabled it, we realised that the amendment would not go into the Bill. But we hoped that the Minister would state from the Dispatch Box today that what we seek to achieve will be in the Bill in one form or another, because it is worth saying.

I should like to add a simple message on the point of discrimination. If one is totally silent and just expects history to take care of itself, it will take considerably longer. If people have the courage to stand up and say that we have to help people who are black, Asian, or gay, perhaps people will discuss those matters and the advance will be a little quicker. If that was a reason in itself, I suggest to the Minister that it would be worth including such a provision in the Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, has no need to worry about age discrimination. With the exception of my mother, he is the youngest 90 year-old I have ever come across, and more capable and able than many 60, 50 and 40 year-olds.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I should like to point out that I played tennis against the noble Lord, Lord Renton, quite recently, and I lost 6:4, 6:4. I mention it now because the noble Lord was very kind not to mention it himself, and I have a horrible feeling that the noble Baroness is about to mention it.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I was not going to mention that, but although the noble Lord lost to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, at tennis, I can say without any doubt that he would beat my mother at tennis, but he would certainly lose to her at bridge!

We on these Benches are fully behind the spirit of the Bill. We note what my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Baroness. Lady Gardner, said about the fact that there is much existing legislation on this subject. However, we believe that we should support the amendment and we do so fully.

Baroness Ludford

I also support the amendment and thank the noble Lord who moved it.

London's ethnic and social diversity is one of its strengths. That is one of the reasons why many of us have chosen to live in London. It is a place that is so mixed that you can find people of all kinds and it does not have what is sometimes an oppressive homogeneity of population. Personally, I like the diversity that one finds in London. The amendment would strengthen London and its society, which is already resilient. If such a duty were to be imposed on the authority, it would underpin the benefit to London society of this kind of diversity.

There is also an economic benefit to London's diverse society. Many firms are attracted to locate in London because they can find staff with the language skills and international understanding which is good for their businesses. We attract tourists from all over the world because they feel comfortable in London, which could be due to the diversity of our population.

London is perhaps the most appropriate place to introduce such legislation. I, too, would think it somewhat odd that duties are imposed on the Northern Ireland and Welsh Assemblies and yet not on the London authority. Of all places. London could profit from such legislation and set an example to other authorities and public bodies in this country—and not only in this country: Article 13 of the European Treaty, following implementation of the Treaty of Amsterdam, enables the European Union to legislate to outlaw discrimination on grounds similar to those in this clause. I am sure that the United Kingdom will play a major part in the debate on how that article can be implemented within the European Union. I should declare an interest in that I am hoping to participate in a debate in the European Parliament. If London is to play a major part in that debate, it would be desirable to have the duties in place for the Greater London Authority.

I agree with noble Lords who say that although the Race Relations Act, the laws on sex equality and the laws against disability discrimination will apply, they impose only a minimum requirement and do not impose the kind of duty that the amendment proposes.

It will be a good thing not just for people who fall into one of the categories enumerated in the amendment, but also for Londoners of all descriptions if we can underpin London's social and ethnic diversity by appropriate legislation which I am sure will be used widely and sensibly. In the past, gesture politics may have been used in excess, but I am sure that these provisions would mean a substantive underpinning of equality, which would benefit Londoners of all descriptions.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I omitted to make one point. I took very careful note of what my noble friend Lord Renton said, but although we support the amendment, we advise the Committee that antidiscrimination laws, if taken to excess, can sometimes become discriminatory in themselves.

Baroness Hamwee

I was pleased to be able to add my name to the amendment which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. It is not necessary to repeat the many valid points that have already been made in the debate, but I should like to make one point, possibly anticipating what the Minister may say.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, spoke of the opportunity for the new authority. I would go further than that and say that it has a responsibility to promote the elimination of unjustifiable discrimination and to do so without being patronising. That is not necessarily an easy task.

I have talked a good deal about the style of the new authority and the way it should go about its business. We have already indicated that 25 will be an insufficient number of members for the assembly because, among other reasons, it will not reflect the diversity of London. Nevertheless, it will be the responsibility of those 25 members and the mayor to take forward this entire issue.

One might have hoped that the authority's powers and responsibilities to promote social development would cover the elimination of discrimination. That responsibility should cover it, but not everybody will make that connection without a fairly clear pointer. That is why the amendment is important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, stated that the authority would do the right things anyway. In that case, let us give it the mechanism to do so. She said that these issues are covered by existing legislation. However, that legislation does not cover all the ground of the amendment and some of it is now quite out of date and inadequate. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's answer on to how this may or may not fit in with the promotion of social development.

The noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, mentioned the East End. A few years ago I was very struck by some research which showed the wealth of the City and the poverty of people living in the Spitalfields area, no more than a mile away. In particular, it illustrated the problems suffered there by the Bangladeshi community. There was a high level of unemployment cheek by jowl with the almost obscene wealth of the City. That was a vivid example and one I hope I never lose from my mind.

Lord Whitty

My noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey promised us a galaxy of talent from outside and within this House, and we have certainly seen a range of support for the amendment from the two Front Benches, from London government, from the noble Lord, Lord Archer, and from one of our representatives for London in yet another place, in Strasbourg. I take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford.

Indeed, the Government and I have considerable sympathy with the proposal. The Government's commitment to this issue was clearly indicated in the White Paper. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, it is clear that we are pursuing social development in a population which has the most diverse ethnic and religious base of any city in Europe. London probably has the largest gay community in Britain and a large number of elderly and disabled people. Furthermore, a majority of women are still subject to a fair degree of discrimination in the capital, as elsewhere. Unless "social development" included a serious degree of commitment to the promotion of equal opportunities between all those groups, the term would be meaningless. It is also true that the way in which we pursue the other principal objectives on the environment and the economy must be non-discriminatory and promote measures which avoid discrimination.

In electoral and organisational structure and in its purposes, the Government intend the Greater London Authority to tackle discrimination and to take steps to avoid discriminatory action within the capital. We cannot escape that responsibility under the Bill as drafted, even if any mayor or assembly wished to do so. It is also true that the authority as described within the Bill is subject not only to the existing Race Relations Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act, but would be equally subject to any revised form of them.

Much of the Government's commitment to the social development purpose of the Bill includes the promotion of equal opportunities. However, there is a wide range of views in the Committee, and outside, which we need to take into account. I say at this stage that we need to consider whether our intentions in that regard could be more explicit or better expressed at an appropriate point in the Bill, either here or elsewhere. I undertake to do that. Therefore, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment so that we may return to the issue at a later stage. I thank all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this important dimension of the debate.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, replies—and I make a serious point—will the Minister explain how he would eliminate unjustifiable discrimination with regard to age? In many situations, it is assumed that age gives rise to certain rights—pensions and so forth—and there is no legislation which grants people of any age, however doddery they may be, the same rights as those who are in the prime of life. Will the Minister explain how that should be dealt with or whether it should be omitted?

6.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty

As we envisaged the purpose in the general drafting of the Bill, the social development dimension would involve tackling abuses against sections of the population, whatever their age. Therefore, if elderly elements of the population were being discriminated against in a certain way—for example, with regard to access to services—it would be the job of the authority to take action, or to facilitate action, to tackle that.

That is one of the reasons why one needs to look at the drafting of the new clause. Clearly, in custom and practice, there are a number of discriminations by age which, by and large, the population regard as justifiable. The terminology used by my noble friend Lord Harris is "unjustifiable discrimination" and that would require a degree of definition. Perhaps, therefore, it is for my noble friend to reply to the noble Lord's point at this stage. Nevertheless, there is an issue of age discrimination in the capital which we would expect the authority to address in the context of social development.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I may add a couple of points to the debate because I have a particular interest in gender equality, as Members of the Committee are aware.

There are three points. First, existing legislation is already being questioned by the various equality organisations which deal with the mechanisms and the form of the law. Therefore, this is not the right place to rely on existing legislation. I am sure that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House would make a contribution on this issue, were she present, because she is the lead Member of the Government on gender equality.

Secondly, the advantage of such a clause is that it will encourage a wider application of equal opportunity. It suggests, for example, that the main lines of policy which the new authority will undertake should be tested for their equality aspects before they are put into action. That is a most valuable provision. The Minister is probably familiar with the word "mainstream", which is the idea of getting equality issues not on the edge of policy-making but right in the centre. That is what the clause does, placed as it is in the most vital part of the Bill dealing with the powers of the new authority.

Thirdly, we have discussed how to put equal access to transport into the Bill. A clause such as this right at the beginning of the most important part of the Bill would eliminate the need to say, "And this, and that" as every clause trickles through. The provision would be written into the duties of the Greater London Authority before we begin describing them in detail. I was delighted to hear the Minister's response to the noble Lord, Lord Harris—a well deserved response—and I hope that he will also bear those points in mind.

Lord Tope

I follow my noble friend in giving a slightly more qualified welcome to the Minister's response, partly because, with respect, I have heard it before from his honourable friend in another place, although I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity with which it was said.

The Minister recognised that support for the intentions behind the amendment has come from all sides of the Committee, from both Front Benches, and I am sure—and I mean that—that he recognises the seriousness of that.

However, I am aware that the Government have been considering the matter for some time. They are aware that it is serious and is likely to become one of the major issues during the progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House. I have said privately to the Minister, Mr Raynsford, and I repeat it here, that I should be surprised were the Bill not to leave this Chamber with some provision to cover the intentions behind the amendment. Therefore, I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to bringing back their own amendment on Report or perhaps, if they feel it appropriate, at a later part of the Committee stage.

It seems that the Minister is not able to give us a rather firmer commitment that the Government will do that. Therefore, I ask that they do not wait until Report stage, which is likely to be in the autumn, before signalling their intention to do so. By then, I believe that people will be very much more concerned that, while recognising the anxieties and listening to what is being said, the Government are not hearing what is being said and, more important, are not acting on what is said.

I hope that at an early stage the Government will give a firm commitment which will ensure that the Bill meets the intentions of the amendment, which has received such widespread support this evening.

In conclusion, I did not join in the earlier debate because all the points were made very well by other noble Lords in support of the amendment. I wish to respond briefly to one comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, who said that she suspected or feared that that may be intended as a way of either getting rid of or getting round Section 28 of the Local Government Act which relates to the so-called promotion of homosexuality. I hope that the Minister will confirm to the Committee that not only is that not the intention but it is unnecessary because by the time the GLA comes into being the Government will have met their manifesto commitment to repeat Section 28.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

The noble Lord has raised that matter and that causes us to think about the wider issues. I mentioned it in passing when I said that I hoped that that was not to be the case, whereas the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has raised it as a major issue which would be of interest to the majority of the Members of this Chamber.

As an immigrant, I served on a local racial equality board for seven or eight years. No one is more in favour of opportunities for everyone in this country than I am. This country has been very good to me. However, if the Government bring forward an amendment, it is important that the wording should be considered carefully. What has been said here this evening should be taken on board and reflected in the Government's thinking. I object to the word "promoting" because I believe that it indicates positive discrimination and pushes those matters to an unfair degree.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, has said that no one is satisfied in those, let us call them, "industries" in relation to sex discrimination and that they are all unhappy about it. If that is so and our present laws on racial and sex discrimination are not adequate, the Government should be looking at them and perhaps revising them. However, I believe that it would be artificial to use this Bill as a back-door means of dealing with those issues. Therefore, I hope that the principle of the amendment will be incorporated in a diplomatic way which will be acceptable and allow sufficient flexibility for us all to be able to accept it.

Lord Swinfen

Before the Minister replies, perhaps I may ask him one, I hope, simple question. What do the Government understand by the word "age" in the amendment? Does it refer only to those of what I may describe as mature years or does it apply also to those of rather more tender years?

Lord Whitty

As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, this is not my amendment. Clearly, there are problems of unjustifiable discrimination against both those of mature years, to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred as "doddery"—which is quite unjustifiable in his case but may apply to some of us as we approach those years—and against young people. We shall have to consider whether we can frame an appropriate provision, as we shall have to consider all the other aspects which have been raised in relation to how it will be appropriate to word an amendment, should we consider it sensible to do so, at a later stage in the light of this debate. We shall take all of that into account.

I am not in a position to make any commitment which is firmer than that which I have already made; namely, that we shall take everything into consideration and let Members of the Committee know our intentions in that regard as soon as possible. But we are keeping an open mind as to what the appropriate course of action should now be.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, mentioned Section 28. It is indeed the Government's intention to change that. Progress on that will depend on parliamentary proceedings, including those in this House. With that caveat, I endorse what he said.

Lord Harris of Haringey

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have contributed to this debate. It has been extremely useful and I hope that it has sharpened the feelings of the Minister and his colleagues in terms of what needs to be brought forward at a later stage.

I listened with particular care to the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I do not accept the argument that much of that is already covered by adequate legislation. Certainly, the analyses carried out by the Commission for Racial Equality and the parallel analyses carried out in relation to other legislation recognise that there are significant shortcomings; that people who cannot take legal proceedings are subjected to unjust discrimination; that nothing is done to make the institutions affected by the legislation proactive in ending or combating discrimination; and that nothing is done to promote or implement good progress. The provision made for positive action is at best confusing and in many cases limited.

Therefore, there is a whole series of areas in which it is widely accepted that there are problems with the existing legislation. It seems silly to perpetuate that within this Bill rather than looking forward and trying to make progress on the various matters.

Those two contributions were extremely interesting. In the context of what is being proposed here I found it difficult to understand the image conjured up by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, of "badgism" rampant again across the streets of London as a consequence of this change. The debate has moved on substantially in the past 15 years. People recognise that the wearing of a badge does not indicate that action will follow from it. We are concerned to make sure that clear leadership is given by the mayor and assembly as regards those issues.

I am extremely grateful for the comments made by my noble friend Lord Whitty. I am pleased to hear that there is considerable sympathy for the sentiments expressed by your Lordships in relation to the amendment. It is quite clearly the Government's intention that the Greater London Authority should tackle discrimination and should be proactive rather than reactive in that field.

My noble friend has undertaken that the Government will take into account the views which have been expressed so widely in this House. They will need to consider whether and how it is possible to make their expectation more explicit in the Bill, either in this clause or elsewhere within the Bill. I believe that my noble friend's statement is extremely helpful.

In tabling this amendment, I was clear that perhaps it needed further definition and precision. My references to age were not just to 90 year-old tennis champions, but also to younger people who are also discriminated against in certain circumstances. We shall have to look at precisely what is the definition of unjustifiable discrimination or whether that is the right approach.

Quite clearly there is a lot of support within the Committee for the idea that we should write onto the face of the Bill a clear responsibility on the mayor and the assembly to promote good relations, good equal opportunities and to tackle unjustifiable discrimination. In the light of the Minster's assurances and the statements about listening to the views which have been expressed, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)

Before calling Amendment No. 75, I have to inform the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 76.

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 79 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Baroness Hamweemoved Amendment No. 80:

Page 15, line 4, leave out subsections (7) to (9)

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 81, 82, 83, 85, 86 and 87. Although there are seven amendments in this group, I am sure that we can deal with them much more quickly than the last single and important amendment.

Amendment No. 80 seeks to leave out of Clause 25 subsections (7), (8) and (9). In subsection (7) the Secretary of State can give guidance to the authority concerning the exercise of the power conferred by subsection (1). Under subsection (8) the authority must have regard to that guidance. Under subsection (9) the guidance given by the Secretary of State will be published. Leaving that out is consequential on previous omissions.

The Bill is very detailed as regards the power conferred on the new authority. It is also detailed as to the exercise of that power. We shall come to the functional bodies later on. As my noble friend Lady Thomas said a few minutes ago, this clause concerning the general power of the authority is probably the most important clause in the Bill. It will be no surprise to the Government to hear that we are concerned that the Secretary of State is retaining such control. It seems to us that the detail in the early part of Clause 25 is entirely adequate when read with the limits on the general powers, to which we shall come in a few moments, the consultation provisions and the general principles applying to the authority in the exercise of its functions.

In an earlier debate I may not have been entirely clear about the way we go about creating new constitutional bodies and the requirement that we have in this country that they cannot do anything that they are not specifically allowed to do by legislation. If it is not spelt out, it is not permitted. Therefore, that supports my view about the adequacy of the rest of the Bill.

We do not believe that the authority should be fettered and constrained in a way that is made possible by the retention of the subsections. The Secretary of State will have the opportunity to be extremely prescriptive in the guidance that is issued. The authority is specifically required to have regard to the guidance. The Bill does not provide that the authority must follow the guidance, but comes very close to it.

However, if there is to be guidance to the authority, then it should be for the assembly and the body of 25 members to make sure that the mayor exercises the powers that he or she has in the best way for London. Therefore, guidance to the mayor as to the exercise of his or her powers should come from that body. That is Amendment No. 82. It means giving guidance to the mayor about the exercise of the mayor's powers.

In Amendment No. 85 we propose to leave out subsection (8) of the clause as regards guidance. It gives considerable authority to the Secretary of State's guidance. In Amendment No. 86, if regard is to be had for the guidance, it should be the mayor and not the assembly which will have that regard. That follows on from an earlier amendment which seeks to re-order responsibilities in this area. Amendment No. 87 is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I have to inform the Committee that, if Amendment No. 80 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 81 to 87.

Lord Whitty

I believe that I can deal with these amendments reasonably quickly. They reflect a degree of misunderstanding between us as regards the new constitution of the authority. Amendment No. 80 deletes subsections (7) to (9), which effectively remove entirely the powers of the Secretary of State to give guidance to the authority about the use of its general powers.

We have just been reminded that the other amendments will in a sense be incompatible with that. Presumably they are a second chance to remove the conditions on those powers.

We indicated earlier that we need a degree of balance. The authority has been given wide powers. The general power in particular is there to ensure that the authority can act in ways it sees fit in pursuit of its purposes and in co-operation with London authorities and organisations.

We believe that the GLA has to have that flexibility and range of powers. We also need to ensure that there is no abuse of those powers or that flexibility. In particular, we have to make sure that the new authority does not intrude in a detrimental way in areas which are the statutory responsibility of other authorities or organisations other than where there is agreement to do so: where they wish to co-operate in the provision or co-ordination of services or where there is specific provision within this or other legislation.

In Clause 26. therefore, we impose certain limits on the use of the general power. I understood at an earlier stage that Members of the Committee opposite were anxious for us to do that in areas where the provision of fundamental and key services provided by the health service and London boroughs arise. I do not see that that kind of guidance could be given by the assembly which, after all, is part of the authority.

The assembly is not an executive part of the authority. Its function is to scrutinise and test what the executive, in the form of the mayor, proposes to do or has done. Its function is not to decree from the beginning what the limits to that action are, but to judge, comment, advise and reflect the views of the population on how the mayor is carrying out those functions. It must be the job of Parliament and the Secretary of State to lay down the limits of those functions and, therefore, in this case, the guidance on exercising those functions in relation to the statutory and related functions of other authorities operating within the Greater London area.

I am slightly puzzled as to the logic of these amendments. I understand that there may be an argument for reducing the powers of intervention of the Secretary of State. In this area I would argue strongly that it is important to make it clear that the remit of the London boroughs and the health service is preserved and that the Secretary of State should do that. However, I cannot understand the idea of handing those powers over to the assembly, which itself is part of the authority that we are trying to limit. Therefore, I believe that this group of amendments is not particularly logical, and that this amendment is detrimental to the ability of the Secretary of State and, therefore, the ability of some other authorities to be protected by the Secretary of State. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

Before the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, says what she intends to do about the amendment, perhaps I may say that we would not support Amendment No. 80, which leaves out subsections (7) to (9). I believe that the Minister and the noble Baroness know full well that we have some objection to the control that the Secretary of State would have regarding the authority. We believe that it is appropriate that he should be able to issue guidance about which, at the end of the day, the authority does not have to do too much if it does not want to. I believe that that provision is needed.

As regards issuing guidance to the authority, we would oppose substituting the assembly for the Secretary of State. On the first day in Committee we debated the role of the deputy mayor, and we said that we believe that it is important that the executive and the legislature should be separate. To my mind, these amendments would mix it up yet again. We oppose these amendments.

Baroness Hamwee

The Minister asked about the logic. He had it spot on when he realised that the first amendment is our preference and that the others are substitutes. We thought we might have to move to them as we were not optimistic about the success of the first amendment.

In answer to that, and indeed in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, we do not see handing over power to issue guidance to the assembly as illogical. The mayor has the executive powers; the assembly does not. The assembly has scrutiny powers and, therefore, guidance, to quote the words of the Bill, concerning the exercise by the Authority of the power conferred by subsection (I) seems to be entirely properly reflected in the division proposed in the later amendments in the group.

The Minister talked about the need for balance and ensuring that the authority does not abuse its powers, and does not, for instance, intrude on the responsibilities of other bodies. That gives me concern, as it appears that the Bill is fairly explicit and detailed about limiting the authority's powers. If it is proposed that the Secretary of State should, through guidance, further limit the mayor's exercise of the powers that he is given which, in other words, is limiting the functions. I believe that that should be in primary legislation, and I thought that it already was to be in primary legislation.

I am not surprised by the response because it is clear that that is the kind of division and the kind of control that the Government see as applying throughout the Bill. I am disappointed, but for the moment beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 81 to 83 not moved.]

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamweemoved Amendment No. 84:

Page 15, line 5, at end insert— ("() In determining whether to issue guidance under subsection (7) above the Secretary of State shall have regard to the views of—

  1. (a) the Mayor,
  2. (b) the Assembly,
  3. (c) the London borough councils,
  4. (d) the Common Council, and
  5. (e) bodies of each of the descriptions specified in section 27(3).")

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 84 deals with the issue of guidance. There is no guideline or guidance to the Secretary of State as to how his guidance is to be prepared and as to how it is to be issued and whether the Secretary of State should issue guidance.

This contrasts considerably with the detailed obligations to consult, which are laid on the authority by other provisions in the Bill. I ask myself whom the Secretary of State will consult in deciding whether guidance is required and, if it is required, what it should say. We propose that the Secretary of State should have regard to the views of the mayor because we believe that mainly the mayor will be affected by such guidance. He should also have regard to the views of the assembly because of its scrutiny role and, above all, we believe that the assembly is likely to have views as to how—I stress how—the power is to be exercised; that is the thrust of subsection 25(7). Regard should also be taken of the boroughs and the common council because of the relationship with those bodies, and of the entities listed in Clause 27(3). If those entities are to be consulted about the exercise of the power, as is provided there, it is illogical that they should not be consulted on the guidance on the exercise of the power.

Perhaps the question that underlies this amendment—I accept it may be a rhetorical question—is what happens if the views of these individuals and bodies conflict with the views of the Secretary of State. Whose views are to override whose? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

I cannot discern a pattern in the amendments from the Liberal Democrat Benches which, effectively, are to put a further hurdle in the way of the Secretary of State being able to issue guidance to the mayor about the exercise of the authority's general power. I feel that, although in certain cases consultation will be desirable, it is for the Secretary of State to determine what guidance he or she issues. The requirement that those listed in the amendment plus everybody in Clause 27(3) should be consulted before any guidance is issued on any item by the Secretary of State seems to be a curiously onerous one. Consultation of the assembly and the London boroughs raises exactly the kind of constitutional issues, to which the noble Baroness referred, as to who should prevail in those circumstances. It is not normal, where the Secretary of State is issuing guidance, for that to be laid down in this way and certainly not where the scrutiny part of the authority to which the guidance is being issued is involved.

The power to issue guidance is a safeguard against the misuse by the authority of the general power that the Bill provides. The guidance will ensure that the interests of all the various elements listed will be recognised and protected. However, to go through the formal business of consultation on every piece of guidance under the general power places an unnecessary burden on the Secretary of State exercising his appropriate powers in relation to this new authority. I do not support the amendment, therefore, and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

Baroness Hamwee

Yes, this is a hurdle, because it seems that, quite literally, there is to be one law for the Secretary of State and another for everybody else. That is one of our objections.

I thought that the Minister was going to say that it is not normal for the Secretary of State's wishes to be overruled, whatever other people's views. He did not actually say that, but that might have been an implication. Again, I make the point that we are not happy with the balance here; we do not agree with the Government that it is the appropriate balance. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 85 to 87 not moved.]

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Limits of the general power]:

[Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 16, line 6, leave out paragraph (b)

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 90 stands in my name, those of my noble friends, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon. The amendment seeks to leave out paragraph (b) of Clause 26(7).

This amendment seeks to prevent the authority doing anything that the Secretary of State orders it not to do, subject to the affirmative procedure under Clause 325 of the Bill. We are aware that it is intended that it will be a reserve power for the Secretary of State so that, as the DETR's memo to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee said, if [the authority is] encroaching on [the activities of other] public bodies, the Secretary of State could restrict or remove its power to do so". That seems to assume that every encroachment would be entirely unjustifiable. We believe that the Secretary of State is given far too much freedom by this provision. The DETR's memo also used the example of the present framework being too restrictive to exercise the general power effectively.

Perhaps the Minister can explain whether anything on the face of the Bill will limit the Secretary of State's power to prevent the authority doing things. This is a hugely wide discretion and, whatever the intention, to keep such a wide discretion on the face of the Bill is "inappropriate", to use a polite word. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My name too is attached to this amendment. Clause 26(7) permits the Secretary of State to prohibit the GLA doing anything that can be done by a London borough, the common council or a public body. That is an excellent concept—no poaching, no empire building and so forth. We would prefer the clause to say that the Secretary of State should prevent the authority from doing any of those things and interfering with things that the London boroughs or the common council could do. However, the second part of the clause, which this amendment addresses, adds the words, which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order". In other words, the Secretary of State can cherry-pick which acts of poaching and empire building he will permit.

Why does the Secretary of State want powers to permit, or at least not to ban, encroachment on the activities of the boroughs of the city and public bodies by an ambitious mayor or assembly? If they do such a thing, what is to stop the councils continuing their lawful activities, thus producing a case of too many cooks?

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, gave the reasons for the Liberal Democrat Party wanting to table this amendment, which it tabled just ahead of us, and we were glad that there was space for us to add our name to it. It is sufficient to say that we fully support this amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

When we debated Clause 25, the Minister was taking slight advantage when he accused us of "schizophrenia" in our attitude to that clause. But the truth of the matter is that this Bill is itself schizophrenic. To the extent that this Bill is the Government's Bill, the Minister will forgive me if I tar him with the same brush. I am more inclined to think of pots and kettles than I am of schizophrenia.

If one reads Clause 26(7) and what we say should be removed when we have considered the full import of it, it will be seen that we are dealing with an extremely serious matter. Clause 26(7) says, The Secretary of State may by order amending this section make further provision for preventing the Authority from doing by virtue of section 25(1) above anything … (b) which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order". In other words, Clause 25(1) says, The Authority shall have power to do anything which it considers will further any one or more of its principal purposes", subject to the Secretary of State's opinion under Clause 26(7)(b). That is a completely open restriction. It is a complete power to negate Clause 25(1). It may be that it is a reserve power. But others with experience of local government will understand why some of us have a natural hesitancy about reserve powers.

In any event, if we consider other similar powers in this Bill, this one—to use the words the Minister used on the Local Government Bill—is the "nuclear option". Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 71(5) give the Secretary of State power over the budget because he can alter the constituent parts of any budget calculation and he can alter the rules for making any calculation. Under Clause 80, he can specify a minimum budget for the police. Under transport, he can specify what action shall be taken to deal with anything that he considers might be inconsistent with national policies or that might affect outside areas. He can control transport for London under Schedule 18. He has virtual power to control road user charging under paragraph 16(2) of that schedule.

Under Schedule 19 the Secretary of State has similar powers over the workplace parking levy. In further clauses, he has powers over the future London Development Agency. Under Clause 267(5) and (6) he can deal with any planning matters that he considers inconsistent or affecting outside interests. Under Clause 283(4)(b), he can have a strong influence on what happens with regard to waste. Clause 284 is similar.

Therefore, as one goes though the Bill, it is clear, clause by clause, that the Secretary of State actually has huge power over the detail of what the GLA may do, to say nothing of a little later clause, with which we have not dealt, which says that he can in fact virtually set its budget. I have always held the view in local government, in government—or, indeed, in Europe, for those who are rash enough to get into it—that, if you control the money, you actually control everything.

I submit very seriously indeed that, if this paragraph were to be removed from the Bill, it probably would not affect the Secretary of State's power to control the GLA at all. However, having read out all that detail, if Members of the Committee were to consider that, perhaps they might also consider that to accuse us of being schizophrenic is passing strange I have to repeat that I think this paragraph could well be removed from the Bill without, shall we say, damaging the Secretary of State's ambitions in the slightest. Indeed, if we were to remove it, we might even do something to further the putative mayor's ambitions. Certainly, any mayor would be glad to see this removed.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I note that both Front Benches opposite support the amendment, although it seemed to me at times that they were doing so for diametrically opposite reasons. I believe that the. noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is trying to ensure that there is some degree of flexibility for the Secretary of State which might, in certain circumstances, involve encroachment, whereas the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, seemed to suggest that there should be no such encroachment and that by deleting the paragraph there would be provision for limiting the encroachment yet further. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, further confused me, which was probably the intention of his intervention, in that I believe he missed the word "and" in Clause 26(7) between the two paragraphs (a) and (b). He also referred to Clause 26(1), which really relates to the relationship between the GLA and its functional bodies and not between the GLA and the London boroughs, which is dealt with in Clause 26(7)—

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but I do not think that l referred to Clause 26(1); I believe I referred to Clause 25(1).

Lord Whitty

In that case, I apologise to the noble Lord.

I return to Clause 26(7)(b), which provides for the Secretary of State to intervene to specify specific functions of the boroughs, the City or other public bodies which the GLA cannot provide. That is to ensure that the GLA cannot, if it seeks to do so, duplicate the statutory functions of those bodies. Clause 26(11 to (3) specifies the functions on which the GLA cannot incur expenditure.

The list is not exhaustive; nor is it intended to be. We want to give the authority the widest possible scope to co-operate with other authorities and to ensure that London gets the best quality services. Some of that will be achieved by co-operation, with the GLA delivering some of those services. We also believe that it is necessary to give some of those other authorities the reassurance that, where the GLA did seek to intrude into matters which were their responsibility without their agreement, the Secretary of State would have the power to add further functions, and the functions of further bodies, to the list set out explicitly in subsections (1) to (3).

If subsection (7)(b) were removed, it could—somewhat perversely from the point of the Liberal Democrat approach to the matter—remove the Secretary of State's discretion to specify functions which were so affected. It would leave him with the power only to make a blanket order which would prevent the GLA from doing anything which might be done by the boroughs or other bodies. That seems to me to change what was a relatively subtle provision that would take account of the circumstances into something approaching the noble Lord's "nuclear option". It will be specific functions where arguments arise. Therefore, the Secretary of State does need the powers to intervene to specify those specific functions where there is some conflict between, for example, the GLA and the London boroughs. Deletion of paragraph (b) would remove the ability to specify those functions. I do not consider that to be appropriate.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am a trifle puzzled. Therefore, before the Minister finally leaves this amendment, perhaps he could clarify a few points for me. Clause 26(7) specifically refers to the Secretary of State's power to make an order to prevent the, Authority from doing by virtue of section 25(1) … anything", and so on. It does not refer to Clause 26, which deals with the various functions that the authority may not undertake because they may be undertaken elsewhere; nor, indeed, Clause 26(7)(a), which deals properly with the matters which might be carried out by the borough, the Common Council or a public body.

I have no difficulty with any of that. My problem with Clause 26(7)(b) is that I read it specifically in relation to Clause 25(1). If one reads paragraph (b) in relation to Clause 25(1), it is clear that it is, in effect, an absolute power to negate that if the Secretary of State should choose so to do. To say the least, that is passing peculiar.

Lord Swinfen

Clause 25(1) appears to give with one hand, but exactly the same seems to be removed, with the other hand, by Clause 26(7)(b). It is illogical; indeed, it does not make sense.

Lord Whitty

That is one way of describing it, but it is not illogical because powers given in legislation are often limited by subsequent clauses. That is precisely what is happening here. Clause 25(1) gives the general power and Clause 26 sets out limits to it. Indeed, Clause 26(1) to (3) specify the general power and Clause 26(7) states that the Secretary of State may specify a particular function of those authorities.

Some limitations are set out in the first few subsections of Clause 26, which limit Clause 25(1). This then gives a further power to the Secretary of State to specify a specific function of an authority where there is clearly conflict as to whether or not the GLA should undertake that function. If we were to remove the ability to specify a function, all the Secretary of State could do would be to issue a blanket limitation rather than specify the issue which was at stake.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am sorry to keep harping on this subject and I trust that Members of the Committee will forgive me for doing so. However, if one reads Clause 25(1) in conjunction with Clause 26(7)(b), and bears in mind what the Minister said, it seems to me that we are in fact being invited to legislate completely blind because we simply do not know what this means. These two clauses of the Bill are potentially mutually opposed; in other words, they are mutually opposed dependent on the views of the Secretary of State. I think that that is an invidious position for this Chamber to be in in a matter of this significance. I have the greatest difficulty with this situation.

Lord Whitty

I refer to the point I made earlier; namely, that the noble Lord has missed the word "and". Clause 26(7) refers to preventing the authority from doing anything which may be done by a London borough council etc. and, which is specified … in the order". In other words, the Bill refers to a specific function which would otherwise be carried out by a London borough or other public authority. Clause 26(7) clearly limits the general power, as I have indicated. It limits it in the specific area of an activity which is being carried out by, a London borough council, the Common Council or a public body". It does not therefore take away the general power; it limits it in those particular circumstances. Clause 26 (7)(a) and (b) have to be read together.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I return once more to the fray. If the Minister is giving me an absolute assurance that Clause 26 (7)(b) is relevant only to Clause 26 (7)(a) I shall be happy, but my fear has been that that is not the case.

Lord Whitty

In my reading of the Bill the word "and" makes the position clear. If there is any further complication, I shall let the noble Lord know.

Baroness Hamwee

I am sure there is plenty for us to read there. Given that the Chamber has filled up with people who I suspect are more concerned to discuss the police service than the Greater London authority, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.40 p.m.

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

House resumed.