§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I am glad to reach this point. I beg to move that the Greater London Authority Bill be now read a second time.
I have to confess to a considerable amount of emotion in introducing this Bill here today. Thirteen years ago. I stood on the terrace of County Hall and watched the flag of the GLC being lowered for the last time. The Conservative government, in one of their biggest mistakes, had abolished the GLC. They abandoned London and left it as the only European capital city without any, form of city-wide strategic leadership. Thirteen years on, it has to be said that, in many ways, London has been the loser: in terms of congestion; transport systems; air quality; and planning systems. Other European cities—Paris, Barcelona, and now Berlin—have moved ahead as places in which to live and work.
Many in your Lordships' House opposed that legislation which abolished the Greater London Council. In doing so, you voted alongside the vast majority of the people of London. They never wanted government in London to be abolished, and they have been impatient for its return.
439 But this Bill is not about nostalgia. We are not recreating the LCC or the GLC. The GLA will not be a housing authority, or an education authority, with all the administrative overheads and bureaucracy that that entails. I should say, as someone who now lives in a block built by the LCC and whose children were educated by the ILEA, that those authorities achieved many startling successes. But today's problems are different. We are creating a strategic authority. The legacy of the GLC is still with us, and much of it is now carried out by the London boroughs. There were many distinguished leaders in the old GLC. I am particularly gratified to see on the list of speakers the name of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone. What is needed now is not a re-creation of the GLC, but a strategic authority to deal with the problems of spatial planning, transport congestion and the environment.
The Bill brings democratic, city-wide governance hack to our capital. It creates a new strategic authority with leadership and accountability, and brings direction to the way the city is run.
The GLA Bill is an integral part of the Government's wider vision for modernising the way in which the United Kingdom is governed. Democratisation, decentralisation and devolution were at the heart of our manifesto. This Bill is about creating modern, integrated and responsive political structures in London, putting Londoners back in charge of the way in which their city is run. We want Londoners to stop looking enviously at Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. We should like the inhabitants of those cities to look to London as the example for the future.
In July 1997 we issued a Green Paper on how we might fulfil our manifesto commitment to create a London-wide authority made up of a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly. We listened to and considered the representations made to us by Londoners: from London businesses, voluntary bodies, local authorities and individuals. Last year we produced a White Paper setting out our proposals in fine detail, and in May last year, we held a referendum. Across London, in every one of the 32 London boroughs and in the City of London, people voted "yes" by a clear majority.
There was a "yes" vote from voters in inner London and in outer London; from voters in Labour boroughs, in Conservative boroughs and in Liberal Democrat boroughs. There was support from voters in all of London's ethnic, racial and religious communities. It is clear that London needs this Bill and Londoners support it.
For more than 10 years, London lacked leadership, co-ordination and accountability. Decisions were taken behind closed doors by a hotchpotch of unaccountable committees and obscure quangos. This Bill marks the end of that sorry chapter in London's history. Londoners are going to regain control of how their city is run.
The mayor of London will be the first directly elected executive position in the United Kingdom. She or he will have a greater direct personal mandate than any other elected office holder in the United Kingdom.
440 The electoral systems have attracted some comment. The mayor will be elected by the supplementary vote, ensuring that the winning candidate has a clear mandate. After all, the mayor will be the leader of one of the world's greatest cities. He or she will have the resources, the profile and the powers to tackle London's problems and make a real difference to people.
The constitution, structure and separation of powers within the GLA are truly innovative. They represent a complete break with the past. When I say that the GLA will be innovative, I choose the words with care. The powers, structures and working culture of the GLA will be unlike anything seen before in this country. The mayor of London will not be equivalent to the leaders of the LCC or the GLC. They were powerful figures, but their mandate came solely from being leader of the most popular party in the council chamber. Under this Bill, mayoral candidates will present themselves for direct election as individuals. They will stand for that executive position on their own terms, with a clear agenda, priorities and visions for the capital.
Of course, such a powerful mayor will require checks and balances. That will be the democratic function of the assembly, which will scrutinise the mayor's actions and hold him or her to account.
Assembly members will have a very clear role. They will not act as a legislature but will have the unique responsibility of holding the mayor to account. They will be full-time representatives of Londoners' views, responsive to London's problems, investigating issues of concern, scrutinising the mayor's budget and his policies, operating in the public eye, with open meetings. That will be a vital job, and the assembly will have the teeth to ensure that it is done.
The mayor will have a mandate to lead; the assembly will have a mandate to scrutinise. There will be no reliance by the mayor on rebellious party factions. There will be no pork barrel politics. Together, the mayor and the assembly will bring firm and accountable government to London. That is what London has sadly lacked, and what Londoners want.
The Bill comes to this House after extensive consideration in another place. As your Lordships will have noticed, it is an extremely long and complex piece of legislation consisting of 330 clauses and 27 schedules. I understand that it is the longest Bill in this parliamentary Session, and indeed for many a long year. I need to take some time to explain the main provisions.
Part I provides for the establishment of the Greater London Authority. It provides that the mayor and assembly together will have a corporate identity as the GLA.
As regards the electoral systems, the mayor will be elected by the supplementary vote. That is the correct electoral system for the office of mayor. It will allow voters to mark their first and second choice to be mayor. It will ensure that whoever wins will have clear support throughout London and will not be everyone's third choice.
441 The assembly will be elected by the additional member system. Fourteen members will represent specific constituencies. The Local Government Commission has decided on the boundaries, which the Government have accepted. The other 11 members of the assembly will be elected on a London-wide basis from party lists. That should ensure that the assembly as a whole more clearly reflects the balance of political views in the capital than it would do simply under the first-past-the-post system.
We have also included in the Bill a 5 per cent threshold for elections to the assembly. That will mean that any party represented in the assembly will have to have received a significant level of support across London as a whole. It will also be a safeguard against the possibility of extremist parties or candidates gaining a toe-hold in our democratic processes, having won only a very small proportion of the vote.
Part I of the Bill sets the tone for the rest of the legislation. It is designed to ensure that the mayor has a clear mandate to act and that the assembly represents a wide range of views.
Part II sets out the principal purposes of the GLA. They are: to promote economic development and wealth creation in Greater London; to promote social development in Greater London; and to promote the improvement of the environment in Greater London. The authority's general power is conferred to enable it to further one or more of those purposes, and those purposes will inform the preparation of each of its strategies.
Because of concerns expressed in Standing Committee in another place, the Bill makes it absolutely clear that in exercising the general power to do anything which it considers necessary to further any one or more of those purposes, the authority must have regard to the effect that this will also have on the health of people in London and on the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom.
Where the authority does exercise the general power conferred by this clause, it is also required to do so in a way which is best calculated to promote improvements in the health of people in London and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Also, in preparing or revising his or her strategies, the mayor must have regard, not only to the principal purposes of the authority, but also to similar considerations.
Of course, there are limits to what the authority can do. That is why in drafting the general power we have sought to strike a clear balance between the need to provide the authority with the freedom and flexibility to act and the need to avoid duplication in regard to the statutory responsibilities of its own functional bodies and other local authorities, organisations and public bodies.
Our primary objective in establishing the GLA's structure and its procedures is that it should be easily accessible to the people of London. That means effective consultation. Londoners must be able to ensure that their views about what the authority does, or plans to do, are properly considered and taken into account.
442 That is why we have included in the Bill provisions requiring the authority, in deciding whether or not to exercise any of its powers, to consult widely—including, in particular, business interests. We have also provided a requirement for the mayor to consult about the preparation or revision of his or her strategies.
These provisions are intended to be inclusive. But it was clear from the debates in the other place and from other representations received from interested groups that our intentions would be clearer if certain broad categories of interests were named on the face of the Bill as consultees, or potential consultees. We agreed that clarity was important. Therefore, we have extended the consultation provisions to meet the concerns that have been expressed.
§ Lord Morris of Manchester
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. He knows how very widely it is felt that there should be a national scheme exempting from charges disabled people who rely crucially on cars for their independence. Would he agree that such a scheme should apply in and throughout London? Are not the four inner-London special badge schemes—which operate outside the Orange Badge scheme—a nightmare for disabled people that must not be repeated?
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords. I recognise the concern expressed by my noble friend. The provisions relating to disabled people will be very much part of the mayor's powers. It is important that he consults representatives of disabled people. Clauses 27 and 34, which express the general power include a requirement for the mayor to consider consulting a wide range of interests. In our view those clauses mean that the authority must consult representatives of disabled people, among others, where their interests may reasonably be expected to be affected. Therefore, in relation to such issues as concessionary fare schemes and other provisions for the disabled, a clear principle of the Bill is that the mayor should consult and make provision in his various strategies to ensure that those needs are met.
In addition, in determining what consultations, if any, are necessary the mayor must consider whether or not to consult certain specified categories of interest. These are: any London borough council; the Common Council of the City; voluntary bodies, some or all of whose activities benefit the whole or part of London; bodies representing the interests of different racial, ethnic or national groups in London; bodies representing the interests of different religious groups in Greater London: and bodies representing the interests of persons who carry on business in London. In preparing or revising any of his strategies, the mayor must consider consulting those same bodies.
I know that there has been anxiety that that formulation does not properly reflect the importance of business in London's future. I can assure the House that that is not so. The mayor must now have regard to the principal purposes of the authority, which include economic development and wealth creation, in preparing any of his strategies. Consultation and working closely with business is a very important provision of the Bill. 443 If there is anxiety that this formulation means that business may not be consulted in any situation where its interests are affected, I can assure those in the business community who have that concern that the mayor will have to consult business on the use of the general power and all the strategies, where it is appropriate to do so.
Under these provisions our intention is that on the usual principle where the mayor fails to give proper consideration to whom he or she should consult, inclusions or omissions from the consultation exercise could be challenged on the basis of Wednesbury reasonableness. Our intention is to protect the legitimate interests of Londoners while preserving some proper discretion in the mayor to decide whom he or she should consult.
I turn to Part III of the Bill: finance. The financial arrangements for the new authority will be placed firmly within the existing financial framework for local authorities, but with modifications where necessary. The GLA will set budgets for itself and the four functional bodies: Transport for London; the Metropolitan Police Authority; the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority; and the London Development Agency. Together these will form the GLA's overall budget. The budget will be proposed by the mayor and will be subject to scrutiny by the assembly. The budget-setting process will ensure that either the mayor's or the assembly's view prevails and therefore prevents deadlock.
Two new government grants will be established. The first is a new general grant to cover most of the annual costs of the mayor and assembly. London council tax payers will contribute a small amount that will add about three pence a week to a band D council tax bill. The second is a new GLA transport grant that consolidates existing transport grants. The mayor's freedom to decide budgetary priorities does not mean running risks with standards of service. There will be three key safeguards. First, the mayor must comply with his statutory duties. Secondly, he or she will be required to spend earmarked funds on the service for which they are given. Thirdly, the Home Secretary will have a reserve power to set a minimum budget for the Metropolitan Police and powers to ensure national standards of fire services.
Local government capital finance controls will apply to the GLA and the four bodies independently. The mayor will draw up a capital spending plan through which he or she will influence capital spending priorities at a strategic level. The GLA and the four bodies will be responsible for the administration of their own financial affairs and will prepare their own accounts in the local authority format. The GLA will produce a summary statement to bring together these accounts.
I turn now to Part IV of the Bill. Transport is one of the most difficult challenges facing London. It is perhaps the issue where Londoners will look to the mayor to make a difference. The mayor will draw together an integrated transport strategy for London. This will be integrated in every sense. It will be integrated in that it will address every type of transport, both public and private; it will be integrated with the 444 mayor's separate strategies on planning and the environment; and it will be integrated with the work of the London boroughs. The boroughs will retain their existing powers for local transport services but they will do so within the mayor's overall strategy for London, integrating their local plans within a pan-London approach.
The Bill sets up an important new executive body, Transport for London. Transport for London will help to implement the mayor's transport strategy and will deliver many key transport services. It will absorb London Transport and take on responsibility for buses, the Croydon tramlink, the Docklands Light Railway, new piers and riverbus services, and Victoria coach station. Transport for London will also take over the work of the Traffic Director for London, the Traffic Control Systems Unit and the Public Carriage Office. It will assume responsibility for most of the work carried out by the Highways Agency in London. It will become responsible for traffic management and the maintenance of a network of important roads across London. It will take control of the traffic light network across London and be responsible for regulating taxis and minicabs.
The creation of Transport for London will bring an end to the fragmentation of transport services in London. It will be directly responsible to the mayor who will appoint the members of its board and may choose to be its chairman. The mayor will also have wide powers of direction over all of its activities. Part IV of the Bill also contains some specific provisions for the Government's proposed public/private partnership for the London Underground. Once these plans are implemented TFL will take over full responsibility for the operation of London Underground.
The Government intend that London Underground be restructured into three infrastructure divisions based on groupings of lines and one public sector operating division. We intend shortly to invite expressions of interest from the private sector for contracts to run the infrastructure divisions. The operating division will remain in the public sector. We committed ourselves in our manifesto to a public/private partnership for the Underground. The involvement of the private sector in the modernisation and maintenance of the Tube's infrastructure will bring increased levels of investment and a better level of service for the travelling public; and it will avoid the mistakes of privatisation by ensuring that the ownership of key assets remains in public hands. The provisions on the PPP in the Bill are designed to ensure that it can be implemented in the most effective way and that it can ensure value for money.
Part IV of the Bill also contains powers that would enable the mayor and boroughs to introduce road-user and workplace charging schemes in London. Traffic congestion is one of the most important problems that London faces. Congestion pollutes the city and costs business millions of pounds each year. It will be up to the mayor and boroughs to decide whether and how to implement the charging schemes. But the Bill contains a ground-breaking arrangement for the retention and use of the revenues if they introduce such schemes.
445 Every single penny raised from charging schemes introduced within the first 10 years of the GLA will be ring-fenced for transport expenditure for a scheme's initial period. The expectation is that this period will be 10 years. But the Bill provides a power to allow the Secretary of State to guarantee the hypothecation of the net proceeds for longer than 10 years. This could be particularly valuable if, for example, the mayor wished to undertake a private finance initiative and the private sector required a guarantee of revenues for longer than 10 years.
We shall review these arrangements in 10 years' time. It is only normal that such a policy should be subject to a review. But I should like to emphasise that all schemes brought forward within the first 10 years will he guaranteed at least 10 years of hypothecated revenues for transport spending.
These are radical new proposals. They are not uncontroversial, but they show the Government's clear commitment to integrated transport. And they underline the Government's willingness to develop imaginative solutions to the challenges that London faces and our desire to make sure that the mayor has the powers needed to get the job done.
Part V of the Bill establishes the London Development Agency which will be the regional development agency for London. Business-led, it will advise the mayor, carry out the development functions delegated to it by central government and implement the mayor's economic development strategy. The business community in London will be at the heart of these new arrangements.
Part VI of the Bill deals with the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Authority. For the first time this will bring democratic accountability to policing in London, allowing Londoners to have a say in how the police service for the capital is run.
The police authority will have 23 members, the majority selected by the mayor from members of the assembly. The authority will bring together Londoners who have a part to play in tackling crime from different communities and groups across the capital. The mayor, the assembly and the police authority will all work towards that goal.
As part of the new arrangements, the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police district will be brought into line with those of Greater London to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Authority serves only Londoners—those to whom it will be accountable. The City will still be policed separately.
Part VII deals with the creation of a new fire and emergency planning authority for London. This body will inherit the staff, functions and powers of the current London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. The authority will include a majority of assembly members and a chair, appointed by the mayor, together with representatives of London boroughs.
Part VIII of the Bill deals with the important issue of planning. The mayor will prepare a spatial development strategy for London. This will bring a strategic overview to the capital's needs. The mayor will be able to set out 446 a vision for London, including priorities and goals for the future. This will be closely integrated with the mayor's other policies and strategies. In the planning process, the London boroughs will remain the planning authorities in their areas. But to ensure strategic policies are carried through on the ground, the borough development plans will have to conform with the mayor's strategy. The mayor will be able to comment on—and in the last resort issue directions on—planning applications that are of strategic importance to the capital as a whole. These will be carefully defined and limited in number.
Part IX is a vital area where the mayor has real powers to tackle London's environmental problems and create a more sustainable city. The mayor will be required to prepare a periodic report on the environment of the capital, draw up an action plan to safeguard London's biodiversity and draft an ambient noise strategy. He or she will also have strategic responsibility for air quality and waste in the capital and, working with the boroughs, will have real powers to deliver a co-ordinated approach to tackling these important issues.
Part X deals with the mayor's powers in relation to culture. As your Lordships will be aware, culture is one of London's greatest strengths; only our financial services contribute more to London's economy. We have a vibrant cultural scene which brings millions of visitors to the capital. Tourism alone supports nearly a quarter of a million jobs. This Bill will ensure that London's cultural industries finally receive the attention they deserve.
The mayor will produce a culture strategy covering culture, media and sport. The authority will be under a duty to promote tourism and will have powers to pay grants to museums in London. For the first time we shall have a strategic approach to one of the capital's most important sectors.
Finally, I turn to Part XII which deals with transitional arrangements. These clauses contain the provisions which will be necessary to ensure a smooth transfer of property, rights and liabilities from existing bodies to the new organisations set up under the Bill. These are technical provisions but nonetheless vital to ensure that the interests, contracts and pensions of staff affected by the creation of the authority are properly safeguarded.
I have gone through the Bill in some detail. It is both ambitious and complex. Its central thrust is what the people of London voted for and what they believe they have missed for the past decade and more. It will return leadership and accountability to our capital city.
Many in your Lordships' House, in this debate and, I trust, during subsequent proceedings in this Chamber, will bring their expertise and experience of London to bear. I look forward to contributions from the members of the all-party London group under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon. He regrets that he cannot be present today but will be actively involved in later stages. The group has already made positive contributions which my colleagues have taken into account in drafting the Bill.
447 No doubt particular attention will be paid to Part IV on transport, an issue on which there is wide expertise in this House. There will be a number of government amendments to add to the business of the House. We have sought to keep them to a minimum but there will be substantial amendments relating in particular to transport—to clarify, for example, the mayor's powers over surface railways, and to elaborate on the relationship between the mayor and the national franchising director. There will also be government amendments on traffic and parking, and amending arrangements for concessionary fares to update and improve this scheme.
We shall also necessarily bring forward amendments in relation to the Metropolitan Police Authority which will address the important and complex technical consequences of abolishing the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police. I must, at this stage, alert the House to the fact that those will be lengthy and complex amendments, and those relating to the police may not be ready until a much later stage of the Bill's passage through this House.
No doubt there will be other amendments to clarify and elaborate our policy on other parts of the Bill. Many of the amendments we bring forward could be detailed. In considering them, however, I hope that noble Lords do not lose sight of the bigger picture.
My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister has announced that the first elections to the mayorship and the assembly will take place on 4th May next year. The authority will be fully operational by 3rd July. Subject to the proceedings in this House, I believe that we can deliver to Londoners that new authority. There is, therefore, about a year to go before democratic city-wide governance is restored to London and Londoners. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Whitty.)
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction of this complicated Bill. It is a pity that, as the debate was scheduled for a Thursday, when we have a later start, the measure was not the first business to be discussed.
By any standards, it is a big Bill. It has enough material for several Bills. It is twice the size of the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act combined. It grew by a further 53 clauses, six schedules and 75 pages while passing through another place. That is more than the length of most Bills. It smacks of the Government legislating on the hoof. The Minister has told us that there is even more to come. It hardly suggests a well thought out and well planned piece of legislation. Like the curate's egg, it is good in parts—but only in parts. No doubt it will undergo further refinement in this House. I have no doubt that Parliament's time will be taken up on many future occasions amending legislation and putting right the various errors and omissions which will emerge from practical experience. Indeed, at Second Reading in another place the Secretary of State said that what he called "reform" will continue.
448 We, on these Benches, will try to restore some of those pitfalls with some necessary amendments, which we hope that the Government will regard as constructive and not as attacks on their manifesto; nor will they digress from the result of the referendum.
In the first paragraph of his speech at Second Reading, the Secretary of State claimed that the Government had,started on putting local government back in touch with the people".—[Official Report, Commons, 14/12/98: col. 623.]How do the Government propose to carry out this project? They begin by setting up an elected assembly, the legitimacy of which they claim from the referendum in which the electors were given one loaded question: Do you want a mayor with an elected assembly? 'The Government fought vigorously to ensure that those who wanted one without the other had to reject or accept the whole package. This has ensured that an extra layer of local government is imposed, and interposes, between the public and the mayor. How does that make it "more accountable" to the people? It breaks London up into 14 super-constituencies rather than keeping the existing 32 boroughs and the City of London—a recipe for conflict if ever I saw one. The excuse for this is that they did not want the members of the assembly to be too parochial in performing their duties. How is that more accountable to the people, in the sense of subsidiarity, with 14 constituency members and 11 selected by a form of proportional representation? Part II of Schedule 2 sets out a procedure which will in my view necessitate the employment of an actuary or a professor of differential calculus to be the returning officer.
Before I leave the matter of the so-called "giving power to the people of London", I jump forward in the Bill and draw your Lordships' attention to Clauses 39 and 40; two massive pieces of tinsel-bedecked showmanship. An annual general meeting is to be called the "State of London Debate". It has no connection with the American President's annual State of the Union speech. A six-monthly open meeting is to be called "People's Question Time". My Lords, 7 million people live in Greater London. If only one in every 1,000 wanted to attend those meetings, it would mean that 7,000 people would have to be transported and accommodated. Where will that be? Perhaps the Government have at last found a permanent use for the Millennium Dome!
These pieces of window-dressing are fully in line with the Government's attempt to hijack the words "the people". We had the people's princess; we are shortly to have the people's Peers. Now under this Bill we are to have the people's pow-wows. What they will turn out to be are platforms not for ordinary citizens but for all kinds of single-issue pressure groups. The Government claim that, on the one hand, this Bill will devolve power to the mayor and the assembly, and that, on the other, in complete contradiction, it will be, in the Secretary of State's own words, "a lean strategic authority". I believe that the Government intend it to be very lean indeed. The powers of the Secretary of State are mentioned more than 250 times in a 330-clause Bill.
449 The Bill contains as many measures giving powers to the Secretary of State as there are references to the mayor. Clause 26 consists off 41 lines defining and limiting the general powers of the authority. In three further lines the Secretary of State is seeking power to remove any of those prohibitions or limitations on those same powers just imposed by Parliament.
The Secretary of State claims that the GLA will set budgets for itself, the Transport for London body, the Metropolitan Police Authority, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and the London Development Agency. Clause 71 empowers the Secretary of State to increase or decrease the budget. He can also impose ceilings and floors for expenditure. The Home Secretary is to have the power to set a minimum budget for the police and fire brigades.
I do not suggest that these controls and constraints by the Government are undesirable. Indeed, we are glad that the Government have learnt the hard lessons in irrelevant activities taught by the former Greater London Council, for whose loss some of them still shed crocodile tears. But what they do is to demolish the claim that the GLA will be an exercise in devolution.
The question is whether it really is devolution or the transfer of power to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State complained about quangos and what he referred to as "shadowy committees and burgeoning bureaucracies". What the Bill actually does is to remove local government one step further away from control by local boroughs. There are to be no fewer than four intermediate layers of government between the local councils and central Government.
I have already referred to the size and multiplicity of topics contained in this Bill. We have great concern regarding the burden on Londoners of congestion charges and workplace parking taxes. My noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, when he winds up the Second Reading, will deal with this and other transport matters. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith will deal with financial matters, as this Bill goes through your Lordships' House, and the very important planning issues where we already see the possibility of huge conflict between the mayor and the boroughs.
That means that I can confine my remaining remarks to just a selection of the other matters covered by the Bill. The first of these is found in Clause 25(2). The principal purpose of the authority is the development and wealth creation, social development and improvement of the environment in Greater London—all very laudable. However, it is the word "principal" which bothers me.
In the Bill as introduced in the other place, the wording was that the powers of the authority should be exercised in such a way as to include a menu of four criteria which have now been drastically altered. The word "include" has now disappeared, and we are now told that the Bill sets out the three "principal" purposes of the authority. It suggests to me that the menu is not complete. I do not believe that I am being unduly suspicious.
450 Your Lordships will recall only too well the manner in which the most recent of the former Greater London Council poked its nose into matters that had absolutely nothing to do with the local government of London and the provision of its infrastructure. To this is added the mastery of the party opposite of the fine print. Any ambiguity, for example, in its manifesto is regarded by it as a carte blanche to interpret it in any way it chooses. Just like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass, so far as the Labour Party is concerned, when it uses a word, it means what it chooses it to mean; neither more nor less.
I should like the Minister to tell as the significance of the word "principal" in Clause 25(1) and (2). If he disclaims any intention for the mayor or the authority to be able to extend his or its functions by stealth, we invite him to agree to the deletion of that word. We do not object to the possibility of the functions of the authority being extended if, in practice, this proves to be desirable. But as a sovereign Parliament is granting the powers of the mayor and the authority, there is absolutely no justification in it being able to usurp powers with absolutely no say by Parliament.
I hope that the Minister will agree that any extension of the specific powers to be granted under this Bill should only be modified by Parliament, even if only by secondary legislation subject to a positive resolution by both Houses. More specifically, in subsections (4) and (5) there is the provision that one of the functions of the authority will be to promote the health of persons in Greater London. That sounds very nice, but what happens to the Department of Health and the regional health authorities? Is the mayor to have powers to intervene in the management of hospitals or the policies of the appropriate authorities, including the Secretary of State? This qualification to the principal purposes must be very closely defined. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us what the Government have in mind as regards the authority's functions in relation to health.
Again, in Clauses 24(4) and (5), the exercise of its principal purposes is to have regard to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. That is entirely new. When the Bill was first published, all the purposes listed in the menu in the old Clause 25(3) related to the promotion of the interests of Greater London. Now the authority is to be obliged to consider the interests of the rest of the UK.
That clearly means that the interests of Greater London could be subordinated to the interests of other parts of the UK. The mayor and the authority will have to fight to promote the interests of London, perhaps with one hand tied behind their backs—possibly both hands. Why should the elected representatives of Greater London have to put their city second in the economic queue behind, say, Scotland or Wales? Which of your Lordships imagine that the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly would give a second thought to the interests of London when they debate their own concerns; especially those members of the Scottish Parliament who took their Oaths of Allegiance under public protest or even with upraised clenched fists?
451 I trust that the Minister will be able to give us a plausible explanation of this extraordinary millstone that has appeared since the Bill left the other place. This is especially in view of the fact that the exercise of the powers given by Clause 25(1) to further its purposes is subject to any so-called guidance from the Secretary of State. If the Minister cannot explain this today, perhaps he will do so before the next stage. As it is, it seems to me that Clause 25(4) and (5) will need some detailed rethinking in Committee.
I turn to another topic. This unnecessarily complex Bill is already confusing enough with its complicated voting procedures. The local elections will comprise four simultaneous ballots using three different voting systems (two of them totally novel) on an as yet unspecified number of ballot papers. Even the honourable Member for Southwark and North Bermondsey, who must be assumed to be in favour of some form of proportional representation, criticised the proposed system as being uniquely used to elect the President of Sri Lanka.
But now let us look at what happens when a mayor is finally elected by those able to master these complexities. Under Clause 23, the mayor has to make a declaration of acceptance of office in a manner prescribed in no fewer than 37 lines of text. Why, my Lords? A Member of Parliament does not have to make such a declaration. It is true that a local councillor has to make such a declaration, but one has to ask, why? The answer seems to be "We have always done it like that". I would have thought that the mere fact of signing the nomination paper was, as in the case of a Member of Parliament, sufficient indication that if elected the candidate would accept the office.
The mayor having been elected, how can he be removed before the expiry of his term? There are provisions in Clause 22 about disqualification, but what happens if he commits some act of gross misconduct? The leader of a party who falls out of favour with his colleagues can he sacked by some procedure or other, as my party knows only too well. Why is there not a process of impeachment, requiring a substantial majority to take into account the fact that, just as in the United Stales of America, the mayor could be of a different party from the majority in the assembly?
While we are discussing the election of the mayor, let us take one more step and look at the appointment of the deputy mayor by the newly elected mayor. So far so good. But I ask your Lordships to look at the restrictions on the choice of deputy. The Government propose that he should be chosen from among the assembly members. The Liberal Democrats want the deputy to be elected by the assembly. Perhaps they even see an opportunity for wheeling and dealing, such as has just taken place in Scotland, should the electoral system give them the balance of power. How typically illogical is the suggestion that the deputy mayor should be elected by the assembly, when the mayor himself is not!
The two suggestions have one thing in common. Despite the Government's lip service to democracy, there is one thing that is not acceptable to either of them; neither wants to allow the deputy mayor to be elected by the voters themselves.
452 The deputy mayor will have functions which have yet to be defined. Obviously, the Government think it is a good idea to have one, but do not yet know w hat to do with him or her or what he or she is for. Of course, one blindingly obvious function of an elected deputy would be to succeed the mayor if he fell under the proverbial bus or if, for whatever other reason. there was a vacancy. Another would be to stand in for the mayor in appropriate circumstances.
Electing a deputy mayor at the same time as the mayor would avoid all the complicated by-election paraphernalia of Clause 16 and the hiatus that would happen if the mayor were, regrettably, to die within the last six months of his term, or cease to hold office in some other way.
I will not take up your Lordships' time at this stage by setting out the possible arguments for the mayor and his deputy being jointly elected, with the deputy independently selected by the mayoral candidate himself, in the same way, perhaps, as the President and Vice President of the United States of America, but I expect that we shall be able to return to this aspect at a later stage.
I should like finally at this stage to turn to some aspects of the provisions regarding the police which are not clear to me. They arrive in part VI, Clauses 243 to 257.
The area under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police is to be reduced to the Greater London area alone. Several largely dormitory areas in what I may loosely call outer London, even though the residents may not agree with me, are to be removed from the present Metropolitan Police District, defined by the London Government Act 1963. I understand that the police officers currently working in those areas are to he allowed to transfer from the Metropolitan Police to the local police authority. Could the Minister please tell me on what terms that will happen? He can write to me if he cannot tell me this evening.
I understand that those who wish to remain in the Metropolitan Police will be transferred to the new reduced Metropolitan Police District, which will not save the Met any money but will be of some help with its present shortage of officers. And what about the infrastructure that the Metropolitan Police will be leaving behind? I understand that some discussions have taken place on these matters between the police authorities and the councils. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us the present position, or write to me later.
We are concerned that the statutory underpinning of the police community consultative groups is being eroded by the Bill, and we shall certainly wish to return to this matter in Committee.
We are also particularly concerned that, while the Greater London Authority, the mayor. the magistracy and the Home Office are all quite rightly represented on the new police authority, the boroughs are not. My noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley will deal with all these matters as the Bill progresses through your Lordships' House.
453 My right honourable friend the Member for South West Norfolk assured the other place that our stance would be constructive. And so shall it be in your Lordships' House.
Speaking as a Londoner born and bred, I regard London as the finest city anywhere in the world. The last Conservative Government got rid of the GLC, I suspect because of its loony-Left antics and its bloated bureaucracy, which spent £2 billion a year for no tangible benefit. I am not suggesting that the GLC was in that position every time, but certainly that is true of the last one.
On the other hand, in 1997 London was voted the best city in which to locate a business; best city for external transport links; best city for internal transport; and the very best city for telecommunications. The City is the world's undisputed leading centre for financial institutions. The situation that I have described was achieved by freeing London's economy, targeting areas for regeneration and focusing the necessary efforts and resources. It was achieved under the 18 years of Conservative Government which the party opposite constantly seek to decry or to blame for its own shortcomings. We shall expect this Bill, the new Greater London Authority and the mayor to enable the achievements of the previous Conservative Government to be continued.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I, too, must thank the noble Lord the Minister for introducing a Bill not just of many clauses but of many acronyms. We look forward to its later stages, not least because I cannot hope to mention all the topics today, still less to explore them in any detail. Our discussion at the later stages is likely to be longer than that on House of Lords reform, but I am sure that it will be extremely constructive, possibly in contradistinction to the discussion on the Bill introducing that reform.
The huge scale and complex detail of what is London were brought home to me some years ago, when I was speaking at a conference on London as a world city. To pick up a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, has just made, I remember at that conference the considerable concern expressed by companies that were considering locating here and were anxious about the quality of life, about our transport, about air quality and about culture. Those matters have to be protected to preserve London's status as a world city.
At that conference the visual presentation went wrong. The projector finally got going just as I was talking about London's pomp and ceremony. At that point up flashed a shot of refuse collection. I want both those aspects, and everything in between, to work well for the benefit of all those who make up the constituency—in the non-political sense—of London.
London is not homogenous, though we Londoners sometimes tend to forget this. To take only one spectrum, if one commutes from the suburbs on South West Trains one may think that those who come in from Brighton on Connex have little stake in London and 454 have little understanding of what it is like to have one's horizons limited by the pricing and routing of local buses.
I welcome with huge enthusiasm London having its own strategic government and London as a whole being the first priority for the new authority. When I chaired the London Planning Advisory Committee, a job which I enjoyed and which I regarded as a great privilege, for most of the members for most of the time the problem was not that the borough came first—it did, but by and large they reconciled that with strategic matters—but that the first priority call on their time was their own borough. I believe that the new authority will be able to deal with the strategy for London in a way that individual borough members inevitably find difficult simply because of those practical problems.
The culture set by the first authority—how things are done—will be hugely important. It may not be the populist approach. but I am alarmed at the prospect of its success being judged by the mayor's achieving a few big hits. The Government and others have presented the new government for London as the mayor being the voice for London. The assembly hardly features. Of course, the voice for London is one role, but my anxiety is that that voice will perhaps be too strident. We have seen this already in some of the campaigning undertaken by some of the would-be mayoral candidates. Ambition is a good thing, but ambition misplaced may not be.
I do not claim the credit for the following notion, which goes to Professor John Stewart, but I think that the Government should be striving not for modernism but post-modernism in the new authority. That includes seeing that the authority—and I stress authority, not just the mayor—finds its correct relationship, the right balance, with the boroughs and with other entities and individuals.
We shall be discussing the introduction of parishes, which we on these Benches support, and what should be the prescription for consultation with others. That is clearly still a matter of concern. However, it is such a delicate issue that simply to list possible representative bodies does not, to my mind, achieve the sort of consultation which we shall wish to see the new authority undertake.
We shall discuss what we believe is the heavy hand of the Secretary of State. In that regard, I must welcome the concession that traffic wardens' uniforms are no longer to be subject to the Secretary of State's approval. We shall discuss the role of the assembly which we regret will have little hand in policy making.
I have mentioned the importance of how the authority does things, and that is linked closely with its purposes. In our eyes, sustainability is about process as well as about outcome. So too is equity or, if your Lordships prefer, equality or fairness. Your Lordships have been looking at those terms in the context of value in relation to the recent Local Government Bill.
We welcome the Government's move towards a general duty to promote economic, social and environmental wellbeing but we do not welcome the Secretary of State's ability to prevent the authority doing certain thing or, of course, to limit expenditure. Some 455 of the financial constraints are in areas where the borough may provide the service. While we should not wish to take over services from the boroughs, we are concerned that that may fail to allow a partnership approach.
We believe, too, that the financial constraints may mean also that the authority may not be able fully to promote its purposes, both those which are explicit and those which are implicit and those which we believe should be included. Among those is the subject of health. We should like to see the newly constituted regional health office for London under the umbrella of the GLA for reasons of accountability and because of the links with other functions. We wish also to explore the role of the GLA in supporting voluntary organisations which complement the health service. We should like, too, to see the authority with a role in secondary education. My noble friend Lord Tope may later address that matter.
Some of the constraints are those which are familiar to local government—capping and capital constraints—and there is also the lack of a tax-varying power. Business is usually keen to keep down spending and consequent taxes but it is telling that London First wants to see a power for the authority to raise finance. It makes the point, with which I agree entirely, that in the area of transport the carrot must come before the stick. Both road charging and non-residential parking charges have a long way to go before they are implemented. As a quite separate issue from how long the income is ring-fenced, the schemes must be acceptable. I suggest that there is no hope of that unless public transport is improved first.
My original note on the Bill said, "concern about Tube delays". I suppose that is so in every sense. The original clause in the Bill provided that London Transport shall cease to exist. We are now faced with the rather surreal situation that the GLA may not take over the Underground, even in its first term. Until the Government's recent announcement on PPP, I believed that if it went well the Government would take the credit, if not, the mayor would take the blame. But things have changed. I look forward to the contributions today and at later stages of my noble friends Lord Ezra and Lady Thomas of Walliswood, who will contribute on that issue.
I note that the Minister has indicated that the Government will be bringing forward substantial amendments, including those dealing with transport issues. He has mentioned that in some cases those amendments may not be brought forward at the next stage. I hope that as many amendments as possible will be tabled as soon as possible because I know that your Lordships will wish to have the opportunity to consider amendments at the earliest possible moment so that we do not go off in a direction that is not constructive because we have not seen what the Government intend.
The experience of Members of this House in other capacities will ensure that we examine in detail the roads hierarchy and the possibility of the GLA notionally taking over responsibility for side streets which common sense says are local roads. I am sure that 456 I am not the only Member of this House who, wearing another hat, many years ago—well before I got this hat—campaigned against the GLC, which did not want to agree to a zebra crossing being installed. Nor, I am sure, am I the only Member who has had to deal with the detail of red routes, which raised similar issues. That zebra crossing has now been replaced by a split, two-stage pelican crossing, such is the increase in traffic. We shall wish to be sure that the boroughs have access to traffic information. In 1986, it was the London boroughs which kept the research facility going. Even if they had not, it must be right that information belongs to everyone.
It was in the run-up to the abolition of the GLC that this House insisted on the retention of some sort of strategic planning body. As has been said already, the relative powers and interests of the mayor. with his spatial development strategy, the boroughs and the Secretary of State are likely to be the subject of debate.
The Minister talked about 13 years of London government, such as there was in terms of pan-London government, being behind closed doors. I must tell the House that a great deal of it was not. The various joint committees of the boroughs were open. I have some very vivid memories of discovering that the early squabbles which LPAC had, before we settled down to a constructive way of working—shamingly, most of those squabbles were over such irrelevancies as the name—were witnessed not only by members of the public but also, as I discovered later, by officials from the DoE.
There was quite a lot of debate in the other place about the police. My noble friend Lord Dholakia will concentrate on that topic in particular. There seems to have been little discussion about environmental strategy, with which my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer will deal at later stages. However, we acknowledge that the Government have met us on issues relating to biodiversity and waste minimisation.
Almost nothing was said in the other place about culture. Culture is linked—to name only two topics—with education and tourism. Although I have resisted referring to particular organisations by name in this speech, I should say that several of my noble friends will support attempts to recognise in the Bill the centre for young musicians. Many others of my noble friends will contribute both today and at later stages.
I believe that 4th May 2000 will be important for the governance of London and for democracy. Therefore, I end on something of a note of sadness. Londoners will use a new electoral system and we, on these Benches, will not seek to disturb the 5 per cent threshold announced recently by the Government. But the issue is, or should be, not an artificial limit to stop the election of extremists, with, perhaps, the knock-on effect of other small parties, but to stop the use of an election as a platform to promote racism.
We hope to make good use of the time, probably quite a lot of time, at later stages in this House in the interests of the Bill and in the interests of London.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Baroness Thornton
My Lords, I am honoured to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and daunted by the task of being coherent in the face of the huge experience and knowledge of the noble Baroness and, indeed, of noble Lords who are to follow me in contributing to this afternoon's debate. I shall do my best.
I have a personal interest in the Bill as well as a compelling political interest. My husband served as a leading member of the GLC's last administration, the member for Hackney Central. At the same time, I was a member of the Greater London Labour Party's executive and, indeed, became its chair in time to see through the abolition of the GLC. I continued to be its chairman until the abolition of ILEA. I do not think either of us is a lunatic.
The first time I saw your Lordships' House in action was in 1985 when it was busy mitigating some of the worst effects of the legislation to abolish the GLC. During my years as chair of the Greater London Labour Party I sought to encourage the development of a policy for London which would look forward and not backwards to the GLC. It seemed to me then that we should not seek to recreate the GLC; in fact, many functions were carried out by the GLC which we would not wish to recreate.
My parting present to the Labour Party in London when I ceased to be its chair in 1991 was the adoption of a policy paper entitled The Future of London's Government, in which we raised the issue of a directly elected mayor for London for the first time and agreed that London needed a new structure, a streamlined authority. Many of the issues which subsequently found their way in one form or another into Labour Party policy, the manifesto and now this Bill were anticipated.
What was clear to me then and what is embodied in this Bill is that an authority needed to be created which would lead London into the 21st century. It needed to be an authority which would fight London's interests on a national, European and international stage. Londoners have needed a voice for many years. The proposal for an elected mayor will put London in its rightful place as an international city. It has been a shame and a disadvantage for London and Londoners in many ways over the past 13 years that they have not had someone to put alongside the mayors of other great cities; an equal to the mayors of New York, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo.
The job of mayor as a focus for the aspirations of Londoners cannot be underestimated. The reasons for that are many, but perhaps I may mention just a few. London should be playing its part as the host of international sporting, cultural and other events. How much easier and more effective that will be when there is a focus to lead such bids for negotiations, to put together the partnerships, indeed to put together the funding and to ensure a consistent approach.
Secondly, London contains some of the richest and some of the poorest districts in the country; it is the UK's richest city and it also contains some of its poorest people. It has an extraordinarily diverse economy 458 compared with other British cities. That means that we have the contradictions of huge competitive success and wealth creation alongside weak employment growth and some of the most deprived communities. Solving long-term unemployment and revitalising areas of deprivation are huge challenges to London's economy.
While I recognise the contribution that many London-wide organisations have made over the years in looking after London's economy and bringing forward their plans, how much more effective will be the strategy drawn up by a mayor and an authority on the basis of broad consultation with London's business interests, trade unions, voluntary sector, boroughs and public sector pulling together a coherent whole; a strategy in which all of London is working for all of London. Londoners deserve no less, and London's poorest communities need that strategic approach.
The third example of the importance of the creation of a strategic authority is in serving London's ethnic minority communities. I feel passionately that the new authority and the mayor have to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of London. London is a world city. Almost half the people from Britain's ethnic minority communities live in Greater London. That means that around 20 per cent of London's population consists of ethnic minority groups.
London's ethnic diversity is one of its great strengths, contributing to the capital's vitality and prosperity. However, it is important also to acknowledge that people from ethnic minority communities are also evident among the most socially excluded in the capital, with unemployment rates double those of white Londoners. It will be a vital part of the work of the mayor and assembly to lead the fight in eliminating racial discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity and good race relations in our capital. In that regard, and in the wake of the Lawrence Inquiry, the establishment of a metropolitan police authority is of huge importance and significance.
Finally, perhaps I may say how disappointed, though not particularly surprised, I am by the negative manner in which those on the Benches opposite approach this Bill. The Conservative Party sought electoral advantage from the abolition of the GLC, but it did not work. We have seen the progressive disintegration of the Conservative base in London boroughs. They are now completely out of step with the aspirations of Londoners, and Londoners' need to find an expression of pride in their city. It is a shame, for I also believe that Londoners will recognise that the lukewarm response and lack of positive ideas from the Benches opposite reveal a lack of understanding of the needs of modern London and its place in the world.
I warmly welcome this Bill and look forward to working towards its successful passage.
§ 6.35 p.m.
My Lords, I am sorry if the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, considers my remarks to be negative. But there is an almost unchallenged assumption that the problems of transport, congestion and environment will be solved by the creation of the 459 authority. That is as simplistic as the notion which says that all those problems were created in the years in which there was not a central strategic authority. It is tantamount to saying that there are no problems about resources and that the infrastructure crumbled after 1986, as though it had not been decaying for many years before.
I understand that to question that assumption is to risk being seen as against any change in the system of government in Greater London. But a little scepticism amidst the euphoria is called for. It is legitimate to question whether the Bill as presented to the House will address the real needs of London or deliver what the people want. The commitment was for a lean and mean authority to deal with the strategic needs. My noble friend Lady Miller alluded to the size of the Bill, and the numerous issues it addresses must call into question the "lean and mean" commitment. I feel it is a commitment which will not easily be addressed.
While we have the figures for the cost of the mayor and his central office—3p at band D, the Minister suggested for the cost of the mayor and his staff—perhaps at some stage during the proceedings the noble Lord will be able to tell us exactly how many people in total will be employed, not just by the mayor, but by the authority and its various agencies, and the estimated total expenditure.
A figure of £20 million is being set aside for the preparation of the advent of the Greater London Authority; indeed a draft budget is to be prepared by the department. I wonder how that draft budget compares with the figure of £3.3 billion for the services which are to be transferred as mentioned in the White Paper. As we read through the 330 clauses of the Bill, to say nothing of the 27 schedules, there are a number of other things that the mayor and the authority will be doing which are not necessarily being done now. Indeed, if that were not the case there would not be much justification for the legislation.
When the people of London were consulted about the arrangements for the government of London, two major issues were at the forefront of their minds. The first was a desire for a voice for London; someone who could lobby for London at home and abroad and, perhaps not least, in other parts of the United Kingdom. A voice is satisfactory only up to a point. Is the mayor a strong mayor? Do the Government want him to be strong? Or is that issue to be fudged by checks and balances provided by the assembly? If the power rests with the mayor, what is the assembly's role? What significance will it have other than the threat of using the ultimate deterrent of not approving the mayor's budget? The voice has to be able to deliver. In particular, it has to be able to do so in the field of transport, particularly public transport, which was the other major issue in people's minds when they sought change in the system of London's government. I believe that that is the key issue by which the mayor will be tested.
I have concerns about his ability to deliver. I remain to be convinced that the policy of restraint to raise revenues for future improvements will have the necessary effect. Investment in public transport has to 460 come first if people are to be tempted from their cars. The dangers of the present proposals are raised costs within Greater London and a reduction in its competitiveness and attractiveness as a place for business, shoppers and visitors.
The Bill goes far wider than the voice and transport. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that I disapprove of all the other proposed areas of activity. Bu: it is true to say that the authority is no longer as focused. Perhaps that is a good example of why a referendum should always follow the legislation and not the reverse. People then know precisely what it is they are voting for or against. I do not believe that the publication of the White Paper was good enough.
It has been said by my noble friend Lady Miller that while the Bill appears to be about the mayor and the assembly, it also has a great deal to do with the Secretary of State. That seems to deny the belief in a strong mayor. Indeed, since United Stales models seem to appeal to the Government, one is almost tempted to ask why Greater London was not declared capital territory and run by the Government.
In judging the arrangement it is helpful to ask the Government, as I have done on previous occasions, how they see this authority. Do they see it as a top-tier local authority for Greater London or as a prototype for a regional assembly? In the helpful notes prepared by the Library, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State said,The proposed authority is not similar to any local government authority as we know it. It will be a new type of city government with a city executive and an elected mayor. There are no other examples in this country. Therefore it is fair to say that it is not the normal local government structure. Nor is it the regional structure although … I am an advocate of regional government. A body that governs 7 million inhabitants will clearly have strategic and regional features, but we are discussing a city government with an elected mayor which one would not normally expect a regional authority to have".
I hope that I am not unkind in sensing some confusion. The Labour Party's manifesto was much clearer. It was going to create an authority, to,take responsibility for London-wide issues, economic regeneration, planning, policing, transport and environmental protection. London-wide responsibility for its own government is urgently required.The authority would,not duplicate the work of the boroughs".Yet already we see in the Bill a partial replication of some of the worst elements of the arrangements which existed under the former Greater London Council as regards planning and highways. Two-tier planning in Greater London leads to lost opportunities, wasted costs and delays. Although the new arrangements envisage a more limited role for the mayor, there is a danger that the need to consult and the temptation to raise obstacles while applications are further investigated will severely delay major applications.
The planners in the mayor's office will never want to defer to the planners in the borough councils' offices. Inevitably it will mean that they have a different view on a far larger number of applications than envisaged. 461 The notion that a planner in an office does not have a view on an application and is happy to leave it to someone else does not have any credibility.
The problems of highways and the need for the boroughs to consult about proposals affecting their roads, which might have an effect on Greater London Authority roads, and the latter's responsibility for those parts of borough roads immediately adjoining the Greater London Authority roads create yet more potential for delay, dispute and confusion. It is not an easy problem to solve, but attempts need to be made.
It is important not just from the point of view of the authorities involved, but also from that of the public who do not understand two-tier arrangements and do not then understand who is responsible for the ultimate decision. It is also important that the advent of the new authority and its regional development agency does not quash the many initiatives now being undertaken across borough boundaries by groups of boroughs.
Reverting to the assertions of the Secretary of State that the proposed authority is not a normal local government creation, we ask whether its objects will be well served by subjecting it to the traditional local government financial and legislative regime. We ask why the mayor is to be so constrained as to action. He has a remit to produce many strategies. I wonder whether being asked to produce so many strategies is very helpful if one wants an immediate result to the most important issues that will face the mayor and the Greater London Authority.
After all the consultation has taken place, will the strategies be out of date before they are implemented? Strategic planning is a particular concern. The delay in its production and in the old Greater London development plan is a spectre which should haunt everyone who discusses these proposals. I wish them well. Stability in the form of governance in Greater London is needed.
I wish that it was to be a small authority. It is small only in terms of members. I wish that it could focus on the main issues and that the Labour Party manifesto had been more closely adhered to as regards the breadth of its remit. It was my hope that the role of the boroughs as major players in their own right would be given greater recognition. I wish that the powers were not duplicated. Most of all, I had hoped that the Government, if they had wanted to go down this road, would create an authority, unique not only in structure but in its financing and powers and capable of real action in the few key areas where there is common consent that action is needed. Instead and perhaps not surprisingly, the Government have succumbed to the temptation of a local government-type structure, well controlled by the centre, which, I fear, although I hope not, may be reduced to statements of good intent on the big issues and action in the small matters which are rightfully the province of the local authority.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, as the first person to speak in this debate with no obvious 462 connection with London, perhaps I may tell your Lordships that I was born and bred in central London and subsequently lived for quite a long time in one of the outer London boroughs, where, among others things, I had the honour of assisting in the election of my noble friend Lady Hamwee to the seat which she occupied until last year.
In dealing with this Bill and playing my part in its passage through this House, my main responsibility will be for transport. But I am very lucky in that I shall have assistance in that from the noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham, and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who in their particular fields have an expertise that I cannot possibly match.
Before I turn to transport I would like to make a few preliminary and quite minor points. In the strategy on culture, I am concerned to see that there is no mention of archives. I know that point has been mentioned before, but the archives of any city are an essential part of its cultural wealth. Indeed, they are the source of historical research and can tell the citizenry a great deal about their city. There does not seem to be any particular provision in the Bill for the mayor, or the authority in general, to be able to make any movement in that direction to offset the unevenness of archive provision and the uneven access to local archives which is a characteristic of London at present. I say this as someone who lived through a very long and difficult period with my own council where we struggled to put together the money for a proper history centre to house our own very important archives. I am happy to say that that was finally supported by a grant from the Millennium Fund.
Another relatively minor point which caused me concern in my initial reading of the Bill is the fact that the mayor's strategies seem to require only a very low level of publicity—a copy is to be kept by the mayor and copies can be sent out on request at a reasonable charge. That compares rather curiously with the requirement on the assembly to conform with the normal provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 and its processes, which cover availability of papers. As a bare minimum, I should have thought that copies of the strategies ought to be available in local libraries.
My next and in some ways slightly more important point is that whereas we welcome the prominence of the environment in descriptions of the mayor's powers and duties throughout the Bill—and this was very much increased as a result of the passage of the Bill through another place—there are worries because there is no specific mention of the word "biodiversity" in the list of items to be covered by the mayor's environmental report in Clause 28. It is possible that the fact that the mayor has to have a biodiversity plan (which is covered in the following clause) is considered to be sufficient compensation. But the point that I am making is that the report presumably covers the success or failure of the mayor's strategy and plans and, therefore, should also cover those matters relating to biodiversity.
As the Minister emphasised in his introduction, the Bill recognises that a first-class transport system is essential for London. It is essential for social inclusion 463 and it is essential for the health of its citizens in terms of air pollution. It is also essential for the competitive requirements of London as a business centre. One of the most interesting developments in recent years has been the growing interest of the city in public transport. Moreover, it is a great necessity for tourists, for visitors and for residents of the city in general.
That importance is reflected in the length of the section in the Bill dealing with transport—indeed, some 113 clauses and 12 schedules. It is also reflected in the mayor's strategic responsibility for, and/or influence over, all forms of transport within the capital when set, as the Minister said, in the context of other strategies and assisted by the proposed integrated functional body, Transport for London.
I should now like to respond to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness. The creation of a new authority or the creation of powers for a mayor will not of itself solve any problems. However, if properly and imaginatively exercised, the creation of a new authority, together with the new powers of the mayor and of the assembly, could put transport in London on the right track, if I may be permitted that little pun.
I turn now to a number of items which cannot possibly cover the whole range of those which will be raised in Committee. I should like to begin with the powers of the mayor in relation to rail services. We welcome the Government's amendments to the Bill during its passage through the other place which give increased powers to the mayor vis-à-vis the Rail Franchising Director. But my understanding is that these still do not match the powers given to passenger transport authorities in other conurbations. These authorities can put forward new suggestions for improved rail services and are co-signatories with the franchising director when franchises are granted.
Arguably, the rail infrastructure within London is under-used and it is certainly under-publicised. There are schemes which could bring existing rail infrastructure back into use. Although a balance has to be struck in the demands on the infrastructure between local London services and mainline services both in and out of the capital, we feel that a further increase in the powers of the mayor, to match those exercised by the PTAs in relation to rail services, would be desirable. I look forward to seeing the government amendments on this point. We also have concerns about the future of the Underground. My noble friend Lord Ezra will be dealing with this at greater length in his contribution later tonight.
I now turn to the subject of hypothecation and additionality of revenues from parking and road-use charging. Again, we welcome the Government's intention to allow total hypothecation of revenues from both parking and road-use charging for 10 years. However, concerns have been expressed by London First and others as to whether these funds will be in addition to or instead of the normal Treasury-funded levels of public investment in the capital city's transport infrastructure. If Treasury funds were to be reduced over the 10-year period, there would be a serious shortfall in funding at the end of that period. Can the Minister reassure the House on this very important point?
464 I am also concerned that the mayor's strategies, especially that for transport, are not required to have targets. The value of targets—for example, as regards traffic reduction or air pollution—in focusing programmes of action and measuring the success of a programme over time has been recognised by many other local governments when forming their transport plans. Can the Minister enlighten us as to the Government's attitude to this matter? I understand that in another place the Government said that they would return to this issue. Therefore, are we to expect further amendments? In particular, will the road traffic reduction legislation apply to the GLA?
The system of concessionary fares still remains a matter of concern. I noted the Minister's response in another place to the question from my honourable friend Paul Burstow. Can the Minister confirm that the response means that the current scheme will become the statutory reserve scheme that was hoped for by many people and organisations? I have had representations made to me about fears as to the flexibility of locally delivered transport. We shall want to look at the relationship between the mayor and the boroughs in the important area of community transport. Finally, as I believe my noble friend has already said. there are obviously some residual problems relating to the detailed boundaries between the GLA road network and the boroughs' own roads—for example, at junctions—which we may wish to explore.
When this new authority was first suggested, I must confess that I was reluctant to accept the idea of a mayor for London. But as I have heard the ideas of my colleagues and studied the Bill I have become more and more convinced that the government of London will be very much improved in general by this new, albeit novel, form of government for this country. I look forward with interest and some anxiety to a long and, I hope, constructive Committee stage.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Rix
My Lords, you cannot get much closer to the centre of London than Whitehall, especially that part of Whitehall from which I derive my title. The few yards separating the Whitehall Theatre from the actual centre provide a good introduction to what I want to say about London's transport system, which I trust adds to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester—who alas is no longer present—and underlines the importance of this subject which was quite rightly stressed by the Minister and by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood. Trafalgar Square has been popular with the more militant disabled people campaigning for a more equal society. It must also be one of the scariest bits of London roadway for anyone driving, especially if you are fool enough to drive up the bus and taxi lane.
I take it as common ground that the Greater London Authority and London's mayor will want to represent all Londoners, and that "all" must include the very large number of Londoners who are in some way disabled. I do not normally make strenuous efforts to be politically correct—life is too short for those of us who are of mature years—but perhaps I might take a moment 465 to explain what I mean by disability. If I anticipate the outcome of work in which the World Health Organisation is currently engaged, we shall soon have a classification which recognises impairment as the physical or mental malfunctioning which is part of how someone is and disablement as the restrictions on activities and the resulting limitations on participation in society imposed by others; in other words, people are impaired. This does not mean that they need to be disabled. An integrated accessible transport system for London would effectively reduce the number of disabled Londoners.
Access does not just mean physical access, although of course that is important. It means having reliable transport there to be accessible. It means having accessible information about transport. It means having staff on hand to help who have at least had disability awareness training. It means joined-up thinking about joined-up transport, as is certainly being tried for the Millennium Dome. Completing 80 per cent of one's journey but being stymied for the remaining 20 per cent is not much use to anyone. The Disability Discrimination Act is better at addressing individual transport sectors than at ensuring overall accessibility, including filling the gaps and making the links between the separate sectors.
What I seek from the Government in this Bill is, first, the imposition on the mayor of a duty to consult organisations of and for disabled and older people in devising a transport strategy. Clause 27 sets a useful precedent in terms of requiring consultation with the appropriate people on certain matters, although it does not refer, as it should, to disability. Secondly, for those for whom because of their impairment or disability their car is a must we need a detailed exemption scheme drawn up in consultation with representative groups. In another place the Minister, Glenda Jackson—a fellow displaced thespian—paved the way for this by recognising the need for exemptions for those who are car dependent. Thirdly—this is a much grander ambition, but not, I think, a wholly unrealistic one—I would like to see a duty imposed on the mayor and on transport for London to work towards a transport system which makes available to people with physical and mental impairments—as far as is humanly possible—the same travel opportunities, whether by the same or different means, as are available to other Londoners and visitors to London.
I have grounds for optimism about what can be achieved. These grounds are fourfold. I sense, not least from debates in another place, government willingness to be helpful in this respect, and the desire to have an integrated and inclusive transport system. I am enormously impressed by the quality and range of work being done by the London Accessible Transport Alliance, Change, Mencap—which produced with London Transport a video for training staff in working with people with learning disabilities—the London Transport Disabled Persons Unit, Greater London Action on Disability and not least the well regarded disability unit in the Minister's own department. There is a wealth of expertise there to be called on. That 466 expertise is already reflected in low floor buses, visual information relayed to bus stops, the introduction of accessible information, the plans being made for the Dome and for the Blue Water regional shopping centre, and, not least, the miracle of a target of 68 step-free Underground stations.
For those of your Lordships who are counting, I am now on my third ground for optimism, and that is the evidence that transport comes top of so many wish lists compiled by disabled people, including the 400,000 or so disabled people who live in London. My final ground for optimism lies in the capital being, I am fairly sure, the place in the United Kingdom most visited by disabled people from other countries. We have the opportunity to show the world what can be achieved by London government, with national government backing, in the framework of parliamentary requirements, to create a barrier-free environment. London pride is flowering in the gardens in London at this very moment, and there could be no greater pride than pride in a capital city transport system which the rest of the world can envy and which the disabled people who live in, work in or visit London can enjoy as equal citizens.
London attracts visitors because of its cultural riches. I use the word "culture" in the widest sense, just as the Bill does in describing the mayor's responsibilities for enhancing that cultural heritage, old and new. If disabled people are to come here in large numbers—as they do, and as we hope they will—they need not just accessible transport to get them to what has attracted them but also access within once they arrive. I chair a modest charity, Libertas, which has made many well known places and events more accessible by means of taped commentaries designed for people with visual impairment and with learning disabilities and by means of loop and visual displays designed for people with hearing impairment. I would be happy to work with the mayor and the GLA to develop our enterprise, which is well illustrated, for those of your Lordships who are interested, just across the road from your Lordships' House in Westminster Abbey.
I have talked about groups of disabled people. I want to finish by illustrating that discussion by mentioning one of the individuals who constitute the group. I think of Hilary Pole, who will be remembered by some of your Lordships from the book written about her some 10 or 15 years ago as one of the most severely disabled people in the country. Myasthenia gravis changed her from someone who led a very active life to someone with just minimal function in one toe—the rest was motionless, including her eyelids. However, she continued to love to attend cricket matches and to get out and about more generally. I share her enthusiasms. I want this Bill to move forward the agenda of equal treatment for the Hilary Poles of this world and for all those with lesser levels of impairment but who are still disabled by transport deficits which create barriers that transport planning could turn into opportunities. The Millennium Dome tube station rather oddly faces away from the Millennium Dome itself. I trust that the greater London authority will not look away from the needs of disabled people.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Borrie
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, is temporarily not in his place, but I feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He contrasted the relative simplicity of the objectives and purposes of the Bill in creating a strategic authority for London with the immense detail, size and complexity of the Bill itself. Undoubtedly it does present for the many people here today, and who no doubt will be much more diligent than I, an immense task of legislative scrutiny in Committee.
However, it seems to me that at least the general principles of the Bill ought to receive widespread support. It certainly is not a Bill that has not received adequate warning and adequate detailed discussion in the past. It has not been mentioned very much in the past, nor today, except by my noble friend the Minister, that the Bill was preceded by a Green Paper and a White Paper; and of course we had the referendum a year ago when 72 per cent of Londoners who voted gave the Government's plan for a mayor and an assembly—and I am sure the Government were quite right to put the question in the form that they did—overwhelming support.
I think it is hardly necessary in this Second Reading debate. therefore, to expound on the basic purposes of the Bill in restoring a democratic London-wide government. Nor do I think it is necessary to expand in this regard on the basic matter which has been described by the Minister. The wilful destruction of London's government, which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, sought to make little of, in the 1980s was one of the more spiteful, ill-considered and short-sighted outcomes of Conservative government policy. It has long been obvious, both before and after that destruction, that in key matters of regional significance such as planning, transport, social and economic development, a London government is highly desirable.
I noted that the best the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, could do was to describe those objectives as "laudable". What an inadequate word to describe the objectives of the Bill, which are essential for London. I was amazed that she should not find something stronger to say than merely that the objectives were "laudable".
I used the word "regional" a moment ago in regard to the government of London. I did so deliberately and I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, who has returned to his place, very fairly quoted my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who referred to a new kind of organisation: one which is neither local government, nor regional government but something that is new. However, in many ways—I am sure that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister would not disagree with this—it is more akin to regional government than to local government as we know it. It may indeed be—and I am sure my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister would not mind my saying this either, because we know his views about these things—a precursor of regional assemblies in other parts of England should such a desire be expressed. Certainly, at the present time I and other 468 noble Lords may well feel that in the matter of regional identities and boundaries outside London there is much more controversy and much more doubt.
One of the ways in which the Greater London Authority will be very different from a typical local government authority is that the members of the assembly, 25 in all, will each represent very sizeable areas—"super constituencies" was the phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon. I do not disagree with that. As we know, of the 25, 11 will be selected from party lists, and even the 14 who will represent particular constituencies will each represent something over 300,000 electors. I say that slowly and with deliberation because that is a very large area.
This is a long way from the numbers in a ward represented by a local authority councillor. It seems to me that it will be as problematic for members of the assembly to be known to the electorate and to be able to create a good relationship with electors as it is, if I may say so, for Members of the European Parliament and candidates for that Parliament, who are seeking to be elected next month. The experience from recent local government and Welsh Assembly elections must be in our minds, and I fear that the difficulty of identification and relationship between electors and candidates may lead to significant problems of apathy and also low polls, thereby weakening the declared aim of the Government of democratic renewal.
We want democratic renewal. How can we get it?—not simply by passing this Bill. As I understand it, it is hoped that by holding the election of mayor on 4th May 2000, the public profile of the authority as a whole will be enhanced and this will increase the turnout of voters, so that when they vote for the mayor they will also vote for members of the assembly. However, that poses a number of questions, certainly at today's date. We do not know what the outcome of various selections will be, but it certainly begs the question today as to whether the mayoral candidates—the ones who, if I may pit it this way rather disrespectfully—can draw the crowds. It is a question of whether they, and especially the mayoral candidates of the main political parties. will be sufficiently well known and charismatic as to make waves right across the metropolis and arouse the interest of the voters.
In my view, the members of the assembly will each represent such very large electorates compared with a Westminster MP that contacts with electors through surgeries, local events, informal get-togethers and so on will inevitably be much more spasmodic. I would place quite a lot of emphasis on certain provisions in the Bill, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, made quite a lot of fun, namely, those provisions that provide for a twice-yearly people's question-time, conducted by the mayor and the assembly and the mayor's annual public state-of-London debate.
In my view, the provisions in the Bill—and I was delighted that my noble friend the Minister took some time to explain these—which deal with consultation and meetings, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, made a little bit of fun, with community groups, with business and with disabled groups—to which the noble Lord, Lord Rix—referred, together with 469 the devices for the assembly and the mayor to be in touch with the electorate, are tremendously important because of the problem of large constituencies and the relatively small number of members of the assembly.
For example, Clauses 37 to 40 are of major importance. Although the Minister said much about this matter earlier, perhaps I may ask him on this occasion—or certainly when we reach that stage of the Bill in Committee—whether he can give assurances that thought is being given to how the occasions provided for in the Bill can be given a truly representative structure and that they do not simply provide opportunities for the vociferous mavericks and unrepresentative pressure groups? There must be some thought given to that matter otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller has predicted, such occasions will be matters of fun. That is surely what we do not want. They should be serious matters to allow for the democratic expression of viewpoints.
I rather share the thoughts that will vouchsafed to your Lordships by my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington. There is a need for a power in the Bill to establish community councils in London similar to those that have been established elsewhere in the country. Community councils, which put local government in close touch with people on the ground, as it were, have been set up in Leeds, Manchester, Hartlepool, Portsmouth and elsewhere. I imagine that the local council experts in the Chamber would agree with me that councillors in the cities to which I have referred are a good deal closer to local people, local communities and local interest groups than will be members of the Greater London assembly. My noble friend Lord Young of Dartington is chairman of the London Community Alliance and has great experience in these matters. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.
Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention to the White Paper issued last year on London government. It states:the assembly must ensure that what it says during the formulation of policy and strategy … reflects its awareness of the views of those who will be affected by those policies".Indeed it should. If community councils are established in many areas of London, where they can be the eyes and ears—those are my words, they are not in the White Paper—of the assembly members, then the assembly will be better able to do the job described in the White Paper.
I look forward to pursuing those ideas and other innovative ideas. The noble Baroness should not make fun of innovative ideas; we need them. There is too much apathy in our growing democracy. Let us see innovative ideas developed, talked about and described in detail. If we do that we will improve the Bill—and, if the Minister does not mind me saying so, a Bill can always be improved. Like my noble friend Lady Thornton, I wish the Bill well.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, has recently driven 470 up the Archway Road from the Archway roundabout towards Hampstead Garden suburb? If he has, he will have noticed that there is a very fine dual carriageway for about the first half mile. It then reduces to a single carriageway, which continues on for the next mile or two. I once drove someone up there. He said, "What an extraordinary thing. Why did they stop the dual carriageway there?" I said to him, "Oh. do you not know? That is the London plague line".
That was all spelt out in the Herbert Report. The original local authorities in London. the health guardians, followed the boundaries of where the plague reached in 1665. When the Metropolitan Board of Works was established in the first part of the 19th century it followed exactly the same boundaries, as did the LCC in 1889. The inner London boroughs follow the same boundaries today.
Despite the best efforts of successive generations of well meaning legislators, history has a way of confounding good intentions. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, those who, as it were, say that history is bunk and that we have nothing to learn from it, really are in danger of misleading us. My fear about this mammoth Bill is that it pays far too little respect to the history of London. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that this makes a clean break with the past—something which I might have incorporated at the beginning of my speech. By devising a completely novel, detailed, prescriptive blueprint for the governance of London, the like of which has never been seen before in this country—or, I would venture to guess. anywhere else in the world—the Government, by implication, are saying that they have nothing to learn from history.
The Bill is certain to have all kinds of unintended consequences, which none of us can foresee. It is a very high risk policy. In the White Paper of March last year Ministers called it "a new style of Government". It is much, much more than that; it is not just style. The Bill aims to set up nothing less than an entirely new constitutional settlement for London. It will have a new executive, modelled in some respects on the strong mayors in some cities in the United States; a new assembly, with functions and powers unlike any authority we have ever seen before; and a new and untried electoral system for electing both the mayor and the assembly. The Bill then goes on to spell out, in hundreds of pages and in minute detail, exactly what everyone is expected to do and how the new system is supposed to work.
I have always believed that stable systems of government evolve, often over many years, by balancing a whole series of relationships between the many interests and institutions that make up the body politic. Perhaps I may pick up the well-made point of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, when she referred to relationships. The management gurus will always tell you that it is not the fixed lines on the organogram that matter but the dotted lines that emerge. That is the way a system works.
This Bill sets up a whole raft of new and, in many cases, potentially disruptive relationships: for example, the relationship between the mayor and the assembly, 471 which seems so simple as it stands in the Bill; between the GLA and the London boroughs, a point made by several noble Lords; between the mayor and the Secretary of State, where I can see the possibility of great tensions; between the GLA and the City of London, which is deeply unhappy about the arrangements that are proposed, for instance, for the "ring of steel", which is such an important factor for the City of London; between the mayor and Transport for London—it will be fascinating to see how that evolves; between the GLA and the Metropolitan Police; and between the mayor, the London Development Agency and the Government Office for London in areas of planning. I could go on.
The mayor will even have to produce a cultural strategy. London has vibrant, diversified, world-beating cultural institutions. Yet the mayor has to have a strategy but has absolutely no powers to make anything happen at all.
Whatever Ministers may say, no one can have any firm idea as to how this will all work in practice. It is an exercise in desktop constitution-making on a wholly Utopian scale. Oh, to be a Minister who could simply get 300 pages of a statute and write in everything that his wish-list had ever had! That seems to have happened here.
If the Bill had been the product of a lengthy, carefully researched study in which all the implications had been thoroughly thought through and all the interests consulted at every stage, one might have some faith that it would work. But that is not what has happened. My noble friend on the Front Bench used the phrase "making policy on the hoof". I have the impression that much of this Bill has been made up as it has gone along. The Bill came into the Commons with 277 clauses and 21 schedules; it has now reached this House with 330 clauses and 27 schedules. I asked the Association of London Government—the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and I are its joint presidents—to let me have a list of the changes that were made or promised in another place. The list comes to more than six closely typed A4 pages. It lists, not only the hundreds of amendments and dozens of new clauses added in Committee or on Report in another place, but also a long list of further amendments which have been promised and which the Minister has already indicated will be tabled by the Government in your Lordships' House. These are not just minor tidying up amendments. They introduce, especially in Part IV—the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, referred to this—fundamental changes to the structure from what the Government had originally intended.
An attempt has been made—it is a fair comment—to argue that all this is necessary because the abolition of the GLC left a vacuum at the heart of London. Perhaps the first point I should make on this—I hardly need to dwell on it because it has been said by several noble Lords opposite today—is that, although the Labour Party passionately opposed the abolition of the GLC, it has been saying for the past five years, "We are not going to bring back the GLC. You need not worry about 472 that. There is going to be nothing like that at all". I find that a very interesting comment. Indeed, the Minister was at pains to make the same point earlier today.
The truth of the matter is that at one time the GLC worked reasonably well, not least under the sound and efficient leadership of my noble friend Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone. However, in later years, it fell, if I may put it this way, into more mischievous hands. It developed a foreign policy, a defence policy, an Irish policy and many other policies besides. Rightly has it been said that Mr. Livingstone and his Friends tested the GLC to destruction. The government of the day had little option but to bring that farce to an end.
I have never forgotten canvassing in what was then my constituency in the first London borough elections in the year after the GLC had been abolished when householders had just received their rate demands, the first for more than 20 years without a massive GLC precept. I may tell noble Lords that they were happy days. I do not get the impression that Ministers are falling over themselves to encourage Mr. Livingstone to run for mayor. Indeed, perhaps I may make this concession to the Government. They have learnt one lesson, even though they do not admit it. This Bill is peppered with what I might call the "Livingstone clauses"—reserve powers for Ministers to stop the mayor from making an ass of himself at the expense of London council tax payers. In the circumstances, that may be a wise precaution even if it makes the accusations against myself and my right honourable friends at the time about over-centralised government appear a little odd.
But as so often with this Government's legislation, the devil is in the detail. I am certainly among those looking forward to the many weeks of detailed scrutiny that lie ahead of us.
Perhaps I may end with what is my greatest worry. The London Government Act 1963 established the 33 London boroughs as "most purpose authorities". That process was completed when the GLC disappeared and when education in inner London was transferred to the inner London boroughs. It has often been said that it was that creation of the London boroughs, which came into existence in 1964 as the principal institutions of local government in London, that called into question, almost from the outset, the real role of an upper-tier authority. Noble Lords may remember that my noble friend the late Lord Marshall of Leeds was asked during the 1970s to conduct an examination of the role and purpose of the GLC. He found that the concept which by then people had latched onto as being at the heart of that role was the strategic leadership of the metropolis. The boroughs should deliver the services: the GLC should confine itself to overall strategy. Yet—Lord Marshall pointed out to me when I made this point to him as one of his witnesses—in the carefully researched Herbert Report, which was the basis of the 1963 Act, the word "strategic" nowhere appeared. That report was based on a careful separation of powers and functions and the GLC was not supposed to interfere with the exercise of powers by the boroughs.
473 But as we all know, not least those of us who served in local government, that is not what happened. From Croydon to Barnet, from Richmond to Redbridge, the borough councils found that the GLC's finger in every pie was not only intensely irritating but also led to endless delays, burgeoning bureaucracy and, as my noble friend Lord Bowness reminded us, in some instances to complete paralysis—as with the notorious Greater London Development Plan.
When, more recently, the previous government set up the Local Government Commission to re-examine local government outside London, the main conclusion that emerged was that, while in the shire counties a two-tier structure for local government was appropriate and could be made to work well, in the cities a single tier of local government was more appropriate. The abolition of the six metropolitan county councils in 1986 had pointed the way. It is interesting that there is no intention to reverse that part of the Act. The metropolitan boroughs, as all-purpose authorities, have proved that that works very well in practice. So many other great towns and cities, which had fretted under interfering county councils, regained their autonomy. Yet here, in this Bill, we are erecting a massive new tier of local government on top of the, by and large, successful London boroughs.
Despite the optimism of the ALG—we will hear later from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey—one cannot but be aware of considerable anxieties—a number of noble Lords have voiced them this evening—that the huge powers and duties of the mayor of London will simply lead to a repeat of the decades of frustration and acrimony between the GLC and the boroughs. There are few signs in the Bill that that vitally important lesson of the 1960s and 1970s has been learnt or even understood.
However, I shall not argue that nothing should be done. When the Cabinet was considering the draft legislation that would abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties, our longest and most anxious debate centred on the case for a "Voice for London". There certainly was a case—but against the need to root out the whole bang-shoot and return local government in London to the boroughs, that case did not carry the day.
But it is hardly surprising that, since then, that case has continued to be argued and has gained great support. If this Bill had created a mayor for London with a small strategic staff, with a strictly strategic role, with an assembly drawn from the 33 boroughs and the City, it would have my support.
But this Government have gone far further than that. This massive Bill, as we have heard from the Benches opposite, has aroused huge expectations among the people of London. They believe that it will solve all the problems of the metropolis. That is why they have supported the White Paper so firmly.
I fear that they are in for a deep disappointment. They will discover that to insert two more layers of politicians—the mayor and the assembly—between Westminster and the boroughs, however great the powers conferred, will solve very little. The hype about 474 this Bill has been intense. One can only hope that reality may in time come somewhere near to matching the optimism of its supporters.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and with my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that one of the most important provisions of the Bill is the creation of an integrated transport policy for London. I very much hope that that policy will include adequate provision for the disabled, as was so eloquently proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. I shall concentrate my remarks on the London Underground. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, reminded us that the London Underground will not come under the aegis of Transport for London until the present plans for the public private partnership agreements materialise. I wish to deal with the period leading up to that point.
The London Underground is the oldest underground system in the world and one of the most extensive. Over 260 stations are served on a system of some 250 miles. There are a million people working in London, and over half of those use the Underground, some of them very regularly. In the year 1997–98 the Underground made an operating surplus of £265 million. That is an impressive surplus, but it was not nearly enough to meet its investment requirements because of the large backlog which had been developed over the years. That is now estimated to amount to some £1.2 billion.
As a wholly owned public service, the Underground has been subject over the years to the vagaries of government funding. In some years it was provided with sufficient funds to meet its needs; but in others funding was, without notice, cut back. The result is that no sustainable plan for the development of the Underground has been possible. That has been particularly regrettable in view of the increasing transport requirements of the metropolis and the pressing need to reduce traffic on the roads.
The urgency of that problem has been recognised by the present Government, who have put much effort into seeking to devise a way in which the investment backlog could be dealt with and the Underground put on a viable basis to meet the expanding needs of the travelling public.
In March 1998 the Secretary of State announced plans for a public private partnership to resolve the problem. This was described as,a publicly owned, publicly accountable model to get the best from both the public and the private sector".The intention is to create a situation in which £7 billion can be invested in the Underground over a period of 15 years. It was considered that during the course of that period not only could the investment backlog be dealt with but the enterprise could become viable.
London Underground estimates that its current investment requirements include £400 million a year to maintain the system in a "steady state" and prevent any additional backlog and a further £150 million a year to deal with the backlog. It was originally intended that the public private partnership would come into operation in 475 April 2000 and to cover the intervening period the Government made a grant of £365 million, which, together with the operating profits of the system, could meet the investment requirements for the years 1998–99 and 1999–2000.
Unfortunately, as announced in December, the programme has slipped by at least a year, if not more. The negotiations for the PPP have turned out to be more complex than expected. The result is that the flow of investment resource which was intended to start in April 2000 will not now take place. The Government's additional funding under present arrangements will cease at that point. The Underground could then be back in the same old situation as previously of having received an investment boost at one period and then finding it stopped. The only way in which the cash shortfall from April 2000 could be met, unless further resources were made available, would be once again to cut investment on less essential projects in order to concentrate on essential items such as safety.
On 28th April I asked a Question on this issue and drew attention to the gap in financing with its serious implications. In his reply, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, accepted that there could be some delay in implementing the public private partnership but implied that the £365 million already provided by the Government should suffice to fill the gap.
But that clearly cannot be the case. That money was provided on the assumption that the PPP would come into operation on time. Now that there is to be a delay of at least one year and the Government state, rightly, that they do not wish to be rushed in such complex negotiations, there is an obvious need for filling the investment gap in order to prevent the backlog from further increasing. Therefore, in responding, will the noble Lord say whether the Government have made up their minds about that. What is needed is further bridging assistance, continued at the current rate, until the new arrangements are in place.
There is another and more fundamental issue. Not everyone is of the opinion that the public private partnership as presently devised is likely to achieve the results that are contemplated. I am personally very much in favour of partnership between the two sectors, and indeed am involved in such partnerships, although on a much smaller scale, in the energy sector. However, in this case very large sums are involved and doubts have been expressed about whether value for money compared with other possibilities could be achieved. It seems as if the Government may also be having some doubts, as they have emphasised that they will not go ahead until there are satisfied with the viability of the project.
The problem associated with the present arrangements is that the money could be much more cheaply raised directly by the Treasury than by private companies. Furthermore, those companies would want to take full account of the risks which would be transferred to them and would want to have a reasonable profit margin. The only way in which those additional costs could be offset would be by the presumed much 476 greater efficiency of the private contractors. The Government will therefore have to decide whether this efficiency element would be sufficient to bridge the gap.
Among the various alternative proposals put forward is that the Underground, while remaining in the public sector, could be enabled to raise capital in the bond market. This, it is contended, could be done at attractive rates in view of the secure income stream which the operation of the Underground would generate. No doubt the Government will be seriously considering all of these alternative possibilities before finally deciding on the public private partnership as at present envisaged. In the meantime I consider it is urgent that the Government should provide the Underground with further bridging finance, and I hope that the Minister will reply to that effect.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, I open by picking up a couple of points raised by other noble Lords. First, my noble friend Lord Borrie spoke about the need for democratic renewal within London. He also said that there was a need for charismatic candidates to stand as mayor. That is something with which I wholeheartedly agree. A number of initiatives are taken outside London, not least by my noble friend Lord Bassam, in renewing the democracy of local areas. A number of different methods can be used. I hope that the GLA will explore all methods of renewing democratic accountability.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in his address to the House rubbished the Bill. He was very much involved in the abolition of the GLC, so perhaps he has an interest to declare in that respect. However, the noble Lord conceded at the end of his speech that it was imporant that London should speak with a single voice on both the national and international stages. I suppose that we should be grateful for that much. But I remind the noble Lord that his party did absolutely nothing to provide London with a single voice on the national and international stages. For Londoners this is an historic Bill which returns to them power which was taken away.
We have heard about the size and complexity of the Bill. It is worth remembering the words of my noble friend Lord Borrie. The intent of the Bill is both simple and straightforward and widely accepted by the political parties; namely, to put power where it belongs—into the hands of Londoners. We shall spend many days in Committee considering the detail of the Bill. However, like I suspect some noble Lords here today, I am nostalgic for the great days when the strategic issues of London were debated and made headline news every day and were not considered by the local authorities, some of which tended to be somewhat parochial in the way that they addressed issues.
I served on a local authority, the London Borough of Wandsworth, and was responsible for drawing up my party's response to the Unitary Development Plan. I found it extremely frustrating to come up with a plan, which was essentially a negotiating position with surrounding boroughs, and to put it to a distant authority in Whitehall. It was not an appropriate way to proceed. 477 There was no forum in which to debate the wider strategic issues. I welcome the spatial development strategy which the mayor will develop and link with London's other strategies.
In Wandsworth, where I live, some huge developments on the river front are now taking place and many local residents are unhappy about them. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, that there is an intrinsic difficulty in reconciling strategic development planning consents with local consents. I for one look forward to studying that particular part of the Bill in great detail when we come to it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned the Centre for Young Musicians. I have a particular interest in this centre. As a boy I used to play in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra. It was certainly my greatest achievement. The CYM was the jewel in ILEA's crown and was divorced from London when that body was abolished. Since the divorce it has carried on as the ambassador for London both within the UK and internationally. It had a number of very successful tours to Argentina and Japan. When I was with it many years ago it toured America. I believe that a special case can be made for the Centre for Young Musicians. It was included in both the Green Paper and White Paper. I believe that if we can resolve the problems of hybridity there is a case for the GLA having this ambassador for youth music in London on the face of the Bill.
Since the abolition of the GLC there has been a void in London which has led to inaction in some areas, duplication in others and confusion elsewhere. Pollution, poverty, congestion and lack of direction have been the result. In 1976 my father came to this House and made his maiden speech on the subject of local and regional government. At that time he was chairman of the GLC. I re-read the speech today. It is interesting that many of the principles he articulated then remain the same while many of the responsibilities that we are talking about today have changed. Interestingly, he spoke then of greater devolution in the context of Scotland and Wales. He also talked about people having greater control over their own affairs. He went further than any of us would go today in speaking about greater powers over gas and electricity. That shows how the debate has changed over the past 25 years.
I welcome the Bill, which creates something different and looks forwards, not backwards. I look forward to working on the Bill as it proceeds through this House.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for including me in his opening remarks while I was wrestling with a recalcitrant lift. My interest in local and regional government in London started nearly half a century ago when I was elected a member of a London borough. Ten years later I became a member of the London County Council. The LCC was a good organisation. It was a nice touch that the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, was sitting on the Woolsack when the debate opened. She was a very eminent member of the London County Council. Although 478 perhaps I did not appreciate that at the time I recognise it now. But the London County Council did not administer a sufficiently wide area to be able to influence strategic matters covering the whole of the built-up area. It ran out of steam having been under the control of the same political party for 27 years.
I was then elected to the Greater London Council on its creation by the London Government Act 1963 through the merger of Middlesex County Council and the London County Council, with bits of Essex, Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire and the County Borough of Croydon. Subsequently, I became the longest serving leader of the GLC and, somewhat to my surprise, was for three years responsible for the ILEA whose powers should have gone to the boroughs.
I thank my noble friend Lord Jenkin for his remarks. I believe that the creation of the GLC was a bold and necessary step to try to get to grips with strategic matters over the wider area into which London had grown, but the legislation lumbered it with a number of day-to-day matters which should have gone to the boroughs. That led to time-wasting feuding with the GLC.
Contrary to expectations, political control changed hands regularly, largely according to the popularity or otherwise of the government. But it was viewed as remote by the electorate and this was reflected in the turnout at elections. The new system of regional government worked reasonably well until the last administration before dissolution when it acquired delusions of grandeur and extravagant ideas which infuriated central government, and off came its head. But that did not warrant its complete removal, leaving London the only major capital in the world without a representative body and a strategic authority.
It will come as no surprise to my noble friends when I say how much better it would have been to reform the organisation, thus saving enormous cost to the taxpayer and a long and unnecessary upheaval. It would also have prevented the unforgivable vandalism of one of London's foremost public buildings, purpose built as a headquarters for London government, by selling it off for a song for conversion into a couple of hotels and a large tankful of sea-going fish.
I mention these matters because I want the new Greater London Authority to succeed and for the legislation to avoid the mistakes and difficulties of the past. I share the misgivings expressed by my noble friends Lord Bowness and Lord Jenkin of Roding. There must be changes.
In an effort to stimulate the electorate to take a greater interest in, and have a greater understanding of, the new authority, it is to have a directly elected executive mayor, a title imported from the United States and so far untried in this country—a powerful voice not only on London matters but inevitably one which will contain a national political content and all the ingredients, I should have thought, of another clash with Parliament.
What is quite clear is that the new electoral system, in particular for the assembly, is complicated, hard to understand and likely to put off people rather than encourage them to engage in the democratic process. Is 479 this likely to increase the turn-out at elections? The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, made some fairly pertinent remarks about that.
Advance publicity portrays the mayor as the person who will solve London's hitherto intractable problems. One wonders whether this is the opportunity for the Government to duck out of hard decisions which have been put off for so many years. Having regard to past difficulties, how is the mayor to be controlled should there be another potty one? It appears that if the mayor can gain the support of only one third of the assembly, he can do what he wants.
The many new layers of responsibility for the mayor suggest that a large bureaucracy will have to be created to service them. Of those responsibilities, by far the most important will be transport. Yet the powers do not extend over the rail services in London and the south-east. Improving the efficiency of London's transport infrastructure will require considerable expenditure over a long period. But the authority does not have the ability to raise finance and to borrow. Funds are in part to come from the motorist by way of road charges, with a 10-year life. But the motorist is not simply the commuter; London is very largely serviced by delivery vans.
What will be the impact of road charges on the economy of London? Will they make living and working in London unacceptably expensive? The public transport system is already grossly overloaded and the number of passengers increases every year. So it will take some years to cope with even greater demand. That brings me to the length of the start-up, or running-in, period of only two months between the result of the election and the operation of the authority. Is that long enough? For the GLC the period was a year.
When the GLC was set up it took its staff largely from those working within the London County Council and Middlesex County Council. Now, apart from the transfer of the staff from the Government Office for London, the authority will be starting from scratch. I should have thought that more time will be required to train the remainder: and for the members to consume what is on their plate. The mayor will have an enormous task both in settling his administrative organisation and sorting out his political appointments in the time allocated.
I shall restrict myself to these few comments. I understand that the Government are to introduce further amendments and I hope that the Bill can be much improved. Finally, I fear that I must give my apologies to the House. I cannot stay to the end of the debate as I have to make a journey which was arranged some months ago.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, we should note the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone. They make a great deal of sense.
I wish to limit my contribution to some extent to Part VI of the Bill which deals with the Metropolitan Police Authority and its police force. I welcome the Government's commitment to a strong and effective 480 partnership between police and local authorities working with local communities to fight and prevent crime. At present the Metropolitan Police is the only police force in Britain which does not report to a local authority and is accountable directly to the Home Secretary. I am pleased that that anomaly will now be corrected.
The Scarman Report on the Brixton disorders in 1981, and now the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry prescribed a wide range of detailed measures to relieve institutional racism within the police service. The purpose of those recommendations is to ensure that the police are providing an appropriate and professional service to all sections of the community. We all accept that while those in positions of power and influence have a special duty and responsibility to provide leadership, everyone in an organisation must understand what they are expected to do.
The evidence submitted to both inquiries has painted a picture of lack of confidence in the police among ethnic minority communities. We all know that the minority population is unevenly distributed regionally, but it is highly concentrated in our largest urban centres. It is estimated that nearly half of the black and Asian population of Great Britain live and work in Greater London. The Minister has already considered that point. It should therefore come as no surprise to noble Lords that if we wish to build a strong and effective partnership with the local community, we have to ensure that ethnic minorities are part of that process.
I welcome the Government's acceptance that at some stage the Race Relations Act will be extended to bring police activities within its scope. Currently, the Act applies only to the police in relation to their employment practices and the service they provide to individual members of the public. This proposed amendment would make it unlawful for the police to discriminate on racial grounds in the exercise of their law enforcement powers as well. This would include stop and search, arrest, detention, charging and treatment of suspects. The provisions outlined in the Greater London Authority Bill are wholly inadequate. Let me explain why.
It remains the view of the Commission for Racial Equality that extending the scope of the Race Relations Act is not sufficient. We do not know when this will happen. The CRE can be truly effective in challenging discriminatory practices only if its other proposals to strengthen the Race Relations Act are enacted at the same time. These include a more significant and straightforward power enabling the CRE to conduct formal investigations and a new power enabling the CRE to secure legally enforceable agreement to end discrimination, a duty on all public bodies to promote racial equality, a clearer and more comprehensive definition of indirect discrimination, ethnic monitoring and improved enforcement procedures.
No organisation can afford to put off tackling discrimination because the new legislation is not in place. Reading the provisions of the Bill, I have come to the conclusion that the Government have taken an easy way out. Let me explain that. Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1971 places a duty on all local authorities to promote equality of opportunity and 481 eliminate discrimination. This provision has not had the impact that Parliament intended. The performance indicators on racial equality in local authorities' annual reports to the Audit Commission show that, despite Section 71, there are areas of local government employment practice and service delivery which remain wholly outside the equal opportunity programmes. The confirmed high level of complaints of racial discrimination by local authority employees—in 1996 these accounted for approximately 15 per cent of all cases decided by industrial tribunals—shows that, even where there are such programmes there is a substantial gap between promise and performance.
So what do we see in the Greater London Authority Bill? Clause 310 specifies that the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority shall each be treated as a local authority for the purposes of Section 71 of the Race Relations Act: the same old, tried and failed provisions. We will miss a golden opportunity, well reflected by the Scarman and Macpherson inquiries, if we continue to put faith in a clause of the Race Relations Act that has not worked effectively.
We shall of course move the appropriate amendments at the Committee stage. These would be more in line with the Northern Ireland Act and the Government of Wales Act. We would accept nothing less than what has been provided for these assemblies.
Your Lordships may ask why. Let me explain. The Government of Wales Act provides for equality of opportunity under Section 120 of that Act. It specifies that the Assembly should 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. It further empowers the Assembly to publish after each financial year a statement of the arrangements made and an assessment of how effective those arrangements were in promoting equality of opportunity. This is the minimum that we would ask in our amendments during the Committee stage. Simple reference to Section 71 of the Race Relations Act will not do.
The Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority should be required to prepare a statement explaining any significant impact that a proposed policy or action by the body might have on its ability to fulfil its racial equality duties. Where a significant adverse impact is anticipated, they would be expected to consider alternatives to the proposed policy or action, including appropriate consultation, and the final statement would need to include justification for the rejection of alternatives less likely to have significant adverse impact. Impact statements should be available to anyone on request.
They would be expected to use "contract compliance" to raise standards of racial equality among those with whom they have contracts or service level agreements, or those to whom they provide funding by way of grants. They would be expected to carry out ethnic monitoring in order to assess their performance. They should be required to report annually on the measures taken to comply with racial equality duties. Monitoring 482 the performance of these duties should form part of the overall monitoring conducted by, for example, the National Audit Office, the Audit Commission, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and so forth. When public bodies fail to carry out their racial equality duties, they should be subject to challenge by way of judicial review.
The Bill should provide specific powers for the Commission for Racial Equality to verify compliance by public bodies of their racial equality duties and to take action in respect of non-compliance. Public bodies should be required to provide the commission with any impact statement or annual report within a specified time of receiving a request from bodies such as the CRE.
I have a number of other concerns about the Bill. They include the proposed Metropolitan Police Authority and its relationship with structures for consultation and lay involvement—for example, lay visitor schemes—which are at present established at London borough level.
I am not aware of this issue having been raised during the debates in the other place. In our view, the problems are not insurmountable, but also not insignificant, especially as the Metropolitan Police service has just restructured itself on a borough basis. In contrast, the newly established Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, recognising the need for an effective London-wide strategy to combat racist crime, has established an advisory group, the members of which are drawn from across London. What we need to be clear about is whether there should be some way to incorporate London boroughs into the structures of the Metropolitan Police Authority. More importantly, the Government ought to explain how they intend to build into the workings of the Metropolitan Police Authority the policy decisions and consultation machinery concerning the policing of their areas of separate boroughs. The Minister should not be surprised if we probe this issue with the appropriate amendments at the Committee stage.
Let me now take some specific issues. I turn to the purpose of the GLA. We need to consider and examine Clause 25, which deals with the purpose of the GLA. We consider that after the Lawrence inquiry the principal purpose must be the promotion of equal opportunity. We would wish to include in a number of places in the Bill the duty of the mayor and assembly to have regard to the need to eliminate racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity, and good race relations should be made more explicit. We shall certainly wish to ensure that the content of the mayor's annual report has similar provisions. Why should we have anything less than what is already provided for the Assembly in the Government of Wales Act 1998?
As regards the membership of the Metropolitan Police Authority, we are not confident that the proposed arrangements, set out in Schedule 21, will deliver an MPA which reflects the ethnically and culturally diverse population of Greater London, which it is there to serve.
483 The Home Secretary, in his action plan to follow up the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, has indicated that the appointment of independent members to the new MPA will take account of the ethnic balance among elected members. He also intends, by Autumn 1999, to have in place further guidance or secondary legislation in relation to the selection of the independent members. However, we consider that there needs to be a duty on all those responsible for appointing or electing members to the police authorities, including the GLA, to do everything practicable to ensure that that membership is so representative. The Bill provides a first opportunity to build into primary legislation more effective mechanisms to achieve representation of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the community in the selection of all categories of police authority members.
Let me end by pleading for representation of London's ethnic diversity on London-wide bodies. It is vital that members of London ethnic minority communities are engaged in, and are seen to be involved in and contributing to, the government and running of London. where they make up over 20 per cent of the population.
The Commission for Racial Equality has made representations to the main political parties to encourage ethnic minority applicants and their nomination for winnable constituencies and places on the parties' lists. However, given the strong possibility of small numbers of ethnic minority GLA members and the need to appoint from other organisations to bodies such as Transport for London, the London Transport Users' Committee and the London Cultural Strategy Group, there needs to be a means by which the GLA can be required to secure membership of such bodies to represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of Greater London and the interests of ethnic minority communities.
We recommend an amendment along the lines of Section 68(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to require the mayor and assembly to ensure that, so far as practicable, the London-wide bodies to which they appoint the membership shall reflect London's diverse communities.
I trust that the Minister will reflect on what I have said. We shall certainly assist the Government in working out amendments reflecting the multi-racial society in which we all live and the fact that we can no longer ignore what is appropriate in such circumstances.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Haringey
My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest. I was born in London and I have lived in London all my life. I have been a London borough councillor for over 20 years, and I chair the Association of London Government, which in the absence of a directly-elected mayor acts as the democratic voice of London. And, without sounding presumptuous about the progress of the Bill in your Lordships' House, I hope to play some part in a new Greater London Authority in one capacity or another.
The logic of creating a new strategic authority for London is overwhelming. The first reason is that what we were left with after the abolition of the GLC was an 484 alphabet soup of unelected quangos, joint boards, committees and other organisations that sprang up as gaps appeared. It has been a mess and an insult to London.
Secondly, London needs managing. It is the biggest city in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. It has a population bigger than that of Denmark or Nor way and a GDP as large as Boris Yeltsin's Russia.
London as a city needs someone to sort out its problems: the air we breathe, traffic congestion, inadequate and inferior public transport, lack of investment and infrastructure, lack of jobs and a shortage of people with the right skills and experience to get the jobs that there are.
That does not mean turning the clock back to the old Greater London Council. The new authority will not be in the business of delivering services itself, even London-wide ones. They should be left to the boroughs or to specialist agencies for which the mayor and the GLA have set budgets and priorities.
Keeping London a top world city will be a key task for the new mayor and assembly. We are living in a global market. London must be able to compete in this market to attract inward investment. It must be promoted to the rest of the world by developing a new London brand, one that presents a fresh, modern image for a dynamic city of the 21st century. However, this promotional task must not be allowed to detract from the hard work that needs to be done to tackle the capital's underlying social, economic and infrastructure problems.
There will be an exciting and challenging new agenda for that new mayor and assembly. Indeed, the new authority will in itself be a bold experiment in city leadership. The new mayor of London will be the first directly elected political leader in this country. He or she will have been chosen personally by potentially more than 5 million people, 80 times as many as had the chance to vote directly for, say, the MP for Sedgefield. London's mayor will have a larger personal mandate than any other politician in Europe, with the exception of the President of the French Republic.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, is right in one respect at least: there will be enormous expectations on whoever becomes mayor, and the job of mayor will be an enormous challenge. Certainly developing a vision for a complex city like London is not easy.
Certainly London's new government will face insistent, even shrill, demands for a new agenda and for real action. The mayor will need to respond to the high expectations of London's citizens, businesses and communities, all eager for fresh policies and improvements in London's economic performance and quality of life.
But it is no good going in head first with a few sound-bite policies. The mayor needs to set a purpose that will help make sense of what will] be competing demands. The streets of London are, after all, littered with policy dilemmas. We want to make Londoners more mobile—but we do not want to invite more cars on to our congested roads. We want to eliminate urban distress and social exclusion—but we will not have 485 unlimited budgets. We want businesses old and new to flourish—but we have to reverse the tide of pollution. We want more tourists—but we want to preserve the quality of life for those of us who live close to London's attractions. In London these dilemmas just do not stop coming.
What the mayor must do is to build a London consensus, which will establish priorities and generate a sense of common cause among the many stakeholders with whom the new mayor, and the rest of the GLA and its agencies, must work. Let us be clear: it will not be possible simply to muddle through. This will imply a willingness to recognise, respect and share policy solutions. It means transparent and inclusive political decision-making. And, if it is successful, it will mean an end to an electoral culture in which low expectations bring low turnouts, and where appallingly low turnouts pass virtually unnoticed.
So what should be the mayor's vision for London? First—I say this at the risk of upsetting the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon—he or she should be a people's mayor, a Londoner's mayor for Londoners, building an inclusive London. It is all too easy just to focus on the tourist London of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street. London's mayor must represent all Londoners, rich and poor, black and white, young and old, from north and south and from east and west.
Secondly, the vision must be about improving the quality of life for everybody who lives and works in London. So it must be about tackling social exclusion and discrimination. And, let me be clear, this agenda about tackling social exclusion and discrimination is one that matters just as much for business as it does for everyone else. Economic prosperity goes hand in hand with social inclusion. Business in London will not thrive in a divided city. We need a thriving London, a London that can be the cultural capital of the world, but also a fun city that people can enjoy.
Thirdly, economic prosperity must be sustainable. We need a sustainable London, a healthy city, with a cleaner environment. We have to get away from the throwaway culture and make sure that people feel valued enough themselves to value their city's future.
Fourthly, we must unlock the gridlock. London needs an efficient, reliable, accessible, clean and safe public transport system, so that we have a city where parents feel that their children are safe when walking to school and where people prefer to use public transport rather than their cars.
Finally, the GLA must embrace a new style of politics. In the White Paper that sets out proposals for a mayor and assembly for London, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister calls fora new style of politics for our capital city—more inclusive, less confrontational and focusing on the issues that matter".Such an approach is about building consensus rather than engaging in conflict and petty political bickering. The electoral arrangements of the assembly will require the mayor to build a consensus spanning at least two political parties. The nature of the mayor's powers 486 means that the mayor's office will be steering not rowing, building consensus and partnerships across London, with business, with the voluntary sector, with the boroughs and so on.
By its nature, the GLA cannot have a service provider culture, which used to be the old style of local government, nor can it offer the top-down solutions that have traditionally been associated with central government. The mayor will have to be a facilitator, a fixer, who forges ahead by building partnerships.
Local government already works in partnership with a range of other sectors—businesses, trade unions and the voluntary sector. It is acknowledged that the role of the local authority has changed. It is no longer able, single-handedly, to meet all the needs of the communities it represents. Instead it provides a focus for partnerships which can deliver on a shared agenda. The formation of the GLA is the next stage of that evolution. It will be the model for modern local government, hopefully encompassing the best of the new ways of working.
To make that partnership work, the mayor must have strong, robust relationships with the key stakeholders—the London boroughs, business, the voluntary sector, the London NHS and further and higher education.
The other side is the new government of London's relationship with its citizens. I believe that the mayor must use the information technology revolution as a tool to widen consultation and to make London's government more accessible to the people it serves.
Consultation is about much more than giving the people the right to express a never-ending wish list. It is about developing a dialogue between the public and government; about hard choices and rationing decisions. For the mayor, consultation could be used as a forum for informed political debate, to sort out the tough decisions which London needs to get it moving again.
The election of a mayor represents a real opportunity, unhindered by the broken promises of the past and severed trust, to rebuild links with the black community in London and to reconnect it to a democratic institution which can deliver for it.
London is a wonderful, complicated, multi-cultural city and that must be valued and celebrated. However, the mayor has an important job to do in rebuilding and forging links with black members of our community. The murders of Stephen Lawrence and Michael Menson are not just lone incidents but represent the day-to-day experience and fears of many people.
Incidentally, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that the mayor and the GLA should have a statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity and racial harmony in the capital. There are models in the Northern Ireland Act and the Government of Wales Act. We need to look at those as the Bill passes through its stages here.
But it is a national disgrace when nearly one-quarter of black people are not registered to vote and more than half of those who are registered are unlikely to use that vote. I want to see members of our black community feel sufficiently connected to our democratic processes 487 that they will exercise that franchise. I want to see a mayor who can rebuild the trust of the black community, not just in our police force, where it is sorely needed, but also more basically, in our democratic structures and institutions.
I am often saddened by the anti-London attitudes in the rest of the UK. After all, London is our capital city. It is the capital for everyone in the country as well as for Londoners. We should all be proud of it and not try to knock it or starve it of funds. The mayor faces a major public relations task to obtain the support of the rest of the country.
Let us all celebrate the Dome, the National Stadium, the new Tate Gallery and the Globe. Those are national monuments and achievements of which everyone in the country should be proud. But knocking London seems to be a national sport, one in which, I am afraid, a few of your Lordships have been known to excel. Too often we are told that London gets too much—the modern equivalent of saying that the streets of London are paved with gold. Yet rather than London receiving more than its fair share of resources, it contributes billions more in taxes than the Government allow to be spent in London. London subsidises the rest of the UK, not the other way round.
We should never forget that London acts as the engine for the UK economy. It is the main gateway to the UK. Some 23 million visitors come to London each year, spending £7 billion, and many go on to the rest of the country. The UK's prosperity depends on London and its prosperity and security. The fortunes of the country as a whole are entwined with the fortunes of London.
But London is also a city of great needs. The number of unemployed in London is almost exactly the same as the number in all of Scotland and Wales combined. If one takes it down to borough level, the number of long-term unemployed in Islington is greater than in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. There are 26 parliamentary constituencies in London with higher numbers of unemployed than any constituency in Scotland. It is the people from London's minority communities who are particularly hard hit by that unemployment.
We should never forget also that 45 per cent of the UK's minority ethnic population lives in our capital city. In my home borough—and it is by no means unique—more than one-third of the children in our schools speak a language other than English at home. We have a constantly changing population. London's pupil turnover is 50 per cent higher than the rest of the UK. Most of the country's refugees and asylum seekers are in London with more than 50,000 becoming the responsibility of London's local councils in the past three years alone. It is true that 64 per cent of the most deprived and 94 per cent of the poorest council estates are in London. Premature mortality in London is among the highest in the country—male Londoners aged 35 to 50 have twice the national average mortality rate for their age group.
488 Therefore, one of the tasks of London's mayor will be to combat the ignorance and complacency about our capital city and sell London, its needs and its importance for the nation to the rest of the country.
To do that, the mayor must engage in a constructive dialogue with government based on access, not conflict. That does not mean that the mayor should kow-tow to every passing government whim but there should be a mayor speaking up for Londoners at the heart of government. I can see no merit in a mayor whose sole purpose is to use his position as a platform for knee-jerk opposition to government.
What is in it for Londoners? The new authority must offer a vision of the future where there is a shared consensus between local government, business and the community sector that social exclusion, economic competitiveness and environmental protection must he tackled together and that to fail on one is to fail on all; where tomorrow's future is today's concern for each of us individually and for all of us collectively; and where London makes its contribution to the nation, Europe and the world; where that contribution is valued and nurtured so that London continues to play its part as the world's greatest capital city but above all as a capital city with a human heart that values and nurtures all its citizens just as much as that global role. We want a prosperous London; a London that works for all who live and work there; a London in whom everyone can have a stake.
That is the vision which I believe should be offered by London's first mayor. That will require a mayor who listens, builds consensus, with vision and above all, a mayor with ambitions for this wonderful glorious city and its people. That is what this Bill can offer London and its people. I commend it to your Lordships today.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, to appear between my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey and my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, is like being whatever the opposite is to a sandwich: there are two meaty pieces on either side of me and I am the dull bit in the middle. We have been at it for three hours plus and I am only the 15th speaker. I always have the ambition of making my speech short. Let us see what happens.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, complained that this Bill is longer than the Scottish and Welsh Acts. Why not? More people live here than live out there. We have more income and more poverty than they have. I have always wondered why we have a Secretary of State for Wales and for Scotland but not for London. If there had been any justice, we should have had a Secretary of State for London all the time. Unfortunately, we have not had that because London gets taken for granted. Not many people have pointed this out, but London suffers from being the capital of the country. Because the national government are here, the government of London is always in the shadow of the national government.
I consider that this Bill has two parents—fear and hope: fear of the past repeating itself and hope that it will not. It is fear of the past because., as many noble 489 Lords have pointed out, the Bill is haunted by the GLC. I should put on record that I liked the GLC. I am the first person to say that this afternoon. It did a very good job. ILEA also did a very good job. I give only one example—the London Institute, from which many famous fashion designers have gone to Paris. The London Institute was created during the time of ILEA. I was present with Miss Frances Morrell when she created it so I know when it was created.
The GLC had the only successful public transport policy in the world; that is, Fares Fair. I have to declare an interest. I do not and never have had a car; I do not drive a car. Therefore I use public transport and I walk. I take buses and tubes and taxis, which are also considered to be public transport, unlike bicycles, which are private transport. But that is another matter. It was only through the GLC's Fares Fair policy that London had decent public transport. Everything that has happened since then—the vandalism of the bus services, the replacement of Routemaster by driver-only buses and the break-up of the integrated system into separate bus services, and so forth—has not been very good.
I want to speak mainly about transport, but before doing so let me make one or two minor points. I am always puzzled when Bills contain mathematical formulae. I read them and they do not make sense to me. The last time it happened was in the council tax Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, told me that: whether or not the clause was wrong, that is the way we do things and supplementary notes would be issued to explain what was going on. Likewise, the formula in Clause 73 makes absolutely no sense. The formula does not give council tax to anybody; it is a pure number if we calculate it. If I was a conscientious citizen I could sue the Greater London authority, but I have neither the time nor the money. I know that my noble friend will say, "We always do it like that. It is what the draftsman said and we will issue instructions that it is not to be taken too seriously". So be it.
Let me turn to some serious issues concerning transport. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, made some important comments relating to transport and I shall use those as the background to my remarks. I want to make the point that to wait for a public private partnership is not necessarily the optimum solution. Let me explain why. First, London Transport is the least subsidised of any modern city transport system. To some extent the Government have saved money ever since they abolished the subsidy. So some of London Transport's deserved money has gone into the government coffers.
There was a time when we were all haunted by the high GDP ratio because of the recession of 1990 to 1992 and we were searching for all kinds of ways to avoid spending government money and adding to government debt. That is no longer the case. We have a healthy public finance system. But people get numbers out of perspective. Public finance numbers are always thought to be large even when they are very small, and all private finance numbers are ignored. But suppose London Transport needs £1 billion a year, to take a 490 round sum. And suppose it had to issue bonds to build up a stock, the yield of which it could expand on. That is not a lot of money.
In the last financial year the PSBR was minus £5 billion. It would therefore be easy for the Government to say, "Here is a bit of money. Return it to us over the next 35 years". The public finances would not collapse. The UK has a £900 billion economy. London by itself is probably a £200 billion economy. We are talking about huge amounts. So it would be possible for the Government to be bold and say, "We have tried the public private partnership. But rail transport happens to be one sector in which it does not work". We only need to look at the privatised rail network; it has been a disaster. So it would be possible for the Government, on prudent financial grounds, to say, "Yes, we will fund London Transport from public money".
As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, rightly said, the state can raise money much more cheaply than private enterprise can, and to that extent it would save everybody a lot of money if it did not go into this public private partnership. But, again as the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, let us try an alternative. London Transport may be given power to issue bonds or equity; it could issue equity and give it to London citizens and make sure, for example, that no one holds more than 1 per cent to prevent takeovers and mergers. That would generate income. London is also a very good financial market so it would not be a problem to raise money in London for something like London Underground, which is not only the world's largest system and generates £250 million surplus every year, but it also has very good potential. The indirect contribution that London Transport makes to London's economy, by almost any calculation, would more than compensate for either the Government investing the money in London or London Transport being able to go to the market and say, "Give us the money and we will pay it back". I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, could do it in half a day.
The problem is that the sound economics of London Transport are not the narrow economics of Treasury finance, as it used to be. The Treasury has never learnt any economics. But that is another issue. I do not believe the Bill would be affected by that proposal, but in terms of policy it would be the most significant thing one could do. If we did that, then a big part of London's problems would be solved.
I must welcome the provision for road charges and parking fees in generating a ring-fenced income for London. I hope that the road charges are used imaginatively because they are a good instrument and they are also a price mechanism and therefore a more efficient way of regulating traffic.
This is an interesting Bill, but its success will depend on how far we learn lessons from the past—for example, Fares Fair. We must not worry about what the Mayor of London will do if he goes mad or something. Also, we must ensure that this Bill is not only for the next two or three years; it must be with us for a long time. Strategy means being able to take an imaginative view of the future and doing something which is efficient and economical.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Lord Sheppard of Didgemere
My Lords, there are two sides to this issue. One is the interesting way in which partnerships between business and local government across parties have progressed in London over the past five years. If the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, had swapped scripts with me, I have a feeling that neither of us would have noticed and we would have gone ahead and made the same speech. That proves that there is a huge passion for London and a huge frustration, which goes across parties, across business, across local government and right into the voluntary sector. We should not lose sight of that in our discussions tonight.
The other factor which, as a non-politician—perhaps I should not say that standing here—I find somewhat amusing, although perhaps I should not say that either in this Chamber, is the habit of past and present governments to claim credit for the success of London or, if it is a failure, to say how it can be made a success. I believe that over the past 2000 years it has been Londoners—maybe it has been politicians—who have done it all.
I am chairman of London First, which is the business campaign group for the capital. I am also a director of London Development Partnership, like the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It is the forerunner of the London Development Agency. If one is paid for being a member of a quango, no one has yet offered us any money and we do not want any. Both roles are completely unpaid.
My true interest in this Bill is as a Londoner, as noble Lords can tell me from my slightly reformed Cockney accent, having been at the London School of Economics. I am also a businessman who believes passionately in our capital city where I was born. It is for that reason that I find myself involved in many of these activities.
I turn now to the Bill itself. The election of a mayor and an assembly will be a new form of democracy for London. It is quite a hold experiment. There are 7 to 8 mullion Londoners, so we had better make it a very bold success because we cannot afford for it to go wrong. Despite the apathy displayed in terms of the total number of votes in the referendum last year, there is a huge expectation in London.
The business community is expecting the mayor probably to walk on the Thames or at least to introduce the Thames bus. He should be able to improve transport and ensure that the imbalance between skills and job needs is met. He should champion particular projects and opportunities and maintain law and order and social balance.
The main part of the Bill is very similar to many proposals, as we have heard. London First put up a governor for London. We were trying to get rid of mayors and Lord Mayors. A governor for London was to be reported on in 1996. We needed a mayor who would concentrate on strategic action. As the Minister said, that is the intention of the Bill.
The major difference in the London First proposal was the introduction of an assembly. The last time I spoke on London in this House I said that I was opposed to an assembly. Having now seen some of the candidates 492 of all different political colours and given that the mayor will have one of the biggest direct electorates in Europe, we need the check and balance of an assembly. I have changed my view in the past few years.
What is business looking for and what are its concerns? The mayor's strategic focus must be maintained throughout the term. We are not really interested in Ukrainian foreign policy. We are quite interested in social and economic issues directly affecting the standard and quality of life in London. The mayor and the whole of his or her team mush be action driven. Londoners want fewer words and more action. We have had plenty of words in the past. As we have heard from other speakers, the mayor must be a powerful champion for London.
The role of business is important. I was delighted to hear what the Minister said as regards "must consult" rather than "consider consulting." I can now hear up the next six pages of my notes. Wealth creation is one of the factors in Clause 25. That is another important breakthrough as regards business.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has stolen most of my punch lines. As we know, London produces 15 per cent of the nation's GDP. It is the size of many nations. Estimates vary, but it contributes £14 billion to the rest of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that today its competitive position is threatened by transport problems and skill shortages in most key areas. We have real social problems and huge inequalities. Something has to be done about them.
The Bill must provide the basis for harnessing and integrating the energies of London's society. We must not create a tier of officialdom, which will frustrate the energies of Londoners and their dream and vision of it. Inclusiveness is essential for economic regeneration. People talk as though they were different subjects. We cannot afford not to have inclusiveness. London has a culturally diverse community. We can gain tremendous benefit from that. One can sell to inward investors London's cultural diversity not only as regards colour but also religion and other aspects of life. It is a great strength.
Central government must encourage but also stand back despite the 250 safeguards, or whatever the number is, put forward by the Secretary of State. London must be able to use more of its own resources. We are not asking for a subsidy but to have back some of our £14 billion.
What are my primary concerns about this Bill? The first is transport. If you scratch a businessman he will tell you that skills, including education, transport, the social fabric and law and order are the issues. Incidentally, if you scratch American businessmen you get the same answers.
The Government have indicated that the GLA is a new approach for transport. We have heard about hypothecation. A long-standing opposition to the principle of hypothecation has existed in the Treasury. We have an immense breakthrough. The Government are to be congratulated on convincing their own finance director, or whatever the Treasury is.
493 The concept of additionality has been mentioned. In the other place all the right words have been said. The business community has been monitoring the situation. Those words are not honoured to the extent of 90 per cent, but to 101 per cent. However, so far the Government have been unwilling to take one further step, which weakens the whole of the Bill, and allow the GLA to borrow on the back of its new revenue streams generated by congestion charging. London First produced a detailed example of road-user charging schemes for central London. It is a simple paper-based scheme that could be introduced very quickly. One does not need a great deal of information technology. We showed it to business members. We did not say to them, "Do you like road pricing or not?" We said, "Do you like this scheme? If not, improve it." Business invented it; we did not. Business replied to the effect that they liked the scheme. The result was overwhelming support for congestion charging. Of the number of respondents 75 per cent. were in favour of road charging. Despite the costs to business nearly all respondents said that provided the funds—estimated at £200 million a year—were hypothecated to improving London's transport system, that would cut out the hidden costs of congestion and business people would back it.
If the mayor can borrow against the future income streams, then investment to improve the transport system can begin straightaway. That would make it far more likely politically that a mayor would take it forward. Otherwise there would be the huge task of saying, "We are about to 'tax' you and charge you on your car. Sometime you will get an improvement in public transport." If London can borrow against income streams one can start up front immediately with the improvement of public transport, some people would leave their cars. We do not want the car to disappear. As we all know, during the skiing season about 10 per cent of the population is away and London improves overnight. Congestion seems to melt away. If we can persuade 5 per cent, 10 per cent or even 20 per cent of people to leave their cars, that would be of great value. We do not want to get rid of the motor car. I was in the motor industry for 20 years.
Road pricing alone is not the Holy Grail. The aim is to improve public transport. That should not be forgotten. The proposal is not to invent a sophisticated system of congestion charging but a way of getting money, and business supports the scheme.
My first plea to the Government and the Minister is to consider amending the Bill to allow the GLA to borrow against planned income streams from congestion charging. Such borrowing should only be used for capital costs and improving transport. The private sector would arrange the borrowing. It would be subject to the usual hundreds of pages of small print and commercial discipline so there is no need to worry that everything will go out of control.
Apart from freeing up our roads, the main issue is the Underground. I say "snap" to what the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said. Indeed, I agree with everything he said. The immediate issue is that someone has to give. It is all taking much too long and there is deep concern. If you 494 go out and ask the business community, you will not actually get the right answer because many of us out there are bidding to be operators, to provide finance, and so on. So are we going to say, "The Emperor has no clothes?" Of course, we are not.
Therefore the issue that we must tackle is interim financing, as mentioned by the noble Lord. We must have a clear statement about bridging the gap. Certainly the money already given—at least £300 million odd—does not in any way bridge right the way through. It is very important, but it bridges only the immediate situation.
I turn to planning. As we all know—one has only to look out of the window—huge development is taking place across London, resulting in more jobs and a stronger economy. It is essential that the mayor should have a very positive role working with boroughs and with business to encourage suitable development and regeneration. I take just one small example. If we were ever to bid successfully for the Olympic Games, that would be a classic example of where a positive attitude from the mayor would be fundamental. He or she has to be able to cut through all the issues and conflict in terms of venue development, transport and accommodation and, indeed, get a proposal together.
I wish to refer more generally to the mayor's spatial development strategy. As drafted, there are just too many layers in it. The real problem is that it will take a very long time to come forward with such a strategy. In the meantime, there will be a complete blight on other investments. The Government need to consider finding some form of amendment—perhaps we can do it in Committee—to adopt some time restraints in that spatial development strategy. An enormous amount of planning work has been done in London by LPAC and other organisations and much more will be done between now and July when the mayor takes office. Surely, at the very least, the mayor could be obligated to give interim guidance on London planning, based on everything that has so far arisen. After all, he or she will have been out there canvassing and telling people what they will do for London. Therefore, he or she had better convert that into a real interim plan.
My plea on planning is that it is a subject which is key to London's future. At present it is too slow; indeed, it is very patchy and too slow, despite all the development. We have an opportunity to speed it up. We have an opportunity not only to adopt a champion but also to speed up some of the processes, thereby avoiding conflict with boroughs and the mayor. We have to get the right kind of positive attitude—the type of attitude that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, as a leader of local government, advocated. If we can get some of those things going, we can secure real development. We really need to think the matter through in Committee. We have many planning experts in this House. We must consider how to achieve some improvements.
This Bill is fundamental to the future of London. Public expectations are very high. We cannot afford, in the interests of democracy and regardless of party politics, failure. We must have success. Moreover, it must be success not only for the "included" but also for 495 the "excluded" of London, of which there are far too many. We must work across party political divisions to turn what is admittedly high risk into high success. London is already a great success. It deserves a governance and a governing system to match that success. I believe that the Bill attempts to put that into place. However, it can be improved, and I am certain it will be in Committee.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Lord Sheppard of Liverpool
My Lords, it is quite a personal pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere. He and I receive each other's letters from time to time. I know a little about London First, but I have no idea where Didgemere is. If the noble Lord will tell me where it is, I will tell him where Liverpool is.
I hope that it may not be felt that I am intruding on a local discussion of Londoners. I am no longer a Londoner. I spent a lot of my boyhood years here, but my first 20 years of ordained ministry were spent living and working in inner-London in three different boroughs: namely, Islington, Newham and Southwark. It is also the case that the creation of a Greater London authority and a mayor of London is of the greatest interest to other regions and other cities.
First and foremost, I want to support wholeheartedly the creation, or recreation, of a London-wide authority. When I was Bishop of Woolwich I felt that the GLC played a most important role in seeking the well-being of the whole city. Members elected for boroughs like Sutton, which was then in my area, were beginning to look at their local interests in the light of what they were learning about the needs of Lewisham and Southwark—and even, wonder of wonders, across the river, about things that happened north of the river.
A concern for the whole leads on to taking a particular interest in those who are left out of decent opportunities. I served on the Archbishop's Commission on Urban Priority Areas, which produced the report Faith in the City in 1985. As we went around visiting each of the major cities in England, the text from the Bible that we most often quoted to one another:We are members one of anotherThat is what a city is about; indeed, that is what a city should be. Affluent and deprived, north and south, inner-city and suburb, we belong to one another. All of us are the poorer if we simply look for our own sectional interest.
I welcome the way in which the authority is to be elected. We have had many debates in your Lordships' House recently about electoral methods. In electing an authority that has city-wide responsibilities, it seems to me to make very good sense that 14 members are to be elected for constituencies and 11 on a London-wide basis. That underlines the points that I have been trying to make about looking at the whole and it will help to ensure that black and Asian communities are represented in the assembly. The noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Harris of Haringey, were right in the emphasis that they put on the latter.
496 In a report, the Social Exclusion Unit has talked about areas of social exclusion. That is of course true. In areas of Merseyside mass unemployment is three generations deep. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, spoke powerfully about such areas in London. I am familiar with boroughs such as Newham, Hackney, Lewisham and Southwark where far too many people are still excluded from decent opportunities.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said that the new authority should place concern for its poorest citizens near the top of its priorities. I hope it will be a prime responsibility of the London Development Agency to focus on these areas of social exclusion. The deprivation in these areas is an interlocking phenomenon. It is not just a matter of poor housing, jobs, schools, transport, shopping facilities or health provision; it is a confusing interlocking of all of these which creates an area of social exclusion. The lack of decent provision causes many who have grown up in these areas, and who have done well and could offer much to the neighbourhoods, to move away.
Policies to tackle this interlocking deprivation need themselves to be interlocking. That was a major reason for the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit. I hope that the London Development Agency and the authority will press for the policies of different government departments to be drawn together. They are so often divided by deep trenches. Big cities suffer from social segregation. It is often the case that the bigger the city, the greater is the segregation that physically divides different groups from one another. The selective mobility of the more successful often compounds that situation, as those who do well in school, church or club go up in the world and move right out of the district when they are adult and lose touch with it.
I believe it is still true of London that whole boroughs comprise one class of people. I accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, made about the strength of the boroughs, but there are boroughs which do not have the necessary resources and the opportunity to achieve what a city-wide authority ought to be able to achieve. That situation will change only if settled policies are introduced to provide more mixed housing, better schools and shopping provision in the areas from which so many still move away. Through the London Development Agency and in its responsibilities for spatial development and environmental planning, I hope that the authority will have sufficient powers to bring about change. The question of whether it has sufficient powers applies to other regional development agencies too.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, was concerned that Clause 25 of the Bill states that the Greater London Authority,shall have regard to the effect which the proposed exercise of the power would have on … the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom".The noble Baroness thought that that should not be part of the Bill. I do not know precisely what lies behind that provision, but I am aware of the difficulty of different interests making their voices heard in relation to planning.
497 I refer to the concern about the Channel Tunnel and its link with the west coast line. That constitutes a huge part of this country. Noble Lords may remember that British Rail produced a plan to build a railway line through south London to King's Cross. There was, naturally, powerful opposition from people in south London and Surrey whose immediate interests were affected. However, I refer also to the failure to build a proper Channel Tunnel link up the west coast line to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and the whole of the north west. It was much more difficult for those whose interests were harmed by the failure to provide that link to make their voices heard. I believe it is absolutely right that a concern for the well-being of the whole of the United Kingdom should be written into a Bill that is concerned with London. London is an immensely powerful part of the country, but the development of that strength affects other parts of the country too.
I was present at each stage of the Bill that sought to abolish the metropolitan counties. Other noble Lords will remember that there was little or no debate about matters other than the GLC. The then leadership of the GLC had made both itself and other metropolitan counties which were greatly valued extremely vulnerable by following what were, in my view, reckless policies that made them easy targets for those who wanted to destroy them.
I support the Bill; I hope that it will equip the Greater London Authority with sufficient powers to carry out effectively the hopes that noble Lords have mentioned and that many people will invest in it.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, there is a postcard on sale in the more sophisticated parts of this country, such as Clapham, which portrays a number of sheep standing around in Heaven with God in the background, wielding a shepherd's crook or crosier. One sheep is saying to another "Of course I am acquainted with the saying, 'the Lord is my Shepherd', but I did not expect to have to take it literally or seriously".
Following, as I do, two Lord Sheppards, I am forced to take it seriously, and they are two hard acts to follow. I have a hard job anyway, since I am charged by my party with a special brief to look at Parts IX and X of this unconscionably long Bill. Neither part was dealt with at all in the Bill's passage through another place, and if ever there was evidence of the need for a second Chamber containing great specialist expertise, this is it. Not that I claim to have great expertise, but I was born in London, I live in London and I have been a party spokesman in your Lordships' House on both the arts and the environment. I believe that we can considerably improve this Bill in those respects.
The first matter which I have been asked to raise arises under Part X. It is the question of the archives of London, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. My Front Bench have pinched all my best lines before I have spoken, but I shall say a word or two about the detail of the archives. I think that we ought to enable these to be written into the Bill.
498 National legislation governing local authority archives and local studies collections is contained in the Local Government (Records) Act 1962. Although that Act enables all London authorities to make archive provision and create local history collections, it is permissive only. Standards of provision, both in relation to access to the borough council's own official records and to material for study of localities more generally, vary considerably between authorities. Standards of service were summarised in Towards 2000—the future of London's archives, published by the Greater London Archives Network in 1993. Of the 33 London local authorities, more than a third have no professional archivist.
Some boroughs make no provision for access to the archives created by the local authority itself, much less make provision to take in historic records created by institutions, businesses, or individuals within the local area. Organisations creating historic records of local significance, as well as national bodies responsible for distributing records to repositories, experience considerable difficulties when depositing records in London, as some boroughs remain unable to receive collections of important archive material. There is no duty, as things stand, to take an active role in collecting local material of historical interest and making it available to the public.
Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster are examples where the local authority plays an active role. Facilities for study of the locality for the purposes of local business and of understanding the built environment can enhance informed public participation in planning and development issues. Some boroughs which employ professional staff and endeavour to provide a serious service to the public nevertheless leave those services desperately under-resourced. Some borough archivists say that they cannot accept the deposit of more material because their small safe storage provision is full up. This will prejudice the resources available to future generations.
London needs an even standard of provision as a matter of urgency, so that council tax payers in all metropolitan areas can expect the same standards of archive provision from their local council. This does not entail excessive expense, but should meet the standards laid down by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts for the storage and custody of records, access to collections and the provision of reasonable opening hours for consulting archive materials. That is something for which we feel the mayor should take some responsibility, among all the other important things he has been given.
Also falling into the area is the need, which has also been mentioned by the Front Bench, of the future training of young musicians. This has also been raised by other speakers tonight, and it is very important.
We are going to give the mayor important powers. Many speakers have mentioned the pattern from America that has been taken for this particular plan. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the pattern from France, where the mayors have much the same 499 kind of control and responsibility and where it works extremely well in even some of the smaller towns, as I know from experience.
In the environmental field there is a need to give the mayor the duty to promote sustainable, development and to take it into account. The Government said that they would return to this issue at Committee stage; they should do so. The mayor should be given a duty to forward bio-diversity. The Government said that they would return to this issue at Committee stage; they should do so.
Many noble Lords have mentioned transport. It is very important that we manage to work in favour of promoting bicycles as much as possible as well as public transport. Both are important and both should be encouraged.
The authority will be an advance on the GLC, the last public body for which I ran for office, in the borough of the City of London and Westminster. I succeeded in heating my fellow Liberals for a share of the vote, but nobody else. The noble Lord. Lord Jenkin of Roding, made deserved fun of the latter years of the GLC. If he was present I would tell him—although I am telling Hansard and your Lordships—that the only thing wrong with the GLC was that it did not have proportional representation. If you have proportional representation you do not have extremists running the councils. It was the inability to take that very simple step which caused the problems which led to the destruction of the GLC.
It is a great pity that the nominations for the mayorship now appear to have fallen into the hands of political parties. In later proceedings of the Bill I will be wearing the badge of those who are saying, "Let Ken stand". That does not mean I will vote for him, but he should certainly be allowed to stand. I shall also be wearing a badge urging my party to allow the last Liberal Democrat member of the GLC, Adrian Slade, the past president of the party, to stand also.
All political parties go mad, but that does not mean that we must not wish this new authority and its new mayor, whoever he may be, well. We must bind London together in the way referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Liverpool. One of the great things that has happened—the noble Lord will understand the importance of this—is that over the past two or three years the present Bishop of London, who I was delighted to see in his place earlier, and the present Bishop of Southwark have managed to bind ecclesiastical London together in a way that has not been seen for 150 years. If, despite its history, that can he done ecclesiastically, it can be done politically. Even the noble Lord, Lord Tope, could be persuaded to cross the river—which he says he does not particularly want to do.
We need a great London; we need a great London government; we need, I think, a mayor; and we need to give him adequate powers and adequate resources—particularly in the areas of conservation, the environment and the arts. We will so amend the Bill to give him the powers to do what he needs to do.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
My Lords, I echo the final words of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in saying that we do indeed need a Greater London Authority, but I shall be addressing only Part VI of the Bill which deals with the setting up of a police authority and explaining why this may well be welcomed by the Metropolitan Police.
Many people have rather naively supposed that the Metropolitan Police would be against having a police authority for London because it might mean more control and democratic accountability. On the contrary, it has long been understood, at least by the senior officers of the service, that that is the only way to escape the present uneasy symbiotic relationship with the Home Office and the vagaries of successive Home Secretaries!
The present situation where the Home Secretary is the police authority for London—indeed, many years ago I heard Henry Brooke address an audience of police officers and he started his speech by saying, "I, your police authority", which seemed a very strange way of commencing a speech—muffles debate and reduces the responsiveness of the Metropolitan Police to the London that it serves. Because the commissioner is appointed by the Home Secretary and is directly answerable to him, it is very hard to argue openly about policies, resources or systems of policing without appearing to be involved in party politics; and of course the contrary is true: that because no open debate takes place it is assumed that the police service agrees with the politics of the government of the day. That was particularly difficult under the previous regime. The consequence has been that the Metropolitan Police has been forced down routes that I believe are inappropriate to a public service. There has been too much emphasis on measurable results, speed of delivery and numbers of arrests and too little emphasis on quality of service, ethics and democratic accountability.
The national responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police such as Special Branch, Interpol, anti-terrorism, diplomatic protection and national crime intelligence have provided Home Secretaries with an excuse for retaining control of the Metropolitan Police. It has also meant in my view that too many resources have gone to those departments rather than to the every day policing of London's streets. I therefore very much look forward to a police authority that will rigorously question the proportional allocation of the Met's budget.
The dependency on the Home Office has been exacerbated by the position of the Receiver. I am particularly delighted that the Bill will abolish that post. It was established in 1829 when the Metropolitan Police was founded by Robert Peel. The origin of the name is that he was the man who received the rates and taxes for funding the Metropolitan Police. But nowadays the holder of that post is responsible for almost all the 15,000 civil staff employed by the Metropolitan Police. Traditionally, he has been a Whitehall mandarin and, allegedly, the position has been awarded as a consolation prize for not becoming a Permanent Under-Secretary.
501 Because of the Receiver's Whitehall, often Home Office background, the metropolitan civil staff are regarded, often by themselves, as a junior branch of the Home Office and have therefore found it very difficult to adopt an independent stance in arguing for new or better resources or equipment for Metropolitan Police officers. For example, some years ago, when I was leading one of Sir Ken Newman's planning teams, I was involved in trying to obtain more personal radios for Metropolitan Police officers. I was appalled to find that we were under-resourced. We were using old technology. The force had no idea what it had in the way of personal radios. Many of those we allegedly had were being used as spare parts to repair other radios. As a result of our efforts we obtained an extra 5,000 personal radios. However, the fact that no one had been able previously to argue effectively with the Home Office about the need for a basic piece of equipment was entirely due to the subservient role of the metropolitan civil staff in relation to the Home Office.
A police authority for London will ensure open dialogue between local and central government that will no longer be muffled within the corridors of Whitehall. It will also ensure a better deal for the citizens of London, more democratic control and more responsive and imaginative policing.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Northesk
My Lords, with this Bill, and the constitution generally, I am reminded of Pindar:It is easy, even for the feeble, to shake a city down, hut it is a sore task to set it up again".I have no classical bias, so I also cite Seneca:To build up cities an age is needed, but an hour destroys them. A forest is long in growing, but in a moment is reduced to ashes".So it is with this Bill. Even the Minister admits that it is an extraordinarily long and complex piece of legislation. As such, it will require a great deal of scrutiny in Committee, not least because of the Minister's announcement of the Government's intention to table a whole raft of new amendments.
I should not wish noble Lords to assume that to be a criticism of either the Government's declared intent or the underlying principle of the Bill. Strategic leadership for London, provided that is what is delivered, is desirable in its own right. I also endorse the concept of making the exercise of power more directly accessible and accountable to the electorate—or, as the Minister put it, putting Londoners back in charge. But what is at issue in this Bill is how effectively, efficiently and appropriately the Government's chosen method of what my noble friend Lord Jenkin rightly described as an entirely new system of government, achieves that. It is here that my concerns about the Bill swim to the surface.
It is a law of physics that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So it is—or rather should be—with forms of devolution. The presumption of increased power to the Greater London Authority and thereby to the electorate of London should give effect to a corresponding diminution of power in both 502 Westminster and Whitehall. I am unconvinced that the Bill achieves that in a meaningful way. As many noble Lords have implied, it is a little premature to trumpet a significant transfer of such power, a magical increase in the quality of democracy, when the actions of the mayor and assembly are to be constrained by so many powers reserved to what was described by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, as the "heavy hand" of the Secretary of State. This is part and parcel of another glitch in the machine of the Government's current constitutional thinking.
With justification, concern has been expressed that the Government's agenda lacks coherence, that it is a mish-mash of discrete initiatives. In this, I have some sympathy with the observation of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I quote:It would he extraordinary if a Union of such diverse parts as the United Kingdom could yield to a uniform pattern of powers devolved from the centre. The continued harmony of a Union of parts so diverse requires structures sensitive to place and people, not uniform structures imposed for uniformity's sake".
Of course, systems of government in London must be appropriate to its own needs. But that is not to say that the Government's devolution agenda does not have common strands. In this, my objections to both the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act were founded upon my recognition that, while their stated intent may have been devolutionary, their construction is in fact rather less so. To my mind, this Bill is of that mould.
I have always explained that to myself by considering what I call the "three Ds": devolution, decentralisation and derogation. True devolution is a compact of trust. Thus, measures that retain significant levers of control at the centre are unlikely to be devolutionary. They may have some decentralising aspects at the margins, but in essence they are delegatory. So it is with the Scotland Act, the Government of Wales Act and, indeed, this Bill.
I derive no satisfaction from the fact that there has been a swathe of commentary in the media about this, not least in Scotland over the matter of tuition fees and in Wales over the apparently Machiavellian devices employed in the election of the leader of the Labour Party there.
My difficulty here is that the promises implicit in the Bill will create huge expectations in the minds of the London public. From the constitutional perspective they will, rightly, expect that the chain of accountability, electorally and otherwise, will run from them to those whom they vote into office. But it seems to me that, far from being within the hands of the mayor and authority, the real strings will in very great measure continue to be pulled from Westminster.
I cannot help feeling that the electoral systems provided for on the face of the Bill will also exacerbate this. I have less equanimity than the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, that the proposed people's question time and so on will diffuse this. In effect, the method is to transfer responsibility for, the holding to account of and the enormous amount of work involved in the implementation of policy to the new bodies while to a huge extent the decision-making process will remain untouched, and untouchable, in the hands of the 503 Executive. Like my noble friend Lord Plummer, I believe that this sows the seeds of antagonism and tension, and this is worrying.
Of course the constitutional merry-go-round will spin on. But I have one final thought: always at the back of my mind is the fact that people's disengagement from the political and governmental processes is palpable. As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, put it, there is too much apathy in our growing democracy. I cannot help feeling that this is the real ghost in the machine. After all, in terms of turnout, the endorsement by London of this Bill and this plan, though clear cut, cannot be said to have been enthusiastic. I repeat, I have no difficulty with the underlying principle of the Bill. But we have a responsibility to get its terms right because, as the noble Lord. Lord Desai, pointed out, we must hope that, whatever the eventual shape of the Bill, it will be capable of enduring well into the future.
§ 9.:36 p.m.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I support what the noble Earl has just said about apathy. Apathy seems to me, and perhaps to many others, to be the greatest threat to local government. Unless apathy can be reduced and local government captures the hearts of more people than it does at the moment, in the medium run, and certainly in the longer run, it will be doomed. I should like to talk about one aspect of that this evening. We have heard a good deal about the anomaly of London in that it no longer has a council to represent it. Luckily, that anomaly will be removed.
However, tonight we have heard hardly anything, and not very much in public debates, about another anomaly. Unless we can amend it, the Bill will perpetuate another anomaly which has a close bearing on the observations of the previous speaker about apathy. London will not join the rest of the country in having democratic government at parish council level—the most local or "street" level. My noble friend Lord Borrie spoke about this earlier and also referred to the need for really local councils. I shall do no more than expand a little on what he said.
The fact is that the rest of the county will have urban parish councils. That occurs in Scotland and Wales by virtue of the Local Government Act 1972 and in England by virtue of the Local Government and Rating Act 1997. The 1997 Act, which not many people noticed at the time, had the support of all political parties. It fell to the Blair Government to implement it. That they did with gusto, if one can use the word "gusto" when talking about local government circulars. I refer to the historic circular of July 1997 on parish reviews. That circular came from the same Department of the Environment, one part of which—another camp, as it were—prepared the legislation for London almost as though the previous Act did not exist. At any rate, it did not appear to pay any attention to it. The House has the opportunity, to use a hackneyed phrase, to pursue joined-up government inside the Department of the Environment to try to bring together one part with another and, more importantly, to introduce into London government the local government system which exists in the country.
504 There has been a series of great reforms. The main ones were in 1958, 1972 and 1994. Whitehall made local authorities bigger and more remote. That is one reason, although not the only one, why the interest in local government has tended to fall away. That was demonstrated in the recent elections: the average turnout throughout England was under 30 per cent. Two out of three electors did not bother to vote. Britain has the bottom place for turnout in local elections in the western Europe league. It falls well behind Spain and Portugal, and even further behind France, Germany and Italy.
Size cannot be the only reason, but it may form a part of it. On the continent of Europe there are larger numbers of smaller institutions of community government. There are smaller constituencies; and there cannot be any meaningful local government if the voters do not have some sense of attachment to the place where they are voting. Hence the case for urban parish councils. For 35 years I have been putting forward the case since I set up the Association of Neighbourhood Councils in 1962. I was encouraged to do so by conversations with Herbert Morrison, perhaps the greatest "Mr. London" we have had, when he was my boss in the headquarters of the Labour Party after the war. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, a notable Member of this House, was vice-president of that association for many years and provided encouragement.
More recently, the influential Commission for Local Democracy proposed that:A specified number of electors should be able to petition their local Authorities requiring them to … give that area separate representation".That came about after the 1997 Act. A very good case was made. It was at least as good as I ever made in my days campaigning for the Association of Neighbourhood Councils, and so on. Almost as though it were adopting an advocacy role, the government circular stated:Parish councils have two main roles: community representation and local administration. For both purposes it is desirable that a parish should reflect a small, distinctive and recognisable community of interest, with its own sense of identity. The feeling of local community and the wishes of local inhabitants are the primary considerations. The identification of a community is not a precise or rigid matter. The pattern of daily life in each of the existing communities, the local centres for education and child care, shopping, community activities, worship, leisure pursuits, transport, families and means of communication generally will have an influence".That is wise guidance. Note was taken of it. It left the boundaries of the new areas to be decided by the people themselves.
A petition for the creation of the new parish council which goes to the Secretary of State has to be signed by only 250 electors, or 10 per cent of the population in an area, whichever is the greater. It has been something of a success. The circular did not come into effect until recently, but in April this year the Government, by order, established the first 11 of these new parish councils. That was at the same time as the GLA Bill was going through the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, mentioned various places where it will happen. They are Hartlepool, Tameside, Leeds City 505 Council, Portsmouth City Council, Colchester Borough Council, Newcastle upon Tyne City Council, and probably Birmingham City Council.
London has been left out of a reform, yet in my view it has an especially strong case. London has been expanding longer than any other city, successively taking in more of the villages which used to surround the centre. I have worked in Tower Hamlets for nearly 50 years. An 1820s map shows Stepney, Poplar, Bromley and Bow as separate villages. One would think that as the built-up areas are extended, such villages would have been forgotten. Far from it. They exist very firmly in people's mental maps. They do not talk about living in Tower Hamlets; they talk about living in Stepney, Poplar, Bromley, Bow or Bethnal Green—the smaller parts which make up the strange new borough.
It is the same with Camden. People do not live there as much as in the villages or towns of which it is composed: Hampstead, Highgate, Kentish Town or Camden Town. It is the same with the City of Westminster, where we are today. People live in Pimlico, Belgravia, Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden, North Paddington, Maida Vale and so forth. Therefore, there is a basis in popular sentiment for creating a tier of local government that would be close to people, partly due to the training which would be given to local councillors, and through which the whole of the London local government system could be energised and become a great deal more popular. That is their argument and I think that it is a good one.
I hope that a simple amendment will be able to make a big change to London government, which would be in the interests of the great city to which we are all proud to belong.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, there is a sense in which this huge Bill is worthy of its subject. London in its entirety is a great city. It is probably the most important financial market in the world. Its population contains elements from all over the world, contributing to another important aspect; it is a great cultural centre. Its problems of traffic congestion and areas of deprivation, which are serious matters that must concern us all, are not sufficiently grave to reduce its general popularity and attraction. Both London's GDP and its population are greatly in excess of those of many nations represented at the United Nations. Its sphere of influence stretches far across the country, and it would do so even if this were not the seat of our national government. London is greater than Scotland and Wales put together. Any Bill that seeks to establish a city-wide administration for London therefore must be large, and, as so many noble Lords have said, this one is very large and we now know that it has capacity for growth.
We have our own perceptions as to how we came to the position in which we find ourselves tonight. My view is that the former metropolitan counties, of which the Greater London Council was one, were always flawed. They had great size and influence, but as part of local government, as it then existed, they did not have the functions to match. They are now history.
506 The Bill seeks to establish a new form of city-wide organisation for London. It has no precedent, and its significance means that the Bill will be both long and complex. I fear that we have many hours of detailed work in front of us before we can be assured that we have done all that we can to ensure that the Bill is in such a form that it has a real chance of success.
That must be, and is, our aim. If it means long days of work and cold wet towels round our heads, so be it. When the Bill leaves your Lordships' House there will be little opportunity for further change, and it has changed greatly already. Noble Lords have referred to the number of new clauses that appeared during the passage of the Bill through another place. We now know that there are further changes still that the Government wish to see. There will certainly be changes that my noble friends and I wish to see, and no doubt many other noble Lords will feel the same, as has been revealed during the course of our debate.
That is as may be. When the Bill leaves this House it must be in the best possible form so that it has the best possible chance of working well, for the benefit not just of the whole of London, but, curiously, for the benefit of the whole of the rest of the country.
For the first time, and possibly uniquely, we see an authority established with a general power. Local government has long argued for such a facility, its powers to take action in the communities that it serves being strictly defined by law. In this Bill, however, in Clause 25(1) we see:The authority shall have power to do anything which it considers will further any one or more of its principal purposes".Those purposes follow in subsection (2):
That is well and good, but in Clause 26(7) we find that
- "(a) promoting economic development …
- (b) promoting social development …
- (c) promoting the improvement of the environment".The Secretary of State may by order … make … provision for preventing the Authority from doing … anything—…(b) which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order".In other words, the "power" is matched by what I choose to call an "anti-power", and therefore means whatever the Secretary of State wishes it to mean.
I regret that that approach continues throughout the Bill. The greater part of the work that the mayor will do on behalf of London will be done through a series of strategies. There will be a spatial development strategy, a waste management strategy, an air quality strategy, an ambient noise strategy and so on, to say nothing of transport, which has attracted much attention tonight. Each of those strategies is in effect dependent on a power, and each power has its own specific anti-power.
It is true that some of those anti-powers are qualified to cover national policy or the interests of surrounding areas. However, they are indicative of the Government's philosophy and approach to the Bill. The Bill could have been drafted to impose on the mayor a duty to have regard to any national policy for the time being in force and to have regard to the interests of surrounding areas so that nothing he causes to be done is detrimental to those areas.
507 That would be both positive and enforceable. However, the Government have chosen to go down the opposite and negative route. I wonder why. Are they frightened of what they are creating? Do they expect London's electorate of 5¼ million people to elect some Frankenstein-style monster that the Government themselves have made possible? Are they really so frightened of the Member of Parliament for Brent East that they feel it necessary to insert all those controls in case he slips past the barriers which they seem determined to erect to prevent him becoming mayor?
Whatever the reason, the impact of all those anti-powers leads me to conclude that there will be two mayors for London: one who is elected by the people of London; and the other who has the real power—the Secretary of State himself.
There are two other subjects on which I wish to touch this evening. The first is new charges and levies. Clauses 228 and 229 and their relevant schedules introduce the possibility of road-user charging and a work-place parking levy. It is just worth noting that each power to levy one of those charges has its own anti-power. I refer to Schedule 18, paragraph 17(4) and (5) and Schedule 19, paragraph 23(3) and (4), which permit the Secretary of State to control the net proceeds of either of those charges within the general and very necessary constraint that they must be used exclusively to improve transport within London.
As the Bill is drafted, that constraint is to remain in place for any scheme introduced within 10 years of the inception of the authority. The possibility exists for that period to he extended by regulation. We need to explore what that might mean. Londoners have had their expectations raised and will seek rapid results. Can that potential revenue stream—a matter raised by other noble Lords—be used to permit borrowing against future income so as to finance immediate improvement? If so, are the arrangements sufficiently flexible and robust to make possible the financing of major schemes such as the Crossway scheme, a major rail improvement, where funding of 40 or even 60 years may be appropriate? We shall need to examine those matters.
Indeed, we must also examine what is in the Government's mind for the time after the 10-year period has elapsed. In any event, before any of those charges are introduced, we should ensure that a proper study has been undertaken to assess the impact of such charges on the total economy of London. It is all too plausible to regard the charges as "a good thing".
Work has certainly been done which indicates levels at which charges need to be set to influence the behaviour of road users. So far as I am aware, there are no specific studies concerning the impact which those charges may have on the overall economy of the community concerned. While it may be idealistic to believe in a community without cars or road traffic, it is not realistic. There will be a level at which those charges have an adverse effect on the London-wide economy. That needs to be determined.
The well-being of London's economy is vital to the nation as a whole, as well as being of particular concern to Londoners. Success depends on London continuing 508 to be attractive and competitive internationally, and that must not be put at risk. All major centres like London have their urban environmental problems, but international business is both highly competitive and mobile. London's competitive position must be maintained or we might, to borrow a cliché, throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The other matter to which I wish to refer tonight concerns planning. Once again we are introducing a two-tier planning system for London, on which speakers have already touched. In principle there is nothing wrong with such a system, and indeed it is preferable that the strategic planning function should be carried out by a body representing London directly rather than some amorphous body working indirectly and backed by the Secretary of State.
It is an uncomfortable fact that memories of the planning system from the time when the GLC was in place are generally not happy. Much of the work done by the new GLA in this field could be both good and beneficial, but it is at the interface with the work of the London boroughs that problems are likely to arise. If the impact of certain spatial policies, or matters linking planning decisions to GLA roads causes major delays to planning applications for what can sometimes be relatively minor matters, let alone major applications, then the smooth administration of London will be diminished.
Some of the impact of these problems may be reduced by action that we may take on the face of the Bill. Some assistance may come through regulation, and we will need to explore both of those aspects during the passage of the Bill through its Committee stage. But it has to be said that the greatest benefit can come only if the mayor and the boroughs themselves work out a practical modus vivendi so that friction and delay is minimised.
We in this House cannot achieve that. We can only hope that our debates will form a part of the background reading for all of those who will be involved in the new authority so that they take these matters into account when they are establishing their procedures and avoid the pitfalls that might otherwise arise.
It has been said that this is a great experiment. If that is the case, then it is our duty to work on the Bill to ensure that it has the greatest possible chance of being successful. I know that I speak for my colleagues when I say that that thought will always be paramount in our minds as the Bill progresses. In any event we must recognise that since the Government seem to be intent on spreading this experiment across the country before there is any evidence that it might be successful in London, our attempts to give the experiment a greater prospect of success will be likely to benefit communities far beyond the bounds of London. It is to be hoped that our work will be well rewarded.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, before I make my comments I apologise to the House for not being here for the opening speech of my noble friend Lord Whitty. I was detained in another place my council's annual mayor-making—a rather more modest 509 affair than that envisaged in the legislation we are considering this evening. The other aspect of that meeting was another feature of this legislation; that is, the modernisation of my local authority, something of which I am particularly proud.
I ought also to say that I have a latter-day interest to declare in this legislation. On 31st March 1986 I was abolished as an employee of the Greater London Council and since that date I have always cherished the moment when I might be in another place and meet my abolitionist—the noble Lord, the Lord Jenkin of Roding. I have not forgotten that I was abolished. In local government many things happen. I have been abolished three times and reinvented once. So perhaps it is nice to be party to a debate where we are creating an authority about which there is much enthusiasm and, dare I say, optimism.
Reflecting on the GLC, in its final years I believe it was an authority which came to a form of maturity. It had begun to grasp the fundamentals of being a strategic authority. Although perhaps much maligned at the time, and sometimes in its absence, it was an effective strategic planning authority. It had begun to intervene in the world of economic development, which was something new at the time. It knew what it wanted to do with transportation. It had an environmental edge and view. It did much to promote and regenerate cultural life for the City and London in particular. Other areas of innovation dealing with issues of race and gender were very topical at the time. Although sometimes they were condemned for political correctness, they have since become more mainstream in our political life.
The Second Reading of any Bill is primarily to discuss broad principles. It seems to me that there are six features to this legislation which we should welcome. The first is the most obvious; namely, that it re-establishes city-wide government for London. Secondly, it will create local government in a modernised format which is more appropriate for the 21st century. Thirdly, through that modernisation it will bring about a separation of executive and scrutiny functions through the creation of an assembly for London. Fourthly, I believe it will create an authority where transparency of purpose, function and direction, under the leadership of a powerful mayoral office, will be strong features of that new instrument of governance.
The other point that has to be remembered, and one which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, made, is that it will create for London a more inclusive style of politics, which is long overdue. It will perhaps take us away from the more adversarial model of the old Greater London Council. Finally, it will pull together the key and strategic functions of London's governance.
The GLA Bill has major constitutional importance. Much has been made of that in our debate this evening. It will devolve government and it will become a powerful regional and sub-regional body. I believe that it will become a powerhouse local authority within Europe. Finally, it will deliver for us, perhaps with a principal politician in the form of its mayor, the third or fourth most recognised political figure in the country.
510 There are key questions about the future of the GLA. What will its impact be on other institutions? I for one believe that it will have a profound knock-on effect for both regional government and urban government generally. My guess is that within the United Kingdom, where London leads the others will follow. I believe that Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, Edinburgh and Liverpool, and perhaps Bristol too, will soon want to have a directly elected political figure at their head.
The other question for me is whether it will become a beacon for the renewal and renaissance of local government. I conclude that it will. To do so it must become dynamic and not bogged down in bureaucracy. Here the Government have wisely gone for the strong mayoral office giving leadership to London. That must be right. For without power, vision and authority the GLA simply will not work.
It will need a dynamic sense of purpose to excite the people and make London government a popular instrument for civic action. We desperately need some successful beacons for the rest of local government. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, referred to the miserable turnout in the local elections two weeks ago. I for my part staged a same-day referendum on the future of our football club in a desperate effort to force up turnout. We succeeded, but at 38 per cent that is not good enough. To be at the bottom of the league table of turnouts in Europe is no recipe for strength in local government.
I believe that the mayoral election is a contest which will excite electors young and old, black and white, from wherever they come in London. For that reason I look forward to seeing this Bill enacted. I believe that it will do much to raise political passion and interest and rejuvenate and renew local government, for where we in London go today I believe that the rest of our country will follow tomorrow.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Lord Dahrendorf
My Lords, I welcome this Bill, not grudgingly but enthusiastically. I wish to comment on two or three points of constitutional importance. In doing so I may as well allay whatever fears there may be on my Front Bench and say that while I speak from these Benches I do not necessarily speak for them. In fact, I feel very close to the London School of Economic's group in your Lordships' House. I have always envied Scottish colleagues who say, "my noble kinsman", about someone in some corner of the House. I feel that way about the noble Lords, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, Lord Desai and one or two others. If I may include the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, in that group, I shall be happy to do so.
I hope that noble Lords will allow me a moment of self-indulgence. In December 1990, I was invited to give the London Lecture for London Weekend Television. The subject was, "Does London need to he governed?" My conclusion was perhaps surprising for the audience. I said:London's interests need to be represented, and London needs to be administered where there is no good case for lower—or indeed higher—level authorities. London also needs a focus of innovation 511 and a sense of direction. If this is government, so be it. Enabling government may be the word: authorities which create opportunities for people to get on with things".
I will not repeat now what I said then about transport, policing and public spaces—one of the great subjects, in my view, for any governance of London—about the need for an authority which is lean and effective. However, I will repeat this sentence:On reflection it seems to me that London needs a mayor. What is more, this mayor should he directly elected by the people of London".Incidentally, I am not suggesting that there is any causal connection between what I said in 1990 and what is happening now. As noble Lords know, great ideas are often discovered simultaneously, or at some distance, by different people in different places. However, I am explaining why I am pleased that we have reached this point.
It is in the light of this general approach that I would like to comment briefly on three points. First, I need hardly tell your Lordships that we are going through a period of profound constitutional change. Some of us wonder whether this is a coherent process or one which opens up a whole lot of new opportunities without anyone knowing exactly what it will all add up to. Certainly this Bill creates a hybrid—it is partly local government, it is partly regional government, it is partly a unique balance of both; and, indeed, it is partly devolution.
The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, regretted that process. I am not sure that I share that regret. I think it is perhaps appropriate for London that there should be such a hybrid solution. However, it raises questions. For example, if any Secretary of State had the powers which this Bill gives to the mayor, the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee would have a great deal to say about it. But it is not saying this about the mayor because it is accepted that a new structure is being created here, which obviously has to have certain powers. But it is one of those innovations which in that regard—as, incidentally, in some others—is not dissimilar from the Bills, now Acts, on Scotland and Wales which we have discussed in this House.
If there is a common principle—and I say this not with any intention to be critical, but with an intention to understand—it is that certain powers of Parliament go to other political institutions, such as the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the London authority, including the mayor. That is an important and interesting development. As many of your Lordships have emphasised, it is one which leaves the Secretary of State in a rather important position, but which at the same time creates a new institution.
I suspect that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee will have something to say about some of the roles of the Secretary of State. I am, of course, a member of that committee and I therefore should not go further than the committee itself is likely to go. However, I suspect that it will have something to say in particular about Clause 317 which famously states that,Any Minister of the Crown may by order make such amendments, repeals or revocations as appear to him to be appropriate in consequence of this Act, or of any regulations or orders under this Act".512 But having said that, it is an authority sui generis. I for one accept that. What will happen, and notably what the Secretary of State will do with regard to this authority, will require scrutiny. I was delighted that the Minister mentioned the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, and the All-Party London Group which he so ably and impartially conducts. I for one would not be surprised if in due course your Lordships' House decided that that group has to acquire a more formal status in the process of scrutinising the role of the Secretary of State in relation to the structures of London's authority.
My second comment is a somewhat more critical one. If there is a constitutional muddle anywhere at present, it is with regard to electoral systems. I make a wistful comment here because I take it from the debates we have had on European elections and on electoral systems in Scotland and Wales that the Government tend to take the old papal line: "Roma locuta, causa finita". Rome has spoken, and that is it; there is no more to say about the matter. Therefore I have little doubt that we shall be saddled with the system invented by the Government for electing the London authority.
Incidentally, I was amused to read with regard to the mayoral election at paragraph 44 of the explanatory notes that,if there arc only two candidates, the one with the most votes wins under first-past-the-post procedures".However, if there are only two candidates, it does not make an awful lot of sense to talk about electoral systems.
I turn to the assembly. When I wrote to the Minister for London in another place he was generous in his reply and invited me to a meeting with some of the officials to discuss the point which I am making. My view then was—and still is—that if there are 25 members and if 14 are elected in constituencies, it is an unnecessary and unfortunate complication to introduce a second vote for the remaining 11. I wondered then—I still wonder—why the elegant solution of the Hansard Society Commission on Electoral Reform of 1976 was not adopted. I had better confess that I was a member of that commission. That elegant solution suggests that in the constituencies people should have one vote; that the constituency members—let us say 14—should be elected; and that the remaining 11 should be the runners up—one vote, additional members, a simple system, and one which would take a few steps in the direction of proportionalisation without being admittedly proportional. I do not expect my own Front Bench to be totally supportive of that proposal, but I thought then and I still think that it is a simpler method than the one that has been invented. I do believe that simplicity of electoral systems is a great advantage in creating the legitimacy of institutions. The Minister said at the time to me, "some people like individuals and some people like parties: this system caters for both". I suppose that is one kind of Third Way, but it is a rather complicated one as Clause 4 shows, with all the complicated rules for by-elections. However, as I said, Roma locuta. It probably is but a wistful comment.
Thirdly, and finally—and this is a very positive comment indeed—I have so far spoken as a citizen of London, one who loves this place above all other places 513 in the world, suffers with it, enjoys it, wishes it well and wants to do everything to improve its condition. In my final comment I have to declare an interest, because it is about the City of London. I am a Freeman of the City and I am also a non-executive director of a bank which, under the proposed new franchise, may have some minor part to play in the governance of the City.
I am very pleased that in this Bill the Government have recognised the uniqueness of the City. There are certain exceptions which apply to the City, such as the one mentioned by the noble Lord the Minister in his initial statement concerning the police authority. We have of course a Private Member's Bill coming our way. Judging from the speed with which it is going through the other place, we may even see it before the end of this Session. I hope that when that Bill is enacted, as well as the Greater London Authority Bill, it will be generally recognised that the Corporation of the City of London is a strange local authority with private as well as public elements, but that once it has removed some of what are arguably its more absurd traditions, it has the appropriate structure for an international financial centre, which contributes much to the wealth of this city and this country, which we all have reason to be proud of.
There will no doubt be conflicts, but they can be worked out with a bit of generosity on both sides, and I hope that that generosity will remain in the Bill now before us, will pervade the Private Member's Bill when it comes and, above all, will determine the relations between the London authority and the City of London. We are no doubt in for a long Committee stage and a long Report stage. I hope that in the process we do not overlook the underlying principle of re-enfranchising Londoners and giving London the government which it deserves. I strongly support the Bill.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, it is an honour to follow the distinguished speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, but I am afraid that I am sadly going to come down to earth. At this time of night I should like to make a few, I hope, constructive remarks largely about the transport section of this Bill and in particular the issue of cycling.
First of all, may I say that, having listened to the debate tonight and having tried to understand how other parts of this mammoth Bill would work, I am not optimistic about this new layer of government. I was more expecting, and hoping for, the "lean and mean authority" that at one time seemed in prospect. I share some of the forebodings as partly expressed in his speech by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding—not so much from any political or party political perspective but simply from a human point of view—about whether what is before us now can be made to fit in with the human scale, human aspirations and human relationships. In that I include, as has been mentioned, the normal problems of power and co-operation. Will the London public be genuinely engaged in what is being done in their name? Should so much depend on the personal qualities of the mayor? I hope that we will 514 be lucky. I believe that it will take a long time before these newly ordained powers and relationships settle down to work as well as we might hope.
Perhaps I may now return to the subject of transport, in particular cycling. One of the advantages of the new mayor is that he will not have to put into the balance the central government obligation to the economic engine that is the motor industry. He will clearly have to respect the interests of his voters—individual motorists, cyclists and, indeed, motor-cyclists, who should not be forgotten.
I hope that at the Committee stage, together with some of my colleagues of the cycling fraternity in the House, we might be able to nudge the Bill in a slightly more bicycle-friendly direction. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for his remarks about bicycles.
I will not at this stage recite the well-known benefits of encouraging cycling. I have had the benefit of reading the mini-debate on this subject at the Committee stage in another place. I understand the Government's position. However, I hope that we can persuade the Government that it is not unreasonable to declare on the face of the Bill slightly more sympathy towards cycling and cyclists—for example, encouraging the mayor to take an instrumental part in the completion of the London cycle network and providing the franchise director with a tighter framework which requires a definite consideration of cycling, particularly, for instance, at transport interchanges. Above all, I hope that the mayor will be able to use his position to change and improve the fundamental attitude in the capital towards cyclists.
As other noble Lords have said, I wish the Bill well. But I do so with a heavy heart. I am not sure that the Bill gives evidence of our having learnt the real human lessons from our experiences of London government during the past decades.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Thomas of Walliswood said—surprise, surprise—I wish to talk about matters relating to licensed taxi cabs. Several of the proposals contained in Clauses 203, 204 and 205, and detailed in Schedule 16, of the Bill give rise to serious concern about the future of the taxi trade, its own well-being as well as the well-being of the public it serves. It comprises an important element in plans for a fully integrated transport system for London.
Of by far the most concern to me, and to countless others, are the proposals contained in the Bill which transfer all controls—licensing of both vehicles and drivers, regulations, ranking arrangements; in short, everything concerning licensed taxis in London—from the Metropolitan Police to Transport for London. I understand the thinking behind it very well indeed. My major concern is not the actual transfer—that in itself makes sense—but the extremely undesirable side effects that may very well result from such a change.
I maintain that the principal reason why London has enjoyed the best system of licensed taxis anywhere in the world, bar none, is precisely that it is under the 515 control of the Metropolitan Police, and has been so since 1850. I am greatly concerned that when control passes from the Metropolitan Police into the hands of the GLA, its hands will be full to overflowing with a myriad of functions and responsibilities. I believe that licensed taxis will come very, very far down the list of priorities, just as the regulations concerning minicabs have done in practically all the London boroughs.
I say this because the evidence we have in front of us, for all to see who take the trouble to look, shows that the illegal antics and activities of large numbers of private hire operators continue unchecked, despite the legislation that has been in place since January of last year which we were told would put an end to their shenanigans for ever. I warned at the time that no legislation was worth the paper it was written on unless it was enforced and properly policed. It has hardly been enforced at all, as anyone will tell you who observes what goes on in the West End on a nightly basis. The touting continues unabated, the illegal plying for hire continues, the tourist rip-offs continue, the death trap vehicles continue and the horror stories of what often happens when you are inside the death trap continue.
My fear is that once control passes from the Metropolitan Police, we can expect the same levels of enforcement for licensed taxis in London as are at present enjoyed by private hire in London, which is virtually nil. Can the Minister reassure us that this will not be allowed to happen to licensed taxis? If it does happen, then London can wave goodbye to its black cabs. I think that the world would be a poorer place for their loss. Which sane person would willingly fork out £28,000 for a purpose-built vehicle, submit himself to an exhausting intensive course of training lasting for three years, learning all about London, when he could make just as much money driving a saloon car costing a third of that sum with an electronic A-Z map device installed in it? Who needs the "Knowledge" anyway?
Another area of concern I have is the future of the Taxicard scheme, known as DART, or Dial-a-Ride Taxicard Users' Association to give it its proper name. We on these Benches applaud and support the Government's commitment to taxicard schemes for the elderly and disabled which they showed when they stated in their White Paper of March 1998 A Mayor and Assembly for London:TfL will acquire specific responsibility for Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard schemes".
Instead of this excellent service being available only in selected London boroughs, under the GLA and Transport for London, all disabled and elderly people throughout the GLA area will be eligible for such a scheme. But the GLA Bill does not include a specific commitment to transfer Taxicard to TfL, and the so-called "peg" clause which allowed the transfer of Taxicard to TfL was removed by the Government at the Committee stage in another place. Surely that is not a good strategy to adopt when all other forms of public transport in London are to be managed by the GLA, including the important taxi element.
516 If Taxicard is to become an integrated part of the public transport strategy for London, it will have to be available in all the London boroughs, not just in some. It must be transferred to TfL; otherwise its funding, and therefore its future, will be at risk.
I know that the Government support "non-smoking" taxis, both from the driver's point of view, as he should be able to work in a smoke-free zone, and from the stand-point of passengers, many of whom find smoking offensive. Yesterday, I got into a taxi. It was like getting into a smouldering ashtray. It was really very unpleasant. I hope that time can soon be found to change the law to allow that. The GLA Bill provides a good opportunity to achieve this, despite what the Minister for Transport in London said on 4th May to the contrary.
I ask that noble Lords bear with me as I still have two causes for concern remaining. I shall be as brief as possible. The proposed administration charges which would allow the Public Carriage Office to charge for the "Knowledge" process, which will continue to be obligatory for all licensed taxi drivers in London before plying for hire, is a reasonable request which makes sense. I understand that an amendment to achieve this was tabled by Linda Perham in Standing Committee in another place but was subsequently withdrawn after reassurances that the Government would reintroduce a similar amendment at a later stage of the Bill's parliamentary progress. Can the Minister confirm that that remains the intention?
My last concern relates to headings (a) and (b) of paragraph 6(4) of Schedule 16. Heading (a) contains the words:charges for admission to railway station not to exceed sum allowed by Secretary of State".Does that mean what I take it to mean—that charges for licensed hackney carriages to enter railway stations in London are on the cards and will be included in the remit of Transport for London? Please will the Minister comment on that?
Finally, on behalf of all Londoners who use licensed taxis and all those visitors to London from this country and overseas who use and admire our taxis, perhaps I may urge the GLA not to allow the very high standards under which taxis have operated until now to be lowered in any way when it takes over control of taxis. The Metropolitan Police have done an outstanding and thoroughly commendable job with London's licensed taxis for the past 150 years, and I cannot help but fear for their future under the proposals contained in the Bill.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare
My Lords, perhaps I may begin with an apology. Although I had the privilege of hearing the noble Lord the Minister make the opening speech, I had had in my diary for the past five months, not unlike the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, an invitation to address a charity function, and felt that I could not cancel it at the last minute. I apologise to the House for not being present to hear the speeches of my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the Liberal Front Bench. I shall, of course, read their remarks in detail tomorrow.
517 I welcome this Bill. Having been born in London and begun my political life as a member of the Greater London Council representing Romford and Hornchurch, I had felt for some time that a city of 7 million people, covering an area of 900 square miles, with 32 boroughs and 74 constituencies, should be represented by a mayor. I made those views clear when we were in government, and reiterated them when the Labour Party put forward their ideas for the future of London government. As the Minister pointed out, London is the only major city on earth that does not have a figurehead—what was described in the Green Paper as "a voice for London".
I also agree that the mayor should be strategic in approach, working closely with the borough leaders, as we do not need to return to the days of the GLC, with its 17,000 employees and a desire to be responsible for changing light bulbs in Uxbridge.
In Committee I shall take advantage of being able to express these views in greater detail. But as I have spent the past two years trying to find out what Londoners expect of their mayor, I should like to concentrate my present remarks on four particular anxieties that I have in regard to the Bill.
First, I feel that if we are to create a new government for London, we should above all aim for openness and accountability. Yet we find that this Bill prefers to set up the usual smokescreens which are more associated with the ministerial model that we have become so used to in Whitehall. That means that the mayor will be able to keep secret the advice that he receives and allow crucial policy documents to remain unpublished. That is wrong. We should insist on the transparency that is normally expected in local government.
I believe in the principle of freedom of information for Londoners. All information used by the mayor in decision-making should also be made available to every citizen of London via the Internet. I would go further. We should gather much more information than we do today, to enable us to create a more efficient and accountable government for London.
Perhaps I may give the Minister an example. In New York, Mayor Guiliani can, at the press of a button, find the crime figures, borough by borough, and ask particular borough policing systems why one borough is so much worse than another. I rang the Metropolitan Police and made exactly the same request. They were unable to give me that information. I believe that it should be available to all Londoners.
Secondly, following on with the theme of openness, I am concerned that the role of business as enshrined in the Bill still remains rather limited. I accept that six businessmen are required to sit on the board of the London Development Agency, which is frankly no more than commonsense, but I suggest to the Minister that we go one step further. We are living in the financial and business capital of Europe. Our business community is justly the envy of our European partners. I believe that the new mayor should automatically allow the London business community to nominate its own candidates for those six places. This has not been done in the past. 518 However, as this is a wholly new form of government why not take a new approach? For example, perhaps the Minister will consider allowing the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, London First and the London CBI to make their own nominations to the LDA.
Let the business communities themselves decide whom they would like to see on the board so that when they report back they are not the mayor's cronies but people they have selected who can put the case and report back to their own boards. Surely, these appointments would be completely free from the accusation against any mayor that they had been affected by party affiliation.
But even with six businessmen on the LDA the Bill does not appear to provide for enough consultation with the business community, which after all provides the jobs, salaries and best prospects of London's long-term future. Businesses are the major local taxpayers. Why should they not have a say in policing, transport and planning strategy? As things stand, the Bill makes some provision for the manner in which businesses may be consulted but does not ensure that the mayor will consult as a duty. I ask the Secretary of State to consider issuing guidance under the general powers pursuant to Clause 25(7) and (8) as well as the clauses in the Bill that relate to various strategies (covered by Clause 33(1)) on which the mayor is required to consult business on all matters that are likely to affect it.
Thirdly, I remain sceptical about the way the Government have put forward their ideas for road pricing which, incidentally, I am against. The clause in question does not even guarantee that the money raised from Londoners will be put back into the London transport system. There are two flaws in the Government's plans. I shall start with the first 10-year commitment. Why should Londoners not have a perpetual right to the benefit of the money that they pay in extra road taxes? Why should the cash revert to the Treasury after just 10 years? How could a new mayor hope to come forward with a 15 or 20-year plan for the future of London Transport in the knowledge that the income flow would be likely to dry up after only 10 years?
But even for those 10 years there is no way that the proposed road charging can be described as hypothecated when the money merely replaces with one hand funds that are taken away with the other. The Government have already announced that the subsidy for London Transport will cease once their plans have been finally presented. It follows that road charging will simply be a new and additional tax on Londoners at a time when they already pay £12 billion a year to the rest of the country, or £2,000 for every taxpayer in London. First the Government take away the subsidy and then they ask Londoners to pay an additional tax, with the result that once again it is Londoners who are expected to pay more.
Fourthly, I should like to see provisions to ensure that the GLA can impose a charge on utilities when digging up London's roads. We know that often the utilities make no attempt to co-ordinate their digs. How often have people said to noble Lords, "BT was here last 519 week; the gas the week before; the electricity the week before; the television companies the week before that digging up the same part of the road, making exactly the same hole". Why do they not consult each other? As I stand in this House, why are there seven holes on this side of the river before one reaches Vauxhall Bridge, and five on the other side of the river? Of the nine, no one worked today on seven of them. They were simply holes circled by cones. The time has surely come for the Minister to consider providing in the Bill for a charge on companies for road space and road areas. I bet that those holes would be put back very much more quickly if that provision were part of the Bill. Those groups can often afford to pay. For years they have benefited from the free access.
That seems a fairer approach than raising much-needed cash from London drivers, asking them to pay another tax, not forgetting how much they already pay in road and petrol taxes. There is a section of society in London which requires cars and cannot necessarily afford a further tax.
In conclusion, despite those few criticisms, I welcome the Bill because it creates a new opportunity for London to remain at the forefront of world capitals. But this time we cannot afford to get it wrong. During the Committee stage in another place, the Government have already put forward so many amendments to the Bill that it might lead one to believe that they have a tendency to make up the legislation as it goes along. So I can only hope that the Minister will be open to one or two more considered amendments, offered in a real spirit of attempting to end up with something that is best for all Londoners.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Lord Tope
My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, reads Hansard he will find that he has missed a wide-ranging and interesting debate. It has been a debate tinged with nostalgia, and some selective memory; and I shall join in.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said that Ken Livingstone and his colleagues tested the GLC to destruction. He is right; I agree. My regret is that the government of which he was part were unable to resist the temptation to carry out that destruction. I was a London politician at the time. My memory tells me that if they had resisted the temptation to destroy, Ken Livingstone and his colleagues would have destroyed themselves. They would undoubtedly have lost at the ballot box. That would have been the proper democratic way and London would not then have suffered 13 years of what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, described as a mess.
There was fault on all sides. We called neither for the abolition nor the retention of the GLC. We wanted its reform. In the polarised politics of the mid-1980s, that was a small voice soon lost between the two extremes. As we consider this Bill, all of us who are honest about the matter will say that we should have reformed the GLC in the mid-1980s, perhaps creating what we are now creating—the GLA. We have had 13 wasted years.
520 It just so happens that this month I celebrate—and I really do celebrate—25 years as a London borough councillor. I spent 12 years as an opposition leader under—I use that term loosely—the GLC. I have personal experience of a member-level meeting with GLC committee chairs to discuss the painting of yellow lines on residential roads in my ward. That was in the mid-1970s. I wondered how it could possibly he described as a strategic matter for London. I have spent the past 13 years as leader of a London borough council. I became leader within a month of GLC abolition. I vividly recall that during my first year I spent almost as much time trying to sort out post-abolition London as I spent trying to sort out post-Tory Sutton. I can only agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, that it was an alphabet soup. It was a mess. We did our best, because we had to, to try and make it work. We had some successes and did not do too bad a job.
Much though I deplore the abolition of the GLC—I did and I do—I must recognise that there have been some benefits. At least, partly as a consequence, London boroughs have become much more self-confident and stronger. Perhaps that would have happened anyway, but I suspect not. Furthermore, we have seen the growth or partnerships. That is not just because the absence of the GLC caused a vacuum which we had to fill; it is partly as a result of a changed climate. Many of the politicians who were running London in the mid-1980s are now running the Government in the other place and the climate is much more constructive.
We have seen partnerships grow not only out of necessity but out of mutual desirability between local government and businesses. It came as something of a surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, and his colleagues in business, as I am sure it did to some of our colleagues in local government, that each was not as bad as the other thought and that we could work together with a considerable degree of self-interest and consequent success.
We have also seen a growth in partnerships between borough councils of different political persuasions. That has been irrelevant to the strength and success of the partnership. I welcome all of that. It is in part a consequence of the abolition of the GLC, but not wholly. My plea is that with the creation of the GLA and the strategic authority, which we strongly welcome, we build upon those strengths. There must be a risk that they will be lost or weakened, but we must avoid that. We must build on the strengths that London government has developed over the past 13 years without a strategic authority.
Liberal Democrats have always strongly supported a strategic authority for London. Other noble Lords have described the effects of not having had one for the past 13 years and why London deserves one. It is true and well known to your Lordships that we would have preferred a parliamentary system of electing the mayor. We believe that the mayor should be elected by the assembly rather than through the presidential system of direct election. However, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf will be relieved to know that while 521 that still remains our preferred option, we accept that it is not the way it is going to be. That is not a line we shall pursue, although it remains our view.
Accepting the way that it is going to be—a directly elected mayor with a potential mandate of 5 million-plus voters, although I fear there will not be anything like that number—what is more important is the relationship between the mayor and the assembly; the mayor and the London boroughs; and the mayor and the many communities of London. I refer to business, the voluntary sector, the community sector, minority groups and so forth. All of that is of critical importance. My noble friend Lady Hamwee referred to the culture of the GLA. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, put it well in his speech—praise from this side of the Chamber may well be the kiss of death on his ambitions—saying that it is important to recognise that the GLA, the mayor and the assembly are a new form of politics. To work, there will need to be co-operation. At least as important as the formal provisions which we shall be debating in the months to come will be the relationship between the authority's constituent parts.
We approach the GLA positively and strongly, and I believe the other parties when they say they will do likewise. If that happens, as I believe it will, there is a fair chance that for all its flaws—and it has some—it will work, because we will make it work. The electoral system will help. It is not the system we would have preferred. Reference was made to my honourable friend in the other place, Simon Hughes, saying, apparently, that the system of mayoral election we are to have is known only in Sri Lanka. I have no comment on Sri Lankan presidential elections, but I am not sure that that is necessarily a recommendation for London.
Similarly, and not surprisingly from these Benches, we would have preferred the single transferable vote to the additional member system we are to have. But I think I speak for all my colleagues when I say that none of us is what I believe are now called "anoraks" on electoral reform. We are pleased that there will be a proportional system. That will help to dictate the nature of politics in the assembly and the way in which the assembly works together rather than its members working against each other.
I have heard the assembly referred to in another place as inevitably being a hung council. That is a complete misconception, not that I personally see anything wrong with hung councils. I can say that as my party has a majority of 38 in my council. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has even greater cause for embarrassment over the defects of our present electoral system. The point is that the assembly is not an executive. That is a basic misunderstanding. It is a scrutiny body, and it will need to work together as an assembly. I hope that those who make that mistake will come to understand an important difference there.
My colleagues have referred to the various concerns, very real concerns, that we have on the detail of the Bill—important detail. We are very concerned about the powers being given to, and retained by, the Secretary of 522 State. Others estimate 250 new powers. I do not know whether that is the correct number, but it is certainly very large.
I regret that the Government apparently cannot bring themselves to trust the mayor and the assembly which they advocate so strongly, and have to retain so many powers under what I think are sometimes called the "Livingstone clauses", although others might wish to call them the "Archer clauses." I do not really mind what they are called; I just think we should get rid of them.
We have talked about our concern that the Greater London Authority, the largest authority in the country in terms of population, area and so on, will not have the power to raise finance. Some noble Lords have quoted the Deputy Prime Minister as saying that the GLA is not regional government, but nor is it local government. If it is not local government, it should not be subject to the same financial regime as local government, a regime which, incidentally, we oppose anyway. If the GLA—and certainly the mayor—is to be taken seriously, it must have greater financial powers than are currently proposed.
We feel that the GLA's strategic role is still too limited. My noble friend Lady Hamwee referred to the need to have a strategic role in health provision in the capital city, and said that I would refer also to the need to have post-secondary education as a strategic role. There is a crying need in London, and no doubt elsewhere in the country, for more strategic planning in the areas of further education, life-long learning partnerships, TECs and so on. I do not see how the mayor and the GLA will be able to carry out as effectively as they could and should their responsibilities in economic development and regeneration without the inclusion of a strategic role for the provision of post-secondary education and training and all the accompanying functions.
My noble friends Lady Thomas of Walliswood and Lord Ezra referred to transport. This is the key issue, the issue without any doubt on which the mayor's success or failure will be judged. No one doubts that. I do not believe that many people think that the mayor will stand too much chance of success, especially as we learn now that it is very likely that throughout the first term the mayor will not even have responsibility for the London Underground, let alone the opportunity to start putting things right.
A very important area of concern to us and, I am pleased to hear, to other noble Lords was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Dholakia; that is, the promotion of equality and racial harmony. My noble friend referred to the Race Relations Act 1968. However good the service it has given, it is certainly now time for revision.
In a city which has just seen the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and which has the largest ethnic-mix population, what better opportunity could we possibly have than this Bill and the new authority for including appropriate provisions similar to those provided in the legislation for Wales and Northern Ireland, to which others have referred? I am not surprised but I am pleased to find support from other sides of the House. I hope that the 523 Government will think again. I know that the proposal received fairly short shrift in the other place. But the rather calmer atmosphere of your Lordships' House provides an opportunity to reflect. Given the widespread concern that exists, I hope that the Government will do SO.
Others of my noble friends referred to concerns in relation to biodiversity, culture and archives and, indeed, taxis. We should not underestimate the importance of taxis. I am sure that at this time of night, none of your Lordships underestimates the importance of issues relating to taxis.
On the subject of the police, the Minister referred to a number of amendments which the Government will be bringing forward at a later stage. I believe he said—and I ask for clarification—that it is likely to be some time before he brings forward the substantial amendments in relation to the police. Will they be brought forward in Committee or on Report? If it is to be on Report, I urge the Government at least to be clear about the content, if not the detail, of those amendments. Otherwise, our debate in Committee will be rather meaningless, knowing that something, but we know not what, is to be brought forward at a later stage. However, as the Committee stage is likely to take some time, it may be possible to see them at that point.
I was able to hear most of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, to which I listened with considerable interest. My noble friend Lady Hamwee expressed our longstanding support for community or parish councils in London. I have never understood why Londoners, uniquely among all the English, are not allowed by law to have parish councils if they wish to.
Perhaps I may indulge in a little nostalgia now. Over 25 years ago, I was briefly a Member of the other place. To my surprise and embarrassment, I was successful in the Private Member's ballot and chose to introduce the London Urban Parish Councils Bill in 1973–74. Such was the government's concern about it that on the day before it was due for Second Reading, Mr. Heath called a general election. The Bill was lost.
But it was a matter of concern because among the sponsors of my Bill were two other young London MPs—a Mr. Lamont and someone then known as Mr. Selwyn Gummer. They were very pleased to be supporters of the Bill. One of them, now in your Lordships' House, will have the opportunity to demonstrate that support some 25 or 26 years later. I look forward to hearing the speech that I might have heard on the day after the 1974 general election was called.
In conclusion, despite the real concerns we have on parts of the Bill, we welcome the Government's move to establish a strategic authority for our capital city. It is long overdue. I speak for another moment wearing another hat as the Liberal Democrat leader on the Association of London Government. Perhaps I may say and put on the record that we are committed to making the GLA work. We owe it to Londoners to make it work. We certainly cannot afford to allow it to fail. We shall be fully committed to its success.
524 But that makes it even more important that we give this Bill full and proper scrutiny in order that the GLA has the best opportunity to work effectively and in order that we can foresee and, if possible, iron out any difficulties or impediments that there might be in helping it to work. I say that in the most constructive way.
I listened over and over again this morning on the radio to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, saying that if the Government suffered any defeats in this House it would be because of party political point-scoring. Perhaps I may say that we are not interested in party political point-scoring. I hope that the Government do not suffer any defeats; that will mean that they have been listening to what we and others are saying. It will show that they are prepared to listen and perhaps even to bring forward their own amendments if they feel that in some way ours are flawed.
But we will give the Bill serious scrutiny. We will assist the Government in any way that we can in order to ensure that the Bill goes through on time and receives Royal Assent in this Parliament, as I am sure it will. All of us are looking forward to the elections next May and, even more importantly, to having at long last another strategic authority for London as from the following July.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate on this Bill and have still more to come when we hear the Minister's reply. It is clear to me from nearly all the speeches that have been made that we can also look forward, if that is the right word, to a long Committee stage with many amendments, some no doubt of a probing nature and some no doubt on serious issues. I hope, as does the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that we do not have any Divisions and that the Government accept any sensible amendments that we put forward.
My noble friends Lady Miller of Hendon and Lord Dixon-Smith covered substantial parts of this Bill, so noble Lords will be relieved to know that, from this side of the House, I intend to deal only with the, transport issues involved, although with 113 transport clauses and 11 schedules, that would make a fair-sized Bill on its own. But, as other noble Lords, have said, there is no doubt in my mind that if we ask Londoners in three or four years' time what they judge the performance of the mayor by, it will be what he has been able to achieve to improve transport in London. I am convinced that that will be at the top of the list.
Perhaps the main concern for Londoners at the moment is the future of the Underground. The Government announced their intention to end funding for London Underground next year. Responsibility is to pass to the authority to oversee the public private partnership which is intended to replace government funding. But how much private sector interest is there in the PPP? By all accounts in the newspapers it is getting nowhere and is set to hit the buffers—to use a rather corny phrase. It will almost certainly be late, whatever 525 happens. One must conclude that the Government are hoping to use the mayor as the scapegoat when things go wrong.
Much criticism has been made of the record of the previous government. But I remind your Lordships that from 1987 to 1997 total investment in the Underground was £7 billion, which compares with the proposed £7 billion from the PPP over 15 years. The PPP has been heavily criticised by, among others, the much-respected transport team of the London School of Economics. In a recent report from the accountants, Chantry Vellacott, it was estimated that fares would have to rise by 30 per cent to finance the PPP. That is hardly a return to the Fares Fair policy, so much enjoyed by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, back in the early 1980s. The only thing I remember about that was that, when it was declared illegal, those of us who were London ratepayers at that time received a nice refund—at least we could spend that on the extra fares.
Furthermore, the mayor will not have the power to make decisions about the PPP and will just have to take it as it comes. According to a report in the Financial Times of 30th November last, an unnamed Minister commented that the reason for this provision is that the Government do not want tube privatisations being an issue in the first mayoral elections, and is quoted as saying,the chances are that candidates would campaign on a platform of blocking the sale. That would be a disaster":That says quite a lot.
During the passage of this Bill we shall need to probe the Government extensively on their intentions regarding the Underground and in particular on the timing of the abolition of London Regional Transport and the handover to the mayor and, above all, on the interim financing issues which have been so ably expressed already by my noble friend Lord Sheppard of Didgemere and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, to name but two noble Lords.
I turn now to congestion charging. The Bill gives the authority and the boroughs the power to introduce two new charges on the motorist, subject to the approval of the mayor; namely, a congestion tax and a tax on workplace parking. The motorist is still reeling from the massive extra taxes and duties which have been levied since the general election. Now the London motorist faces the prospect of even more. However, if we are to have these extra charges, we believe that a number of key principles must apply. First, all money raised by charges must be truly additional to existing expenditure on transport. There must be no substitution of new money for old. Secondly, income and expenditure from new charges must be transparent and the charging authority must publish open and transparent accounts which must be submitted annually for approval to the Secretary of State. Thirdly, the money raised from motorists must be spent on popular, workable value-for-money packages of transport services relevant to those motorists who are paying the charge. There must be a measurable and significant difference in quality and quantum arising from the introduction of a charging scheme. The charging authority must report 526 annually on key performance indicators detailing how the charging scheme is meeting objectives for reducing congestion and improving air quality. The Bill, as drafted, does not give these guarantees.
Further, like my noble friend Lord Archer and others, I do not believe that the 10-year period of ring-fencing for transport purposes, known as hypothecation, is long enough. It is not even as long as the 15-year PPP for the tube. It should be at least 25 years, as London First propose. If these proposals are to be acceptable to the motorist and to get the motorist out of his car, then experience shows from elsewhere in the world that improvements to public transport must be apparent before, or at least at the same time, as the charges are introduced.
I am fortunate in that I do not have to travel on the Underground at half-past eight in the morning very often. I use the Underground every day, but fortunately at a later time. I suspect that many noble Lords are in the same position as I am. But if one has to travel on the Underground at half-past eight in the morning, one will find that it is full to capacity. So where will these extra people go? It is essential that there is more capacity and that improvements are put in place before the charges are introduced, and not after. To achieve that the mayor and authority need the power to borrow against future revenue streams, which has been suggested by a number of noble Lords, but so far the Government have not given any ground on that.
Generally, we do not approve of these new charges; nor do we believe that it is sensible to introduce them in London which, geographically, is one of the most complicated cities in the world, before introducing them elsewhere. They will hit those unlucky people whose shopping, school run, visits to hospital or to friends or relations takes them across the charging boundary. There will also be what I shall call a Bluewater effect. Why pay extra to shop in, say, Croydon when one can go to the new Bluewater retail park around the M.25 and park for free? I confess that I have been to that retail park and it is a magnificent memorial to consumerism. It may be very unpopular indeed with environmentalists and all those who are politically correct, but my goodness it is popular with the general public! However, we shall have to take very great care that these charges do not have an effect opposite to what is intended and kill off our town centres.
As regards workplace charging, has a cost-benefit analysis been done and what will be its impact on London's business? That should be carried out before that proposal is pursued. We shall again need to examine the proposals most carefully at later stages during the passage of this Bill.
As has been said, perhaps most notably by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, if this Bill is to work it is essential that there are good relationships between the mayor, the authority and the boroughs. There are a number of issues of concern as regards the transport provisions in the Bill. It may not sound much, but I gather that the setting of boundaries between GLA roads and borough roads is a crucial operational issue for the boroughs and one which is causing them great 527 concern. Indeed, it is an issue which, apparently, was not discussed during the passage of the Bill in another place.
Other issues have been raised by the Association of London Government; for example, will Transport for London have a constitution? There is a need for clarification of how borough disputes with Transport for London will be resolved and there is also the question of what criteria TfL will use to make its decisions to direct local authorities not to proceed with any proposals which it deems to affect a GLA road, or roads in another borough.
At first sight, the relationship between TfL and the boroughs seems very complicated. If this Bill is to work, I suggest that it is essential that there is some clarification of such issues. These and other issues will, again, need to be explored at later stages of the Bill. As has been said, there are enormous public expectations on the outcome of this Bill; that is to say, on the arrival of the mayor and the authority. We, on this side of the House, will be as constructive as we can during the passage of the Bill. Having decided that there is to be a mayor for London, we must all make certain that that works to everyone's satisfaction.
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, at this late hour I apologise for the fact that I cannot possibly cover every point that has been raised during the debate. I should like to make a few general remarks to start with. Indeed, just to liven everyone up, I think that I probably ought to start with the points I disagree with because most of the debate has been highly constructive and will stand us in very good stead for the coming Committee stage.
However, there are some fundamental points with which I disagree. I make no apology to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for the complexity of the Bill. Putting London right is a complex and diverse problem. There are enormous powers involved. Therefore, we have a complicated Bill. Similarly, I cannot apologise to her for the powers that we retain for the Secretary of State—the anti-powers, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, called them. There are very wide-ranging powers for the mayor in this legislation. That needs to he balanced with the national interest, because there is a central national interest in what happens in London and how well London performs. Therefore, there must also be some national government powers. I cannot apologise to the noble Baroness for the attempts in the Bill to bring in the people of London to the decision-making process; indeed, quite the opposite. That is central to our whole approach to London.
I agree with the noble Baroness and others who said that there have been some improvements even in the bleak period since the abolition of the GLC. Of course there have been some improvements in London. Our businesses and our communities have achieved much; but that has been in spite of, not because of, the absence of a central strategic authority in London. London has suffered drastically from the absence of the GLC. We are now beginning to put that right.
528 I do not exactly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, but he takes the view that simply constructing an authority would not solve the problems of the environment, of transport congestion and of the quality of life in London. We are not claiming that it would; we are claiming that the establishment of an authority would begin to tackle those problems. The fact is that no one has really been there to tackle them over the past 13 years. Similarly, I do not agree with him that we should worry about the fact that this is unique. There is no answer to the issue as to whether this is local or regional government. It is unique because London is unique. We are creating a new institution.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and my noble friend Lady Thornton—in her case on behalf of the London Labour Party—claimed the origins of this idea. However, it has developed over the past 10 years and it is a new authority; in other words, a new way of approaching the problems of London. It was reflected in our manifesto and in the White Paper. We are now acting to implement it.
Nor can I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that we have not learnt from history. We have learnt from the mistakes as well as the successes of the GLC, the LCC and ILEA. Probably the most symbolic example of the Pol Pot approach to history—the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, referred to this—was the insistence of the Thatcher regime on selling off County Hall, initially to a Japanese business. It was later turned into an aquarium, open to the public. That, I think, is a blot on the record of the previous administration. We, by contrast, propose to learn from history and to create something which will last a long time. I agree with the noble Lord's final remarks, however, when he said that history teaches us that we must have a strategic authority for London. As my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey said, we can leave the boroughs to deliver the vitally important day-to-day services in London. The GLA's role will be strategic.
I approve of the remarkable synergy which arose from the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, and his namesake, my noble friend from Liverpool, and my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. That was a synergy of God, Mammon and the London borough of Haringey! That combination is difficult to resist; it is based on the role of the mayor as one of leadership; developing a strategy; creating a consensus in London behind that strategy; and recognising that that strategy must tackle not only wealth creation but also social inclusiveness. It is a great joy to me to note how business in London, those who represent the voluntary sector and those who represent local government conic together in recognising the need for that strategy.
I shall now try to deal with some of the points that have been raised in the debate. First, I refer to the constitutional points raised in relation to Parts I and II of the Bill. I was slightly surprised at the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and even more surprised at those of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf—although I know his feelings on these matters—on the issue of elections. They said that the system of elections we propose is complex. I do not believe that the citizens of London find adopting a voting system for the 529 assembly any more difficult than do the citizens of many democracies in western Europe, Latin America or indeed in Scotland and Wales.
As regards the system for voting for the mayor, all people are required to do is to mark their first choice and then their second choice. I do not believe that many citizens of London will be put off by the complexity of that system. If we were to have a low turn-out for the first election for the authority, it is not the electoral system that one would blame but rather the lack of credibility in our political system as a whole. That is a matter that we must address. I believe that to give a new start to London and to London's democracy is an important ingredient of reversing the alienation from the political process that low turn outs have revealed.
The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, also dealt more broadly with the powers in the Bill. It contains wide powers for the mayor and for the Secretary of State. We shall no doubt debate Clause 317 at length in Committee. The noble Lord also seemed to imply that we ought to consider whether the differential form of devolution that is emerging in this country is the correct one. I believe that we are in a stage of organic development but I do not think that we should necessarily follow the "tidy" constitutions of certain other states. It is not necessarily sensible for Rhode Island to have the same powers as California or Bremen to have the same powers as Bavaria. Perhaps the Spanish have the matter right in that Catalonia has different powers from the Canary Islands. We need to consider these matters on a more flexible basis.
I believe it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who mentioned the possible impeachment or recall of a mayor. I beg the noble Baroness's pardon, perhaps it was the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I beg the pardon of the noble Baronesses; I do not usually confuse them. This constitutes an issue of democracy. I do not believe that the inclusion of an impeachment procedure in the constitution of the London authority would be sensible. Indeed I fail to see how anyone could advocate a process of impeachment after recent events in Washington. I refer to those cities which have the equivalent of an assembly and a mayor. Would it have been the mayors who were incompetent or corrupt who were impeached, or would it be political opponents of such mayors of New York as La Guardia or Guiliani who would use such an impeachment process? It should not be political opponents who get rid of the mayor: it should be the people of London.
A number of other constitutional issues were raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, raised the question of the direct election of the deputy mayor. The role of deputy mayor here is seen as an important link between the two parts of the authority, so that the mayor can choose someone who has been elected to the assembly. It is not sensible to create two posts which have an equivalent franchise. The whole point is to create a strong mayor who will be accountable for executive decisions and who can also be held to account by the assembly.
530 I was a little surprised that the noble Baroness also advocated changes to Clause 25 because in another place, as I understand it, her colleague, the honourable Richard Ottaway, with others, supported the provisions of Clause 25. If the noble Baroness is asking whether the list of principal purposes is now complete and clear, the answer is yes. These are the purposes to which the authority must have regard in the exercise of all its powers. That is now clear.
The noble Baroness also asked about the relationship with the health service. The GLA will clearly not be a health authority, as some have advocated. However, it will have a duty to promote the health of Londoners and to implement policies and develop strategies to contribute to the health of Londoners.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others referred to sustainable development. That is an important aspect of everything which the mayor will be conducting in all his strategies. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked why there were not targets for these strategies. It will be down to the mayor to develop the precise terms of these strategies and we are considering whether any provisions are needed to ensure that the mayor sets clear performance targets.
The noble Lord, Lord Archer, raised the matter of openness of decision and asked whether we were correct, in terms of the openness and transparency of the advice to the mayor, to adopt something closer to the ministerial practice rather than the practice in local government. I believe that in this context, if not in all, the mayor is closer to a Minister than he or she is to the normal run of local government. Like Ministers, the mayor will be fully accountable for his actions. Although advice to the mayor will not be available to the assembly, the GLA will include robust mechanisms to promote accountability and transparency lying behind the mayor's decisions, including his requirement to make a monthly report to the assembly, setting out the reasons for his more significant decisions.
There has been much talk, here and in the other place, about consultation provisions. My noble friend Lord Morris intervened, as did the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. We have included extensive consultation provisions in the Bill. We have not specified every body which should be consulted, but we have indicated clearly certain broad categories of interests on the face of the Bill as consultees or potential consultees. They include, for example, representatives of business in London and also of different racial, ethnic and religious groups within London. That means that the relevant powers of the mayor can only be exercised after consultations with such bodies as fall into these categories.
The noble Lord, Lord Archer, and perhaps others, indicated that they were still concerned that the duty to consult business was too weak in the Bill. I do not believe that is the case. The way we have written this Bill means that consultation must take place, wherever the interests of business will be affected, under whatever provision of the Bill. If the mayor does not undertake such consultations then his reasons for failing to do so could be tested and challenged at law.
531 Those were the main constitutional points, but there was an additional point, and a rather different one, made by my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington, referring to the parish council dimension. We are committed to greater devolution beyond the local authority level. In March we published a Bill—to which my noble friend and the noble Lord. Lord Tope, referred—for transforming the political management of councils and keeping in touch with the people. We support both the principle that councils should encourage local communities to become more engaged in their work and a diversity of approach, a true decentralisation that puts the principle into practice. I am not totally persuaded that parish councils as we understand the term are the most appropriate form of decentralised government in London. As it would be devolution from the London boroughs rather than from the GLA, nor am I convinced that it would be appropriate to include such a provision in the Bill. No doubt that matter will be discussed in Committee as the Bill progresses.
There were relatively few comments about the general financial provisions of the Bill. Most comments about finance related to the transport provisions. However, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, asked whether I could give the precise figure for the first budget of the authority. I fear that I cannot, at least not tonight. The budget must be set after the local government finance settlement for the year 2000–01; I am certainly not in a position to pre-empt that tonight. So far as concerns raising money outside of that—this also applies to transport—we have always made it clear that the GLA would be subject to the law of local government finance regimes. However, that does not mean that we are putting unnecessary barriers in the way of the mayor mobilising additional resources. We have to balance a prudent approach to public financing with an innovative approach to financing particularly the transport side of the mayor's responsibilities.
I turn now to the question of transport. Both the noble Lords, Lord Tope, and Lord Brabazon, said that this is the area on which the mayor will be judged. I cannot disagree. Transport is almost certainly at present the biggest problem, perceived and real, for London. The Bill creates Transport for London. It will be the central delivery mechanism for a totally new transport policy. It will also give new powers for the mayor and for the London boroughs to introduce a system of road user charging and a levy on workplace parking in London. It will include provisions to implement the PPP for London's Underground. On that basis we will be able to move into the 21st century with new public transport and road systems for London.
It will do more than simply transport people. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, said that "impaired" people, as he described them, are disabled by their lack of access to transport. That will be one of our major considerations as we approach our transport priorities. We need not only to provide better public transport but better infrastructure for motoring and better community transport, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, referred.
532 As to concessionary fares on public transport, under the current arrangements the London boroughs have provided travel concessions for their elderly and disabled residents for almost 15 years. The Bill will make provision for those travel concessions to continue on those services that will transfer from London Transport to TfL. We intend to bring forward a further amendment to improve the reserve scheme; for example, start and finish times will be brought into line with those currently in the voluntary scheme. We also intend to increase the stability of the voluntary scheme by making it easier for the boroughs to reach agreement year by year.
Other aspects with regard to disabled people were touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. They will clearly be consulted about the way in which the concessionary scheme will operate and about other aspects of access to transport.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, raised the question of the mayor's relationship to surface rail transport. That matter also raised concerns elsewhere. The mayor will have a real influence over the rail network into and out of London. While we want the mayor to make London's railways better, there is clearly a need to balance that role with the wider strategic transport issues beyond London. Noble Lords will be aware that we intend the strategic rail authority, once it is formally established with its new responsibilities, including those of the franchising director, to look at all of Britain's railways. There will therefore need to be a relationship between the mayor, the new strategic rail authorities and its regulation powers. We will be discussing that in Committee on the basis of a number of government amendments.
I shall now move on to the public private partnership. This is central to our view of the future of London Transport, or TfL as it will be. As my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister said at Second Reading in another place, we will not be tied down to a predetermined timetable and end date. I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, first, do not believe everything you read in the papers and, secondly, remember, as I have cause to remind him from time to time in the House, that the artificial and politically determined target date for the privatisation of British Rail is not a very good model for us to follow in establishing a proper system for a public private partnership in this area. We will therefore not be restricted to a timetable. We want to get it right.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, in terms of any financing problem that arose in the interim, we are already considering funding for the London Underground for the period after April 2000 up until completion of the PPP. We certainly would not envisage any investment hiatus just before the PPP contract is awarded. However, the negotiations on PPP are complex. A good deal of work needs to be done to put the legal agreements in place setting out the functions of the parties. The capacity and the reliability of the infrastructure that the public wants and can afford can work only if it is based on a sound footing, both financially and technically.
533 I now move on to road user charging. The noble Lords, Lord Archer, Lord Dixon-Smith and Lord Brabazon, attacked road user charges as simply another tax on the motorist. That is not the case. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, dissociates himself from that position. Nevertheless, certain noble Lords opposite claimed that all we are doing is clobbering the motorist. The worse thing to do for the motorist in London is to leave things as they are. We need to develop a new instrument for guiding motorists in their choice of road and their choice of time for coming into the centre of London. Only about 13 per cent of the total number of people who work in central London go there by car. They cause all the pollution, congestion and economic loss for the rest of us. It is important that we use the price mechanism via road user charges to discourage some of that access to London. Other elements can contribute. Taxis can contribute and cycling can contribute. But at the end of the day we have to discourage the use of the car.
Although the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is right to say that none of this will work unless public transport is developed at the same time as we restrain private transport, it is also the case that public transport—buses in particular—will not improve until we take some cars off the road. I do not believe it is sensible to regard these as a tax. What they are is a way of controlling traffic while at the same time raising money for transport infrastructure and public transport.
The noble Lord, Lord Archer, and others complained that the hypothecation that we have established for these charges will relate only to the 10 years. First, that is a major breakthrough in British public finances. One should not underestimate the importance of it. Transport for London will also have powers to borrow. Although it will be subject to the normal local government capital finance system, it will be able to borrow through the credit approval system, which will need to take its total position into account. As charging schemes can expect to be self-financing, there is also a good case for looking at PFI schemes in that area, in which case it may well be that we can extend the period beyond the 10 years.
In that context, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, in particular for sharing with us the results of the London First consultation on possible road user charging for central London. That work is timely, constructive and extremely helpful. It also demonstrates that London's business community is indeed willing to support the idea of congestion charging, provided that all revenues are hypothecated for transport expenditure. The Bill as presently drafted provides for that for at least 10 years from the implementation of individual schemes in the coming 10-year period. That will no doubt give rise to further debate in Committee, but at present all I can say is that the Bill makes clear that the arrangements for the retention and use of charging will be reviewed in 10 years' time. It does not state, as some noble Lords have implied, that future revenues beyond 534 that point will revert to the treasury. it is indeed only sensible that an entirely new policy of this kind should be reviewed after a period of 10 years.
Perhaps I may deal briefly with points on the remaining provisions of the Bill. On economic development, again I welcome the work of London First and other business representatives in creating the background to establish a London Development Agency. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Archer, says in terms of ensuring that those bodies have representatives on the London Development Agency.
There will be total open consultation with the business community. But it is important, as we stressed during the passage of the Bill dealing with regional development agencies in the rest of England, that those boards should not be seen as representative but should be able to contribute their talents and experience to examining the needs for economic development for London as a whole.
The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, expressed a fear that the LDA could quash nascent cross-borough co-operation in this area. Quite the opposite should be the case. The LDA should be there to facilitate and will have the resources, expertise and contacts to facilitate cross-border, cross-London and cross-sector initiatives to provide work and prosperity for London.
On the section of the Bill dealing with the police, I very much welcome the comments of my noble friend Lady Hilton, that this measure will be welcomed by the Metropolitan Police. It is wrong to assume that London's police forces oppose being more accountable to the people of London. They would welcome that. They would also welcome the removal of some of the arcane and archaic systems, particularly the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, it is in that area that I shall have to come forward with some rather complex amendments. I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord an absolute guarantee that they will be available before the end of even a substantial Committee stage. They are important, but they are primarily technical. They do not affect the principle of the police section of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friends Lord Harris and Lady Thornton touched on the very serious problems relating to race relations and racial equality within the police force, both in terms of its own operations and its relationship with the communities of London. Wider questions have also been raised. We understand that this is an important and sensitive issue and one that we must get right. I am not sure that we can totally legislate for it in this Bill. Clearly, the police force will be subject to other race relations initiatives over and above the existing legislation to which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has committed himself. It will certainly be part of the success of the Metropolitan Police Authority to ensure that the deteriorating relationship between the Metropolitan Police and some sections of our London community is improved.
535 I can touch only briefly on planning and culture. It is very important that the mayor has strategic planning powers. It is not, however, the intention to create a second-guessing of the boroughs' planning powers. The mayor will be able to intervene only on strategic issues and only in areas which will be clearly defined by legislation and regulation. Nevertheless, it is a means by which we begin to create a comprehensive approach to planning and economic development across London. The spatial development plan strategy will be a very important instrument to which both the public and private sectors will need to respond.
Finally, on the environment and culture I assure the noble Lord. Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that all the powers that he looks for are there. There will be a strategy on biodiversity, and sustainability will run throughout the Bill. The mayor's environment plan will be central to the responsibilities of the authority. As to culture, the new cultural strategy group will be an important manifestation of the new authority.
Questions have been asked about the Centre for Young Musicians and other areas of cultural excellence within the capital which previously received grants and help from the GLC. It is the intention that the mayor will have the ability to make such grants. However, the advice from the lawyers is that it would be inappropriate to require the GLA to take on responsibility for the Centre for Young Musicians or any other nominated organisation. The advice of the Officers of the House when an amendment was tabled in another place was 536 that that would have made it a hybrid Bill. Nevertheless, such organisations will clearly deserve the support of the mayor of London in pursuing his or her cultural strategy.
I have done my best to reply to at least same of the individual points. For everybody's sake I should perhaps wind up. With that endorsement throughout the House, I believe that we shall have a constructive but long Committee stage on this Bill ranging from the future of London Underground to smoking in the back of taxi cabs. I do not believe that this will be a political ding-dong. My remarks, to which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, referred, related to my slight anxiety that events on other legislation passing through this House might affect this Bill. I hope that that is not the case.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I have some historic respect for what the GLC achieved. Like my noble friend Lord Desai, I have some fond memories of the GLC. People who are 10 or 20 years younger than me have even fonder memories of the fun that the GLC created. But all of that nostalgia is irrelevant. We are not going back to the GLC but forward to the 21st century. I believe that this Bill provides the kind of democratic authority and executive powers which London will need for that century, and that we can all support it. I hope therefore that we can go into Committee stage on an extremely constructive note.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at twelve minutes before midnight.