HL Deb 01 November 1999 vol 606 cc674-83

(" .—(1) Any functions under or by virtue of this Act which will become exercisable by a person or body other than the Secretary of State may, before they become so exercisable, be exercised by the Secretary of State for the purpose of appointing such persons as he considers necessary to secure that any provision made by or under this Act operates satisfactorily when it comes into force.

(2) The Secretary of State may defray any costs which are incurred in the exercise of the functions mentioned in subsection (1) above.

(3) In exercising the functions mentioned in subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State may appoint a person on such terms and conditions (including conditions as to remuneration) as the Secretary of State thinks fit.

(4) Any such terms and conditions may include provision to the effect that the person concerned—

  1. (a) is, or is not, to be or become a member of a particular pension scheme, or
  2. (b) is, or is not, to be treated as employed in the civil service of the State.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is required to make it clear that the Secretary of State has powers to appoint such persons as he considers necessary to ensure that provisions by or under the Bill operate satisfactorily when they come into force. Such persons may be appointed on terms and conditions which differ from standard Civil Service ones, pending the establishment of the GLA and associated bodies.

The amendment is necessary specifically to allow the Secretary of State to become the interim employer of staff in the London Research Centre, the London Planning Advisory Committee and the London Ecology Unit for the period between 1st April and 8th May 2000; to appoint any new staff who will be subsequently transferred to the GLA; and to appoint transitional staff for the Metropolitan Police Authority. In the case of both new and existing staff, their terms and conditions are expected to differ from those of the Civil Service.

Some anxiety has been expressed about this clause and I should make it clear that, as a matter of policy, the Secretary of State will not make permanent appointments to the most senior positions in the GLA. The positions will be occupied by people on short-term, temporary contracts to allow the GLA maximum freedom to make its own appointments. However, in order to get the GLA up and running it is necessary to employ staff to set up the finance and IT systems and so forth so that the authority will be able to operate effectively. I assure the House that these are transitional arrangements and will be interpreted only in that sense. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, when earlier today I spoke to Amendment No. 18, I said that it was probably the most important amendment to the Bill. I wrote that note over the weekend, before I had had the benefit of looking at the Marshalled List this morning, when I found Amendment No. 97. It states: Insert the following new Clause". It sounds very reasonable indeed that the Secretary of State should have the ability, the opportunity and the power to put in place some temporary arrangements until such time as the mayor and the assembly come into being. That sounds sensible. But this type of amendment at Third Reading is beyond belief.

If it is necessary for the Secretary of State to appoint such people to carry out these duties for the mayor and the assembly, it was necessary when the Bill went through all its stages in the House of Commons; it was necessary when the Bill came to your Lordships' House; it was necessary when the Bill had its Committee stage and it was necessary when the Bill had its Report stage. I am appalled that the new clause should come before the House at this stage.

Furthermore, the Minister presented the amendment in an elegant way. He said that the provision is short-term and temporary and that it seeks to deal only with this short-fall. Where does it say that in the new clause? The amendment states: Any functions under or by virtue of this Act which will become exercisable by a person or body other than the Secretary of State may, before they become so exercisable, be exercised by the Secretary of State for the purpose of appointing such persons as he considers necessary to secure that any provision made by or under this Act operates satisfactorily when it comes into force". The new clause allows the Secretary of State to make all the appointments that the mayor and the assembly should make when they take office. As the Minister said, it would allow the Secretary of State to make appointments to the authority, to Transport for London, to the London Development Agency, to the Cultural Strategy Group and so on, before the mayor takes over. But where does the new clause say, as the Minister said, that there will be a limit on the terms of these appointments and that they will last only until the mayor takes office?

As the amendment is drafted, the appointments could last for the whole term of the mayor. I have never seen anything quite like this before. Would it be possible for the mayor to sack any of those appointed with minimal notice or compensation? It is all left to the Secretary of State to decide. As it stands, this is an appalling new clause. It should have come before us at the Committee stage when we would have had the opportunity to discuss it properly with the Minister and when colleagues on all sides of the House could have dealt with it. This is not a suitable clause to arrive at Third Reading. Unless the Minister is able to give us an extremely satisfactory response, we on this side of the House cannot possibly accept the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, on one point. It is a pity that the clause comes to us at such a late stage. It is symptomatic of the Government's anxious approach that they feel that everything needs to be spelt out in such a way. As I understand from the Minister's introduction of the amendment, the new clause is required to implement the provisions which the Government have aired in their fairly recent consultation paper on transitional provisions. That asked among other things whether people should be appointed on the basis of competencies rather than for particular policy areas in order for them to be in place so that the financial arrangements are operating, the computer systems are in place and so on. Reading between the lines of those questions, I saw some indication that the Government thought: "What the hell do we do about all this? It is a fairly awful situation to have to cope with". I agree with them on that. It is my hope that the clause is not to be read in the anxious and sinister way suggested by the noble Baroness on the Conservative Benches.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, I am bound to support my noble friend. The wording of the provision, which is all that we have to go on in this House today, is completely open and unqualified. I heard what the Minister said in introducing the amendment. However, it drives a coach and horses through what I regard as the normal establishment— which is what I thought was going to happen—of the new authority. Under the new clause, the Secretary of State can appoint, such persons as he considers necessary to secure that any provision made by or under this Act operates satisfactorily"— that is, from his point of view— when it comes into force". The Secretary of State, may defray any costs which are incurred". and so forth. The clause as drafted provides a carte blanche power.

It is very late in a difficult stage of a difficult Bill. I have tried hard to think of an assurance that the Minister could give which would make it absolutely clear that this open power is in fact a very restricted power. But as the amendment stands, the provision is open. That may not be the Government's intention. But their intention has to be what is on the paper in front of us, not what is in their mind. We cannot read their mind. I am afraid that the amendment should be withdrawn, and matters should be allowed to take their course. That would be better than having this deeply flawed amendment on the statute.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, I had not planned to intervene, but the statement by the noble Lord opposite that the amendment should possibly be withdrawn raises the possibility of all kinds of complicated and horrifying consequences. For example, is the noble Lord suggesting that, for the period from 1st April to 4th May, or to 3rd July, depending on which date one chooses to take, separate budgets should be set for each of the predecessor organisations that will go into the new authority? I refer, for example, to the London Planning Advisory Committee and the London Research Centre. Should the committees be convened to set a budget to draw a subscription for those periods? Is that what is suggested in the absence of the amendment?

The amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Whitty enables a sensible transitional arrangement to operate. It would allow a proper transition. I am sure that the assurances sought by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, are those that I heard my noble friend give; namely, that these are transitional arrangements and appointments will be made on a temporary basis to enable the mayor and the assembly, once they are elected, to take office in a smooth and seamless fashion, and to ensure that there is no dreadful hiatus from 1st April because budgets have not been set and arrangements have not been made for the smooth transition of staff.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord sits down, I am absolutely sure that a smooth transition is necessary. But the provisions for a smooth transition should be in the Bill as it now falls. The amendment is deeply flawed.

Lord Tope

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I had also not intended to intervene. I do so largely to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris. He is obviously right. We probably all share the concern expressed. I merely want to raise two questions. The first is: why on earth is such an amendment being moved at the last possible stage of the Bill? Surely something as obvious as this should have been spotted. Perhaps we should have spotted it, but, frankly, it is the Government's responsibility to spot these points, not that of the Opposition. So, why are we dealing with it now? We have only just seen it. Because there is no termination date it is open-ended. Clearly, these provisions are needed.

I hear what the Minister says and do not doubt for a moment that he means what he says. However, that is not in the amendment and therefore it will not be in the Act as it will become. I believe that we shall agree to this amendment tonight; we need to do so. However, I should be much happier if the Minister could give an assurance that, in the process that follows, this particular shortcoming in the amendment will be corrected in the other place so that a termination date is inserted.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, although I had an indication that this matter caused difficulty I did not expect the degree of concern that has been expressed in relation to this clause. It is not unusual in legislation in this House for transitional arrangements to appear quite late in the stages of a Bill. I recall various other pieces of legislation emanating from both parties where that has happened. I shall not engage in banter with the noble Baroness. Nevertheless, were she to examine some of the legislation promoted by her party no doubt she would see similar arrangements.

Although I agree in general terms with the criticism about the tabling of late amendments, in this case that is not so. Transitional arrangements are, after all, put in as the last part of the jigsaw. I believe that people misread this new clause. It refers to appointments for which the Secretary of State does not currently have powers although he will need those powers under the interim arrangements in order to do the preparatory works to which my noble friend and the noble Baroness referred, such as setting up the finance, IT and property management systems, the personnel function and so on. Those appointments would need to be made. At present, neither the Secretary of State nor any other body has power to do that.

Clearly, there is a termination date in subsection (1), which states: the Secretary of State may, before they become so exercisable": in other words, at the point where the GLA and other authorities take on these functions, the powers cease. There is a clear termination date in this clause which is related to the transitional period. I do not see how subsection (1) can be read as meaning anything else.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. We accept that before those powers become exercisable the Secretary of State will require such powers, but they continue. The Bill does not say that those powers will end. The appointments will continue. The point I sought to make was that when the mayor appeared these appointments might continue half-way through or during his term. This provision does not in any way indicate a limit.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, with the leave of the House, can the Minister confirm that in many cases appointments would be made of those who are currently employees of the bodies to be subsumed by the new authority, and that if there were to be a hiatus in their employment not only would they lose their employment rights but they would suffer at that time because of a gap in their employment? If the Minister could give an assurance about limiting the appointments to, say, employees of the London Planning Advisory Committee, the London Research Centre and so on many Members of this House would feel a good deal more comfortable.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, perhaps that clarifies the position. Clearly, the mayor will take on employees of all kinds in the predecessor bodies. All this provision does is to say: first, that in the hiatus period when nobody would otherwise be the employer these people are effectively employed by the Secretary of State; and, secondly, that if there are additional appointments they will be made by the Secretary of State in that period. What happens to those employees thereafter, as with all other employees whom the mayor inherits, is a matter for the mayor and the personnel practices of the Greater London Authority. Appointments will therefore continue unless and until they are terminated by the new authority, but in any case those concerned are in no different position from appointees of the predecessor bodies.

I gave the assurance earlier that any such appointments made in this hiatus period would be short term so far as concerns the senior staff. To illustrate the point raised by the noble Baroness, the staff of the London Research Unit would be among the appointments. I believe that we are reading too much into the clause—or not enough. We are reading too much in the suggestion that we are conjuring up the phantom of the Secretary of State appointing the whole of the staff of the GLA before the mayor has his foot in the door. It is fairly clear that this is a much more limited and short-term function. Subsection (1) simply gives the Secretary of State the powers to cover the hiatus period.

There is a clear termination date; and there is a clear continuity implied as a result of the insertion of this clause. Without this clause, there would be no continuity of employment for a number of people. London Transport is not affected by the clause. The preparation time which the transitional committee and the consultation document referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would not be able to occur. Were noble Lords not prepared to accept the clause, we should be in a serious limbo for the period immediately before the GLA comes into operation. That would be a pretty damaging thing for this House to do. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will not pursue her opposition to the new clause.

9.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 97) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 36.

Division No. 5
Acton, L. Crawley, B.
Addington, L. Dahrendorf, L.
Ahmed, L. Davies of Coity, L.
Alli, L. Davies of Oldham, L.
Amos, B. Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Desai, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Dixon, L.
Bach, L. Donoughue, L.
Barker, B. Dormand of Easington, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Dubs, L.
Berkeley, L. Eatwell, L.
Blackstone, B. Elder, L.
Blease, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Brett, L. Falkland, V.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Burlison, L. Filkin, L.
Carlisle, E. Gale, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Gilbert, L.
Carter, L.[Teller] Goldsmith, L.
Chandos, V. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Grabiner, L.
Grenfell, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Grey, E. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Hacking, L. McNair, L.
Hamwee, B. Mallalieu, B.
Hardy of Wath,L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Monkswell, L.
Harrison, L. Nicol, B.
Hayman, B. Pitkeathley, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Rendell of Babergh,B.
Howells of St Davids, B. Rennard,L
Hoyle, L. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Islwyn, L. Simon, V.
Janner of Braunstone, L. Strabolgi, L.
Judd, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Kennet, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Kirkhill, L. Thomas of Gresford, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Lipsey, L. Thornton, B.
Lockwood, B. Tope, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Tordoff, L.
McCarthy, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Whitty, L.
[Teller] Wilkins, B.
Ampthill, L. Goschen, V.
Annaly, L. Henley, L.[Teller]
Astor of Hever,L. Higgins, L.
Attlee, E. HolmPatrick, L.
Belstead, L. Hood, V.
Biddulph, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Blatch, B. Lyell, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Bridgeman, V. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller] Mancroft, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Miller of Hendon, B.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Northbrook, L
Craigavon, V. Northesk, E.
Crathorne, L. Palmer, L.
Cross, V. Rowallan, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Seccombe, B.
Dundee, E. Trenchard, V.
Fookes, B. Weir,V.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

10.6 p.m.

Clause 399 [Transfers of property, rights or liabilities]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 98: Page 237, line 18, at end insert—

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments relating to Clause 399 which clarify and amend the provisions which may be included in, and relate to the effect of, transfer or pension instruments relating to the establishment of the new bodies. Transfer of assets, rights and liabilities to the GLA will be a major exercise. In preparing these amendments we have worked closely with LRT and other bodies which will be involved in the transfer process. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 99 to 102: Page 237, line 31, at end insert—

Page 237. line 35, at end insert— Page 238, line 16, leave out ("the creation of rights or liabilities") and insert— in favour of, or on, any body or person falling within subsection (2) above or any body or person falling within subsection (3) above"). Page 238, line 16, at end insert— ("( ) An order under subsection (1) above may make provision for transfers to take effect at such time of day as may be specified in the order.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 400 [Transfer schemes]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 103: Page 239, line 2, at end insert— ("( ) A scheme under subsection (1) or (2) above may make any provision that may be made by order under subsection (1) of section 399 above.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 401 [Contracts of employment etc.]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 104: Page 239, line 26, at end insert— ("( ) In this section—

  1. (a) any reference to anything made or done by or in relation to the transferor includes a reference to anything which is treated by virtue of any enactment as having been made or done by or in relation to the transferor; and
  2. (b) any reference to an employee's period of employment with the transferor shall be construed accordingly.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 402 [Pensions]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 105 to 113: Page 239, line 44, leave out ("employees, or persons who") and insert ("persons who are or"). Page 240, line 22, at end insert—

Page 240, line 31, at end insert— Page 240, line 33, at end insert— ("( ) An order under subsection (1) above may amend—
  1. (a) the trust deed of any pension scheme;
  2. (b) the rules of any such scheme; or
  3. (c) any other instrument relating to the constitution, management or operation of any such scheme;
and any reference in this section to the amendment of a pension scheme includes a reference to the amendment of any such trust deed, rules or other instrument.").
Page 240, line 45, at end insert— ("( ) An order under this section may only be made after consultation with the trustees or managers, or the administrators, of any pension fund or pension scheme to which the order relates."). Page 240, line 45, at end insert— ("( ) An order under this section may be made so as to have effect from a date prior to the making of the order."). Page 241, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) Schedule (London Regional Transport pension etc schemes) to this Act (which makes provision in relation to schemes for the provision of pensions or other benefits for or in respect of employees etc of London Regional Transport and its subsidiaries) shall have effect."). Page 241, line 4, at end insert— Page 241, line 14, at end insert—

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 403 [Transfer and pension instruments: common provisions]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 114 to 122: Page 241, line 17, at end insert ("; and

  1. (b) rights and liabilities under enactments.").
Page 241, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) No right to terminate or vary a contract or instrument shall operate or become exercisable, and no provision of a contract or relevant document, shall operate or become exercisable or be contravened by reason of any transfer by virtue of a transfer or pension instrument."). Page 241, line 23, leave out subsection (3) and insert— ("(3) For purposes connected with any transfers made by virtue of a transfer or pension instrument (including the transfer of rights and liabilities under an enactment) a body or person to which anything is transferred by virtue of the instrument is to be treated as the same person in law as the body or person from which it is transferred, except as otherwise provided in the instrument."). Page 241, line 36, leave out subsection (6). Page 242, line 36, leave out subsections (13) and (14). Page 242, line 44, after ("subsection") insert ("(2) or"). Page 242, line 44, after ("above") insert (", and
  1. (b) of the trustees or managers, or administrators, of any pension scheme,").
Page 242, line 47, at end insert— ("( ) Where any person is entitled, in consequence of any transfer made by virtue of a transfer or pension instrument, to possession of a document relating in part to the title to, or to the management of, any land or other property in England and Wales—
  1. (a) the instrument may contain provision for treating that person as having given another person an acknowledgment in writing of the right of that other person to the production of the document and to delivery of copies thereof; and
  2. (b) section 64 of the Law of Property Act 1925 (production and safe custody of documents) shall have effect accordingly, and on the basis that the acknowledgment did not contain any such expression of contrary intention as is mentioned in that section.").
Page 243, line 1, after ("section") insert—

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 123 and 124: After Clause 403, insert the following new clause—