HL Deb 14 October 1999 vol 605 cc628-31

(" .—(1) The Authority may—

  1. (a) promote a local Bill in Parliament for any purpose which is for the public benefit of the inhabitants of, or of any part of, Greater London; or
  2. (b) oppose any local Bill in Parliament which affects any such inhabitants.

(2) Section 70 of the Local Government Act 1972 (prohibition on promoting Bills for changing local government areas etc) shall have effect in relation to the Authority as it has effect in relation to a local authority.

(3) The functions conferred on the Authority by subsection (1) above shall be functions of the Authority which are exercisable by the Mayor acting on behalf of the Authority.

(4) The functions conferred on the Authority by subsection (1)(a) above are exercisable subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of Schedule (Promotion of Bills in Parliament by the Authority) to this Act.

(5) Before exercising the functions conferred on the Authority by subsection (1)(b) above, the Mayor shall consult the Assembly.

(6) No payment shall be made by the Authority (whether acting by the Mayor, the Assembly or the Mayor and Assembly acting jointly) to the Mayor or an Assembly member for acting as counsel or agent in promoting or opposing a Bill under this section.

(7) A London borough council or the Common Council may contribute towards the expenses of the Authority in promoting a local Bill in Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 267, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 268, 269, 287, 395, 396, 448, 534 and 535.

Amendments Nos. 267, 287, 395, 448, 534 and 535 provide the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the London Development Agency with the power to promote local Bills. This power is held by local authorities under the 1972 Local Government Act, by London Transport, and, before its abolition, by the Greater London Council. It is appropriate that the new strategic government we are creating for London should have it too. Local Bill procedure is based upon consensus. It is not, generally, appropriate that it should be used for matters that are the subject of controversy or disagreement. The Government have therefore sought to provide in these amendments for full prior consultation on any draft Bill coming forward from the authority, TfL or the LDA. And where a proposed Bill affects the statutory functions of another London local authority, the amendments provide that a consent procedure should be followed before the local Bill is deposited.

Where a proposed local Bill affects the exercise by an individual local authority of its statutory functions, the amendments provide that the consent of that local authority should be obtained. Where the proposed local Bill affects the exercise by two or more local authorities of their statutory functions the amendments require that at least 90 per cent of them— 30 out of 33—must indicate their consent.

Under current standing orders of this House relating to private business, if a Bill promoted by a county council alters the functions of a district council, the consent of that district council must be obtained. Under the 1985 Local Government Act, for a provision in a Bill promoted by one London local authority to apply to another one, that authority must agree by resolution.

In drawing up these amendments we have sought to consult those with a particular interest in what we propose. I am particularly grateful to the Association of London Government for its assistance in developing these proposals, and to the authorities in both Houses for their considerable help.

We have concluded that the GLA should be made subject to an onerous consent requirement before depositing legislation. However, it should not be frustrated in the promotion of legislation applicable to the whole of London, or of strategic importance to the whole of London, because one or two boroughs—for whatever reason—choose to withhold their consent. Where a provision affects two or more London local authorities, the GLA should be able to proceed to deposit the Bill if it can persuade the overwhelming majority of others—90 per cent of all 33 local authorities—to consent to what is proposed.

It is important to remember that this is all about the hurdles to be placed in front of the GLA prior to deposit, with the aim of ensuring general consent to what is proposed. Any Bill would still have to be considered by Parliament. Nothing in the amendments prevents local authorities disagreeing with Bill provisions petitioning against a GLA local Bill if they so choose.

The amendments in the group before us deal with two further associated matters; the GLA's relationship with London local authority Bills under the Local Government Act 1985 and TfL's power to promote and oppose orders under the Transport and Works Act. Those involved in the co-ordination of London local authority Bills will have practical experience of the difficulties associated with that procedure.

It is possible that in the future London local authorities may choose to promote legislation for the benefit of London through the GLA rather than under the Local Government Act 1985. However, we are content that the ability for London local authorities to promote legislation under the 1985 Act should be maintained. Amendment No. 168 provides that if they choose so to promote legislation, the GLA may join with them in doing so. Amendment No. 269 provides that if a Bill promoted by a London local authority affects the exercise of the GLA's statutory functions, or those of its functional bodies, the consent of the GLA must be obtained.

Amendment No. 396 gives TfL the power, subject to the consent of the mayor, to promote and oppose applications for orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992. This will enable TfL to take forward proposals for new transport infrastructure, in the same was as London Transport can now. It delivers our commitment, given in the White Paper and earlier in the passage of the Bill, that the mayor will be able to promote improvements to the rail network.

These amendments are straightforward in content. They give the GLA, TfL and the LDA important powers necessary for the proper exercise of their responsibilities. In urging the House to agree with them, I apologise for their length. For future reference, it is important that the detail is placed on record. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, we accept everything in these amendments and thank the Minister for her clear and detailed explanation. However, we should like to put on record the fact that we find it extraordinary that such important new clauses are added at this stage. They are so necessary, simple and straightforward that it is extraordinary that a Bill was drafted and such important matters were omitted. At any rate, we are pleased to see them in the Bill now.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question in respect of Amendment No. 395. The new clause provides that subsection (1)(a) will apply if the authority gives its written consent, confirms that and later gives notice. Can the Minister confirm that the power of the authority can be exercised by the mayor, by the mayor and assembly or by the assembly? That seems to be the result of an amendment we agreed to on Tuesday. I want to be clear about who is involved in the authority giving consent under that provision.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, it is only the mayor who has the power, but consultation with the assembly is built into the mechanism. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that the consensus that we achieved took the time.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 268 and 269: After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—