HL Deb 22 February 2000 vol 610 cc134-6

3.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd February be approved [9th Report. from the Joint Committee.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the first of the Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper is the one that my noble friend the Chief Whip suggested might be over quite rapidly.

In the White Paper A Mayor and Assembly for London, the Government indicated that people who held public offices would be required to resign from them if they decided to stand for election as either mayor or to the assembly. We have decided, on reflection, that a less comprehensive approach, keeping disqualification to a minimum, is the right one to follow.

The Greater London Authority Act 1999, and other existing legislation, disqualifies certain categories of people, such as members of the authority's staff, from being elected or being the mayor or an assembly member. The 1999 Act also establishes tailor-made disqualification regimes for the new police and fire authorities, Transport for London, and the London Development Agency. Under Section 21(1)(b) of the 1999 Act, the Secretary of State may by order designate offices and appointments which disqualify the holders from being elected or being the mayor of London or a member of the London assembly.

The draft Greater London Authority (Disqualification) Order is now before the House. The order has been considered and approved by the other place. The purpose of the order is to set out clearly those offices and appointments which are not compatible with the roles of mayor of London or a member of the London assembly. In my opinion, the order is compatible with the European Convention on Human rights.

Part I of the schedule to the order lists those eight bodies all of whose members are disqualified. Part II of the schedule lists a further 18 offices and appointments, the holders of which cannot be the mayor or an assembly member.

The disqualification arrangements for the Greater London Authority need to be tailored to its circumstances—to the role and functions of the mayor and assembly members and to the inclusive approach the authority is intended to embody in London. Our aim has been to strike the right balance between preventing conflicts of interest and restricting the democratic right to stand for election of the fewest possible people.

The GLA will be a strategic authority. It will have a relatively small range of specific functions, all of which are vital to the well-being of the capital. The mayor will also need to provide leadership for London, and to work in partnership with other organisations. We want the jobs of mayor and assembly member to be open to a wide range of talented people and to promote an inclusive approach and co-operation and partnership—and perhaps some untalented people as well! We are therefore keeping to a minimum those offices and appointments which a person will not be able to combine with being the mayor or an assembly member. We want to prevent significant conflicts of interest, but do not believe that we should rule out in legislation overlapping, complementary interests.

We believe that serious conflicts of interest with the role of mayor or assembly member could arise with offices and appointments whose holders are required to be, or to be seen to be, politically impartial—such as judges or civil servants; or who are with a body which has a scrutiny role over the GLA or one of the four functional bodies—such as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary or the Police Complaints Authority; or who may exercise a quasi-judicial role over the GLA or a functional body—such as a person who hears appeals on penalty fares issued on behalf of Transport for London, a subject which is dear to many of your Lordships' hearts.

Offices and appointments which meet these criteria are listed in the order. The order also clarifies that magistrate members of the new police authority are not eligible to stand for election as mayor or an assembly member. People who currently hold posts or employment which are disqualified in primary legislation or under this order will be required to resign before they give consent to their candidature as part of the formal nomination procedure, under the rules which will apply to the conduct of the GLA elections.

The disqualification arrangements set out in this order will be augmented by statutory guidance on ethical standards to which the GLA will be required to have regard. This guidance which we shall publish shortly will cover conflicts (whether of interest or of time pressures) with other public offices. I believe that this is a sensible fulfilment of our requirements under the Act. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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