§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 19th April be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this order is to make minor technical amendments to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and to simplify provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which are amended by the GLA Act.
It might be helpful for your Lordships if I briefly describe the effect of the provisions. Paragraph 2 of the schedule amends Section 29 of the Act, which is an interpretation section, so as to remove the definitions of "first preference vote", "second preference vote" and "the London figure". The defined expressions are no longer used in any provision outside Schedule 2 and are therefore superfluous.
Paragraphs 3 and 5 of the schedule make amendments to Sections 35 and 73 of the Act. They are introduced so as to make it clear that in each case the provisions concerned are subject to both Sections 38 and 380, both of which sections also provide for the delegation of functions of the GLA.
Paragraph 4 makes a small change to Section 45 of the Act. Section 45 provides that the mayor will make a report to the Assembly before each of the 10 monthly meetings the Assembly must hold each year. The amendment to Section 45(8) clarifies the extent of the mayor's right to refuse to disclose advice that he has received from functional bodies, members of functional bodies or officials of functional bodies.
Paragraph 6 amends a minor typographical error. Sections 88 and 89 set out the rules for calculating the basic amounts of council tax for the GLA. The GLA is responsible for police services in only part of the GLA area, the inner and outer boroughs, but not in the City of London which has its own police force. Section 90(1) identifies the expenses of the Metropolitan Police Authority as the only expense borne by the GLA, which does not relate to the whole of Greater London. Section 89(2) of the Act cross-refers incorrectly to Section 90(2); this should be Section 90(1).
Paragraph 7 of the schedule makes a small change to Section 269 of the Greater London Authority Act. Section 269 itself amends the Highways Act 1980 so that local highway authorities in London may construct traffic-calming schemes which do not 865 conform to current government regulations and without the need for specific authorisation by the Secretary of State. This fulfilled the commitment in our White Paper.
Paragraph 8 amends Section 337 concerning the publication of the spatial development strategy. Section 337(6) allows the Secretary of State to issue directions to the mayor not to publish the spatial development strategy until inconsistencies with national policy or planning guidance are removed. The Act currently refers to "relevant planning guidance". The amendment alters this to "relevant regional planning guidance", an expression defined in Section 337(10), thus providing clarification as to when the Secretary of State may issue such a direction.
Paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 amend minor typographical errors in Section 367, and Schedules 4 and 32.
Paragraph 12 makes three amendments to the Representation of the People Act 1983. The amendments all arise out of provisions contained in Schedule 3 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The purpose of Schedule 3 is to amend the Representation of the People Acts so that elections under the GLA Act can be dealt with as local government elections.
The first two amendments under paragraph 12 are to Section 76 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which imposes limits on the election expenses of candidates and their agents. The purpose of these amendments is to remove an infelicity in the drafting by making it clearer that, in GLA elections, the limits on expenses which must not be exceeded are those set out in orders made under Section 76—rather than those specified in the section itself as in the case of other elections.
The third amendment under paragraph 12 is to repeal an unnecessary amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1983. Schedule 3 to the GLA Act inserted Section 189A into that Act. The section provided that references to an election under the Local Government Act include a reference to a GLA election. This insertion was in fact unnecessary because another amendment contained in Schedule 3 to the GLA Act had already provided for the same thing, by inserting Section 203(1A)(a) into the Representation of the People Act 1983. The draft order accordingly repeals the surplus provision. Again, the purpose of the amendment is to remove a small infelicity in the drafting. The law remains unchanged. I beg to move.
866 Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 19th April be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Whitty.)
§ The Earl of Mar and Kellie
My Lords, in the unfortunate absence of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, it falls to me to respond to this order. Clearly, I am off my usual patch at this moment but I am interested, or perhaps even fascinated, by devolution.
The order sets out to tidy up some loose ends and in the explanatory note claims that it makes a few minor drafting amendments. On examination, we believe that there are two issues which are substantive and worthy of comment.
First, paragraph 7(4) requires the Secretary of State to be notified of certain traffic-calming works and for the GLA to have regard to any comments made by the Secretary of State. That seems to us to be a substantive change and, what is more, to be a breach of devolution.
It then goes on to impose on the GLA the need to comply with the Secretary of State's new regulations on publicity and consultation. The GLA really should be able to handle that itself. It must be treated as a grown-up organisation.
Secondly, in paragraph 8, we query the concept of regional planning guidance. Surely the relevant planning guidance is generated nationally. I should have thought that any regional variation was exactly what the GLA exists to create. Having said that, we wish the order well.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I welcome the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, to this Greater London debate in the absence of his noble friend Lady Hamwee. He is someone whose knowledge of devolution in other parts of the United Kingdom is clearly being brought to bear on this matter.
On the first of the noble Earl's points, I should remind him that I took part in both the exchanges across the Dispatch Box and in correspondence with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about a related matter on traffic calming; namely, humps. The provision in the Bill in relation to consultation with the Secretary of State, which allows the GLA to have nonstandard humps, was clarified as a result of that correspondence and the intervention of the noble Baroness. This order simply extends the same provision to other forms of traffic calming and, therefore, is consistent with the assurances that we have given in the House. It is just that the matter was not absolutely comprehensive when we dealt with it.
867 As regards the noble Earl's second point on regional planning guidance, I believe that he has somewhat misinterpreted the position. As with other local authorities, the planning guidance with which these local authorities are asked to conform in this context is the regional planning guidance. It is, therefore, being made explicit here by way of this amendment, rather than referring in general terms to planning guidance.
868 Therefore, it conforms with our approach on planning more generally in England. I am not entirely sure of the situation in Scotland but I suspect that it is not that different. I commend the order to the House.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at nine minutes past nine o'clock.