Not amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.
New Clause 14
The general power of the Authority: duty to have regard
‘(1) Section 30 of the GLA Act 1999 (the general power of the Authority) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (4) (exercise of powers: duty to have regard to effect on certain matters) after paragraph (b) insert—
“(c) climate change, and the consequences of climate change, so far as relating to Greater London.”.
(3) In subsection (5) (duty to exercise powers in ways best calculated to achieve certain objectives)—
(a) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “, and
(c) to contribute towards the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change, so far as relating to Greater London,”;
(b) in the closing words (exception where action needed by virtue of paragraph (a) or (b) is not reasonably practicable) for “or (b)” substitute “, (b) or (c)”.
(4) After subsection (10) insert—
“(11) In this section—
(a) “climate change” has the same meaning as in section 361A below, and
(b) in relation to climate change, “adaptation”, “consequences” and “mitigation” have the same meaning as in that section.”.’.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
These amendments and new clauses clarify several provisions in the Bill and are largely minor and consequential in nature. I shall summarise each in turn.
Under section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the GLA has a general power to take action, within certain limitations. That general power enables the Mayor to do anything that he considers will further the GLA’s principal purposes—to promote economic development, wealth creation, social development and the improvement of the environment in Greater London. In determining whether, or how, to exercise its powers, the GLA is required, among other things, to have regard to the effect that they might have on the achievement of sustainable development in the UK. Where reasonably practicable, it must exercise its powers in the way best calculated to achieve that.
Additionally, Government new clause 14 requires the GLA to have regard to the effect of any proposed exercise of its powers on climate change and the consequences of climate change, so far as that relates to Greater London. Moreover, it requires the GLA, where reasonably practicable, to exercise its powers in a way that is best calculated to contribute to the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change so far as it relates to Greater London.
Government new clause 14 ensures that addressing climate change is at the heart of the GLA’s work. It recognises that tackling the scourge of climate change is not an environmental issue only and that it needs a fully co-ordinated approach across all aspects of the authority’s work—economic, social and environmental. It complements the duties placed on the Mayor and the assembly by clause 38 to address climate change.
Government new clause 15 is a minor, consequential amendment resulting from that change. It deals with any consultation carried out by the Mayor, under the four new strategies included in this Bill, after the legislation’s enactment but before the relevant sections come into force. It ensures that such a consultation counts, for the purposes of fulfilling the Mayor’s statutory duties to consult, as though he had consulted after the provisions had come into force. The provision ensures that the Mayor can start to consult on his strategies immediately after the Act is passed, rather than having to await the commencement of the relevant sections. In turn, that makes it more likely that the Mayor will be able to publish his new strategies before the next GLA election in May 2008.
Government amendment No. 8 requires the Secretary of State to consult the Mayor and the assembly before making an order under proposed new section 60A(5) specifying further offices to which confirmation hearings should apply. We believe that it is sensible that the Secretary of State should seek the views of the Mayor and assembly before deciding the appropriate course of action. This amendment fulfils a commitment that I gave in Committee to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) to consider further a similar amendment that he had tabled. He may wish to refer to that as the Brake amendment
Government amendments Nos. 9, 10, 16 and 17 deal with transport. Clause 18 removes the current prohibition on political representatives being members of the board of Transport for London. That will allow the Mayor greater discretion in appointing those members to the board who best represent the interests of people living and travelling in London.
Clause 18 has a consequential impact on the Railways Act 2005. The Department for Transport has consulted separately on whether to give the Mayor greater influence over rail services in an area beyond the GLA boundary. If that happens, there is a provision in the Railways Act 2005 to ensure that the Mayor appoints at least two additional members from those areas outside London to the TFL board to represent the interest of rail users from their areas.
There is further provision in the Railways Act 2005—if taken forward, it would become paragraph 2(5A) of schedule 10 to the GLA Act 1999—to restrict the Mayor to appointing no more than two additional members to the TFL board who are, at the same time, members of a principal council. This provision maintains the balance of the TFL board where political representatives, other than the Mayor, are currently not permitted.
It is clearly inconsistent to restrict the Mayor to appointing no more than two members from principal councils when the effect of clause 18 is that the Mayor will no longer be prevented from appointing political representatives. These amendments repeal paragraph 2(5A) of schedule 10 of the GLA Act 1999, so as to remove the restriction on political representatives from principal councils.
Government amendment No. 11 clarifies that the Mayor need not consult the assembly and functional bodies twice when he prepares or revises his health inequalities strategy. As drafted, the Bill requires the Mayor to consult the assembly and functional bodies when he consults his health adviser and London’s NHS bodies about matters to include in his strategy. However, he must also consult the assembly and functional bodies when preparing or revising his strategy under section 42 of the 1999 Act.
I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend who is rattling on at a good old rate, but I missed the bit about transport. We are told that the Mayor will be consulted about changes to railways and that people in various council areas have been consulted about the Mayor’s plans about such changes, but can we have an assurance that the House of Commons will also be consulted, because there are considerable consequences for the overground railway? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Bill’s protections for the use of pedicabs are acceptable?
My hon. Friend asks whether the House will be consulted. The Department for Transport is about to issue the conclusions to its consultation about the amendment that allows people from outside London to sit on the board, and I am sure that Members have taken up the opportunity offered by that consultation. The issue about pedicabs was raised in Committee but the Bill does not contain the references that my hon. Friend mentioned. My apologies to her if I was rattling through my speech too quickly; I am only trying to make progress given that the majority of the amendments, as I indicated at the beginning, are relatively straightforward—
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; I, too, am at fault for being slow in respect of the transport points, but I wonder if he can help us. Is it proposed that there should be guidance to the Mayor, either in the form of regulation or more generally, first, as to how representatives from local authorities outside Greater London are to be appointed—what system is to be used and who is to be consulted—and, secondly, is there to be any guidance about political appointees to TFL? Will the Mayor be obliged to consult London councils, for example, to make sure that there is balance in the appointments?
I am sure that the Mayor will have heard what the hon. Gentleman says about political balance. We covered the issue extensively in Committee, and fair points were made. As he is aware, there are criteria about the expertise, skills and experience of individuals appointed to the TFL board and the Mayor obviously has to take cognisance of those criteria in making his nominations.
Is the Minister really confident that the changes in the Bill will make TFL more responsive? My constituents find the organisation very bureaucratic; it is impossible to get TFL to change its mind about anything, whether the route of the 384 bus or a bus stop outside Ellern Mede school. My constituents in Chipping Barnet are frustrated by the way TFL works at present.
The hon. Lady’s point about TFL’s sensitivity to public representations was raised by a number of colleagues in Committee. From the common sense point of view, I would have thought that the nature of our profession and our experience of listening to the concerns of constituents would bring an additional dimension to the appointment of political representatives to TFL’s board; it would certainly put a greater emphasis on the need for TFL to be more sensitive. I am not being critical about what went on previously, but Members made that point most effectively. We would certainly not make changes if we did not think that they would improve and enhance the board’s performance. I am sure that will be the case.
May I repeat a question that I put in Committee about something that concerns many London residents? The Mayor has general obligations to consult about transport and other schemes, but there is absolutely no obligation for him to listen to what is said by the people of London. Can the Minister tell me what in the Bill, in his opinion, strengthens the consultation process and makes it more likely that the Mayor—whether the current or future Mayor—will take heed of the results?
In Committee, we had extensive discussion of the relative merits of the various consultations that the Mayor and the assembly have undertaken over many years. The conclusion among those on the Government Benches was that any consultation undertaken by any individual or body is almost guaranteed to leave some of the respondents unhappy. No consultation can provide 100 per cent. satisfaction across the board.
We believe that the consultation as it stands is adequate. I know that a number of people are unhappy about the conclusions that the Mayor has drawn following certain consultations, but the additional measures in the Bill will enhance the consultative process and ensure that the assembly has the opportunity to put forward London’s views. The responsibility of the Mayor to consult London councils was also raised under a number of clauses in Committee.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 clarify when a London waste authority is required to act in general conformity with the Mayor’s waste strategy when tendering a waste contract. Under the GLA Act the Mayor is required to publish a municipal waste management strategy for London. The Act also requires waste collection and waste disposal authorities in London to have regard to the strategy in carrying out their waste functions. Clause 36 amends the Act to require London’s waste authorities to act in general conformity with the Mayor’s waste strategy, but we want to specify more clearly how that provision affects an authority that is in the process of tendering a waste contract. We would not wish authorities at an advanced stage in the procurement process to have to amend tender specifications due to the changes in the Bill. Amendment No. 13 would clarify that, if the Mayor revised his waste strategy, waste authorities at an advanced stage of procurement need act in general conformity only with the Mayor’s former strategy.
Amendment No. 14 makes it clear that waste authorities do not need to act in general conformity with the Mayor’s waste strategy when tendering a waste contract if they have submitted a second information notice for that contract to the Official Journal of the European Union before the clause has commenced. The provisions in force before the Bill is enacted will apply in that situation. I commend the new clauses and amendments to the House.
I begin by sending my good wishes and, I am sure, those of everyone in the Chamber to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), who is confined to bed with bronchitis and pneumonia. One rather suspects that he has no voice, which given what I understand to have been the genial nature of the Standing Committee is a great sadness to us all. I am slightly relieved that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) is not here, given his propensity to trade football reminiscences. I am open about the fact that football reminiscences and I do not go together terribly well. [Interruption.] I will not be tempted on to the subject of what happens to people’s health when they are born and brought up in Aberdeen—which is not the part of the Scotland from which I came.
Like the Minister, I shall be brief because there are many serious issues that we want to discuss at greater length. We broadly support the amendments and new clauses. I comment briefly on the thought that the consultations referred to in new clause 14 will be available just in time for the mayoral elections. I cannot imagine why that new clause has been tabled, but we will all have great fun examining the consultations in great detail when they emerge.
I sympathise with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) on the issue of TFL. I said that we do not have any difficulty with most of the amendments, but the membership of the board of TFL causes us enormous concern, as the Minister indicated when the Bill was in Committee. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) that I entirely share her view of the TFL board. It is unresponsive to a degree that I have yet to come across in any other public body. I see others nodding in agreement.
I will not go through the particular instances in my constituency that have caused me concern, but it is rather indicative of the problems that we all have with TFL that one day’s edition of the Evening Standard—yesterday’s—has one headline that says, “TfL pays £5m in refunds for Tube delays”, another that says, “Cars will be seized from innocent under new law”, which refers to a private Bill sponsored by TFL, and another that says, “Bus fare dodgers cost TfL £1 million a week”. If I were TFL, I would be seriously worried that something, somewhere, was going wrong, and I would think that it might be time to listen to the people who reflect the views of their constituents.
Rightly, the proposal in the Bill was that representatives of the areas outside London should be on the TFL board, if the railway amendments are made, and if the Mayor extends his power over transport and commuting even further, and goes beyond his current ambitions. The questions that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich asked about how the representatives will be chosen, and how the House of Commons will be consulted, are valid, because London Members find it increasingly frustrating to try to hold the Mayor to account and to raise any London issues with him. Although legislation is not devolved, the House of Commons seems to believe that it is, and it is extraordinarily difficult to raise such issues. For that reason, I have every sympathy with the hon. Lady’s comments.
My hon. Friends and I have enormous sympathy with the proposal to give the Mayor a permissive power to appoint two new members from principal councils to the TFL board. The power is permissive, rather than instructive, but we would like to think that the Mayor will use it with gusto, that he will use it with a view to ensuring political balance, and that representatives of the boroughs will be included on the TFL board. As I have indicated, there is a crying need for more politicians on the board of TFL. I hope that the Mayor responds to the Minister’s hint that it would be appreciated if the Mayor appointed more politicians to the board of TFL, to make it more responsive to the people of London, and we look forward to that happening. On those grounds, I have no intention of suggesting to my hon. Friends that we oppose the drafting amendments. I hope that the Mayor of London listens carefully, and we will have to return to the issue if TFL continues to be unresponsive.
I had no intention of taking part in the debate, but I have considerable reservations. There has been an astonishing sideways move on the subject of the extension of the Mayor’s powers to overground railways outside the London area, and that has resulted in a strange, unstructured debate. As far as I know, the House of Commons has not yet formulated a view on the matter, although individual Members have considerable worries about it. It would be unwise to slip gently into an arrangement that could have damaging effects without proper consultation. The Mayor may have territorial claims on areas outside those that elect him, although that establishes an interesting precedent, and the House of Commons ought to think about that seriously before it accepts the idea. In addition, if the railways are to be considered an extension of the London Mayor’s empire, other areas of the country will have something to say about the matter.
It is perfectly true that because of the attractions of the capital city all our railways either begin or end in London. It is all very well saying that it would be convenient for a large conurbation to have control over the bits of a service that happen to run through it, but the matter is rather more complicated than that. I am concerned about us slipping, almost by default, into a situation in which it looks as though we accept the case for the Mayor having control over overground railways, although I am sure that we do not.
I am not a lawyer, and I do not know whether that is the implication of the new clause, but if it does provide that power, it should be fully debated. It should be put in context and understood, and we should have the right to ask whether it should happen. All our transport systems must be integrated. I do not object at all to political appointments for such arrangements. Indeed, if I were in charge of the national health service, I would introduce a simple measure excluding anyone who did not believe in an integrated health service. It would not admit competition between hospitals and other units, and it would make it impossible for private hospitals to compete with national health units. It would make it impossible for anyone carrying private health insurance to play any role whatsoever in the NHS. If one or two supplementary clauses automatically excluded members of new Labour, that would be an excellent idea. Sadly, however, the House of Commons does not accept such restrictions.
I therefore have only one or two things to ask the Minister. First, does the extension of power mean that the Mayor automatically has a say in the planning and execution of services, as well as the way in which they are integrated with the overground railway? If so, do the railway industry and passenger services have the right to be consulted about that extension of power? Secondly, is it in the interests of an elected mayor, whoever they are, to be able to control services outwith the area in which they were elected? Does that not raise an interesting point, which should concern us very deeply? Thirdly, if the Department for Transport was consulted, and is in the process of consulting, may we know the terms of reference?
May I start my brief contribution by saying that I, too, miss the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), and wish him well? It is rare for Committee stages to be jovial, but he spoke entertainingly on behalf of the official Opposition. I am sure that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) will entertain us in exactly the same way.
As the Minister suggested, the amendments are largely uncontroversial, apart from the implications for rail. We welcome the fact that new clause 14 requires the Mayor to have regard to the impact on climate change of any measures that he seeks to introduce. I suspect that he is a little aggrieved that we are discussing that on the day on which he launched his plan to cut emissions by 60 per cent., as doubtless he believes that he is already taking climate change into consideration. I am not going to call it the Brake clause, but I can do nothing but welcome Government amendment No. 8, which requires the Secretary of State to consult the Mayor and the Assembly when he extends the list of people who are subject to confirmation hearings. The Minister was true to his word—he said that he would come up with something, and I welcome the fact that he has done so.
I welcome, too, new clause 15, which requires consultation to be carried out earlier than expected, which leaves the issue of Transport for London and the implications for rail both inside and outside London. In 1998, when the matter was first discussed, my hon. Friends and I called for the Mayor to be given greater powers on rail in London, so in principle I do not oppose the Government’s proposal, as there is a sound basis for suggesting that the Mayor should have greater control over rail services in London. I stress that he should do so only for services in London. Many commuters begin their journeys in a London borough and travel out of London, or go into London and back out again. It is difficult to see how that service can be run effectively if the Mayor is not actively engaged in the process. I will listen carefully to the Minister’s response.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that users of underground lines, such as the District line in my area, feel that the Mayor has enough on his plate sorting out service levels in his existing remit, without taking on service levels and responsibilities as part of an even greater remit?
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. Yes, clearly the Mayor has many issues to address, whether in relation to the tube or if he takes on responsibility for rail. However, it is difficult to see how an integrated transport system in London can be achieved without the Mayor having a greater say over rail services in London.
Can the Minister explain to Members in a little more detail how, with reference to Crossrail, for example, which is a London-centric project, he will ensure that the Mayor meets the needs of London’s commuters without squeezing out those who are commuting from a much greater distance into London, or through London to another destination? I hope that he can provide a satisfactory explanation of how that is to be managed.
Like other Members, I shall speak briefly. I accept that most of the amendments in the group are uncontroversial, although I was wryly amused that the Minister had obviously liaised with the Mayor to ensure that the strategy papers would come on stream in tune with the electoral cycle, with the London mayoral election due to be held in May 2008. No one can dispute that we want to get on with the strategy papers at the earliest opportunity.
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made an important contribution. I was fortunate enough to serve on the Railways Bill in the run-up to the 2005 election. Much of the debate that we have had this afternoon was rehearsed at that time. There were grave concerns about the extent of the Mayor’s powers and the possibility of his tentacles reaching beyond the boundaries of Greater London. Some of those misgivings have been echoed by my colleagues who have expressed concern about the antics of Transport for London, but there are more important constitutional issues, which the hon. Lady raised in her contribution.
It would seem strange if, in my constituency, where both Paddington and Victoria stations are located, I had no say on transport matters. That is the result of devolution in London. Many transport issues do not fall within the ambit of Members of Parliament, even those with London seats. I would have no say about anything going on in my constituency in relation to Victoria or Paddington, but I would potentially have a much greater say about anything going on in Windsor or Reading, down in Sussex or beyond. That seems a strange precedent to set.
For that reason, when we considered the Railways Bill a strong case was made here and in another place to ensure that the Government removed the clauses that they now seek to insert in this Bill. As the Minister knows, the deal to remove the clauses expanding mayoral power was done in the run-up to the 2005 election. They caused grave concern not only about the expansion of the Mayor’s remit beyond Greater London, but about how, without getting into great politically partisan difficulties, he would be able to appoint a range of new advisers for the TFL board or the board representing areas beyond that.
I want to say a word about pedicabs, which were mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich. It is to be regretted that my new clause 13 has not been selected for debate today. The matter was not debated in Committee, either. I understand that on advice from the Clerks, new clause 13 was considered to be out of order. However, the problem is a real one, and Transport for London and other transport bodies recognise that there is an increasing number of unregistered pedicabs, especially in the west end of London—some 300 or 400, and probably more in the months and years ahead.
I suspect that we are only a short distance away from the first fatality, when there will no doubt be a big hue and cry. I do not wish to blame the Government on this. Having had the opportunity to speak to the Minister’s colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), I know that she too would like something put on to the statute book in double quick time. I am sorry that we were unable to use that as a device to get such a provision into this Bill. I implore the Minister to use the earliest opportunity to ensure that we have a proper registration process for pedicabs before some terrible accident happens, which will reflect very badly on legislators in this House and beyond.
I want to return briefly to transport issues and the TFL board. Before I do so, let me say that I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that the Mayor should get his own house in order first. In dealing with integrated transport systems in London, he could, for example, use his existing leverage to achieve a better alignment of bus and off-peak rail fares to make better use of the surplus capacity on some of the suburban lines within London, which he has declined to do, instead of seeking to extend his geographical tentacles beyond the M25.
My main concern is about the TFL board. I accept that the Minister is taking a step in the right direction, but it is a very small step. The reason why I asked him how the representatives of principal councils are to be appointed and how balance is to be achieved is that although the Mayor is responsible for transport strategy, in practice it is delivered by a partnership between TFL and the boroughs. The boroughs are still key players—they administer and deal with the vast majority of the road network. We often find that there are problems with the interface between TFL roads and borough roads. Regrettably, throughout the seven years for which it has existed, TFL has persisted in trying to act as though it exists in isolation, hardly ever consulting the boroughs.
A simple example of that arose before I came into this House, when my name was briefly taken in vain. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) raised with the then responsible Minister the farce that arose in the Coney Hall area of Beckenham when the A232 was dug up by TFL, putting a couple of local businesses out of business and completely disrupting and shutting off the shopping centre, and he responded to the effect that I had been involved in that as the assembly member concerned. TFL, which had not consulted at all with the London borough of Bromley about closing off this major road, promised to take on board the problems that had arisen and to undertake some works to remedy the damage that had been done to Coney Hall as a shopping centre. People were turning up and finding that the access to their place of business was closed off overnight. I attended a site meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham and local councillors—it was also attended by a senior officer who was one of the directors of TFL—where it was accepted that an error had been made, lessons had been learned, and that it would consult in future.
That was in September 2005. Only a week or so ago, a piece of paper from TFL came across my desk at City hall proposing a scheme for realignments of exactly the same piece of road. Had it consulted the London borough of Bromley? Of course not. The better part of two years has gone by, and it is making exactly the same errors. There is real concern that those at TFL are the Bourbons of London government, because they forget nothing and learn nothing. They do that because they feel that they are answerable only to the Mayor and have no responsibility to answer to the boroughs. Putting borough representatives on the board would make them recognise that they have a responsibility to answer to the boroughs as well.
There are some good, professional officers at TFL. However, is it not interesting that other Members are saying that the devolutionary settlement does not give them, as MPs, the opportunity to contribute on these issues? Is it not the case that London assembly members, who have supposedly had this responsibility devolved to them, are not consulted either? In reality, the issue is to do with the quality of culture on consultation with Transport for London as a whole. It would be a mistake for Members to believe that somehow Assembly members had been granted that role.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He and I know that the only way that we were able as constituency Assembly members to get a foot in the door with Transport for London was physically that—through jamming our feet in the door, forcing our way through and demanding that we be consulted. That is not a satisfactory way of doing things. That is why one would have hoped for much stronger provision in the Bill to ensure that the appointments of representatives of the principal councils are agreed with the representative body of local government in London. I would have hoped for a few more than a token two members so that there were people who could speak unequivocally on behalf of the boroughs—appointed by the boroughs and ultimately answerable to the boroughs—rather than having just two people who happen to be borough councillors whom the Mayor finds it convenient to appoint because they will not argue too much with him or rock the boat.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s characterisation of Transport for London as unaccountable and out of touch in many ways with areas such as Enfield, Southgate. My hon. Friend mentioned a specific example, but I would cite a routine example, as Transport for London routinely imposes bus stops—in Southgate and, no doubt, throughout London boroughs—without consultation either with London boroughs themselves or with the community. A wider example is the north circular road, as TFL is responsible for both houses and the road itself. For many years it has been blighted and the latest plan shows starkly how unaccountable is TFL and how unresponsive it is to the area’s needs.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which demonstrates how our concern on this topic is not with what might seem the arcane and rather formalistic matter of board consultation, but with the actual culture of the organisation of which the board is the head, which underlies the problem. Bus stops and, in particular, the erection of bus shelters in pursuit of a particularly dogmatic interpretation of the Mayor’s transport strategy show once again how the boroughs can be ignored. That is a matter of very real concern to us.
Those examples stress the unwillingness of TFL to come out of its own silo and talk or engage with other partners. That is why I hope that the Minister will provide some reassurance that the people appointed under the new provisions will actually speak for London government and London councils. If that assurance cannot be provided, some of us may decide to look into the problem again in other places, as it is not yet satisfactory.
Finally, I, too, am saddened by the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), but I congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) on having achieved “the Brake laws”. As those who followed the progress of the Bill in Committee will know, that means that I am going to have to break it—please forgive the pun—to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath that whereas his mother and mine remain disappointed, the mother of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington has been favoured by her son managing to get the Minister to give ground. Despite the best of our endeavours and our eloquence, the rest of us have not yet achieved that.
It was remiss of me not to make reference to the absence of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) that we shall all miss him, but perhaps not miss the reminiscences of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) regarding the Aberdeen football team of 1970—or whatever year it was. I made some grandiose claims on behalf of my own team and that of the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), but sadly they were very wide of the mark. I hope that my politics is far more accurate.
The hon. Member for Beckenham raised a question about mayoral strategies being ready in advance of the May 2008 elections and about the coincidence of timing. I would have thought that the Opposition parties would be pleased at having the opportunity to see the Mayor’s strategies in advance of an election. I would have thought that they would believe that it was to their advantage to see the Mayor’s plans because it gives them a platform to campaign against, rather than not having such an opportunity, leaving them to ask questions about why the plans were not ready and what people were actually being asked to vote for. The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) made the point that, on balance, we are happy that the Mayor will be able to produce strategies, because Londoners will be able to vote on the policies and proposals rather than on more abstract concepts.
The question of pedicabs was also raised by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster. That issue is not covered in the Bill, and I acknowledge his regret that his amendment was not selected for debate. The Government believe that the Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for dealing with the matter as it is a more local issue.
The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst made some strong points about consultation. Those points were also made by him and other hon. Members in Committee. They have been acknowledged, but we genuinely believe that lifting the bar to political representatives being appointed to the board of Transport for London will have a positive effect on its ability to respond to matters that are appropriately raised with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and others mentioned the extension of mayoral powers in regard to the geographical area that the Mayor covers, as opposed to that which he may have extended to him. She also asked about the consultation. The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster explained that the power to grant the Mayor control or influence over rail services outside London is not in the Bill, but was in the Railways Act 2005. The Department for Transport subsequently consulted on the matter last year, and that consultation closed at the end of May 2006. The Mayor has no such powers at present. The Railways Act seeks to provide greater integration, which would allow some additional powers outside London. That was what the consultation was all about. The Government are still considering the case for extending the Mayor’s powers over rail, and we will make an announcement on that imminently.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 15
Transitional provision relating to consultation
‘(1) In the case of any strategy referred to in a provision mentioned in column A of the Table in subsection (2), any consultation undertaken by the Mayor—
(a) after the day on which this Act is passed, but
(b) before the coming into force of that provision,
is to be as effective for the purposes of the corresponding provision in column C of that Table as if it had been undertaken after the provision in column A had come into force.
Column B of the Table identifies the provision of this Act which inserts the corresponding provision mentioned in column A.
(2) The provisions are—
Column A: Provision inserted into GLA Act 1999 Column B: Provision of this Act Column C: Provision of GLA Act 1999 for which consultation is effective Section 41(1)(bb) (section 41 to apply to health inequalities strategy) Section 24(2) Section 42(1) Section 41(1)(bc) (section 41 to apply to London housing strategy) Section 28(2) Section 42(1) Section 41(1)(ee) (section 41 to apply to London climate change mitigation and energy strategy) Section 39(1) Section 42(1) Section 41(1)(ef) (section 41 to apply to adaptation to climate change strategy for London) Section 40(1) Section 42(1) Section 309G(4) (consultation with relevant bodies or persons for purposes of health inequalities strategy) Section 22(1) Section 309G(4) Section 361B(7) (consultation with certain bodies for purposes of London climate change mitigation and energy strategy) Section 39(2) Section 361B(7)
Column A: Provision inserted into GLA Act 1999
Column B: Provision of this Act
Column C: Provision of GLA Act 1999 for which consultation is effective
Section 41(1)(bb) (section 41 to apply to health inequalities strategy)
Section 41(1)(bc) (section 41 to apply to London housing strategy)
Section 41(1)(ee) (section 41 to apply to London climate change mitigation and energy strategy)
Section 41(1)(ef) (section 41 to apply to adaptation to climate change strategy for London)
Section 309G(4) (consultation with relevant bodies or persons for purposes of health inequalities strategy)
Section 361B(7) (consultation with certain bodies for purposes of London climate change mitigation and energy strategy)
(3) Any consultation carried out by the Mayor with the Regional Director of Public Health for London—
(a) after the day on which this Act is passed, but
(b) before the coming into force of sections 309A and 309B of the GLA Act 1999 (Regional Director to be Health Adviser to GLA),
is to be as effective for the purposes of section 309G(4) of the GLA Act 1999 as if it had been carried out with the Health Adviser.
Sections 309A and 309B of the GLA Act 1999 are inserted by section 21(1) of this Act.’.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 1
London Waste Authority
‘(1) After section 359 of the GLA Act 1999 (confidential information about waste contracts) insert—
“359A London Waste Authority
(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the London Waste Authority.
(2) The London Waste Authority shall have the functions conferred or imposed on it by this Act, or made exercisable by it under this Act, and any reference in this Act to the functions of the London Waste Authority includes a reference to any functions made exercisable by it under this Act.
(3) The London Waste Authority shall have—
(a) the functions of the waste disposal authority for Greater London for the purposes of Part 2 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43), and
(b) any other such functions as are conferred or imposed on it by this Act.
(4) The London Waste Authority shall exercise its functions—
(a) in accordance with such guidance or directions as may be issued to it by the Mayor under section 359B(1),
(b) for the purpose of facilitating the discharge by the Greater London Authority of the duties under sections 353 to 361E, and
(c) for the purpose of securing or facilitating the implementation of the municipal waste management strategy.
(5) Schedule 29A shall have effect with respect to the London Waste Authority.
(6) The control of places provided for the deposit of household waste in Greater London under section 1(1) of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 (c. 3) and 51(1)(b) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) shall transfer to the London Waste Authority.
(7) The authorities established by Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Schedule 1 to the Waste Regulation and Disposal (Authorities) Order 1985 (S.I., 1985/1884) are dissolved, whereupon any remaining property, rights or liabilities are transferred to the London Waste Authority.
359B Directions etc by the Mayor
(1) The Mayor may issue to the London Waste Authority—
(a) guidance as to the manner in which it is to exercise its functions,
(b) general directions as to the manner in which it is to exercise its functions, or
(c) specific directions as to the exercise of its functions.
(2) Directions issued by the Mayor under subsection (1)(c) may include a direction not to exercise a power specified in the direction.
(3) The guidance or directions which may be issued by the Mayor under subsection (1) may include in particular guidance or directions as to the manner in which the London Waste Authority—
(a) is to perform any of its duties, or
(b) is to conduct any legal proceedings.
(4) Any guidance or directions issued under subsection (1) must be issued in writing and notified to such officer of the London Waste Authority as it may from time to time nominate to the Mayor for the purpose.”.
(2) After Schedule 29 of the GLA Act 1999 insert Schedule 29A set out in Schedule [London Waste Authority] to this Act.
(3) Schedule [London Waste Authority - consequential amendments] shall have effect.’.—[Ms Buck.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—Powers and duties of the London Waste Authority—
‘(1) After section 359B of the GLA Act 1999 (inserted by section [London Waste Authority] (1) of this Act) insert—
“359C Sustainable disposal of waste
When exercising its functions under section 51(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) (functions of waste disposal authorities), the London Waste Authority shall—
(a) do so in a manner calculated to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom,
(b) take into account any policies announced by Her Majesty’s Government with respect to climate change or the consequences of climate change, and
(c) comply with any guidance or directions issued to the London Waste Authority by the Secretary of State or the Mayor with respect to the means by which, or manner in which, the London Waste Authority is to perform the duties imposed on it by paragraph (a) or (b) above.
359D Publicity and advice
(1) The London Waste Authority may promote or undertake publicity in any form.
(2) The London Waste Authority shall promote—
(a) the reduction and reuse of waste in Greater London, and
(b) the sustainable management of waste in Greater London.
(3) The London Waste Authority may advise companies operating in Greater London on the items referred to in subsection (2).
359E Waste management
The London Waste Authority may apply for a waste management licence under section 36 (grant of licences) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) for the purposes of treating, keeping or disposing of waste that is delivered to it by a person other than a waste collection authority.
359F Power of the London Waste Authority to promote or oppose Bills in Parliament
(1) The London Waste Authority—
(a) may promote a local Bill in Parliament; and
(b) may oppose any local Bill in Parliament.
(2) Subsection (1)(a) applies only if the Greater London Authority—
(a) gives its written consent to the Bill; and
(b) confirms that consent in writing as soon as practicable after the expiration of 14 days after Bill has been deposited in Parliament.
(3) If the Greater London Authority does not confirm the consent as required by subsection (2)(b), it shall give notice of that fact to the London Waste Authority, which shall take all necessary steps for the withdrawal of the Bill.
(4) If the Authority, in giving notice under subsection (3), states that it confirms its consent to the Bill if provisions specified in the notice are omitted or are amended as so specified, the London Waste Authority may, instead of withdrawing the Bill pursuant to subsection (3), take all necessary steps for the omission or, as the case may be, the amendment of the provisions in question in accordance with the notice.
(5) Without prejudice to subsections (2) to (4), the functions conferred on the London Waste Authority by subsection (1)(a) are exercisable subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of Schedule 29B.
(6) Subsection (1)(b) applies only if the Greater London Authority gives its written consent to the London Waste Authority to oppose the Bill.
(a) the London Waste Authority deposits a petition against a Bill in Parliament, but
(b) the consent required by subsection (6) has not been given before the end of the period of 30 days following the day on which the petition is deposited,
the London Waste Authority shall take all necessary steps for the withdrawal of the petition.
(8) The functions conferred or imposed on the Greater London Authority by this section shall be functions of the Greater London Authority which are exercisable by the Mayor acting on behalf of the Greater London Authority.
(9) Before exercising the functions conferred on the Greater London Authority by subsections (2)(a) or (b), (4) or (6), the Mayor shall consult the Assembly.
359G Joint exercise of functions
(1) The London Waste Authority may discharge any of its functions jointly with one or more local authorities and, where arrangements are in force for them to do so,—
(a) they may also arrange for the discharge of those functions by a joint committee of theirs or by an officer of one of them and section 101(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70) shall apply in relation to those functions as it applies in relation to the functions of the individual authorities; and
(b) any enactment relating to those functions or the authorities by whom or the areas in respect of which they are to be discharged shall have effect subject to all necessary modifications in its application in relation to those functions and the authorities by whom and the areas in respect of which (whether in pursuance of the arrangements or otherwise) they are to be discharged.
(2) Arrangements made under subsection (1) by the London Waste Authority and one or more local authorities with respect to the discharge of any of their functions shall cease to have effect with respect to that function if, or to the extent that, the function becomes the responsibility of an executive of any of the local authorities.
(3) Subsection (2) does not affect arrangements made by virtue of section 20 of the Local Government Act 2000 (c. 22) (joint exercise of functions).”.
(2) In section 360(1) of the GLA Act 1999 for “359” substitute “359G”.
(3) In section 51(4A) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) after “but” insert “in the case of a waste disposal authority that is not the London Waste Authority”.
(4) After section 51(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) insert—
“(1A) It shall be the duty of the London Waste Authority to arrange for places to be provided at which persons resident in its area may deposit their household waste to be reused or recycled and to make arrangements for the reuse and recycling of such waste.”.
(5) Section 48(2) (duties of waste collection authorities as respects disposal of waste collected) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 shall not apply to waste collection authorities in Greater London.
(6) After Schedule 29A of the GLA Act 1999 (inserted by section [London Waste Authority] (2) of this Act) insert Schedule 29B set out in Schedule [Promotion of Bills in Parliament by the London Waste Authority] to this Act.’.
New clause 3—Mayor to prepare minerals and waste development scheme—
‘(1) PCPA 2004 shall be amended as follows—
(a) in section 16(1) after “district council” insert “and the Mayor of London”; and
(b) in section 16(3)(a) after “county council” insert “and the Mayor of London, as appropriate”.
(2) The Town and Country Planning (Local Development) (England) Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/2204) shall be amended as follows—
(a) in regulation 3(1)(b)(ii) after “county council” insert “and the Mayor of London”;
(b) in regulation 12(3) after “scheme” insert “prepared by a county council”; and
(c) after regulation 12(3) insert—
“(4) Where paragraph (1) or (2) applies to a minerals and waste development scheme prepared by the Mayor of London, within 2 weeks he must send a copy of—
(a) the scheme, or
(b) the scheme incorporating the revision,
to each local planning authority in Greater London.”.’.
New clause 4—Municipal waste management strategy—
‘(1) The GLA Act 1999 shall be amended as follows—
(a) omit “municipal” in—
(i) section 353(2)(b) (the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy), and
(ii) section 353(5)(e); and
(b) in section 355 (duties of waste collection authorities etc.) for “Part II” substitute “Part 2 or section 89 of Part 4”.
(2) After section 357(4) of the GLA Act 1999 insert—
“(4A) Where the Mayor has been notified by a waste authority under subsection (1), (2) or (4) he shall consult the London Waste Authority.”.’.
New clause 5—London waste charging scheme—
‘After section 359G of the GLA Act 1999 (inserted by section [Powers and duties of the London Waste Authority] (1) of this Act) insert—
“359H London waste charging scheme
(1) The Mayor may by order make a scheme to charge waste collection authorities in London for the delivery of waste to the London Waste Authority, to be known as the London waste charging scheme.
(2) An order under this section may—
(a) specify charges for the delivery to the London Waste Authority by a waste collection authority of waste;
(b) impose a charge per tonne of delivered waste;
(c) impose separate charges for different types of waste based on the technology or processes used to manage or dispose of such waste;
(d) make different provisions for different cases, including different provisions in relation to different waste collection authorities, circumstances or localities;
(e) provide for the times at which, and the manner in which, the charges prescribed by the scheme are to be paid;
(f) revoke or amend any previous charging scheme; or
(g) contain supplemental, incidental, consequential or transitional provisions for the purposes of the scheme.
(3) The power of the Mayor to make an order under this section includes a power exercisable by order to revoke, amend or re-enact any such order.
(4) An order made by the Mayor under this section shall not have effect unless and until it is confirmed by an order made by the Secretary of State.”.’.
New clause 6—Transfer schemes—
‘After section 359H of the GLA Act 1999 (inserted by section [London waste charging scheme] of this Act) insert—
“359I Transfer schemes
(1) The power conferred by subsection (2) is exercisable in connection with the establishment of the London Waste Authority.
(2) The London Waste Authority may make one or more schemes for the transfer of property, rights or liabilities from any body falling within subsection (3) to any other such body as specified in or determined in accordance with the scheme.
(3) Those bodies are—
(a) the London Waste Authority,
(b) any subsidiary of the London Waste Authority;
(c) any local authority in Greater London; and
(d) an authority established by Part 2, 3, 4 or 5 of Schedule 1 to the Waste Regulation and Disposal (Authorities) Order 1985 (S.I., 1985/1884).
(4) On a date specified by a scheme as the date on which the scheme is to have effect, the designated property, rights or liabilities are transferred and vest in accordance with the scheme.
(5) A scheme under this section shall not take effect unless and until it has been approved by the Mayor.
(6) Where a scheme under this section is submitted to the Mayor for his approval, he may, after consultation with the London Waste Authority, modify the scheme before approving it.
(7) The transfers which may be made by virtue of a scheme under this section include transfers taking effect before, on or after the dissolution of the joint waste authorities under section 359A(7).
(8) Schedule 12 (which makes further provision in relation to schemes under this section) shall have effect.”.’.
New clause 7—Litter—
‘(1) Section 360 of the GLA Act 1999 (interpretation) is amended as follows.
(2) In the definition of “waste contract” in subsection (2) for “Part 2 of that Act (waste on land)” substitute “Part 2 (waste on land) or section 89 of Part 4 (Litter etc.) of that Act”.’.
Amendment No. 1, in clause 39, page 41, line 45, at end insert—
‘(iv) the London Waste Authority,’.
New schedule 1—‘London Waste Authority
This is the Schedule that is to be inserted as Schedule 29A to the GLA Act 1999—
London Waste Authority
Status and Capacity
1 (1) The London Waste Authority shall not be regarded as the servant or agent of the Crown or as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown.
(2) The members and staff of the London Waste Authority shall not be regarded as civil servants and the property of the London Waste Authority shall not be regarded as property of, or held on behalf of, the Crown.
(3) It shall be within the capacity of the London Waste Authority to do such things and enter into such transactions as are calculated to facilitate, or are conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of its functions.
Membership of the London Waste Authority
2 (1) The London Waste Authority shall consist of fifteen members appointed by the Mayor of whom no fewer than six have been nominated by, and (at the time of their appointment) are elected members of—
(a) a London borough council, or
(b) the Common Council of the City of London.
(2) The Mayor may determine the process of nominating and appointing members under sub-paragraph (1).
(3) The Mayor cannot appoint himself as a member of the London Waste Authority.
(4) In appointing a person under sub-paragraph (1), the Mayor shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the members of the London Waste Authority between them have experience in—
(a) running a business,
(b) delivering large capital programmes,
(d) waste management, and
(5) The terms and conditions of appointment of a member of the London Waste Authority (including conditions as to remuneration) shall be such as the Mayor may determine.
(6) The Mayor may, by notice to a member of the London Waste Authority, remove that member from office.
Chairman and deputy chairmen
3 The Mayor shall designate—
(a) one of the members of the London Waste Authority to be chairman of the London Waste Authority, and
(b) another of the members to be deputy chairman of the London Waste Authority.
4 (1) The London Waste Authority may appoint such staff as it considers necessary for assisting in the exercise of any of its functions.
(2) The staff of the London Waste Authority shall be appointed on such terms and conditions (including conditions as to remuneration) as the London Waste Authority shall determine
Proceedings of the London Waste Authority
5 (1) Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, the London Waste Authority may regulate its own procedures and that of the committees of the London Waste Authority and sub-committees of such committees (and in particular may specify a quorum for meetings).
(2) The validity of any proceedings of the London Waste Authority shall not be affected—
(a) by any vacancy among the members or in the office of chairman or deputy chairman, or
(b) by any defect in the appointment of any person as a member, or as chairman or deputy chairman, of the London Waste Authority.
Membership of committees and sub-committees
6 (1) A committee of the London Waste Authority or a sub-committee of such a committee may include persons who are not members of the London Waste Authority.
(2) A person who is a member of a committee of the London Waste Authority or a sub-committee of such a committee but is not a member of the London Waste Authority shall be a non-voting member of the committee or sub-committee.
7 (1) The London Waste Authority may form, promote and assist, or join with any other person in forming, promoting and assisting, a company for the purpose of—
(a) carrying on any activities which the London Waste Authority has power to carry on, or
(b) carrying on such activities together with activities which the London Waste Authority does not have power to carry on.
(2) The London Waste Authority may enter into and carry out agreements with any person for the carrying on by that person, whether as agent for the London Waste Authority or otherwise, of any activities which the London Waste Authority has power to carry on (and, in particular, with respect to the disposal of waste).
(3) The London Waste Authority may also enter into and carry out an agreement with any person for the carrying on by that person (“the contractor”) of any activities which the London Waste Authority does not have the power to carry on if the agreement includes provision for one or more of the following, namely—
(a) the carrying on by the contractor of such activities as are mentioned in sub-paragraph (2);
(b) the provision by the contractor to the London Waste Authority of services ancillary to the disposal of waste; and
(c) the use by the contractor of land or other property owned by the London Waste Authority, or transferred to the contractor by the London Waste Authority, for the purposes of the agreement.
(4) Where an agreement has been entered into under sub-paragraph (2) or (3), the powers conferred on the London Waste Authority by that subsection include power to enter into and carry out other agreements with other persons for the purpose of—
(a) fulfilling any condition which must be fulfilled before the agreement can have effect; or
(b) satisfying any requirement imposed by or under the agreement.
(a) a company has been formed in the exercise of the powers conferred by sub-paragraph (1) (whether by the London Waste Authority alone or by the London Waste Authority jointly with some other person); or
(b) the London Waste Authority has entered into an agreement with any person in exercise of its powers under sub-paragraph (2) or (3),
the London Waste Authority may enter into arrangements with that company or person for the transfer from the London Waste Authority to that company or person, in such manner and on such terms (including payments by any of the parties to the arrangements to any of the other parties) as may be provided for by the arrangements, of any property, rights or liabilities of the London Waste Authority relevant to the purpose for which the company was formed or (as the case may be) to the performance by that person of his obligations under the agreement.
(6) The London Waste Authority shall have power to enter into and carry out agreements with—
(a) any of its subsidiaries; or
(b) any person with whom it has entered into an agreement by virtue of sub-paragraph (2) or (3),
providing for the London Waste Authority to give assistance to the other party to the agreement by making available to that party any services, amenities or facilities provided by, or any works or land or other property belonging to, the London Waste Authority, on such terms (including the reciprocal provision by that other party for similar assistance for the London Waste Authority) as may be agreed between them.
(7) The power of the London Waste Authority under sub-paragraph (2) or (3) to enter into an agreement as there mentioned is exercisable notwithstanding that the agreement involves the delegation of the functions of the London Waste Authority under any enactment relating to any part of its undertaking.
Delegation by the London Waste Authority
8 (1) Subject to any express provision contained in this Act or any Act passed after this Act, the London Waste Authority may arrange for any of its functions to be discharged on its behalf by—
(a) any committee of the London Waste Authority,
(b) any sub-committee of such a committee,
(c) any wholly owned subsidiary (within the meaning of section 736(2) of the Companies Act 1985) of the London Waste Authority,
(d) any member of officer of the London Waste Authority, or
(e) any body of members or officers, or members and officers, of the London Waste Authority.
(2) Where the London Waste Authority makes arrangements under this paragraph for the discharge of any function, the person or body by whom the function is to be discharged shall exercise the function subject to any conditions imposed by the London Waste Authority.
(3) Arrangements made by the London Waste Authority for the discharge of functions under this paragraph shall not prevent the London Waste Authority from exercising those functions.
Delegation by committees, sub-committees, etc
9 (1) Where the London Waste Authority makes arrangements for the discharge of any function by a committee under paragraph 7, the committee may (subject to any conditions imposed by the London Waste Authority) arrange for the discharge of the function on its behalf by—
(a) any sub committee of the committee,
(b) any member or officer of the London Waste Authority, or
(c) any body of members or officers, or members and officers, of the London Waste Authority.
(a) the London Waste Authority makes arrangements for the discharge of any function by a sub-committee under paragraph 7, or
(b) a committee of the London Waste Authority makes arrangements for the discharge of any function by a sub-committee under sub-paragraph (1),
the sub-committee may (subject to any conditions imposed by the London Waste Authority or the committee) arrange for the discharge of the function on its behalf by any member or officer of the London Waste Authority, or any body of members or officers, or members and officers, of the London Waste Authority.
(3) Where a committee or sub-committee makes arrangements under this paragraph for the discharge of any function, the person or body by whom the function is to be discharged shall exercise the function subject to any conditions imposed by the committee or sub-committee.
(4) Arrangements made by a committee or sub-committee for the discharge of functions under this paragraph shall not prevent the committee or sub-committee from exercising those functions.
Joint committees with local authorities
10 (1) The London Waste Authority shall be treated as a local authority for the purposes of the following provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70) (arrangements for the discharge of functions of a local authority by joint committees with other local authorities)—
(a) section 101(5),
(b) section 102, apart from subsection (1)(a) and subsection (4), to the extent that it would permit the London Waste Authority to appoint a committee that is not a joint committee, and
(c) section 103.
(2) Nothing in section 13 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (c. 42) (voting rights of members of certain committees: England and Wales) shall require a person to be treated as a non-voting member of a committee appointed by the London Waste Authority and one or more other local authorities by virtue of section 101(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 if that person—
(a) is appointed to the committee by the London Waste Authority, and
(b) is not a member of the London Waste Authority.
11 (1) Minutes shall be kept of proceedings of the London Waste Authority, of its committees and sub-committees of such committees.
(2) Minutes of any proceedings shall be evidence of those proceedings if they are signed by a person purporting to have acted as chairman of the proceedings to which the minutes relate or of any subsequent proceedings in the course of which the minutes were approved as a correct record.
(3) Where minutes of any such proceedings have been signed as mentioned in sub-paragraph (2), those proceedings shall, unless the contrary is shown, be deemed to have been validly convened and constituted.
Application of seal and proof of instruments
12 (1) The application of the seal of the London Waste Authority shall be authenticated by the signature of any member, officer or member of staff of the London Waste Authority who has been authorised for the purpose, whether generally or specially, by the London Waste Authority.
(2) In sub-paragraph (1) the reference to the signature of a person includes a reference to a facsimile of a signature by whatever process reproduced; and, in paragraph 13, the word “signed” shall be construed accordingly.
Documents service etc. on the London Waste Authority
13 (1) Any document which the London Waste Authority is authorised or required by or under any enactment to serve, make or issue may be signed on behalf of the London Waste Authority by any member, officer or member of staff of the London Waste Authority who has been authorised for the purpose, whether generally or specially, by the London Waste Authority.
(2) Every document purporting to be an instrument made or issued by or on behalf of the London Waste Authority and to be duly executed under the seal of the London Waste Authority, or to be signed or executed by a person authorised by the London Waste Authority for the purpose, shall be received in evidence and be treated, without further proof, as being made or so issued unless the contrary is shown.
(3) Any notice which is required or authorised, by or under any provision of any other Act, to be given, served or issued by, to or on the London Waste Authority shall be in writing.
14 (1) If a member of the London Waste Authority has any interest, whether direct or indirect, and whether pecuniary or not, in any matter that is brought up for consideration at a meeting of the London Waste Authority he shall disclose the nature of the interest to the meeting; and, where such a disclosure is made—
(a) the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting; and
(b) the member shall not take any part in any deliberation or decision of the London Waste Authority, or any of its committees or sub-committees, with respect to that matter.
(2) A member need not attend in person at a meeting of the London Waste Authority in order to make a disclosure which he is required to make under this paragraph if he takes reasonable steps to ensure that the disclosure is made by a notice which is read and considered at the meeting.
(3) The Mayor may, subject to such conditions as he considers appropriate, remove any disability imposed by virtue of this paragraph in any case where the number of members of the London Waste Authority disabled by virtue of this paragraph at any one time would be so great a proportion of the whole as to impede the transaction of business.
(4) The power of the Mayor under sub-paragraph (3) includes power to remove, either indefinitely or for any period, a disability which would otherwise attach to any member, or members of any description, by reason of such interests, and in respect of such matters, as may be specified or described by the Mayor.
(5) Where the Mayor exercises the power under sub-paragraph (3) to remove a disability—
(a) he shall notify the London Waste Authority that he has done so, and of this reasons for doing so, and
(b) the removal of the disability and the Mayor’s reasons shall be recorded in the minutes of the London Waste Authority.
(6) If any person fails to comply with the provisions of sub-paragraph (1), he shall for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale unless he proves that he did not know that the contract, proposed contract or other matter in which he had the interest was the subject of consideration at the Meeting.
(7) A prosecution for an offence under this paragraph shall not be instituted except by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
(8) The London Waste Authority may provide for the exclusion of a member from a meeting of the London Waste Authority while any contract, proposed contract or other matter in which he has such an interest as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) is under consideration.
(9) Section 95 of the Local Government Act 1972 (pecuniary interests for the purposes of section 94) shall apply for the purposes of this paragraph as it applies for the purposes of that section.
(10) Section 96 of that Act (general notices and recording of disclosures for the purposes of section 94) shall apply for the purposes of this paragraph, but taking—
(a) any reference to a proper officer of the authority as a reference to an officer appointed by the London Waste Authority for the purpose;
(b) any reference to a member of the authority as a reference to a member of the London Waste Authority;
(c) any reference to premises owned by the authority as a reference to premises owned by the London Waste Authority; and
(d) any reference to section 94 of that Act as a reference to this paragraph.
(11) Subsections (4) and (5) of section 97 of that Act (disregard of certain interests for the purposes of section 94) shall apply in relation to this paragraph as they apply in relation to section 94 of that Act, but as if—
(a) the members of the London Waste Authority were members of a local authority; and
(b) in subsection (5), for “a pecuniary interest” there were substituted “an interest (whether pecuniary or not)”.
(12) Section 19 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (members’ interests) shall apply as if—
(a) the London Waste Authority were a local authority;
(b) the members of the London Waste Authority were the members of that local authority;
(c) an officer appointed by the London Waste Authority for the purpose were the proper officer of that local authority;
(d) any reference to a pecuniary interest were a reference to an interest, whether pecuniary or not; and
(e) any reference to section 94 of the Local Government Act 1972 were a reference to this paragraph.
15 (1) Subject to the following provisions of this paragraph and paragraph 16, the Secretary of State may authorise the London Waste Authority to purchase compulsorily any land which is required by the London Waste Authority or a subsidiary of the London Waste Authority for the purposes of the discharge of any function.
(2) The Acquisition of Land Act 1981 (c. 67) shall apply to any compulsory purchase by virtue of sub-paragraph (1).
(3) The London Waste Authority shall not by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) submit to the Secretary of State a compulsory purchase order authorising the acquisition of any land in accordance with section 2(2) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 unless the Mayor has given his consent.
(4) Subject to sub-paragraph (5), the power of purchasing land compulsorily in this paragraph includes power to acquire an easement or other right over land by the creation of a new right.
(5) Sub-paragraph (4) does not apply to an easement or other right over land which forms part of a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment within the meaning of section 19 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981.
16 The London Waste Authority does not have power to acquire land (or any interest in land) for purposes which are not related to any of the activities, other than the development of land, of the London Waste Authority or any subsidiary of the London Waste Authority.”.’.
New schedule 2—‘London Waste Authority—consequential arrangements—
The Greater London Authority Act 1999
1 (1) The GLA Act 1999 shall be amended as follows.
(2) For section 353(5)(b) (the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy) substitute “(b) the London Waste Authority”.
(3) In section 353(5)(d) for “waste disposal authorities in Greater London” substitute “the London Waste Authority”.
(4) In section 355 (duties of waste collection authorities etc.) for “each of the waste disposal authorities in Greater London” substitute “the London Waste Authority”.
(5) In section 356(1) (directions by the Mayor) for “a waste disposal authority in Greater London” substitute “the London Waste Authority”.
(6) In section 360(1) for “359” substitute “359B”.
(7) In section 360(2) (interpretation of sections 353 to 359)—
(a) in the definition of “municipal waste” for paragraph (b) substitute “the London Waste Authority”;
(b) in the definition of “waste authority” for paragraph (b) substitute “the London Waste Authority”; and
(c) in the definition of “waste disposal authority in Greater London” omit “in Greater London”.
(8) In section 424(1) (interpretation) in the definition of “functional body”, after “(b) the London Development Agency” insert “(ba) the London Waste Authority”.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990
2 (1) The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) shall be amended as follows.
(2) For section 30(2)(b) (authorities for the purposes of this part) substitute “in Greater London, the London Waste Authority”.
(3) In section 44A(5)(a) (national waste strategy: England and Wales) after “Agency” insert “and the London Waste Authority,”.
The Joint Waste Disposal Authorities (Recycling Payments) (Disapplication) (England) Order 2006
3 In article 2 of the Joint Waste Disposal Authorities (Recycling Payments) (Disapplication) (England) Order 2006 (S.I. 2006/651) for “an authority established under regulation 2(1) of the Waste Regulation and Disposal (Authorities) Order 1985 and named in Schedule 1 to that Order” substitute “the London Waste Authority”.
The Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978
4 (1) The Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 (c. 3) shall be modified as follows.
(2) Section 3(6) shall have effect as if—
(a) “whose area is included in the area of a London waste disposal authority” were omitted, and
(b) for “the authority in question” were substituted “the London Waste Authority, the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority or the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, as the case may be”.
(3) Section 3(8) shall have effect as if for “a London waste disposal authority” were substituted “the London Waste Authority”.
(4) Section 4(8) shall have effect as if—
(a) for “in the area of a London waste disposal authority, that authority” were substituted “in Greater London, the London Waste Authority”, and
(b) section 4(8)(b) were omitted.
(5) Section 5(4) shall have effect as if for “whose area is included in the area of a London waste disposal authority, that authority” were substituted “, the London Waste Authority”.
(6) Section 5(5)(a) shall have effect as if—
(a) “whose area is included in the area of a London waste disposal authority” were omitted, and
(b) for “the authority in question” were substituted “the London Waste Authority, the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority or the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, as the case may be”.’.
New schedule 3—Promotion of Bills in Parliament by the London Waste Authority—
This is the Schedule that is to be inserted as Schedule 29B to the GLA Act 1999—
Promotions of Bills in Parliament by the London Waste Authority
1 No Bill may be deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a) until the requirements of paragraph 2 have been complied with.
Consultation on draft Bill
2 (1) The London Waste Authority shall—
(a) prepare a draft of the proposed Bill (“the draft Bill”);
(b) send copies of the draft Bill to the bodies and persons specified in sub-paragraph (2);and
(c) consult those bodies and persons about the draft Bill.
(2) Those bodies and persons are—
(a) the Mayor;
(b) the Assembly;
(c) every London borough council; and
(d) the Common Council.
(3) Where the London Waste Authority sends copies of the draft Bill to those bodies and persons pursuant to sub-paragraph (1)(b), it shall also give those bodies and persons notice of the time within which, and the place at which, they may make representations about the draft Bill.
Publicity for, and exposure of, the draft Bill
3 (1) Throughout the consultation period, the London Waste Authority shall take such steps as in its opinion will give adequate publicity to the draft Bill.
(2) A copy of the draft Bill shall be kept available by the London Waste Authority for inspection by any person on request free of charge—
(a) at the principal offices of the London Waste Authority, and
(b) at such other places as the London Waste Authority considers appropriate
at reasonable hours throughout the consultation period.
(3) A copy of the draft Bill, or of any part of the draft Bill, shall be supplied to any person on request during the consultation period for such reasonable fee as the London Waste Authority may determine.
(4) In this paragraph “the consultation period” means the period which—
(a) begins with the first day after the requirements of paragraph 2(1)(b) have been complied with; and
(b) ends with the time notified pursuant to paragraph 2(3).
Deposit of the Bill in Parliament
4 (1) If, after the requirements of paragraph 2 have been complied with, a Bill is deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a), that Bill must be in the form of the draft Bill, either as originally prepared or as modified to take account of—
(a) representations made pursuant to paragraph 2;
(b) other representations made within the consultation period; or
(c) other material considerations.
(2) In this paragraph “the consultation period” has the same meaning as in paragraph 3.
Bills affecting statutory functions of London local authorities
5 (1) If a Bill proposed to be deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a) contains provisions affecting the exercise of statutory function by a London local authority, the Bill shall not be deposited in Parliament unless—
(a) in a case where the exercise of statutory functions of one London local authority is affected, that authority has given its written consent to the Bill in the form in which it is to be so deposited; or
(b) in a case where the exercise of statutory functions of two or more London local authorities is affected, at least 90 per cent. of all London local authorities have given their written consent to the Bill in that form.
(2) In this paragraph “London local authority” means—
(a) a London borough council; or
(b) the Common Council.
Publicity for the deposited Bill
6 (1) This paragraph applies where a Bill (“the deposited Bill”) is deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a).
(2) During the period of 14 days following the day on which the deposited Bill is deposited in Parliament, the London Waste Authority shall take such steps as in its opinion will give adequate publicity to the Bill.
(3) A copy of the deposited Bill shall be kept available by the London Waste Authority for inspection by any person on request free of charge—
(a) at the principal offices of the London Waste Authority, and
(b) at such other places as the London Waste Authority considers appropriate,
at reasonable hours throughout the period the Bill is in Parliament.
(4) A copy of the deposited Bill, or of any part of the deposited Bill, shall be supplied to any person on request during that period for such reasonable fee as the London Waste Authority may determine.”.’.
Amendment No. 2, in schedule 2, page 53, line 36 , at end insert—‘Section 356(3).’.
I am grateful to have this opportunity to revisit the arguments that we had in Committee over the proposal to establish a single strategic waste disposal authority for London. We aired the arguments well in Committee, but none the less I remain of the view that the Government are missing the opportunity to make an important contribution to the efficient delivery of waste services and to achieve associated benefits, particularly in the area of environmental gain. It is relevant to note that today the Mayor has put forward a plan for reducing carbon in London and making London one of the leading global cities in achieving climate change targets. I am proud of the fact that—thanks to the Government and the devolution of London government that was achieved in the run-up to 2000 and subsequently—we now have a London government able to take such a lead. However, there are areas of service delivery in which we could put serious extra weight behind the capacity to achieve those targets.
The most important issue is that the present system is failing to deliver, and that it has been doing so for the past 20 years. The arguments put forward by the Government and the Opposition that incline the Government to believe that we are about to see a radical change are implausible, given that failure to deliver. A dynamic 21st-century London is still managing its waste as if it were in the Victorian era, with 16 different waste disposal authorities. No other world city has such a fragmented and incoherent delivery structure and, consequently, such a poor waste and recycling performance. The days of London being able to bury its waste problems in other people’s back yards are well and truly numbered. Our capital city faces a step change in the way in which it manages its waste. A creaky and declining infrastructure, based on exporting waste to landfill, must be replaced by a new and rapidly expanding infrastructure that is based on recycling and the recovery of renewable energy from London’s waste.
That challenge is daunting enough, but what is even more worrying is that, in order to achieve that and to avoid potentially massive landfill fines, London councils should have started years ago. The challenge was known. The penalties and the costs of not acting were clear. However, the snail’s pace has continued in spite of that. The first real crunch point comes in about three years, and yet there is still no sense of urgency among those in charge.
Although I recognise that potent arguments are being made for one waste authority, does the hon. Lady not feel that the way in which some local authorities are now working together suggests that perhaps a grass-roots approach of different boroughs combining to deliver on the important issue of recycling would be likely to be more effective than making the straight jump to a single waste authority?
I will give a straight answer to a straight question: no. Clearly, compared with chaos, evidence that London authorities are working together is a sign of progress; I accept that there is some sign that there is more co-ordinated working than there has been in the past. However, the whole thrust of my argument is that the challenge is so great and the progress so slow that there is no reason to believe that a grass-roots delivery will be capable of meeting the challenge.
Perhaps the hon. Lady did not do the question asked by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) that much justice. Will she explain why, for instance, we might not see the lowest common denominator applied and the best authorities doing worse under a single waste authority?
Part of the answer to that is that I am not sure that that necessarily matters that much. The single thing that matters is that, across the city, we are capable of raising our game across the board. Clearly, we want to see every authority performing better. There are some authorities that perform well. Bexley, for example, is performing well on its recycling. There are many other authorities that perform very badly. Our first task must be to ensure that we raise the performance of those laggardly authorities. If we could then achieve a better performance among the high-performing authorities, that would be excellent. However, the key thing is that London as a global city is lagging behind, and London, as a city, has to perform better.
I am listening with great interest to the points that the hon. Lady is making. She mentioned the borough of Bexley, which is superb at recycling. Its achievements and progress have been tremendous. Surely what she proposes would be a disincentive to places such as Bexley to continue to do the good work that they are doing.
I am at a complete loss to understand why that might be so, unless the hon. Gentleman is making the argument—an argument that I do not accept—that the only incentive to a better performance is competition between boroughs. That rather cuts across the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), who said that authorities are now working collaboratively. All authorities must wake up to the new reality and the new challenge, whether that is driven by the fear of landfill fines or environmental issues. The fact is that not all of them have.
The hon. Lady is being patient with the House and giving way a lot. She mentioned Bexley, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) and I obviously have a particular interest, and said that it is effective. The Mayor already has his municipal waste strategy, which gives him a lot of power to give directions to the borough. For those of us who are suspicious about giving the Mayor more powers, will she tell the House whether there are any examples of boroughs that are not complying with the Mayor’s strategy and where there have been fall-outs about how it should be implemented? Some of us think that he already has more than adequate power to achieve what he wants with the strategy.
There have been disagreements between some boroughs and the Mayor on aspects of waste disposal, including the example of Belvedere. In a sense, we are getting to the meat of the comments that I wish to make, and I would like to avoid duplication. When one relies on a more voluntary approach to these things there is always a risk of disagreements and of a lack of enforcement capability.
The simple fact is that our performance is not good enough. This is not fundamentally an issue of political ideology. It should not divide the political parties or cause divisions within them, because we are all committed to a particular end game. The difference is that I do not believe that the proposals in the Bill represent a set of procedures that can rise to the challenge.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because I know that she has taken many interventions. The crux of the argument relates to her hypothesis about why the current arrangements are failing. If she believes that the cause is organisational mismanagement, the possible solution might be to bring organisation under one umbrella. If it is a question of either a lack of creativity in how to recycle and dispose or a lack of management, culture or implementation—an operational problem—it will not necessarily be solved by the solution that she proposes. Will she tell us whether she feels that those other potential issues will be addressed by her proposals?
If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I should point out that that goes to the heart of the comments that I wish to make. A number of reasons are involved in our failing to rise to the challenge, some of which are organisational. I hope to make some progress in the next few minutes and thus explain my central arguments.
We all agree on the end game. I am sure that everyone in this House wants a waste management system that delivers high recycling and services to all of London’s residents and businesses, that minimises landfill and avoids landfill costs and penalties, that maximises carbon reduction through the exploitation of new heat and power technology, that reduces the additional traffic on the roads caused by waste lorries moving between parts of the capital and outside it, and that does so in a way that provides value for money to taxpayers.
As I said in Committee, I remain of the view that the Government’s proposed package and the present waste disposal arrangements remain confused and incoherent, with no single body able to co-ordinate disposal and recycling operations at the city-wide level. Although the proposals are to some degree progressive, they do nothing to alter the fundamental weakness at the heart of a system that has let London down for more than two decades and has secured for it the dubious honour of being at the bottom of nearly every national and international league table on recycling and waste performance.
A single waste disposal authority for the capital could drive progress, with proper co-ordination and leadership, reducing landfill and incineration, and maximising recycling and the recovery of renewable energy from our waste. The authority would be in a position to offer clear purpose and pace, commensurate with the challenges of waste management and combating climate change.
The issue of waste hierarchy is central to the argument. Our challenge is to minimise waste production, then to recycle and compost whatever we can and then to recover heat and power from the waste that remains. Then and only then should we incinerate with no recovery of energy or send to landfill the irreducible core. This is therefore a debate not about whether we support incineration, but about whether we want the universally supported concept of the waste hierarchy to be a reality or a pipe dream, and whether we want to aim high or low. Those of us who support the concept of a single waste authority are alarmed by the increasing reliance on incineration in London—incineration that does not capture heat—at the expense of investment in recycling. There are three key arguments among the many that I would like briefly to discuss.
First, I shall address the coherence of the existing arrangements. The Government point out that the creation of a single waste disposal authority would involve the separation of collection and disposal. They argue that that would undermine both the effectiveness of the system and its accountability to residents. I find that argument rather confusing for several reasons. First, 21 of London’s waste authorities are already part of a two-tier system and the Government’s proposals would not change that. Secondly, the majority of authorities in England operate under a two-tier model, and the Government have not signalled their intention to alter that fact. Thirdly, the recycling performance of two-tier areas is better than that of unitary areas. Two-tier authorities achieved a recycling rate of 31 per cent. in 2005-06, while unitary areas achieved a rate of just 23 per cent. Fourthly, control does not imply ownership. Just as Tesco does not need to own all its suppliers to have a mutually beneficial commercial relationship with them, it is not necessary for the proposed single waste authority to own waste collection to influence it and integrate with it.
The single waste authority that I propose is designed to be more effective and accountable. Its fundamental premise is that processing and disposal, as matters of strategic impact and importance, are best managed at the London level. It would be right and proper for such a body to have strong local representation on its board, so my new clauses would allow for that. Equally, most of the authority’s day-to-day operations would be undertaken through a sub-regional structure that would be close to the reality on the ground locally. Collection services need to be managed locally, so it is right for that to continue and for the services to be co-ordinated with strategic processing and disposal operations.
There has been something of a mischievous attempt to confuse waste disposal, which is the subject of my new clauses, with waste collection. It has never been the case—this has been unambiguously stated by the Mayor of London—that rubbish collection and street cleaning should not remain with the boroughs. The attempts to muddy the water made by the leader of Westminster were mischievous and have not helped us to move the debate forward.
As the hon. Lady seems to think that there is an unimpeachable argument in favour of a single waste authority, why not have a single authority to deal with street cleaning and the enormous amount of refuse in London? I do not understand her argument for drawing such a distinction. Surely there is a risk that one authority would lead to the other, after time.
Among other factors, the central argument is probably the fact that street cleaning and rubbish collection generally work well at the devolved level. However, recycling and waste disposal are not working well in most London authorities, which is not helping us to avoid the risk of landfill fines, to deliver on carbon emissions and to achieve what we need to achieve. There are many responses to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but that is probably the simplest.
City of Westminster has a recycling rate of only 18 per cent. Clearly recycling is not working well there, however good the authority might be at sweeping the streets.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, although Westminster meets its targets. To be absolutely fair to my authority and inner London as a whole, recycling in inner London is extremely difficult, which is precisely why we need to consider how we can use a London-wide provision, ensure that there is planning capacity to build recycling facilities and achieve a co-ordinated approach through which we can raise our game both in Westminster and across the board.
I thank the hon. Lady for her relatively supportive comments, at least on this occasion, about City of Westminster. May I come back on the point made by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey)? It is clearly very difficult to recycle in a place such as Westminster, which has improved its record almost beyond recognition in recent years, although I accept that it has a long way to go. Of course, the terrorist threat makes a difference to the amount of refuse collection and recycling that can go on. The same is true in the other part of my constituency: the City of London. Although its headline recycling rates are poor, none of us should ignore the great terrorist risks during our consideration of the matter.
I accept much of what the hon. Gentleman says. However, this is not about playing party political games over whether authorities of certain political complexions are good or bad. We need to examine London’s performance as a whole, which is poor. The situation needs to change, and that is the case in inner London, with its challenging circumstances, and in several outer-London authorities, too.
One needs only to look at the diagrammatic representation of London’s waste management structure to get a sense of its disservice to accountability. I am a great believer that the most basic starting point for proper accountability is clarity, and a single waste disposal authority creates a clear line of accountability for waste processing and disposal. The Mayor would be directly accountable to Londoners and to Government for the processing and disposal of their waste, and boroughs would be accountable to the Mayor and residents for ensuring that recycling and collection services are integrated with strategic disposal needs. That can be contrasted with current arrangements, whereby the joint waste disposal authorities, which collectively manage 60 to 70 per cent. of London’s waste and spend vast sums of money, are not directly accountable to the people whom they purport to serve. They are little better than quangos and just as elusive in accountability terms.
I would hazard a guess that most Londoners have heard of the Mayor, whether favourably or unfavourably, and have a pretty good idea of what he is responsible for and what they can do if they do not like it. I doubt very much, however, whether Londoners could tell us much about the Western Riverside waste authority or the East London waste authority—including the increasing number of Londoners who are very concerned about the climate change agenda, carbon and the contribution of all those services to that agenda.
I can tell the House a little about the Western Riverside waste authority—it is a bit of a joke. When it finally attempted a legal challenge to the London borough of Wandsworth’s avoidance of obligations on paying for commercial waste collection, it got into difficulties because officers of the authority were also officers of Wandsworth council. That is a good example of how such parochial arrangements simply do not work.
I agree with my hon. Friend.
The argument is fundamentally not about bureaucratic neatness, but about what is best placed to deliver on the considerable challenges of truly sustainable waste management in our capital city. The Government say that local authorities in London are on track to reduce their landfill use, and are not therefore at risk of incurring the fines that would apply if they do not meet their objectives. That is prayed in aid in arguing the need for the significant, radical change of a single waste authority. I do not accept such arguments.
London has two large-scale waste incineration plants, which manage 20 per cent. of London’s waste between them. That is significantly more than any other region, which has led to false confidence in London’s ability to meet landfill targets, particularly after 2010. The real tipping point with landfill targets will come between 2010 and 2013, but many London authorities have neither plans nor procurements to ensure that an infrastructure will be in place to cope with that. The GLA estimates that four fifths of London authorities are at high or medium risk of not meeting their landfill obligations, and even the construction of the Belvedere incineration plant will not alter that.
Currently, about two thirds of London’s waste is buried in landfill sites, and most is taken to sites in the surrounding counties. The Mayor has set a target that London should be 80 per cent. self-sufficient in managing its municipal waste by 2020, and by that date London will need four times its existing recycling capacity and three times its existing waste treatment capacity. While the Government are concerned in the short term about changing governance arrangements and the risk of failing to deliver on early landfill directive targets, the real challenge is in the medium to long term, when estimated fines for landfill could rise to £35 million in 2010, £139 million in 2013 and £232 million by 2020.
Both the amount of landfill and the risk of incurring fines could be reduced in several ways. First and foremost among those is investment in recycling and new technologies. At present, London incinerates 20 per cent. of its waste, and that is set to rise to 38 per cent.—a substantial and unacceptable proportion of the UK total. Incineration can drive out the scope both for new technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis and for recycling. Those new technologies are at the cutting edge of alternatives to landfill and incineration, and have a number of beneficial side products, which among other things permit the creation of heat and energy and provide scope to produce hydrogen—one of the key fuels of the future. Clearly, on the basis of current developments, the scope for investing in new technologies and plants to boost recycling is at risk of being driven out by the emphasis on incineration.
Recycling as it stands is unsatisfactory and London’s performance is poor. Some London boroughs are performing well, as we have discussed, and others are not. Overall however, London is the poorest performing region for recycling of household and municipal waste, with just 21 per cent. of household waste recycled, as against the English average of 27 per cent. Just one London borough is in the upper quartile of local authorities on their recycling performance and 18 London authorities are in the lower quartile.
I hope that I may be allowed to make some comments later about the strategic point, but what would the hon. Lady say to local authorities such as mine, which not only have a much improved record, but have well advanced plans—blessed by the Government before the Bill came before the House, and with millions of pounds committed—to do exactly all the good things that she has described, want to do them, can deliver, and can set the way for other authorities to do the same?
I say good. Well-performing authorities have nothing to fear and everything to gain from being located in a broader strategic context. I throw this question back at the hon. Gentleman. What would he say to Londoners in or concerned about the 18 London authorities that are performing below the average, yet which have no obvious incentive to improve their performance under the current arrangements or the Government’s proposals? We all have a stake in London’s improvement, whether we are concerned about it from a value-for-money or an environmental perspective.
If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I shall not. I have taken a lot of interventions and I am coming close to the end of my comments.
My final point is on the arguments about the risks and benefits of introducing a single waste disposal authority. It is a truism that any major change represents both a threat and an opportunity at the same time. The question is always where the balance between the two lies. It is self-evident that if we do not change anything there will be no transitional costs. However, that is not an argument for not changing arrangements that are clearly failing. I have tried to demonstrate that London now needs to shift from first gear into fifth gear when it comes to waste. My fear is that the current system is incapable of getting beyond second. Do we stick with the current system, brace ourselves and hope for the best, or do we try to do better?
Research undertaken by the GLA has estimated that the set-up and transition costs of a single waste disposal authority would be between £3 million and £4 million over two or three years, and that that would broadly balance out against increased administrative overheads. That is of course an estimate, and the actual cost would invariably prove to be more, but it gives an order of magnitude of what we are talking about. Research has also estimated that the savings on capital costs with a single waste disposal authority could be as high as £675 million, with annual savings on operational costs of as high as £71 million. That gives an impression of what is at stake.
I worry that by focusing so much on short-term and transitional risks the Government have taken their eye off the real threat. That threat is that our capital city will go into the next decade with a waste management system and waste management performance more befitting of the 19th century than the 21st century. We have an opportunity to give London a sustainable, co-ordinated, long-term solution, in the form of a single waste disposal authority. I still hope that the Government will reconsider their position.
I shall make just a few comments against the hon. Lady’s new clause, which would not be in the best interests of London as a whole or my borough of Bexley in particular. We on the Conservative Benches believe in local people making local decisions. Giving more power to the centre or to the Mayor is quite the reverse of that, and causes us palpitations.
No. I have only just started and I would like to make a few points first.
We have listened to the debate with interest. Bexley has been tremendously successful in waste and recycling over many years. That success has been based on the integration of collection and disposal in one authority. My fear is that setting up a single waste authority would remove that disposal function from the council, thereby making it less effective for the people of our borough.
There are many flaws in the new clause and the arguments that the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) put forward. The timing of the proposal, so close to the first landfill directive target year of 2009-10, would delay progress towards reaching recycling targets and removing waste from landfill, because it would introduce uncertainty into the management of waste in London. I accept that many boroughs and parts of London are not meeting targets or doing as good a job as Bexley; they should therefore look at Bexley and learn from that example, so that they can emulate that success. Establishing a bureaucratic overarching system, as the hon. Lady wants to do, would achieve the reverse effect. The centralising of waste disposal would reduce the requirement for communities to take responsibility for their waste, as set out in the revised “Waste Strategy 2000” and planning policy statement 10, entitled “Planning for Sustainable Waste Management”.
Under such a scheme, the cost to Bexley is likely to be significantly more than if the present system remained unchanged or was made to work more effectively. The new clause does not set out how a single waste authority would work in co-operation and partnership with the boroughs; rather, it requests additional powers of direction. Of course we want boroughs to co-operate, and more recycling and waste disposal, but this is not the way forward. The “need” case as set out in this proposal is based on old or flawed data. We in Bexley would lose control of Foots Cray and Thames Road re-use and recycling centres, which would disrupt the council’s recycling and composting operations.
Neither we in Bexley nor the Mayor are in favour of the waste energy incinerator in Belvedere that the Government have thrust on us. Local people and experts—and even the Mayor of London—have spoken out on this issue, yet the Government are imposing the incinerator. We fear that if the new clause is accepted and we have such an overarching authority, Bexley will be disadvantaged.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the incinerator. I suppose that I should come clean and thank him for incinerating my rubbish, because it is west London’s rubbish that is floated down to him. I am not quite sure why he is putting the blame on the Government, and why he is so keen to say that the Mayor of London is wrong, given that he and the Mayor seem to be bedfellows on this issue.
Yes, on this issue we are. Bexley already has its own incinerator to deal with its own rubbish. We feel that Bexley should not be imposed on by the hon. Gentleman’s borough and other parts of London; they should be doing the job themselves. The Mayor is against this incinerator on environmental and other grounds, and we share his view. However, the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North would give power to the Mayor and the centre, thereby taking away local democracy and local decision making. Indeed, the Government have done that by imposing an incinerator on us. We do not want any more such impositions, which is why I am against the new clause. It would not be in the long-term interests of recycling or of Bexley.
Since I was not allowed to intervene on the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), perhaps I might start with the point that I was going to make. I was interested to hear him say that local people should be taking local decisions; that is precisely what my constituents are complaining about. London residents are taking decisions and dumping their rubbish on my constituents, so slogans such as the hon. Gentleman has been using can just as easily be used to the opposite effect.
Although this may appear to be a London issue, I am speaking in this debate because, as I have just said, it is not entirely that; it has wider effects, and does affect my Milton Keynes constituency. I was extremely surprised to discover in the answer to a number of recent written questions that Environment Agency records show that more than 15,000 tonnes of London waste have been disposed of in the six months between April and September 2006 at the Newton Longville landfill, in my constituency. At the south-east regional level, there are plans to increase the amount of London waste disposed of in my constituency. That is widely opposed in my constituency, and I support that opposition.
In responding to one of my written parliamentary questions, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pointed out that the London Mayor does indeed aim for London to be 85 per cent. self-sufficient in waste management by 2020. That has unleashed a rather interesting correspondence between the Mayor and the Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare, which has helpfully been copied to me. The Mayor pointed out that although he does indeed have a duty to produce a spatial development strategy, the boroughs are not delivering that strategy and he has no power to make them do it. As a consequence, two thirds of the municipal waste of London boroughs goes to landfill in surrounding areas, including in my constituency. The Government have responded by saying that they are proposing new powers for the London Mayor that will deal with that problem, but they will do nothing of the sort.
I welcome the fact that some new powers will be given to the London Mayor, but they will not be sufficient. He will not have any power to provide additional waste capacity within London, and that is obviously essential if London is to stop exporting its problems and dumping them on someone else. He also has no power to control how or where London’s waste is disposed of.
There is another, peripheral, problem that I have not got to the bottom of yet, but I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will elucidate it for me in further correspondence. That problem is how some London boroughs appear to be shuffling off their responsibility for municipal waste by some devious privatising method, which means that although the waste is still coming from the commercial stream, it is no longer their responsibility. I suspect that more of that will end up in landfills in surrounding areas, thus visiting the problem on other people.
I strongly support the new clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck). It is essential that London get to grips with its waste problems; it must deal with them itself and stop exporting them to other people. I understand the arguments about economies of scale, and I fully accept that it is much easier to recycle waste in a dispersed urban environment such as Milton Keynes, where most of the housing is modern and well designed, than in London boroughs—especially inner London boroughs—which have many space constraints. However, that is an argument in favour of a London-wide policy. Inner London boroughs that do not really have the ability to solve the problem would then be part of a strategic London-wide plan that could address the problem overall.
I support my hon. Friend on behalf of my constituents who feel strongly about the issue. I urge the Government to consider giving the Mayor powers for a single waste disposal authority, because my constituents and others outside London should not be faced with picking up the environmental consequences of the inability of most London boroughs to deal with their own rubbish within London.
The hon. Lady talks about the failure of most London boroughs. If she looks at the figures for London councils, she will see that it is false to compare region with region, as the hon. Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) did. Instead, London, as a city, should be compared with other cities. London boroughs, by and large, score better than most metropolitan districts on recycling and waste disposal. We need to be careful not to repeat false arguments and canards that are unfair to London boroughs.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in his place at the beginning of the debate, when the excellent performance of one or two London boroughs—and the extremely poor performance of many others—was discussed. Like most MPs, I live in London during the week, so I know as a consumer—or as a non-consumer, depending on which way one looks at it—the problems here. Recycling is very poor in London, and the hon. Gentleman’s remarks do not amount to a sufficient excuse. We are talking about the London Mayor and the way in which London is exporting its problems to surrounding areas, so it is not relevant to talk about other cities. As far as I know, Milton Keynes does not receive waste from other metropolitan areas, although if it does I will attempt to deal with those authorities as well.
I do not think that London should be exporting its waste, and I would be interested to know whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that it is all right for London to export its problems elsewhere and shuffle off its responsibility. That is not a responsible approach, and I suggest that his Conservative colleague who represents the other half of Milton Keynes would not be keen to agree with him.
I do not want to encourage the hon. Lady unduly, but I was trying to make sure that she did not make a false point again. She knows full well that I am not suggesting that London should be encouraged to export its waste; no responsible person would do that. I am simply saying that a constructive debate requires us to be fair and to make proper comparisons. Many of our great cities have problems getting rid of waste which, although it may not go to Milton Keynes, has to go somewhere else. Bexley and my own borough of Bromley have very high recycling rates, so singling out the London boroughs for blame is unfair. It also undermines the hon. Lady’s argument.
I repeat that if the hon. Gentleman had had the courtesy to be here for the start of the debate, he would have heard me, and my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North, speak glowingly about Bexley—although we also noted that, unfortunately, it serves as an outlier for the other London boroughs. The data show that Bexley ranks 36th of all English authorities, and that is excellent, but the other London boroughs range from 131st to 393rd—that is, the worst. Most of them are well below 300th in that list, and with that I rest my case.
The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) made some extremely heartfelt comments, and it is possible that I would take a similar approach if I represented a seat in the home counties. In our defence, it should be said that we in London have the country’s noisiest and most polluting airport, which is now to have a third runway. I suspect that many of the hon. Lady’s constituents use Heathrow when they fly off on their overseas holidays.
I was brought up not too far away from the constituency of the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West, and there were great battles in the early 1970s about the proposal for a new airport at Wing. That did not get built, and I am sure that many of her constituents were very much opposed to the proposal, just as they oppose a second runway at Stansted. To a certain extent, such things have a tendency to balance out.
I turn now to the main subject of my speech. It is great to be a sparring partner for the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), my next-door neighbour and colleague in Westminster. I suspect that, not for the first time, I shall support her Government rather than her amendment, but that is the way of politics. She made a heartfelt speech earlier, but there is a difference of philosophy between us.
Opposition Members believe that initiatives such as the one that we are discussing should work from the bottom up—that is, that they should operate at a very local level. Recycling is a personal responsibility, and I recycle bottles, plastics and newspapers two or three times a week. For me it is relatively easy, as the nearest recycling point is only 50 yd away from my apartment.
We must encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives, and recycling is an important thing to do. Therefore, in philosophical terms, it makes sense to focus on what happens at the local level in London’s 33 boroughs. I fear that the top-down approach exemplified by setting up a single waste authority would leave very little responsibility in the hands of individuals or local boroughs, and that it would not be an appropriate solution for the future.
However, the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North will be aware that the Mayor of London has called for a single waste authority for London to be established, with a view to it taking over the waste functions currently carried out by Greater London’s local authorities and existing consortium arrangements. Perversely, that single authority would have the greatest impact on those London waste authorities that have the strongest performance.
Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) said that Bexley had been a great success story, but the proposed arrangements would cause it to suffer something of a double whammy: having made the expenditure to set up a new incineration site at Belvedere, it would lose responsibility for it to the single waste authority.
I share some of the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North about incineration, which is a terribly carcinogenic process. We must reduce the amount of stuff that we burn, and simply burying rubbish in the ground is in no sense a realistic solution in environmental terms. The fundamental point is that the London boroughs are closest to their communities, which makes them the best placed bodies to devise and promote arrangements to meet the many and varied needs of their populations.
A single body would mean an end to the income that individual authorities can expect from the Government’s landfill allowance trading schemes, which are an important way forward. There would also be increased costs for council tax payers, passed on through higher GLA costs and a precept higher than the cost of authorities’ own, often highly advantageous, waste disposal contracts. It has been suggested that the increase in overall waste costs might be as much as 5 per cent. In addition, there would be a risk of creating a monopoly service that reduced the end benefits that authorities can obtain for residents and council tax payers in a competitive marketplace.
Even if the powers of a single waste authority were confined to disposal only, the separation of disposal from collection would be enormously disruptive to the entire waste management chain—at least as it is organised in some central London boroughs. The ability of the authority to specify the types of material it would accept and the methods of transfer from collection to disposal could in practice lead to the imposition of a one-size-fits-all waste collection method. That is not the right way forward. Such a system is likely to suit the Mayor’s priorities, but it would fail to recognise the huge differences between London boroughs in terms of their population. For example, about 90 per cent. of Westminster residents live in flats or apartments—a great contrast with the situation in many outer London boroughs, which all have individual needs. Their ability to collect and dispose of waste in particular ways would be ruined under that one-size-fits-all proposal.
I am not aware of all the overseas comparators, although I confess that I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), who was a member of the Committee, whether there was a single waste authority in New York. He said that there had been one for quite some years, but I am not proposing that we should take the direct comparator route because I do not know enough about the New York situation, although clearly there is a large number of flats in Manhattan and one or two other New York boroughs. My concern about the one-size-fits-all idea is that it would go against the grain of many of the important initiatives that have taken place over the past decade.
There is no doubt that the UK has had a terrible recycling record for many years. The hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North rather excitably referred to a 19th-century recycling scheme. However, tens of thousands of people in London died from cholera every decade during that century, so whatever one thinks of the scheme she mentioned, we shall not be taking that recycling and waste disposal route in the years ahead.
Our record has improved significantly, so it is incumbent on anyone proposing a new system to recognise those improvements and ensure that any new arrangements bring about a step change. That would not be the case under the proposed authority. There is little justification for the Mayor taking over local waste collection and recycling services that already operate successfully in line with, or exceeding, national targets and strategies, as is the case in Westminster, where I hope there will be rapid improvements in the years ahead.
The Mayor has argued that a single waste authority is necessary in the light of both London’s relatively poor performance in diverting waste from landfill and the scale of the task the capital faces in meeting future targets. One accepts that there has been a relatively poor record, but it has been much improved. Collection and recycling arrangements have much wider implications for the quality of the local street scene. The development and roll-out of new services needs to be closely integrated with highway design, street furniture and cleansing policies, all of which should be pre-eminently local. Indeed, the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North accepted earlier that such matters should remain local. Although it is recognised that there are a significant number of underperforming London boroughs and that they require assistance, I strongly oppose any form of Mayor-controlled, single waste management authority for London. It would remove vital borough powers and produce an undemocratic structure that would be imposed on London’s residents.
Most importantly, no business case has yet been made for the Mayor’s preferred option of a single waste authority. I therefore urge the Government to await the conclusion of the ongoing discussions taking place on the issue between the boroughs under the guidance of London Councils, the umbrella organisation for London local authorities, before considering any future waste management structure for London. I am very grateful for the assurances that have been given by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who said that he felt that a single waste authority for London would not be the right solution.
I hope that if the new clause goes to a vote, an overwhelming majority of Members in all parts of the House will defeat it. I accept the heartfelt way in which the proposal was made, but a single waste authority is not right for London, or Londoners, now.
I do not support the new clause, although I fully understand the concerns that led my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) to table it. I do not support it for two reasons, and I shall speak very briefly but I think it important that those two reasons are fully understood.
The first is that the approach proposed by the new clause would be in conflict with the principles that underpin the architecture of the Greater London authority. When we were creating the new strategic authority for London, it was very much the Government’s concern at the time to avoid a return to the situation that existed under the previous arrangement with the Greater London council, where there was often a confusion of responsibilities and, frankly, frequent conflict between the GLC and the boroughs. Conflict was, in many respects, endemic.
In devising the architecture and structure for the new system of government in London it was very much our priority to ensure that the Mayor and the Greater London authority should focus on strategic matters that had to be dealt with at a London-wide level, while the boroughs should continue to be responsible for day-to-day service delivery and matters of local impact. That translated into strategic powers for the Mayor to set the overarching parameters but not to interfere in the detailed running of services by the London boroughs.
I fear that my hon. Friend’s proposal is a serious shift in favour of giving the Mayor direct powers to intervene in day-to-day service delivery that should remain with the boroughs. It is more or less impossible to argue that the position should rest at that point and not extend to a single, city-wide waste authority. Indeed, the advocates point to other cities around the world that have single waste authorities. That may be appropriate in those locations, but that was not the architecture that was regarded as appropriate for the structure of government in London, and the new clause would involve a serious break from the principles that underpinned the structure of the Greater London authority. I do not believe that the proposal is conceptually right.
The second reason for my opposition is that it sends absolutely the wrong message to the London boroughs which, over the last few years, have been working very hard to improve their admittedly poor performance on recycling. I can speak about my own local authority, Greenwich, which started from a very low base. The major change that began a process that is already leading to a very considerable improvement in recycling and will go further was the investment in equipment that enables people to throw all their recyclables, whether glass, plastic, paper, card or tin, into a single bin, with the materials then to be separated at the depot. That of course makes it very much easier for members of the public to do the right thing. One of the keys to improving recycling is to make it easy for the public. As a result of that substantial investment in equipment, there was a dramatic increase in the recycling rate in Greenwich.
Of course, we still face a problem, which is that the collection of recyclables is only fortnightly. I am already getting a number of complaints from constituents saying that their recycling bins are overfilled and the collection needs to be weekly. To be fair to the London borough of Greenwich, it recognises that, but the economics made the situation difficult. The borough had to maintain a weekly collection of non-recyclables for health and safety reasons, and it was not feasible initially to go to a weekly collection of both recyclables and non-recyclables without a significant increase in resources. The borough is tackling that in its budget proposals, despite the fact that it is, I am pleased to say, rightly seeking to maintain its low council tax increases in the coming year. It is budgeting for an extension that would allow us the benefit of weekly recycling collections, and if that is achieved, there will be a further improvement in recycling rates; that is my confident prediction.
I notice that the borough is dealing with the problem. It is responding in a sensible, cost-effective way, and it is trying to handle the matter responsibly. The worst possible message to send at this stage would be that the issue will be taken out of the borough’s hands, and that the Mayor will simply override the borough and decide how things would be done better in future. Not only does the proposal conflict with the principles that underpin the architecture of the Greater London authority, but it is a terrible disincentive for authorities that are working hard to improve their recycling rates. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North will recognise that that would not be appropriate, and will not press her new clause to a vote. If she does, I shall certainly support the Government and those Opposition Members who are opposed to the proposal.
A few months ago, I had an exchange with the Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare in Question Time on the very issue that we are discussing. I had been approached by colleagues of mine who run our local authority, who, before the Bill came before the House, were in discussion with the Government about a scheme to build a good, significant new resource park just off the Old Kent road, which is just outside my constituency, but in my borough of Southwark. It was an innovative scheme, and there had been discussions with Government and other people. The Government were positive about the idea, and promised between £30 million and £40 million in private finance initiative credits to support the resource centre. That was part of a plan that would involve moving the current recycling depot, which is just off the Walworth road. It is old-fashioned and badly located, and it is adjacent to residential properties. The move would minimise journey time and disadvantage to others, and would maximise the benefits that occur when lots of different processes happen on the same site. That was a good plan.
To pick up on the point that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) made, Southwark, like Greenwich, had started to make the effort that it needed to make to improve significantly recycling among residents and businesses. We started from a very low base, as the borough’s recycling history was poor, but we have started to improve significantly. We have trebled recycling in the past few years. That is still not good enough, and we are still at the bottom of the league table. If we compare ourselves to many other authorities, among which Bexley is pre-eminent, there is a huge way to go.
There are several specific and general advantages to sustaining the present arrangements, rather than changing them. That argument was made by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, too. He played a key role, as did I, in debates on the legislation that set up the Greater London authority, which my hon. Friends and I supported on the basis of what he calls the architecture. We supported it, but not absolutely; for example, there were other measures that we wanted to add, such as a strategic responsibility for health services, but we took the clear view that it was important to use the building blocks that we had to deal with waste and waste issues.
I want to put the case simply. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) will put the regional strategic case, as he has done throughout proceedings on the Bill. He represents a borough that is one of the best performers, in terms of the issues that we are discussing; it is certainly one of the best in Greater London, and it is recognised across the country that it follows good practice. The Southwark arguments are, in essence, that the borough has gone a long way down the road towards integrated service delivery. It wants to make sure that all the processes are part of a chain of events, starting with the collection at the doorstep, whether that is separate collections or one integrated collection, and going right through to the processing. They are trying to make sure that there is minimal transportation of waste, too.
One of the problems with a London-wide system is that it might result in more transportation of waste, and more transportation by road than by river. I have long argued for more transportation by river, as the river is out there waiting to be used. For a long time, I have had battles with Westminster city council, which transports its waste through Southwark on the way to landfill sites further away in the south-east. In this case, we are talking about sites that are not to the north of the city, but elsewhere. There is a strong argument for minimising journeys, to make sure that we keep activity as local as possible, rather than shipping things to a sub-regional or regional centre, or taking it to boroughs on the edge of London such as Bexley, where there are facilities for landfill, incineration and so on.
We must allow good practice to prevail if the initiatives that have been taken are to succeed. Boroughs embarking on the process will look around the world, buy the best technology, and do different things with it. Some areas of London co-ordinate their waste disposal arrangements with those in other local authorities, but a one-solution-for-all approach may not be the best one, as it may fail to keep up with the best technology of other cities such as Berlin, New York and so on. In waiting for the best there is a big danger that we will encounter the enemy of the good. One argument against the Mayor’s proposal to take responsibility for such matters is that his interventions on making sure that we have the best proposals across London have not been helpful. I expect that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington will refer to London Councils. I am not naive, and I accept that that group reflects the view of the majority in setting out good, strategic reasons why the majority of London councils take the same view as the Government, my local authority, and many Members of Parliament.
May I make three further points? First, the issue was considered in detail by the Government, civil servants and the Government office for London. The Government rightly undertook an extensive consultation before the Bill was introduced in Parliament on changing the powers of the Greater London Authority. Democracy is not a static creation, and it is important to consider whether powers are appropriate at certain levels. The overwhelming evidence was that a London-wide strategic authority was not the right solution for the practical problems of increasing recycling and minimising waste and other disadvantages in London. We asked the Government to commission a body to look at the problem, and that body came up, not with a finely balanced opinion but a clear view, so it would be foolish to turn round at this late stage and say that we should reverse the advice that has been given.
My second point is connected to debates that we shall have later this evening. If we wish to engage local people and businesses, we will receive much more attention in a relatively small community, as we will feel the heat if our performance is not satisfactory. It is rather like the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the water and wine. The contribution of a single Londoner to London’s waste and recycling project represents a very small percentage indeed, but in each borough or, in our area, community council, those contributions are noticeable. Big businesses in Southwark are important players, so boroughs can apply significant pressure. They can see how they are doing year on year, and, to put it bluntly, they can compete with one another. My borough, for example, could compare its performance with those of Lewisham, Lambeth, Westminster and Croydon, so the desire to do better is advantageous. Politicians, too, are under pressure to do better. It is no good thinking that it is always worth taking power away from people. If we wish people to lead environmentally sustainable lives, we must engage local politicians, community leaders, builders, developers, transport operatives and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington knows better than anyone, as BedZED is in his constituency, that we are most persuasive when we notice change locally. If we perceive improvement locally, one is more likely to encourage change.
I am worried by the romantic picture that the hon. Gentleman has painted of localism, because it has not worked. Why have 18 authorities in London failed to reach their target, and why has London’s collective position, which includes all those localities, declined in relative terms?
I will try and give a short answer. I do not think that until relatively recently, many boroughs were seized of the importance of these matters. I shall be blunt. Environmental awareness and turning it into strategic policy priorities has happened in the past few years. Like other colleagues, I travel round the country. I now notice that waste, recycling and environmental issues are much more often on the agenda locally than they were three, four or five years ago, by miles. There has been a cultural shift. That has come about for all sorts of reasons, as we know—not least better education and greater awareness of the crisis that we face. The pressure is now on. If we were in the same relative position in four or five years, my argument would be much weaker. I think there has been an awakening to the issue.
The figures are not as black and white as the hon. Lady paints them in relation to London’s performance. I do not pretend to have seen all the figures, but I have seen the figures from the Mayor’s office and the GLA, and the figures from the London Councils group and others. London performance is improving. Yes, other comparable cities in the world may be improving more, but London is suddenly on the move and going in the right direction.
My final point is that there would be a major cost disadvantage in going down the proposed route. The figure that I have suggests that there might be a £5.5 million per year differential. In a period of relatively scarce resources in local or regional government, £5.5 million a year could reasonably be spent on many other things. We are desperately short of affordable housing. Colleagues were talking this morning about more energy efficient housing. There are all sorts of things that we could spend the money on. We cannot afford a luxury model that most people do not want and which is not proven to be likely to be more successful, when people are improving the situation locally.
We can always advance a nimbyish argument and say that we want to do it our way, however bad we are. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) makes a good point about London having a responsibility not to be a regular net exporter of waste to landfill sites. I understand that a third of the landfill is food waste, and the capital city probably produces more food waste because we are over-indulgent. There are all sorts of things that we need to do for ourselves and for everyone else to make sure that we reduce the waste that we produce. We need not be irresponsible neighbours.
In boroughs like mine, we are beginning to go in the right direction, and we are saying to the Government, “Please allow us to go on doing what we think we can show is rapidly improving the position, with innovative, modern, best practice schemes.” My borough is up for it. We are ready to set the best practice. We want to continue to be encouraged by Government and allowed to get on with that.
I shall speak to the new clauses, new schedules and amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) and myself.
There are some striking inconsistencies in the Government’s position. On the one hand, they tell us that everything is all right, and that in London and the rest of the country things are ticking along nicely. Landfill targets and recycling are a challenge, but no real change is needed in London or anywhere else. On the other hand, they acknowledge that London is not doing as well as it should, and that short, medium and longer-term landfill targets are a real challenge to the current system. Consequently, London needs a strong regional approach through the Mayor. We are told that London boroughs and London as a whole need to improve their performance, stop talking and put strategic solutions in place to meet landfill and recycling targets. But we are told that the best way to achieve that is to sit around a table as part of a voluntary forum, drink coffee, eat biscuits and set London’s waste problems to rights by talking about them.
The Government argue that the Mayor’s proposals for a single waste disposal authority are bad because they split responsibility for collection and disposal. Those things, the Government say, need to be done at the same level. Either the Mayor does it all, or not at all. Although the Government say that these things are best done at local level, their own wider proposals for the rest of the country for joint working among local authorities on waste are about consolidating upwards from district to county level, not downwards to the districts. The Secretary of State will make statutory boards where districts request that.
As things stand, waste management in London is a tangled mess of waste organisations and responsibilities. We have four statutory joint waste disposal authorities, 33 waste collection authorities, 33 waste planning authorities, 12 unitary waste authorities and, of course, the GLA itself. London already has a wide range of forums, organisations and networks for waste that operate across the capital, such as London Waste Action, the London waste strategic advisory group, the London cleansing officers group, the London recycling officers group, directors of the environment network, the regional technical advisory body for waste, and the London technical officers group. For fear of making it sound like a Friday, I will not read them all out, but I believe that there are another 10 or a dozen more.
That arrangement is purely a function of historical accident rather than design. It represents the fragmentation of waste management following the abolition of the strategic government of London—the Greater London council—more than 20 years ago and the opportunities that have been missed since then to put things right. Faced with this unstructured confusion, the Government now propose yet another forum to bring together waste stakeholders in the capital. Waste in London has too much governance and not enough government. The Government’s response to the considerable waste charges that my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North highlighted is more talk but no more action.
What about the boroughs’ existing and anticipated performance on waste recycling? Perhaps the structural and organisational absurdities could be tolerated if this laissez-faire approach worked, but the evidence proves the opposite. The capital did not meet its modest 25 per cent. target for household recycling in 2005-06. Worse still, it was the poorest performing region in the country—two thirds of its authorities are on the lowest quartile for recycling waste products from households. When all the waste collected by local authorities in the capital is included, London recycles a mere 9 per cent. compared with 30 per cent. for the country as a whole.
The Government concede that London’s recycling performance is poor. They say that as the proposed single waste disposal authority would not also run collection, it would have no impact on altering that performance. Such an authority is necessary, however, because it would be able to direct authorities to deliver materials to it in a specific way. Through the way in which it charged for its services, it could create real incentives for maximum recycling. Through the type of recycling and composting facilities that it built, it would create more opportunities for increased recycling and service consistency across the capital.
On progress towards meeting landfill targets, London once again leaves a lot to be desired. An Office of Government Commerce report in 2005 showed that the London region had the second lowest number of planned facilities programmed to be built over the next 15 years. London is planning to build 11 new facilities over the next few years, but has nothing planned beyond 2011. That can be compared with the 308 additional facilities required by the statutory London plan to meet the capital’s self-sufficiency targets for 2020.
I am sorry to disagree with my neighbour and right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), but I cannot think of any function that is more strategic than that of waste management in London.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the failure of the western London boroughs to achieve their recycling targets? In my part of London, they have taken the easy option of going for mass incineration without first addressing the whole question of the hierarchy of waste management, much to the detriment of recycling initiatives in London.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The West London waste authority is 217th out of all 393 English authorities and, as he says, did not meet its target.
The London statutory plan shows that 308 additional facilities would be required by 2020. That message was reinforced in the past six months by the National Audit Office report stating that all local authorities need to make a step change in planning and performance if landfill targets for 2010 and beyond are to be met.
London is also poor in relation to planning for waste facilities. No boroughs have prioritised waste planning in their local development schemes. Consequently, London will be without site-specific allocations of land for waste for the next three to four years—possibly the most critical time scale when London should be putting in place waste facilities to serve the future generations. That cannot inspire confidence in those who must finance and build these facilities. We have a system that is a developing crisis. Some boroughs have recognised it and are seeking to do the best they can, but the overall picture does not provide any room for optimism.
I would also like briefly to mention the issue of general conformity. The Bill proposes this new legal requirement on the boroughs, which will have to ensure that they are in general conformity with the Mayor’s waste strategy. That is a legal minefield and a recipe for deadlock. Local authorities and the Mayor will be tied together in continuous judicial reviews and London council tax payers will foot both sides of the lawyers’ bills. The outcome will be critical delays in the delivery of overdue waste infrastructure and service improvements.
So far, since 2003 the Mayor has had to use his powers of direction four times to ensure compliance with the municipal waste management strategy. Three directions relate to the West London waste authority, picking up the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin) just made, and one to the London borough of Enfield. Each decision is subject to judicial review, but none of them has yet been heard and none of the issues raised has been resolved to date. Surely the new duty for general conformity is an open invitation to confrontation and argument. I fail to see how it will contribute to a system that needs to speed up rather than slow down in order to deliver.
Will my hon. Friend tell the House why we should believe that if the proposal that he supports is put in place, the boroughs will accept direction from the Mayor without seeking judicial review? I would have thought that if their collection procedures and practices were all subject to direction, there would be far more conflict and far more scope for judicial review.
I think that the lines of authority and responsibility would be that much clearer, so it would make life much easier if we had such a system. It is quite clear that the system in place so far has not achieved that, as shown by the judicial reviews that we have already had.
I believe that having a single waste authority for London would provide economies of scale, focus, and strategic investment to minimise unnecessary transport movements. It would provide procurement expertise and an unfettered priority to meet the Government’s waste management objectives. It would put a premium on procuring state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly bulk recycling facilities. In London, we suffer from a waste management system creaking under the weight of its own contradictions and poor performance. The future needs to be radically different from the past and we require a wholesale change in approach, not a mere tinkering with the current inadequate set-up. We need the sort of approach outlined in the new clauses, amendments and schedules that my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North and I have proposed this evening.
It is a pleasure to participate in the debate, focusing on waste-related issues in London. It is certainly a very significant matter for my constituents. In many ways, Rainham in my constituency is a rarity: it is a landfill facility that takes in several hundred thousand tonnes of rubbish from London year on year. Indeed, Rainham has in many ways been a dumping ground for London’s problems for generations—hence the perhaps heightened anxiety of my constituents when they see the potential of the Mayor seeking to take greater powers to deal with waste-related matters.
Hon. Members have raised a number of points, particularly about the sense of community, namely, that individual communities should take greater responsibility for waste-related treatment and processes. My own area of Rainham has not only a landfill site, but a materials recycling facility. A new one has just opened and there is the prospect of a further one, while an autoclave facility may well be established in the course of the next two years. There is even the possibility of a waste gasification plant being created in the next few years in a very small area of land.
All that creates some concern for residents in my constituency about what the future may hold for Rainham, particularly in the context of it being at the heart of the Thames Gateway and in light of the changes, growth and investment coming into the local community. Understanding how Rainham meets the obligations of east London and Essex may make it easier for my constituents to put their concerns about the area into perspective, but it becomes a very different matter when the issue is placed on a capital-wide or a London-wide footing.
It might be seen as an easy approach to say that because there are already waste-related facilities in Rainham, it would be acceptable to put more there. That might appear an easy option. It would, however, create huge resentment and anxiety among my constituents. They are already picking up the problems of east London and Essex, and more than fulfilling their responsibilities in regard to the inputs that are coming through. To extend that undertaking would create more problems and inhibit the potential for much-needed and long-promised regeneration in my community.
In the wider context, it is important that people should have a much greater stake in, and a much greater linkage with, these issues in their local communities. I do not buy the argument that putting waste management on a London-wide footing through a London-wide waste authority would maintain a sense of community engagement and involvement. In many ways, it would take the decision-making processes and the sense of ownership further away from the people, where they need to be.
I am sceptical about the import and impact of a London-wide waste authority. I am also sceptical about what it would mean for my constituency, given the role that my area already plays in dealing with at least part of London’s waste problems. If we were to go down this track, the system would become more expensive and less directly accountable to the communities. It would not fulfil our aspirations for increasing recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste going into landfill. The new technologies that are coming through could well contribute to our ability to meet those challenges.
I am not convinced that a London-wide waste authority would achieve the ends that its proposers are seeking. Indeed, it could be harmful in the context of improving recycling rates and the way in which London deals with its waste, and improving the direct ownership that local communities need in order to fulfil those aspirations.
I should like to start by saying, “Credit where credit is due.” The hon. Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) has been consistent in deploying her argument, both today and in Committee. She said that she did not want this issue to split the parties. Well, it does not, because the Government, the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats are all united against her proposal. If it has split any party, it is her own, which seems to be divided down the middle on the issue, as we have seen today. I hope, however, that she does not feel that the parties are ganging up on her.
There are some areas of agreement, however. I agree with the hon. Lady that incineration should be minimised as far as possible, and we are all in agreement that some London councils perform well while others perform very badly. However, I wonder whether there might not be risks associated with the Mayor taking on waste disposal through a single waste authority. He might, for instance, adopt a policy of maximising recycling, but we all know that the market for recyclables goes up and down, so he could be left in a very difficult position. Perhaps a mixed economy, in which different authorities were trying different things, would be safer in the long term than going for one particular approach.
It feels almost as though our debate on 16 January did not take place. The hon. Lady has restated the arguments that she set out in that debate, but they were not accepted by Members on that day, and I do not think that they have been developed since then. I suspect that the outcome of today’s debate will therefore be the same because our concerns have not been addressed. Indeed, new concerns have been identified today, including the problem of the lowest common denominator. Is it not possible that, under a single waste disposal authority, the best performing authorities would find their performance being pushed down, even if the worst performing authorities were dragged up a little? That risk certainly exists.
Neither the hon. Lady nor other Labour Members could explain why they have this blind faith in the powers of the Mayor to make things different. Why would he be able to improve the bottom authorities? She did not explain how he would achieve that. It is clear from the examples given by other Members this afternoon that some local authorities are grabbing the problem by the scruff of the neck and beginning to tackle it. The hon. Lady did not explain why a one-size-fits-all approach would be appropriate. Would she deploy similar proposals for other aspects of London life? Some might argue, for example, that the pan-London schools admissions system was not working well and that there was a case for the Mayor taking responsibility for that as well. She did not make a convincing argument for why the London-wide waste authority was an appropriate approach to take, and she is not advocating similar measures in other areas. With regard to admissions, local authorities across London have worked together to devise a system which, while not perfect, ensures a much quicker response for children seeking places in secondary schools.
Perhaps the hon. Lady was hoping that Members would have short memories, and that we would have forgotten what took place on 16 January. I think that even Members have slightly longer memories than that. Perhaps she was hoping that the Members here today who were not in Committee would be convinced by her arguments, but I do not think that is the case. One major flaw in the hon. Lady’s proposal is the fact that it goes against the grain of the whole Bill. We have some arguments with the Government over the planning aspects of the Bill, in which there is a move towards centralising power in the hands of the Mayor and taking it away from local authorities, but, broadly speaking, it is a devolutionary Bill. However, the hon. Lady’s proposals are very much about centralising in the hands of the Mayor powers that are currently held by the local authorities, which goes against the grain.
I should like to leave the hon. Lady with a few examples from the London councils briefing. Perhaps they will also be useful to other Members who have not heard the arguments. They provide reasons why her proposals should be opposed. Members of a financially prudent nature—I am sure that that applies to all of us—will want to know that the Government’s estimate of the additional cost of the proposals is £5.5 million a year. Members who are worried about money and about the council tax levels that their residents would have to pay should remember that. Those of an environmental bent might be interested to know that the new body would divert valuable resources from the serious business of addressing issues such as recycling. It would distract attention from what we are trying to achieve on environmental matters.
Furthermore, we all know that organisational and structural changes divert valuable management resources and distract attention from the key objectives of an organisation. We have seen this happening time and again in the NHS, and we do not want to see it happening with waste disposal in London. Many Members have expressed support for devolutionary measures, but putting these powers in the hands of the Mayor and City Hall would clearly not be a devolutionary measure.
Finally, I make an appeal to Labour Back Benchers who, I am sure, will want to do the right thing by their Government. The Government have made it clear—be it through the Minister who is here today or the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—that they do not support this proposal in any shape or form. I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw her new clause, but if she does not, we shall join the Government and the official Opposition in opposing it.
It has been a fascinating debate for those of us—the great majority—who were not in Committee on 16 January. I think that only two people who have spoken tonight had to listen to the previous debate. My overriding impression is that, essentially, this is a debate about process. We are all equally concerned that London is not doing as well as it should, although I come from the borough of Bromley, which was green and clean long before I became the Member of Parliament for Beckenham more than nine years ago. As everybody else has talked about what their local authority has done, I should say that it has just introduced a fat recycling scheme for restaurants and other such outlets. That innovative scheme covers a number of boroughs. We feel strongly that we are at the forefront of recycling and of dealing with waste collection.
Many of the boroughs are determined to get better and I think that we would probably all agree that we do not want that determination to be dashed because of a centralising measure and a one-size-fits-all approach. I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford). However, much as I might not have agreed with him when he piloted the Greater London Authority Act 1999 through the House, I certainly agree with him on this occasion on his principal argument that the Mayor should take a strategic role and not a day-to-day role. It is clear that there is enthusiasm on the part of the boroughs for the day-to-day role. They acknowledge that the Mayor already has a strategic role in relation to waste. That is as I think it should be, provided that the boroughs grip the whole issue and improve their waste recycling and disposal habits.
I feel quite sorry for the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey). She clearly feels put upon by all of us from London, but if she hangs on for a little bit, she will find that things will get better. Clearly, all the various schemes that the boroughs are involved in concentrate on ensuring that Milton Keynes gets fewer tonnes of waste and that we look after it better ourselves.
There is huge innovation. Perhaps incineration is not the best example, but I know of an old chemical incineration plant—not in the Greater London area—that recycled and cleaned some of the nastiest industrial oils and solvents. There was one famous occasion, at the height of the smuggling of alcohol, when Customs and Excise retrieved a large consignment of orange-flavoured liqueurs. For the space of a week, the plant spewed orange all over the neighbouring areas.
Well, some of us thought that at the time, but, unfortunately, if the liqueurs had been resold, the market would have crashed, so it was a sensible measure in that respect. A few years later, that incineration plant is clean, does not produce any smells and does a first-class job of producing feedstock for the cement industry. I say no more than that about incineration, but my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) mentioned what is happening in Rainham. We also heard from the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). If I continue with the list of examples that have been given, I will be here for a long time.
There is a ferment of science and technology going on in the area of waste disposal and we should be in the business of ensuring that that continues. I am a great supporter of anaerobic digestion. Nobody has yet mentioned that particular waste disposal system, but it is moving into large-scale production on the continent and there is no reason why we should not be looking to use it to deal with more of London’s waste. While that ferment of scientific progress is going on, we should not impose a monolithic, one-size-fits-all system, which would stop innovation and all the bright ideas that are flowing forth.
I sympathise with what the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) is trying to achieve. We all want to achieve much better results from the London boroughs. However, along with many others in the House, I am not convinced that the system that she recommends will deal with the issue. We believe that costs can be taken out by local authorities clustering together to share the costs of waste disposal and that having more organisations involved in developing waste disposal systems is good for us. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) refrained from his usual Friday contribution, but he did list the wide variety of organisations in London that jaw-jaw, not war-war. Perhaps the benefit of that is that they share best practice and move the waste disposal debate on, rather than inhibiting it.
I know that we have a large number of issues still to address, so I will conclude with these few words. I regretfully say to the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North that I hope that she withdraws the new clause. It is a debate that has been worth having and that we should continue to have, but the feeling of the House is perhaps not on her side this evening.
Given the thorough examination of the proposal in Committee, I can only salute the optimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) in hoping that the Government might change their mind this evening. Sadly, I fear that I am about to disappoint her.
Through the Bill, the Government propose to strengthen the strategic role of the Greater London Authority in ensuring that London’s waste is managed sustainably. As many hon. Members, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) in particular, have said, we are at a crucial stage in delivering a step change in the way in which we manage waste in the UK, in order to reduce the environmental impact of our waste and to meet challenging EU targets. In just three years’ time, we face tough targets to reduce the amount of waste that we send to landfill. The targets pose a real challenge for local authorities. I am pleased to say that recent indications show that London is responding positively to that challenge. Figures for 2005-06 show that as a region it is second only to the west midlands in reducing waste to landfill—a point made by several hon. Members.
Some of London’s success on landfill diversion is due to its above-average use of energy-from-waste technology. Incineration with energy recovery is a better environmental option than landfill. Data from other EU member states demonstrate that the use of incineration with energy recovery is compatible with high recycling rates. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands all have much higher recycling rates than the UK, while making greater use of incineration technologies. For example, the Netherlands recycles 65 per cent. and incinerates 33 per cent. of its waste.
Recycling is also very important and performance on that is mixed in London, as many hon. Members said. Although two London boroughs, Sutton and Bexley, have been awarded beacon status on waste and recycling, Tower Hamlets is at the bottom of the national recycling league table. Some London boroughs need to make major improvements. The Government are working with them to make sure that that happens and are prepared to use formal intervention powers if necessary.
We cannot be complacent about the scale of the challenge ahead and the further progress needed on landfill diversion and recycling over the coming years. Nevertheless, significantly changing the governance structures for London’s waste at this crucial time could undermine and delay the urgent work that authorities are undertaking.
The amendments and new clauses relate to the establishment of a single waste authority for London. The proposals were tabled and debated in detail in Committee before being withdrawn. Some of the right hon. and hon. Members who are present will have heard the explanation why the Government do not support a single waste authority for the capital. For the benefit of those who were not present in Committee, I shall reiterate the Government’s position on that and on the amendments.
The arguments for a single waste authority are based on the premise that London will fail to meet its landfill diversion targets and that such an authority would improve performance across the capital and deliver efficiencies. The evidence that we have seen contradicts that view. First, it suggests that London is doing well at diverting from landfill, although, as in the rest of the country, there is still much more to be done. Secondly, there is the suggestion that a fundamental change in the governance structures for London’s waste would lead to a dip in London’s performance.
The first of the EU landfill diversion targets is just three years away. We face significant fines if those targets are missed. The creation of a new single waste authority would threaten the good progress which latest figures show London is making. There would be significant set-up costs for a new authority, as well as disruption as a result of transferring staff, assets and contracts from the London boroughs to the new body. Boroughs would have no incentive to drive forward investment in the new waste facilities needed in London during any transition to a single waste authority.
The proposals would also split control over collection, recycling and disposal responsibilities between two different political bodies. The single waste authority would not have responsibility for recycling, so would be able to do little to improve recycling rates in the capital. That is why the vast majority of London boroughs, irrespective of political colour, are opposed to a single waste authority for London.
We have not seen any convincing evidence that such an authority would deliver improvements in waste management or cost efficiencies. A single waste disposal authority could result in extra costs to the Government and to the boroughs, and could put at risk our landfill diversion targets. If the UK were to fail to meet its targets, the resulting fines would be likely to be passed on to London’s council tax payers.
Over the past year, the Government have thought long and hard about the governance of London’s waste. Our position has been informed by a public consultation and by a number of detailed consultancy reports. It is our considered view that significantly restructuring London’s waste arrangements would divert attention and resources at a crucial time, and would put at risk performance and the achievement of our EU targets. We therefore see little benefit in making significant and costly changes to how waste functions are delivered at the local and regional level. Instead, efforts and resources should be focused on improving diversion and recycling performance within current structures.
Before I turn to the amendments and new clauses, I should like to pick up on a couple of points raised by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) made the point that too much waste was exported from London. It is Government policy that waste should be disposed of at the nearest appropriate installation. However, some of London’s waste will always need to be exported, because there is not space in the city to landfill waste that cannot be recycled or otherwise treated. She said that she has raised several other issues and is awaiting correspondence from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am sure that her remarks will have been noted and that correspondence will follow very soon.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) raised the legal question of general conformity. As clause 36 indicates, the Government will issue guidance on a test for general conformity in due course, as they did for planning in planning policy statement 12. In planning, the concept of general conformity between plans prepared by different tiers of government is long standing and has not given rise to significant practical difficulties. The Government hope that any difference of opinion on whether the test had been met would be resolved, wherever possible, through discussion.
Amendment No. 1, new clauses 1 ,2, 5 and 6, and new schedules 1, 2 and 3 seek to amend the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to establish, and give powers and duties to, a single waste disposal authority for London—the “London Waste Authority”. I have already made it clear that I cannot accept them, because they would fundamentally change the way in which London manages its waste, and the Government firmly believe that waste services are best operated at local level.
Amendment No. 2 would extend the Mayor’s power of direction so that he could direct waste collection and waste disposal authorities in London in the manner in which they manage their waste beyond the second information notice stage of their tendering of a waste contract. Extending the Mayor’s power in that manner would create uncertainty and could make the waste industry less willing to engage in the procurement process with London authorities.
On new clause 3, it is difficult to understand what purpose would be served by a minerals and waste development scheme for London, because the Mayor does not have the responsibility for preparing the associated development plan documents on minerals and waste. That is the responsibility of the boroughs, and no case has been made for moving the responsibility to the Mayor. If the intention of the proposal is that the Mayor should prepare a minerals and waste development scheme and therefore take on the responsibility for site-specific plan making for waste and minerals sites, doing so would create the wrong balance of decision making. Site-specific plans should be made by boroughs, which have an intimate knowledge of their local area, while the Mayor maintains a strategic policy direction.
New clause 4 proposes amendments to sections 353, 355 and 357 of the 1999 Act. Section 353 of that Act relates to the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy. The relevant amendment would widen the scope of the strategy to include litter. The Government believe that litter policy is best dealt with at local level, in accordance with local needs and circumstances. For the same reason, we also reject the proposed amendment to section 355, which would require waste collection and disposal authorities to act in general conformity with the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy when clearing litter and refuse. The amendment to section 357 relates to the new clauses proposing a single waste authority, on which I have given my views.
I turn to new clause 7, which we agreed in Committee to consider further. Litter functions are dealt with at the local level by the boroughs, which work closely with partners and others that have responsibility for clearing litter and refuse. They do not have to provide any information to the Mayor before putting street cleansing contracts out to tender. New clause 7 would enable the Mayor to have oversight of procurement activity for street cleansing, presumably with the aim of promoting and encouraging best practice with the boroughs.
Having given the new clause further consideration, we do not think that it would increase the Mayor’s ability to instil best practice or the effective management of contracts. The capital standards programme already provides a forum for partnership work on local environmental quality issues in the capital. We consider that the Mayor’s objective can be met through arrangements such as those, rather than by requiring the boroughs to inform him about their contracts. London boroughs are best placed to assess local needs and arrangements for dealing with litter, and to exercise their powers and duties appropriately.
The Government’s proposals to enhance the Mayor's powers, along with his existing power of direction, will help to ensure that the strategic vision that he sets out for London is delivered on the ground. For the reasons that I have already explained, I cannot accept the proposals tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North. I hope that I have been able to reassure my hon. Friends of the Government’s robust approach to managing London’s waste, and I ask them to reconsider and to avoid pressing their proposals to a Division.
I like a challenge, and I have listened carefully to the arguments. I shall not be pressing new clause 1 to a Division because I have done the math, as the Americans would put it. However, I remain unconvinced by the arguments, which seem to relate to two themes. The first is local decisions being taken by local people. The other is an approach of, “Trust us. We are getting better and we will deliver.” I am still of the view that it is the Government, the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats who are the optimistic ones. I have no intention of rehearsing the arguments yet again, but I should make some brief comments.
On the issue of local decisions taken by local people, there are two points to be made. The first is that a local decision taken by one set of local people may not necessarily be in the interests of another set of local people—indeed, such a decision may be in their disinterests. That is at the heart of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey). We have a shared commitment to localism but we must recognise that localism has its limits, and we need to respond to that.
More importantly, the local decisions taken by local people have to reflect a changing, growing concern about the impact of policies, particularly in the environmental sphere. As I have mentioned, very real financial risks also need to be considered, particularly when it comes to landfill. The Government have assured us that instability and a change of arrangement now could leave us at risk of not meeting our targets in 2010. I understand that, and I reflected that fact in my speech. However, my fundamental argument is that a bigger challenge lies a little further down the line. Although instability might come from making changes at this point, we could otherwise be vulnerable to a bigger risk in the future.
The fundamental issue is whether we are doing well enough. We are not. Do I have grounds for confidence that the improvement in performance over the past couple of years is of a scale and intensity that will allow us to rise to the challenge? Frankly, no I do not. Our performance in London has deteriorated. Although there are excellent authorities and we can see real signs of progress, too many authorities are lagging behind and our city-wide performance is simply not good enough.
Most importantly, we must consider the scale of the challenge in the future. As I said, by 2020 we will need four times the recycling capacity that we have now. We must plan for 100 new waste disposal sites in the coming decade, even though local authorities are disposing of such sites at present. We have no indication that we have in place the investment and strategic grasp that are required not only to turn around today’s laggardly performance, but to meet the challenge that we will face over the coming decade? There is a dangerous risk that the situation will be wrong a decade down the line.
Although I will not press new clause 1 to a Division, for obvious reasons, I do not think that we have heard the last of this matter. The arguments that were put forward did not show a grasp of the scale of what is confronting us. I am worried that we will be held to account a few years down the line by Londoners who will be waking up to the challenge of recycling and to the environmental consequences of not considering new waste disposal technologies and not moving up the waste hierarchy. They will say, “Why were you so complacent?” I am afraid that we are far too complacent in the face of the challenge, and I am sure that we will return to the matter in future. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 8
Approval of Mayor’s final draft budget by Assembly
‘In Schedule 6 to the GLA Act 1999 (procedure for determining the Authority’s consolidated budget requirement), paragraph 8(4) is omitted.’.—[Tom Brake.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
We return to what the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives believe is a fundamental flaw in the Bill. If the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), who has just left the Chamber, had wished to be cruel, she could have pointed out that we were simply re-tabling a measure that we had considered before and that the arguments that we were deploying in its favour had not been developed since we considered the matter in Committee. However, the difference is that new clause 8 commands the support of both my party and the official Opposition, so I suspect that there is a greater likelihood of it being agreed to.
Members of the Public Bill Committee, some of whom are in the Chamber, will recall that we had long and detailed discussions about various aspects of the Mayor’s budget. One long debate related to the component of the Mayor’s budget for the assembly. Concern was expressed about whether a future Mayor might use his or her powers to restrict the assembly’s budget to such an extent that it could not do its job of scrutinising the Mayor’s business. Several extremely complex formulae were also cited in Committee. I will not attempt to describe or elaborate on them today, and I hope that no one will challenge me to do so. Even the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) would have some difficulty explaining the way in which his floors and ceilings operated—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) would like to intervene to clarify the purpose of those extremely complex equations and their factors and parameters.
The crux of our debate was the need to ensure that there was more scrutiny of the Mayor’s budget and a greater role for assembly members in ensuring that the Mayor came forward with a budget that they could support. Hon. Members will know that the existing arrangements require two thirds of assembly members to oppose the Mayor’s budget if it is to be blocked. Many hon. Members in the Chamber must find that difficult to understand. When the Chancellor presents his Budget, he needs to secure the support of a simple majority if it is to proceed, but that is not the case for the Mayor’s budget. One of the aspects of our Committee proceedings that I regretted was that no convincing argument was made for why that was an appropriate way of operating.
We fully support the Government’s desire for more powers to be transferred from central Government to the Mayor. That is the right direction of travel, and it is something for which we have consistently argued since back in 1998, when the original Bill was considered. As I said earlier, we supported giving the Mayor additional powers on rail in London nine years ago. However, we have been just as adamant that as the Mayor acquires additional powers, scrutiny and oversight should be enhanced. There is no logic in requiring the Mayor’s budget to command the support of only a third of assembly members. Democracy dictates that a simple majority should be required.
In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), gave us an uncharacteristically unconvincing explanation. The Minister usually does a very good job of explaining why the Government have adopted a particular position, but he said:
“The GLA’s budget setting process is now tried and tested. It allocates some £9 billion in funding per year and it has been shown to work.”––[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 9 January 2007; c. 77.]
Londoners would dispute that statement. Given that there has been a 100 per cent. increase in the Mayor’s precept over four years, many Londoners would say that the Mayor’s budget process does not work at all.
The Mayor’s precept is a relatively small percentage of the overall council tax bill. People see the headline bill that they receive and then berate their local council, irrespective of its political complexion—whether it is Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem—for the increase in council tax. However, the Mayor’s precept is hidden in the council tax, and it has often increased by significantly more than the council tax.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, with which I entirely agree. However, he should not base his judgments solely on the standards of the London boroughs of Sutton, Kingston and Richmond. The precept is not an especially small percentage of the council tax in City of Westminster or Wandsworth. Indeed, the mayoral precept now amounts to more than 40 per cent. of the total council tax bill in such areas of central London. I hope that the Minister will take full account of what the hon. Gentleman says, because the precept has nearly tripled over the seven and a half years for which we have had the mayoralty in London. The mayoralty is taking a hell of lot more money, and we have the prospect of an ever-larger precept due to the Olympic games and the appalling economics of the madhouse transport policies that the Mayor is inflicting on us for many years to come.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the fact that the Mayor’s precept makes up a significant proportion of the council tax in some boroughs, although, for most boroughs, I think that it is fair to say that it can be hidden away in the detail. That is why there is an argument about whether there should be a change to the billing arrangements for the Mayor’s precept, to introduce a little more clarity and transparency into the system and to allow people to recognise that although their council tax bill might be going up at the rate of inflation or above, the rate of increase in the Mayor’s precept is significantly higher than the rate of inflation.
The most straightforward way might be for the local authority—which is responsible for producing the council tax bill, which includes the Mayor’s precept—to print two separate bills. People would therefore get their local council tax bill and Ken Livingstone’s bill in the same envelope. That would provide extra clarity.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I do not think that it requires a response.
In Committee, the Minister said:
“The two-thirds majority requirement on assembly amendments to the Mayor’s final budget in particular remains appropriate.”
That was a bold statement, but as far as I can recall, arguments to substantiate it, especially given the scale of precept increases seen by Londoners, were noticeably absent. The Minister went on to say:
“Otherwise, allowing the assembly to amend the final budget—like the draft budget—by a simple majority would alter the balance of power at the GLA radically. It would weaken the position of the Mayor, and it could be a recipe for confusion.”
Again, that was a bold statement, but it was not backed up with any argument. Of course, the balance of power at the GLA is being radically altered by the Government. The Mayor is getting extra powers, some of which are from central Government, which is to be welcomed, while some, as we will hear when we debate the new clauses on planning, are being taken away from local authorities. The balance of power is already being altered, in the Mayor’s favour, so additional powers of oversight and scrutiny for assembly members are therefore required. Finally, the Minister said about the arrangements:
“That something is tried and tested does not mean that it cannot be improved.” ––[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 9 January 2007; c. 77-79.]
That is the purpose of the new clause—to improve the arrangements and provide greater scrutiny.
Londoners would agree on the need for an improved budget process that would stop the annual hike in the Mayor’s precept or at least make it much more visible, so that people can make a clear and conscious decision about whether to support what the Mayor is doing. The Government have not deployed convincing arguments in favour of granting the Mayor special privileges in relation to his budget. Therefore, even at this late stage, the Minister could repent and recognise that increased mayoral powers must be offset by greater powers of scrutiny and financial control for the assembly. If he does not, I will press the matter to a Division on behalf of my party, and I understand that we will receive the support of Conservative Members in such a vote.
I am sure that it was. I am surprised to hear that any part was less good than any other. I always enjoy listening to the hon. Gentleman’s wise words, and he is a close neighbour. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends are shouting that I should stop being so nice to the Liberal Democrats. I will stop now—[Interruption.] I know; I already have a bad reputation.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington quoted a number of people in support of his commentary. I would also like to quote somebody in support of his speech—Mayor Livingstone. When the assembly voted down the Mayor’s budget this year by 16 votes to nine, the Mayor enjoyed shouting out each time, “Carried!” Of course it was carried.
But it was sufficiently whelming under the current Act and the Government’s new GLA Bill to allow the assembly not to stand in the way of the Mayor’s budget. That is especially important, given that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the significant increase in the tax demands on residents of London.
It cannot be good for democracy to elect a body with a voting role on a budget and then to turn round and say that a two-thirds majority is required for the will of that assembly or Parliament to be decisive. The reputation of the House would not be well supported if the Government’s annual budget could be voted through by 218 Members of the House. The House would have no credibility were that the case. It is a fundamental blow to the credibility of the assembly to set such a two-thirds requirement.
In Committee, the response was that we should consider the London assembly to be a scrutiny body—perhaps an effective one. If we are spending £11 million a year on the London assembly, however, that is a very expensive scrutiny committee for London. When the Committee considered budgetary issues, I also proposed that we might at least consider following the model in place in New York city, of a separate budget and performance office. The London assembly could have that in place in a statutory fashion, with the statutory involvement of stakeholders, the Mayor and the GLA family functional bodies, and that would ensure at least some value for money from the £11 million a year spent on the scrutiny process. As a member of the assembly, I accept a certain amount of “mea culpa”; perhaps it is a great failing of assembly members that we have not been able to impose that.
I am grateful to the Minister for his kind comments from a sedentary position. As he implies, it is partly to do with the system, which the Bill will leave in place. Unfortunately, particularly under the proportional representation system of the assembly, it is a quixotic target to bring together parties from the far right, right, centre and left to vote down a mayoral budget. That is the target that we have been set—to bring together Greens, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and a far-right group that goes under varying names over the years, depending on which party those people happen to alight on.
One can understand why Londoners turn round to their assembly members and MPs and ask, “Why can’t you stop the Mayor making these increases? Surely, in any democracy,” which electors understand elected assemblies to be, “One vote is enough.” I explain to them, “I’m terribly sorry, but we have to secure a two-thirds majority.” Members of the public cannot understand why they are even asked to go to the polls to vote for those representatives when their powers are so significantly neutered and no appropriate approach has taken place.
The Government had an opportunity to bring credibility to the assembly by allowing for a simple majority vote of London’s representatives, who are elected at the same time as the Mayor. If the Mayor is not capable of carrying London’s representatives by a simple majority, something must be wrong in the governance of London, and something must be wrong with the Mayor himself.
I endorse everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) has said. I should also point out again—I said this in Committee, but it is worth repeating for those who were not there—that he has chaired the assembly’s budget committee for a number of years. There is probably no one who knows more about the intricacies of the budget system than he does.
We are discussing a particularly disappointing passage in the Bill. The Minister has missed an opportunity to restate the rebalancing that we all hope to achieve through the Bill. London government has moved on. We accept—or rather, almost all of us accept—that there is a devolved system of government for London. If that system is to work, it is right to look again at a sensible settlement between the two elements: the Mayor and the assembly. It has been suggested during the passage of the Bill by some Government Back Benchers that really, there is no equality of mandate. I dispute that. The members of the assembly are elected on the same day as the Mayor and by the same electors. Those voters expect the members to have an equal share in the governance of London. What has been missing throughout the Bill is the sense of entrenching partnership, and the provisions for the budget highlight that.
I referred to the issue earlier in relation to transport, in that transport has to be delivered through a partnership between the Mayor’s organisation, Transport for London and the boroughs. The same ought to apply to the governance of the GLA, which should be a partnership between the Mayor and the assembly.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right—I, too, am in danger of agreeing with the Liberal Democrats too much. That view is common sense, and is recognised on a cross-party basis by London councils and all the principled parties of the London assembly. If we are going to make London governance credible to the people of London, as many of us genuinely want it to be, there must be a sense that there are proper checks and balances in the system. It is the lack of checks and balances that undermines the credibility of the current devolved system in London.
I had no problem with the Mayor receiving some extra powers, on climate change and other issues. I know that we are going to disagree over planning, for the reasons that we have outlined, because we see the proposals as centralising. As I have said before, I would have liked the Minister to go further and get rid of the Government office for London. I would also like more to be devolved to the city governance level. However, the more devolution we have, the more we need a sensible and mature set of checks and balances. That is what is missing. That is also where the Government have fallen for the Mayor’s siren song, in suggesting that a strong-Mayor model—that was the mantra that was trotted out—precludes a meaningful say for the assembly.
With respect, that view is flawed, and the New York example is a demonstration of that. The city council in New York has a significantly stronger hold over the budget than the assembly does over the Mayor in London. The Minister might be surprised at that, but under the charter of New York city, the council can change the mayor’s budget in much more detail than the assembly is permitted to in London. The New York city council can change individual budget heads, and can do so by a simple majority. That the New York city council does not achieve that in practice is down much more to the political culture than to the one-party domination of the Democratic party or anything else. Legally, the strong-Mayor model in New York gives the legislature—the city council, the assembly equivalent—much more power than the assembly.
It is particularly strange that there should be an insistence on the two-thirds majority, when we happen to have a proportional representation system. I do not much like the proportional representation system—it is not what I would have preferred—but it seems needless to have the double complication of PR plus a two-thirds majority. If the desire is that a Mayor should be obliged to seek a reasonably broad coalition to get his budgets through, he would have to do so under a PR system, come what may. There is no need for the extra hurdle of a two-thirds majority. That creates an artificial situation, which undermines the credibility of the whole structure.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central said, if any of us talk to our constituents about the assembly, they ask, “What did you do about the Mayor’s precept?” I say, “I voted against it, but we didn’t have the numbers.” However, if they then ask how many of us there were, and I say that 15 or 16 of us voted against it but only nine voted for it, they think, “You must be mad if that means it went through.” Nothing that I can think of could be more deliberately designed to make people cynical about the democratic process than an entrenched system that says that, by Act of Parliament, the loser wins. However, that is exactly what we have. That is crazy, and it makes London governance less credible. On a separate point, it is a great shame, too, that the Government have not considered the assembly’s sensible suggestion.
That is absolutely right. It is indicative that the Mayor should be sitting in the public gallery during the budget meeting, adopting that mocking tone. That is interesting too, given that he was opposed to having a Mayor of London when the legislation was going through—but we all know him well enough of old to know that if he sees even half a rein of power, he will grab it and vault over it. His change of spots has come as no surprise to those of us who have known him for many years. The Mayor’s tone is perhaps also indicative of a man who lets power go to his head a little. There is a risk that an unfettered London executive with the better part of a £11 billion annual budget will be all too readily seduced into thinking, “I’m accountable to no one,” beyond that mystical process of election that happens once every four years.
I am listening with interest to my hon. Friend, but does he agree that that is not the only democratic deficit, because we have one here as well? Devolution in Wales and Scotland has led to Welsh and Scottish questions, but as local London Members of Parliament we do not have the ability to hold anybody to account in the House at that level, as our colleagues in other parts of the country with devolved government do.
I have sympathy with my hon. Friend’s point, which was also made earlier in relation to the behaviour of Transport for London. It is a piece of pure fortune that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central and I happen, temporarily, to wear two hats. That gives us a measure of privileged access that our other hon. Friends representing London seats do not have.
That point is a further example of the underlying problem to which the budget is fundamental. The Government said in Committee that they were accepting the assembly’s concerns about the budget by protecting their own element of the budget, through the separate budget component. With respect, that is a small recognition and a small concession. As on a previous occasion, I do not say that it is nothing, but it does not go anywhere near far enough, for the following reason. There is a ceiling, but there is no floor to protect the assembly’s budget from the Mayor’s depredations—and his attitude towards the assembly was amply demonstrated by his interjection from the public gallery during the budget debate.
However, even that would be a small thing when set against the real cry that most Londoners would want to make, which is, “I elect my assembly member to have a hold over the Mayor”—not a stranglehold, to prevent him from doing what his mandate says, but in the same sense that Parliament has a hold over the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he comes to seek supply. It is not unreasonable to say that if we have created a deliberative and, in a small way, legislative body—the assembly’s only quasi-legislative power is in relation to the budget—it should operate through the ordinary majoritarian process that works everywhere else in the United Kingdom. What is so peculiar about this one budget, of all the budgets of any publicly elected body in the UK, that it has to be dealt with by a two-thirds majority? That makes no sense, and the strong-Mayor model is no justification for it.
I am sorry to have to remind the Minister that on Second Reading, I told him that he had a chance to be the Alan Curbishley figure of this Bill by salvaging something from the wreckage. I am sorry to have to say that on current form, neither the Bill nor our mutual football team are looking in much better shape than when we set off. I am beginning to think that I should have had more hopes of the Minister than I had of West Ham United redeeming themselves. I say these things with a very heavy heart, as Members know. I hope that the Minister will cheer us up by saying that the Government will reflect on this issue and give the assembly the basic power that every ordinary Londoner standing on the terraces of Upton Park would say, were they asked, it ought to have, as a matter of common sense.
Much as I love my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), I was rather hoping that we would get through this evening without endless references to football—if only because I do not understand them. However, that does give me the opportunity to thank both—
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend’s intervention went straight over my head. My only thought on this subject is that I was in Cardiff on Saturday and Sunday, and I am not sure that that match was the best example ever of football. However, I did not watch it, so I cannot contribute anything further.
I was about to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bromley and Chislehurst and for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), both of whom are my constituency neighbours, for their enormously useful contribution—minus the football remarks—to the Bill Committee, for their comments this evening, and in particular for their observations on the assembly budget. Their intimate knowledge of how the budget system works—or does not work—is very valuable to us all. I also thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) for tabling new clause 8, which we will support if it is pressed to a vote.
I do not want to take up much more time, given that the arguments have been exceedingly well made. I am rather glad, however, that the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) is back in the Chamber, because he is responsible for the whole mess that the assembly budget is in. It was during his stewardship of the original GLA Bill that the Government failed to take into account the impact of their proportional representation system, which means practically by definition that no one political party will ever get a majority—and deliberately so, as he clearly explained at the time. However, the difficulty was that, in line with the mindset of the first-past-the-post system, of which I am a great supporter, the Government imposed the three-quarters majority rule on the budget vote.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am not seeking to cause an argument; I am simply wondering whether she supports the electoral system that operates for the leadership of the Conservative party. Of course, if she is in favour of a first-past-the-post—
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving exactly the same answer that I would have given.
It is the conjunction of the first-past-the-post mindset, whereby three quarters of the assembly must vote against the budget, and the d’Hondt system that has led us to this crazy situation. The London assembly has even fewer budgetary powers than the European Parliament has—and it did not have many. I therefore thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington for tabling the new clause. Year after year, sensible Conservative proposals for the Mayor’s budget have been overturned with an arrogance that most council tax payers are just beginning to come to terms with. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) said so succinctly, that is easy to see with the Westminster council tax budget. It is less simple for those of us in the outer suburbs and other boroughs—excluding Wandsworth, perhaps—to see the enormous hike that the Mayor imposes on us year after year. The Conservative group on the assembly and some of the other parties have from time to time proposed much more sensible budgets that would have obtained more and wider support for the institutions of the Mayor and the assembly, but they have been turned down.
I am beginning to wonder what the impact will be on the precept and the council tax payer of the Mayor’s proposed aggrandisement of London through the creation of six “gateways” into London, quite apart from the impact on those poor boroughs that will have to give planning permission for those monstrosities. I would have thought that the Mayor’s greatest monument is the congestion charge. His producing such a proposal shows that his behaviour is becoming infinitely more erratic. For the first time, we might actually get a majority against one of his proposals, which would enable us to turn down his budget.
Given that we cannot get a change to the election system into the Bill, the Committee tried, and we are now trying, to obtain much more rational control of the Mayor’s spending. We support the new clause, and I hope that we can ensure that the Government have to think again after we vote on it.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), like me, is a Londoner, although we do not speak with the same classic Cockney accent as some of our fellow citizens. She was being uncharacteristically uncharitable to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford). She accused him of being responsible for the mess that she says we are in, when we should be congratulating him on his stewardship and the leadership that he showed in pioneering the original Bill through the House in 1999. Our presence here today is testimony to the success of the model that he laid down, and he should be congratulated for what he achieved in steering through the original Bill.
New clause 8, which would allow the assembly to amend the Mayor’s final draft budget by a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority, was debated exhaustively in Committee. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) will not be surprised, therefore, to learn that the Government remain unconvinced of his arguments, just as he is unconvinced of mine. We remain firmly of the view that the two-thirds majority requirement for assembly amendments to the Mayor’s final draft budget is entirely appropriate for the GLA and the strong-Mayor model that we set up for London. As I emphasised in Committee, the GLA is based on the simple principle of a strong executive Mayor and an assembly that can hold him to account through its important scrutiny role. It is therefore only right for the Mayor to propose the budget for the GLA and its functional bodies, and for the assembly to have the power ultimately to amend the Mayor’s draft and final draft budgets for the GLA group, in order to act as an important check on him.
However, as the budget is fundamental to the delivery of the Mayor’s priorities for London, it is also important that the assembly be unable readily to amend the final draft budget simply to thwart the Mayor’s wider plans; otherwise, his ability to deliver his democratic mandate for London would be considerably weakened. That is why the Government believe that a two-thirds majority is the right threshold for a valid amendment by the assembly. It ensures that amendments have to be supported by a broad cross-section of assembly members, and requires a clear consensus that the Mayor’s final draft budget is flawed. It allows individual members or parties on the assembly to influence the development of the Mayor’s budget, but it does not fundamentally weaken the Mayor’s responsibility for the budget. Allowing the assembly to amend the final budget—like the draft budget—by a simple majority would do so. It would considerably alter the balance of power at the GLA in favour of the assembly and those parties that are able to muster among themselves a slim majority of assembly members.
Under a PR system, real influence could be given to very small groups that are in a minority in the assembly. At present, the Greens have the influence, but it is possible to envisage a scenario in which the British National party might hold the important ninth vote. We are storing up trouble for the future by opting for this anti-democratic proposal that a third will be able to block proposals.
The hon. Gentleman repeats the points that he made in debate today and in Committee. We obviously disagree about the model and I will come on to the issue of the mandate and the effectiveness of the procedures that are in place for approving the budget.
As I was saying, those parties would effectively be able to veto the Mayor’s proposals, undermining his ability to deliver his democratic mandate. That would ultimately be bad both for the post of Mayor and more importantly for London itself, especially as the capital needs a Mayor who can provide strong leadership and make, if necessary, tough budget decisions for the benefit of London.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington raises the concern that we have not adequately answered his challenge. We simply have a fundamental difference of opinion about the balance of powers between the Mayor and the assembly. I acknowledge his generous comments about my usual ability to explain, but those skills have deserted me on this occasion. He does not think that Londoners would agree, because of the rise in the rate of precept. All that I can say is that Londoners have the ultimate sanction, which will determine whether the balance of powers is correctly set or not.
It was alleged that we have not increased the powers of the assembly. I remind the House that the extra powers that we have given it include confirmation hearings for key mayoral proposals; stronger policy development, with the Mayor to have regard to assembly comments; powers to summon for three to eight years; the ability to set its own budget; and the ability to produce an annual report. That scrutiny broadens and reflects the wider responsibilities of the Mayor.
The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) raised a question about the assembly’s own budget being protected. We answered those points in Committee, because we believe that were the assembly’s budget to be threatened by any Mayor, there would be enough mutual self-interest to construct a two-thirds majority. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s proverbial vote of confidence and I will stick it in my back pocket.
The Government cannot therefore support the new clause. I would urge the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington to withdraw it, but I think that he feels too strongly about it. In that case, I ask my hon. Friends to oppose him in the Lobby.
I have listened carefully to the Minister. I suspect that he and I both have a sense of déjà vu about tonight’s debate and I noticed that the Minister could not identify a Back Bencher who supported the Government’s case. I thank Conservative Members for supporting our case and I am beginning to detect—especially in the hon. Members for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) and for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling)—certain Liberal Democrat tendencies, which will do them no good in their careers.
The Minister claims that the model has been tried and tested, but that does not mean that it could not be improved. That is what new clause 8 seeks to do by providing more oversight, more scrutiny and more checks and balances. The Minister has not convinced me that we should do anything other than vote for new clause 8 tonight.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
New Clause 9
Planning: access to information etc.
‘(1) The Mayor of London shall only exercise his powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 at meetings (“planning meetings”).
(2) A planning meeting shall be open to the public except to the extent that they are excluded (whether during the whole or part of the proceedings) under subsection (3) below or by decision under subsection (5) below.
(3) The public shall be excluded from a planning meeting during an item of business whenever it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that, if members of the public were present during that item, confidential information would be disclosed to them in breach of the obligation of confidence; and nothing in this Part shall be taken to authorise or require the disclosure of confidential information in breach of the obligation of confidence.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) above, “confidential information” means—
(a) information furnished to the council by a Government department upon terms (however expressed) which forbid the disclosure of the information to the public; and
(b) information the disclosure of which to the public is prohibited by or under any enactment or by the order of a court;
and, in either case, the reference to the obligation of confidence is to be construed accordingly.
(5) The Mayor of London may exclude the public from a meeting during an item of business whenever it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during that item there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as defined in section 100I of the Local Government Act 1972.
(6) A decision under subsection (5) above shall—
(a) identify the proceedings, or the part of the proceedings, to which it applies, and
(b) state the description, in terms of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, of the exempt information giving rise to the exclusion of the public,
and where a decision is made this section does not require the meeting to be open to the public during proceedings to which the decision applies.
(7) The following provisions shall apply in relation to a meeting of a principal council—
(a) public notice of the time and place of the meeting shall be given by posting it at the offices of the Mayor of London five clear days at least before the meeting or, if the meeting is convened at shorter notice, then at the time it is convened;
(b) while the meeting is open to the public, the Mayor of London shall not have power to exclude members of the public from the meeting.
(8) Nothing in this section shall require the Mayor of London to permit the taking of photographs of any proceedings, or the use of any means to enable persons not present to see or hear any proceedings (whether at the time or later), or the making of any oral report on any proceedings as they take place.
(9) This section is without prejudice to any power of exclusion to suppress or prevent disorderly conduct or other misbehaviour at a meeting.’.—[Mrs. Lait.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 10—Planning: access to agenda and connected reports—
‘(1) Copies of the agenda for a planning meeting and, subject to subsection (2) below, copies of any report for the meeting shall be open to inspection by members of the public at the offices of the Mayor of London in accordance with subsection (3) below.
(2) If the proper officer thinks fit, there may be excluded from the copies of reports provided in pursuance of subsection (1) above the whole of any report which, or any part which, relates only to items during which, in his opinion, the meeting is likely not to be open to the public.
(3) Any document which is required by subsection (1) above to be open to inspection shall be so open at least five clear days before the meeting, except that—
(a) where the meeting is convened at shorter notice, the copies of the agenda and reports shall be open to inspection from the time the meeting is convened, and
(b) where an item is added to an agenda copies of which are open to inspection by the public, copies of the item (or of the revised agenda), and the copies of any report of the meeting relating to the item, shall be open to inspection from the time the item is added to the agenda;
but nothing in this subsection requires copies of any agenda, item or report to be open to inspection by the public until copies are available to the Mayor of London.
(4) An item of business may not be considered at a planning meeting unless either—
(a) a copy of the agenda including the item (or a copy of the item) is open to inspection by members of the public in pursuance of subsection (1) above for at least five clear days before the meeting or, where the meeting is convened at shorter notice, from the time the meeting is convened; or
(b) by reason of special circumstances, which shall be specified in the minutes, the Mayor of London is of the opinion that the item should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency.
(5) Where by virtue of subsection (2) above the whole or any part of a report for a meeting is not open to inspection by the public under subsection (1) above—
(a) every copy of the report or of the part shall be marked “Not for publication”; and
(b) there shall be stated on every copy of the whole or any part of the report the description, in terms of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, of the exempt information by virtue of which the council are likely to exclude the public during the item to which the report relates.
(6) Where a planning meeting is required by section [Planning: access to information etc.] to be open to the public during the proceedings or any part of them, there shall be made available for the use of members of the public present at the meeting a reasonable number of copies of the agenda and, subject to subsection (8) below, of the reports for the meeting.
(7) There shall, on request and on payment of postage or other necessary charge for transmission, be supplied for the benefit of any newspaper—
(a) a copy of the agenda for a meeting of a principal council and, subject to subsection (8) below, a copy of each of the reports for the meeting;
(b) such further statements or particulars, if any, as are necessary to indicate the nature of the items included in the agenda; and
(c) if the proper officer thinks fit in the case of any item, copies of any other documents supplied to members of the council in connection with the item.
(8) Subsection (2) above applies in relation to copies of reports provided in pursuance of subsection (6) or (7) above as it applies in relation to copies of reports provided in pursuance of subsection (1) above.’.
New clause 11—Planning: inspection of minutes and other documents after planning meetings—
‘(1) After a planning meeting the following documents shall be open to inspection by members of the public at the offices of the Mayor of London until the expiration of the period of six years beginning with the date of the meeting—
(a) the minutes, or a copy of the minutes, of the meeting, excluding so much of the minutes of proceedings during which the meeting was not open to the public as discloses exempt information;
(b) where applicable, a summary under subsection (2) below;
(c) a copy of the agenda for the meeting; and
(d) a copy of so much of any report for the meeting as relates to any item during which the meeting was open to the public.
(2) Where, in consequence of the exclusion of parts of the minutes which disclose exempt information, the document open to inspection under subsection (1)(a) above does not provide members of the public with a reasonably fair and coherent record of the whole or part of the proceedings, the proper officer shall make a written summary of the proceedings or the part, as the case may be, which provides such a record without disclosing the exempt information.’.
New clause 12—Planning: inspection of background papers—
‘(1) Subject, in the case of section [Planning: inspection of minutes and other documents after planning meetings] (1), to subsection (2) below, if and so long as copies of the whole or part of a report for a planning meeting are required by section [Planning: access to agenda and connected reports] (1) or [Planning: inspection of minutes and other documents after planning meetings] (1) to be open to inspection by members of the public—
(a) those copies shall each include a copy of a list, compiled by the proper officer, of the background papers for the report or the part of the report, and
(b) at least one copy of each of the documents included in that list shall also be open to inspection at the offices of the Mayor of London.
(2) Subsection (1) above does not require a copy of any document included in the list to be open to inspection after the expiration of the period of four years beginning with the date of the meeting.
(3) Where a copy of any of the background papers for a report is required by subsection (1) above to be open to inspection by members of the public, the copy shall be taken for the purposes of this Part to be so open if arrangements exist for its production to members of the public as soon as is reasonably practicable after the making of a request to inspect the copy.
(4) Nothing in this section—
(a) requires any document which discloses exempt information to be included in the list referred to in subsection (1) above; or
(b) without prejudice to the generality of section [Planning: access to information etc.], requires or authorises the inclusion in the list of any document which, if open to inspection by the public, would disclose confidential information in breach of the obligation of confidence, within the meaning of that subsection.
(5) For the purposes of this section the background papers for a report are those documents relating to the subject matter of the report which—
(a) disclose any facts or matters on which, in the opinion of the proper officer, the report or an important part of the report is based, and
(b) have, in his opinion, been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report, but do not include any published works.’.
New clause 16—Determination of applications for planning permission—
‘(1) Section 70 of TCPA 1990 (determination of applications: general considerations) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) In respect of applications which are to be determined by the Mayor of London in accordance with a direction under section 2A of this Act, the Secretary of State may by regulations made provision about—
(a) how the Mayor should take into consideration those aspects of the application which are not relevant to the spatial development strategy but are relevant to other development plans;
(b) how the Mayor should deal with cases which require him to have regard to the spatial development strategy and another development plan, but where there are conflicts between the two.”.’.
Amendment No. 3, in clause 31, page 34, line 33, at end insert—
‘(1A) The Mayor of London may not make a direction under this section more than 21 days after being notified by the local planning authority of the making of the application.’.
Amendment No. 28, page 34, line 40, after ‘section’ insert
‘, or in the City of London’.
Amendment No. 18, page 35, line 3, at end insert—
‘(4A) An application is not an application of potential strategic importance unless—
(a) the application raises issues which have substantial effects beyond the area of the local planning authority to which the application has been made;
(b) the grant of planning permission in respect of the application will have substantial effects on the policies contained in the spatial development strategy published under section 334 of the GLA Act 1999; and
(c) there are sound planning reasons for so treating it.
(4B) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4A), an application for development in the City of London shall not be an application of potential strategic importance unless it is for the erection of a building—
(a) with a total floor space of more than 100,000 square metres in addition to the total floor space of the development it replaces or,
(b) which is more than 150 metres high.
(4C) Subsection (4B)(b) does not apply to an application for the erection of a building adjacent to the River Thames.’.
Amendment No. 29, page 35, line 3, at end insert—
‘(4A) An application is not an application of potential strategic importance by reason only of its failure to accord with the provisions of the development plan in force in the area to which the application relates.
(4B) An application for development in the City of London shall not be an application of potential strategic importance unless it is for the erection of a building—
(a) with a total floor space of more than 100,000 square metres in addition to the total floor space of the development it replaces, or
(b) which is more than 150 metres high.
(4C) Where an order under section 2A makes provision for any application which is to be treated as being for the erection of a building adjacent to the River Thames, subsection (4B)(b) does not apply to that application.’.
Amendment No. 31, page 35, line 3, at end insert—
‘(4A) An application is not an application of potential strategic importance unless—
(a) the application raises issues which have substantial effects beyond the area of the local planning authority to which the application has been made;
(b) the grant of planning permission in respect of the application will have substantial effects on the policies contained in the spatial development strategy published under section 334 of the GLA Act 1999; and
(c) there are sound planning reasons for so treating it.’.
Amendment No. 21, page 35, line 16, at end insert—
‘(6A) If an order under this section provides that, in deciding whether he should give a direction under this section, the Mayor may or must take account of the extent to which the council of a London Borough is achieving or has achieved the relevant targets set out in the spatial development strategy, the order must also describe—
(a) how the Mayor is to take those achievements into account and what factors will be taken into consideration,
(b) which targets are likely to be assessed in particular circumstances,
(c) the conditions which would need to be fulfilled by a council if it is to be considered as having achieved the targets, and
(d) how the Mayor will take into account the progress of the council in achieving the targets.’.
Amendment No. 22, page 35, line 16, at end insert—
‘(6A) An order under this section may not make provision requiring or enabling the Mayor to give a direction under this section if or because the applicant has requested him to do so.’.
Amendment No. 23, page 35, line 16, at end insert—
‘(6A) Subsection (6C) applies to any provision of an order under this section which makes provision requiring or enabling the Mayor to give a direction under this section because the applicant has requested him to do so for the reason described in subsection (6B).
(6B) The reason mentioned in subsection (6A) is that the local planning authority has failed, within a specified period, to provide a statement of the decision the authority to propose to make in respect of the application.
(6C) In any provision to which this subsection applies the “specified period” referred to in subsection (6B) shall be such period as is reasonable to enable to the local planning authority to provide the statement and in any event shall be no less than 20 weeks commencing with the date on which the application was received by the authority.’.
Amendment No. 24, page 35, line 16, at end insert—
‘(6A) If an order under this section makes provision for the definition of “application of potential strategic importance” and, in doing so, categorises applications as such by reference to the floorspace or height of any building comprised in the development in question, the order must provide that the floorspace or height so mentioned is expressed in terms of a net increase above the floorspace or height of any existing building on the site in question.’.
Amendment No. 25, page 35, line 16, at end insert—
‘(6A) If an order under this section makes provision for the definition of “application of potential strategic importance” and, in doing so, categorises applications as such by reference to a minimum height of buildings comprised in the development, the order may not provide that the minimum height is less than 75 metres (except in relation to buildings adjacent to the River Thames).’.
Amendment No. 4, page 36, line 3, at end insert—
‘(7A) The following persons shall be given an opportunity to be heard by the Mayor of London before he determines an application by virtue of section 2A or this section—
(a) the applicant;
(b) the local planning authority who received the application;
(c) the member of the Assembly whose constituency covers the land subject to the application;
(d) no less than one councillor of a London borough or the Common Council whose ward covers the land subject to the application;
(e) no less than one representative of local, amenity or environmental interests as the Mayor of London considers appropriate;
(f) Transport for London;
(g) any other person, including public bodies or statutory undertakers, as the Mayor of London considers appropriate.’.
Amendment No. 19, page 36, line 6, at end insert
‘, including applications which are to be treated as being for the erection of buildings adjacent to the River Thames under section 2A(4C),’.
Amendment No. 30, page 36, line 6, at end insert
‘, including applications which are to be treated as being for the erection of buildings adjacent to the River Thames under subsection (4C) of that section,’.
Amendment No. 20, page 36, line 12, at end insert
‘, including the reasons which are to be taken as sound planning reasons for the purposes of section 2A(4A).’.
Amendment No. 5, page 36, leave out lines 18 to 20 and insert—
‘(3) Such provision may not include functions in relation to enforcement of planning control.’.
Amendment No. 6, in clause 32, page 36, leave out lines 34 to 36.
Amendment No. 7, page 36, leave out lines 39 to 40.
For the official Opposition, this is one of the most important parts of the Bill, as it is the key point where powers are being taken away from boroughs and given to the Mayor.
I thank the Minister for Housing and Planning for making the draft statutory instrument available to me. I realise that she made it available to the Committee in the middle of January, but when I tried to look for it, due to unforeseen circumstances neither the Vote Office nor the Library had a copy. I downloaded it from her office mid-morning in a bit of a panic, so if I miss any of the finer details I am sure that my hon. Friends who took part in the Committee proceedings will help me out.
I want the House to consider the whole group of amendments and new clauses, because as I said, they relate to the crux of the Bill. We object so strongly to the taking of powers from the boroughs to give them to the Mayor that in Committee we tried to delete all the relevant provisions. Sadly, we failed, so we are returning to the charge in an attempt to constrain the powers that the Mayor is acquiring unto himself. We want the boroughs to retain as much decision-making power as they can, and we want the Mayor to know that there are significant areas in which he cannot involve himself.
Those of us with experience of the Mayor’s activities over the past few years are conscious of the fact that even with his current limited powers he has intervened where many of us feel he should not. It is worth repeating a point I made on Second Reading. Broomleigh housing association—my local housing association—is part of the Affinity group, which joined the Sutton Trust to become Affinity Sutton. To make life even more complicated the association made a significant planning application for social housing in the borough of Sutton, which has nothing to do with the Sutton Trust. The Mayor intervened, which slowed down the process by at least a year, thereby making it even more difficult for people who wanted social housing to move in.
The Mayor has already stuck his nose into many areas where many of us think he should not have intervened. The powers given to him by the Government under the Bill will make his capacity for intervention even greater, while taking significant powers away from the boroughs.
We have tabled a long list of amendments and I hope that everybody will bear with me if I go through them all, even if only briefly. First, however, I want to put into context my position on overdevelopment, because the Minister referred to it in Committee. At the time, I managed to get out of the then Minister for London the information that he had every intention of doubling housing density in the borough of Bromley.
At least, we made the position clear, but our constituents in the borough of Bromley, especially my constituents in Beckenham, thoroughly object to the doubling of housing density because it will change the nature of the community in which they live. That is in no way, shape or form an objection to increased housing or to a wide variety of housing provision; it is an absolutely rooted objection to a level of development that will transform their surroundings—the areas in which they have chosen to live precisely because of the values and environment that the borough of Bromley has created.
We are keen on transparency in decision making, for which we have set out a framework in new clauses 9 to 12. Under the Bill, the Mayor can call in planning applications and make decisions on them behind closed doors. Despite his promise that he will be open and transparent, we think that that needs to be written into the Bill. It is absolutely crucial that the decision-making process, the papers available to the Mayor, the record of decisions and the documents should be available to the public. The minutes and background papers should be open to the public for a number of years—the number varies according to the terms of the new clause.
Amendment No. 4 sets out the groups of people and individuals who should be heard by the Mayor in an open meeting.
As the hon. Lady knows, the Liberal Democrats very much support not only that amendment but the others in the group. We take the same general view. Does she agree that what is completely illogical about the present system is that the Government, of all people, keep saying that the Mayor and the Greater London authority are only a local authority, yet that particular local authority can do things entirely differently from any other local authority in the whole of England?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman not only for his promise of support, but for making that point, with which I thoroughly agree. It might be appropriate to mention en passant that it is not entirely clear whether the Mayor of London is subject to the same scrutiny from the Standards Board on planning decision as other councillors. It would be useful if the Minister could resolve that issue when she replies, even though it is not covered by an amendment in the group.
It is crucial that the terms of engagement for planning issues are set out in the Bill rather than in a statutory instrument, so that the Mayor understands that he is ruled by a statute saying that he has to be open and transparent, that the decisions and the papers involved need to be in the public domain and that decisions should not be taken behind closed doors.
I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend says. Does she not think that one of the more insidious aspects of the proposals is the very use of the word “strategic”, which suggests a broad overview and could allow the Mayor or anyone else in that position to avoid transparency in respect of the release of papers, as well as permitting a complete lack of transparency in their relationship with the public at large. That is why we are particularly concerned that the provisions should be in the Bill, rather than in a statutory instrument.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point because I will be coming on to amendments that we have tabled to try to begin to define “strategic”, which is crucial. Before I get to those, I shall continue logically through our other amendments.
New clause 16 would create a conflict resolution mechanism for the Secretary of State to use if a planning application to be decided by the Mayor would impact on other developments such as a borough’s development plan, a waste or transport plan, or any other strategy relevant to the planning application. This touches on the beginnings of a definition of “strategic”. The Mayor has responsibility for a number of development plans and if the Bill goes through Parliament he will have responsibility for another couple. It is entirely possible that a planning application could impact on one of the development plans, so there is a need for a mechanism to deal with that. We have created one in which, unusually for us, we would give power back to the Secretary of State to be the person who could resolve any such conflict.
I come now to amendment No. 3. I referred earlier to an area in which the Mayor has already intervened more than most of us might think he should, but the increased powers in the Bill will give him the opportunity to intervene in planning applications a great deal more. We believe that he should be able to take over an application only for a limited time after a borough has resolved to approve or refuse it, or where a borough has failed to make sufficient progress.
Amendment No. 28, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), correctly deals with the special position of the City of London, and we support it. It would bring the City, as the financial centre, into line with Thames Gateway and the Olympic site. Although I lived in the City, in the Barbican, for nearly 17 years, and much as I enjoyed my time there, I recognise that the number of residents represents a fraction of the City’s value to the rest of the country compared with its financial services.
My hon. Friend will be pleased with amendments Nos. 18 to 20, because they are our attempt to define “strategic”. We want to see such a definition in the Bill rather than in statutory instruments. An application should be regarded as strategic if it has an effect beyond the local planning authority, if it has an effect on the special development plan and if there are sound reasons for it. We believe that the City is a special case and that unless a very large building is proposed, as set out in our amendment on floor space and height of storeys, or the site is adjacent to the River Thames, which we think should be protected, an application should not be considered strategic. We therefore agree with amendments Nos. 28 to 30 tabled by my hon. Friend, and amendment No. 31 tabled by the Liberal Democrats, which, in essence, says much the same.
It is crucial for the good order of planning in London that everybody knows exactly when the Mayor can and cannot intervene and what is and is not strategic. After all, this goes back to the original thinking behind the Mayor and the assembly, which included the fact that the Mayor should be involved only in strategic issues. Too many of his interventions have not been of a strategic nature.
I shall now deal with the amendments to clause 31. I apologise for the fact that there are multiple references to section 6A. Not having been involved in tabling the amendments, I suspect that that is for a technical, drafting reason. The amendments try to set parameters for the Mayor’s powers. Obviously, we want as many of our amendments made as possible, and we recognise that if they are made there will be a numbering change. I shall take them one by one.
Amendment No. 21 tries to ensure that if a borough is achieving its housing target there will be no need for the Mayor to call in a planning application. On many occasions the Mayor has indicated an interest in a housing application on the ground that he thinks that there is not sufficient affordable housing or that the borough is not building enough houses. We say that there is no need for the Mayor to intervene if a borough is achieving its target. That would leave the power in the hands of the borough to continue to decide on its future development in line with the wishes of those who elect the councillors. One of the key points behind all these amendments is that it is councils that are responsible to the electors and that know their community best.
Does the hon. Lady agree that if a council that is meeting its affordable housing targets has to meet an additional housing requirement, that puts a stress on the other services that it provides? We have seen that in my borough. As the Mayor does not have to fund that additional support and provision, it is irresponsible to expect him to take responsibility for making that decision.
I could not agree more. That is a concern expressed to us by many London councils. I am sure that any London Member of Parliament knows the pressure that council services are under at present. There are faults in the funding formula, we have a very mobile population and there is pressure on councils to pick up the overrun costs in the NHS. I do not think that any of us are unaware of the hon. Lady’s point. We can easily envisage further problems being wished on us by a Mayor who takes a different view from local people as to the future development of their borough.
On amendment No. 22, I am sure that all Members of Parliament who have taken up any planning issue, and certainly those in London, are aware of repeat applications from people looking to develop. An elderly gentleman in my constituency is having to fight off his fourth or fifth application for one site. The Minister gave me a very useful answer to a parliamentary question that he has been able to wave under the noses of various people, and a few spines have been stiffened.
We are well aware that the large developments that are likely to be called in are also those where the applicant could apply directly to the Mayor for the application to be called in. The amendment proposes that there should not be the same opportunities for an applicant to go to the Mayor, and it would keep the decision at a local level. We tabled the amendment because the Bill is silent on the whole issue, but I am sure that most Members from London constituencies will have had problems with repeat applications and will know of applicants who would dearly love to go straight to the planning inspectorate and bypass the local authority.
Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 again relate to the meaning of “strategic”. They define “floorspace” and “height of buildings”, and they, too, include an explicit exception for buildings close to the river. Finally, I come to amendments Nos. 5 to 7, which are important. Amendment No. 5 is about—well, let me deal with amendments Nos. 6 and 7.
Yes, as long as my hon. Friend does not charge me the usual legal fees.
Amendment No. 5 does indeed deal with enforcement; I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), and I am sure that he will be able to expatiate on the subject at much greater length than I can. The amendment proposes that functions in relation to the enforcement of planning control be provided for, and amendments Nos. 6 and 7 deal with section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. As everybody will know, section 106 is the basis on which local councils have been able to extract some value for their local communities from planning applications, in terms of doctor’s surgeries, roads, and schools. We have all experienced the benefits.
The Bill proposes that the Mayor should be able to dispose of section 106 agreements, but with the best will in the world we should just think about some of the Mayor’s pet projects, including his proposal on the gateways to London. The word “hubris” comes to mind when I think of that project, but some section 106 money might even be spent on that. Conservative Members do not wish the Mayor to get any control over section 106 money. If there is such a thing as a reward for local communities that face the pressures that increased housing could put on their services, it is that money, which is a way of dealing with those extra pressures and putting something back into the community. We do not wish the Mayor to be able to take it away from the community and dispose of it as he wishes, and that is why we have tabled amendments Nos. 6 and 7.
That was a brief rundown of this large group of amendments. I look forward to listening to the other issues raised in the debate.
I intend to address the topic of the specific threshold for mayoral intervention in planning powers. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning will recall, I raised that issue on Second Reading. I expressed support, in principle, for the Mayor being able to direct that approval be given in appropriate cases, in which the development is of strategic significance, and is in conformity with the London plan. I argued that it was slightly anomalous for the Mayor to have a negative power to refuse proposals that were not in conformity with the London plan, but to be unable to require approval of a scheme that was in conformity with the London plan.
I argued the case for such a power, but I also expressed real concern about the thresholds that would be used to determine whether the Mayor would have that intervention power. I did so primarily from fear of what I described as mission creep—that is, the potential for such powers to be used far more extensively than might originally have been envisaged, in order to ensure the integrity of the London plan. However, I argued that we should ensure that the Mayor is able to direct, in appropriate cases, that an authority should not reject a strategically significant development that is in conformity with the London plan.
The worry about mission creep led me to say that I would want to look closely at the statutory instrument that would define the concept of “strategic”, and my hon. Friend the Minister undertook to make that order available by the time that the Bill reached Committee. It was delayed a little, but the draft order is now available, and we have had sight of it, but I am far from reassured; in fact, my concerns have been greatly heightened.
I have two major concerns. The first is that I believe that the statutory instrument confuses size with “strategic”. There is an assumption that anything above a certain size threshold is automatically strategic. Having looked at those size thresholds, it is perfectly clear to me that they would embrace a number of development sites in my constituency—and therefore sites in other parts of London—that are unquestionably of local, not strategic, significance. There has been a serious failure to consider what represents a “strategic” development. In my view, “strategic” refers to a development that is of significance more widely than in the borough in which it is situated. Its impact must be felt more widely than in one borough, and it must be likely to have a significant impact on the whole of London.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that an overlying problem is that boroughs often want to undertake regeneration projects that involve shopping centres or other buildings that will help to regenerate local economies? Such projects may be close together, but should the Mayor have the power to decide that only one should go ahead if he thinks that if both went ahead one might not be successful? It should be up to local authorities to come up with good plans that match, and it should not be for the Mayor to interfere with those plans.
I agree that local authorities should be in the driving seat when it comes to local regeneration schemes, but certain very large regeneration schemes could well have a significance that is felt more widely than in the borough. In circumstances in which the development’s significance is truly London-wide, or when a development is significant to more than one borough, I would be perfectly prepared to grant that the Mayor should have a power to intervene, in appropriate circumstances. However, I would not be happy with a definition that would make it possible for the Mayor to use the power in relation to developments that are not strategic or, given the size criteria that are to be adopted, are not even very large.
Let us consider some of the proposed size thresholds. One relates to developments by the river. Paragraph 1(a) of category 1C in the draft order says:
“the building is more than 25 metres high and is adjacent to the River Thames”.
My constituency has a long Thames frontage, running all the way from Deptford to Thamesmead, and it has been subject to many developments. I cannot think of a single one in which a building of more than 25 m is not proposed, because of the strategic nature of the site, in the sense that it is on the river. I stress that “strategic” relates to the river; I do not mean that the site is “strategic” as far as London is concerned. The views across the river to Canary Wharf are such that it would be surprising if two or three-storey terraced, or semi-detached, properties were proposed. Almost invariably in such development proposals, there is at least one significant building that is taller than 25 m, but if the criteria as set out in the order were agreed, every single proposal would contain developments of that size. The developers would automatically put one in to ensure that the development met the criteria that allowed the Mayor to intervene, because the Mayor is known to be sympathetic to tall buildings, whereas not all boroughs are.
I say to the Minister that the criteria are a perverse incentive that will result in particular development decisions being distorted by developers, who will seek to get their development into the size thresholds that allow the Mayor to call in the application. That is very bad policy making indeed.
I have not seen the details of the order, but in the borough of Richmond upon Thames developments by the river are low and open because of nearby features such as Kew gardens. Could not the Mayor force through a developer’s application for a tall building that was entirely out of keeping with Richmond palace, Kew gardens, and the open nature of that stretch of the river?
I shall not look at hypothetical examples or areas with which I am not familiar. I know the Thames reasonably well, but I do not know the full circumstances in the hon. Lady’s constituency. However, in my own patch, the overwhelming majority of riverside developments already include buildings that are over the threshold, so there is an incentive for developers, as the hon. Lady suggested, to ensure that their buildings meet the threshold.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that his concerns about the order are addressed by the amendments tabled by the official Opposition and by the Liberal Democrats, including amendment No. 18, which deals with applications that
“have substantial effects beyond the area of the local planning application to which the application has been made”
“have substantial effects on the policies contained in the spatial development strategy”?
I shall come on to ways of addressing the problem, but the hon. Gentleman has suggested part of the solution. First, however, I wish to explain why the draft order is fundamentally flawed and should not be pursued in its present form.
Paragraph 1(a) of category 3A deals with development which is likely to
“result in the loss of more than 200 houses, flats, or houses and flats (irrespective of whether the development would entail also the provision of new houses or flats”.
In our area, we have several unsatisfactory council estates dating back to the 1960s and ’70s that are being cleared and replaced. A significant number of them would fall within the criteria, particularly the Ferrier estate in Kidbrooke, the Connaught estate in Woolwich, the Morris Walk estate in Woolwich and others. We are not talking about one or two large developments of London-wide significance but about a number of cases in a particular area that are only of local significance. Ironically, as part of the council’s regeneration policy, some of those estates will be replaced by developments containing more properties than the number removed. However, those properties are part of a mixed development, so there will no longer be a mono-tenure estate of council housing but a development in which people have opportunities to buy as well as to rent.
In making that point, my right hon. Friend has partly demolished his argument. There is a similar situation on the South Acton estate in my constituency, which is a large estate subject to demolition. A doubling of housing density and a complete change of tenure have been proposed. Although it is contained entirely within Acton, that issue could be used to attack the London housing strategy for which the Mayor is responsible. It is a good example of something that is local having strategic importance.
There is absolutely no reason why that should apply, because the question of the tenure mix has been addressed. The provisions of the London plan set out criteria on the mix of affordable and social housing in developments that boroughs are expected to follow. The Mayor has perfectly adequate powers to exercise his influence in that respect, but I am arguing that such developments, certainly in the London borough of Greenwich, are of local significance and not of London-wide or strategic significance. There would be a serious breach of the principle that the Mayor should have strategic powers if the statutory instrument were introduced in its present form, but local service delivery should rest with the boroughs. I stressed in our earlier debate on waste the importance of maintaining the distinction between a strategic role for the Mayor and a local role for boroughs, and I emphasise that distinction again.
Why was that formulation used for the statutory instrument? I think that the answer is idleness. That may appear to be a perverse comment, but the measure is based almost entirely on the existing order, which allows the Mayor to refuse permission in certain cases. A moment ago, I discussed the example of a building that is more than 25 m high and is adjacent to the river. A developer who is worried that their application will be refused will not submit a proposal that falls within the criteria, as it would be much more unlikely to receive permission. Conversely, if the Mayor has a positive power to intervene, there is a perverse incentive to increase the height of developments. The officials who drafted the proposal have taken the easy course of using existing powers, without considering the contradictions raised by different uses. They simply propose that the existing definition should be extended to cases where the Mayor has the power to require approval.
The measure is not appropriate, and it requires rethinking. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take another look at it, because if the criteria were adopted there is no question but that the problem of mission creep will arise, as I have suggested. We will break the fundamental principle, on which the GLA legislation was based, that the Mayor should have a strategic role, and should not have powers to trample all over the boroughs in matters subject to local decision.
That leads me on to the way in which the statutory instrument should be changed. I hesitate to raise the issue, because it is not the subject of the Bill, and I do not wish to be called to order. However, it is only right that I should give my thoughts on the right way forward. First, to pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), there should be an attempt to define strategic impact as an effect covering an area wider than one particular borough. It should include, too, issues of genuine strategic impact, and should not simply be a matter of scale.
Secondly, the criteria in the draft statutory instrument must be reconsidered with a view to catching only large developments that have a big impact. “Large” can be strategic, but it is not necessarily strategic, and we must distinguish between the two. A definition of “strategic” and a revision of the criteria to raise the threshold and avoid the circumstances that I have described are therefore essential, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister can provide the House with an undertaking to look at the criteria again. If so, I would be happy to support the statutory instrument as and when it is introduced, but it must achieve the objective that the Government want to achieve, and give the Mayor an appropriate power of intervention to match the existing negative power. He should exercise that power in cases where it is justified to do so, because the development has a strategic impact across London. If that objective is met, I, for one, will be entirely happy, but I am afraid that I could not possibly support the statutory instrument in its draft form.
I do not know whether it is possible to have two cruxes of the matter but, if so, we have come to the second one: planning. We debated the first earlier, before we divided on new clause 8 and the Mayor’s budget.
I cannot do better than the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford)—who is the architect of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and, indeed, had ministerial responsibility for London—in setting out concerns about the planning aspects of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will deal with the point about whether the order was simply a cut and paste exercise, or perhaps a search and replace one, which officials are beginning to regret following such trenchant criticism from the right hon. Gentleman, who knows better than anyone in the House the implications of the Government’s proposals.
In Committee, various planning matters were debated, including planning applications that give rise to strategic issues, thresholds, planning obligations and the issue of enforcement. Members will know that planning is the most controversial local issue in many, if not all, constituencies. In my own patch, current concerns include back-garden development—and I urge the Minister to change the classification of brownfield sites to exclude back gardens—and a proposal for a new secondary school in the borough. The choice of the site for that school is a hugely controversial issue locally, with the local authority having identified three sites: the existing site, an allotment site and the site of an NHS facility that is soon to be vacated.
Planning issues are highly controversial. Members can imagine how much more so they will become if the Mayor starts to get involved in matters that are not of a strategic nature. We already have many examples of that. I have previously quoted the example of the Mayor getting involved in a regeneration project in my constituency whereby 150 to 200 flats were to be rebuilt. His intervention in connection with the provision of cycle facilities stalled the project for nine months. If he can already do that under the current arrangements, we can only imagine how much more tempted he will be to get involved if the proposals go through.
New clause 9 seeks to ensure open planning meetings. In her response, the Minister may say that it is not appropriate for a single person executive to hold open planning meetings, but we can argue that it is even more appropriate for a single person executive to do that. I understand that in Lewisham and Watford, where there are executive mayors, they do indeed hold development control committee meetings that those of us with a local council background would understand.
Although I recognise that the current Mayor is not the fount of all sagacity, is it not important to note that he is keen to be able to sit in public and act in a transparent fashion, partly because of the risks of placing so much power in the hands of one elected official?
Indeed. The Mayor will no doubt be grateful for the amendment tabled by the Conservatives, which we will support tonight. It may pre-empt a scenario described to me by my noble Friend Baroness Hamwee, who will lead on these matters in another place—the “here’s what came to me in the shower this morning” scenario, where the present or future Mayor dreams something up from we know not where, which has not been subject to any scrutiny.
I understand that the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor consult advisers, but what goes on in those meetings we do not know. A Liberal Democrat member of the GLA does not know what discussions take place in those meetings and what decisions are made. I do not know whether Members present who also serve on the GLA have a better understanding of what goes on in the meetings between the Mayor, his advisers and other interested parties. We would like to see that out in the open and fully documented, in the way that would be the norm for a local authority.
The hon. Gentleman is right. He will know that the London Assembly’s planning scrutiny committee, of which I was for a time the chair and Baroness Hamwee the deputy chair, produced a report criticising the Mayor’s behaviour on those very matters. Does he agree that although the Mayor has, in response to questions in the Assembly, rather belatedly conceded that he would hold planning meetings in public if he got the positive power to do so, it is not satisfactory for that to depend purely on the assurance of one individual, who might change after an election, and that it is crucial that a safeguard is written into the Bill to ensure that planning meetings are held in public? That should not be dependent on the Mayor’s personal concession. It should be in the primary legislation.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful intervention underlining the fact that whatever commitment is given by the present Mayor, a future Mayor could renege on it. I hope that whether they are given the powers or not, current and future Mayors will welcome more openness in the way that matters are handled, and not rely on future legislation to change the way in which they operate.
Amendment No. 4 lists the people who will be given an opportunity to appear in front of the Mayor before an application of strategic importance is determined by him. We support that, with one caveat. Perhaps inadvertently, paragraph (c) gives special status to constituency members of the GLA. We would want all GLA members to have the same degree of responsibility and access to the Mayor and to appear when matters of strategic importance are debated.
We are happy to support the official Opposition on amendment No. 5, which deletes the provision for the Mayor to carry out planning enforcement. We are a little less certain about amendment No. 18, which seeks to give the City special status in the handling of its applications. The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich pointed out that special circumstances apply in all boroughs, so it is not obvious to me why the City should have special attention. However, as other aspects of the amendment are in keeping with our views, we will support it.
The Liberal Democrat amendment No. 31, which the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) kindly described as very similar to one of the Conservative amendments, was plagiarised and is identical. There are no differences, except that we lopped off a few of the provisions to sharpen the focus on planning applications of potential strategic importance. I do not see a need to reinvent the wheel if it functions effectively. As we have seen, there is substantial co-operation between Opposition Members displaying Liberal Democrat tendencies.
We fully support this group of amendments. They underline the need for a much more open planning process and a much tighter definition in the Bill of applications of potential strategic importance. Even if the Minister is not inclined to respond to the representations that the official Opposition and I have made, I hope she will listen to the former Minister for London, the architect of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, who knows the implications of the Government’s proposals. I hope she will take on board his concerns, as well as ours.
I fear that those in the Chamber have become the victims of group hypnosis, which has led them to believe that the Bill removes planning powers from local authorities and gives them wholesale to the Mayor of London. That is a travesty. It seems to have slightly affected my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), as well as the more susceptible Opposition Members. [Interruption.] I have known the Mayor of London for many years, and there is nothing of which I would not suspect him, but I am referring to what appears in black and white in the Bill.
Planning powers relate to the London plan, not to the individual development plans of the boroughs. It seems entirely logical that the Mayor should have a call-in power and should be able to enforce the London plan, otherwise it is a bogus and almost worthless document.
Things are not quite as simple as that, as the hon. Gentleman will realise if he reflects carefully. At this very minute, the Mayor has made an objection to the final draft of the Southwark unitary development plan, even though it has gone through all its processes, in order to try to influence it in a way that is against all the local views. Although he will argue that it is a London plan justification, it has a unitary development plan implication.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—but my advice to him would be not to worry. Obviously I am not an expert on Southwark, but I am an expert on Hammersmith and Fulham, and I can say that it has decided to ignore its unitary development plan entirely at local level, giving the reason that it is entirely out of date—and as the plan is nearly two years old, I suppose that it might well say that. As a result, on housing and planning policies generally, exactly the opposite of what is said in the UDP is being done. Local boroughs have a great deal of leeway in that respect. The essence of the point remains: that what is guiding the Mayor is the London plan. Yes, there will be some conflicts, and they can be resolved, but we are still talking about matters of a strategic nature.
One of the most controversial parts of the draft order will possibly be the proviso, which mirrors what was in previous policy, that the Mayor can intervene on developments larger than 500 units of residential accommodation. That must be right. I doubt that there could be such a development in London that would not have some strategic impact.
In my borough, two big housing redevelopments are on the drawing board—one at Elephant and Castle, on the Heygate estate, and one slightly further south on the Aylesbury estate. They are both entirely contained within the borough boundary and are replacements of old housing stock by a better development. They have a key Southwark strategic impact, but certainly one, and probably both, have no major London strategic impact, although they comprise at least 1,000 dwellings each.
The hon. Gentleman may be falling into the same error that he accused me of a few moments ago. Often what appears to be a like-for-like replacement involves a significant change to the type, quality or tenure of the accommodation being provided. We are all now familiar, because of their notoriety, with the way in which Conservative local authorities in London, in particular, have endeavoured over the years to build the minimum amount of social affordable housing, principally through the abuse of large developments, and we know what they have allowed large developers to get away with. Those developments may be wholly within one borough—some of those in outer London are very large constructs covering very large areas—but may nevertheless have a strategic impact across the whole of London. I am not arguing for a lower figure than 500, which seems in all ways appropriate.
With the greatest respect, the hon. Gentleman did not deal with the previous point that was made. I have Europe’s largest council estate in my constituency—the Alton estate in Roehampton. Any regeneration that happens on that estate will necessarily be large, purely because of the estate’s size. It is therefore unacceptable for him to say that anything over 500 units is strategic by definition. That is not a workable proposition in reality.
The hon. Lady represents a constituency in the borough of Wandsworth, which possibly has the worst housing record in London, and where, in the last year for which figures are available, only nine affordable rented homes were built, and total output in terms of affordable housing is running at about 21 per cent. That is a shocking record. She illustrates the point that I am trying to make. Unless the Mayor has the power to intervene on large schemes, the affordable housing targets that he is rightly seeking to ensure are met across London will not be met.
We have already started a consultation on the regeneration of the Alton estate. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the people there have a particular overall viewpoint about how they feel it should be regenerated, and that does not correspond with what the Mayor happens to want, now or in future, he should overrule local people on that estate, who know it better than he ever will?
With respect to the hon. Lady, I was talking about the London borough of Wandsworth, not about people on the Alton estate, who no doubt get the level of care for which Wandsworth council is notorious. However, I am glad that she intervened, because she allows me to correct the mistake that I made when I credited Wandsworth with building 21 per cent. affordable housing over the past three years—in fact, the figure is 12 per cent. That is a truly shocking record on the part of her Conservative authority, and I am surprised that she wishes to draw attention to it.
As far as I am aware, nobody has disputed that the overwhelming majority—about 99 per cent.—of planning decisions will remain with the boroughs. The Bill is about strategic importance—not only in housing, although that is a key area at the moment because of the neglect by certain boroughs. That is what is being lost in this debate. There is a clever attempt by the Opposition parties to portray this as a power grab by the Mayor, in relation to a Bill that should be relatively uncontroversial, given that purportedly all main parties support the success of the GLA and the Mayor since they were introduced by a Labour Government. This is an attempt to smear part of the Bill with the idea that this is a power grab from the boroughs by the Mayor.
On transparent decision making, some Members have conceded that the Mayor has now set out a clear chain of decision making that will be transparent and open to scrutiny. I remind Opposition Members that several boroughs, which are all Conservative—Hammersmith, Kensington, Westminster—do not allow representations to be made. Only an hour ago, I was talking to a social housing developer who last week was refused permission to put forward representations at a Hammersmith planning committee. It is an act of pure hypocrisy for the Opposition parties to accuse the Mayor of a lack of transparency when the practices that are being followed in some of the leading Conservative boroughs in London are far less democratic and open.
I will concentrate my remarks on the two amendments in my name—amendments Nos. 28 and 29—which would affect the City of London Corporation. They would put the area covered by the City of London in the same position as the areas covered by the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation and the Olympic Delivery Authority, as land exempted from the Mayor’s new powers of intervention. The areas to be covered by Thames Gateway and the Olympics are in a sense very special areas, but their general features are probably much more characteristic of London as a whole than is the City of London.
In Committee the Minister said that the land within the Thames Gateway and the ODA area were not excluded because there is no need to include them. Later, she said:
“the Olympics and the ODA refer to specific sites”,
whereas the policies to be dealt with by the Mayor
“apply across London as a whole”.––[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 16 January 2007; c. 222.]
On those grounds there would seem to be good grounds to exempt the area covered by the City of London as well.
The City is certainly a very specific and atypical area, and the policies applied there are not the same as in the rest of London. [Interruption.] I am slightly worried as I see in his place the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), who, together with the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), has fought various battles about the electoral system that takes place within the City of London.
There are, of course, other fundamental differences. For example, the existing order under the mayoral involvement is triggered on planning applications that make different height and size requirements in the City as against Greater London as a whole. It is very difficult to see how the areas covered by the Olympics and the Thames Gateway would therefore be more distinctive. It is not as though the Mayor does not already have some involvement. The City’s own planning regime has to be in general conformity with mayoral policies under existing legislation. Neither does the fact that the Mayor has taken on a role in supporting the Olympics and the Thames Gateway make the argument for treating them differently from the City.
If a role as a cheerleader has ruled him out from considering applications, the Mayor would equally be disbarred from deciding applications in the City of London, as many of them concern tall buildings, as the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out in his powerful contribution earlier. That is a policy that the Mayor has said very firmly that he supports. I hope that the Minister will reflect on the case for the area of the City of London to be treated differently from the other areas to which we have referred—and therefore exempted.
I would like to speak briefly to amendment No. 29. In July 2005, the Mayor produced for the consultation of the London assembly draft alterations to the London plan, which included a 10-year target for the City of some 1,700 units—in other words, roughly 170 units a year. In October that year, he published further alterations to the London plan, which included a lower target of 90 a year. The alterations were then subject to public consultation and, after an examination in public, were finally adopted as recently as December 2006.
In the 18 months between the publication and adoption, the City argued strenuously that the figure of 170 units a year anticipated by the Mayor would actually be too high. With a 10-year cycle and assuming an average two-person household, it would have the effect of increasing the City’s resident population by about 3,000 people—in fact, by more than a third in that 10-year cycle. I have to say that the City’s population has been reduced year on year since the very first census of 1801—with the exception of the last 10 years, when it started very gradually to move up again. None the less, increasing it by a third over a decade would, in my view, be wholly unrealistic. As a result of sensible negotiation the figure was reduced to some 90 units a year, and the fact that it was accepted demonstrates that the original figure was rather too high. I hope that, under amendment No. 29, an application will not be regarded as being “of potential strategic importance” simply because it fails to comply with any policies in the development plans.
I would like to associate myself with the earlier comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait). She made her case firmly, explaining why we believe that this is a step too far and would like to avoid having strategic planning powers passed on to the Mayor, particularly when the definition of “strategic” has been left so open.
I entirely endorse the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field). I hope that he will appreciate why I will not follow through his points specifically, but they were well made and they stand very much on their own.
The debate operates at two levels. First, there is an argument of principle and philosophy as to whether the Mayor should have positive planning powers. There is a disagreement between the two sides of the House about that. We have rehearsed the arguments at some length and I do not intend to go into further detail. I believe that the Government are, for all the reasons that have been rehearsed in the past, making an error, but I want to move on to the second level of the debate.
If we go down that route, it is absolutely crucial to do so with care in ways that are workable and also to maintain public confidence. When it comes to giving the Mayor those powers, there is the strong principal objection of remoteness, but there is also the question of confidence, which links the two levels. Concentrating planning powers in a one-man elected Executive has to be handled carefully because of questions of remoteness and probity.
I hasten to add that to say that is to cast no aspersion at all on the current incumbent of the office; it is a fact of life that extra care has to be taken. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) said, it is crucial to write directly into the Bill the transparency in the process of handling planning applications. I explained why that was important when I intervened on the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), but I will not waste time in restating that at length. The key test is that if the public are to have any confidence in the process, they must be sure that it cannot be changed at the whim of any individual Mayor. There must be clarity and certainty about how to go through the process.
That same principle applies to the conflict resolution procedure, as highlighted by many leading academics, such as Tony Travers, who has been quoted a number of times both in Committee and on Second Reading. He understands a great deal about this matter and he rightly highlighted the issue of conflict between the two tiers as something going right back to the days of the Greater London Council. It was one of the things that has undermined the good working of London governance. Planning is the one area above all others where there is a risk of conflict, so spelling out precisely how it is to be resolved is crucial.
That leads, in turn, to the third strand, which is the question of the definition of “strategic”—the most likely area in which conflict will arise. I have always enjoyed my sparring in various venues with the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford). I particularly appreciated his contribution tonight. It is significant that there have been only two contributions from the Government Back Benches. One, at any rate, really added something to this debate. I say nothing of the other. The fact is that, even though I disagree with him at times, the right hon. Gentleman is widely respected on both sides of the House as someone who understands London government and its workings. I agree in broad measure with his successor’s tribute to him earlier.
Let me say in all sincerity that if the Government take anything away from this debate, they should take the comments of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich about the definition of “strategic”. Even if they reject everything that my hon. Friends and I have proposed, I hope that they will take that on board. It was as effective a forensic demolition of a statutory instrument as I have ever encountered—a hugely powerful and immensely persuasive piece of work. The right hon. Gentleman has rightly ripped a flawed statutory instrument apart, and it would be no shame on the Government—it would be a proper part of our process—if they said that they would go away and change that statutory instrument, even if they did nothing else that has been urged upon them. If we are going to have this system, we must make sure that it works.
For whatever reason, the current statutory instrument will not deliver the purpose, nor will it achieve the Minister’s objective. I take her at her word, as she said in Committee that it was her desire and intention that only a small handful of cases should be considered by the Mayor. For all the reasons adequately and eloquently advanced by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, the current draft order will not achieve that. The mission creep point is all the more important if we are to achieve the Minister’s own desired and stated objective. I cannot emphasise that too strongly.
The other elements of mission creep are set out in our endeavours to define some parameters. We have done that, but it is always a problem when someone of the extraordinary mental agility of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) is not here, because he can carry these things in his brain, while lesser mortals like some of my hon. Friends and me have to work it out on a piece of paper. We sought to construct a number of alternatives that would set out a scheme to define in a workable fashion what was meant by “strategic”. That could also be done by order, but we want to press our argument that the definition should be included in the Bill. The issue is so fundamental, and the risk of conflict so great, that at least the parameters of what “strategic” means should be in the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham dealt with many of the early new clauses and amendments, and I shall not repeat her arguments. I want to pick up on the last three of the amendments in the group, however—amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7. Amendment No. 5 deals with enforcement. This relates to an odd provision in the Bill, which runs the risk of damaging the architecture to which the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich referred, because this is an area in which the Mayor could become involved in service delivery.
The Bill, as drafted, will enable a statutory instrument to make provision for the Mayor to undertake planning enforcement. I see absolutely no need for that, even if we buy the basic principle of the Government’s argument. Even if it were thought appropriate for the Mayor to have the power to call in and decide on certain applications, there is no reason why he should also be responsible for the planning enforcement that would follow. It is perfectly logical that, as a strategic authority, he should determine such questions, but the service delivery element—the planning enforcement—should be carried out by the London borough in which the development would be situated.
I do not relish the idea of any Mayor of London having a planning enforcement division with a lot of enforcement officers. That is clearly undesirable, and a recipe for bureaucracy. The Government would be sensible to think again about this provision, without damaging the overall scheme of the Bill. It seems anomalous that it should be there.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 touch on the other hugely sensitive issues of planning gain and section 106 agreements, which are often the elephant in the corner in these discussions. It is inconsistent with a devolutionary argument to say that because a development is classed as strategic, the Mayor should be able to appropriate the planning gain from it. There has been a lot of controversy in the history of planning gain and section 106 agreements. Some of us are old enough to remember section 51 agreements. I see the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich smiling in mutual recollection of such distant times—
Indeed. The fact is that these arrangements have been around for a long time, as have the discussions about them. Of course there is a legitimate argument for ensuring that there is a community benefit from any development. In the case of large-scale developments, some of that will relate to matters that could be characterised as strategic. However, other elements of the planning gain have always been recognised—we might as well be honest about this—as being something put back into the local community to make a development acceptable, when without it, it might not be acceptable. There is an element of trade-off involved, as there frequently is in planning matters. The fact that the community can get something back from a development is sometimes important in ensuring that the development is accepted and can be linked effectively in with the community. Even years ago, such arrangements were hinting at a move towards what would be known in modern parlance as a more sustainable form of community.
It is hugely important that the local community in which a development takes place has the assurance that it will get some of the planning gain back, however it is characterised. Effectively regionalising the planning gain by passing it over to the Mayor is not the way to do that. The only thing that would be worse is the idea, which has sometimes been floated, of establishing a national planning gain supplement, so that the Treasury could nationalise it and take it over. I am sure that the Minister would not be privy to the thinking of Treasury Ministers on that matter, but such a proposal would be of even greater concern to us. I do not want to set a precedent in London for such a move by enabling the Mayor to seize all the planning gain.
It might be argued that because of their strategic size, some developments will have implications for strategic infrastructure, in which the Mayor has an interest. I accept that, but the present procedures already enable Transport for London, for example, to be a statutory consultee in relation to such projects. TFL has every reason, and every ability, to get its demands heard in such negotiations.
I do not have a problem with the Mayor and his agencies taking part in the negotiations on what happens to the planning gain. I object, however, to their being the owners of the planning gain in such cases. I would far rather have the process driven by the boroughs, for the local people, and the Mayor could negotiate the arrangements and get out a chunk of what he wanted. That would be more in accordance with our localist tradition, and much more likely to command support.
The thought that a large-scale development could be imposed on a community against its will by the Mayor and that all the planning gain could then be taken by the Mayor, and spent not in that borough at all but somewhere else, is hardly likely to engender confidence in the planning system in London. It is potentially another one of those perverse incentives that were referred to earlier in the debate, whereby loosely drafted legislation can have damaging consequences that were not foreseen.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is already a precedent for that very problem in relation to the congestion charge? The raison d’être of the congestion charge in so far as it ever makes any money, is that that money will be utilised for a very small area—for the rest of London, with its transport policies. There is little doubt that if the strategic policy goes ahead, the planning gain will be used on a London-wide basis, and therefore have little nexus with the community involved.
Does my hon. Friend agree with my constituents, who are concerned because there is already pressure on infrastructure through population increase, and in many cases, over-dense development? If the section 106 money is taken away and not spent in the local area, that will increase the pressure exponentially.
That is absolutely right; that is why I am concerned. It is regrettable that the discussion about section 106 comes towards the end of a time-limited debate, because it is a hugely important issue and probably deserves more time on its own. That is another reason why we should think again about this matter, and why I hope that we will press the amendment. There are ways in which we can make sensible and constructive use of planning gain. There is no doubt about that. There are ways in which the strategic authority can have a legitimate role, but we believe that the current proposal in the Bill is altogether too blunt to achieve that, and that our amendment provides a much more coherent way forward.
I have a real sense of déjà vu, having been present at the Second Reading debate, when many of the same concerns, about this part of the Bill in particular, were mentioned. Another thing that has contributed to my sense of déjà vu is how few Members on the Government Benches have spoken in favour of the legislation. That balance of opinion should be reflected in the Government’s actions. They should take on board some of the amendments that have been tabled this evening.
I agreed with a lot of what the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) said. He eloquently set out some of the pitfalls that the Bill and the statutory instrument that underpins it might present to local residents if the provisions are passed in their current form. There is no doubt that, out of all the processes that happen at a local level, planning is the one that people understand and will engage with. Many of us, as constituency MPs, will have had experience of planning applications, often from mobile phone operators, that are subsequently overturned by the planning inspectorate. They are the applications that annoy local people most. There is plenty of evidence that when local decision making is overridden by a higher Government body, that is not taken well. We need to be careful that we do not remove decision-making powers from local boroughs unnecessarily.
Ultimately, we want strategic projects and regeneration to be successful and often the input of local residents into the plans is the reason why they are successful. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) noted, whoever the Mayor is, it is almost impossible that they will have that level of local knowledge and that sense of what will work in the local community. They will never have quite the same level of local knowledge as local people and councillors do. The unwitting impact of the Bill and the statutory instrument could be that strategic projects and regeneration are less successful.
The issue is important to me as a constituency MP, because I have at least two big regeneration projects taking place in my constituency. The first is in Roehampton, on the Alton estate, which is the most deprived part of my constituency, and the second is in the middle of Wandsworth, which cuts across all three constituencies in the borough—Battersea and Tooting, as well as Putney. I think that all local people want to be part of those regeneration projects. They want their views heard on how such projects should be tailored to local needs. It concerns me that the Government still intend to push forward with legislation that will fundamentally take away the ability of local people to have their voice heard on some of most important planning projects that residents in the area are likely to see in their lifetime. I shall leave it at that.
When the Minister for Housing and Planning responds to the overwhelming concerns of Members who are present, I hope that she will have something constructive to say, that she will give some assurances and, ideally, that she will take on board the proposals tabled by Conservative Members.
I shall be brief, but I have exactly the same strength of view as has been expressed by many on the Opposition Benches and by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford).
As my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) made clear, the objection is to clause 31 as drafted. It gives a new power, which we have not had before, to allow an application made to the local planning authority to be the subject of a direction by the Mayor that he will be the planning authority—he will take that on. The criteria are defined in general terms in the Bill. One of the qualifications is that the application has to be
“an application of potential strategic importance.”
We are then meant to look at the secondary legislation, which is in draft, as the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich and others have mentioned, to see how that is defined. That is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.
I believe that many of us will have received a letter from the Mayor in advance of this debate. It is extremely disingenuous in certain respects, as hon. Members would expect. It states:
“Boroughs will still continue to determine over 99 per cent. of all applications.”
That may be true, but if anyone were to think that it refers to 99 per cent. of all their housing or of all the space taken up, it would not be true. We are talking about mansard roof extensions being in the same league as the redevelopments of the Heygate estate, the Aylesbury estate, the Greenwich riverside and the St. Helier estate in Sutton or as a development along the riverside in Richmond or Kingston.
Page 7 of the letter contains an extraordinarily disingenuous prayer in aid:
“Contrary to some claims, there is considerable support for the planning changes. A recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that Londoners support the proposals for the Mayor to approve major planning applications. Sixty-four per cent. of those polled reported that they would support the Mayor’s involvement in applications for a new recycling plant to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites in London”.
What that meant was that two thirds of people wanted less landfill and that they wanted to recycle. It was not about wanting the Mayor to have the power to do that.
The letter continued:
“A huge 83 per cent. supported the Mayor’s target that 50 per cent. of all new homes should be affordable for people on low and moderate incomes.”
Well, there is a surprise. Of course people want a high target on affordable housing—I do for my constituency. I have always argued for a figure of 50 per cent. to apply in Southwark, as have my colleagues. As an aside, they were defeated during the previous administration, when we were the minority, by a Labour-Tory coalition that regrettably voted down a 50 per cent. proposal.
I shall reinforce the argument as to why the current proposals are not only flawed, but wrong. They undermine democracy and will, if the Government sustain them, in all likelihood, be defeated when the Bill goes to the other place. I am sure that those proposals will not get through because they offer a power to the Mayor to grab the decisions on matters that are not of strategic importance to London. I want to give two examples in that regard.
The first concerns a debate that is going on in my borough about whether, in a small development by Barratt Homes in Surrey docks, there should be a larger or smaller development. Barratt wanted a larger development, but the local authority said no. There was an appeal and the matter went to a public inquiry. The inspector said no, so it went to the Secretary of State, who said yes. Why has the Secretary of State said yes? Because that is the implication of what the Mayor wants; he wants that bit of Surrey docks to be designated as urban, not as suburban, even though it is woodland and is meant to be laid out in a suburban way. That is the reason why the Mayor is objecting to the unitary development plan. The development has no strategic importance for London. Southwark, which is doing well at meeting its housing targets and wants to do more, wishes to replace the big Heygate estate with new housing, including more social housing, and to replace the Aylesbury estate with a development involving at least as much social housing as at present, as well as other housing.
There is, of course, a debate about how to achieve the amount of housing that we need in London. There should be a dialogue and agreement between the Mayor and the local authority, and the local authority must then be free to decide where to put the housing and how to build it. It should be able to decide whether it wants a tall development, a big estate, or lots of little developments. Such decisions should be taken by local authorities, so it is not for the Mayor to say, “You will have this great big development in the middle of your borough, whether or not you think it is appropriate.”
There will be a huge danger if a development becomes strategic just because it is regarded as being big—a development with more than 500 dwellings, to cite the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter). The two biggest developments in my borough are strategic for Southwark, but not for London. They are replacements for existing developments. They will involve more social housing, although sadly they cannot be made up of council housing in whole or part because the Government do not make such an option available. There is a great danger that if the Mayor and the Government—if they are in cahoots—suddenly decide to define something as strategic, that will determine the interpretation.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) and the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, I have a huge amount of riverside in my constituency all the way from the Oxo tower to Deptford creek. It would be absolutely possible for a Mayor to say that every single development on that river is strategic. Of course, there is a site of huge strategic importance by Tower bridge and City hall on Potters Fields—it is strategic because it involves a world heritage site—but that is not the same as a little site in which a development could be squeezed down in Rotherhithe, Surrey docks, or the Deptford borders.
We are absolutely right to oppose these dangerous proposals. I am keen for the Liberal Democrat and Conservative amendments to be put to the vote. If they are defeated, I am as sure as anyone can be that this will not be the last that people will hear of the matter. I ask the Minister, in all seriousness, to back down. This is not local government, but a creep towards regional and central Government making decisions that should be taken by local councillors. Why will people stand for local elections and participate in the process if, at the end of the day, someone else takes the decisions?