Lords amendments considered.
Before Clause 3
Lords amendment: No. 1.
I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.
I welcome the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) to the Front Bench and to the Dispatch Box again after last night. During consideration of the Bill, he has moved from the Back Benches to the Front Bench and has seen it through every stage, as has the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake). They have lived with the Bill for longer than I have and I look forward to their contributions.
Lords Amendment No. 1 would amend section 21 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, to disqualify a person from being the Mayor or an assembly member if they had been Mayor twice before. This would have the effect of restricting the Mayor to two terms of office. The purpose is clear: they cannot beat Ken Livingstone at the ballot box, so they are trying to bar him from standing at all. It should be for Londoners to decide whether they want Ken Livingstone to continue to serve as their London Mayor, not MPs from all parts of the UK and certainly not members of the unelected House in another place. We do not agree with the Tories and the Liberal Democrats on this and we will not accept the amendment.
The amendment goes right to the heart of the GLA’s constitution and its key principle of a strong executive Mayor whose democratic mandate and political legitimacy is derived from direct elections. The amendment and the change, as put together by an alliance of Tories and Liberals in the other place, challenges one of the underlying constitutional principles of British political life, namely, that there should be no term limits on any elected representatives to any political office. That applies to MPs, councillors and members of the devolved Administrations, all of whom can serve for as long as the electorate lets them.
I am not alone in arguing this. In Committee, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) argued forcefully that
“we have to accept that the whole principle of term limits is alien to the British constitution.” ––[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2007; c. 329.]
The issue has been well debated in another place and here, and I am aware of the arguments of those who favour term limits for the mayor. They have argued that term limits would provide an important check on an office-holder who yields considerable executive power when in office. They have argued also that it would help the office to be refreshed and reinvigorated regularly, but these arguments do not stand up when subject to scrutiny.
There is a tendency to think that, because the US president and the elected mayors of some US cities have term limits, the Mayor of London should do too. But the electoral arrangements for the office of Mayor of London need to reflect both London’s particular circumstances and the wider political and democratic culture in this country. I strongly believe that the regular elections for Mayor every four years under the GLA Act already provide a strong check on an incumbent Mayor. Furthermore, unlike some American cities, London is not a one-party city where a favoured candidate can be shoed into office and remain Mayor for life.
First, the electoral arrangements in place for the Mayor under the GLA Act require that a successful candidate have the support of the majority of voters. Secondly, politics in London is and always has been highly competitive. Finally, given the high national profile of the Mayor of London, all major political parties would naturally and normally want to ensure that they have at least a credible candidate standing on their behalf. These factors together ensure that each mayoral election campaign is hard fought and each campaign gives a fresh mandate to the post of mayor, whether or not it goes to the incumbent.
Where towns or cities are in effect one-party states—there are perhaps more of them involving his party than mine—should there be term limits? I very much agree with almost everything that he said until that point, at which he almost partly recognised that the reason why he did not want to see term limits in London was that it was much more competitive. Surely that should have no effect on the matter.
No, I am simply trying to do justice to some of the arguments that were made in debates during previous stages of the Bill. Central to my argument is the principle that the electorate, which in this case is Londoners across London, have the right to throw out an incumbent Mayor; they have the right to pass judgment on the performance of the Mayor at regular elections.
I hope that the sense displayed by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath will prevail with the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and his colleagues, and that they will back us in the Lobby this afternoon. Unless they do so, people will rightly conclude that they have no confidence in their candidate for Mayor and that they are running scared that Ken Livingstone will win a third term in office.
I thank the Minister for his kind words. The matters under discussion have been an entertaining “London special” for many of us who have been involved in them. The Bill has had an interesting progress, and I hope that we will not delay the House too long in dealing with the remaining issues.
The purpose of the House of Lords is to raise issues and to ask Members of this House to consider and reflect on matters, but this House should, of course, be the ultimate determiner. It is neither unreasonable nor surprising that this issue was debated in the Lords. What comes across from reading the Hansard records of the debates in the other place is that their Lordships were not only concerned about the term limits issue itself—about which there is legitimate widespread debate, particularly in academic circles—but many of them were driven by a sense of frustration at the lack of internal checks and balances in the operation of the Greater London authority. I have sympathy with their Lordships on the symptoms that they identified but, for reasons that I will come on to, I do not think that the cure proposed is appropriate.
I do not recall that their Lordships wanted to go into that degree of detail—although the debate ranged widely and was well informed.
The Minister makes the legitimate point that it is not a United Kingdom tradition to have term limits—although they do occur in other jurisdictions—but that does not mean that it is wrong to debate the issue. I should add that it is ironic that the Government were unable to muster enough of their own supporters to carry the day, and I hope that the Government will address—they have not done so thus far—the underlying sense of frustration that too much power is concentrated in the hands of the Mayor.
Term limits were one solution that found favour in the House of Lords. I would have preferred it if the Government had listened to the alternative that we put forward in earlier stages of the Bill’s progress in this House. We wanted to readdress the checks and balances within the structures of the GLA, to give the assembly more hold over the Mayor, the ability to amend the budget and strategies and greater power to call in mayoral directions. That alternative would, perhaps, have sat more easily with our traditions.
That we will not seek to pursue the Lords Amendment by pressing it to a Division does not mean that we are not frustrated and uneasy that too much power is concentrated in the hands of the Mayor of London—whoever holds the post—and the particular frustration that the current Mayor has aggravated the situation by the way in which he has used his significant powers.
It is uncomfortable for me to witness the hon. Gentleman wriggling. We would like to hear why, in combination with the Liberal Democrats, he attempted a coup in the other place, as the only way he thought it would be possible to defeat the current incumbent, from which he is now having to backtrack at an alarming rate.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman’s interventions do not become any more considered with the passage of time. What we said in this House was clear, and I restate our position. The wriggling has to be done by those who advocate the current somewhat unbalanced constitutional arrangement within London’s devolved structures. The Back-Bench Members who were present throughout the passage of the Bill will know that the Opposition consistently argued that there should be a two-tier strategy to address that, by devolving more strategic powers from central Government to London governance—by getting rid of the Government office for London, for example—and by redressing the balance between the Mayor and the assembly to create a more constructive partnership.
I simply wish to ask a question: will this set a precedent for the Conservatives? Will there be separate and opposite policies in both Houses as a matter of rule? Labour Members would like to know, because if we are to borrow policies, we will have a choice in that case.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
My hon. Friend is making a sound and sensible speech. Londoners want there to be checks and balances and for power to be devolved from central Government to the GLA and Mayor, and then down to the boroughs. Surely that is what we should all be supporting.
My hon. Friend is right. It is important to remember that the boroughs are a third key part of the equation. London governance now rightly consists of a tripartite arrangement between the Mayor, the assembly and the boroughs, and we should be seeking structures that allow those three key elements of London to work constructively together. Their Lordships felt strongly about this issue, and the Mayor brought that change on himself by his own behaviour—the capricious way in which he has used some of his powers.
This issue was raised in the Lords, and it has come back before us in this House. It is not desirable to look at the situation of the GLA in isolation from the rest of our constitutional arrangements. However, although we will not seek to oppose the Government on this issue, it is sad that they have failed to address the underlying cause by not taking on board sensible amendments to balance the powers properly and to prevent the current discontent—which it is no good pretending does not exist—about how the GLA operates.
I am pleased to return to this matter, which I raised in Committee. We had much fun with it, and I regret that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) is not present to continue that. I suspect that the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) has been put up by his party because, in the light of events in the other place, it is easier for him to wriggle than the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, who would have had to try to face both ways on this subject.
In the other place, my noble Friend Lord Tope expressed very well why it would be appropriate for there to be a two-term limit for the Mayor:
“Local government works on a parliamentary system…where power is shared between a number of people, and the leader, however termed, is elected by the council and not directly by the people.”
He continued that, in relation to the Mayor of London:
“We moved from that system to an essentially presidential system, where one person has all executive power vested in him or her.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 2007; Vol. 693, c. 116.]
When the matter was discussed in Committee, a number of hon. Members expressed concern that it was a partisan issue that had been raised to try to unseat the current Mayor. I reassured them that that was not the case, and the concerns expressed were picked up by my colleagues in the other place, who tabled an amendment to make it clear that the provision would not apply to the current incumbent.
Another issue that was raised, I think by the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), was whether this rule on fixed terms for executive mayors should apply more widely than to the Mayor of London. We cannot debate that in general terms, but as a general principle I think that when a mayor has executive powers, there is a strong argument for their having fixed terms, whether we are talking about the Mayor of London or someone else.
Labour Members have rightly drawn the House’s attention to the fact that there is a split within the official Opposition on this issue. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath was forceful in dismissing this proposal, and it is worth citing some of the more florid phrases used. This is not one of them, but he said that this was
“a proposition that I must concede is flawed…the whole principle of term limits is alien to the British constitution.”––[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2007; c. 329.]
As Labour Members, including the Minister, have pointed out, while we may have evolved a constitution that is allergic to term limits, it would seem as if the other place is not as allergic to them as we are in this Chamber.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but it was not just the official Opposition who voted for this in the House of Lords—the Liberal Democrats did so, too. Therefore, he has the same problem of wriggling as the Conservative spokesman and is digging just as big a hole—it is big enough for two bendy buses.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present during Committee, but we supported the idea of two terms then, as indeed we did in the House of Lords. There is no split within the Liberal Democrats on this issue; we are united on the subject. As for whether we shall choose to press the matter to a Division, it is clear that the numbers are unfortunately against us, and I am all in favour of doing business effectively. It might be that on the next amendment, the Opposition parties will be united, because, as the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said, the budget is an issue on which the Government could have taken action to address hon. Members’ concerns about the Mayor’s powers, but they omitted to do so.
In Committee, I had the privilege of listening to the hon. Gentleman describe, in a moment of rare self-awareness, one of his speeches as “not my finest hour.” I can assure him that it was, in comparison with the position he is taking today. I am still not clear whether the Liberal Democrats are supporting a two-term limit, including for the current Mayor.
I thought that I had made it extremely clear that we are in favour of a two-term limit, but that Baroness Hamwee tabled an amendment in the other place, the purpose of which was to ensure that the proposal was not retrospective and thus would kick in after the next mayoral elections. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) says, the hon. Gentleman is therefore guilty of exactly the same crime as the official Opposition. In Committee, his line was to have a two-term limit that would apply to the incumbent—he is shaking his head, but he should read what he said—whereas in the other place, as he says, the position had moved slightly. I assume that the reason for that was that his party had given up any hope of this election and was looking towards the next one, but I hope that he will clarify that.
I thank the hon. Gentleman. I merely restate the fact that this was not intended to be a partisan amendment seeking simply to unseat the present incumbent. I am confident that on 10 November, when we will announce our mayoral candidate, he or she will be more than a match for the present Mayor and will, along with the Conservative candidate, have great fun in the next six months.
The proposal would be of huge benefit, because we have moved to a much more presidential system and thus we need to ensure that someone with all the powers and control vested in him or her is not able to continue in post ad nauseam. I hope that I have made it clear that the proposal is not about the present incumbent, with whom I am quite happy, and that the measure would not be introduced retrospectively. However, it should be introduced for future elections and indeed may well need to apply to other executive mayors too.
I regret that my party was associated with this matter in the House of Lords, because it is wholly wrong that there should be term limits at all. In fairness, I suspect that the idea was to generate a debate, perhaps a slightly academic one. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) made it clear from the Front Bench what our concerns were: that there are potentially too many powers in the hands of the Mayor.
Certain aspects of power that should be in the Mayor’s hands are not, but the continued existence of the Government office for London under the Minister’s tutelage is unacceptable, given the devolution that we have had in the capital city during the past seven years. I, for one, have always said that we should abolish the Government office for London and give some powers back to the boroughs and others to the Mayor. That would be the sensible solution for this capital city.
I take on board what the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said. This was rightly intended in a non-partisan way and would not apply to the current incumbent, but such a term limit should not apply at all. I agreed with what the Minister said: this country has no tradition of term limits, nor should we start having them now.
The hon. Gentleman said that he thought that the official Opposition in the other place had simply raised the matter for debate. Baroness Hanham, speaking in favour of two-term limits, said:
“The position should not become monopolised by any one individual or party…The role requires challenge, renewal and refreshment.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 2007; Vol. 693, c. 115.]
Does the hon. Gentleman think that that is simply about engaging in a debate?
To a large extent, it was. I served under Baroness Hanham as a councillor in the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where, coincidentally, I served for two terms, as I believed she did as leader. Perhaps she was putting her money where her mouth was in that particular regard.
I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend’s thesis. Are the Liberal Democrats not taking an illogical position? Why restrict two-term limits simply to the Mayor of London? Why not, for example, apply them to Members of Parliament, particularly given that the proposal comes from a third-term Member of Parliament?
I shall leave it to the opponents of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington to make that case. On term limits for the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the clock is running quickly for the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), but we shall say no more about those matters.
The arrangement for the United States presidency is a special situation. The founding fathers had particular safeguards in mind when they decided to have two-term limits for the presidency.
I do not wish to upset my hon. Friend, but I should mention that the founding fathers had no view on the subject. This was a rather nasty proposal made by the Republicans in the 1950s because Franklin Roosevelt had broken the tradition of serving just two terms and had been elected to his fourth term, and they wanted to ensure that no Democrat ever did so again.
I know that the loquaciousness of north Essex Members knows no bounds, but I think that we will leave it at that. This country has no tradition of term limits and such a proposal would be highly regrettable. Even in the United States, a number of members of the Senate and Congress have famously served for many decades and many terms of office. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst had to say, and I hope that we will not support the Lords amendment. If it is pressed to a Division, I shall vote with the Government. We shall see what the Liberal Democrat spokesman has to say about the disreputable suggestion for term limits in this regard.
The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) set out some general concerns and arguments that he and others have rehearsed during the course of the Bill about the proper balance of power between the Mayor and the assembly within the Greater London authority. There are measures in the Bill to reinforce the hand of the assembly in carrying out its proper scrutiny role in relation to the Mayor. There is the introduction of confirmation hearings and the requirement for the Mayor to have regard to the responses that the assembly may make to consultations and strategies that the Mayor proposes. There is the capacity to amend the budget, which we shall discuss before too long. The Bill is also about building on what has been a successful policy of a strong executive Mayor for our capital city. I make no apologies for that.
The Liberal Democrats and the Tories, having voted in the other place to try to keep Ken Livingstone out of office, now seem rather embarrassed by the actions of their colleagues in the other place. There has been a good deal of squirming and swivelling on the Front Benches this afternoon. I look forward to seeing how they decide to vote. It is clear from the Conservative Front Bench that the hon. Gentleman has comprehensively disowned the arguments and stance of his colleagues in the upper House. In some ways that gives a new meaning to the process of ping pong between the two Houses. We have a ping pong of Tory policy on this Bill.
In January the official Front-Bench position of the Conservatives was set out by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). He said,
“any attempt to call for term limits will inevitably be seen as an attempt to clip Ken’s wings rather than ensure that the principle applies impartially to the mayoral office…we do not believe in term limits in principle or for the Mayor of London.”—[Official Report, Greater London Authority Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2007; c. 329-31]
By June the official Conservative Front-Bench position was set out by Baroness Hanham. She said:
“The office of Mayor in this country is now the nearest thing we have to a dictator…the Mayor should be entitled to run for only two terms of office”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 2007; Vol. 693, c. 115.]
Clearly, they had come to the conclusion that they could not beat Ken, so they must ban him. I am sorry that we shall not have the benefit of the views of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) on this matter, as he is not in the Chamber at present.
The argument and the position of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) are not strengthened by a special get-out clause for Ken, allowing him to stand this time, but to impose the principle of fixed term limits for the Mayor of London in future. An incumbent Mayor should be able to seek re-election on the basis of his track record and it should be the electorate—in this case Londoners across the capital city—who have the right to reject or elect him to serve a further term.
It is a curious position of principle to suggest that because someone does not like the outcome of a democratic election, they will tinker with the process. As the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) has left the Chamber during the debate, can my hon. Friend ask whether the Opposition spokesman will intervene and tell us whether he intends to vote with the Conservative Whip or not? The people of London would have been interested in the views of a mayoral candidate on this particular issue.
My hon. Friend is right. Shortly we shall see the decisions that all hon. Members, particularly those on the Opposition Front Bench, make in voting.
My essential argument is that it remains rightly for the electorate to make this decision. It remains for the incumbent Mayor to stand on the basis of his track record. It remains for Londoners, not Members of this House or the other place, to make this decision. That is the principle that sits at the heart of elected office at all levels in this country.
I welcome the brief intervention and contribution from the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field). I have long experience of debating a number of matters with him and he is always the voice of reason of the Conservative party. He is right that we have no tradition of fixed terms in this country. I welcome his promise of support for us in the Lobbies on this matter, and I hope that the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) will do so too.
Lords amendment disagreed to.
Before Clause 12
Lords amendment: No. 2
I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment.
The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) touched on the question of the budget and the budget-making process and powers. I can understand the superficial appeal of this amendment. It is reasonable to say that to a detached observer it may seem only fair that an assembly should be able to exercise its power to amend the Mayor’s final draft consolidated budget by simple majority rather than the two-thirds majority currently required. However, the principle of the two thirds majority goes to the heart of the governance of the GLA—a governance and a model that has served London well since its introduction. I shall explain to the House why that principle is so important.
The amendment cuts directly across the principle of a strong executive Mayor and an assembly holding him to account for his actions through effective scrutiny. The budget plays a central role in this model. It allows the Mayor to propose a funding package to implement his policies, priorities and proposals. It allows the assembly to amend only if a broad consensus—in other words, two thirds of assembly members—are minded to do so. It is an important check and balance on the Mayor. It ensures that he cannot take the assembly for granted in proposing his annual budget, but it is also a clear signal to the assembly that it must work together to amend the Mayor’s budget proposals formally.
I was glad to see that that approach was endorsed by Lord Heseltine in his recent taskforce reports published in June. He recommended that city Mayors
“should be subject to loose scrutiny by the Assembly, who would require a two thirds majority to block executive actions.”
The GLA budget-making process is based exactly on that principle and approach. The Mayor first presents the assembly with a draft budget, which it may amend by a simple majority, and then a final draft budget, which it can amend by a two-thirds majority. That allows the assembly to exert real influence over the Mayor in terms of his budget priorities—influence which the GLA itself acknowledges has saved more than £125 million by reining in, in their terms, the Mayor’s budget proposals.
In contrast, to allow the assembly to amend the final budget by a simply majority would in effect mean the assembly, not the Mayor, would routinely set the GLA budget. It would fundamentally weaken the Mayor’s position, which may indeed be the hidden purpose of the amendment, and it risks a complete disconnect, therefore, between the budget and the Mayor’s priorities. If hon. Members pause and consider such a position, it is clear that that risks deadlock between the assembly and the Mayor. It risks conflict and an impasse which would be bad for the GLA, for London and for Londoners.
The debate in the other place has been helpful. It has shed important light on how the budget process has been handled in city hall to date, and on two commonly held misconceptions about the role of the assembly in the budget-making process. The first misconception is that assembly members cannot vote in favour of specific amendments because in doing so they would be voting to accept other parts of the Mayor’s final draft budget with which they might disagree. That argument fails to take sufficient account of the provisions of the original Greater London Authority Act 1999. Schedule 6 of the Act makes it clear that the assembly must approve the Mayor’s final draft budget, with or without amendment, with a two-thirds majority needed to make any amendment. The Act could not be clearer about the assembly’s statutory duties in setting the annual budget. Assembly members have no option to “reject” the Mayor’s final draft.
The second misconception seems to be that the assembly can amend only the final draft of the GLA consolidated budget, not the component budgets of which it is comprised. Let me reiterate the explanation and the assurance that we tried to give in the other place. The assembly may, if it chooses, amend any one or more of the final draft component budgets—the budgets of the Mayor, the assembly and the four functional bodies. In so doing, it can amend the final draft GLA consolidated budget, too.
Hitherto, the annual GLA budget-setting process has not worked in that way. The assembly has voted instead on broad packages of amendments to the consolidated budget as a whole, proposed by each of the main parties; in effect, the assembly votes to accept or reject an alternative budget rather than seeking to amend the Mayor’s final draft. That approach is perfectly valid, although I think the House appreciates that it is not one that readily lends itself to cross-party agreement. It should come as little surprise, therefore, that the assembly has not, to date, secured a two-thirds majority for change. However, it is open to the assembly to approach its role in that way—differently from how it has approached it in the past—and to make the most of its existing powers by forging coalitions of common interest to amend the budget. Surely that is the right way forward—not making fundamental changes to the successful Greater London authority model, not blurring the currently clear division between executive and scrutiny functions and not, in effect, allowing the assembly to set the budget, thus risking deadlock between the Mayor and the assembly.
I hope that the debate this afternoon will help to illuminate further some of the misconceptions and that Members will appreciate that the budget-making process, as set out, is a central part of the model in the 1999 Act. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed to a vote, but if it is I ask the House to disagree.
In our judgment, the other place has clearly and significantly improved the Bill in this case and I hope that we maintain the amendment, because, with every respect to the Minister, he places undue faith in the working of the current model. He suggests that it is a model and a system of governance that has served Londoners well. I am not sure that Londoners whose council tax has increased by more than 100 per cent. during the Livingstone years will regard it as a model that has served them well at all.
For a model to be effective it is important that it is comprehensible to the electors it serves. Part of the argument advanced for the creation of the Greater London authority was that it would be a more transparent form of governance for the city. However, the budgetary arrangements and the two-thirds majority requirement are manifestly opaque; they bear no relation to anything that happens in local government either in the UK or almost anywhere else.
It is suggested that the proposal is incompatible with a strong-mayor model. That is not the case. The most obvious example of a strong-mayor model, which is frequently prayed in aid in these circumstances, is the situation in the city of New York, where the city council has the power to amend the mayor’s budget by a simple majority. The council has always had that power and several members of the London assembly—I should declare an interest as a member—had the opportunity to visit New York last year, to talk to members of the budget committee and the mayor’s office to see how the budget-setting process worked. At the end of the day, strong mayors have always been able to get the budgets they need to pursue their policies in New York. The idea that the process ends up in deadlock is not borne out by the facts; it is pure scaremongering invented by those who support giving the Mayor altogether too much power, concentrated in one pair of sometimes rather unsteady hands.
In New York, there have been two successive strong mayors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, both of whom have been able to get the supply they required through a city council that was between 80 and 90 per cent. Democrat—the opposite party to theirs. If they can do it, under a system that requires a simple majority, I am darned sure that any Mayor of London, of any party, can do the same. I am equally sure that the next Mayor of London will have no difficulty in doing so.
I shall make a little progress before I indulge the hon. Gentleman.
It is important that the system is transparent to electors. The average elector thinks the current system is manifestly absurd. The last two of the Mayor’s budgets were passed having lost 16 to nine in the assembly. If we asked any citizen of the UK where someone could lose 16 to nine and still win, the answer would be that the only place that could happen would be city hall and the only person who could do it would be the Mayor of London, who had much enjoyment sitting in the gallery shouting “Passed” every time the assembly defeated one of his propositions. That is the type of jiggery-pokery that brings politics into contempt and disrepute. People see their elected representatives in the assembly, who have as good a mandate as the Mayor, in effect, emasculated. That is not healthy or sensible governance.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) has returned to the Chamber. I thought he might have gone off in a huff, having come to see his opponent disqualified and not received satisfaction from the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst.
The hon. Gentleman is doing better on this amendment than on the last, although that is merely to damn him with faint praise. The problem with his argument is that it is quite clear why the strong mayoralty was set up with a qualified veto. So far, he has said nothing that detracts from that point.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should have been more patient, because I was dealing first with the lack of transparency. The Government set out transparency as one of their criteria, but have largely departed from it. I shall finalise that point. The process is opaque; it makes no sense to the average citizen that their assembly member and the majority of the assembly voted against a budget that was imposed on them anyway. In fact, for the past three years the assembly budget has been cooked up by a back-door cabal. To get the number of votes he required to block any amendment, the Mayor did a backstairs deal with the Green party. So peculiar was that deal that in its first year it involved him buying the support of the Greens by giving their party money to oppose policies that he was asking the assembly to vote him money to pursue. That is about as bizarre as it could be and if it does not bring politics into disrepute, I do not know what does.
Such a situation could only happen in Livingstone-land of course, where the logic is entirely different to that which applies to ordinary human beings. It is also far from transparent and hints at another feature of American big-city politics that I hope we do not want to import—pork-barrel politicking. That is the risk we run when a budget can be put together by stitching up backstairs deals as happens at present. We want to bring things transparently on to the floor of the assembly and to have the debate there. That is an entirely comprehensible proposition; it works well everywhere else in the UK.
A final point that is worth mentioning is that the Minister said that, under a strong model, the budget should be amended only when there is broad support for doing so. First, that is not necessary intellectually for a strong mayoral model to work, as has been demonstrated in the American examples; but in any event, like it or not—I personally do not, but it is a fact of life—the assembly is elected under a proportional representation system. Therefore, in fact, to amend the budget, even by a simple majority, it is necessary in practice for more than one party to come together. So a mayor of one party and a completely dominant opposition party in the assembly could not block each other and get into deadlock. In fact, the assembly would have to work on a consensual basis even to achieve a simple majority. That might be a healthy thing.
The interesting observation that I found from many people in New York, both officials and consumers, when I discussed their budgetary process was the fact that a measure of creative tension was judged not a bad thing, because it also required the mayor and the city council to work in sensible partnership. That would be an altogether more mature and healthier situation for governance in London.
The Government are therefore wrong to seek to disagree with the Lords amendment. The Lords were wise in asking us to reconsider. Their amendment improves the Bill, and we will certainly resist any attempt to remove it.
Again, I am pleased to return to this matter, which was debated at greater length than any other in Committee and, of course, picked up in another place.
As the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) has said, the Minister and other Government Members have suggested that this budgetary arrangement has served Londoners well. However, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, the fact is that the Mayor’s precept of the council tax has increased by 100 per cent. in four years, and most Londoners would say that that does not serve them very well. For that reason, we proposed a measure in Committee that would have increased transparency and allowed separate billing for the Mayor’s precept, so that when people received their council tax bills and complained about the fact that their local councils had put up their council tax by 4 or 5 per cent, or by something above the rate of inflation, they would also receive a bill setting out the Mayor’s precept. They would then be able to see that the Mayor had very generously put up his precept by 25 per cent. or by something of a much larger nature than the local authorities had done. I am afraid that, of course, the Government were not in favour of transparency in billing. Therefore, many people remain in the dark about how generous the Mayor has been with their council tax.
We have reached very strange times when the Minister feels the need to invoke Lord Heseltine’s view as a justification for supporting this budgetary arrangement. It is in fashion for the Government to adopt things, but they are going to the extent of adopting Lord Heseltine’s view in defence of their proposal. As the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has said, no one outside the House or the Mayor’s office will understand a budgetary arrangement whereby a budget can be passed when 16 assembly members vote against it and nine support it. No one would see reason in that sort of arrangement. That is why, if the official Opposition choose to press the motion to a vote today, we will certainly join them. The budget and the Mayor’s ability to push his budget through with minimal support goes to the crux of what is wrong with the present arrangements.
The Minister said that requiring a majority to support the budget risks conflict and impasse. I do not agree at all. What it risks is the Mayor having to sit down and agree with a majority of assembly members in the different parties that they will support his budget. That arrangement seems to work quite well in local authorities throughout the country, where Conservative and Liberal Democrat administrations, Liberal Democrat and Labour administrations or, quite possibly, Conservative and Labour administrations work together and reach arrangement on budgetary issues and policies. We should not be afraid of that, but it seems as though the idea that the Mayor of London should have to achieve a consensus with assembly members is so appalling and alarming to the Government that they cannot possibly entertain it.
We think that this is a matter of huge importance. It is probably the most important issue that we need to address to try to make the whole process more democratic, more accountable and more open. We sincerely hope that the motion will be pressed to a vote and that we can command a majority of support against the Government, so that we in the House adopt what was sensibly proposed in the other place to ensure that the budget must be passed by a majority.
The Minister is right when he says that we want a strong executive Mayor. I share and understand some of the concerns that he has expressed about the problems that might arise with deadlock, which would be in no one’s interest, not least the people of London. However, it might have ensured that some of the Mayor’s profligate spending in the past seven years was kept in check. As a number of hon. Members have rightly suggested, the mayoral precept has gone up by well over 100 per cent. In fact, it has almost increased by 180 to 200 per cent. since the mayoralty came into being.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Of course, there are many examples across the country of those in coalition local authorities working well together. However, there are other examples of where such arrangements have not worked well and where the situation is much more unstable—not least, obviously, where elections take place annually, rather than every four years.
As someone who lives in the city of Westminster—as other hon. Members do, and the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) is here—I know that we council tax payers in Westminster now find that more than half of our council tax is due to the mayoral precept. Yet the Mayor is responsible for cleaning not a single street, emptying not a single bin or running not a single school or social services department. That enormous amount of money is spent in what we regard to a large extent as a fairly unaccountable way, because of the way in which the system works for the GLA. That is the reason why we would like a simple two-thirds majority to be used, and I hope that that case was made very powerfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill).
The Government are almost trying to get a double lock. Of course, the whole system for the GLA was set up to ensure that there was not a single majority party. My own party won nine of the 14 first-past-the-post seats at the last GLA elections and the Labour party won five seats at that juncture, compared to eight and six in the first elections in 2000. As a result, a lock was put in place, with 11 of the members being on a top-up proportional representation basis from the Liberal Democrats, the Green party and UKIP or Veritas. The lock was designed to ensure that no party had a majority, yet the two-thirds arrangements make it almost impossible for a sensible discussion to take place with any Mayor who digs his heels in on budgetary matters.
Given the arrangements for proportional representation in the GLA, a simple majority would be a sensible way forward. That would not necessarily lead to deadlock. Inevitably it would require a Mayor to slash certain aspects of his budget, but that would be done through the usual negotiations in politics. That would be an acceptable way forward for the people of London.
The biggest concern of many of my constituents is the budgetary considerations of the mayoralty, which are getting out of control. It would be undesirable for more than half the council tax of other London boroughs to be in the hands of a largely unaccountable GLA and mayoralty. We want to consider other issues related to the powers of the mayoralty, which we discussed earlier. We hope the Government will ensure that there is a proper democratic safeguard for budgetary arrangements in the GLA.
As I tried to explain to the House, and as the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) has just urged, there is a democratic safeguard in the current arrangements. It is in the original 1999 Act and has worked well to date. The Lords amendment would undermine, not reinforce, that.
In his comments about New York, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), speaking from the Conservative Front Bench, illustrated why it is not possible to translate the models of other cities to our circumstances, and why it is important that we continue to fashion the arrangements that are appropriate for our political tradition and our capital city. He cites New York and the budget-making process there, but he knows that there are almost three times as many members of the New York city council. He knows, because he has discussed the matter before with my hon. Friend, that those members have only a local mandate and that generally, when they seek to challenge the mayor of New York’s budget, they do so because they are pursuing support for local issues—precisely the sort of risk of pork-barrel politics that the hon. Gentleman is so keen to avoid.
Can the Minister help me on two short questions? First, in our tradition and process, where is there any example of a two-thirds majority being required to pass a budget? Secondly, is he aware of the evidence given by organisations in New York that the situation there has
“never caused any gridlock in the New York political process”?
The point that I was making is that the New York model does not translate. Instead of all members of the city council, as in New York, having local-only mandates, 11 out of the 25 members in London have a city-wide mandate, without a constituency mandate. In terms of the general approach to mayoral systems, in other parts of the country where they exist, they largely replicate the one that we have in London.
The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about back-stairs deals. One could look at the budget process and the way that the Mayor has managed it in those terms, but one could also look at it as effective coalition building—precisely the thing that the Opposition parties have failed to do in the budget process. It is reasonable to see the role that the Greens have played as an example of the way in which assembly members can and do effectively influence the Mayor’s budget priority through the budget-making process.
Yes—Doncaster, Watford, Hackney.
I return to the point that I was making. Out of the 25 elected Assembly members at present, nine are Conservative and five are Liberal Democrat. It is simple maths to calculate that already there is a simple inbuilt 50 per cent. majority if the two parties co-operate. That leads me to my earlier argument. If the majority were set as a simple majority for amending the final budget, it would routinely set the Mayor against the Assembly, it would undermine the authority of the Mayor in the budget-making process, it would fundamentally weaken his position, and it risks a complete disconnect between the elected Mayor’s priorities for the city and the budget-making process.
Lords amendment disagreed to.
The health inequalities strategy
Lords amendment: No. 3.
We have reached a group of amendments that the Government tabled in the other place in response to the debate that took place there and in this House. The amendments constitute useful additions and, in some places, important strengthening of the provisions. I pay tribute to hon. Members in both Houses who helped us to frame them and I look forward to discussing them this afternoon.
I shall deal first with the amendments that relate to health. Amendment No. 3 inserts the London boroughs and the City of London into the list of bodies and persons whose role in implementing the health inequalities strategy the Mayor must describe. Inclusion of the boroughs in the list also results in their being consulted by the Mayor during the early rather than the final stages of developing the strategy. That is sensible, because they have an important role to play in helping pursue the strategy.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 seek to improve the drafting of the provisions about general health determinants in proposed new section 309F(5).
Amendment No. 7 is a minor drafting change, which simplifies the process of consultation on the Mayor’s health inequalities strategy.
Let me consider the amendments on housing. The Bill already contains provisions that require the Mayor to consult the London boroughs, the Corporation of London and any other person who is considered appropriate on the London housing strategy. That is in line with arrangements for other London strategies for which the Greater London Authority Act 1999 provides. However, uniquely, delivery of the London housing strategy will be heavily dependent on the Housing Corporation and registered social landlords. Amendment No. 8 therefore introduces an explicit requirement for the Mayor to consult the Housing Corporation and bodies that represent registered social landlords on a new or revised London housing strategy.
I hope that the amendments make sense. It is clear to me that they will improve the process of preparing and delivering the strategy and I commend them to the House.
The Minister and I are in accord on the amendments and I am grateful to him for the spirit in which he moved them. I agree that they are sensible and improve the Bill. They attracted support from all quarters when they were discussed previously.
I highlight amendment No. 3 because I especially welcome the recognition of the role of the London boroughs in health matters. As I said in an earlier debate, it is important to stress the importance of partnership between the Mayor and the boroughs from the earliest possible stage. I wish that the Mayor would sometimes recognise that as much as the amendments do. However, given the spirit in which the amendments have been moved, we are happy to accept them.
I, too, support the amendments. If I were being churlish, I would question the reason for missing out local authorities the first time from the health inequalities strategy, given their prominent role in sport, care for the elderly and so on. However, I do not want to be churlish, so I simply emphasise that I support the amendments.
Like other hon. Members, I support what the Government are trying to achieve. However, in view of the many planning measures that will be introduced, I hope that there will be a culture of greater transparency, especially on housing-related matters. I speak with a constituency interest in mind about the large-scale development in the Victoria area. There is grave concern among my constituents that a deal has been done between Transport for London, which is under the Mayor’s auspices, and the developer, Land Securities, for some £270 million. Consequently, the current proposal is that there will be no social or affordable housing on the site. All residents in the Victoria area greatly regret that.
I appreciate that I have raised a specific issue and that we are at an early stage in the process. I wanted to make the simple point to the Minister that, on housing negotiations between the Mayor, housing authorities and the Housing Corporation, greater transparency is vital as far as that is possible. I appreciate that much of the lack of transparency is institutionalised in the planning regime, particularly given the manner in which section 106 agreements operate, which many of us in the House and those who have served as local councillors regret. However, I hope that the point will be borne in mind in this Bill and in other legislation that the Government bring forward.
The hon. Gentleman has spoken with a great deal of common sense in this debate, although we were on opposite sides about the Mayor’s accountability for the budget. He has shown great attention to detail on the Bill, so will he tell the House whether he was overlooked as a candidate for Mayor or whether he was rejected in the selection process? Unfortunately, the Conservative party’s candidate for Mayor does not seem to have a view on anything in the Bill—
Perhaps I could just say that I want very much to echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) has said. In supporting and welcoming the spirit of the amendment, I think that I speak for a lot of people in this Chamber when I say that anything that encourages more co-operation and consultation between the Mayor and the boroughs is a good thing. I therefore think it wholly right that we should—
I think that everybody in the House wants to see a mayoralty that responds to the wishes of local communities and that works with the boroughs and not against them in imposing planning decisions that go against the wishes of locally elected politicians. That is exactly the direction in which the amendment is going and that is why I approve wholeheartedly—
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the debate. We missed his contribution and his presence in earlier debates. May I tell him that he was in fact speaking to the next group of amendments? We are talking about housing strategy and health, but we will come to planning next. I hope that he will stay and contribute to that debate as well.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 4 to 9 agreed to.
Duties in relation to consultation
Lords amendment: No. 10.
In this group we propose a number of amendments to the planning clauses of the Bill, following useful and valuable scrutiny undertaken in this House and the other place.
Lords amendment No. 16 introduces new clause 2E, which introduces into the Bill the requirement for the Mayor to give the local planning authority and the applicant an opportunity to make oral representations to him about a development proposal. It is designed to do what the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) was urging, namely to make the planning process more open and transparent. It further requires the Mayor to prepare and publish a document setting out any other persons from whom he will hear oral representations, the procedures that he will follow for considering oral representations and the arrangements for identifying the factual information that is agreed by the parties. I hope that the House will welcome this approach.
Lords amendment No. 16 also requires the Secretary of State to apply, by order, the terms of the Local Government Act 1972. Those requirements will ensure that representation hearings are open to the public and that the public have access to agendas and reports. That is designed to ensure that mayoral decision making in the process is as open and transparent as that of borough planning committees. We will apply those requirements through a Mayor of London order, a draft of which I have already made available to the House.
On a wider point, which is none the less directly connected to the amendments, we have made it clear throughout the passage of the Bill, in this House and in the other Place, that decisions on applications should be taken by the boroughs wherever possible. Indeed, our proposals expressly provide for that. It is important that the Mayor takes only the decisions that it is appropriate for him to take. Lords amendment No. 12 makes an important change to give further effect to that principle. It will provide an express power for the Mayor to pass the decision making back to the relevant borough on subsequent applications for the approval of reserved matters or the approval of details under a listed building consent, where he has already determined the earlier outline application. That new provision, alongside clause 33, will ensure that decisions on all applications are taken at the appropriate level.
The provisions in the Bill allow for the Mayor to get involved in major developments and applications that might have a wider, strategic significance. In the amendments, and in the Bill, we are keen to ensure that decisions are taken at the appropriate level, and that wherever appropriate local boroughs continue in their role as the planning authority. The amendments in this group, which we passed in the other place, strengthen that principle and put in place for the future a more balanced system that will serve London well.
I should like to deal with the detail of the amendments fairly briefly, before coming to the underlying principle, on which our stance is different.
I do not quarrel with the detail of the amendments that the Minister has put forward. It is obviously right and sensible to place the requirement in Lords amendment No. 16 in the Bill. We argued for that in Committee and I welcome this recognition of our argument. However, that does not alter the fact that we thoroughly dislike the principle underlying the amendment, namely that the Mayor should have the ability to take planning applications away from the boroughs and decide on them centrally. In our judgment, that is a profoundly anti-localist, anti-devolutionary measure. The amendment at least makes the operation of an undesirable system more acceptable in regard to practical issues, so we will not seek to oppose it, but that does not for one second mean that we think that this is a wise course of action for the Government to embark on.
On Lords amendment No. 12, although it is perfectly sensible to pass back issues of detail on reserved matters, the underlying principle of letting the Mayor get involved in the first place is, in our judgment, flawed. The degree to which the Bill will allow the Mayor to interfere in planning matters far more than before is a much greater recipe for conflict than any of the issues concerning the budget and the Mayor and the assembly that we have discussed. The history of London government is full of tension and conflict between the upper tier and the boroughs. That was so with the old Greater London council and elsewhere.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the amendment, however helpful in improving the position, does not lend itself to the task of trying to involve local people in local decisions? It puts the Mayor in a position to override local wishes, which, frankly—unlike the future Mayor, my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson)—he could not care less about.
I agree with my hon. Friend. A regrettable fact of London life is that the Mayor has not approached planning matters with anything like the spirit of reasonableness and restraint that the Minister displays in speaking to these amendments today. I regret to say that I have no confidence that the current Mayor will use these powers with the degree of restraint and sensitivity that the Minister clearly hopes for. Again regrettably, the evidence of the Mayor’s behaviour so far is very much to the contrary. We have seen too many examples of worthwhile developments in London being delayed and potentially prejudiced by the Mayor’s needless interference, which is not in Londoners’ interests.
With a very large caveat, we will not seek to oppose the amendments; we recognise that they provide amelioration of a system that we believe is flawed in principle. At some point, a future Government—a Conservative Government—will have to return to effect a better balance in achieving planning policy in London.
I echo the hon. Gentleman’s points. What the Government are proposing will certainly improve a flawed system, but that system remains flawed and the concerns raised in this House and the other place about the Mayor’s planning powers continue to be held. Regrettably, the amendments will not change that situation in any respect. We will not oppose them because they at least slightly improve the flawed system.
We have rehearsed on several occasions in the House and in Committee our concerns about strategic powers and, more precisely, what a strategic planning power means for the Mayor. We are not entirely satisfied and we will have to see how the system operates over a period of time before we can move forward.
I would like the Minister to comment on this narrow point. How does he view the operation of appeals—direct appeals by the public or resident associations? How will appeals operate as between local boroughs and the Mayor, and what of the ultimate right of appeal to the Government inspector? Does he envisage that where the Mayor has called in a particular planning application, it will preclude central Government from doing so under any circumstances, or will there still be a safeguard—and perhaps further complication and delay—in the hands of central Government to call in such an application? From the perspective either of developers or of local communities that want a particular development in their area, it would be highly undesirable if the process led to yet another layer of delay and bureaucracy. Does the Minister envisage that where the Mayor calls in an application in London, central Government will not do so?
I welcome both Opposition parties’ support for the amendments, if not for the broader principles, relating to this part of the Bill. The system is very complicated, so I will write in response to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) to provide the detail that he requests.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 11 to 16 agreed to.
After Clause 36
Lords amendment: No. 17.
I beg to move, That the House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.
In the other place, the Government agreed to consider, along with interested parties, the best way to implement our commitment to a London waste recycling forum and fund. As a result of those discussions and further consideration, we decided to put the body managing the fund on to a statutory basis. The argument was strongly put to us that the advantage of doing so was that that would provide greater stability and focus and help to ensure that the fund was deployed in the best interests of London at all levels. Ultimately, we took the view that that approach had the advantage over a voluntary system, in that it provided a legal certainty for the basis on which the fund is paid and administered.
The board’s objectives will be to promote more sustainable waste management. To achieve those objectives, it will be able to spend money, including giving grants, and to provide advice on relevant matters to London boroughs, the Mayor and others. The London waste and recycling board will not be a waste authority. We propose that it will act in accordance with the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy and in general conformity with the London spatial development strategy. In that way, it recognises that the vision and strategy for London’s waste is the Mayor’s, and that action will have to take place in accordance with that. I see the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) nodding his approval of that.
The board will also have the power to assist boroughs in the performance of any of their waste functions. Many interests in London, including the boroughs, are keen for us to move on that. We therefore propose to set out the details of the membership, constitution and administration of the body as soon as we can after the Bill receives Royal Assent. I commend the amendment to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister for his introduction of the amendment. As he said, I welcome the Government’s approach, as it seems to the Opposition a sensible and pragmatic way forward. I am glad that the Government did not listen to the blandishments of the Mayor of London and some of his supporters who lobbied immensely hard during the passage of the Bill for the creation of a single London waste authority under the Mayor’s control. In our judgment, that would have been a needless level of bureaucracy. I am glad that we have this sensible way forward, which recognises the importance of the Mayor as the strategy setter and the boroughs as the principal delivery agents.
Unfortunately, the one person who does not seem to be prepared to play ball with that sensible approach is the Mayor, who used his last press conference extraordinarily and petulantly to announce that, because he did not like the composition of the waste board, he would not chair it or contribute the £6 million to which he had previously agreed. As the Minister will know, and the House should know, the board is to be funded to the tune of £25 million, with £19 million coming from the Government and £6 million from the Greater London authority. If anything more aptly demonstrates the unfitness of the current Mayor for office, it is his childish, arrogant and destructive attitude towards the establishment of the board. He has effectively said, “I don’t like what I’ve been given, and I’m going to take my toys away,” which demonstrates his unwillingness to tackle serious issues. He wanted something that gave him more power, but this is a sensible compromise, as all parties in the House recognise. If he is to serve the interests of London seriously, it behoves him to try to work with what he is given and pull things together.
In that context, will the Minister tell us how the Government intend to deal with their unruly child—the Mayor—and bring him to heel and into co-operation? I appreciate that that is like asking the Minister how he herds cats, but I will none the less press him a little on the matter. I welcome the intention to set up the board and am grateful for the Minister’s confirmation of that. I look forward to hearing the detail of the shadow board in due course. How do the Government propose to deal with the negative impact on waste and recycling in London of the Mayor’s apparent lack of co-operation? What do they intend to do about the potential £6 million funding gap, due to the Mayor’s petulance? Are there means by which the Mayor can be made to keep to the bargain, as he should be? If not, how would the funding be made up? Is recycling in London to suffer because of the Mayor’s petulance?
Will the Minister also confirm that the setting up of the board will be dealt with through a statutory instrument? If so, when will that be made available?
I am pleased that the Mayor will not control collections, because I think that that should be the boroughs’ responsibility. We should welcome the fact that boroughs are being given the potential to develop schemes of their own, and to identify best practice that can then be spread to and maintained in other boroughs.
Subsection (4) states:
“For the purpose of achieving its objectives, the Board may provide advice on such matters”
—matters, that is, relating to waste and recycling—to
“(a) the Mayor;
(b) any London borough council;
(c) the Common Council;
(d) such other persons as the Board thinks fit.”
I wonder whether the Government considered identifying business in a separate subsection. Local councils now understand the need to recycle; the biggest challenges may lie with business.
Picking up a point made by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), may I ask whether the Minister has had time to assess the impact of the Mayor’s withdrawal of funds? Has he a view on what will have to be cut, or will not be done, as a result of the Minister’s spitting out his dummy and withdrawing £6 million from the board?
I mentioned the implementation order in my opening remarks. We intend to introduce it as soon as possible after Royal Assent, and it will include membership of the board.
As for the Mayor’s role, it has been our consistent belief that the board will benefit from the strategic direction of the Mayor as chair. It has also been our consistent view that the board and its functions will help to produce a significant change in waste management operations and recycling performance across London. Ultimately, however, the Mayor’s participation is a matter for him.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Planning contribution under section 46 of PCPA 2004
Lords amendment: No. 18.
We propose a number of amendments to the climate change clauses, following valuable scrutiny of the Bill in the other place. They are intended to sharpen the consideration and priority that the Greater London authority gives to climate change in exercising its functions.
I shall try to deal with the amendments fairly briefly. Among the most significant is amendment No. 18, which requires that in considering whether or how to exercise the authority’s general power, the Mayor must have regard to the effect that that would have on climate change and its consequences in general and global terms, as opposed to only in relation to Greater London. In view of the nature of climate change, I think Members in all parties will accept that it stands to reason that the Mayor should have regard to climate change issues beyond the boundaries of the Greater London area.
Amendment No. 19 requires the Mayor, when exercising the authority’s general power, to do so in the way that is best calculated to contribute to the mitigation of or adaptation to climate change in the United Kingdom.
Amendment No. 20 introduces a new clause placing a duty on the Mayor to have regard to climate change and the consequences of climate change in either preparing or reviewing his various strategies. Amendments Nos. 23 and 29 give the Mayor the flexibility to go beyond national policy on climate change mitigation, while ensuring that his strategy is not inconsistent with national policies. The amendments will also require the Mayor to act within the boundaries of national energy policy objectives, although the use of the word “objectives” underlines that we are seeking the Mayor's assistance with high-level goals of energy policy such as security of supply and more competitive energy markets, rather than his assistance or conformity with specific national policy measures.
Amendments Nos. 24, 25, 26 and 28 require that the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy should contain information on levels of relevant emissions and include the Mayor's proposals and policies for minimising emissions of other significant greenhouse substances in addition to carbon dioxide.
Amendment No. 27 requires that, in setting out the policies and proposals in the strategy for supporting innovation and encouraging investment in energy technologies in Greater London, the Mayor must have regard to the desirability of advancing energy technologies that involve the emission of lower levels of substances that contribute to climate change. We recognise that the Mayor is likely to want to focus on low-carbon technologies. After all, carbon dioxide is the major contributor to climate change, but we want to keep open the possibility that he might also support technologies that are important to other energy goals.
I commend the amendments to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister for the way that he has introduced the amendments. We have no issue with them; they are sensible amendments. The point about climate change knowing no boundaries is obviously well made. Various independent bodies have made the valid criticism that some of the other mayoral strategies have been, if anything, too inward looking and have not had enough regard to London's impact on the rest of the south-east. I hope that that sensibly broader approach will be something of a precedent for the way in which the Mayor deals with other statutory strategies that he has. The London plan is one that was criticised for being a bit too London-centric and for not looking enough at the linkages. Therefore, the provision is a step in the right direction in that regard.
I welcome the fact that the Government are adopting a fairly high-level and light-touch approach to their requirements of the Mayor in relation to those strategies. That could profitably be employed for the requirements that the Mayor has of the boroughs in relation to his other strategies.
I support the amendments without equivocation. As the Minister said, they are about sharpening the consideration and priority of issues to do with climate change, which we support. In Committee, our concern was that the Mayor was going to be held back in relation to what he could do for climate change because of the linkage with national Government policies. Therefore, I welcome the additional flexibility that the Mayor has been given in that respect.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 19 to 29 agreed to.
Lords amendment: No. 30.
Confirmation hearings, as set out in schedule 1 to the Bill, provide an important new power for the Assembly to exercise scrutiny over the important appointments that the Mayor makes. We have listened to arguments and concerns to ensure that the Assembly has sufficient time within the specified three-week period to exercise its proper role in carrying out confirmation hearings. The amendments ensure that the Assembly in all circumstances, including immediately after an election, will be able to do so. It also makes minor changes to improve the process by which decisions over confirmation hearings may be taken. I hope again that they will command the support of the House.
We accept the Minister’s sensible amendments. The principle of confirmation hearings is, I concede, an area of the Bill where there is a step forward, which is welcome, but it does not go far enough and we would like to have strengthened the measure and extended the range from the previous debates. However, it would be churlish not to welcome the acceptance of the principle, which I hope can be built on in the future. My final comment on the Bill will be that, as the Minister knows, our stance is that there are a number of missed opportunities and that there is unfinished business to which a future Government will have to return.
I support the amendments with the same caveats about confirmation hearings. When we debated the matter in Committee, we were keen to see an extension to the range of people who could be subject to confirmation hearings. That has not been the case but we support these individual amendments.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 33 and 34 agreed to.
Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendments Nos. 1 and 2: Tom Brake, John Healey, Chris Mole, Robert Neill and Mr. Dave Watts to be members of the Committee; John Healey to be the Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Watts.]
To withdraw immediately.
Reasons for disagreeing to certain Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.
FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING BILL [LORDS] (PROGRAMME) (NO. 2)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 21st May 2007 (Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] (Programme)):
Consideration of Lords Message
1. Proceedings on consideration of the Lords Message shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement at this day’s sitting.
2. Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.
3. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—[Liz Blackman.]
Question agreed to.