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Lords Chamber

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 28 March 2007

House of Lords

Wednesday, 28 March 2007.

The House met at three o’clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough): the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Railways: Delays

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What are the principal avoidable causes of delay to the commuter rail system during the autumn.

My Lords, action to minimise train delays is an operational matter for Network Rail. Network Rail and train operators have measures in place to address the operational problems presented by autumn conditions and, overall, the rail industry has markedly reduced the number of delays suffered in recent years.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, although I am a little surprised that he did not mention the words “wet leaves”. Why does he not give Network Rail the necessary powers and directions to remove all the deciduous trees that are likely to interfere with the rail system, perhaps replacing them with conifers where necessary?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his question, one that we have often discussed in recent times in your Lordships’ House. Network Rail feels that it has more than adequate powers to conduct rigorous pruning where necessary. I am sure the noble Earl will appreciate that Network Rail needs to balance environmental concerns with operational issues, but of course it is right that it ensures that we have clear passages so that trains can travel through unaffected by deciduous or other leaves falling on to the track and causing problems.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Network Rail is causing quite enough destruction on the railway, which most of us can see when we travel on trains? Will he turn his attention to the fact that last year the Southern railway company undertook a driver training programme and modified the sanding devices on its trains? These actions substantially reduced delays for passengers and considerably improved the efficiency of its service. While I do not suggest that this is a ministerial matter, will the noble Lord ensure that other train companies know of this good practice and put it into action?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to express concern about excessive pruning. From my own experience, there is a dispute in Hove where a lot of trees have been axed, as it were, by the railway company. This has caused concern among local residents. The Sandite and high pressure water jet equipment that is fitted to some Network Rail vehicles is now used extensively across the network and is accepted as good practice. This development is widely acknowledged as something that is dealing effectively with a problem which perhaps is not as great as it once was.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one thing which would improve reliability on the railway all the year round and not just in the autumn is the restoration of lengths of double track which was taken out in the 1970s and 1980s on routes such as Salisbury to Exeter and Oxford to Worcester? Bearing in mind that both of those routes are now being examined by Network Rail for redoubling, can my noble friend give it every possible encouragement because delays on single lines are appalling?

My Lords, my noble friend is right to point out that single tracks can lead to blockages and delays. Our proud record as a Government has been to increase investment considerably in renewing, repairing and replacing track and dualling where it is right and appropriate to do so. My noble friend has drawn attention to two areas where the considerable investment being made will ensure that some of those blockages no longer occur.

My Lords, earlier this winter we had some very strong winds which effectively stopped train services across much of the country for one complete day. Network Rail was highly criticised for that. However, is my noble friend aware that train services also stopped across much of France, the Benelux countries and Germany? Does he have evidence that our system is any worse for delays such as that than those operating on the Continent?

My Lords, in many northern European countries and in the United States there certainly are delays in the autumn because that is when the weather is most likely to create problems. However, year-on-year our performance during the autumn has improved. Delays are becoming fewer each year and we want to see continued improvements. We now have a rail service that is more reliable than ever and Network Rail is making strenuous efforts to achieve further year-on-year improvements.

My Lords, I hope the next answer will not be quite so brief. Is it the Government’s policy to encourage Network Rail to separate goods traffic from passenger traffic? Quite often, the latter is delayed behind broken-down goods trains. In parts of the Continent there has been a separation of goods and passengers to speed up passenger trains and ensure that they run on time.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to draw attention to that issue. It causes difficulties and problems on some occasions. It would be fair to say that it is not a major cause of lateness and delays. We have to accept that our rail network is becoming increasingly busy because there is increased passenger demand. Over the past 10 years we have had a 40 per cent increase in passenger numbers. That is why we need to carry on with this persistent campaign to drive down delays and achieve punctuality. The rail industry has responded very well over recent years. We need to build on that improvement.

My Lords, they never learn, do they? Okay, I confess, I am beaten by that one; I put my hands up. I undertake to write to the noble Lord and see what information we can find that is specific to that part of the network, which, I ought to say, is improving.

My Lords, there is just time for this question. Does the Minister think there will be any benefit, and, if so, what does he think it will be, in the Mayor of London having greater responsibility for computer—I am sorry—commuter services into London?

My Lords, I am not quite sure what the mayor would do with “computer” services. We have to look at the issue of commuter rail services in the round, and clearly there are benefits in improved integration between the different networks. That is an issue we should all be concerned about, and no doubt the mayor is too.

Iraq: UK Forces

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What recent progress they have made with their exit strategy for British Armed Forces in Iraq.

My Lords, progress transferring security responsibility to the Iraqis continues to be good. Maysan province will be handed over to Iraqi control shortly. In Basra, we transferred the old state building to the Iraqi army on 20 March. We will withdraw from the majority of our other bases as Iraqi forces progressively take more responsibility for security. This should see UK force levels potentially reduce to below 5,000 in the second half of the year.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. In his future planning for the withdrawal of British forces, will he take into account the recent decision of the House of Representatives and yesterday’s decision by the US Senate to require the withdrawal of all American combat troops in the course of next year? Although that decision may be killed by presidential veto, is it not nevertheless clear that American withdrawal from Iraq is simply a matter of time and that it may be sooner rather than later?

My Lords, it would not be appropriate for me to get into speculation about US politics. However, as an integral member of the multinational coalition in Iraq, the United States would of course consult her allies should any outcome of a decision be to withdraw US troops from Iraq by the end of August 2008. The other members of the coalition would need to adjust their plans accordingly.

My Lords, the Minister referred to the handover of Maysan province in his Answer, and said that it would take place shortly. We had in earlier Statements an assumption that it would be handed over at the end of last year; that was delayed until early spring and in the Statement on 21 February, it was said to be in the next few months. Is “shortly” earlier or later than in the next few months?

My Lords, can the Minister give the House an assurance that everything possible will be done to protect the safety of our forces left in the Basra airbase and that they will not become sitting targets for the approaching militia?

Absolutely, my Lords. I visited the base earlier this month, precisely to assess the situation. We are making significant investments in force protection. It would not be appropriate for me to go into details, but I would be happy to give the noble Lord a private briefing if that would be useful.

My Lords, will any decision to withdraw British troops be taken on the basis that it is to the benefit of our country and will not be influenced by the United States?

My Lords, my noble friend makes a very important point. The decisions we take are based on the sovereign interests of the United Kingdom.

I do not believe so, my Lords. We have shown over the past few years that we have a process whereby the coalition makes decisions on these matters, and we are seeing progress on the ground. Any decisions about transition depend upon the progress of those conditions, but we can see in a number of areas that that progress is taking place.

Housing: Affordable Rural Housing Commission

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When they intend to implement the recommendations of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission.

My Lords, the commission made more than 100 recommendations, of which approximately 60 per cent were for central Government. We have already implemented many of the commission’s recommendations—for example, through planning policy statement 3—and are looking further into others. The commission was keen to acknowledge that central Government were already doing much. Between 2006 and 2008 we aim to deliver more than 6,000 new affordable homes in small rural settlements.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. We will be pleased to hear which of the other recommendations have been implemented. Many practical recommendations were made on tax incentives, bringing empty houses back into use, publicly owned land that should be brought on-stream and reclassifying agricultural land as brownfield, yet very few of those suggestions have emerged into the public arena. The only announcement made this week was that the Minister’s department would not add a supplement to council tax on second homes. Can the Minister say why that decision was made?

My Lords, the Affordable Rural Housing Commission made it clear that its recommendations should be taken as a package, and we agreed. It was content that we would not give one single response but would put forward our recommendations in due course in different ways. Not accepting one recommendation does not mean that we do not fulfil the report’s intention.

It was announced today that the Housing Corporation will set up a rural housing advisory group to address many of the different delivery mechanisms. Two people on that body are from the ARHC. In PPS 3, we addressed many concerns about bringing forward land, more predictably, and giving local authorities much more scope to be proactive, reducing, for example, the threshold beyond which you can provide affordable housing to 15 or fewer. There is a great deal happening and it can be tracked on the website.

My Lords, there are now no national targets for affordable rural housing. In the light of that, how can the Government ensure that the DCLG requirement for positive planning for affordable rural housing as set out in PPS 3 will be implemented, particularly bearing in mind the plethora of strategies now around? There are regional strategies, spatial strategies, housing strategies and local development frameworks.

My Lords, national targets are less important than having the right information at the local level to do what is necessary. Regional bodies are the right place to set targets because they know the local needs. Those targets are fed through and help to inform local development frameworks, but it is crucial that local targets are based on best evidence. I am delighted to say that strategic housing markets assessment practice guidance will be published very soon. It will help local authorities to determine housing need and demand much more specifically and sensitively than they have been able to do to date.

My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Lake District Housing Association. Does the Minister agree that a shortcoming of policy towards affordable housing, especially in areas of important landscape, has been an excessive focus on new build and insufficient recognition of the possibilities supplied by the very considerable existing housing stock, whose problem is that it is too expensive?

Yes, my Lords, we need all sorts of housing in rural areas, not just market housing and affordable housing. We need to make better use of our housing stock and, perhaps, look at equity release—finding ways in which to help people to downsize, which would release larger houses. There are a variety of propositions. The Housing Corporation’s work with its rural advisory group will enable us to look at that sort of issue.

My Lords, the Church of England, like other charitable bodies that own extensive landholdings certainly wishes to do what it can to assist the provision of affordable housing in rural areas. To that end, there are notable examples of glebe land being released. However, charity law can often prevent land being sold at less than the maximum market value. One recommendation of the affordable rural housing commission was that the Government should determine whether charity law is inhibiting the Church of England and other denominations from making land available for affordable housing. What specific progress has been made on that recommendation?

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know the answer to that. I shall refer it to the department, but I am certain that it is precisely the sort of question that should be addressed by the bodies that I have just mentioned.

My Lords, given that only some 11 per cent of land in the United Kingdom is described as urban or suburban and 89 per cent is described as rural, does my noble friend agree that some improvement in the availability of land might be promoted, especially to aid and abet the creation of affordable housing?

My Lords, we are increasing the amount of green-belt land available. One thing in planning policy statement 3 that followed from the Barker report was the importance of making land supply predictable, so that local authorities know what land they have and can plan and provide for needs. That would take us beyond the current situation, where land supply tends to be windfall and unpredictable, so it is a definite improvement.

My Lords, given that 20 per cent of the population live in rural areas, why do they receive only 10 per cent of the funding from the Housing Corporation’s affordable housing programme?

My Lords, authorities that represent rural areas get the fair share of investment for their population. In 2006, for example, they received 21 per cent of all affordable housing allocations, which matched their percentage of the population—21 per cent. However, that money does not get fed through into the district housing programmes because land is not available, which is why ensuring more flexibility to provide land in the ways suggested today is extremely important.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the key recommendations of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission was the creation and increase in the number of rural housing enablers, who bring together landowners, planners and the local community? It is a relatively cheap recommendation. Could she report on any progress in achieving more rural housing enablers?

My Lords, it is a very valuable demonstration project which helps to show how things can best be done in partnership. To that extent it has informed local authorities about raising the visibility of the programme and being more innovative. About 40 rural enablers are now in place and are working very well, but as with many other programmes I cannot comment on future funding. It is funded to 2008 but everything will be decided in the context of the spending review.

My Lords, is it not the case that, in many rural areas of England, people on below-average incomes find that none of the local housing is remotely affordable? Is not the only way to provide affordable housing for less well-off local people to increase the supply of rented accommodation in the social housing sector from housing associations or, unfashionable though it may be, local authorities?

My Lords, as I said, we need all sorts of housing, not least to provide cross-subsidy between market housing and social rented housing. The noble Lord is right: we need more social rented housing, which is why we have made no secret of the fact that we shall look to have it prioritised in the spending review.

Local Government: Refuse Collection

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they support the imposition of separate or additional charges or taxes for the collection of domestic refuse.

My Lords, Sir Michael Lyons, in his inquiry into local government, recommended that the Government should give local authorities the freedom to implement such incentives developed in close consultation with local residents.

England’s waste strategy is currently being reviewed. In this context, the Government are considering the full range of options that could encourage producers and consumers to change their behaviour, including Sir Michael Lyons’s recommendations. The revised strategy is due to be published soon.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that informative reply, but is not charging people extra for removing their domestic waste an appalling idea? It would require a highly complex new local bureaucracy and would result in endless rows with neighbours as people put rubbish in other people’s bins.

Well, my Lords, in our neighbourhood there is a communal area at the end of the street where people have to put their wheelie bins each week and it would be very easy indeed to do that.

Would not charging also result in a great increase in fly-tipping and discriminate against large households and poor people? Should it not therefore be rejected forthwith?

My Lords, I always understood that the noble Lord supported local government. The idea is to allow local authorities to have flexibility. In fact, the Local Government Association has called on the Government to allow local authorities to introduce financial incentives. They may not necessarily be charges; they could be rebates. There is a range of options that could lower the cost for some people, but it will depend on local circumstances. People living in flats will be treated differently from people living in houses as the waste disposal is different. Whatever solution is come up with must take account of that. The strategy will give local government options, which may not necessarily amount to extra charges.

My Lords, why in recent years has council tax gone up steadily by large amounts while the frequency of collections and the quality of service have in general gone down?

My Lords, I do not accept that. I believe that something like two-thirds to three-quarters of local authorities are in the top echelons following the comprehensive performance assessments. Local authorities are responsible for waste collection. They have different policies and they consult residents about whether they want to have garden refuse bins or fortnightly collections. It is up to local choice and local authorities consulting with local residents. What they lack at the moment is the opportunity to give financial incentives; that is, potential rebates or perhaps a mixture of charges. That potential is not there for local government.

My Lords, does the Minister hold with the principle that the polluter should pay where he has deposited hazardous industrial toxic waste on land and the land needs reparation? If he does hold with that principle, what is happening with the Environment Agency’s claim in the US bankruptcy court against New Monsanto, and the companies that it has indemnified, for huge deposits—millions of tonnes of industrial waste—on various sites in England and Wales? Why has the 1972 agreement between Monsanto and Redman-Purle not been enforced? It would save the taxpayer at least £100 million.

My Lords, I am all in favour of saving the taxpayer money on waste collection. I can confirm to the noble Countess that Parts IIA and IIB of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 place the costs of cleaning up sites on polluters. Costs fall on the public purse only in the event that the polluter cannot be identified or cannot pay. I can also confirm that, in May 2006, the Environment Agency filed a protective reservation of rights at the Solutia Incorporated bankruptcy proceedings in the United States, seeking protection and clarification for any liabilities under Part IIA of the Act at Brofiscin or elsewhere in the United Kingdom that derive from historic Monsanto tipping activities. No date has yet been set for the hearing of the agency’s representations. The agency is in regular contact with the US legal representatives and has had confirmation from them earlier this week that there is no two-week deadline for making a claim against the company.

My Lords, does not the Minister recognise that we should learn from experience? We had the situation of dumped cars where individuals were charged and as a result we had cars all over the place; now there is a more sensible policy in most local authority areas where you can take your car for free disposal. We also had the experience over refrigerators where the Government forgot to turn up in Europe at the key meeting. Can we not just learn from experience and recognise that if you tax people extra for their refuse, we will have huge problems all over the country?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. We have to learn from experience. If this policy was managed and introduced incorrectly it could cause an absolute disaster for those involved. People would find a way round it, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said. It is much better to encourage people to change their behaviour and recycle more—and last year 17 per cent more household waste was recycled, with less going to landfill, which is what we want to encourage—through money off their bill rather than money on it.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the problem for many households is the number of things that cannot be recycled? What progress are the Government making with manufacturers on changing their packaging?

My Lords, discussions on that are ongoing although I do not have the details. As the noble Baroness knows, there have been consultations with supermarkets, food producers and other producers of domestic goods on unnecessary packaging. The costs of both producing and disposing of this packaging is wasteful for everybody concerned.

My Lords, will my noble friend join me in my campaign? On Sunday mornings I get a plastic glove from the garage on the corner, take a carrier bag from Waitrose and, by the time I get to the newspaper shop to get the Sunday papers, I have put all the village’s domestic refuse into that bag. In other words, I wonder whether people cannot show some interest and take a bit of personal responsibility for this whole issue.

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. I am not sure whether he was saying that he could dispose of half of the Sunday newspapers before he got out of the shop. That is what most newsagents would like us to do. He gives a good example of civic responsibility.

My Lords, perhaps the Minster will inform the local democracy debate by telling us of any evaluation that the Government have made of the effect that bin taxes could have on the incidence of fly-tipping, and what are the latest figures for fly-tipping prosecutions?

My Lords, I do not have figures for fly-tipping prosecutions. However, as I said, the revised strategy was consulted on and we are looking at the options that Sir Michael Lyons put forward. We will publish a revised strategy soon. Before anyone asks me when, it will be some time in the summer. It is not imminent in the sense of the next weeks, but it will be after the local elections. But that is not the reason why it will be later. There is a variety of ways of doing this: volume-based schemes, set-based schemes, weight-based schemes and frequency-based schemes. A whole range of issues will have to be looked at. It cannot be one-size-fits-all for a local authority, and it cannot be one-size-fits-all within a local authority, simply because of the nature of the dwellings in this country.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us what progress has been made with the incineration of non-recyclable waste?

No, my Lords, I cannot—not with respect to domestic refuse. Too much of it goes to landfill, for a start. We want to recycle as much as possible, and household recycling is up to 27 per cent. The recycling of household waste has doubled over the past four years. There is a recycling element. I do not have a figure for incineration, but too much is going to landfill.

My Lords, the problem is not only recyclable waste or packaging waste; a lot of the waste that goes into dustbins is food waste, because people are encouraged to buy far more food than they need. Is there anything that the Government or local authorities can do about that?

Yes, my Lords, an enormous amount of work has been done on that. Something like half the food purchased is wasted. Some local authorities are providing green bins for food waste, and there are schemes on both research and practicality around the country where food waste, mixed with green waste—trees and shrubs—is being fed into anaerobic digestion plants to create electricity. I visited Greenfinch at Ludlow, where I saw a first-class example of what is happening; there are other cases around the country. On some farms there are large anaerobic digestion plants, which are reliant both on animal waste and food waste, whether the food waste is from animals or humans. An enormous amount of work is being done to get energy out of waste. Waste is the wrong word; that product is a resource, and we should make good use of it.

Palliative Care Bill [HL]

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Iran: Seizure of Royal Navy Personnel

My Lords, I beg leave to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“I should like to make a Statement about the current situation regarding the 15 British service personnel detained by Iranian forces on Friday of last week. The Government are doing all that they can to ensure that they are released immediately.

“I should say at once, and I am sure I speak for the whole House, that our thoughts and prayers at this moment are with all our detained personnel in Iran and their families.

“I should like to begin by explaining the facts of what happened last Friday, and the actions we have taken since, and to share with the House some details about the location of the incident on which the MoD briefed this morning.

“At approximately 0630 GMT on 23 March, 15 British naval personnel from HMS ‘Cornwall’, engaged in a routine boarding operation of a merchant vessel in Iraqi territorial waters in support of Security Council Resolution 1723 and of the Government of Iraq, were seized by Iranian naval vessels.

“HMS ‘Cornwall’ was conducting routine maritime security operations as part of a multinational force coalition task force operating under a United Nations mandate at the request of the Iraqi Government. The task force’s mission was to protect Iraqi oil terminals and prevent smuggling.

“The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they and their two boats were surrounded by six Iranian vessels and escorted into Iranian territorial waters.

“I immediately consulted the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence and asked my permanent under-secretary to summon the Iranian ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“We set out our three demands to the ambassador: information on the whereabouts of our people, consular access to them, and to be told the arrangements for their immediate release. COBRA met that afternoon, as it has done every day since.

“On 24 March, my colleague, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Triesman, held a further meeting with the ambassador to repeat our demands. He has had several such meetings since that date.

“At that first meeting, the Iranian ambassador gave us, on behalf of his Government, the co-ordinates of the site where that Government claimed our personnel had been detained. They were not of course where we believed the incident took place but we took delivery of them as the statement of events of the Government of Iran. On examination, these co-ordinates supplied by Iran are themselves in Iraqi waters.

“On Sunday 25 March I spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, as I did again yesterday. In my first conversation, I pointed out that not only did the co-ordinates for the incident as relayed by HMS ‘Cornwall’ show that the incident took place 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters, but also that the grid co-ordinates for the incidents that the Iranian authorities had provided our embassy on Friday 23 March and Lord Triesman on Saturday 24 March showed also that the incident had taken place in Iraqi waters. I suggested to the Iranian Foreign Minister that it appeared that the whole affair might have been a misunderstanding which could be resolved by immediate release.

“In Iran, our ambassador, Geoffrey Adams, has met on a daily basis with senior Iranian officials to press for immediate answers to our questions. He has left the Iranian authorities in no doubt that there is no justification for the Iranians to have taken the British Navy personnel into custody, and provided the grid co-ordinates of the incident which clearly showed that our personnel were in Iraqi waters and made clear that we expected their immediate and safe return. I should tell the House that we have no doubt either about these facts or about the legitimacy of our requirements.

“When our ambassador and my colleague Lord Triesman followed up with the Iranian authorities on Monday 25 March, we were provided with new, and I quote, ‘corrected’, grid co-ordinates by the Iranian side which now showed the incident as having taken place in Iranian waters. As I made clear to Foreign Minister Mottaki when I spoke to him yesterday, we find it impossible to believe, given the seriousness of the incident, that the Iranians could have made such a mistake with the original co-ordinates, which after all they gave us over several days.

“There has inevitably been much international interest in the situation, particularly given our personnel’s role in a multinational force operating under a UN mandate. I have spoken to a number of international partners, including US Secretary of State Rice, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud. We have also been keeping other international partners informed and I am pleased to be able to tell the House that many of them have chosen to lobby the Iranians or issue statements of support. I am particularly grateful to my colleague Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, who has confirmed publicly that the incident took place in Iraqi waters, calling for the personnel, who are acting in Iraq’s interests, to be released.

“The Iranians have assured us that all our personnel are being treated well. We will hold them to that commitment and continue to press for immediate release. They have also assured us that there is no linkage between this issue and other issues, bilateral, regional or international—which I, of course, welcome. But I regret to say that the Iranian authorities have so far failed to meet any of our demands or responded to our desire to resolve this issue quickly and quietly through behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

“That is why we have today chosen to respond to parliamentary and public demand for more information about the original incident and to get into the public record both our and the Iranian accounts to demonstrate the clarity of our position and the force of the Prime Minister’s words on Sunday 25 March, when he said, and I quote,

‘there is no doubt at all that these people were taken from a boat in Iraqi waters. It is simply not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters, and I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us. We have certainly sent the message back to them very clearly indeed. They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong’.

“The House may also be aware that, even if the Iranian Government believed our vessels had been in Iranian waters—and I stress that they were not—under international law, warships have sovereign immunity in the territorial sea of other states. The very most Iran would have been entitled to do, if it considered that our boats were breaching the rules on innocent passage, would have been to require the ship to leave its territorial waters immediately.

“We will continue to pursue vigorously our diplomatic efforts with the Iranians to press for the immediate release of our personnel and equipment. As Members of the House will appreciate on sensitive issues such as these, as with the recent Ethiopian case, getting the balance right between private, but robust, diplomacy and meeting the House’s and the public’s justified demand for reliable information is a difficult judgment. I am very grateful for the support we have been given over the past few days by the foreign affairs spokesmen of the other parties, and from yourself, Mr Speaker, as well as others in the House, and hope that this will continue.

“But, as the Prime Minister indicated yesterday, we are now in a new phase of diplomatic activity. That is why the MoD has today released details of the incident and why I have concluded that we need to focus all our bilateral efforts during this phase to resolution of the issue. We will, therefore, be imposing a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved. We will keep other aspects of our policy towards Iran under close review and will continue to proceed carefully. But no one should be in any doubt about the seriousness with which we regard these events”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to the Minister for repeating the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary’s Statement, for presenting the details of the situation with such clarity and, if I may say so, for his own part in seeking a swift resolution of this ugly problem.

Do not these details show beyond doubt that both HMS “Cornwall” and its boarding party boats were at least 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when surrounded and that they were going about their lawful business? Is that not confirmed by the GPS pictures, by witnesses and by the master of the Indian merchant vessel, which was anchored and unloading and was being examined? Therefore, were the Iranians not, frankly, acting in error, as they continue to do?

This is potentially a very grave situation in which there will be full support from this side of the House and, I suspect, from the whole House and all parties for the firm and measured approach to the problem at this stage that the Government have deployed. However, I know it will be recognised that if this approach is continually rebuffed for a prolonged period it will have to change. If the news is correct that one member of the group, Faye Turney, is to be released, we obviously hope that that is a sign of the dawn of realism on the Iranian side.

Perhaps I may put a number of questions to the Minister. First, we have heard that there have been repeated requests for consular access to the naval personnel. Has any firm reply of any sort been received about when this can occur and where the naval personnel are? Surely it is time that we at least knew that. At this point, I should add that we obviously share fully in the overriding concern for the safety of those seized and in the very understandable anxieties of their relatives, colleagues and friends.

Secondly, what went wrong operationally? Clearly, something did. It seems that the Iranian fast patrol boats must have been lurking and hiding, perhaps behind the Indian freighter, in order to spring a trap. Why did these boats not show up on the maritime recognition systems and screens of HMS “Cornwall”? Would preventive action have been possible if they had been spotted in time, or did the rules of engagement prevent any moves being made, even if they were spotted? If so, are these the right rules of engagement for patrolling in such dangerous waters? Had we been warned by any intelligence sources that a raid of this kind might be tried at this stage in the broader political context? Are we sure that its timing is not in any way linked with other events, such as the UN sanctions debate or the detention of Iranian suspects, who had been making mischief inside Iraq?

Can the Minister tell us something about the report that Turkish intermediaries have sought to be involved with Iran? Is that true and are they of any help? Does the Minister agree that, for the moment, we must pursue matters—he obviously agrees—by the most vigorous presentation of the facts? If that does not produce results, the full pressures of the international community, in its various guises, such as the United Nations, the European Union and all our other allies and friends across the globe, will have to be mobilised.

Does the Minister agree that Iran is a very ancient and potentially very great nation which we would prefer to respect and work with rather than have to challenge and work against? It can only wound itself by its recalcitrance and non-co-operation in this matter, or indeed in other matters. Does he agree that we have ample capacities, reluctant though we may be to deploy them, to apply strong, additional pressures on Iran and that we would have every moral and legal justification for doing so when all else has been patiently, legally and carefully tried, without result? We may already have taken a first step on that course, as the Minister has reminded us, by freezing all other official, bilateral business with Iran until the situation is resolved.

We obviously hope and pray that it will not go further than that. Will the noble Lord undertake to keep the House fully informed as this dangerous situation unfolds? We hope it will lead to a sensible outcome and to the immediate release of all our people.

My Lords, we on these Benches thank the Government for the Statement. We fully understand and appreciate why the Government have been reluctant to inform the House before now. We support the combination of quiet diplomacy and firm action that the Government have undertaken and we all share the overriding objective: the safe return of our forces.

In the circumstances, it is not appropriate to press the Government much further. However, I ask, as a point of fact, whether the waters concerned are part of the Shatt al Arab, which was a much-contested border in the Iraq-Iran war, or whether they are part of the lower Shatt al Arab, where the international boundary is already accepted and entirely clear.

Can the Government say anything about Iranian motivations? In the previous weeks, had there been any indications that Iranian attitudes and behaviour were changing? One of the most important statements in this document is that the Iranians,

“have also assured us that there is no linkage between this issue and other issues, bilateral, regional or international”.

I hope that the Iranians will be able to stick to that insistence without attempting, as on previous occasions, to link the taking of hostages with other issues. Do we have a clear understanding as to which level within the very complex Iranian regime is involved? Was it the regular Iranian navy or the revolutionary guards?

We also welcome the statement about solidarity from our partners. I recall, in 1979, when Iranian revolutionary guards invaded and occupied the American embassy, the ambassadors of all the European Union states represented in Tehran, as a group, going to see the Iranian Government and insisting that action against any one would be regarded as action against all. The EU and NATO are multilateral networks through which we can operate. As the Statement rightly emphasises, British forces were operating there under a United Nations mandate and, therefore, this is a matter with which the United Nations needs to be concerned.

My Lords, I greatly appreciate the sentiment and support expressed by both noble Lords. Quite aside from the government response, to know that we are absolutely united in our determination will come as a comfort to the families.

I shall deal with both noble Lords’ points. I assure the House that there have been repeated demands in all meetings—not requests, demands—for full consular access, wholly in accordance with the consular arrangements that we would normally expect to apply. There has been no response on that, and none on location. When pressed on any matter of timing, it has not been possible to get any indications. I do not believe that there have been operational problems for our forces. I am not yet in a position to comment fully on some operational matters; that will obviously need some analysis, and we will need to be able to talk to those involved.

I can say, however, that our rules of engagement do not prevent our personnel from protecting themselves. Any suggestion that they do is simply wrong. In addition, they in no way remove the absolute right to act in self defence, and the military forces have been clear that they feel that they have the rules of engagement they need to operate effectively in that area.

We have heard from sources of all kinds in Iran that there are no specific links. No intelligence suggested that they were about to mount an operation in order to link it with something else, and to trade around other matters. I repeat the point made by my right honourable friend in another place: they are absolutely clear that there are no links.

It is certainly true that Turkey has been among the countries with which we have had consultation. As noble Lords will understand, we have had consultations with an extensive number of countries, including Turkey. In the light of the delicacy of discussions, however, I ask that I am not drawn specifically on those contacts.

As to the facts, there is a convention in the House that we do not show pictures or hold up maps that demonstrate the point, although it is tempting to do so. I tell the House that the co-ordinates where the incident took place were 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north, 48 degrees 43.08 minutes east: absolutely in Iranian waters.

My Lords, thank you very much. It is absolutely in Iraqi waters, not in Iranian waters, by any reading of the co-ordinates provided either by ourselves or the Iranians. It is further down the territorial water boundary than the area that noble Lords have mentioned, so there is no doubt that it is an agreed international border. There can be no question on that point.

I accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about Iran. It is plainly, historically, a great nation. I hope that it can return to greatness through a degree of co-operation with the rest of the international community. That is fervently desired by absolutely everybody. The clearest demonstration of that would be to release our forces immediately.

We have ample capacities, and certainly have justifications for the steps that we have taken. It is absolutely right that all business with Iran other than this is frozen. It must be resolved, and that is our principle objective. It should not, and cannot, be diluted by any other matter. I am certainly willing to undertake to keep the House as informed as I can, given the understanding shared in the House that the release of our people is our priority.

I shall answer one point about the waters, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace; I hope I have answered his point about Iranian motivations. In the very first meeting, they said to me that there were no links to other matters. We have taken them at their word. If, as they have said, this is a technical matter to be resolved technically, we should all rely on the co-ordinates that have been provided—before some other co-ordinates which placed these boats in Iranian waters were given, although we know that they were in Iraqi waters—and we should rely on that being a statement made in good faith, with data provided in good faith and being plottable on the charts by everybody in good faith. There is no link with anything else. It is hard to say what level of decision-taking in Iran has been involved. I have been told by the ambassador that Iranian border forces were involved, but I presume that those forces interact with authorities higher up the chain. However, that has not been confirmed.

In respect of all the questions about international assistance, I can say that our partners have been very forthcoming. The European Union presidency immediately made a very strong statement, and we have seen strong statements from the other EU member states. I have no doubt that when they meet this weekend, there will be further opportunities to explore some of these issues. I have no reason to doubt that when they explore it, they will continue that support. We believe that they have used serious endeavours to speak to the Iranian Government about the overall relationship with the EU. I believe that we have done that all acting together, but that has not yet borne the fruit that we would wish. We will be utterly persistent in getting that outcome.

My Lords, it is good that we had immediate and full solidarity from our EU partners. I presume that, since our forces were on a UN-sanctioned mission, the United Nations will give similar support. I have spoken again to a Swansea woman who is the mother of one of the marines. She wishes it to be known that the Ministry of Defence has been most supportive of the families of the marines who have been captured. My questions are her questions. She asks, first, whether there was a heightened state of alert because of the events at the United Nations that weekend. Secondly, why did the helicopter on the scene leave—had it, for example, seen the Iranian ships lurking in the vicinity, as was suggested by the noble Lord? Thirdly, what lessons, if any, have been learnt from the similar incident in 2004 that might have assisted us in dealing with this incident?

My Lords, the forces operate at a heightened state of alert all the times in those extremely troubled waters; they do not relax. It is a tribute to their professionalism that they do that continuously. At the moment, I do not think it would be helpful to review the disposition of helicopters or what could have been drawn from 2004. Whatever was said about 2004, I want to make it clear to the House that our people were in Iraqi waters on a UN mandate. That is the fundamental fact in this case.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the detailed repetition of the Statement, which was most valuable and interesting. Perhaps the Minister will forgive me if I mention one matter that causes me some disquiet. We have known for a long time that Iran has a different attitude to the territorial waters in question. There have been numerous disputes over a long period. I assume that that was as well known in the Ministry of Defence as it was in the Foreign Office. It seems to me that it would have been prudent for the naval officers concerned to have been reminded of the difficulties we have experienced with Iran in the past on these questions and, in particular, of the danger that they might be repeated at the present time, given the public disagreement between ourselves and Iran on a number of international matters. Can the Government look into that and see whether we missed an opportunity to give a friendly note of warning to the naval officers in charge that it would be undesirable to engage in any risky activities at this tense time?

My Lords, I am sorry to say that I find it very difficult to agree with the tenor of the noble Lord’s point. I know of no more professional group in the world than our naval officers who are conducting these difficult operations. They are bound to conduct them in a difficult area, albeit with very clear charts that do not leave room for doubt. They are protecting the principal source of Iraqi income—the oil platforms in the area—and are preventing widespread smuggling that disregards any norms of legal import and export in the area. They are doing that at the request of the Iraqi Government, who are attempting to resurrect a viable economy. Our people do an astonishing job in pursuit of very difficult objectives. That is the only message that I would have come from this House.

My Lords, although the noble Lord could not display the charts according to the custom of the House, would it be possible to put the information he has in his possession on the Foreign Office website, together with any independent verification of the position of our vessels, which may be for obtainable from, for example, French satellite observations? Have we communicated this information to the United Nations Security Council; and could we possibly obtain a presidential statement or a statement from the secretary-general to support our demands that our men are released?

My Lords, I cannot show you what I have here, I am afraid, because of the conventions of the House, but anybody who sees them—they were released in the press conference and so I hope I can make them available in the way that has been suggested—will not be in any doubt. We are approaching the issue of the United Nations not slowly but carefully to make sure that we get the right response at exactly the right moment. It is a little early today to say what the outcome of that discussion will be, but I am in no sense pessimistic about it.

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned that a freeze has been placed on all bilateral activities with Iran, which one understands. What is happening to the execution of the UN mandate, of which HMS “Cornwall” was the flagship? Is that work carrying on? If not, what exercises are being taken to ensure that it carries on as quickly as possible?

My Lords, some of my noble colleagues and I were in Brussels last week and saw Javier Solana before this incident took place. He mentioned that today he would be at the Arab League summit. Given that Iraq is a member of the Arab League, I wonder whether Javier Solana is raising this issue with Arab League countries in order to seek a statement of support from the Arab League itself. I have a second point. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that one of the marines was being released. Is that the woman marine? If not, where is she currently being held, and is she being held separately—I know we do not have details—from her colleagues?

My Lords, we are awaiting further information on diplomatic efforts with the Arab League. I do not want to do anything that will compromise those, as I am sure the House will understand. We do not know where any of our 15 naval personnel are being held. We have sought that information. We do not have it in respect of any of them, including the woman sailor. I have also heard the stories that Iran plans to release the woman sailor, but it has not yet happened. I should also add, because it must be in your Lordships’ minds, that in the past the Iranians have displayed those they have captured in a humiliating fashion on television. During the discussions, I would not accept that demonstrating that they hold our people by displaying them with all the humiliation that is usually inflicted on them would be acceptable; it would be utterly repugnant to us.

My Lords, I know how difficult and delicate negotiations of this kind can be. I support very much the stance the Government have taken since this incident began. I also say how much I welcome the support we are receiving from our European and other partners and hope very much, as other noble Lords have said, that we can build on that in the days ahead in Tehran, Brussels and—perhaps particularly given the nature of the operations of HMS “Cornwall”—New York.

May I ask just one question of the Minister? There is sometimes a tendency, when situations become as delicate as this one has, to see the withdrawal of ambassadors as one of the tools in a toolkit of sanctions. The last week has shown how important it is to have our ambassador active in Tehran, and, indeed, to have the Iranian ambassador active here in London. It is precisely in situations as difficult as this that our ambassadors, with their contacts, really show their worth. Will the Minister take that very much into account if the situation deteriorates, which I hope it does not, and if other measures are considered?

My Lords, plainly, a number of steps could still be taken. I do not discount any of them as events unfold. At the moment, Geoffrey Adams, the ambassador, sees the officials in the Foreign Ministry every day and sometimes several times a day. That channel is extremely valuable. We need to keep the pressure on, which the noble Lord will understand entirely from his huge experience. However, I do not discount anything. We are determined to secure the release of our people. Incidentally, we have never given names; I will certainly not name the people. That is not something that this Government will do. We are determined to secure their release.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is extremely unhelpful to discuss the dispositions of our forces at the time of the incident? Secondly, there will obviously be media interest in the families. Will the Ministry of Defence be providing full media support to the families, as well as pastoral support?

My Lords, the noble Earl makes a very important point. We have no intention of discussing the placement of our forces. I have provided co-ordinates today to demonstrate that we have a wholly legitimate case on our side. The Ministry of Defence is doing an incredible job with the families, who I hope feel that. They now have what I am told are called media shields to help to deal with the media, should they become intrusive. I have no doubt that one of the most important things that we can do to assist them is to protect them from that.

My Lords, I thank the Government for their measured and moderate yet firm response to the seizing of 15 British naval personnel. I speak as one who is opposed to the Iraq war and would like our troops withdrawn. I also have some sympathy with the Iranian desire for a peaceful nuclear programme. Having said that, will the Minister tell the Iranian Government from people like me that their action in seizing British personnel is completely disproportionate and illegal, and that it will make them very bad friends among the people of this country and, indeed, among those who wish them well and understand the position that they are in? It does not help them to do things such as this.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the point he makes about his own support and the support that I have absolutely no doubt will be in the hearts of the people of this country. I want to be careful about my next point, because today is not a day on which to discuss the nuclear portfolio, but the latter cannot possibly be argued in justification. I take seriously, and I sustain the view, that this situation should not become linked to these other matters, and that the Iranian statement that it is not should be taken to be a firm statement from which they should not be allowed to resile.


My Lords, just before we come to the Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007, I shall say a word about the order of speaking, which might be helpful. As the House will know, there is no speakers’ list, because it is an order. The order will be presented by my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham. The first amendment will then be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the debate will be on the amendment. I then expect to hear from the movers of the other amendments, my noble friend Lady Golding and the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Walpole. The debate will then proceed in the normal way. At its conclusion, my noble friend Lord Davies will speak, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and a succession of however many Divisions. I should mention that if the first amendment is carried, that pre-empts the remaining three amendments.

Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 1 March be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on 30 January the Casino Advisory Panel, following extensive public engagement, published its recommendations of the local authorities that should be permitted to issue the one regional, eight large and eight small casino licences. The panel’s recommendations on the large and small casino licences have, I believe, gained general acceptance in both Houses. However, its conclusion on the regional casino licence has proved a little more controversial.

The source of this controversy is the strength of feeling from two quarters. First, there are those who hold moral objections to gambling. I understand and respect that view; it is held by many across both Houses and beyond. It is in recognition of the many downsides of gambling that we have constructed in the Gambling Act one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes in the world. Secondly, there is the pro-Blackpool group, which is strongly represented in the other House and has one or two representatives in this House. I do not seek to dissuade the former group from their well held beliefs, but let me set out for the pro-Blackpool group and the whole House the rationale behind the order.

Many local authorities wanted to explore the potential regeneration benefits of new casinos when bids were invited. If it is contended that the vast majority of the British people are loath to see any extension to gambling, I would respond that their local representatives and local authorities made those applications. Twenty-seven local authorities put themselves forward for the single, regional casino licence and 68 authorities bid for the 17 licences as a whole. Because of our precautionary approach on gambling, our policy allowed for a limited number of new casinos to act as a pilot. We made clear that we would ask an independent panel—not Ministers—to recommend the locations for that pilot. Until the panel recommended Manchester, and not Blackpool, there was probably broad consensus in Parliament on that approach.

Why did we adopt this approach? We wanted to make sure that the decision was based on the facts and evidence and not on politics, which is why the Secretary of State has not simply overturned the panel’s recommendation and put forward Blackpool instead of Manchester. That would fly in the face of the accumulated evidence and it would be unfair to every local authority that took part in a published and agreed process in good faith. That principle is one reason why the order is presented in this form today.

There are other reasons. The intention is to evaluate the impact of this pilot before taking any decisions about the future number and location of any new casinos. That approach has two immediate consequences. The first is the composition of this order. The locations of the 17 new casinos have been chosen to give the evaluation the right mix of locations to measure impact accurately. Secondly, it means that there can be no new casino licences for at least the lifetime of this Parliament; that is, until there is a clear understanding based on rigorous evidence.

Let me turn to other issues that I know have exercised noble Lords. There have been calls for the order to be split, with a separate order for the regional casino. The Government have resisted those calls. As I have said, the 17 casinos form the pilot. If the Secretary of State had split the order from the outset, accusations could certainly have been made that the Government were cynically manipulating Parliament into voting Manchester down for their own electoral purposes. In that respect, the Government were bound to lose either way, but they are standing firm on the principle that an independent panel reached its conclusions, and we are working on that basis.

Much has been made of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee report. It expressed reservations on two significant grounds: how the panel interpreted its remit and on destination casinos. We do not think that, on mature reflection, the House will feel that the committee’s concerns are well established. The primary consideration we set for the Casino Advisory Panel in making its assessment was to identify locations that would provide the best possible test of social impact. That was the acid test of each bid’s merits. We did not ask the panel to identify a location that would reduce problem gambling. Our wider policy, the most rigorous regulation in the world, is addressing that issue and was the basis for passing the Gambling Act and the basis on which it received considerable support in both Houses.

The Merits Committee also reflected a claim by some that it is perverse to locate the regional casino in deprived residential east Manchester. East Manchester is certainly deprived. I declare a minor interest in that I have a great affection for the eastern part of Manchester, but even more for the north-east borough of Oldham. East Manchester is more deprived than Blackpool. One of the panel’s considerations was to identify areas in need of regeneration, so it is not surprising that some of the candidate areas are very deprived. But the panel’s job was to recommend an authority, not a site. It is the authority that applies for the licence. It is possible to locate a regional casino in east Manchester without putting it in the very poorest area. That is what the local planning system is for. The same would apply to Blackpool; indeed, its own bid placed the casino in the town centre, next to the town’s most deprived ward.

The other aspect which exercised the Merits Committee was the so-called destination casinos. The argument is that the independent panel has failed because it did not recommend designating a seaside resort to host the regional casino and it therefore ignored the joint scrutiny committee’s recommendations. That is to misunderstand the concept of “destination”. Manchester is, in its own right, an important destination. The noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, who is in his place, will testify that Manchester was the third most important overseas tourist destination in the UK behind London and Edinburgh for every year between 2001 and 2005, with the sole exception of 2002, when it came fourth. It also fails to reflect the Joint Committee’s intentions. The committee expected regional casinos to be large-scale entertainment complexes, offering gambling alongside a wide range of non-gambling facilities. Anyone who has been to Manchester in the past 10 years can see that the city is at least as compatible with the concept of a leisure destination casino as any seaside town.

On the evidence, a panel concluded that Manchester offered a good test of the social impact of a regional casino; at the same time it expressed its reasons why the Blackpool proposal would not. That was the judgment of that independent panel, which included some of the most eminent planning experts in the country. It is on the basis of their judgment that the order recommends Manchester as the site for that casino.

I will observe the courtesies of the House by listening to the arguments in favour of the amendments tabled today, before briefly, I hope, explaining my attitude towards them. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is very significant, as it would repudiate and negative the order. That has happened only twice since 1975: once on a Rhodesia order—I do not think many of us would reflect on those times with too much enthusiasm—and then on electoral arrangements for the GLA in 2000. Substantial arguments would be needed to persuade unwhipped Members of this House to support the noble Lord’s amendment.

The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Golding calls for the creation of a fresh Joint Committee to look at the Casino Advisory Panel to see what lessons can be learnt for the future. While recognising that the creation and the terms of reference for Joint Committees would be matters for the House authorities if this amendment were passed, the Government are prepared to accept this amendment but would like the committee, in addition to giving Members of both Houses an opportunity retrospectively to examine the panel process, to be forward-looking in its remit.

I have been clear with the House, and I repeat now, that there will be no more new casinos in the current Parliament because the result of the social impact studies of the 17 pilot casinos, and the result of the next prevalence study, will not be available until 2010. It is not possible to think of additional locations during this Parliament. Proposals for more new casinos will not be initiated by this Government in this Parliament. As I have said, the impetus would come from Parliament itself, if it came at all, in the work of the Joint Committee and any subsequent legislative proposals that emerge from it.

There is no consensus for allowing any more new casinos now and there may never be. We are all too well aware that noble Lords and honourable Members in the other place will express caution about the number of casinos, but it is only right that if a Joint Committee is established, it should be allowed to examine the criteria and conditions that could govern any possible future decision. If the Joint Committee were to decide that a future Parliament might allow another regional casino and recommend a specific location, I do not think that anyone in government would be surprised if that turned out to be Blackpool.

I hope that the Joint Committee can produce its first report within six months. The Secretary of State will seek to persuade the Chief Whips in both Houses that the Government should make time available in both Chambers for any such report to be debated. I recognise that that does not provide the immediate gain or reassurance that the supporters of Blackpool wish for, and I have no doubt that its case will continue to be made.

My Lords, what the Minister is saying sounds most welcome. In saying that he will accept the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, can he be crystal clear? I understood him to say that the Secretary of State now accepts that there should be a new Joint Committee and that it can, as the noble Baroness’s amendment asks, look in detail at the panel’s report before any decision is arrived at or the super-casino recommendation is implemented. That is what the amendment says and what I understand the Minister to accept. If so, the noble Lord is to be congratulated on his customary sense. If it is a help to him and to the House, I take this opportunity to indicate that we too will support the noble Baroness’s amendment.

My Lords, the Government have moved a considerable way in proposing to accept my noble friend’s amendment. It will aid the development of policy. The Joint Committee can reach any conclusions its members consider justifiable, and those may or may not be endorsed by both Houses of Parliament. However, its recommendations will not be in time for any addition to the pilot which the order promotes. We are at a point of decision with this order. If the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is carried and the order rejected, the pilot study is finished with and cannot be continued.

It will be recognised that, given the process of getting licences established and of the licence winner constructing the casino and all the facilities necessary, there will be a considerable time lapse before any casino is likely to appear if the order is accepted today. The amendment, which delays the order, could set back that timetable extensively. Noble Lords might accept that the vast majority of their fellow countrymen support the extension of casinos, and their representatives appear to do so. In fact, the only representatives that I can see who are not so sure about a casino where it is being contended that they are very enthusiastic are Liberal Democrat representatives in Blackpool, who have placed advertisements in at least one newspaper today to say that they do not want a casino in Blackpool. So there can be dissent—

My Lords, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Blackpool, councillor Robert Wynne, and the Liberal group on Blackpool council have consistently supported the proposal. There are one or two councillors who do not, but I can tell the Minister that in all parties that is a problem. Perhaps the Minister can really cut through the verbiage. If he accepts the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, will it stop by a single minute the granting of the casino licence to Manchester? I will give him his answer—it is no. The rest is just verbiage.

My Lords, if the noble Lord is asking this House to consider a position in which the only issue is the substitution of Blackpool for Manchester, he must make his case. But I am making the case for the order and pilot study to those who, like himself, so strongly support Blackpool—and of course I respect his opinion on this. I did not doubt for one moment that he would make out the case for Blackpool as strongly as he could. However, he will recognise that when I contend this extraordinary response by local authorities positively to welcome the opportunity for casinos in their areas, I have the right to emphasise that there is considerable public support for this position. Therefore, the reason for any delay would be the cost to the nation.

I remind the House that many thousands of new jobs and millions of pounds of investment, which are engaged in this very important development, may be put at risk across the country by this exercise.

My Lords, may I just clarify the position of Blackpool council? It is very much in favour of a regional casino; it has been working on this idea for years—and, in addition, a petition has been signed by 11,500 people in Blackpool for this purpose.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord McNally, the noble Lord is knowledgeable about Blackpool and I accept his representation. I was not seeking to suggest that there was no case for Blackpool at all; I was merely indicating that the case for Blackpool is not necessarily that much stronger than the cases of the other authorities that have put in for a casino. In doing so, they are representing their localities in the same way.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will be as delighted as I am at the tremendous growth in tourism in Manchester in recent years. There is no dispute in that. But does he not recognise the very clear difference between tourism as an industry in Manchester alongside many others and tourism in Blackpool, which is the dominant industry in that town?

My Lords, I recognise that important point. It is also why the Secretary of State has already announced that significant regeneration resources are being released for Blackpool. We are aware that Blackpool, like a number of our other seaside towns, has had a decline in its local economy in recent years, to which we need to pay attention. But the—

My Lords, I know that we are becoming rather like the House at the other end, continually interrupting the Minister, but will he make it absolutely clear whether he does or does not accept the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, as it is printed on the Order Paper? If he does, please will he say, “Yes, I accept the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding”?

My Lords, the Government will not vote against that amendment; they will accept it. That is what we intend to do. I give way to my noble friend.

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting my noble friend but further to this very important point, which is absolutely critical to the way a number of us will vote at the end of the debate, can my noble friend clarify two things which arise out of the question from the Conservative Front Bench, and from the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Glentoran? First, if we pass the amendment of my noble friend Lady Golding, is my noble friend saying that the casino licence for Manchester will still go ahead regardless of what the deliberations of the Joint Committee may be some time down the track? Is that the position? Secondly, will he also confirm that if the order is thrown out this evening, there is nothing to stop the Government bringing back a new order for the 16 licences over which there is much less controversy and then giving more time for deliberation on the regional casino licence?

My Lords, the latter would be a strange action for the Government to take. An independent panel recommended a pilot of 17, of which the regional casino is a very important feature. Therefore, of course we could not easily go ahead with a pilot which contradicted what the independent committee recommended to the Government. On the other aspect, as I indicated, it is clear that the Joint Committee, which we accept would have extremely useful work to do and might be the forum in which imperfections in the existing process could be noted and improvements to it effected, may very much strengthen the case for Blackpool. But what is before the House today is the order which gives effect to the pilot study of 17. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 1 March be approved. 12th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 13th and 16th Reports from the Merits Committee.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

My Lords, before calling Amendment No. 1, I have to inform the House that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 due to pre-emption.

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after “that” and insert “this House, taking account of the 13th Report from the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, declines to approve the draft order; considers it desirable that Lords be appointed to join with a committee of the Commons as a Joint Committee to consider the process by which a decision was reached on which licensing authority should issue the regional casino premises licence and to report by 1 June 2007; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to take account of the recommendations of any such Joint Committee and to lay regulations including the licensing authorities as set out in the draft order whose responsibility it is to issue the eight large and eight small casino premises licences”.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for introducing the order. He laid out the Government’s case as well as he could, but today I believe that he has been put in an invidious position by the Secretary of State failing to separate out the order into two elements—one dealing with the 16 small and large casinos and the other dealing with the so-called super-casino. I do not believe that he is well served either by the vagueness of what he is offering to his own Back Benches.

Secondly, I pay tribute to the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee—its members and in particular its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, whom I am pleased to see in his place—which did such an effective job in scrutinising the process whereby east Manchester was selected by the Casino Advisory Panel, which is the subject of the draft order before us today.

Why have I tabled my amendment to vary the Government’s Motion approving the regulation with the active support of my colleagues? This is very straightforward. First, it has become apparent that there are great problems with the Casino Advisory Panel’s remit as laid down in August 2005 after Royal Assent had been given to the Gambling Bill. The Merits Committee’s report has done us all a great service in this regard. Secondly, also thanks to the Merits Committee, it has become abundantly clear that there are real problems with how the Casino Advisory Panel interpreted and carried out its remit in producing its report published on 30 January 2007.

A third reason to be particularly cautious is the fact that the policy context has changed since the Government first introduced the draft Gambling Bill back in 2003, since they issued their statement of national policy in December 2004 and above all since the wash-up on the Gambling Bill prior to the previous general election.

Perhaps I may take each reason in turn. Each alone gives a reason to remit the regional casino aspect of this regulation to a Joint Committee of both Houses. We would—and I must emphasise this—have preferred the 16 large and small casinos to be the subject of a separate order which we could have supported.

First, let us take the issue of the terms of reference. These were referred to in the 2004 statement of national policy as follows:

“the Advisory Panel will be asked to identify areas for the new casinos which will provide: a good range of types of areas, and a good geographical spread of areas across Britain. The Panel will also want to ensure that those areas selected are willing to license a new casino. Subject to these criteria, the Panel will be asked to choose areas in need of economic development and regeneration (as measured by employment and other social deprivation factors) and likely to benefit in regeneration terms from a casino”.

Later, the terms of reference changed. Neither the new terms of reference nor the previous terms were debated on the Floor of either House, although my honourable friends did attempt to put the regeneration objective in the Bill as it went the through the other place. By the time the terms were fixed, in August 2005, they were as follows:

“The primary consideration will be to ensure that locations provide the best possible test of social impact. Subject to this, the criteria will also be: to include areas in need of regeneration”—

and so forth, and—

“to ensure that those areas selected are willing to license a new casino”.

So in each case the issue of regeneration was to play a subsidiary role. However, as the Merits Committee made clear, the key change made was to make the overriding aim of the panel to choose the site which constituted the,

“best … test of social impact”.

It was not the site where harm was to be minimised, as the Government had seemed to promise in their statement of national policy. Nor, as the Merits Committee pointed out, do the terms seem to square with the objectives of the Gambling Act as set out in Section 1 of that Act.

Secondly, the situation was compounded by the way in which the Casino Advisory Panel interpreted its remit. As the Merits Committee uncovered in its brief but very effective inquiry, the social impact test was actually used to exclude destination casinos. The test was highly imperfect, and the concept was clearly immeasurable at that point, but nevertheless it was used to exclude destination casinos. These, it will be recalled, were considered by the Joint Committee and many experts as giving rise to less casual problem gambling. Professor Crow, the chairman of the panel, admitted as much in his evidence to the Merits Committee. As the key was to be able to measure the social impact, the panel presumably had to choose the toughest, most deprived, disadvantaged and crime-ridden area to achieve this. It is no wonder the Merits Committee said that the CAP had treated its task like a “research exercise”.

It is true that an air of almost academic naivety runs through the CAP report. Blackpool was excluded because the social impact would be “exported”. Yet destinations casinos had clearly been preferred by the Joint Committee and experts on problem gambling in terms of least social harm. Indeed, it appears that the panel did not consult the leading expert, Professor Collins of Salford University, on the social impact of gambling at all. It is hardly surprising that the Merits Committee concluded that the order,

“may imperfectly achieve its objective”.

It sounds like an understatement but it is strong language for this committee.

This is an important decision we are making today, and I recognise that the Motion I have laid before the House is a strong one. But we need to be particularly cautious in taking the decision about the location of the super-casino. There is rising concern about the growth of gambling and the issue of problem gambling. The number of casinos in total is growing rapidly. We were assured by the Minister, Mr Caborn, during the passage of the Bill, that there would be no more than 150 casinos in the UK in total. There are now some 90 new casinos in the pipeline under the 1968 Act alone. The figure of 150 will be comfortably exceeded, and 250 now looks more likely.

Advertising of gambling facilities is now being permitted by the new regulations. Gambling on the internet has exploded, little of it regulated here in the UK. Despite promises, services to combat problem gambling have not yet been funded adequately. Above all, since the terms of reference for the CAP were originally mooted, just before the general election in 2005, the number of initial regional casinos has been reduced to one. It looks as though that one casino will not be a pilot but will be the only super-casino, certainly for the next 10 years. The fact is that despite the terms of reference for the one location, which are couched as a test or a pilot, this may not be a pilot at all. In fact, it is highly likely that this one super-casino will be the only super-casino, so the process by which we choose it is absolutely crucial. This is no laboratory test; nor can we leave problem gambling to the planning process. There is no room for error.

Finally, why remit the regulation to a Joint Committee, and why must the Joint Committee report by 1 June? When it came to scrutinising the draft Gambling Bill, by common consent the Joint Committee did a superb job. We have seen what is possible in just a short space of time from the Merits Committee. We need a new Joint Committee to advise us on whether the process for the selection of east Manchester was correct and, if necessary, to make recommendations for a new process. The order was due to come into effect—perhaps is due to come into effect—on 1 June. If the committee is asked to report by 1 June on whether the process by which the super-casino was chosen was properly conducted, no time will have been lost if it makes no recommendation for change.

If we could, we would be dealing today with two orders, one dealing with the recommendations on the locations of small and large casinos and one with the super-casino. The Secretary of State, faced with the prospect of today’s amendment passing and having received serious advice from constructive Back-Bench Labour Peers, set her face against that, hoping that it would drive us to support the order. My motives in tabling the amendment are not to provide a consolation prize for any town or city; explicitly, this is not “Blackpool or bust”, nor is it designed to do down Manchester. It arises out of concern about a process which, for a variety of reasons, has clearly gone very wrong. My amendment suggests a way forward. It is not reliant on vague assurances about the setting up and the remit of a committee, and it is a non-binding Motion. I very much hope that, in due course, noble Lords will support the amendment. I will deal with the other amendments in my winding-up speech. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after “that” and insert “this House, taking account of the 13th Report from the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, declines to approve the draft order; considers it desirable that Lords be appointed to join with a committee of the Commons as a Joint Committee to consider the process by which a decision was reached on which licensing authority should issue the regional casino premises licence and to report by 1 June 2007; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to take account of the recommendations of any such Joint Committee and to lay regulations including the licensing authorities as set out in the draft order whose responsibility it is to issue the eight large and eight small casino premises licences”. —(Lord Clement-Jones.)

My Lords, I agree with almost every word that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has said. However, if he had been with me and with many other noble Lords in the past few weeks trying to negotiate something and get something out of the order, he would not be so certain that his amendment would achieve anything.

I have always been a strong supporter of Blackpool. I can see no good reason why Blackpool should not have been the destination casino. If I thought that supporting the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, would achieve anything for Blackpool, I would more than consider supporting it. However, I do not believe that that is possible. Many of us have gone through negotiations that have seemed to produce something for Blackpool and have then not been accepted. We have gone back again and again, and things have altered right up until today at 1.30 pm, when we finally got an agreement that we could consider that would give some hope to Blackpool and to other areas that felt that they had been done down by the agreement.

I am not critical of the Government for wanting to bring the legislation on gambling up to date. Indeed, I would be critical if they had ignored the real problems of internet and telephone betting, as well as the growth in other forms of gambling. Many in this House are against all forms of gambling; I understand that, but the Government have to live in the real world, as do we. We have to strike a balance between gambling as a legitimate leisure pursuit while mitigating any potential negative consequences of people’s desire to gamble.

I recognise that the Government made some positive moves in the Gambling Act. In addition to the National Lottery Commission and the Financial Services Authority, the Government have established the Gambling Commission to regulate gambling. The financing by the industry of such charities as GamCare, which look after problem gamblers, is also very much welcome, and the increase in money that has lately been guaranteed by the gambling industry is more than welcome. The Government recognise—I agree—that sweeping under the carpet the desire of people to gamble is not in anyone’s interests. We have to face up to our responsibilities towards people as things are today, not as we wish they were and wishing they would not gamble.

Having said all that, I have great criticism of how the Government have arrived at their decision to accept the report of the panel and Professor Crow, and especially of its decision to propose Manchester rather than Blackpool as the one regional casino. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for stating so clearly why the panel got it wrong. It demonstrates clearly to me the danger of putting legislation in the hands of people who have little understanding of or responsibility in the outcome of their recommendations. I could go through Professor Crow’s report page by page and criticise paragraph by paragraph, but I will not do so, as I am sure that other noble Lords will have much to say on the subject, as did the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, in his Merits Committee’s outstanding report to this House.

I have asked for a Joint Committee to be set up to consider the report of Lord Crow before any decision is arrived at. I am sorry; I meant Professor Crow—he has not yet been made a Lord. The Minister has put forward an interpretation of that request and I am minded to accept it, but we have not quite got there yet. I will certainly recommend people to vote against the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, because I fear that if it is carried, it will do Blackpool down and give no satisfaction to anyone, other than the fact that an order that should never have been put forward in this way has been defeated.

The process was wrong. The Government must recognise that it is for Parliament to make decisions that affect people’s lives. The House should have considered the report before it was accepted, and I hope that the Government will learn that lesson. I intend to say no more as I have agreed with my noble friend Lord Lipsey, who has worked on this so effectively with me for many hours over the past weeks, that he will voice our concerns about the process. He was unable to add his name to my amendment because of the rules of the House, but without his help and that of many Members across the House there would have been no hope of getting where we are today.

The Government have compromised at the last hour, and I am prepared to accept that. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, encourages the House to vote for his amendment, he does no good to anybody, especially Blackpool.

My Lords, I have tabled my amendment, which is the third on the list, alongside those of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, and the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, to demonstrate that the concerns about this order are not party political and are shared by all those who have been involved with the Gambling Act since its inception, and in particular by those of us who were members of the pre-legislative scrutiny committee.

That committee sat for a long time, took an enormous amount of evidence and produced two reports, the bulk of whose recommendations were accepted by the Government and incorporated into the Bill. Much of the evidence conflicted, as evidence often does, or was not as clear as it might have been. But in one area, in relation to the siting of what are now called “regional casinos”, but are more accurately called “resort destination casinos”, the evidence was unequivocal in relation to the two key criteria—the likelihood of causing adverse social problems, such as excessive gambling and possible crime, and the potential for regeneration.

It is in relation to those criteria that there is real concern regarding the Casino Advisory Panel’s choice of Manchester, which has led to the furore that has surrounded this order. These issues, as the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, said, have been more than adequately dealt with in the excellent report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, so I shall not examine them now.

There is no advantage in repeating the conclusions in that report, but two points are crucial. The first relates to Professor Crow’s admission that the choice of Manchester was made on the basis that customers to the casino would largely come from the local residential population, and thus the social impact on it was far easier to measure; whereas if the casino was situated in a place such as Blackpool, Great Yarmouth or Bournemouth, where 90 per cent of customers would be tourists or people coming for the primary purpose of gambling, it would be far more difficult to measure the social impact. So the CAP’s decision was based on the requirements for academic research, rather than identifying the most appropriate place for a casino. That is an obvious and fundamental flaw.

In relation to regeneration, the decision creates a further problem. Regeneration is predicated not just on the ability to attract new capital investment to a project but on attracting new income in the future. But if the new casino is sited in an area where it is dependent mainly on customers resident in the locality, rather than on visitors, there will not be any new money; it will simply be a case of recycling existing money—which in the case of east Manchester is not very much, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, pointed out. You do not have to be an expert on casinos or regeneration to realise that that is crazy stuff.

I must make it clear that for me, unlike other speakers, this is not a debate about the merits of Blackpool over Manchester. I hold no remit for Blackpool, nor do I have anything against Manchester. The great Mark Twain wrote that he would like to die in Manchester, because the transition between Manchester and death would be so small as to be hardly noticeable. That is rather unkind but, whatever we have heard today and for all its many merits, it would stretch my imagination a little to describe Manchester as a “destination resort”. However many people go through Manchester airport and increase the visitor figures, I have never heard of anyone sunbathing at Old Trafford.

The evidence submitted to the scrutiny committee, which was apparently accepted by the Government at that time, was that a casino development of this type should never be sited in a city near a residential population, as that would be bound to lead to social problems. It said that it should be sited in a destination resort where the bulk of customers would be tourists. What the CAP has recommended goes completely against that advice. I do not lay the blame for that at Professor Crow’s door, but it is pretty clear that the DCMS’s terms of reference for that committee and presumably the ongoing communications between the committee and the department were at best careless and at worst downright incompetent.

Furthermore, the Secretary of State’s determination to combine the relatively uncontroversial decisions in relation to siting the eight large and eight small casinos with the decision on the single regional casino was a blatant attempt to bulldoze the order through Parliament. The ensuing row is a consequence of that crass mistake, the responsibility for which lies with the Secretary of State. The idea that there had to be eight, eight and one casinos in the same order is a complete fantasy; that had nothing to do with it at all.

Following so closely on the shambles of the Olympics funding, the resulting raid on lottery funds and the mess surrounding the sale of the Tote, one can now only conclude that, like the Home Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is simply not fit for purpose, and the sooner it is placed under new management, the better.

The Casino Advisory Panel’s advice was just that: advice. The Secretary of State could quite reasonably have rejected it or, far better, all those weeks ago she could have referred it to an ad hoc Select Committee to resolve the matter. Instead, she has chosen to blunder on, which is why the Government now find themselves in this ridiculous and unnecessary position. This is not an issue of principle, nor is it even a great political issue in the overall scheme of things, but it is an issue of the competence of government.

On balance, of the three non-fatal amendments, I believe that that of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, is best—it is rather better than mine—because it compels the Government to set up the committee that they should have agreed, and had the opportunity, to set up some weeks ago. If the House decides to proceed with this matter, it is likely that I will not press my own amendment but will vote for that in the name of the noble Baroness.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is of course fatal and, as such, it pushes the conventions of your Lordships’ House to, and possibly beyond, its limits. Indeed, it may well remind the Government and another place exactly what would happen on a regular basis if this House were to flex the muscles given to it by democratic election. My inclination, as a member of the pre-legislative scrutiny committee and, unlike some of my noble friends, as a fan of an elected House, is to support the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, but I shall make my decision when I hear the Minister’s response—in particular, to three questions.

First, will he confirm that the order can be reintroduced—I think that that is set out in Sections 175 and 355 of the Act—and, indeed, must be reintroduced if this House rejects it? Secondly, the offer that he made in accepting the noble Baroness’s amendment implies that a certain amount of activity will take place in the future in terms of Governments accepting committee reports, which are prepared over several months. Bearing in mind that this matter will probably continue beyond the summer and into the autumn, will he confirm that the Secretary of State’s offer to the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, has been rubber-stamped by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will play a rather more significant role in these matters as the year progresses? Thirdly, will he confirm that everyone is absolutely clear about the last line of the noble Baroness’s amendment, which says that,

“a Joint Committee to consider the Panel’s report in detail before any decision is arrived at with regard to the issuing of casino premises licences”,

and that his offer to accept the amendment means that no casino premises licences will be issued until the committee, which will be set up under the terms of the amendment, is agreed to?

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to get to my feet here rather than going to meetings in practically every meeting room in the Palace of Westminster and outside, as I have done over the past two weeks. I was the Cross-Bench member of the pre-legislative scrutiny committee on the Gaming Bill. I felt very strongly that all of us—three party members and the independent member—should put our names down. Of course, I have only one vote and I have to try to persuade my colleagues here that they should follow me in the same direction. I do not know whether I shall succeed in that but I shall try.

I declare my interest in gambling. I was a justice of the peace for Great Yarmouth, where a lot of things happen: there is a casino, or probably two now; various amusement arcades; a very nice racecourse, if anyone wants to go there; and, of course, the dogs.

When on the committee, I learnt an enormous amount about gambling and realised how totally ignorant I was. The committee held two very special events. One was a visit to GamCare. As the number of casinos and the possibility of gambling increase, the number of people who require help will increase substantially. The cost to the National Health Service and other services will be great. The committee heard first hand from former compulsive gamblers how, with great difficulty, they gave it up. Even worse, we heard from the partner of a gambler who had to get to the post before he did, because yet more credit cards would come pouring through the letterbox. The problems are unbelievable and they will get worse.

I do not say that they will be worse in Manchester than in Blackpool. I am not a fan of Blackpool; I am a fan of Yarmouth. I like Blackpool and, on occasions, have enjoyed myself there. We learnt a great deal about GamCare and the problems that will occur.

We visited France, where we had the extreme good fortune to meet a very nice, smart, young—younger than I am—French police officer who was in charge of all gambling in France. Before she started, she said, “I am going to speak to you in French because then I shall be absolutely clear about what I am saying to you”. She said, “You are on the wrong track; you must have destination casinos only, for the big ones”.

There is no gambling in Paris. For those in Paris who wish to gamble I believe that Aix-les-Bains is the nearest place. It is definitely a resort—not a seaside resort. It is designed extremely well for gambling, for going to the theatre or the cinema, or for just sheer enjoyment. As a result of something that happened to me there, I felt slightly relieved. When two or three of us left the casino where we had dined that evening, we were followed by security officers until we got back to our hotel. Unfortunately, we did not win anything, but we might have done.

We also went to Trouville, where again we learnt what a genuine seaside resort—it is virtually seaside—was like. I have been through the list of all 17 sites. I did not know that Milton Keynes was a resort, but it is a rather fun place to go to. You can get lost there so easily, especially with the new signposting around it.

I have come to the firm conclusion that, although I like the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, I shall vote for the one in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I ask those Cross-Benchers who have listened to the arguments to follow me through the same Lobby.

My Lords, I have four different interests to declare. None of them prevents me from speaking, but the House will be pleased to know that at least two of them restrict what I can say. First, I am a part-time member of the Gambling Commission. The commission is not responsible for the location of casinos or any other gambling premises, but it is responsible for the regulation of those premises—or that part of the regulation that relates to operators and individual employees. Premises licensing, of course, is a matter for local authorities. The Gambling Commission has never taken a view on where gambling premises should be, but it takes the view that it will provide a proper regulatory framework, wherever Parliament or local authorities decide gambling should take place. I shall therefore not express any views on the location of either the regional casino or any of the others.

My second interest is as president of GamCare, which, I am glad to say, has been referred to twice in the debate. It is the leading charity responsible for treatment and assistance of people with gambling problems and the largest recipient of funding from the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, a charity set up voluntarily by gambling industries. I am happy to tell the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that the Responsibility in Gambling Trust has assured GamCare of funding for the next three years, in response to GamCare’s business plan. GamCare’s activities are currently not restricted by lack of funding. I am not saying that we would not look for more funding if we could get it, but the noble Lords’ assertion that it is under financial pressure is none the less incorrect. Again, GamCare is not concerned with the location of gambling premises. It undertakes to help people with gambling problems, wherever they may be. Therefore, I shall not be commenting on the location of gambling premises in that capacity.

My third interest is that I was, for the two years in which the Gambling Bill went through Parliament, the Minister responsible for that legislation, under the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The last six months of that period, October 2004 until just before the 2005 election, in which there was a huge reaction to the Bill and casinos in particular, are burnt deeply in my psyche. I hate to bring the Daily Mail into debates in this House, but it was outstanding in its opposition to all aspects of the then Gambling Bill. It was followed by a large body of opinion across all parts of the House and the public.

The Government’s position then, which I believe this House would now take, was that there are three public-policy options on gambling. The first is to suppress it: prohibition. Nobody has advocated that; it is obvious, as has been shown in many jurisdictions worldwide, that prohibition simply drives gambling underground rather than enabling it to be regulated. The second is to let it rip, with no regulation at all. Again, I do not think that position has had any support in Parliament or among the public. The third option—the Government’s option after seven years of debate, including the independent report by a committee under Sir Alan Budd—was that gambling should be strictly regulated; that you should not say that it is not a legitimate leisure pastime for many people, the vast majority of whom do not suffer in any way from their gambling activities; and that the key to public policy on gambling is the effectiveness of regulation.

I come to my fourth declaration of interest, as a social researcher in business for nearly 40 years. The important point is that casinos are a very small part of the possible dangers of gambling and problem gambling. Three per cent of people in this country go to casinos. If the prevalence study being carried out shows that that goes up to 4, 5 or 6 per cent, the number of problem gamblers whose problems arise from casinos will be well under 1 per cent, almost certainly well under 0.5 per cent. The real dangers in gambling do not come from casinos; they come from accessible gambling—machines in betting offices, pubs and clubs, and online and telephone gambling. The Gambling Act has put severe restrictions on machines in pubs, clubs and betting offices to avoid what would otherwise have been the position: gambling problems like those in New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria in Australia. Online gambling is much more difficult because participants do not have to go to sites based and regulated in the United Kingdom. We still have a long way to go on that. The issue—I know this point has not been raised yet, but I got to my feet early—ought not to be problem gambling from casinos because they are not the significant element.

As the Minister who was responsible for the Gambling Bill, I want to speak about the process by which we arrived at today’s position. Because of the adverse reaction to the Bill when it was published in October 2004, the Government compromised. Instead of saying that the number of casinos of any kind should be restricted by size limits—in other words, saying that casinos should be so big that no business decision would be taken to have more than 20, 25 or perhaps 30 large casinos—we were obliged to say to the House of Commons that there would be an arbitrary number: eight, eight and eight. That is what we did. It is not rational in policy terms, because eight cannot be defended any more than seven or nine or any other number; it was the number acceptable to the House of Commons at the time. The condition on which that compromise was reached was that the decision would be taken not politically by the Government but by an independent panel. None of the debate that took place in either House went against that idea or suggested that Ministers or Parliament should take the decision rather than an independent panel. Of course, in the end, an order has to be made and has to go through Parliament, but objection to the order is surely justified only if Ministers go against the independent advice that they were offered rather than accepting it as they have done.

It does not seem to me that a case has been made out from any point of view for rejecting these orders. The Government have fulfilled the commitment they made to Parliament in the run-up to the last general election. Whatever doubts there may be about the detail of the independent panel’s work, it fulfilled its remit. On that basis, this House should not overturn the order before it today.

My Lords, I speak because I, together with my noble friend Lady Golding, wrote to a number of Peers on our side of the House to suggest that unless the Government had a change of heart over the order before us tonight, they should vote against it. I am here this afternoon to explain that they have had a significant change of heart. I hope, therefore, that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will be rejected and that the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Golding will be accepted on the basis of the assurance given to us.

There is a threefold alliance, as the Minister said, of people inclined to oppose this order. I cannot call it an “unholy alliance” since the Bishops’ Benches are in favour of the alliance, but it is a strange alliance, at least. There are those who are against gambling and casinos; those who do not like the choice of Manchester, and most of them would like the choice to be Blackpool; and there are those, among whom I include myself, who have doubts about the procedure that has been followed. I want briefly to address all three matters.

I address most briefly of all the case of those against gambling. I am not very good at making the case for it; I have lost the argument every morning over the breakfast table with my wife for the past six months, and I do not expect that I shall win it in your Lordships’ House. Anyway, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I am strongly in favour of casinos because of the regeneration benefits they bring and because they prevent under-the-counter gambling on the internet. On Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays I worry about their effect on problem gamblers and the danger of taking money off the poor. So I am not a desperate fan of having any casinos. On Sunday I get a day of rest.

But, the time for the anti-gamblers to make their case was when this Bill was before Parliament and they were trying to convince the Government not to go ahead with it. What is not acceptable is that when an order under it comes forward—as it was always envisaged one would come forward to name the casinos—the issue of principle is re-opened. That is against the conventions of this House. That has been, as has been pointed out, broken on only two occasions since the 1970s, and it is not the right way to carry forward that argument.

Secondly, there are those who think that the casino should be in Blackpool rather than Manchester. I am sympathetic to having one in Blackpool, although I listened hard and long to the case for Manchester. In some of the pro-Blackpool propaganda put about—and I relate to a lot of it—the case against Manchester has been hugely overstated so that people think that some uncontrolled den of iniquity is to be erected in east Manchester, to which the poor people of Manchester will go and lose all their money. I think that that is most unlikely.

The way to get a casino in Blackpool is to have one in Manchester also because they test different properties of casinos. The one in Manchester will test whether an inner city casino has the ill effects some people fear—although I do not believe it will—and the one in Blackpool will test the power of a destination casino to revive a very deprived area.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, who is a very old friend and close colleague at times, is a great lover of Blackpool. I love both places, but he has chosen that loving Blackpool means hating Manchester. If his Front Bench gets its way this afternoon—and it is sad to see him on the Back Benches, but we know why he is there for now—and in 10 years’ time he is walking down the promenade of Blackpool as it will be if it does not get a casino, perhaps he will remember that it was his vote this afternoon that stopped, as I will demonstrate, a process that in my view will inevitably lead in quite short order to a second super-casino in Blackpool. He must weigh that in his conscience.

I turn finally to the procedure, which caused me to join my noble friend Lady Golding in opposing this issue. I thought that it was pretty poor that the Secretary of State received this report at nine in the morning and at three o’clock in the afternoon said that she would lay an order before Parliament enforcing it. She said subsequently that she studied it in the four weeks that followed. I am reminded of Lewis Carroll, “Sentence first—verdict afterwards”. That was poor, and was one of the reasons why we wanted a Joint Committee to be set up. I do not defend that bit of the process. However, this is where I come to the agreement that has emerged over the past weeks, days and nights of negotiation. I am afraid that my noble friend Lord Davies, who had been speaking for some time and who was trying to get to the end of his remarks for the benefit of the House, did not fully set out for the House where the Government have given way.

The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, which condemns that haste and which was resisted by the Government, is now accepted by the Government. We were told that there was no way that we could have a Joint Committee because, “We know what it will conclude”. The idea was resisted by the Government but is now accepted by the Government. A review of the way in which the decision was taken and put before the House was rejected by the Government but is today accepted by the Government. The idea that such a review should pave the way for the next stage of the legislation and should look towards the possibility of further casinos was resisted by the Government—my God, to the last trench. Since last night, it has been accepted by the Government. A Minister gave a statement that contemplated consensus in this Parliament for a second casino in Blackpool, although not one that would take effect—rightly, I think—until the next Parliament, and that would lead to regulations in the next Parliament. Again, there is ministerial blood feet deep over that retreat, but retreat they have.

In my considered view, which I give to the House knowing that it will offend those who are against casinos in principle, if this afternoon the House rejects the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and if as a consequence, with the Government’s full agreement, the House accepts the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Golding, for which she has worked so hard, it will set in train an inexorable process that will lead to this House and the other place having the chance early in the next Session to create a second super-casino in Blackpool, if that is the will of the House. I was in government once upon a time, and I remember how reluctant Governments are to change their mind. I pay tribute to the fact that the Government, in accepting the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, have admitted that they mishandled it and got it wrong, and have accepted all these changes, which make for a most formidable package.

If the House votes tonight in favour of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, we will get an order for the 16 casinos but we will not move forward on the super-casino in short order or in long order. Indeed, it is very likely that we will never move forward on it. Some quarters of the House will welcome that, others will not; but that is the reality. If the House rejects the noble Lord’s amendment, we will have started an inexorable process whereby, unless public opinion or some other great outside factor changes against casinos, it is very likely that the House will get the chance to decide whether it wants a second casino in Blackpool in the light of all the evidence that is available at the time. Given that process, it is very likely that it will get it. For that reason, I hope that the House will reject the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, accept the agreement that has been reached with the Government, and vote enthusiastically to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding.

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to the remarks made by the Minister and others about the procedural gravity of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones; but I feel the need to speak to the reasons that have made me deeply sympathetic to that amendment and to the concerns underlying it. They are both particular and general. The particular reasons have already been detailed by a number of other noble Lords. We have already heard how the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee of your Lordships’ House has exposed some of the confusions and inconsistencies in the terms of reference of the Casino Advisory Panel, especially as those have related to criteria of social impact. The oscillation between discussing these in negative and in positive terms does not encourage the casual reader.

To take one example from the proceedings of the Merits Committee, I note that the question is left open of how benefits can be secured to local people rather than large investors. That question, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, was answered simply in terms of that being, so to speak, referred to the responsibility of local government to resolve. I find that an inadequate and worrying response.

Sadly, the general impression that has been given is of a piece of inadequately monitored social experimentation. The very language of “test of social impact” fails to take seriously enough the fact that social impact is not something which comes and goes within 24 hours or which can be written out of the record by another piece of research. It also gives the unfortunate impression of business being somewhat unduly hustled in the parliamentary procedure, on which other noble Lords have spoken more eloquently and extensively than I can.

My general grounds for unease do not rest primarily on a principled opposition to all forms of gambling in any shape in any place. Belonging to a church which has a mixed record on these matters, I can hardly take the moral ground with too much confidence. My objection is rather to the sleight of hand by which the whole business of the gambling industry has become coupled with the regeneration theme in ways which—I have to be candid—I find quite baffling. We have been reminded already by several noble Lords that terms such as problem gambling conceal a rather more unpalatable and extreme reality, of which some have spoken, in terms of addictive behaviour. While it is undoubtedly true statistically that casino gambling represents a relatively small segment of the overall problem of addictive gambling, none the less it represents a significant part and a social factor whose impact on its immediate environment is not restricted to addictive gambling.

But how would we react if we were discussing not this particular form of addiction but other forms of addiction? Surely, we should be extremely anxious about monitoring effects, so designing policies that they would be secure in advance, not subjecting them simply to an impact test. We should be very concerned about the resources to be made available for potential victims of this development. We recognise in other contexts that addiction is a nursery of crime as well as of poverty. In our discussion, that should be at the forefront of our minds. Why, if we raise these questions in relation to other forms of addictive behaviour, do we not raise them clearly here?

In conclusion, I should like to go back to regeneration. I have said that I find it a puzzling word to use in connection with this theme. I wonder whether the undoubted enthusiasm of some local authorities for the presence of casinos in their midst has something to do with the absence of other viable forms of regeneration policy proposed to them. Institutions that can encourage criminality and intensify irresponsibility are poor allies of social and civic regeneration. It may be—I believe that it is—that we cannot simply turn our eyes away from the social reality of gambling and the desire of people to gamble. I should be the last to wish this brushed under the carpet, to use a phrase that has already been used today in your Lordships’ House. None the less, I am left with these questions about the procedure by which this order has been brought before us and the advice on which it is based. I hold no great brief for Blackpool, but one thing that might be observed about these criteria is that they lack that through-and-through consistency which is one of the better known aspects of one of the better known products of Blackpool.

I am left then with asking who in the community at large actively initiates and wants these proposals, as opposed to selecting them as the least bad alternatives in situations where regeneration is an urgent and serious priority. My belief is that that urgent priority is not best met by going down the road that is before us in the order proposed.

My Lords, for 28 years I represented Blackpool South in the other place, and I shall refer to regeneration in a moment. As my long-term friend on the Liberal Democrat Benches has mentioned, the business of Blackpool is entertainment and tourism. Those activities form by far the biggest industries in the town. It is the result of the railways. In the middle of the 19th century the town of Blackpool was created by the railways. Before then, Blackpool had been just a little fishing village. People could come by train from the whole of the north of England and, indeed, from further away. Especially at the weekend, between April and October, people came in their crowds. I recall seeing the three railway stations full of trains, and the trains full of people. That growth was the result of generation. It was generation by very intelligent and brave people who developed the new industry of tourism, which did not exist before the trains came. They built the Tower, the Winter Gardens and various other important attractions in the town. The other feature of the town has been entertainment. In the past entertainers like Les Dawson and others came every summer to perform on Blackpool Pier and were an enormous attraction. That no longer takes place.

What has been happening to Blackpool? The town needs regeneration projects for a number of reasons which go beyond the scope of its powers. The most important is the development in the 1970s of tourism in warmer and sunnier climates. That was not the fault of Blackpool. Equally important was the increasing mobility of the British public. When I first went there in the 1960s, I suppose a minority of British people had motor cars. Now they almost all have them, so they do not have to go to Blackpool for two weeks at a time, reserving their place six months ahead. If on a Thursday evening the weather forecast for Blackpool is good, visitors can call their favourite guest house to reserve a room for the weekend. Those are two of the reasons why there has been a decline in the fortunes of the town. Another factor is the growth of television, because people now watch television far more than they used to. It takes them away from Blackpool. Average earnings in Blackpool are £100 a week less than the national average, which is another factor illustrating the important need for regeneration.

All this means that Blackpool is very keen on having a resort casino, and it has been working on the project for quite a long time. A resort casino is important because it creates less human hardship. Indeed, the general view across the board and every source on the subject suggests that such casinos are less harmful than urban casinos. That is certainly the view of both the Merits Committee and the Casino Advisory Panel. The resort casino is characterised by the fact that people have to come from a long distance to visit it. They need to make preparations for their visit to the casino and thus they think about what they are going to spend. That is in contrast with the urban casino situated in the middle of a town. People can then drop in for a flutter on impulse. That is why in the United States the successful casinos have been resort casinos.

The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee quotes Professor Collins from Salford University, an expert on tourism, as saying,

“destination resort casinos, with a very wide catchment area, are more likely to bring greater benefits with less costs to local communities than are urban casinos whose customers come mostly from within the jurisdiction”.

That confirms the point I am making.

In that same report, the chairman of the committee asked Professor Crow, the chairman of the panel:

“If I recollect, you thought, for example, that it was easier to test the social impact in Manchester than it would be for Blackpool because Blackpool’s population going to the casino would come from a wider area …

Professor Crow: Yes.

Chairman: … does that not mean that in practice you tended to knock out any consideration of a destination casino on that ground?

Professor Crow: If by ‘destination casino’ we mean one where most of the customers come from a long distance … Yes.

Chairman: So your interpretation of the meaning of the terms of reference that you were given was effectively that the best possible test for methodological reasons made it virtually impossible for you to recommend to the Government that there should be a destination casino?

Professor Crow: Yes”—

thus eliminating Blackpool in a sentence.

If the chairman of the panel was misguided in that context, he seems to have regarded the choice of Manchester as a guinea pig that would be testing the effects of an urban casino on the human people in that city. But if there is going to be a guinea pig, there should be something to test that guinea pig against. The point about the resort casino is that if there is only one, there is no comparison you can make. It would be much better, if there is going to be a resort casino, for there to be another one as well so that proper conclusions could be drawn. One can test the merits of resort casinos as opposed to urban casinos with regard to the smaller towns, because they are two different types and you can compare one with the other; seven resort casinos and nine urban casinos.

In rejecting Blackpool, the panel was also rejecting the views of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the Regional Assembly and the regional economic strategy, all of which regarded Blackpool as the most important place for a regional casino.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure and an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. Many of the things he touched on are in the Report on Coastal Towns, which I recommend for Easter reading. I freely accept that some of the issues we talk about do not just apply to Blackpool; indeed, the bulk of what I want to say is not a plea for Blackpool but to address the issue before us—this order.

As the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, said, Blackpool has a unique place in our social history. A combination of the electric tramway, the illuminations, the tower and the pleasure beach made Blackpool take a quantum leap in providing leisure for working people at the end of the 19th and most of the 20th centuries. But since the 1950s, Blackpool has been in decline. One consequence of the drop in visitor numbers, which is mirrored in the coastal towns report, is that the price of hotels and boarding houses goes down, as does the investment in them and the price they charge. The normal visitors stop coming and these places are populated by people on social security benefits. That distorts the figures for central Blackpool. The DSS residents of rundown boarding houses are quite a different problem from that found in east Manchester.

The problem found by all seaside resorts is how to kick-start regeneration. Nine years ago, well before the Government got their hands on this, a man called Marc Etches, who was employed in Blackpool, came forward with the idea of a Las Vegas-style destination casino. Tessa Jowell said very proudly in the House that she does not want a Las Vegas in the UK. Well, I do, and for this reason. A couple of weeks ago Tim Henman was playing in the Las Vegas tennis tournament and it will not be long before Tiger Woods and his colleagues go there for a golf tournament. Las Vegas today is one of the biggest sports centres in the United States and the centre of its entertainment industry; it is the biggest centre for conferences and exhibitions and is becoming one of the growth centres for corporate headquarters. Gambling is a minority occupation in Las Vegas.

Those of us who backed regeneration through a super-casino saw it in terms of a much broader-based regeneration. It annoys me that everybody thinks we are talking about a single building. We are talking about redeveloping something like two square miles of central Blackpool, with conference centres, restaurants and hotels. To the question, “How can that happen?”, the answer is that it has happened in other places in the world. Casinos are a catalyst—that has been proved. I went to Niagara, which showed many of the same signs of declining from its high point in the 1950s when it was the favourite destination for honeymoons in the United States. A casino has given it a new life and new occupation. Money has also been spent on a 30-mile environmental park, broadening the context. The idea that we are talking about packing zombies into closed centres is just not true.

We were talking about the expertise of the casino panel. The Blackpool master plan was backed by Sir Peter Hall, one of our great town planners. The idea has always been not to have a gambling centre but to regenerate Blackpool and get its back to its heyday as a world-class holiday destination.

We are supposed to accept the findings of the Casino Advisory Panel as holy writ, but it is worth remembering that the Royal Commission on Gambling and the Joint Select Committee produced reports which Ministers picked at but did not accept as a whole. Only this advisory panel has suddenly taken on this new role. Yet, as it says on the tin, it is only an advisory panel.

As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, emphasised not once but three times when he introduced the order on 30 January:

“My Lords, as I have indicated, the final decision will rest with the other place and this House”.—[Official Report, 30/1/07; col. 174.]

It has never been in any doubt that that has been the case.

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, and what she has tried to do, and to Gordon Marsden and Joan Humble, Labour MPs in the other place. They have worked hard and long to try to get some sense out of the Government; but they know the difference between a fatal Motion and what the noble Baroness has put down and that is why they accept it. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, never uses one word when 10 will do but he knows and I know that when the noble Baroness’s resolution goes through the Government can implement the licence for Manchester. If I am wrong, let him say it, preferably in a few words, and that the Government are going to wait for it—but he and I know that that is not the case.

I know that Conservative and Cross-Bench Members will be nervous about whether we are breaking conventions. When we passed the recent measure on conventions, we retained the right to say no. One time when we have the right to say no is when a committee of our House, which is a whistle-blowing committee and is supposed to look at these issues for us, actually blows the whistle. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, and his colleagues. It is not the most thrilling or exciting of committees, but boy did it do its job this time—and I pay tribute to it for that. We set up a committee like that and ask it go through the painstaking task of going through piece after piece of secondary legislation, then it suddenly brings forward a stunner such as the report that the committee has made. To say that the conventions of this House mean that we cannot do anything about it would make me think hard about the worth of the merits committee. It is there to do a job and, by gum, it has done it.

As the committee pointed out, what it winkled out of the professor was that he changed the rules as he went along. As was clear by the time he had given his evidence, what the Crow review should have said was that Blackpool should not have applied—because it was working to a different context.

I do not want to detain the House too long, but I shall take up the point about the activity of Councillor Bate, a Liberal councillor in Blackpool, who seems to have got very active in recent days. I ask noble Lords to look at the list of people supporting him and particularly at the name, “Noble Organisation”, which is a company based in Gateshead. If you want to see a gambling shed, go to Coral Island on the Blackpool Golden Mile, owned by the Noble Organisation. Almost every television company that wants to show how tacky Blackpool has become starts off with Coral Island. I went there recently and saw it packed to the gunnels with gaming machines, sucking in the vulnerable and sucking out money from the town and making no contribution at all. I contrast that with what a super-casino would have brought in—massive new investment and the kind of training that is already taking place at Fylde FE College for young people to work in the new industries.

My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of the Noble Organisation, can he confirm that it was actually very keen on the notion of a super-casino in the middle of Blackpool on its own site, but lost interest when it was pointed out to the company that that was not the ideal position for it?

My Lords, that is true, but it is also true that the company has a planning application in under the 1968 Act.

I love the town of Blackpool, but what I can see for the future is organisations such as the Noble Organisation bringing in their tacky gambling sheds. That is what Blackpool will become—forevermore vulnerable—and it will not address any of the social problems.

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, asked whether I hated Manchester. I refer to my record on Manchester. I was the first consultant for the Trafford Park Development Corporation; I backed Manchester for the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games and the BBC’s relocation. Manchester has within its grasp the capacity to be one of the great regional capitals of Europe to compare with Barcelona, Milan and Frankfurt. It does not need to be diverted into something which will give it a social problem rather than what it should be doing—showing real regional leadership.

I think that the House knows where I stand on most of these things—

Therefore, I shall say a few words on how we shall vote. We are talking to a very wise old House. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, that if the amendment of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones is carried, of course the Government Whips will say, “Apocalypse now; it’s all over. There is nothing else we can do. You’ve destroyed it all”. That is what Government Whips do. I was a member of a Government who were regularly defeated in the 1970s. However, we dusted ourselves down, looked at the new situation and came forward with a new proposal.

We need to be clear about two issues. First, does this House approve of the decision in favour of Manchester? If noble Lords do not, they should vote for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. Secondly, if not Manchester, where? That is not a matter to be decided tonight but could be put before a Select Committee. That is the opportunity that the House has, and it should take it.

My Lords, my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester is unable to be in his place today, but I am very much aware of the strong views that he and Manchester’s faith community leaders have on this matter. Their position is very clear and has been publicly expressed. They are utterly opposed, on moral grounds and on the grounds of social harm, to the siting of a super-casino anywhere in the country.

Arguing about the suitability of one place rather than another for building a regional casino misses the point. That is why Manchester’s religious leaders do not wish to collude with those who would prefer the proposed casino to be in another town or city. That would simply export somewhere else what they regard as a wholly unwelcome problem anywhere.

If, however, the proposal to build a regional casino in Manchester were to go ahead, after the most careful consideration the faith community leaders there believe that they would have a moral duty to protect the poor and vulnerable who are the most likely to be adversely affected by such gambling provision. Accordingly, they would do their utmost to ensure that adequate measures for harm reduction were put in place.

In recent years the links between the city council and the faith community leaders have been strengthened as a result of consultations and co-operation on a number of issues, including regeneration policy. Manchester is still the third most deprived authority in the country and the faith community leaders have welcomed many of the efforts made by the city council to improve the situation and to involve the faith communities. Indeed, some time before the announcement of Manchester as the preferred site for a super-casino, official consultations took place between them on the issues raised by the increase in gambling through the arrival of casinos in the city.

In his capacity as chairman of the faith community leaders, my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, in a letter to Manchester City Council, spelt out some of the issues that would need to be addressed were plans for a super-casino to go ahead. These include: first, the design of the casino, particularly with regard to the placing of entrances, to counter problems of proximity and inappropriate accessibility; secondly, the provision of education programmes, both in school and generally, to raise public awareness of the nature of problem gambling; thirdly, prevention measures, to minimise continuous and repetitive play; fourthly, adequate and effective resources for the support and counselling of those who become addicted; and, finally, realistic regeneration plans that genuinely enhance the local area. Faith community leaders are acutely aware that regeneration through the building of a super-casino cannot be taken for granted. My friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has referred to that.

It is fair to say that Manchester City Council has consistently expressed its respect for, and recognition of, the many concerns of the faith community leaders, and it does have a proven commitment to careful consultation with them as active partners in social responsibility and in issues of the regeneration process. Furthermore, it has repeatedly given assurances about taking seriously the matters of planning, education, prevention and treatment raised by the faith community leaders as well as the funding, resourcing and partnerships that will be required. Nevertheless, I have to say that the faith community leaders remain sceptical about how much regeneration is realistically achievable through the building of a super-casino, and they remain utterly opposed to a super-casino in any place in this country. But, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has stated publicly, the faith community leaders now face a moral dilemma. Let me outline it simply. If a super-casino arrives and they do not do all in their power to make sure that the moral issues and social consequences are addressed, then, in their view, they would be failing in their calling from Almighty God to protect the weak and the vulnerable. However, if as a result of co-operation between the faith community leaders and the city council there is significant ameliorating of the effects of gambling, then Manchester is likely to become a model leading to further super-casinos in other parts of the country and, as the religious leaders, they will have been seen to collude in that.

This is not an issue about whether the super-casino should be sited in Manchester. This issue, as my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester was quoted in the Sunday Times, is that gambling has,

“few winners but many losers”.

The loss that many of us desire is the plan for a super-casino anywhere.

My Lords, the gaming Bill was passed in the wash-up at the end of a Parliament and was never subjected to the full scrutiny of your Lordships’ House. Many may now be saying, “Would that it had been”, among them, no doubt, the Secretary of State, Mrs Jowell. After the 24-hour drinking fiasco, the Olympics budget fiasco and the lottery smash-and-grab raid, there is now this desperate, incomprehensible struggle to promote more gambling, even in deprived areas and irrespective of the social effects—merely, it would seem from the Budget, so that the Chancellor can tax the gains that a wealthy casino owner will make from the losses of the often vulnerable consumer. To many of us on all sides of the House, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport seems a shambles, and I regret to say that the shambles runs from the top.

All the amendments agree on one thing: so far as the process of making a decision on the super-casino is concerned, this order simply will not do. It should be reconsidered by a Joint Committee, and Parliament should then make a decision in the light of that review. These are things that a sensible Government in this predicament would have done without having been dragged at the 11th hour so to do. But now, it seems, they have, and it is to the credit of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that, despite all the briefing by the Secretary of State that she would ignore any vote in your Lordships’ House, he has persuaded her to think again.

The whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord for his commitment that the Government will reconvene the Joint Committee to look at the super-casino decision and will pay proper heed to the amendment, and so to the findings of that committee, before making any final decision. I would like the Minister to confirm in terms that no casino licence will be issued until the Joint Committee has reported and its conclusions properly considered by the Government. If he does, it will have been a remarkable success for this House, united across all Benches in persuading a Government to listen. It is a tribute, too, to the report of the Merits Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. We are all grateful to him and to the other noble Lords who served on that committee.

On this side of the House we are more interested in the integrity of the process than in the choice of location. Of course, in respect of the regional casino, in practical terms, nothing can or will be done until the Joint Committee we have today agreed to support has reported. It is essential that the Government and the local authorities concerned take that fully into account. It would be unwise for anyone to invest in building a super-casino if it were possible that the process, the social effects and the siting might be criticised—and criticised severely—by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.

We accept every word of the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, and accept that we are bound by it. It states that the Joint Committee must be able,

“to consider the Panel’s report in detail before any decision is arrived at with regard to the issuing of casino premises licences”.

That can be both forward-looking and retrospective and must, in practical terms, include the regional casino licence. Given that it will take time, I ask the Minister to assure the House unequivocally that the Government will give full weight to the recommendation of the Joint Committee before deciding how, whether and where to proceed, or to assist and encourage any local authority in beginning work on a super-casino. His answer on this will, I think, affect the way that many noble Lords will vote. It would have been a travesty of the purposes of the Merits Committee if the Government had ignored its report pointing out difficulties to them.

There now seems to be general agreement that this order in respect of a super-casino must be reconsidered. It was nonsense to claim that reconsidering the regional aspect pulled down the Government’s whole gambling policy. As the most reverend Primate reminded us, a key objective must be to protect the young and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling and that this is more important than regeneration. The panel did not give due weight to that, and the Merits Committee had many other pertinent criticisms that a Joint Committee can now consider.

Though there will be a free vote on this side of the House, I join the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, and urge my noble friends to support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, who has played a remarkable role in pressing this change of heart. It enables this House to give a lead to another place in holding the Secretary of State to account. It does not break the normal conventions of this House, as the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, would have. With another place due to vote on the issue shortly, and in the light of what the Minister has said, I do not think it appropriate that your Lordships should overturn the order outright. That would pre-empt the other place and allow a decision on the issue to be clouded by questions about the legitimacy of this House’s actions.

The force of the Merits Committee’s arguments should be listened to, rather than allowing a diversion into a constitutional sideshow as the noble Lord’s amendment would do. Everything that is asked for in that amendment will be secured by the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, given the Minister’s firm assurances. I will not support the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, but I support the noble Baroness. The Cunningham committee said that all Governments should pay more heed to non-fatal Motions passed by your Lordships. If, as I hope, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness is passed, it will be a test case to see whether the Government will have regard to the Cunningham committee, the Merits Committee and your Lordships’ House. In the weeks ahead, we must all hold the Government to account and ensure that they do so.

My Lords, we have had a very full debate, with every issue that one could conceive of on the order having been more than adequately covered—

My Lords, I will explain why I have risen, if I may. There was no indication that we were proceeding to winding-up, and a number of noble Lords were still trying to speak. I am aware that my views—

My Lords, as ever on these occasions, a judgment has to be made on when is a sensible time for the winding-up speeches from the three Front Benches. We have gone on for over two hours, and winding-up speeches and Divisions could take another hour. I get the sense in the House that this is a sensible time to conclude the argument.

My Lords, as I was saying, this extensive debate has covered all the issues on the order more than adequately. I will address shortly the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and that of my noble friend Lady Golding. I want to respond to one or two other contributions, particularly as I was asked some direct questions. There was no more direct question than the one asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had signed up to this government policy. This is government policy; therefore all members of the Government subscribe wholeheartedly and enthusiastically to it.

I was grateful to the noble Lord and his noble friend who has just spoken from the Front Bench for reminding us that this House has its proper responsibilities as a revising Chamber. We are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Filkin and his committee for identifying issues relating to the order and process, which, as I indicated, the Government have appreciated. That is why we are looking forward to an additional stage with regard to certain aspects of policy process in this area, but we must be careful not to override the conventions of this House. We must recognise that the other House is debating the order, and while it is right and proper that the Government are subject to scrutiny, it would be unfortunate if it were suggested that the order should be repudiated.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord McIntosh, who as a Minister took great responsibility for piloting the gambling legislation through the House and therefore is extremely well equipped to comment on subsequent developments with the Act. I was grateful to him for indicating that we should not overdramatise the impact of casinos. I recognise that the extension of gambling facilities requires proper regulation. That was the whole basis of the Bill, which was supported in this House and in the other place by significant majorities.

The Government recognised that the expansion of gambling in this country, which has increased in recent years, is not related to casinos at all. We have not got the order in place yet, so no new casinos have been built. We have had some small extension of casinos under the old legislation, but the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, sought to strike fear into the House. The number of casinos has gone up from 138 to 139. Casinos must be put in a proper framework. It is because we foresaw the expansion of online gambling and various other gambling outlets that we were so concerned to put in place a regulatory structure for gambling, to minimise crime attached to gambling and to provide safeguards for the vulnerable, particularly children.

I have been challenged on why the Government did not respond to the fact that the choice of Manchester over Blackpool was not universally popular. Is it not strange that politics are such that, because we were not taking a political decision, no one has mentioned the Dome? The word has not crossed anyone’s lips; I scarcely thought that I would be the first to mention it. If we had been involved in a political decision, if the Government had called in the independent panel and said, “We have second thoughts on all this”, I have not the slightest doubt that every political current that obtained before the panel reported would have become vigorous and vibrant again. We would not have been locked into a two-way controversy between Blackpool and Manchester; the Dome would certainly have featured strongly. There are others with considerable claims as well.

That is why it should be respected that the Government gave an independent panel a job with specific reference in the context of the Gambling Act, and the panel fulfilled its obligation. I recognise, in particular with the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Blaker, that there are old affinities and loyalties regarding Blackpool. I also recognise the problems of other seaside resorts that applied for casinos, but we know that Blackpool has particular difficulties. As I said, the issue as far as the Government are concerned is what we can do to help Blackpool. The Secretary of State has indicated today that fresh resources are to be directed towards Blackpool. The answer is not to overturn the recommendation of the independent panel and play politics with the process.

My Lords, my noble friend keeps referring to the panel and that it did the job. Yet Professor Crow’s report points out that, because of his interpretation of his terms of reference, it would be virtually impossible for him to recommend a destination casino. How could the panel fulfil its duty?

My Lords, Professor Crow identified that Manchester fulfilled the criteria better, which is why he recommended it. There was sound, substantiating evidence for that.

My noble friend Lord Lipsey claimed that I had been reluctant to indicate a change of mind by the Government, but it is not so. I pay tribute to him and to my noble friend Lady Golding for their assiduous work. In terms of the acceptability of their amendment, the Government will ensure that it is supported so far as we are able. I accept it in spirit, but not every word.

My Lords, before noble Lords say that those are more weasel words, I should say that of course I will not accept the phrase,

“regrets the haste with which the Government accepted the Panel’s report and laid the draft Order”.

We maintain, quite properly, that we acted entirely correctly, within a proper time limit and after full consideration. Therefore I accept what my noble friends seek to achieve with their amendment, but I cannot be expected to accept every phrase. That is why I will seek to identify what that means in terms of the Motions before us.

I understand entirely the reservations of the right reverend Prelate and the most reverend Primate. We are grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his contribution today, and wish he was able to be with us rather more often. As he will recognise, the case has also been articulated by his colleagues. I pay tribute in particular to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, who has not just spoken effectively on the issue today but worked through the long hours to play his full part in the gambling legislation. I understand why there is scepticism about certain aspects of regeneration, but I must say something to both of them and to the whole House. We must respect opinion when it is articulated in such a careful, considered and constructive way, but the application for a regional casino came from the local authority of Manchester. It will take the responsibility if the process of allocating the licence goes further.

In parts of east Manchester, the casino may be adjacent to residential housing, but there are other parts where that is not so at all. That is for the planning authority to decide. Of course we can reach different judgments from others about best interests, but this process is above all a local one. If local authorities and the people whom they represent do not think that a casino of any size or description is in the interests of those people, they do not apply. However, we have evidence of conspicuous levels of interest and application. Manchester not only enthused about its own application but is more than overjoyed, as the House would expect, that it has been selected as the location for the regional casino. Noble Lords have their own views about process, of course; I recognise their validity, but when we judge what is in the best interests of local people, we do have some regard for what we consider. Here, we are considering the decisions of local authorities to make the applications. It will be their responsibility to see them through for the benefit of their people.

Let me come to the two amendments that have been the focal points of most contributions this evening. As I have already said to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, there are problems with his amendment with regard to conventions and the fact that the Liberal Democrats, who often seek to pride themselves on being the forces of democracy, are extraordinarily prone at times to ride roughshod over the conventions of democracy in the relationship between the two Houses, which is what is intended today. His amendment does not advance the cause of Blackpool one jot. If anyone in this House thinks that a large number of Liberal Members will vote in line with the amendment without having Blackpool somewhat to the fore, they underestimate the force and personality of their leader, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who showed no hesitation in emphasising how important he thinks that it is for Blackpool. But to vitiate the order does not advance Blackpool at all; it just stops the process. The noble Lord suggests that it would surely be easy to substitute Blackpool for Manchester. Would it be as easy as substituting Manchester for the Dome, for example, or as easy as saying to Manchester, “We’ve had second thoughts, because powerful people in the House of Lords who have close associations with Blackpool have persuaded the House that Blackpool should be substituted”? What kind of decision-taking would that be? The House cannot support the position of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I am grateful for the support that we received from the opposition Front Bench.

We come to the crucial point of to what extent the Government are able to respond to the will of this House, and in what form. We are eager to do so. We are all too well aware that the controversy of the past few weeks has not advanced the cause of the benefits that we think we bring to our people, benefits attested to by all those who supported the legislation, including a majority in both Houses and—I repeat—of the representatives of local authorities that seek to use the legislation. What can the Government do to address the anxiety expressed and the respect for the work that my noble friend Lord Filkin did with his committee, and the work of the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, and my noble friend Lady Golding, who has tabled her amendment?

I am not bound to accept every word of the amendment, but the Government accept it in spirit. It would authorise pilot local authorities to license casinos in their areas. From this Dispatch Box, I cannot say that we can instruct local authorities how long they should take to make their individual decisions. They are the arbiters of their fortunes in those terms. That is the consequence of the legislation that we passed and the position that we adopted. However, I can state with considerable confidence that the process is such that it is inconceivable that licences will be issued before the end of this year. The local authorities have a great deal of work to do in setting up the licence position, and then all those interested in making bids have to marshal those bids; therefore, there will be no question of licences being granted before the end of the year.

The Joint Committee envisaged in my noble friend’s amendment ought to be able to report within a six-month period. I recognise that there is the long Recess, but there will be a number of parliamentary months before we reach that stage. The local authorities will want to keep the committee informed about their progress. They are bound to be watching closely. They have seen the difficulties that the Government have been in over this order, and rightly so; in some respects local authorities watch this House almost as closely as I am enjoining this House to watch local authorities. Local authorities will want to inform the committee about their progress and they are bound to do so, if they have any sense at all. We ought to respect the good sense of local authorities, particularly when they are engaged on this novel and, some would say, hazardous exercise of establishing licences for casinos. It is certainly a challenging exercise for which they know they will be answerable to their communities if things go wrong. They are bound to take into account any recommendations that the committee may make.

That is the basis on which we can proceed if my noble friend’s amendment is accepted. For the Government, that would be a considerable shift from the position that we adopted. That is bound to be so; Governments must act, take decisions and set up structures and we are proud of the way that we approached the whole issue through legislation and presented it to the independent panel. However, we recognise that there have been concerns about the outcome. There were bound to be such concerns, because there will be only one winner out of a large number of aspirants; but a listening Government are prepared to accept the amendment as a constructive way forward to improve the position. Accordingly, I urge the House to reject all other amendments, except that in the name of my noble friend Lady Golding and to pass the Motion, duly amended.

My Lords, this has been a very good debate and I thank all noble Lords who spoke in favour of my Amendment No. 1. Clearly, a number of issues need to be answered so that noble Lords can go quietly, so to speak, into the Lobbies in favour of Amendment No. 1. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that that would overturn the deliberations of an independent panel; but do we have to agree that the process was fair, simply because the panel was independent? What about having the right terms of reference? What about interpreting those terms of reference properly?

Nor has this debate turned the issue into a political football. It is about Parliament making sure that the right decision is taken on probably the only super-casino that we will ever have. There is a remarkable degree of consensus around this House that the process was not fair and not carried out properly.

What is the essence of the Government’s deal? It is certainly not in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding. It is the “spirit” that he accepts, not the little words in the amendment. It is all in the correspondence, which I have read—and, I suspect, many noble Lords have not—and is extremely insubstantial. The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, called that a concession; the Minister called it a change of position; the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, called it a change of heart; and the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, called it a formidable package—many people would say that about the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. What does this mean? The Government will set up a Joint Committee and in the correspondence they say “Yes, the committee will be free to examine the issues”. What real concession is that? If my amendment is passed, you get the Joint Committee, anyway. Its conclusions will not be binding on the next Parliament. They will certainly not be implemented before the next election and they might possibly be implemented only after the next election. Social impact studies will not be available for years. The east Manchester casino would still go through.

This is the original pig in a poke, bird in the bush and jam tomorrow, I submit. I say to the Conservative Front Bench that, strangely enough, the whole deal put forward by the Government seems to rely on the return of a Labour Government next time around. So it is very insubstantial.

Secondly—and here I speak directly to noble Lords on the Conservative Benches—many have said that it is not legitimate for this House to vote on a fatal Motion against an order. This is an unusual situation that calls for an unusual solution. The essence of my amendment is not so much to disagree with the order as with the CAP report that underpins that order. Both Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State, and the Minister on 30 January said that Parliament, rightly, would determine the outcome of this process. Does that apply only as long as we agree with the Government?

To set noble Lords’ minds at rest, I have looked at what the Joint Committee on Conventions said. The final paragraph in its chapter on secondary legislation said:

“The Lords SI Merits Committee considers that powers and conventions in this area are adequately codified in each SI's parent Act and in the Companion, and that nothing further is called for. Parliamentary scrutiny of SIs is a growth area; the power to reject SIs gives Parliament “leverage”, and should if anything be exercised more, not less”.

Noble Lords may well remember that the original Motion of Lord Simon of Glaisdale included in the Companion stated that this House’s ability to make decisions on orders is unfettered. Only recently, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, who I greatly respect, moved a fatal Motion to the equality regulations; 122 Peers voted with her and no one mentioned the convention in the debate. What a smokescreen is being erected here.

Can we stand by and simply let the order go through without the kind of proper scrutiny that the CAP’s recommendations deserve? We need carefully to re-examine the basis and the principles on which we want a decision on the location of the one super-casino to be founded. We need to return to the concept of minimisation of harm, not treat the issue like some glorified laboratory experiment on social impact. The fact is that we have all, step by step, been taken on a path which leads to entirely the wrong conclusion. This is not something that we should tolerate and I wish to seek the opinion of the House.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Greater London Authority Bill

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

In 2000, the Government restored democratic, citywide government to London. They established the Greater London Authority with a directly elected mayor and Assembly to provide strong, accountable leadership for the capital—leadership which had been noticeably absent since the Conservative Government so mistakenly abolished the GLC 14 years earlier.

This was a change that Londoners themselves wanted. Londoners in every borough voted overwhelmingly in favour of establishing the mayor and Assembly in the referendum of 1998. The creation of the GLA fulfilled the Government’s commitment to put Londoners back in charge of the way in which their city was run. Just as we delivered a Parliament in Scotland and an Assembly in Wales, so we introduced a new structure of London government that has helped London’s resurgence in the age of globalisation. These reforms have provided a firm foundation for London’s unprecedented economic success in recent years, but they also keep faith with the heritage and stature of the city.

London is a truly global city and has never been more vibrant and more successful. Its economy is larger than that of many European countries. It drives the national economy. It accounts for 40 per cent of the UK’s export growth and 18 per cent of our GDP. Its financial and business service sectors are increasingly challenging New York for the title of the world’s financial capital.

But of course London is so much more. In a world where new cities are being planned on an extravagant scale and historic cities are facing enormous challenges, it is perhaps the most exciting, diverse and vibrant city on the planet. It is the home of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That is why London is growing so fast. Its population has increased by more than 700,000 in the past 15 years and it is forecast to grow by a further 1.1 million over the next 20 years. That is a million more people who will need homes, jobs, schools, public services and green spaces, and another million people who will add to the pressures on London’s transport systems, natural resources and waste services. The cause for most optimism, however, is that London has the momentum of success. Earlier this month, the Times, in drawing comparisons between New York and London, observed:

“New York has the nostalgia, London the future. New York defines the metropolitan, London the cosmopolitan”.

But, equally crucially, history is littered with cities which took their success for granted. London must have strong leadership which is not only capable of meeting the challenge of growth and success but is also capable of defeating the profound and historic inequalities which mean that, even now, three of the five most deprived local authority areas in England are in London, and London, paradoxically, has the highest unemployment of any region in the UK.

The devolution of power from central government to London, in which many in your Lordships’ House were involved through the passage of the Greater London Authority Bill in 1999, transferred power from Whitehall to City Hall. That has been central to London’s success. Almost seven years on, the strong mayoral model has given the capital a powerful voice on the national and international stage and has played a crucial role in winning the 2012 Olympics for London. Londoners are clear that the creation of the mayor and Assembly has led directly to improved strategic services and a better quality of life for all those who live and work in the capital. Of course, not everyone agrees with the mayor’s decisions, but that is the nature of democracy. Londoners are clear about what the mayor is responsible for and know who to hold to account for the effective leadership of London.

The congestion charge, for example, has reduced congestion in central London by more than 20 per cent and generated extra income to improve public transport across the capital. The number of people using London’s buses has risen by more than a third, thanks to service improvements. That, in itself, is part of a multi-billion pound programme of investment in public transport in the capital. Significantly, police numbers have increased substantially, crime is down and there is now a neighbourhood policing team in every ward in London.

What has been put in place has been shown to work. But, as the London Plan made clear in 2004, continuing economic success brings with it significant challenges. First, there is the challenge of strategic capacity: accommodating growth and making the best possible use of available land. Secondly, there is the challenge of housing, not just to meet today’s pressures, but also to plan for growth in the longer term—720,000 new households, in sustainable communities in the capital.

It is a truism to say that we need to achieve a step change in the supply of housing and build more new homes, especially affordable housing that offers Londoners the opportunity of a home at a price within their means. That challenge sits with the wider challenge, of course, of building the homes that people need across the wider south-east, so that young people are not priced out of the housing market for life. Rich parents, able to provide a deposit, are no substitute for an affordable housing policy.

Evidently, more also needs to be done to tackle poverty and deprivation through investment and regeneration, to reduce the glaring inequalities in wealth, health and opportunity, which often co-exist within and between neighbouring areas of the capital. Therefore, we have to improve the planning process to ensure the best use of scarce land resources in the capital. That means ensuring that the London Plan is delivered; that London gets the key developments it needs to maintain and enhance its economy; and that London acts more sustainably and responsibly in using scarce resources and disposing of its waste.

Finally, there are new, global challenges. First and foremost is the threat of climate change. We need to work together to reduce carbon emissions and move towards a low-carbon economy. We need to build on London’s already fast-growing reputation at the vanguard of efforts to combat climate change and as a leading international city in this area. To meet present and future challenges, the Government reviewed the powers of the GLA in 2005. Devolution has given power back to Londoners, made the city’s strategic services more democratically accountable, and created a strong relationship between Londoners and the mayor and the Assembly.

However, now is the right time to devolve more to London, ensuring that the right powers exist at the right level of governance, giving the mayor a stronger voice and complementing that by strengthening the Assembly’s role and raising its profile. We consulted extensively on the proposals for additional powers. We considered carefully more than 300 responses to the consultation and we did so with an open mind about what the final package of additional powers should include. We came forward with that strong, balanced package of additional powers for the mayor and the Assembly, most of which is set out in the Bill. The Bill and other legislation, such as the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill currently before the other place, will ensure that the right decisions are taken at citywide and local level and the GLA and London boroughs each have the appropriate set of powers to get the job done.

I turn now to the part of the Bill that deals with greater democratic accountability. The Bill makes important changes which will strengthen the visibility and vital role of the Assembly to complement the mayor’s enhanced powers. We are strengthening the contribution that the Assembly makes to the mayor’s policy framework. The mayor will be subject to a new duty to have regard to responses by the Assembly and functional bodies to consultation on drafts or revisions of his strategies. He will have to respond in writing to the Assembly. He will have to set out which of its comments he accepts for implementation of the strategy and, where he does not, he will have to explain why not.

We are also strengthening the Assembly’s scrutiny role. The Assembly will hold not-binding confirmation hearings with preferred candidates for key appointments that the mayor intends to make. We are making sensible changes to the arrangements for appointing GLA staff. The mayor and the Assembly will jointly appoint the authority’s three statutory posts. The head of paid service will appoint most other GLA staff, putting the authority on a similar footing to local authorities generally.

We are also providing discrete budgets for the mayor and the Assembly as part of the wider consolidated budget for the authority and the functional bodies. That change will make the Assembly’s expenditure more transparent, and will give the Assembly more assurance and control over its own resources. It will, for example, be able to set its own budget, subject to specific constraints, by amending by a two-thirds majority the Assembly final draft budget proposed by the mayor.

To improve the lives of ordinary Londoners, we need decent affordable homes. In terms of quality of life in the capital, that is probably the greatest challenge. Providing that, as the Barker reports on housing and land use proved, means that the planning system too has to work to its full strength and potential. Boroughs presently have, and will continue to have, a critical role to play in both housing and planning in London, but we also have to strengthen the mayor’s capacity to identify and promote consistent policies that recognise that, while the boroughs retain their vital independence, both those services have implications which are London-wide because Londoners move. They move because they want better jobs; they want to work closer to their jobs; they want a different choice of schools; or they want to be near to their families. Housing policies in one borough inevitably impact on another. Inner-London housing policies have a direct effect on outer-London boroughs and across the south-east.

The changes in housing are significant. We all know that London faces serious housing pressures due to rising demand and rising house prices. The lowest 25 per cent of house prices in London are still over eight and a half times the lowest quartile earnings. I am pleased to say that there is a great deal of consensus about the action needed to tackle those pressures: we need more market housing and, crucially, more affordable housing—shared ownership, low-cost home ownership or social housing for rent. Therefore, we need both public sector housing investment decisions and the planning system to work effectively together to deliver that. That is more likely to be achieved by future arrangements whereby the mayor will take over the role of the Regional Housing Board.

The Bill puts the mayor’s housing strategy on a statutory footing. He will draw up the housing strategy for London and will therefore be able to link it fully with his planning and transport strategies. The mayor will make spending recommendations in his strategy, including a broad outline for funding for new, affordable housing supply in London. The Housing Corporation will put together an affordable housing programme for the capital. In doing so, it will be required to have regard to the mayor’s housing strategy, ensuring the programme best delivers in line with those priorities. Those changes will enable the mayor, rather than central government, to set the strategic and coherent vision for housing in London; to decide London’s key housing priorities across the capital; and to encourage the boroughs and other stakeholders to act strategically in tackling the housing pressures. Most importantly, it will encourage the delivery of more housing, including affordable housing.

Some concerns have been expressed about how the mayor’s new housing powers will impact on the role of the boroughs. I reassure noble Lords that the boroughs will continue to lead on housing in their own areas. The mayor will not take over the boroughs’ legitimate lead role in housing, but boroughs’ local housing strategies will need to be in general conformity with the mayor’s strategy. It is not a new concept. Borough development documents must already be in general conformity with the London Plan; that is, they must not include an inconsistency or omission that causes significant harm to the implementation of the London Plan. The same principle should apply to housing. Local housing strategies should not include or omit policies which could seriously undermine the implementation of the London housing strategy. That is a sensible provision, ensuring that the whole of London moves in the same broad direction in tackling housing pressures. Again, however, it also gives the boroughs continuing and significant local discretion to develop specific housing policies to meet local needs. While it is surely right that London is able to decide its own housing priorities within a national framework, this reform also gives the opportunity for the mayor to provide real vision in tackling London’s housing challenges on a city-wide basis.

I shall now outline the provisions strengthening the mayor’s planning role. I shall be clear why we are proposing change; I assure noble Lords that it is not about punishing boroughs for some failure, or undermining their crucial role in representing their communities. Change is needed to ensure that we have a planning system in London fit for the eventualities of the 21st century, reflecting the unique governance arrangements in the capital. As noble Lords know, the mayor is responsible for preparing the London Plan, which sets out the key strategic policies for the future direction of the development of London. It seeks to promote London, to maintain and enhance its world status, but much of its success or otherwise is determined through individual decisions on planning applications. The mayor cannot currently directly ensure the policies in his London Plan are implemented. In future, boroughs will, as now, lead in deciding these applications but their focus is rightly local. Some planning applications, however, raise issues of wider importance that need a capital-wide, regional perspective in deciding their outcome. The changes we propose will achieve this in a balanced and proportionate way. I am delighted that they have the broad support of London First and the CBI, representing London’s business community.

We should remember that this involvement in planning decisions is not new. Since 2000, the mayor has had the power to step in and turn down large-scale, strategic developments that would go against the London Plan. Fears have been expressed that the mayor interferes in too many cases. Not so. In reality, the mayor only sees around 300 of London’s most strategically important planning applications each year; 90,000 applications are made to boroughs and he sees one in 300. Of these, he has, on average, directed refusal of three a year, which is one in 30,000. These include applications which would have resulted in the loss of green belt or which failed to deliver adequate affordable housing. It has hardly been a heavy-handed or disproportionate use of power.

The mayor should be able to ensure boroughs take forward his London Plan policies in their own local plans in a timely manner. He should also have a positive power to ensure that key applications reflect strategic, as well as local, priorities so that Londoners get the development they need, such as affordable housing and waste facilities. Our proposals will achieve these objectives in a responsible and effective way that fully respects the important role of the London boroughs.

The detail on how the new power will work in practice will be set out in a revised Mayor of London order, which we published in draft form on 9 January to help inform the scrutiny of the Bill in the other place. Ministers in the other place made clear the importance of achieving the right thresholds which trigger potential interventions, and the right process. In the other place, we also made clear the Government’s willingness to listen to achieve this. We published the draft order only after discussions on the proposals, in particular with London councils representing the interests of the London boroughs and London First, representing private sector interests in London.

We fully understand the crucial importance of ensuring the right balance in the mayor’s role between protecting against development which could harm strategic policies and allowing development to go ahead. We have already listened, and I can tell noble Lords that we have decided to change our original proposals in some respects. We have listened to the arguments expressed in the other place and agree that the new power should not apply to the vast majority of thresholds set out in parts 3 and 4 of the schedule to the draft order. These relate to proposed developments that are in conflict with development plan policies in some way, but are of a scale that is not in itself strategically important. On consideration, we agree with those who have argued that the mayor’s approach to these developments should be whether they cause such harm that they should be refused rather than be allowed.

In practice, this means, for example, that the mayor will continue to be able to direct refusal of applications for development on playing fields or in green belt, but he could not take over those applications and decide to approve them. This important change means that the mayor’s new power will focus on the most important applications which, by their scale or critical importance, raise issues that go to the heart of implementing the London Plan. Those are set out in parts 1 and 2 of the schedule to the draft order. They include large scale housing schemes and waste treatment facilities.

One important point is that this will be a two-stage process. The thresholds in the draft order simply identify applications as being of potential strategic importance which must be referred to the mayor for his views. Those thresholds are defined, as now, by height and volume, but this does not mean that each application which meets those thresholds is genuinely strategic; far from it. This is determined by the test set out in Article 8 of the draft order, applied by the mayor only when the borough has made a draft decision on the application. To justify taking over an application, the mayor must demonstrate that the test is satisfied. He must show that a development is of such a nature and scale that there would be a significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan.

Noble Lords will know that we consulted extensively on a series of different possible tests and criteria, and are committed to consulting further on the draft order once Parliament has concluded its scrutiny of the Bill. We remain open to responses and ideas on how the content of the order might be improved; for example, whether there is a convincing case in favour of a change or additions to the test. I know that noble Lords will want to know that it is also critical that the mayor uses his new powers in an open and transparent way. Of course, the mayor will act as an individual decision maker and cannot act in the same way as planning committees, but we are already providing for the mayor to publish reasons for his decisions so that the public can see how he has reached them.

We will also ensure that, where the borough or applicant wishes to, the mayor will hear oral representations from them on the proposal in public. He will also be able to hear representations from other people if he chooses. This will obviously not be in the form of a public inquiry, but goes further than the requirements on boroughs, which are not obliged to allow people to speak at planning committees. There are even additional safeguards to further strengthen his powers in an open, fair and effective way, by ensuring that, where practicable, provisions from the Local Government Act 1972 on access to reports and other documentation will now apply to the mayor’s planning functions. I hope it is clear that we are listening and are proposing a balanced package of proposals. We will continue to listen to views about the detail of the draft order. We are willing to make changes where appropriate, and we will consult further this year before the order is finished.

I now come to the remaining elements. Decent housing is fundamental to healthy lives. The Bill enhances the mayor’s role in improving the health of Londoners with a new focus on health inequalities. Levels of health in London may not be worse than the rest of the country, but there are stark differences in the health and life expectancy of Londoners. The health gaps in London, which have always scarred historic London, reflect levels of deprivation and unemployment and standards of housing as well as lifestyle and behaviour. While the mayor is not responsible for health policy or the delivery of health services, which remain with the Department of Health and the NHS in London respectively, he is responsible, directly or indirectly, for some of the major determinants of Londoners’ health that are outside the responsibility of the NHS. The Bill therefore requires the mayor, working closely with the health adviser to the GLA and the NHS in London, to prepare a new health inequalities strategy to lead the drive to reduce London’s stark health inequalities and improve levels of health in London’s most disadvantaged communities.

There is also provision to strengthen the mayor’s role in London’s cultural life in one specific aspect. We will devolve the Government’s responsibilities for funding and governance of the Museum of London to the mayor. The City of London’s role in respect of the museum is not affected, and the board will be directly accountable to the mayor and the Corporation of London.

The mayor will also acquire new powers of appointment to a number of cultural and sporting bodies in London: the London regional council of Arts Council England, the English Sports Council’s London regional sports board and Museums, Libraries and Archives London. These new powers do not require statutory provision, but the Bill will require the mayor to make his appointments promptly.

Finally, I turn to the important provisions on climate change and waste. The mayor already has a strong environmental role. Indeed, promoting the improvement of the environment is one of the principal purposes of the GLA. The mayor prepares strategies on municipal waste management, noise, biodiversity and air quality. The present mayor has already shown leadership in this area. He set up the London Climate Change Agency in partnership with the private sector, and it has placed London at the vanguard of work globally to tackle climate change. Last month, he published a climate change action plan that detailed how London can contribute to tackling the scourge of climate change.

Noble Lords will be aware of the draft Climate Change Bill that was published by the Government earlier this month. It is the first of its kind in the world, makes the UK the first country to set a long-term legal framework to reduce emissions over the next 45 years and beyond and provides the means to achieve that. The Bill will be subject to extensive consultation and debate. We aim to introduce a final Bill later in the year.

Our cities are particularly vulnerable because, as urban heat islands, they reflect the intensified effects of climate change. London has a major contribution to make towards delivery of the long-term national framework which the Climate Change Bill will put in place and towards meeting the goals that we all share, of tackling climate change and improving the use of energy.

The Bill provides the means for the mayor, through innovative legislation, to lead the work in London to combat climate change, building on the GLA’s well earned reputation for being at the forefront internationally on work to reduce harmful emissions. It will ensure a London-wide programme of action to lower emissions of carbon dioxide and ensure that London adapts to the unavoidable effects of climate change.

The Bill places a duty on the mayor and the Assembly to address climate change. The mayor is further required to prepare two strategies: one on climate change mitigation and energy, making clear how he will promote a reduction in emissions from sources such as surface transport and the efficient production and use of energy, and the other covering adaptation to climate change containing his policies and proposals for adaptation to the effects, actual and expected, of climate change. These provisions will help to establish London as an important model for carbon management for other major world cities.

The Bill also contains important measures to strengthen the mayor’s role in managing London’s waste within current delivery structures. It strengthens the requirement on London’s waste authorities to deliver their waste functions in general conformity with the mayor’s municipal waste management strategy. It also makes changes to ensure that waste authorities inform the mayor in advance of all tenders for waste contracts. These provisions, together with other, non-statutory changes announced last July as part of the outcome of the GLA review, will encourage the mayor and the boroughs to work co-operatively to improve performance on waste disposal and minimisation and recycling.

As New York magazine stated recently:

“If Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century and New York of the twentieth, London is shaping up to be the capital of the 21st.”

The Government restored democratic, city-wide government to London. We have given the capital strong leadership, given London back its voice and allowed Londoners to decide the best way forward. The mayor and the Assembly have been a success and have got to grips with many of the capital’s deep-seated problems.

The Bill sets out a series of sensible, incremental reforms to the powers of the mayor and the Assembly following the review of the GLA’s powers and functions. It was a comprehensive review that engaged Londoners fully in the debate. It is interesting to reflect that what London is asking for is no more than many mayors of global cities already have. Many city leaders have strong powers on planning and housing, for example. We are seeking to put the powers of the Mayor of London on a similar footing.

I am glad that so many measures in this Bill have already been warmly welcomed. Devolving more power from central government to London—from Whitehall to City Hall—is supported by Londoners, London councillors and London businesses. I recognise that some specific proposals in the Bill and the accompanying secondary legislation will raise questions. We are listening to those concerns. However, I am confident the Bill provides the basis for consensus on the right way forward for London and that, with further work on the secondary legislation, we will be able to build agreement on the right set of reforms to build on the GLA’s success, give further devolution to London and enable the mayor and the Assembly to get on with the job of delivering more for Londoners. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Andrews.)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill. Her introduction took some time, but it was comprehensive. She made some announcements about the direction in which it will proceed in this House. I assume that some of that will require amendments from the Government. We will see them as we come along.

In some ways, it seems no time at all since the Greater London Authority was set up, although it was some seven years ago. In other ways, it seems like a lifetime since the mayor imposed his standards on London. Some Londoners have welcomed that, but others watch his latest wheezes warily and understand that when he consults them he does not often pay the slightest notice to what they say. As predicted when the original Act was passed, the Assembly does not have the firm controlling hand on anything that the mayor does. The expectation that the cost of the Greater London Authority would be severely limited was a ghastly joke.

The cost of the precept levied by the mayor is now well over £350 in Band D. It amounts to over one-third of the total council tax in my borough, which has held its own tax rate for the third year running, so the GLA has not proved to be a cheap addition to London government. The new Bill is now set to extend the mayor’s power and influence, most controversially by devolving responsibilities of central government, particularly in housing and planning, to the mayor. The Minister will not be surprised that there are significant areas in the Bill about which we have considerable reservations. Those are the areas that I shall concentrate on today.

The interrelationship between the mayor and the Assembly has been the one of the most difficult aspects of the 1999 Act, and it threatens to be so again, unless the Government can engage in serious and reasoned discussion of the provisions laid before the House today. We support the Assembly’s increased powers of scrutiny, which are essential if it is to improve its ability to mark the mayor’s footsteps. We all recognise that the Assembly has done what it can, given the powers it has, but we do not believe that even this Bill gives it what it requires to make sure that the mayor is properly accountable to London. In particular, we do not believe that the appointment of senior staff should pass from the elected members to the head of the paid service. We support the Assembly having its own budget, but we will be moving amendments to ensure that the mayor cannot manipulate the amount it receives, and in relation to the system of floors and ceilings—which could potentially mean that he was able to deal with it adversely—the means by which the budget can be increased and decreased.

We will also be seeking to ensure that the Assembly has greater control over the mayor's budget. It can currently make amendments only if they are agreed by a two-thirds majority. We consider that that should be done by a simple majority, as the voting system by which members are elected gives no party a majority on the Assembly. We would wish to see the two-thirds majority for the Assembly lowered to a simple majority across the board. The mayor argues that his mandate comes from the electorate of London, but the same is equally true of the Assembly. The same electorate must have faith in the Assembly's ability to act as a check and balance on the mayor, particularly when he has to all intents a divine power and responsibility—one man alone.

With its current inadequate powers, the Assembly cannot effectively hold the mayor to account. Even the most cursory glance at the Bill reveals that its proposed new powers do not come close to matching those granted to the mayor. The intention to give the mayor strategic powers over housing and planning has already caused understandable concern to the boroughs, which consider that any powers devolved from the Government should be passed to them. Housing decisions should be taken where there is the greatest understanding of local needs. Many councils are already exceeding their housing targets, and there is evidence that most boroughs are responding well to overall policy. It is well known that the mayor favours tower blocks, for example, to resolve housing issues, and that many boroughs do not. So, even with that small issue there is potential for considerable disagreement. I note what the Minister has said tonight about the fact that the boroughs would have to conform to the mayor’s housing strategy, but I think that we will want to delve more deeply into what that means and what the inference in that is.

It would be a matter of serious concern if the mayor controlled both the regional housing pot and overall housing strategy. It could mean that some boroughs could benefit unfairly over others with similar housing difficulties. Boroughs could struggle to deliver local strategies if the mayor’s spending priorities change or he simply does not make adequate resources available. What safeguards will the Government put forward to see that the mayor’s spending recommendations adequately provide for boroughs’ strategic responsibilities? What opportunity will there be for boroughs to appeal if given insufficient funding?

The Bill will introduce an enhanced strategic role for the mayor in planning matters. We strongly echo the observations of Nick Raynsford in another place. I think his words must have been listened to, judging by what the Minister said today. But we will have to find out and define what the word “strategic” means. Even though the Minister has indicated today that many of the fears that have come about from this change of planning role may indeed not be so dreadful because it may turn back on itself. We need to discuss that matter in detail. Therefore I am not welcoming it with open arms until we have had a chance to talk it through in Committee.

We need to understand what the extent of the mayor's remit will now be. Clearly an automatic size threshold is inappropriate. I think that the Minister has now recognised that. The legislation, as drafted, would allow the mayor to intervene in many more instances than is currently the case and to use his power in relation to applications that could be dealt with more appropriately and competently by local authorities.

The Minister referred to the thresholds. This is one of the areas where the City of London in particular has strong concerns. I know that at least one of my noble friends will want to speak later on about that. We will certainly be seeking to ensure that the Government do not give any more powers to the mayor to intervene with planning applications, other than under the most limited circumstances; that if he has to make decisions he makes them transparently, and, perhaps more in line with the procedures which have to be adopted by local planning committees than the Minister has indicated—although I welcome her recognition that transparency over planning decisions has not been very apparent over the past few years, even where he was just turning them down. If he is going to make more decisions they must be made in public and in a way that they can be affected or challenged.

Clause 33 of the Bill determines the fate of Section 106 payments. The Minister did not refer to those today. They will be affected by any development that the mayor has called in or has any role in granting. The provision adds only further incentive for the mayor to take over planning cases. We are concerned that the clause will allow and encourage the mayor to siphon off money from planning applications to use for his own purposes. Very often, developments, particularly those on a large scale, are acceptable to the local community only in return for investment of more practical benefit. It is therefore completely inappropriate that the mayor should be able to take Section 106 funds and use them for projects of his own choosing, and potentially he could be using them in a completely different part of London from where the money was derived.

Increased interference from these expanded planning powers, if they stay expanded and we do not manage to get them changed, could have further unwelcome side effects. Already the mayor has been involved in more than 1,500 applications across London. Many are fairly minor. It is not surprising that this system is less efficient than boroughs reviewing their own applications. The Government seem to favour a faster process but in fact the boroughs work faster than the mayor on many occasions.

There is also a real possibility that under the provisions of the Bill developers might decide to tailor their new developments towards the mayor, especially if they anticipate local or resident antipathy and particularly with any larger proposals. In fact, there is a danger that if referrals to the mayor become commonplace, developers will have to pay very little regard indeed to local opposition. That is something we really will need to tease out.

The Minister referred to waste. While I know that there are no proposals in the Bill for a strategic waste authority, amendments were moved in the Commons to set up a strategic authority. We would resist any proposals if they were to be brought forward in this House and we would fully support the Government in this regard. I understand they are still opposed to such strategic waste authorities. An overarching scheme would mitigate against the current adequate arrangements for the collection of waste and its disposal. Most boroughs are already seeing an improvement in their recycling rates. There is little to suggest that that will not continue, or that a single authority would help that situation. What is certain is that the establishment of an overarching authority would lead to further costs to the taxpayer. We would urge the Government to hold their ground in opposition to this proposal if it comes before this House.

More positively, there are other parts of the Bill that we broadly welcome; for example, Part 4 which deals with health. We agree that it is appropriate for the mayor to prepare a strategy to reduce the city’s health inequalities and that the regional director for public health should act as health adviser and be subject to summons in public.

We will look carefully at the proposals on climate change and the powers that will be given to the mayor. I am bound to say that London seems a very little place in the whole of the world to have its own climate policy, but I suppose if it extends further than pricing 4X4s out of London, it may have some effect.

In truth, however, more of this Bill disappoints than brings hope. It is a missed opportunity to bring the mayor properly to account, to impose effective constraints on his powers, to review his current powers, and consequently to increase public confidence in the office. Despite what the Minister has said, the Bill will lead to the centralisation of many powers currently in the hands of the London boroughs. This is not in the interests of the residents of London; nor will it stimulate the more efficient provision of services. The office was created to perform a strategic role. It was not universally popular, and is still not universally popular, but it should remain only in a strategic role.

The Bill gives further powers to the mayor under the guise of increasing accountability to Londoners in the provision of services that do little more than weaken the authorities that have the greatest local democratic legitimacy and a greater understanding of their area. It takes away powers from the very people whose political credibility depends entirely on the efficient running of those services. It also gives powers to the mayor, over whom there are still inadequate processes for holding to account, between elections.

Despite the Minister’s reassuring words today, we will seek, in the next weeks, to increase the transparency of the mayor’s decision-making process, particularly in relation to planning powers, to give the Assembly a real role in overseeing and holding the mayor to account for his budget and strategies, and to limit the powers to intervene in both housing and planning matters. We want the Bill to define fully how the mayor must consult Londoners, especially given the charade of the recent extension of the congestion charge, which has left residents in my part of London wholly cynical about any consultation process. Are the Government, who were so recently censured in the Greenpeace case for inadequate consultation, satisfied that the mayor demonstrated proper regard for the opinion of Londoners? Here, at the end of my contribution, I declare my interest as an elected member of a local authority.

We need to find ways of achieving real accountability to the London electorate; for example, by holding a recall referendum on the mayor’s continuance in power, and by giving the Assembly a greater ability to amend the mayor’s strategies. I have no doubt that noble Lords who follow will raise many other matters. My colleagues and I look forward to the debates to come.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for presenting the Bill and for updating the House on the Government’s thinking on the issues. The constitution of the Greater London Authority, composed of the mayor and the London Assembly, is a specialist subject. I declare my interest as an Assembly Member. I am deputy chair of the Assembly, and Brian Coleman, my chairman, is keeping a close eye on me below the Bar. I speak partly as an Assembly Member, but very much as a member of the Liberal Democrats, in which capacity I make clear my support for devolution, of which this is another step, from central government to London’s own strategic tier. The profile of the Greater London Authority—at any rate, the profile of the current mayor—is known to far more people than the anoraks. I will struggle today, and no doubt at later stages of the Bill, to retain the distinction between the office and the current office holder. One must do that. We are, however, also entitled to be informed by the experience of the past seven years. The constitutional arrangements should also be of interest to more people than the anoraks. The lessons on how a strong leader functions—I use the term “leader” semi-technically and refer to the office, not the incumbent—and what checks and balances are required will be considered in debates on another Bill very shortly.

It was suggested to me that I should start my contribution today by saying, “As I was saying”. It is certainly true that I was one of those who argued in 1999 against the strong mayoral model. So, too, did the then honourable Member for Brent East. Mayor Livingstone takes a different view. I believed then, and I believe now, that the council-leader model is a healthy one. As a close observer, I am interested to note that, as the GLA has continued to develop, many members of the mayor’s own political group who were on the Assembly have been appointed by him to an executive or quasi-executive role. There are lessons to be learnt about how that is sometimes required.

I accept that the Bill does not change the executive/scrutiny split. I am an enthusiast for good scrutiny; it can be very powerful, although too often, as I have learnt, it is dependent on the media, who inevitably by nature tend to reduce much of what the scrutiny arm does to the lowest common denominator. During the Bill’s passage, we on these Benches will be asking questions about the balance of the relationship between the two arms of the GLA. Others may say that that amounts to seeking an executive role for the scrutiny body. That is not where I am coming from. The basis for that argument is very much public confusion about what the Assembly can do, a point that echoes something that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has said. My colleagues and I are frequently asked, “Why don’t you stop him?”. It is entirely counter-intuitive to the electorate that, having elected 25 Assembly Members on the same day as they elected the mayor, the Assembly Members do not have a right to say no.

Scrutiny is not, and should not be, opposition, although the Executive may characterise it as such. It has not been unknown for the current Executive to reveal in a press release that the scrutiny arm opposes their proposals even before we have been able to ask questions, which is substantially our function. In brief, a check is needed as well as a balance. We welcome the Bill’s strengthening of the Assembly’s position and the Government’s recognition of the dangers inherent in the Executive setting the budget for the scrutiny arm. I acknowledge that the current mayor has been generous in this regard. The Bill has several pages of formulae for the scrutiny budget, which are only a little less complicated than a Fair Isle knitting pattern. However, I put to the Government the Assembly’s view that, in giving it the power to increase its own budget up to a ceiling, the mayor should be precluded from reducing it to below a floor related to his own budget. Most importantly—this would be consistent with every other institution I can think of—the Assembly budget should be decided by a simple majority of its own members. If a mayor needs to persuade only one-third of the Assembly to oppose the majority of the Assembly, he will have a completely inappropriate power.

I talk of the scrutiny budget, but that is a tiny part of the whole. The current budget of the whole GLA group—the police and fire services, transport and the London Development Agency, as well as the Greater London Authority itself—is now knocking £11 billion. The mayor sets the whole of that. The precept is the most discussed part of the budget, but it all comes from the taxpayer in some form and from the fare payer, so no wonder the “council tax payer cum national taxpayer cum fare payer cum Londoner” finds it difficult to understand that the Assembly can block the mayor’s budget by only a two-thirds majority. To put it another way, the mayor needs to command only one-third of the Assembly to support his budget.

In the context of power being best exercised at the lowest appropriate level, we on these Benches welcome most of the extensions of mayoral powers. No doubt we will debate how far the detail of any strategy should bind others, although any mayor should regard his greatest power as being how far he can influence people. Perhaps we will also debate whether the Assembly can amend a budget. It has long been a view in some academic circles that this is where a two-thirds majority in the Assembly might be better applied.

On the extension of powers, my noble friends will deal with climate change and energy, and the continuing role of the Government Office for London, which, as is well known, has grown since 1999. On housing, I will confine myself simply to saying that broadly we support the Government’s proposals. I know that there will be comments on the mayor’s bid to run a single waste authority, which for good reasons signally failed to gather much support in the Commons, and on planning what constitutes a strategic application, in which the mayor should have a role and what that role should be.

Many noble Lords will have received a briefing from Mr Livingstone in which he says:

“Proposed changes to planning will lead to a better balance between strategic and local planning considerations in London, and will significantly reduce the current dependence on a time-consuming appeals system”.

I find it hard not to read this as meaning that the current mayor believes that he would be more likely than the boroughs to get it right—whatever that is—and that his taking over decisions would mean more consents.

Whether or not the mayor is given additional planning powers, as has been said, it is important that his powers are exercised in an open and transparent manner. Who is consulted and how representations are heard are hugely important matters to developers and affected communities. A single person determining an application needs to be particularly energetic to ensure confidence. The procedure here is not a matter of mere bureaucracy. Communities need reassurance that they really have a stakeholder role and that it is not a meaningless phrase that the Section 106 arrangements should essentially be local arrangements.

We talk of mayoral interventions. What we cannot know—I think that the noble Baroness alluded to this—is how far applicants anticipate encountering problems with the mayor and temper their applications accordingly before even submitting them. I very much welcome the Minister’s comments on this issue. I may not welcome them quite enough, but they are significant, and I thank her for that.

As the Minister says, London is certainly shaping up to be the capital of the 21st century, but the GLA is still a work in progress. There is much that is good about its work so far. At this stage, it is inevitable that we, as always, look at what concerns us, and how we as Londoners have experienced that work. I will not take your Lordships’ time today to address every aspect of this largely welcome Bill. I am sure that the bumpiest ride will be with regard to the various planning clauses, on which concerns were so great that they were the basis for opposition in the Commons at Third Reading and have clearly led to much consideration behind the scenes since then. I suspect that the other bumpy ride will be over any changes to the budget process.

I look forward to examining how the rest of the Bill will operate and what other changes to the Greater London Authority might help it operate more effectively and in a manner that Londoners would support. In other words, I look forward very much to scrutinising this Bill and in this House, if not always in City Hall, dealing with issues on the basis of a simple majority.

My Lords, I relish the opportunity to speak about governance of the capital, a recurring theme in the symphony of London over the past quarter-century. As far back as the early 1990s, the business community identified the need for an executive mayor for the capital. London First, the business body of which I am chief executive, lobbied hard for London devolution. They say, “Be careful what you wish for”.

Prior to 2000, the UK’s premier city had no strategy for managing its own success, no long-term investment plan and no political leadership. There was no policy for deciding whether or how to encourage economic growth following the big bang and no plan to cater for the explosive increase in transport demand. There was not absolute support for every detail in the original Greater London Authority Act, nor has there been absolute support for every policy or flight of fancy of the current mayor since 2000.

However, at least if we do not like what is happening in our city, we know who to call. London’s economy has strengthened: we have seen off the challenge from Paris or Frankfurt and we now rival New York for pre-eminence in financial services. But London’s complexion is far from flawless. Our transport system is bursting at the seams, we have the lowest employment levels in the country and around a fifth of London adults would qualify for special help in reading and writing were they to start secondary school today. An expected 1 million more people will live in London in the next 20 years, which is like everyone in Birmingham packing their bags and moving to the capital. Housing supply is not keeping up. Demand outstripping supply forces prices up, which takes even so-called affordable homes beyond the means of those on average incomes.

These are serious challenges and we need to know that someone, armed with the necessary authority and funding, has the responsibility for tackling them. In this regard, I count the Greater London Authority as at least a qualified success. Without the powers bestowed on the GLA we would not have a strategic London plan, a flagship transport authority with a five-year investment programme or the introduction of the congestion charge in central London; neither would we have the 2012 Olympic Games or an increase of 10,000 in police and community support officers.

I am pleased, therefore, that we are debating an extension of these powers. In the animated Wallace and Gromit film “The Wrong Trousers” the focus was on the trousers not on the wearer. For today’s debate we must separate the personality, Mr Livingstone, from the trousers, which may be difficult for some of those on my right and, indeed, for some on my left, given that the office of mayor has largely been shaped by the current incumbent.

In fairness, his achievements, style and policies this time around have made life under Ken less scary. I and others feel more comfortable about the extension of mayoral powers, so long as they do not extend to foreign policy. If Ken is listening: South America is an interesting continent—I have been there myself—but there are plenty of challenges to occupy us in London without trying to address those in Caracas.

Joking aside, it is entirely appropriate for the Government to assess London’s government structures and entirely rational to take devolution another step forward. Already the Further Education and Training Bill has confirmed that responsibility for skills training will pass to a capital-specific body, the London Skills and Employment Board. Stronger powers for the mayor need to be balanced by effective scrutiny by the Assembly. I support a strong executive mayor, even when he pursues what I regard as misguided policies, such as the western extension of the congestion zone and the west London tram. But the obligation placed on the mayor in this Bill to explain why he has rejected Assembly recommendations is a welcome measure that should increase the debate and transparency around decision-making without slowing things down.

The new GLA Bill clears up anomalies in the day-to-day operation of the original Act. Importantly, by extending planning and housing powers, the mayor can deliver the strategic plans formulated over the past six-and-a-half years to address London’s growing demand for commercial and residential property. It moves the mayor from back-seat commentator to front-seat co-driver.

One helpful aspect of the GLA has been its intelligence function. The improved forecasting of London’s demographic and economic changes has provided the backdrop for the London Plan, which sets out London’s planning, economic, environmental and transport policies a decade or so ahead. That is important for London and for the UK as a whole. The latest forecasts show that over the next 20 years the population is set to increase by 1 million, with up to 900,000 extra jobs. It represents a huge challenge to the planning system to build enough homes, shops, offices and infrastructure to support this growth.

The competition is moving fast; Asia is moving fast. In the medium term, it is the greatest threat to London’s success. We need to learn to embrace change. In Shanghai, plans today are skyscrapers tomorrow. I do not advocate such an undemocratic, command-economy approach, but our processes should not sit at the opposite end of this spectrum. We cannot afford to construct heated arguments while others construct air-conditioned buildings.

It is not enough for the London Plan to set out where development should take place; it has to be translated into approval of actual development proposals. When the GLA was a babe in arms, the Government were nervous of giving the mayor a positive power to approve planning applications. They did not want to recreate the turf wars which characterised the relationship between the boroughs and the GLC, so they settled for a negative power for the mayor to direct refusal of applications for major schemes. This power has caused surprisingly little friction, a tribute to the professionalism of planning teams in both the GLA and most London boroughs. In the main, the power has been used to negotiate revisions to proposals rather than to direct refusals. Nevertheless it is right to be cautious about transferring power from the boroughs. The Bill and the process enshrined in the draft Mayor of London order represent the outcome of months of intense discussion between the major players involved in London’s planning processes. There is wide agreement that the balance is now about right. The proposed new powers will apply to only a very few cases. The boroughs will still consider applications, consult the local community and reach a view on them, but it is right that in exceptional cases the mayor should be able to ensure that proposals of London-wide importance are considered in the interests of London as a whole rather than on the basis of purely local concerns.

London needs to increase its housing supply to accommodate an increasing population and provide homes that people working in the capital can afford. This depends primarily on improving the operation of the planning system, including improving the effectiveness of borough planning departments in securing appropriate development. All housing is needed. Simple market forces mean that a greater supply delivers greater affordability overall, and the mayor should have a role in ensuring that London has the housing supply it needs.

There has been much debate behind the scenes about whether, if a borough is already fulfilling its housing targets or where only one borough is affected, the mayor should not have the power to intervene. This would overcomplicate the test for whether the mayor can take over an application, achieving nothing more than delay and money for lawyers. The test is already defined as being about strategic importance and significant impact. Adding more dimensions and complications would be counterproductive and smacks of a failure to embrace the fundamental concept. But I recognise that this is a new system and I would welcome a commitment from the Government to review it after a couple of years of operation.

Of course there must be proper consultation with those affected, and their concerns must be taken into account. The new process must be transparent but equally there is a high price to pay for a system which makes it easier to hold up development than to approve it: runaway house prices as supply fails to match demand and the highest office rents in the world. Let us be clear: when London fails to win corporate headquarters they go not to Manchester or Birmingham but elsewhere in the world.

Other measures beyond planning legislation are needed to ensure that development keeps pace with demand. Since the introduction of the uniform business rate in 1990, local authorities gain no financial benefit from new commercial development. I welcome the proposal from Sir Michael Lyons that local authorities should be able to keep more of the rate income from new development and use it to provide the investment needed for successful regeneration. It is important that local authorities and developers in London learn to work better together to achieve the huge development required to support its growth. This Lyons proposal would better align interests and is a step in the right direction. But Lyons’s recommendations will achieve nothing if they gather dust on the shelf, and I look forward to government action to implement them.

In summary, I treasure a vision of a UK proud of London and a London that recognises its responsibilities towards the rest of the UK. The capital plays a unique role in the UK economy and its challenges are unique. The Government took a bold step—some would say a gamble—when they created a unique form of government for the capital. Very few would argue that, all things considered, the gamble has not paid off. Re-evaluating the structures after seven years is a sensible move, and incremental devolution has proved successful. Arguably, the original Act bit off only as much as it could chew. To continue the analogy, there is now an appetite for greater devolution. London should have the ability to tackle its own challenges.

I hope, therefore, that this is only the second and not the last GLA Bill, and that in the near future we will have another opportunity to review progress and take yet another step towards truly devolved London government. Just to give several years’ warning of what I will be looking for in that next phase: first, more levers to tackle unemployment, and, secondly, more fiscal autonomy for London to determine its own spending priorities.

My Lords, I am sure strong views will be expressed on a number of aspects of the Bill, but I should like to concentrate my remarks on the housing and planning proposals. I should begin by declaring an interest. I am a member of the board of Circle Anglia, which is a combined group of housing associations across London and the south-east, and I chair Circle 33, which is one of the largest registered social landlords in that group. Together we have 30,000 properties and we are likely to double that figure in the next three years. We are experiencing phenomenal growth through a combination of local authority stock transfer, merger with smaller registered social landlords and Housing Corporation funding for new build and regeneration. We are a large housing association, but certainly not the largest in London.

The reason I say this is to illustrate the changing shape of social housing provision in London. The old model of social housing purely being provided by local authorities is breaking down. There is now an increasing occurrence of affordable housing for rent, shared ownership or purchase being provided by large housing associations whose organisation and management often overrides local authority boundaries and accountability. In London we now have large housing associations using economies of scale to maximise the available stock of good quality housing for current and future tenants. They also have more freedom to innovate. That is why I am pleased to report that my housing association is leading a consortium which hopes to tackle the scandalous decline in MoD accommodation in return for access to land to build more affordable homes. I hope that noble Lords welcome experiments like that. And although it is a subject of continuing controversy, housing associations can currently access significant funding from the Housing Corporation to improve and increase the housing stock, which is not currently available to local authorities.

This broader mix of housing providers can bring benefits, but it is also in danger of leaving a democratic vacuum. It is an issue that housing associations are trying to address through increased tenant participation at the local level, and we are working hard to find new ways of involving tenants in shaping their services. Clearly these initiatives can play an important role in supplementing the continuing crucial role of local authorities in responding to local housing needs. However, the scale of the housing challenge that we face across London needs a broader democratic mandate. That is why I welcome the new powers in the Bill to enable the mayor to set a London-wide housing strategy based on a thorough assessment of housing need across the city, with practical powers to specify the numbers, type and locations of houses to be built.

It is impossible to overestimate the scale of the problem the mayor will inherit, which will need more than mere number-crunching to transform the housing crisis in the city. It has already been estimated that nearly 1 million extra people will move to London in the next 10 years. That is exacerbated by the year-on-year rise in single households, which put extra pressure on the existing stock. Meanwhile, we already have 62,000 families living in unsuitable temporary accommodation, and Shelter estimates that one in seven children is growing up in substandard or overcrowded accommodation. This is blighting the lives of a large number of our future generation, for whom poor housing also leads to poor health and to poor educational achievement.

To be fair, the Government have been bold in providing additional funding for housing on an unprecedented scale, but they will need to be bolder still. While they remain on course to meet the decent homes target for all existing social housing by 2010, Shelter has estimated that an additional 20,000 new units of social housing a year nationally need to be built to meet the growing housing need. The majority of those units will be concentrated in the south-east. I hope the Chancellor will address this issue in the Comprehensive Spending Review. He should do so with renewed confidence that the mayor and the GLA will be empowered to use any additional resources allocated to London effectively and efficiently.

I referred to the need for the Government to be bold, but there is an even bigger obligation in this Act for the Mayor and the GLA to be bold and imaginative in addressing our housing challenge. In particular they need to galvanise the wasted resources in the private sector. We already know the extra pressures caused by the accumulation of land banks for speculative gain. While the planning-gain legislation is a useful weapon, the Mayor will need a clear strategy to free up pockets of brownfield land for development. At the same time, we know we have an estimated 100,000 empty residential properties already in London. Again, some of those have been purchased purely for speculative gain, rather than for use—as I heard it described on the radio yesterday, buy-to-sit rather than buy-to-let. The new powers in the Housing Act could tackle those empty properties, but the Act will need to be imposed more systematically to make a real difference.

Lastly, the Mayor has the opportunity to be innovative in accessing the empty space in commercial premises and above shops, which could be converted into residential accommodation and help regenerate neighbourhoods. I do not pretend that these interventions will be easy, but we need to utilise every appropriate space within the confines of London before we can justify expansion. We need to maintain a high-level dialogue with the people of London to give a democratic mandate to the use of that space.

There is one further reason why, for me, the new powers for the Mayor are so important. Last week saw the publication of the report by John Hills into the future of social housing in England. He identified a crucial challenge: currently, more than half of those of working age living in social housing are without paid work. That is twice the national rate, and is not merely a feature of the disadvantage that may have qualified them for social housing in the first place. He identifies a range of possible explanations for that, such as a fear of losing benefits, the possibility of the location of social housing being in the wrong place to access work, the constraints on mobility and the downward impact of esteem in some neighbourhoods. He makes a strong thesis of a link between social housing and a lack of economic activity.

Some of his solutions can only be achieved by Government at a national level, but others could easily be achieved by a strategic London-wide authority that already has responsibility for delivering economic success across the capital. The new housing powers complement the existing economic powers, which can deliver better economic outcomes for those in social housing. For example, we could be talking about generating more local employment at a neighbourhood level, or about freeing up the mobility scheme to allow tenants to transfer jobs more easily for job-related reasons. We could be providing more integrated housing and employment support for young people, such as the foyer schemes that have been so successful. I hope the Mayor will champion innovation such as this, and will help to achieve our aspiration of thriving mixed economies and mixed communities across London.

Getting our housing strategy right remains a big challenge, and the Government have to play a part. There will need to be different solutions for different parts of the country. For us here in London, though, the best solutions lie on the one hand in improving community engagement, and on the other hand in an authority able to take a broad view of the housing needs of Londoners and deliver the extra homes we need. The Bill delivers that framework, and I am confident that the Mayor will use his powers wisely. I look forward to the continuing debate on the details of the Bill in the coming weeks.

My Lords, serious questions need to be raised concerning the contents of the Bill. My main concerns centre on the crucial issues of housing, planning, waste and the role of the Greater London Authority under the new system.

On the issue of housing, the responsibilities of the existing London Housing Board will transfer to the mayor, and he will be responsible for publishing a London housing strategy and housing investment plan. The mayor will have responsibility for addressing the demand for affordable housing in the capital. With regard to planning, the mayor will have the power not only to direct changes for local borough plans but also to privatise particular projects he feels are of most benefit to meet the requirements of his London Plan. The Bill will also create a new London-wide waste management programme, apparently aimed at improving efficiency in the boroughs and increasing recycling throughout London. We will also see the creation of a London waste and recycling fund.

These changes will concentrate too much power in the hands of the mayor, and one of my main criticisms of the Bill is that the large increase in powers to the mayoral office is not matched by equal increases in accountability. That is not fair, and it is unacceptable.

It may be argued that there can be benefits from considering local issues within the wider perspective of London as a whole. However, there is a real danger that local and community issues will be overlooked in favour of more strategic overall plans, which will result in local people feeling ostracised from the decision-making process. A survey published in September 2006 by London Councils provided evidence to suggest that Londoners themselves have much more faith in their local councils over matters such as housing and planning, and are not happy with increased powers for the mayor.

I live in the London Borough of Croydon and my company has its head office in Bromley. Both those local councils are well managed and efficient. Therefore, I do not see any need for the decision-making process regarding housing and planning to be moved from our elected local councillors to the Greater London Authority. I may add that under the new system the role of the Assembly will give it the authority to set its own budget, and it will publish an annual report on its workings. Alongside this, the Assembly will hold hearings to validate the mayor’s choices for key appointments. These proposals need further examination and reconsideration.

The explanations and definitions in the Bill are also poor. The word “strategic” in relation to the mayor’s powers over planning is an example. There is little explanation of how the Government determine “strategic”—thus, the emphasis lies completely with the mayor in how this should be defined and played out in practice. There is a distinct lack of transparency built into the Bill. Instead of definite requirements for planning written into the Bill, the onus is on the mayor to live up to his claims that there will be transparency in his dealings.

Attempts to standardise services throughout the capital—for example, in waste management or housing—will undermine much of the progress made by certain boroughs in these fields in recent years. A “one size fits all” approach will stifle any innovative approach boroughs may have to the individual problems they face; it is not the way to increase standards overall. Instead, a considered and local approach with community consultation is much more likely to have the positive effects desired. Overall, the dramatic transfer of power to the mayoral office is not justified. It is felt that a body dominated by the mayor, run from City Hall, will not be responsive to local issues.

I have very strong connections with the City of London and have a branch of my company in the Royal Exchange. The City Corporation feels that the current proposals are in danger of damaging the City’s international competitiveness by making the whole process more complicated and less responsive. The financial organisations that make the City of London a successful international marketplace require a structure that works efficiently. The proposed added layer of bureaucracy will be a hindrance and not cost-effective.

In my opinion, the Bill is not acceptable in its present form. Several appropriate amendments will be tabled for discussion in its later stages.

My Lords, I realise that I lack the detailed understanding, knowledge and experience of the government of London demonstrated by many of the speakers in tonight’s debate. However, I wish to speak for two reasons. First, in the mid-1990s, I helped draft a document called the London Pride Prospectus. It was produced by the London Pride Partnership, a body called into being by the Secretary of State for the Environment at the time to give major stakeholders in London—politicians, business, NGOs, the unions—something to do in the absence of even the vestige of government at a London level. It was a splendid document, though I say it myself, but it sank without trace. Interestingly, one of the few things that all those who were involved in its production could agree upon was that it should have had a strong chapter about the need for a London tier of government—the one thing on which the Government would not allow us to comment.

Secondly, I have spent a lot of time over the past decade involved in discussions about regional government in the rest of England, outside London. Although I share the criticisms of my noble friend Lady Hamwee about the structure of government in London, I feel that Londoners and politicians in London are fortunate in having a degree of devolved power, however limited, and wish that they had rather more.

From reading the Bill and the debates on it in another place, it is clear that the governance of London is moving progressively further away from the remainder of England. London already has an elected mayor and elected politicians who can hold him to account. The Bill slightly strengthens this process and their powers.

This situation is very different from the position in the English regions. The failed referendum on a modest proposal for devolution in the north-west has led the Government to shut up shop on regional devolution. Instead, they are conducting a review on what they charmingly call sub-national economic development and regeneration in England. One of the principal options which I believe is being considered is the development of the city region, based on what would be the dominant local authority in that region. The problem with that approach is that city regions outside London, unlike London itself, are not actually regions. Large parts of the country would not, by any stretch of the imagination, fall within such a region, north Yorkshire being an obvious example.

The other problem which this approach—and, indeed, the Bill—fail to resolve is how to bring in to a democratic structure the functions of the government regional officers. They exercise considerable power yet are completely unaccountable to politicians in the regions they serve. I hope that before long—possibly under a new Prime Minister, although I am not holding my breath—we will be able to persuade the Government to revisit the question of regional government across England as a whole.

In the mean time, we have this Bill. On the face of it, it covers a number of the principal public policy challenges facing London, including housing, planning, health and climate change, where powers are being reallocated. But the powers in the Bill are often inadequate or they are being reallocated in the wrong direction. For the powers of the Government Office for London, very little changes. It is surely anomalous to have devolved government in London yet a raft of fairly random functions still the responsibility of the relevant Secretaries of State rather than the London-wide political institutions.

The role of the Government Office for London lacks all logic. The home page of its website explains that among its principal roles is,

“making London’s case in Whitehall”.

Surely the only people who can make London’s case effectively in Whitehall are elected politicians, not civil servants, who can never have the same amount of clout. I can see no reason why GOL’s responsibilities, whether ensuring the delivery of Every Child Matters or attempting to tackle crime reduction, would not be better exercised by the GLA.

In some respects, the Bill makes the muddle worse. It contains a provision to create a public health adviser to the GLA who,

“is in the employment of the Civil Service of the State in the post of Regional Director of Public Health for London”.

As I understand it, this person is responsible to the Secretary of State for Health for carrying out public health policy across London and to the mayor solely in terms of health inequalities strategy. How can this person serve two masters? In particular, what happens if there is a dispute between the mayor and the Secretary of State for Health on the health inequalities strategy? Under the Bill, the Secretary of State can give the mayor a direction to change his strategy and the mayor must obey. Where is the poor old health adviser in these circumstances? He or she has presumably to acquiesce to the Secretary of State’s will, even though he or she will advise the mayor to adopt the strategy to which the Secretary of State has taken exception. Such a circumstance is by no means impossible to imagine, particularly if the national Government are led by a different political party than the one to which the mayor belongs. If it does happen, the health adviser is in an impossible position. He or she has been put in that position because the Government are not prepared to relinquish control of policy—in this case, reducing health inequalities—to the GLA. In any event, even if the mayor and the Government are not at loggerheads, what can the mayor do to implement his health equality strategy? All the troops who budget for implementation rest with the adviser, wearing his other hat as regional director of public health in London. They and their responsibilities should be transferred across to the GLA.

Although that may seem a rather ludicrous example, it is a common pattern. The mayor is given a budget to draw up strategies because he is legally obliged to do so but no money to carry them out. I am not saying that developing and promoting a strategy is necessarily a waste of time; the role of the mayor in occupying the bully pulpit of politics can be very effective as far as it goes; but it does not go far enough. The inevitable response to huge strategy documents is to ask where the beef is. The answer all too often is that it remains with Whitehall. Noble Lords will be aware that more than 60 per cent of government expenditure in London is not controlled by the GLA and this Bill does nothing to change this position. In some respects it makes the disparity between the roles of the GLA and the resources available to the mayor even greater.

To take one example from the Bill, the mayor is required to draw up an adaptation to climate change strategy for London. The strategy is to contain an assessment of the consequences of climate change for greater London and proposals and policies for adaptation so far as they relate to greater London. It is generally accepted that the most serious consequence for London of climate change is the possibility—or rather the near certainty—of significant rises in sea levels. The consequences without very dramatic and expensive preventive action are over a long period that central London simply becomes uninhabitable. So the Bill requires the mayor to consider this—which presumably he does, and he sees that this is a long-term problem facing the capital. What is he enabled to do under the Bill? He is allowed to produce a strategy document. Unless he proposes to evacuate the capital—and even if he does—there is a big price tag attached to protecting London from inundation. How is that to be met? As I understand it, the mayor will be as powerful as King Canute; he will be able to wave his adaptation strategy document at the rising tide but that, frankly, will be it. He should surely have powers to raise funds from Londoners to implement his climate change policy.

A major effect of the Bill has been to set London boroughs and the mayor at loggerheads about actual or possible transfers of powers—and I, like other noble Lords, have had a number of representations from the two sides on this point—between the two levels of government in London, mainly with powers being transferred away from the boroughs to the mayor. I believe that that is the wrong and largely irrelevant battleground. This Bill should have made it easier for the institutions of London government to exercise real authority on those areas of public policy that are crucial to the long-term prosperity of the capital. It has, in my view, signally failed to rise to the challenge.

My Lords, I give a broad welcome to this Bill, although I have some criticisms, which will come out later on. I say at the outset that London is a great and exciting city. There are problems and I hope that the Bill goes some way to dealing with those problems.

I shall deal first with two comments made in earlier speeches this evening. The congestion charge, including the western extension, is a great success and a model that other cities in the world will follow. When the technology is there, it will be a model for dealing with traffic congestion on the busy roads up and down the country, not just in our cities. Of course, some people are critical, but if the alternative is to sit in a traffic jam for hours, frankly I would rather pay a little bit extra for the price of the road space that I am using.

As for scrutiny, it is important that the people making decisions—in this case, the mayor—should be held to account. I leave it to other noble Lords who know more about the inner workings of the GLA to comment in detail on that.

I shall deal with three issues: housing, planning and above all waste. With housing, there is a stark contrast between the affluence on the surface in London, with house prices shooting up, and the serious housing difficulties facing too many poor Londoners. That contrast becomes starker every day as one sees the rush for houses with house prices shooting up and other people desperately badly housed. According to some figures that I have had from Shelter, there are at present some 65,000 families in temporary accommodation in London and 150,000 families living in overcrowded accommodation. That is far too many people for a city that is so affluent that in some firms in the City 1,000 people get a Christmas bonus of £1 million.

My Lords, 1,000 people in a firm in the City got a bonus of £1 million last Christmas. That sits pretty badly with the people who are badly housed or living in temporary accommodation.

Therefore, it is welcome that the mayor together with the GLA want to increase housing provision for poor families in the capital. As I understand it, the mayor’s target is 30,000 new homes per annum, which on the face of it seems quite modest. Of those, one-half should be affordable homes and 10,000 should be in the socially rented sector, the rest of affordable homes being for shared ownership. That, although those are modest figures, would I understand make an appreciable difference to helping poor people in London who are at the moment badly housed.

Some of the boroughs are less interested in social housing than others, while some of them have an excellent record. For the sake of all Londoners—and even the most affluent boroughs have poor people living in them who are badly housed—it is right that there should be an overall strategy and ability to deliver housing for London. I believe that this Bill will enable the mayor with the new powers to do far more for the badly housed people of London.

On planning, I welcome giving the mayor enhanced powers for what will be a small number of strategic planning decisions. Everything points to the fact that these will simply be decisions that are very significant and whose importance transcends the individual boroughs in which the sites are located. Provided that there is no bureaucracy of having to jump over two hurdles for planning permission and that there is proper transparency in the process of deciding on planning applications, that is probably a good thing. If it means that the mayor will have more influence on bringing forward land for affordable housing, that is so much the better.

Of course, we all have our individual concerns, and I shall indulge myself in talking about one of them. There may be particular sites about which one might be anxious. In my former parliamentary constituency of Battersea, there is the whole future of Battersea power station to think about. This is not an occasion to debate this in detail, but it is an important site, and I sincerely hope that a proper use will be found for this iconic building under its new owners, possibly including the Government’s proposed energy technologies institute. I understand that that has the full support of the mayor. I hope that the Minister will think about that one and see whether there is anything that can be done. Of course, the power station is much too large simply to house the energy technologies institute, but it could be a useful site for it and other uses would follow.

I turn to what is probably the key question that bothers me—that of waste. It is a key environmental issue that presents enormous challenges to the country as a whole and to local authorities that have responsibilities. For government, there is the need to take action to reduce the total amount of waste produced. One only has to buy things in some stores to see how much waste there is in the packaging, material and so on. It is important that that should be reduced. Having got that down—and there is some way to go yet—the real challenges are to increase the amount of waste recycled and reduce the amount going into landfill, as there will soon not be enough landfill in southern England to accommodate the waste from Londoners.

Bluntly, London is simply not doing well enough in dealing with waste. Some of the individual boroughs are; some are not. Let me give some figures. In 2005—the latest year for which I could get figures—London recycled 21 per cent of its household waste. This compares with 57 per cent in Hamburg, 43 per cent in Munich, 39 per cent in Milan and 39 per cent in Vienna. In north America, San Francisco recycled half its household waste and Seattle 58 per cent. These figures make London look as if it is not doing well enough. Other cities in the world may be doing worse than London but we ought to be doing better. We are conscious of the need to do something and understand what should be done but we are simply not doing it.

The national target for the UK is 25 per cent so we have some way to go. But the situation is even worse: 22 out of London’s 37 waste authorities, which may comprise individual boroughs or several boroughs acting together, failed to achieve their statutory household recycling targets for 2005-06. London boroughs and London waste authorities are among the lowest ranking of all English local authorities, and the majority have not met their statutory recycling targets. London is currently the worst performing English region for recycling: 22 out of the 37 waste authorities are in the bottom half in terms of performance and 18 are in the bottom quartile. Only one, Bexley, is in the upper quartile. That is a pretty poor record. Of the 15 London waste authorities that responded to a Government survey, only one was planning to meet its 2020 recycling target.

About two-thirds of London’s waste is buried in landfill and mostly exported to sites outside London; the latter is a fairly random process. London incinerates 18 per cent of its waste and this is set to double. London will then account for half of England’s share of incineration while managing only 15 per cent of the country’s municipal waste. That is not good enough.

London is the only major metropolitan region where waste disposal is not managed and co-ordinated at city level. So far as I have discovered, pretty well every major metropolitan region in the world has a co-ordinated overall strategy for waste disposal. Of course, the boroughs will still have to collect the waste but essentially we need a waste disposal strategy for the whole of London. Individual boroughs have lobbied against that. They want to keep things as they are and say that they can do better. However, I am not sure that they have demonstrated that up to now. The Bill is weak in this respect. It is going in the right direction but it could be strengthened. A vast incinerator is proposed in Belvedere for west London authorities to send their waste to. People in Belvedere do not want an incinerator there and I understand that the Mayor of London does not see that as the best way forward. That is just a one-off example.

What is the answer? It is a single waste disposal authority, which would achieve the right balance between local collection and strategic processing and disposal. A strategic waste disposal authority should be a body of the GLA clearly accountable to the mayor. At present accountability for waste disposal is unclear and some of the joint waste disposal authorities are hardly accountable; they operate much more like quangos. By moving this function under the mayor we would improve accountability, not lessen it. We would also achieve better co-ordination and promote proper investment in the recycling facilities that are necessary to improve London’s record in that regard.

Such an authority would also improve the transport of waste around London. Transport for London estimates that within London alone waste travels 44 million kilometres a year, accounts for 10 per cent of all freight movements in London and represents 290,000 tonnes of CO2—this at a time when we are supposed to be more environmentally conscious. If we had a strategic waste disposal authority for London, the transport of waste in London could be lessened. It cannot be abolished altogether and reduced to nothing, but it could certainly be lessened from the present figure, where individual waste authorities make their own decisions, search for sites where they can dispose of waste or occasionally recycle it. We can do better. Having thought hard about the counter suggestions from the London boroughs, I believe sincerely that a properly accountable strategic waste disposal authority for London under the mayor is the right way forward. I hope that the Government will give it serious consideration as we proceed with the next stages of the Bill.

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this Second Reading debate. Unlike some of my noble friends, I have no experience of local government and my interest arises solely from the fact that I was born in London and have lived here all my life. My interest, therefore, is as someone who has always enjoyed living in London. I have watched it change over the years. I remember the years after the war when there was an extreme housing shortage caused by the bombing. We had rent controls at that time. They were later dispensed with but, had they not existed, poorer people simply could not have afforded anywhere to live.

London has changed enormously since those days. It is now very diverse, and in many ways—I am very glad to say—is an extremely tolerant city. As a number of speakers said, there has been a large increase in population. People are attracted to London and want to live here. The population is expected to grow still further—by more than 800,000 in the next decade.

The Bill seeks to devolve more powers from Whitehall to the mayor and to London. This should be generally welcomed. The increased population has resulted in certain pressures on the infrastructure that need a London-wide solution. One of these problems is housing. Some speakers, including my noble friend Lord Dubs, dealt with that in detail. London has a very urgent need for more housing, with more than 62,000 people living in temporary accommodation and more than 150,000 overcrowded households.

As we know, home ownership is unaffordable for many Londoners and getting on to the so-called housing ladder is an absolute nightmare for many younger people. The provision of social housing has been neglected under successive Governments. As we heard, the Bill requires the mayor to set out his assessment of housing need in the capital as the basis for a London-wide strategy. However, as I understand it, none of the statutory housing powers and duties that currently rests with local authorities is being transferred to the mayor. The provision of affordable housing cannot simply be left to the market. A London housing strategy would give housing in the capital a new focus and priority. This is urgent and essential. The workforce that London needs has a right to be housed at a decent level and at affordable rents.

I was born and raised on a very good LCC housing estate in south-east London. I very much regret that local councils no longer provide social housing as they used to do. Housing associations are not taking up the role that local councils once fulfilled, although, as we heard from one of my noble friends, they do a reasonable job. We have to expect that from the mayor, who will have these powers, which I know he welcomes. I had the opportunity to talk to him at a function last night and found that he was enthusiastic about the possibility of utilising powers allowed to him under the Bill, particularly on housing.

The Bill also devolves responsibilities from Whitehall to London, giving the mayor a stronger statutory role on health inequalities in the capital. There seem to be inequalities in health provision between different geographical areas and particularly in population groups. Minority-ethnic groups are apparently at the greatest risk of heart disease and stroke in areas of south-east and north-east London. This is another issue where a London-wide strategy might be useful. I know that the mayor is anxious to do something about that. He already has a role in public health.

The Bill also supports and expands the London Assembly’s scrutiny powers, which I am sure will be welcome. There are powers in relation to planning applications. I do not know very much about that, but I understand that there has been a draft Mayor of London order defining the scope of the powers. I understand that the Assembly is very anxious to ensure that these powers are exercised openly and transparently. I am sure that some of this will emerge in Committee.

One aspect of the Bill which has aroused some contention, as my noble friend Lord Dubs said, is waste management. The mayor favours the creation of a single waste-disposal authority responsible for processing and disposing of waste, with boroughs responsible for collection services. The mayor’s office claims that this approach secures the most appropriate balance between keeping local that which is best done locally—collection—and managing the city-wide aspects of strategic concern; that is, processing and disposal. The SWDA that is recommended would be a functional body of the Greater London Authority, accountable to the mayor and on a similar footing to the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, one of the GLA’s four functional bodies, which I understand is regarded by everybody as very competent and worth while. I have received a detailed briefing from the mayor’s office in favour of the establishment of the SWDA, much of which has already been reported to us this evening by my noble friend Lord Dubs, who fully explained exactly what is involved in an SWDA. A very strong case is being made for the establishment of such a facility.

I gather that the Government’s view is that there is an urgent need for investment in new waste facilities in London to meet the challenge of EU targets. London councils, I believe, object to the establishment of an SWDA on grounds of cost, but the failure to meet EU targets could involve substantial costs as well as a continuation of something not very different from the present system, which itself will eventually result in higher costs. I gather that the Government are proposing a London waste and recycling forum to bring together stakeholders in London and to co-ordinate activities. The mayor’s view is that that is an inadequate response to London’s need to manage its waste as a single city rather than as a multitude of independent and unco-ordinated waste authorities. I also understand that the Assembly is not in favour of an SWDA but it favours a city-wide water strategy. No doubt we will be able to discuss those and other matters in Committee. Meanwhile, I welcome the Bill and its devolution of authority in London.

My Lords, this Bill takes me back to when I first entered your Lordships’ House. Coming here fresh from local government when the first GLA Bill was passed, I learnt all about the procedures of this House. I learnt a vast amount from my noble friend Lady Hamwee about understanding what the legislation was getting at. It was eye-opening to see how the legislation that we enacted here was passed down to local government. So this is the second time round for me, and I welcome it.

I shall focus on climate change. As the Minister rightly said, the climate change Bill that the Government will shortly introduce will be a first not just for this country but for the world. The few clauses that address climate change in this Bill are a precursor in some ways to the climate change Bill. It is therefore crucial to get the definitions and the terminology right and to set precedents that will make life easier not more difficult for the climate change Bill.

Some of our debates in Committee will be critical in ensuring that the balance is right between empowering the mayor to develop a strategy, and the communities and boroughs that may have to take action on it, and individuals who may need and want to take action themselves. Those processes should be clearly linked. The strategy may need to be wider in consideration than the Government have taken account of. We debated during the passage of the Energy Bill, for example, the need for information centres. The Carbon Trust, though making strides in this area, still is a long way off from an easy walk-in high street advice centre, which, many of us felt, individuals needed to get a grip on the sort of action that they could take.

There are other practical things. There is a general shortage of plumbers, particularly those who can install solar water-heating panels. While on the one hand we may be encouraging people to take all sorts of action on climate-change mitigation, many factors, including training in appropriate skills, may be prohibiting that happening.

Clause 40, which deals with the mayor’s mitigation and energy strategy, gives the Secretary of State a limited power to direct the mayor on that strategy. My noble friend Lord Newby raised the interesting question of adaptation, and he showed up some of the weaknesses in the Bill. It is strange that in the adaptation clause, the Secretary of State has virtually unlimited powers to direct the mayor. One of the areas that I will probe in Committee will be why there is such variation. Is it because the Government are nervous that the mayor will need to create that second Thames barrier near Gravesend? We will particularly want to explore that area in Committee.

We will also want to consider terminology. Clause 40 talks about minimising carbon dioxide emissions from transport and from other energy uses. Carbon dioxide forms the bulk of our greenhouse gas emissions, but I suspect the clause is limited to CO2 because the EU Emissions Trading Scheme covers only CO2 emissions. It might be limited because it is a shorthand way of saying “climate change”. Other important greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide are important components to consider. Although the consultation on the draft climate change Bill explicitly asks whether it ought to cover all greenhouse gases, we will need to consider that before the draft Bill comes before your Lordships’ House. There are a number of matters that it will be important to get right.

As someone who lives in London for four nights a week, I find it extraordinary that in my block of flats we still cannot recycle at all. It really pains me to put my rubbish out in one single collection bag. I would not underestimate the difficulties that there are, in my case as a county councillor, in devising a waste strategy between five districts and a county council, but I have done it and it works extremely well. I know that it is possible. The Bill is a little unambitious in that regard. The mayor is to devise a waste strategy, but why are the Government not thinking of a zero-waste strategy? We know that that is achievable; it is something to aim for. It would give the role a meaning beyond taking on another strategy layer.

Finally, there is one strategy that I envy London: the food strategy. The south-west has a food strategy, but it is aimed at producers from an economic point of view. The London food strategy is aimed far more at consumers. I doubt whether we shall debate it on the Bill, but it is one thing that London has got more right than other regions. Those of us from the regions have something to learn from London.

My Lords, it is always dangerous to claim that one was the first to say something, especially in your Lordships' House, but I might make a modest claim to be one of the first London Labour Party members to have floated the idea of a directly elected mayor in London. That was in 1991, when as chair of that august body of comrades, the Greater London Labour Party, I introduced to its annual conference a report called The Future of London’s Government. Among many other demands, it modestly suggested that the idea of a directly elected Mayor of London deserved to be given some consideration. I merely note that the hostility to such a notion of the current incumbent of the mayor’s office partly explains my tentativeness at the time. But here we are, looking again at how we can best support more coherence in the governance of our capital, and in support of many of the proposals by Ken Livingstone and the mayor’s office.

I feel that I have lived with the conversation about London’s governance for many years. My husband, John Carr, was a GLC and ILEA member, abolished along with the rest of them in 1986. It was a terribly unjust democratic act at the time, but we are not here to rake over old arguments—

My Lords, we are here to consider how to improve on the job done by the mayor, the GLA and the London boroughs, and whether London will be more effectively governed if some recalibration of the powers and responsibilities takes place.

I am a great enthusiast for London-wide government, just as I am for my democratically elected borough, although I do not like its political complexion at the moment. The size and functions of the boroughs work well in most respects. I spent many hours here during the passage of the first GLA Bill in 1999, and felt then that while the structure and balance between the mayor, the GLA and the London-wide functions set the direction for some sensible London-wide strategic planning and delivery, it did not go far enough in some key respects. I criticised my Government at the time, and it was predictable that we would revisit some of the serious issues that were not addressed then.

It is a great credit to Ken Livingstone, his administration and the GLA that, through the work and achievements of the past seven years, the case has been proved for the contents of the Bill. The winning of the Olympics, the strong voice for London as a world city, the championing of London’s diversity and needs, and the leadership provided by the mayor on 7/7 all go to make Londoners proud and have made the Bill possible.

I support the main thrust of the Bill. The House needs to consider whether the proposals do what is intended, whether they go far enough and whether the vital transparency and accountability are sufficient if the mayor is to be given extra powers.

I support the proposals in the Bill to grant the mayor additional powers on strategic planning decisions. However, I am concerned about them for two reasons. The first concerns the time it already takes to reach planning decisions, particularly for large-scale developments. That is already not good for business in London, and London will thrive only if business in London thrives. I need to be reassured that any new powers have to be exercised in an open and transparent way.

Secondly, along with my noble friend Lord Whitty, I will be keen to support reconsideration of the proposals on waste. Particularly given that the highly intelligent Minister my right honourable friend Mr Miliband was responsible, it is a bit of a mystery why the Government have chosen not to use the Bill as an opportunity to introduce a single waste-disposal authority for London. As has been said, London is the worst-performing English region for recycling of household and municipal waste, to its shame. Voluntary arrangements clearly have not worked, and I am not convinced, despite hearing the well put arguments of the leader of the GLA, that the uplift in performance that today’s environmental priorities require will come from five waste management schemes across the city. I hope that during the passage of the Bill we can find some resolution that allows both the boroughs and the mayor to move forward together with a London-wide strategy for waste.

As a passionate supporter of the growth of social businesses and of community and co-operative enterprises in London, I look forward to the increased support that this diverse sector will get as a result of the greater coherence and powers of the LDA and LSC, which could be a great driver for regeneration in the city.

I am very keen to support the production of the London energy strategy and welcome the establishment of the London Climate Change Agency and the encouragement given by the Bill in that respect. I pay tribute to the deputy mayor, Nicky Gavron, for her leadership in that area. She has been tireless and imaginative in her pursuit of a range of energy and climate-change issues. I think that I agree with the London Assembly in asking for consideration of the need for a statutory water strategy for London. I wonder why the Government have chosen not to include that in the Bill.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am experiencing some déjà-vu; however, I am pleased that the Bill is significantly less weighty than the previous one and I look forward to working with noble Lords during its passage.

My Lords, as a long-standing and committed Londoner, I am glad to have the chance to speak on this Bill, given its aim to strengthen devolved powers in London. The main focus of my remarks will be the health provisions at Clauses 21 to 24. However, I should first declare an interest as the recently appointed part-time chairman of the new provider agency that NHS London has established. I should make clear to the House that the recent, slightly unsavoury, remarks by Front-Bench spokesman for health in the other place about that appointment have been shown to be quite unjustified after an investigation by the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and by the Cabinet Office.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Londoner, I am only too well aware of the health challenges it faces. These are brought out very well in a document published earlier this month, The Case for Change, which represents the first stage of a review by Professor Sir Ara Darzi. It reveals that although on some health indicators such as coronary heart disease London performs reasonably well, it has major challenges in other areas. For example, smoking is more prevalent in London than is the case nationally, London has higher rates of childhood obesity and it faces specific health challenges, such as HIV, drug abuse and mental health problems. London has 57 per cent of England’s cases of HIV. One in four adult drug users lives in London and a million Londoners have had mental health problems. The shortage of affordable and good quality housing in London can also contribute to health problems among its population.

Health inequalities in London, both in terms of outcomes and service access, are significant. Just eight stops on the Jubilee Line take you from Westminster to Canning Town, where average life expectancy is seven years lower. Raising life expectancy for the bottom half of London boroughs to the current London average, which is pretty much near the national average, would save the lives of 1,300 Londoners every year. Infant mortality in Haringey is three times that in Richmond.

Professor Ara Darzi sets out a succinct and compelling case for change that would help to tackle some of those entrenched inequalities. His document shows that providing more acute hospitals is not the answer. London already has a relatively high number of those hospitals, compared with most parts of the country. What is needed is more concentrated specialist care and better use of our workforce and buildings. However, overwhelmingly what is needed in London is a much stronger base of community and primary care services and a much greater evenness in public health polices and services across the capital.

That is why it is timely for the Government to include in the Bill the provisions on health at Clauses 21 to 24, which provide for a health adviser and deputy health advisers to the GLA and a reduction in health inequalities. It is right that the GLA and the mayor have more responsibilities in this area, but it is important that they exercise them in a co-ordinated way with general public health policies and with NHS London, the body with strategic healthcare responsibilities in London. For too long, local government, particularly in relation to housing, has been something of a poor relation in tackling London’s health agenda. Some of that is down to the failure of the NHS to recognise the role that local government could play, together with the absence of a strong strategic presence for tackling health inequalities. The Bill provides a new opportunity for the GLA, the mayor and NHS London to work together for the benefit of Londoners’ health. The second and final instalment of Professor Ara Darzi’s review will appear in a few months’ time and will provide an invaluable analytical underpinning for aiding that kind of joint working.

Before I sit down, I want to say a few words about waste management. There is a strong link between waste reduction and management and health and well-being. Minimising the quantity of waste and improving its collection and disposal reduces the risk of disease and injury from waste. Less money spent on waste disposal means more money for other public services. The NHS, too, has to play its part constructively, particularly in terms of clinical waste disposal and in achieving more sustainable behaviour by its suppliers. It is a big consumer of goods and services from other suppliers. I hope that the new SHA, NHS London, will play a full and constructive part in taking forward this agenda, especially in the area of clinical waste and in getting suppliers to behave in a sustainable way, drawing on the expertise of bodies such as the Environment Agency.

Finally, I want to say a few words on the wider issue of waste management, speaking as a Londoner living in a borough—Southwark—which is in the dubious position of being 381st out of 393 English authorities in terms of recycling rates and which failed to meet its recycling target for 2005-06. I note in passing that the two boroughs that will be centre stage in the Olympics—Newham and Tower Hamlets—sit firmly at numbers 392 and 393. I recognise, as we have heard this evening, that the mayor’s proposal for a single waste management body did not find favour in the other place. However, in his briefing on the Bill, the mayor makes a respectable case for a more robust approach on waste management. As an experienced manager, I have to say that much of what he says makes a good deal of sense.

I do not expect my noble friend to answer today but I should be grateful if she would write to me about the somewhat worrying figures that the mayor has put forward for the long-term fines that London faces for inadequate waste management. I should like to know a bit more about why the Government disagree with the mayor’s analysis and figures and why they are convinced that leaving structures as they are will deliver the improvements in waste management that London needs. In particular, I should be very interested to know whether there has been a full and proper cost-benefit analysis of the different options available.

My Lords, I want to say a few words about Part 7 of the Bill, which deals with planning. Before doing so, I should declare my interests. The first is that, along with other noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am a joint president of what is now called London Councils but which used to be the Association of London Government. I am also a freeman of the City of London, and, last year, I moved with my wife back to live in London, where no doubt we will end our days—at least, I hope we will.

Part 7 gives the mayor extended powers to intervene in planning decisions, as a number of noble Lords have already recognised. I have heard no arguments that come close to persuading me that the increased planning powers are necessary or that the existing powers in the original 1999 Bill are inadequate to ensure that the mayor has sufficient control and involvement in major strategic issues. London Councils has made its view abundantly clear: it does not believe that these new powers are necessary or appropriate and I support its view on that. My noble friend on the Front Bench mentioned the words of Nick Raynsford who, after all, was the architect of the original Greater London Authority Bill and took it through another place. At the Report stage of this Bill, he said that the principles,

“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”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/2/07; col. 858.]

I hoped that someone of Mr Raynsford's experience and authority might be listened to. I am tempted to say that all these clauses should be dropped. However, realism suggests that that is not likely to happen—it might be a bridge too far. Even if I persuaded your Lordships that we should drop the clauses from the Bill, I would not anticipate that another place could be persuaded to accept that decision.

In this House, we have to make some changes to ameliorate the effects of Part 7. At this late stage in the evening, I want to concentrate on one point: the power given to the mayor by Clause 31(2) that he, not the local planning authority—for example, the London boroughs or the City corporation—

“may direct that he is to be the local planning authority for the purposes of determining the application”.

That applies, among other things, to any application which is “of potential strategic importance”. Other noble Lords have already asked what is meant by “strategic” in this context. It is to be defined by order; that is to say by statutory instrument.

I want to consider the effect of that on the City. The City of London has had an enviable reputation in managing its planning affairs with much sensitivity and much innovation and adventurousness. In my view, the City of London now represents some very fine infrastructure facilities which contribute to the wealth and prosperity of London. I do not need to go into the details of the importance of the City. It is now one of the important financial centres in the world, if not the most important. The impact of globalisation means that the City will have to work hard to maintain that pre-eminence. The City corporation, under the very able leadership of Michael Snyder, is fully seized of its vital role in creating and sustaining the infrastructure needed to support the financial services industry. An important part of that is to ensure the provision of really top-class buildings to attract and retain the firms that work in that industry. For that reason, the planning regime in London has, for many years, made different provision for the City from that applicable to the rest of London.

Under the existing Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order, the powers of the mayor in relation to planning in the City are fairly limited; in effect, a power to direct a refusal of planning applications in certain defined circumstances. The most important criteria on for that intervention by the mayor is the size of the building; that is to say, the height and floor space which is the subject of the planning application. The existing mayoral powers of intervention apply where a building is more than 75 metres high or where the total floor space is more than 30,000 square metres.

In Committee in another place, the Government issued a new draft Mayor of London order, intended, if approved in due course, to replace the existing order. The draft order reflects the proposed enhanced powers of Part 7 of the Bill, particularly the mayor’s power to direct that he is to be the planning authority for certain planning applications. The main point I wish to draw to the attention of the House is that, even now, seven years on, the order uses exactly the same criteria for these more extensive mayoral powers: the mayor can direct that he is the planning authority for any building over 75 metres high, or with a floor space over 30,000 square metres.

The City authorities contend that those limits are far too low. I very much welcome the words of the Minister this evening, reflecting what was said in another place, that the Government are prepared to listen to that complaint and recognise that those limits should perhaps be changed. The City would like to see not 75 metres, but 150 metres high and the floor space increased to at least 100,000 square metres—preferably 100,000 square metres of additional space. These figures are not reached arbitrarily, but are based on an analysis of the applications that have been referred to the mayor since 2000. More importantly, they reflect the Government’s expressed intention, emphasised by the Minister this evening, that the mayor should intervene in only a small number of the most strategically important planning applications.

To give the House an indication of what I am talking about, 75 metres high includes the Lloyd’s building at 95 metres, the Stock Exchange at 100 metres and the Barbican towers, which reach 123 metres. Nobody could ever now contend that a planning application to put up a building like that could possibly be of strategic importance for the whole of London. That is why the City authorities argue that the limit must now be raised. Buildings over 150 metres include the “Gherkin”, which everybody would recognise at 195 metres, the former NatWest Tower, which has been there a long time and is now called Tower 42, at 200 metres, and several others. In particular, there is what is known in the City as the eastern cluster of the new very high buildings: the Heron Tower at 238 metres, the “Cheese Grater” at 239 metres, and the new Bishopsgate Tower—not yet finished—will be over 300 metres. These are large buildings, but serve as an indication that if the mayor wanted to intervene on those kind of buildings, there would be very few of them.

I shall put my question to the Minister and then sit down. She said that she will listen to views. This order will require amendment in any case; the Government have indicated that other matters are not satisfactory and will therefore be amended. May we have a revised draft order before the Bill goes into Committee? Is the Minister prepared to consider—I would not expect a decision this evening—those higher figures which the City proposes? To quote Mr Snyder:

“We are in favour of a system that is genuinely strategic and delivers benefits to Londoners but the proposed powers are insufficiently targeted. The draft needs to include bigger thresholds for height and size and”—

I have not mentioned this—

“needs to drop its current catch-all provision”.

I would like to express that in somewhat blunter language of my own. The last thing the City wants is a flabby planning system which deters innovating developments or subjects the planning process to mayoral idiosyncrasies. I hope that the Minister can give me some satisfaction later this evening.

My Lords, all those skyscrapers mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, must confirm the forecast of extra transport demand mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. They also confirm her view, which I share, that Transport for London, with the mayor as a kind of democratically accountable chief executive, is one of the real successes of the past few years. It is internationally recognised as such, particularly for the congestion charge, which I think should be made much wider—within the M25 would be really great. I do not think that the Government in Westminster are going to go for that in a hurry, but it would have a massive beneficial effect on people’s quality of life, provided that good public transport was available. The leadership that the mayor has shown is commendable.

I shall briefly mention two issues. The first is waste. I have spent a lot of time in the past few months visiting waste disposal places: one in Wandsworth and one in Oxford. I was struck by the differences between them. When you go in to the one in Wandsworth, which my noble friend Lord Dubs will know well from his time as a Member of Parliament there, you go in with a load of stuff you want to get rid of and there are six people with yellow jackets standing in a huddle, talking to each other and smoking. If it is raining, they are in the hut, and if it is not raining, they are out in the open. It is very nice for them. Everybody just dumps everything in the thing marked landfill. Well, it is not marked landfill, it is just where you go. You back up, and you tip all kinds of things there. You can see metal, televisions, printers, even quite nice furniture put in there.

Wandsworth, my Lords, just by Wandsworth Bridge. My noble friend does not know the West End of London—I am sorry about that. It probably happens in Edmonton as well, though. If you want to recycle anything, you have to wiggle through an unsigned place that is marked “no entry” and eventually you can find where to put whatever you want to recycle. Is it surprising, therefore, that the figure in the chart of percentages recycled is about 21 per cent?

Last time I went to Oxford, the figure was 51 per cent because the people actually help you. They say, “Put this there, put that there”. They will help you if it is heavy, and they clearly have an interest in what they are doing. I put this to the representatives from some of the London boroughs, who told me I was being thoroughly unfair. They said that waste from a country town or village like Oxford is different from waste from a town. I think that is total rubbish. It is nonsense as well. It is just not true. There are problems with people living in high-rise blocks of flats or even in small blocks of flats, but they can be dealt with. The argument against a strategic waste authority on the basis that the boroughs deal with it very well at the moment is not made at all.

One also has to look at the other end of the waste. Where does it go when it has ended up in the tips? We see it go past us down the river to the landfill site at Mucking, which is nearly full, I believe. Some of it goes by rail, which, as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, I am pleased to see. The rest goes by road. There is no consistency or co-ordination. It would be a great deal cheaper if the whole thing from beginning to end was done on a strategic basis, with a target to reduce the volume that is not recycled. If we say that London cannot do it, well Hamburg recycles 57 per cent and Copenhagen 54 per cent. Even Milan—some people’s view of Italy is that it is a bit rubbishy, although it is not—gets 39 per cent. In America, San Francisco recycles 50 per cent and Seattle 58 per cent. It can be done. I suspect that other towns and cities do a lot more than that. I would fully support an amendment that requires the mayor to develop and operate a waste disposal strategy. The time has come to do that.

My last issue is the vexed question of things called pedicabs, those lovely bicycles you see peddling around London with passengers in the back and sometimes a roof, sometimes with rear lights at nights and sometimes with flat batteries and rear lights. I have a personal liking for these things. Apart from cycling, they are very environmentally friendly. I got married in London about eight years ago up in Marylebone Road and came back to Westminster in a pedicab for the reception. It was safe; it was great fun; and I wondered why we do not see more of these. So I have been following their success or failure, not just in London but elsewhere, with a lot of interest.

The real problem is that they go a bit slowly, taxis do not like them, and there is a debate as to whether they are a taxi or a bicycle for hire. There must be a question of insurance because clearly if they are plying for hire they must have proper insurance. I hope that there is an opportunity to table an amendment or two in Committee to require them to have insurance, which probably means a licensing system. I do not think it needs to be a particularly heavy licensing system. I believe that the mayor is in favour of pedicabs, as he should be because they are very environmentally friendly, and that many people in London like them. If they cause the odd traffic jam late at night, so does everybody else. I do not think that you should single out pedicabs just because they are going much the same speed as a traffic jam in some places. So it is important that they should be licensed.

I would like to see framework legislation that could be applied much wider than London. Pedicabs started in Oxford where I live, and the local taxis got rid of them pretty quickly. That was a bit unfair because again they had been popular. There is a future in having properly registered pedicabs—people want that and the operators welcome such ideas—which are fully insured, fully registered, with probably criminal record checks on the drivers and so on, and making sure that they have basic safety things like brakes and lights, which I am sure they all do, but it would be a good thing if they did have them. Then I think they would be a good part of the London scene, particularly when the weather is a bit warmer.

My Lords, as has been said before, “everything that can be said has been said but not by everybody”, and I intend to make my ha’pennyworth. I begin by congratulating the Minister and her advisers. As has been said more than once, there has been a long period of consultation and an attempt seriously to take it on board. Seven years after the major step to bring back London-wide government, she and her colleagues have brought before us their best effort at what they believe will help to solve the problems. Of course they will not succeed in persuading everybody, but they deserve our congratulations on it, and I give them now.

Those of us who have attended local government and housing debates are the repertory company. We perform from time to time to the best of our ability. But, as an old hand, it is very good to welcome newcomers to our assembly. I was delighted to listen first of all to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and then to my noble friend Lady Jones, who each, from their distinctive personal experience—and that is what we need in this place—were able to excite me about the possibilities in this particular sphere.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is a friend—Lord Jenkin of Roding. I repeat that because I made a mistake in pronunciation once before. I saw the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, grit his teeth when I said “Jenkins”, and I apologise once again. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and I continue to have a great interest in what is now called London Councils. I am no longer as actively involved in local government as many of the speakers here tonight, but I was a councillor in the London borough of Enfield 45 or 46 years ago. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, reported with pride that he is a freeman of the City of London. In two weeks, I will have the great honour of being invited to accept the freedom of the London borough of Enfield.

More, more, my Lords. It is a great honour for someone who works in a voluntary capacity to be recognised in a community. The problem for any speaker in this debate is to try to reconcile the views of bodies with which one has been associated or to which one is sympathetic. I mentioned London Councils and the London borough of Enfield. I was also the Member of Parliament for Edmonton for a number a years, and have been here for a long time. I certainly supported the recreation of the Greater London Authority. One can guess from the time that I mentioned that I was here before the GLC was formed; in other words, before the London County Council ceased to have its overall strategic responsibilities. I was here when the GLC was murdered in 1986 and mourned. I was here when London did not have the kind of body which the GLA grew into later.

There is no doubt that the changes in London have been quite dramatic. I remember welcoming the Minister for London—a chap called Bob Mellish—when I was leader of the council in Enfield in 1965. He brought along Baroness Evelyn Dennington, the chairman of the housing committee on the GLC. They urged us to subscribe to the view that a strategy was needed for building housing in London to tackle the enormous problem of housing need. Bob Mellish gave us a challenge when he said, “We’ve estimated that this borough could build 1,000 units a year”. At the time, we were building 500 or 600 units. I am pleased to say that, although we lost power in 1968, by 1970 we had produced 1,000 new units as a result of our planning. I make that point to show that, in housing, one needs power, drive and inspiration. Bob Mellish and Evelyn Dennington energised us and others.

As a Member of Parliament—several of us on both sides of the Chamber have had the same experience—there is nothing more depressing than listening to people who are depressed and in serious difficulty, and when the solution is not to have better housing but simply to have housing to start with. More than once, I left my surgery and sat in my car and cried at the fact that I could not respond to what I knew was a human need. Marriages, jobs and children’s education all depended on having a good place in which to live. I was therefore delighted to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talk about the possibilities that are emerging. I am invited here to give a general view. You do not win them all; you win some, and you are grateful. I have seen Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” more than once. Between the acts, an interlocutor explains that he is on the New York dockside. He tells people that if they are illegal immigrants, life does not treat them right, and that those who live on the dockside learn to settle for half. No one gets all that they want.

There is a danger that the office and the personality of the mayor sometimes run into each other. I have had my ups and downs with Ken Livingstone over the years, but I believe that when the history of the past seven years is written, he will be seen to have done a good job. There are people who will never believe that he could do a good job, but I believe that he has, and he needs our support.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that Nick Raynsford does not want the changes in planning because he does not wish to see the mayor trampling over the London boroughs. As a defender of the London boroughs, neither would I. I believe that neither the whole House nor the London Assembly would stand for that. One must have a sense of proportion and sensitivity in these matters. Given the seven years bedding down of the GLA, we have reached a stage where we have a responsibility to give it a new breath of life in order for it to carry on what it is doing.

The briefing from London First states:

“London First supports greater devolution to the Mayor and strong strategic leadership”.

I settle for that. It is not one of the statutory bodies, but it has an important part to play. As we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, it has an understanding of what business expects from a London-wide authority.

On waste disposal or a waste authority, the mayor has to recognise that there is a time when these things are seen by everyone to be the solution. Now is not that time because there is too much opposition. I believe that the Government have gone as far as they can to create a helpful framework. I will certainly look forward to taking part in the debates as far as I can. London government and the people of London deserve the very best, and nothing less.

My Lords, with one major reservation, to which my noble friend Lady Thornton has already referred, I very much welcome this Bill. Many veterans of this debate will recall that I was the Minister who brought through the hefty GLA Bill in 1999. It was at the time the second-longest non-financial Bill that we had ever had: the longest Bill—the Government of India Bill—was never implemented. The Bill was also remarkable for the huge number of amendments which were brought to this House at relatively late stages. I would hope that we do not go through that same process on this Bill. I am glad to see that the Government concur with that.

During those debates we had a lot of discussion about constitutional issues, which was quite bizarre because the Liberal Democrats wanted an assembly without a mayor and the Conservatives wanted a mayor without a directly-elected assembly. What scraped through therefore was an uneasy position, which has largely but not entirely worked. The tweaking in this Bill of the constitutional relationship between the mayor and the Assembly is needed and we will no doubt debate that later.

In addition during those debates, there were suggestions from all sides of the House that more strategic powers should be put to the authority—whether it be the mayor or the Assembly— particularly for spatial development, environment and planning. I can tell noble Lords now that I had some sympathy with those arguments, although my colleagues in Government did not entirely, and there are two reasons for that.

The good reason for approaching it with caution at that stage was that we were creating a new entity, something that had not been tried before. We were not recreating the old GLC and therefore we were right to be cautious. The bad reason was that it was already clear by that time who the leading candidates for mayor were going to be. There was some anxiety on the Labour Benches, although not for me, that the current mayor was going to run away with the Labour nomination—the reality proved to be slightly more complicated. The frontrunner on the Conservative Benches at the time was the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, who was also an active participant in these debates. All those anxieties probably prevented us going as far as we should in relation to some of the strategic responsibilities of the mayor. Nevertheless, as other noble Lords have said, we have seen that by and large the GLA has been a success, particularly in those areas which clearly require a strategic approach, such as transport. I therefore think it is time to revisit the strategic powers and that this Bill has probably got it right.

I particularly welcome the commitment in relation to the climate change strategy. It is true that we may need to look at the wording, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, but it is an opportunity for London to take the lead in the climate change strategy through the action plan the mayor produced the other week to give us the lead. I hope that London can lead the way, particularly in areas such as distributed energy which are so vital to solving our energy problems. Here I declare an interest as a member of the London Climate Change Agency and, of course, as part of the Environment Agency.

I also welcome the planning powers, and I do not really accept the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, on these. The original two-tier structure for planning powers was a bit too narrow and bureaucratic in the original Act. That does not mean I necessarily agree with the reported predilection of the mayor for extremely high buildings, but if we are to look at the thresholds again, the figures proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, on behalf of the City are too high and that in many parts of London no very important strategic buildings would ever reach those thresholds. We therefore need to ensure that the mayor does have wider powers in relation to strategic planning issues.

On housing, in 1999 I was not convinced by arguments that the GLA should have housing powers, but I am now. We do not want to make the GLA a housing authority, but the fact is that noble Lords will have heard me bewail before the problems of housing policy in London. All parts of the housing market in London—owner occupation, private rented and social housing—are dysfunctional. There is a severe shortage of housing at the affordable end in all of those markets and the city is crying out for a strategic approach. The failure of social housing, which reflects housing stretch and the pressure of population resulting in the atomisation of families and other stresses particularly affecting low income families, is a real problem. Yet the current targets for new developments to provide affordable housing are not being met in a lot of London boroughs. Some are very low, such as Wandsworth at only 12 per cent. There is also circumvention of the requirements even in those boroughs which are trying to enforce the affordable housing quotas.

I largely agree with what my noble friend Lady Jones said about the problems of housing in London, although I have said previously that I am not sure that the drive for local authorities to unload their housing stock through stock transfer and the creation of elbow- length management organisations has necessarily improved the situation. Indeed, I am aware of a number of situations where that has made the position worse. The key issue is not who provides the social housing, but how much of it we have and what is its quality and affordability. One of the problems of housing in London at the moment is that the only people who can come in as new residents of central London are either extremely poor and therefore entitled to have their rent met by housing benefit in either private or social accommodation or they are extremely rich and therefore can afford the high prices for owner-occupied housing.

One of the glories of London is that although it has rich and poor neighbourhoods, in rich neighbourhoods there has always been housing for the poor provided by social landlords and local authorities, while in poor areas there are always properties which benefit the rich. If we polarise our mixed societies within London both in terms of tenure and income, we will have a real social problem in the city. It is right, therefore, that, to tackle these developments and this shortage of housing, the mayor takes on some of the powers that currently rest in London and, in part, in the regional government office and exerts on the boroughs the kind of drive that my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton said was exhibited by Bob Mellish all those years ago, so that they deliver their housing targets.

Noble Lords have touched on another area where the Bill does not go anywhere near far enough in giving the mayor powers: waste disposal. I have had a number of indications of support, not only in this House but from London business, the waste disposal industry itself, the Environment Agency, of which I am a member, and many others in London. It is only really the London boroughs themselves that oppose such a move. I find that bizarre, because, as my noble friend Lord Dubs and others have pointed out, there has been a serious failure by the London boroughs to deliver on the disposal and processing side of their responsibilities.

I favour a strategic authority, a far more substantial body and process than the forum proposed by the Government, for three or four main reasons. First, the present structure is completely anomalous. We have a number of joint authorities that are rather shadowy and a number of single authorities that do not have the economies of scale they could achieve with waste disposal. We have waste moving across London in vast quantities, and a large chunk of London’s waste is being dumped one way or another on the neighbouring counties.

Secondly, the system is a failure. Not only is London bottom of the league, it used to be fourth from bottom, so it is getting worse in relative terms. The majority of London boroughs are in the bottom quartile on recycling, and three of the bottom five authorities are in London. Only one London authority, Bexley, is in the top quartile. We have a bad record, which, in relative terms, is getting worse. Many authorities are not going to meet their target—including, if I might say so, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The boroughs have not done a good job here.

Thirdly, we need a substantial amount of investment in infrastructure and a novel use of transportation in this area. A central strategic authority would be able to procure that, identify the sites and make maximum use of new technology, including energy from waste, about which my noble friend Lord Rooker was waxing lyrical at Question Time. I totally agree with what he said. That ought to be a function of a strategic waste authority.

For all those reasons we need the waste provisions within the Bill to be substantially strengthened. The arguments of the boroughs against that do not add up. They argue that we should not have a two-tier structure, but in at least half of London we have a two-tier structure anyway, and we are talking about the disposal and processing side, not the collection side. The other argument seems to be that if we go through the process of reorganisation, we will miss our targets for 2010. We are going to miss those targets anyway, and the real problem is that we are going to lumber ourselves with a creaking machine for waste disposal within London that will lead us to a chronic failure to meet the targets in 2013 and 2020.

I propose either to bring forward or to support amendments that would strengthen the provisions on waste in the Bill. For the most part, however, I wish the Bill good speed and certainly a faster process, with fewer government or other amendments, than the process in 1999, which so many of us in this Chamber remember with not quite affection.

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, with contributions from a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds, including the repertory company of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and the nuptials of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—about which the least said, the better, I suspect. Mayor Livingstone has been compared to Wallace and Gromit and King Canute. Those are probably the friendliest epithets I have heard levelled against the mayor for some time, and I am sure he appreciates just how benign the level of debate is in this place.

On these Benches we have always supported the concept of democratic London-wide government. We have always had, and continue to have, reservations about the mayoral model that was chosen, but the Minister will be pleased to know that we will not be challenging the Executive/scrutiny split and re-running those old battles; on the whole, we accept those. The fact that we will be dealing with amendments in Grand Committee, where we cannot divide, shows that we have moved a long way towards accepting the status quo right across the Chamber.

There are a number of benchmarks against which we will measure the Bill’s value. First, does it really devolve power from Whitehall down to City Hall? Secondly, are the powers devolved to the most appropriate levels in London? Thirdly, are all decision-making bodies truly accountable to citizens of the city?

I agree with my noble friend Lord Newby that it is difficult for the Government to continue to justify the level of spending and decision-making by the Government Office for London. This is an arm of Whitehall—it is not devolutionary in any sense. The Government may be able to justify the presence of Government offices in other regions where there is no genuine regional executive body, but this does not apply in London. Can the Minister tell us why the Government consider it necessary for GOL to have more staff and a higher budget now than it did before the mayor and the Assembly were established? Can she explain why GOL has a remit in transport issues when we have Transport for London and why the whole alphabet soup of organisations and partnerships dedicated to sustainable communities and neighbourhood renewal is managed from the Government Office for London and not from City Hall?

If the mayor is to have extended powers, we wish to see them devolved from central government, rather than taken up from the boroughs, except where there is a clear case for a London-wide perspective. The noble Baroness is of course aware that there is much concern that the planning powers proposed in the Bill will result in the mayor taking an unhealthy interest in individual planning applications which really ought to be determined at borough level.

Many noble Lords have referred to the fact that it is important to determine exactly what is meant by “strategic”. That should be defined during the passage of the Bill; we do not want the mayor’s approach to “strategic” to be like something from Alice, where a word means exactly what someone chooses it to mean, nothing more and nothing less. It would be very easy for a strategic London-wide plan to be framed in such a way as to tie the hands of boroughs on individual planning applications as well as having interference by the mayor on individual applications. Similar concerns will arise over the role of boroughs in providing affordable housing. The exact degree of individual council discretion needs to be explained and discussed as the Bill goes through its stages.

This leads to my third point about accountability. Using planning as an example again, it is crucial that citizens know exactly who has decided the application in their neighbourhood—the council, the mayor through one of his powers or the Secretary of State through the appeals mechanism. If true accountability is to exist, a number of things need to be in place. The Bill, along with its predecessor, needs to be akin to a written constitution for London, setting out roles and responsibilities of all bodies with a role in London governance. Without that, we run the danger of organisations engaging in mission creep and the creation of large and bureaucratic functions. Not only is that costly, it makes it very difficult for citizens to know exactly who has made the decision on their behalf. That, in the end, is the essence of the democratic process—knowing who is exercising power and having the ability to remove them if they fail to exercise that power in line with the wishes of the electorate.

The democratic process has to operate in a way which gives voters an effective choice. We on these Benches have always had concerns that the mayoral model, in which all executive power is concentrated in the hands of one person, will seldom result in that person being the first choice of the majority of the electorate. We are discussing the mayoral model rather than the current incumbent, but the danger is that if a majority of those have not voted for the mayor, they feel alienated not just from the mayor but from the political process. The problem is exacerbated in that the London mayor can serve unlimited terms of office. Democracies the world over have recognised the dangers in that, and have one-term, two-term or three-term limits for executive appointments. Given the mayoral power over appointments to a whole range of bodies, it is not difficult to see how, over time, the whole machinery of government can be unhealthily dominated by one person. The process of confirmatory hearings proposed in the Bill is welcome but will not overcome all the dangers inherent in the system.

Finally, there is the question of scrutiny, which plays an essential part in providing the transparency that is essential for democracy to work. For scrutiny to function it must be independent and that independence must include its finances. It still concerns us that the Assembly is still not sufficiently financially protected from the mayor and we shall seek a strengthening of the Bill in that regard. It will always be the case that any incumbent mayor will tend to see scrutiny and opposition as the same thing and seek to blunt the teeth of both.

We welcome the chance to develop London governance in the light of the first seven years’ experience and we welcome the wide consultation that took place before the Bill was published. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, to a certain extent the Bill will provide an opportunity to rehearse some issues that will emerge when the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill comes to this House in the summer in that the so-called strong mayoral model will now be extended to the rest of the country under the terms of that Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said that one benefit was that we know who to call, and she may well be right; but we also have to know that they are going to pick up the phone and that if they pick it up they are going to listen.

We support devolution from Whitehall to City Hall but we will use the passage of the Bill to seek assurances that devolution, however welcome, must not come at the expense of scrutiny, transparency and democratic principle.