Good afternoon, and welcome to the fifth day of Grand Committee on the Greater London Authority Bill. There will be no Divisions in the Chamber, so we will not be affected.
Clause 38 [The general power of the Authority: duty to have regard]:
105: Clause 38, page 40, line 21, leave out “, so far as relating to Greater London”
The noble Baroness said: With Clause 38, we move to the part of the Bill that deals with climate change and energy. As I mentioned at Second Reading, and as the Minister acknowledged fully, the precedent laid in the Bill for the way in which climate change is looked at and climate change strategies are considered will be very important. We have not yet got any further than the draft of the Government’s Climate Change Bill, and I am honoured to be on the committee that is dealing with that draft Bill. It certainly raises many complex questions. Although we have had only two meetings of the committee, my mind is already coloured by some of the discussions that we have been having. Those discussions have been useful when it comes to looking at this Bill and testing some of the things in this Bill against what is practical.
It is important that at the very least the wording in the Bill is complementary to what will come after it. The draft Climate Change Bill has been acknowledged as a world leader, but the truth is that some of the issues are being aired here first, so we really need to get it right. Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 are concerned with the fact that when the authority exercises its powers regarding climate change to promote mitigation or adaptation, it should do so only relating to greater London. The Minister may argue that this perhaps could make sense in the case of adaptation, which is inherently a local consideration, but that is already taken into account in the definition of adaptation in Section 361A(6), which refers to,
“any consequences of climate change appearing to the Mayor to affect Greater London”.
In the wider context of climate change, though, it makes no sense to limit the consideration to London. The whole point about climate change is that emissions anywhere in the world have the same effect on the atmosphere. That is why we need an international effort, and that is why the London strategy cannot consider London in isolation. I have often heard the Minister quote that although the UK population is much less than 2 per cent of the world’s population, we emit 2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases. If one was to take London by itself, the percentage emitted is very important in international terms. The authority needs to be aware of the global consequences of all its emissions and decisions.
The Minister may say that it is in the nature of the section to limit the viewpoint to London. In the section of the GLA Act 1999 of which this will become part, there already is a wider view. For instance, Section 30(4)(b) refers to,
“sustainable development in the United Kingdom”.
The precedent has been set that the Mayor can make decisions that go far wider than London. The amendment recognises the wider implications of actions in London for sustainable development in the whole country.
For example, London happens to be the host for the Olympic Games for the whole of the United Kingdom, although obviously other places are involved, such as Weymouth and Portland for sailing. The way in which the authority chooses to exercise its powers, develops the Olympic site and makes an example of exactly what sustainable development is, will play a tremendously international role as host and, I hope, exemplar. These amendments test whether the Government will be consistent with the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and recognise that this issue bears far more widely at least on the UK and internationally. I beg to move.
I agree to consider this amendment. In tackling a problem like climate change, I acknowledge that the Mayor may need to take a national as well as an international perspective. In deciding whether and how the authority uses its general powers, it could be reasonable for issues beyond the boundaries of Greater London to be taken into account with respect to climate change. However, we also need to carefully consider how this might affect the scope of the Mayor’s powers and his focus on taking action in London. The focus of the GLA’s activity must be on addressing the needs of Greater London. This is the reason why the principal purposes of the GLA in the 1999 Act are all in respect of only Greater London.
We may need to be aware that government Amendment No. 107 makes a similar provision in terms of the drafting for revision of mayoral strategies. I assure Members of the Committee that should the amendment be acceded, we will consider making a change along these lines. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.
I should like to give an example of what my noble friend has just said. In Section 41 of the principal Act, the Mayor when preparing a strategy has to have regard to certain matters, which is on all fours with this clause, and the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom, which was also mentioned by my noble friend. That is important, not just in itself, but in order to pre-empt someone being clever, drawing a distinction between the two phrases and undermining the good things which, under this Bill, ensure that they work well together, as well as being sensible, practical and recognising the problems to which my noble friend referred.
I thank the Minister for her encouraging reply. This is the first time we have been in dialogue in Committee and I welcome it. I cast my mind back to the Minister’s terrific seconding of the Gracious Speech, which I so much enjoyed. I am sure that I shall enjoy debating with her very much. In the mean time, I look forward to what the Government will bring forward and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 106 not moved.]
Clause 38 agreed to.
107: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—
“General duties of the Mayor with respect to his strategies
(1) Section 41 of the GLA Act 1999 (general duties of the Mayor with respect to his strategies) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (4) (duty to have regard to certain matters in preparing strategies) for the word “and” at the end of paragraph (b)(ii) substitute—
“(iii) climate change, and the consequences of climate change, so far as relating to Greater London; and”.(3) In subsection (7) (duty to include policies and proposals best calculated to achieve certain objectives)—
(a) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “, and(c) to contribute towards the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change, so far as relating to Greater London,”;(b) in the closing words (exception where action needed by virtue of paragraph (a) or (b) is not reasonably practicable) for “or (b)” substitute “, (b) or (c)”.(4) After subsection (11) insert—
“(12) In this section—
(a) “climate change” has the same meaning as in section 361A below, and(b) in relation to climate change, “adaptation”, “consequences” and “mitigation” have the same meaning as in that section.”.”
The noble Baroness said: This government amendment makes clear the link between the Mayor’s new duty to address climate change and his existing duties to prepare and keep under review the strategies listed in Section 41 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The Act requires the Mayor to include, where practicable, proposals in each of his strategies that would promote improvements in the health of Londoners and contribute towards the achievement, as we have just been discussing, of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. More generally, he must have regard to the effect the proposed strategy or revision would have on these factors.
Noble Lords will be aware that Clause 24 adds,
“promoting the reduction of health inequalities”,
to that list. The amendment makes a further important addition, requiring the Mayor to include, where practical, proposals in each strategy that would contribute to the mitigation or adaptation to climate change, so far as it related to Greater London. With reference to the discussion we have just had, that is obviously a matter which we will consider further. As I mentioned a moment ago, we are happy to reconsider the specific wording of the amendment, if accepted, while considering the case for the amendment to Clause 38.
This government amendment will ensure that addressing climate change is at the heart of the GLA’s work. It recognises that tackling climate change is not merely an environmental issue, but must be embedded across all the Mayor’s strategies. It complements the requirement on the Mayor in Clause 38 to exercise the authority’s general power in a way best calculated to address climate change, and the duty in Clause 39 on each of the Mayor and Assembly to tackle climate change. I beg to move.
I welcome the climate change provisions in the Bill. My question only occurred to me about half an hour ago; if the Minister wants to respond to it after today’s Committee, I understand. What is the difference between “adaptation to climate change”, as in the amendment and the Bill, and “achieving sustainable development”, as in the original Act? I can work out that there might be some differences around the edges with quite a big area of overlap, but I should not guess at it. Perhaps I can leave that with the Minister if it is not to be answered now. It might need a technical reply.
I hope that we are not making heavy weather of laying down, or postulating about, restricting the powers of the Mayor and the GLA on climate change. It is a much bigger issue than London, England or Britain. It is a global matter. If we, in exercising our responsibilities on the Bill, ensure that we implement sensible measures with understandable words as far as possible, that is about as much as we can do.
Those who have drafted and supported the Bill are to be commended for it being sensible. We all understand that if something is laid on someone’s shoulders which is not possible for them to carry out, it brings not just that little bit into disrepute, but a wider range of things. This is the kind of situation where the Minister has clearly said that there will be a period of reflection, after which the words might be better than they are now. That is as much as we can do.
Of course, the noble Lord is quite right. The whole thing goes much wider than London, internationally. That is why we were anxious to explore how wide the Government are willing to let the Bill go, because of London’s national and international impact. I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, and assure him that this Side of the Committee does not wish to do anything to lessen the ability of any place to take action on climate change.
We are in danger of agreeing about the same thing. I will move a somewhat similar amendment in a little while. We want to get the wording right for the Mayor of London in these amendments. It could be different from the national strategy, because it might be different for London. London has different circumstances and problems. The amendments are all basically saying the same thing. I hope that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested, the Minister will come back at a later stage with some new wording that we can all agree to. However, I shall shortly move my amendment, which is on similar lines.
The amendment makes clear the importance of tackling climate change in the Mayor’s strategic framework for London. It will ensure that policies for tackling climate change are included in the Mayor’s strategies and that every Mayor has regard to addressing climate change when preparing or revising strategies.
I apologise for arriving a few minutes late. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the difference between adaptation and achieving. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that the measure needs to be as flexible as possible. I should have thought there is a very great difference between adopting policies and trying to achieve them and actually setting out physically to achieve them. I welcome the measure. We are keen to ensure that we do everything we can to enable the Bill to tackle climate change and for it to have clearly defined strategies. However, I am not clear from the wording whether the Bill aims to achieve set goals or to adopt strategies and hope that they will achieve things at the end of the day. I seek clarification on that.
The Mayor currently has an informal climate change action plan in which he has set out targets as he sees them. What we are doing here is putting the climate change strategy, including mitigation and adaptation, on to a statutory level. This follows on from a consultation that took place regarding the powers that the Mayor should be afforded. That is the context in which we are talking. I do not wish to second-guess the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, but I think that she was referring to sustainable development, which has a particular definition within the 1999 Act. I have agreed to take the measure away and think about it. I shall come back with a more considered response before Report.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 39 [Duty of Mayor and Assembly to address climate change]:
107A: Clause 39, page 41, line 13, leave out “to comply with any guidance or directions” and insert “to have regard to any guidance, and comply with any directions,”
The noble Lord said: Government Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B respond directly to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Bill. Clause 39 places the Mayor and the Assembly respectively under a duty to address climate change so far as it relates to Greater London. The Secretary of State may issue guidance or directions to the Mayor and Assembly on the way they should perform their duties. The Bill currently requires the Mayor and Assembly to comply with any guidance or directions that are issued. Amendments Nos. 107A and 107B change the requirement in respect of guidance so that the Mayor must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
Grouped with these two amendments are Amendments Nos. 108 and 114, on which I shall give a view. Of course, that does not in any way prevent the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, moving the amendments or speaking to them in due course. Amendments Nos. 108 and 114 would significantly reduce the detailed requirements and definitions relating to the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy and the adaptation to climate change strategy for London. Therefore, they should both be resisted. We cannot accept them.
Amendment No. 114 would prevent the Secretary of State issuing guidance to which the Mayor must have regard and that could be valuable in ensuring the adaptation to climate change strategy is as effective as possible. It could also increase the risk of the Mayor's adaptation of the climate change strategy for London conflicting with national policy, which could undermine the Government’s overall policy for preparing and protecting London and the wider UK from the effects of climate change. In particular, it could result in that strategy not being based on the best scientific evidence, as the amendment would preclude the Secretary of State from issuing guidance to which the Mayor would have to have regard on evidence and predictions of climate change and its consequences and on the bodies, persons and organisations to be consulted.
Amendment No. 108 would remove the provisions that specify the issues that the Mayor’s London climate change mitigation strategy should cover and who the Mayor should consult in preparing it. Were the amendment to be accepted, the Bill would not specify the issues that the Mayor’s London climate change mitigation and energy strategy was intended to cover. Even the definitions of climate change and mitigation for that strategy would be deleted.
No other statutory strategy that the Mayor is required to publish is as undefined and vague as the amendment would make the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy. It would severely undermine a key reason for putting that strategy on a statutory footing, which is to ensure that future Mayors continue to focus on the key climate change and energy issues that are critical for London and the UK.
To ensure that that happens, it makes sense that we set out in the Bill the key issues that the Mayor, as a minimum, must cover in his strategy. We have done that in close consultation with the Greater London Authority. I make absolutely clear that in listing the areas, we do not seek to limit the Mayor’s flexibility to cover other issues that he or she believes are important for London. The areas that we have set out that the Mayor must cover in the strategy are broad in definition and scope, with a great deal of flexibility for the Mayor to define and deliver in a way that maximises benefits for London. The Mayor will also, of course, have freedom to cover other areas and publish other data in his strategy.
Amendment No. 108 would also strip away or severely weaken the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy’s close link to national energy and climate change policy.
I am reading out a lot about the consequences of Amendment No. 108. It may not look very much on the Amendment Paper, but it would make a substantial change to the Bill, which is why I am going through it in some detail.
It is vital that the Mayor develops the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy in a way which assists with national energy and climate change mitigation policies. These include issues which cross regional boundaries and include fundamentals such as meeting our national emission reductions targets, ensuring security of energy supply and working within the bounds of a competitive energy market. Many of our national policies are designed to implement or complement European or international policies.
That is why the Bill requires that the Mayor’s London climate change mitigation and energy strategy contains his proposals for assisting in the implementation of national policies. Our aim is to prevent him from pursuing policies which would block or hamper the delivery of national policy initiatives; and to require him to focus on developing proposals and policies which will work with, rather than against, national policies.
I understand that there are concerns that that prevents the Mayor from innovating, and that he will be required to play an active role in implementing specific national policy initiatives with which he may not agree. That is a misinterpretation of the intention and effect of the Bill’s provisions. Aside from the issues that we specify that the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy must cover, under the current proposed provisions of the Bill the Mayor will have flexibility to determine where he is best placed to assist with the implementation of national policies in their broadest sense:
“reducing emissions in line with our targets, maintaining security of supply, tackling fuel poverty and maintaining competitiveness”.
We think that there is a good deal of flexibility for the Mayor there.
The Mayor may choose to assist by proactively supporting a specific national initiative. A good example might be working with energy suppliers, or their successors, to meet or exceed their targets under the national energy efficiency commitment, as many local authorities already do. He is not required to do that. He may choose to assist through a series of entirely new innovative regional initiatives in London.
Amendment No. 108 would leave us in an odd position. The Secretary of State would retain a power of direction, should the strategy be inconsistent with and damaging to national policies, but the Mayor would not have to have regard even to those national policies when writing the strategy. Relying solely on the power of direction would be ineffective and a blunt way of ensuring consistency with national policy.
Finally, Amendment No. 108 removes the list of key bodies the Mayor must consult in preparing the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy. He would still be required to consult the bodies listed in Section 42(1) of the GLA Act, but the amendment would remove the specific requirements for him to consult bodies with an important interest in energy issues. It is vital that the Mayor consults energy companies, the energy regulator and the main energy consumer body in writing that strategy. It will have an important impact on their work and, in turn, they will need to have a role in delivering any effective strategy.
I am sorry to put such a damper on Amendment No. 108, although I shall be very interested to hear what the noble Baroness will say in support of it. We have taken the view that the provision is very important. It does not curtail the Mayor. He still has an enormous amount of flexibility. I hope that there has been no misunderstanding about how the Bill is drafted. It has been done in co-operation of course with the GLA and after consultation. I beg to move.
I shall speak to my Amendments Nos. 108 and 114. The purpose of tabling these clearly probing amendments was to draw out a damper from the Minister, which he has kindly provided. It is vital that in Committee we discuss those issues that were highlighted by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The distinction between “binding” and “non-binding” links between national and GLA policies needs to be clarified in the Bill. For example, if you have a thought in your mind about government policy and then look at page 163 on the Mayor’s strategy on climate change, where he talks about his aviation policy, you will see that he will,
“challenge the need for further runway expansion at UK airports”.
That may be one of the first areas that will test exactly how well this Bill is drafted. I suspect that Amendment No. 109 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is intended also to test that. We will have another opportunity to continue debating this matter under that amendment. Since Second Reading and my tabling these amendments I have received a helpful answer on the subject from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for which I am grateful.
When we last debated the Bill in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, replied to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, on the waste strategy. He said:
“To reduce the environmental impact of our waste and especially to take account of climate change impacts, we have got to reduce the amount that we send to landfill”.—[Official Report, 9/5/07; col. GC 225.]
That is absolutely right. I certainly do not disagree with that sentiment, but it gives rise in one’s mind to the question: what would take precedence? Would it be the Mayor’s climate change strategy or waste strategy? What sort of guidance would the Secretary of State be able to give on any of the contentious areas, such as aviation and waste? What happens if, behind the scenes, the Secretary of State encourages the Mayor to take action where he can and to innovate, which would be terrific, but prays in aid his guidance as soon as there is a disagreement? We might not have had the congestion charge, for example, if that had been the case then. My amendments simply probe exactly how far the Government will allow the leash to go.
I do not want to be thought discourteous, but I hope that what I have put on the record goes some way to answering the noble Baroness. I do not want to be repetitious. The noble Baroness’s amendments are linked with Amendment No. 107A, and I had no choice but to speak to them. The noble Baroness referred to the Mayor’s climate change and waste strategies and asked which takes precedent. I had a vision of not wanting to fly the waste out of London, although I shall not go down that road. It was the juxtaposition of the two and the reference to the Mayor becoming involved in all UK airports that made me think of that, because that is the implication of the quotation given by the noble Baroness. Section 41 of the Greater London Authority Act requires all mayoral strategies to be mutually consistent, so it looks as though someone thought about this when the original legislation was being drafted.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
107B: Clause 39, page 41, line 22, leave out “to comply with any guidance or directions” and insert “to have regard to any guidance, and comply with any directions,”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 40 [The London climate change mitigation and energy strategy]:
[Amendment No. 108 not moved.]
109: Clause 40, page 42, line 12, leave out from beginning to end of line 37 on page 43 and insert—
“(2) The London climate change mitigation and energy strategy shall be in general conformity with national policies and strategies.”
The noble Lord said: We are in danger of going round and round in circles on this subject. I should probably have participated in the last debate on the subject by moving an amendment like Amendment No. 109 then, but it is worth going over the subject again because we are all basically saying almost the same thing, so the wording of the Bill is very important. Amendment No. 109 would give the Mayor maximum flexibility in producing a climate change mitigation and energy strategy for London. It is true that national measures, and even international co-operation, are important in facing this challenge, so our amendment provides that any strategy produced by the Mayor should be in general conformity with national policy and strategy. We do not want a future Mayor to duck any of his environmental responsibilities in any way, so we totally support the climate change mitigation strategy being a statutory obligation. Our amendment in effect says that there should be room for manoeuvre, which is something that has been said in other debates that we have had. Perhaps climate change can be tackled by certain individual actions, or by localised solutions to specific problems. By being allowed a little slack from the national policy—I believe that the London policy should be stronger than the national policy—the Mayor could also be more enterprising in his strategy, as my honourable friend Michael Gove conceded that the current Mayor has been.
London also presents its own particular puzzles compared with other parts of the country. The relative size and density of its population, its constant development, and its high levels of traffic and congestion, along with its status as a transport hub, all mean that London needs not only to do more than other authorities, but to act appropriately in facing the specific challenges involved. Not only is it the case that it might be appropriate for London to have a more modified strategy, but within this it is also the case that particular policies might suit some boroughs more than others. It might be necessary to be stronger in some areas than in others. We would hope to see room for such flexibility in any provision. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in his presentation must have mentioned flexibility about 20 times and I mention it again. We want to ensure that we get the working right.
Towards the end of our debates on Wednesday, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, advocated the great advantages of keeping the primary legislation as flexible as possible, not spelling out too much in terms. This is also our ambition here. We seek to give the Mayor the flexibility to adapt his strategy to suit the particular needs of London; the flexibility to innovate or to introduce new measures that are not foreseen by the Bill; and not to be too bound by provisions of the Bill if national climate change and energy priorities alter substantially in the future. We therefore believe that the recommendations set out in Clause 40 are too prescriptive.
The amendment would allow the Secretary of State powers of direction if the strategy was clearly not conforming with the national approach. I want to stop all landfill waste from London because most of it goes into Essex. If I had been here on Wednesday, I would have made that proposal, but I beg to move this amendment today.
I take what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said in putting his view on the record. I will not repeat everything I said, but Amendment No. 109 is exactly the same as Amendment No. 108, with the addition of subsection (2). I do not know why they are not linked together—it is not my role in life to question that—but everything I said on Amendment No. 108 is relevant to Amendment No. 109 in so far as it seeks to add,
“in general conformity with national policies and strategies”.
It still leaves an undesirable situation. The Mayor would not be required to cover a minimum number of critical issues and strategies. That could mean that he could produce a strategy with little or no content and still meet the requirements placed upon him. Nor would the Mayor have to have regard to any guidance produced by the Secretary of State, which we think provides an important link between the national policy and the strategy. The requirement to have regard to guidance is not unusual in respect of the Mayor’s strategies. Nor, under the amendment, would the Mayor need to consult the energy companies, the energy regulator or the main energy consumer body in writing the strategy. All of them are key stakeholders and potentially key delivery partners.
Unlike Amendment No. 108, Amendment No. 109 stipulates that the strategy should be developed in general conformity with national principles, but as it strips away all the detail, to which I referred earlier, it is unclear what areas of national policy it should be in conformity with. We therefore think that this is a poor substitute for the safeguards currently in the Bill.
As I have mentioned, the requirements in the Bill that the Mayor should assist with the implementation of national policies would not tie the Mayor into actively supporting specific policy proposals that he opposes. In this sense, it is similar to the provision “in general conformity with”. However, the requirement to contribute to the implementation of national policies makes clear that the Mayor should consider opportunities to assist the application of specific national policy initiatives in London where he believes that his involvement would make the implementation of that policy more effective in London. I am sure that he will be the first person through the door wanting to make a positive contribution in that respect.
I have raised the example of energy efficiency measures, but we must bear in mind that it is in line with everything I said on the previous amendment. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said about London’s waste, but, to us outsiders, Essex is all part of London anyway.
While the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is working on his retort, perhaps I may say that I am a little confused by the words in the amendment which seem not to be quite what the noble Lord was arguing for. The amendment requires the strategy to be,
“in general conformity with national policies and strategies”—
leave aside whether we know what national policies they are—but the wording in the Bill at the top of page 41 is “to take into account” and on page 43 “to have regard to”. I had understood those phrases to be looser and to give more flexibility than a requirement to be “in general conformity with”.
Our amendment removes the prescriptive list and the Government are saying that the strategy should be “in conformity with national policies”. In removing the general prescriptive list, we are allowing the Mayor the most flexibility. I repeat my belief that the national policies are probably not strong enough for London—London needs stronger greener policies than the rest of the country. The London policies should certainly be in conformity with the national policies, but we want to give the flexibility to do different things in London. That would be the right thing for the Mayor to do, whether or not it is the current Mayor. He is trying to take some action on climate change problems, but we hope that future mayors will do more in London.
That is why we feel that our wording is better. The strategy is still in conformity with the national policies, but it allows the maximum possibility for the Mayor of London to be innovative with new policies. We are going round and round the argument because we all want to see London pursuing a green agenda as much as possible. We hope that the Government will reflect further on their wording. We support what the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has said about flexibility for the Mayor, and as we have all been saying the same thing in different ways, I hope that we can all reflect and get the wording right in this legislation before it is passed.
Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, will the Minister expand on the point? He said that the provision was intended to stop the Mayor publishing an extremely skeletal document, which no one imagines he would. By what means do the Government intend to set a date by which the document will be published? What happens if the Mayor chooses not to publish anything, although I am not suggesting that he would?
I was going to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and the noble Baroness about that. I pick on one specific issue raised that I used in both sets of notes. By accepting this amendment, or indeed the other amendment which takes out the words from line 37 to the end of the page 43, we would delete the requirement to consult anyone in the energy field—the consumers, the regulator or the energy companies. Is that a good idea? I do not think so, but I have heard no answer from the proponents of the amendment.
I am not nit-picking. The noble Baroness said that it was a probing amendment, but I homed in on that one because I am being asked a hypothetical question. Regarding the Mayor refusing to publish a skeletal strategy, we have every confidence in the current Mayor. He has been extremely successful as Mayor of London and there is no question about that. That is why no one can find anyone to put forward to beat him. The fact is that a future Mayor might do that and we must take account of that in policy.
Where the Mayor has not published a strategy and the Secretary of State considers that he is not taking such steps as are necessary to prepare the strategy, he can issue a direction to the Mayor under subsection (2).
We expect the Mayor to publish the timescale for the strategy as soon as reasonably practicable.
Well he cannot do it until the provisions come into force. We expect the Mayor to publish the timescale for the strategy as soon as reasonably practicable after the provisions come into force. He has already prepared an energy strategy on a voluntary basis, so the current Mayor is keen to get cracking.
On the other issue, new Section 361B(2) states that the strategy shall contain policies to assist in the implementation of the national climate change and energy policies. I fully appreciate that it is not always possible to catch up with amendments, but the new section contains that provision.
On the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, about room to manoeuvre, suggesting that London should be able to go beyond national policies, as long as it is contributing to the key indicators on emission reductions and security of supply and not blocking national policies, it is fine for the Mayor to go further and innovate for London. That is not an issue. We have every confidence in the Mayor. That is why I mentioned flexibility. I cannot envisage that the Mayor would want to block national policies; he will want to contribute to national policies. If the Mayor wants to go further in London and can find ways to do that by innovating, he is wholly entitled to do so under the Bill. Indeed, the whole pressure is to encourage him to be proactive in this field.
We are having quite a long debate on the same issues. It always rather annoys me when the Government rightly say that we have got the wording of our amendments wrong and that they will kill the Bill, or something. We always know in Committee that we can return with further amendments that might include the right wording. I do not think there is much difference in what we are trying to say.
We want London to be mainly abiding by national policy but to allow the Mayor to do some slightly different things if they are right for London. I am not criticising the current Mayor. I think that he is implementing some good policies. The next Mayor, if he or she is a Conservative Mayor, will not be allowed to stand unless they have stronger environmental policies than the current one. We want stronger environmental policies for London than we have. That is one reason why we are tabling such amendments: we want to allow that flexibility for any Mayor of London.
We are going round in circles. Perhaps the Government could look at the wording. The early amendments that they moved allowed some flexibility, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said. We need to reflect on what has been said today and read Hansard. I am glad to withdraw the amendment today; I am sure that we will come back to debate this later. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
110: Clause 40, page 42, line 24, after “dioxide” insert “and other greenhouse gases”
The noble Baroness said: These two amendments to Clause 40 are probably a good example of what we have just been debating. Of course the Mayor could go further and cover greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. The reason for tabling the amendments is to have a debate about priorities. I return to what I said at the beginning: we are laying some precedents here and it is therefore especially important that we get it right because they will have national and, possibly, international implications.
There are very good reasons for including other greenhouse gases in the list, as my amendment proposes. Our obligations under the Kyoto protocol include all greenhouse gases. Several, such as methane and nitrous oxide, are potent contributors to climate change. The EU emissions trading scheme does not include gases other than CO2, nor does the draft Climate Change Bill, so it is all the more necessary that we do not lose sight of the need to control those emissions.
It may be helpful if I give one example of the problem of concentrating exclusively on CO2. The recent Defra Air Quality Expert Group's report, Air Quality and Climate Change: a UK Perspective, predicted a great increase in diesel-fuelled cars, which emit less CO2 than petrol-driven cars. Unfortunately, they often emit more of other greenhouse gases and a great deal more particulate matter which can lead to respiratory problems. The report estimated a 93 per cent growth in nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel-fuelled cars between 2002 and 2020.
If we consider that road transport is already responsible for up to 80 per cent of nitrogen dioxide emissions and 40 per cent of particulate matter in large urban areas, that is a very serious figure. Of course, that trade-off might be sensible because of the great CO2 savings which are achieved, but it is very important for authorities to be aware of the trade-offs that they are making and that they keep all greenhouse gases in mind. It is also worth noting that some of the cheapest and easiest emission reductions—the so-called early hits—can be achieved by reducing non-CO2 gases. That has been shown by the emissions data over the past decade, which has seen a constant rise, as the Minister will admit, in CO2 emissions, but has seen reductions elsewhere. Certainly, this means that we should give extra focus to CO2 but it does not mean that we should stop taking advantage of all the other reductions which are demonstrably easier to make. The strategy should plan for a continuation of non-CO2 reductions as well as addressing the urgent need for more effective control of CO2. I beg to move.
We are happy to consider carefully the principle behind this amendment and to explore a range of options to address the issues it raises. To mitigate climate change, we will need to reduce emissions from the full range of greenhouse gases, as the noble Baroness has highlighted. Similarly, as one of the primary purposes of his London climate change mitigation and energy strategy is to contribute to national efforts to mitigate climate change, we would expect the Mayor to consider opportunities to take action across the full range of greenhouse gases, but I recognise that this may not be clear enough. I am therefore very grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this issue.
The amendments as proposed may not be the best way to ensure that the Mayor considers a range of opportunities for action across a range of greenhouse gases. In new Section 361B(3) we have deliberately not set out all the sectors and gases that the Mayor could address. The Mayor will not have the resources to do everything. He will need to prioritise. The short list in the Bill includes only the small number of areas where we think it is vital that all Mayors take action, now and in future, as a bare minimum. Beyond this it is right that the Mayor decides for himself which sectors and gases he wants to prioritise.
In the short list at new Section 361B(3), we have included energy use from surface transport and energy use more generally because these represent areas where we know the Mayor has important opportunities to act. We have focused on carbon dioxide emissions specifically because this is the most important greenhouse gas from energy use. So it probably still makes sense to ensure that the Mayor, as a bare minimum, takes action to address emissions of carbon dioxide from these sources.
The practical effect of requiring the Mayor also to address other greenhouse gases from surface transport and wider energy use may be small. As carbon dioxide will still be specifically identified, the Mayor will still have to focus on carbon dioxide in these areas, while considering opportunities to address emissions of other greenhouse gases in more general terms. Since addressing carbon dioxide from these sources will involve reducing absolute emissions from tailpipes, boilers and power stations, it may be sufficient for the Mayor to meet his obligation simply by indicating that action here will also likely result in reductions in other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide from transport. As I say, the noble Baroness has raised a very important point and, if she withdraws her amendments, we will commit to go away and consider a range of options for addressing her concerns.
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply, and look forward to seeing what the Government come forward with on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 111 not moved.]
112: Clause 40, page 42, line 29, after “in” insert “clean or green”
The noble Baroness said: I wish to explore the fact that the Bill suggests that the Mayor would be able to support innovation and investment in energy technologies that are not clean or green. I am in no way suggesting that the Mayor would be likely to do that, but it is possible. I have tabled the amendment so that we may have a discussion of exactly what is meant by the clause.
As part of a climate change mitigation energy strategy, it is appropriate to focus on explicitly green and clean technologies. By “clean”, for instance, I mean things like scrubber technologies for reducing emissions from conventional energy production. By “green” I am talking about renewable technologies. Conventional energy technologies have received enough subsidies over the years. The Stern review talks of a strong historical bias in subsidies going to more polluting fuels. The International Energy Agency estimates that word energy subsidies were still at £250 billion in 2005, of which subsidies to oil products amounted to £90 billion. That is surprising, considering that we are now well aware of climate change. By contrast, renewables support has been minuscule. I hope that when the Climate Change Bill arrives, it will help to usher in change. It would be a good start if clean and green energy were explicitly in the Bill.
Even when they want to, people cannot make emissions reductions unless the technological opportunities are available to them, or they choose to do nothing at all. Part of it will be energy efficiency and lifestyle choices and changes, but an awful lot of the change we are looking at will come about through technology. At Second Reading, I spoke of the importance of informing people about climate change, but that is no use unless we then give people the consumer choices to do something about it.
Renewable energy certificates from genuinely renewable sources are still in short supply. Knowing what is a truly green tariff from your electricity supplier is confusing, as has recently been highlighted by various programmes, including “You and Yours”. It sometimes means that companies are investing in renewable technologies, and sometimes it apparently does not—although they can still be called something which implies that you are simply buying green energy. If the consumer cannot be sure, how can we be sure that we are really encouraging new demand for renewable energy and giving the investment to meet that through the marketplace?
Several renewable technologies are just on the cusp of commercialisation. They need as much support as they can get to make them commercially viable, especially when schemes such as the government renewables grants are proving so limited. Indeed, we have heard within the past couple of weeks of some things which will not now be funded. It would be valuable to have a clear support strategy set out in the Bill, as well as a statement from the Minister now. London should be at the forefront of researching and deploying technologies which will make the difference in mitigating against climate change and investing in them. I beg to move.
I am obviously anxious that we should continue to encourage better use of waste, particularly food waste. Germany already has some 3,000 treatment plants. The Minister may put me right but I do not think that we have any in this country. Will he comment on that? When considering clean and green energy it is not just a question of greenhouse gases. The whole thing is tied up with what more we can do about waste per se—that can involve renewable energy production as well—and how much attention we pay to dealing with excessive junk mail, which continues to come through our doors on a daily basis. I hope that digesters can be considered in that regard.
The noble Baroness mentioned minimal support. The UK has been slow to give industry a direction on making better use of waste, which can comprise waste oil, waste packaging or waste food. There are enormous opportunities out there in that regard. Indeed, that was discussed when we debated biofuels recently. We discussed the first stages of that process and the Minister who replied to the debate talked about second and third generation biofuels.
I thank the noble Baroness for giving us this opportunity to reflect on the wisdom of inserting the words “clean or green” in the Bill. I do not mind if her wording is not accepted by the Minister provided that he gives us a steer on this matter and a better understanding of where exactly the Government stand on it and, consequently, the pressure to which the Mayor of London will be subject in that regard.
I shall do better than answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford; I shall suggest a better way of drafting the amendment, should the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, wish to retable it on Report. To define “clean or green” in legal terms would be very difficult. I suggest that she uses the words “low carbon”. I am showing her the hand of solidarity. That did not come from my speech but from the notes headed “purpose and effect”, which I always find more useful than the speech itself.
I think that we are all on the same side here; we want clarity. I shall certainly not nitpick, and did not intend to do so in the previous debate. I know what it is like trying to table probing amendments when one is in opposition. This is a serious issue. We need to get the “clean or green” concept across to the public and make sure that they are not hoodwinked by people claiming that things are clean and green when they are not. An amendment including the term “low carbon” would be appropriate. However, I resist the amendment that is before us for the following reasons.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to getting energy from waste. There is enormous potential for doing that. Some 6 million tonnes of wood go to landfill every year which could be chipped and made into biomass. All that is needed is to make the waste regulations more sensible. Some of that wood is coated or glued or contains resins and is not necessarily natural; in other words, it is mixed. Therefore, it falls foul of the regulations. But I assure the Committee that people around the country are working on this very issue of how to get money, gold and energy out of waste. The word “waste” should be banned because it implies something that has no use whereas there is a use for everything. Half the food that we buy is wasted; it is not used. There is enormous capacity for getting energy from waste.
The noble Baroness is quite right; Germany has 3,000 anaerobic digestion plants on farms. It is not true to say that there are none in this country; there certainly are some. Bedfordia has a huge plant in Bedford. In fact, there is more than one such plant. A huge plant was based initially on pig slurry waste, but to make it work—anaerobic digestion requires other ingredients—huge amounts of food waste from supermarkets or pet food manufacturers are being used. The Greenfinch site at Ludlow is an experimental plant, which I think runs at a capacity of about 5,000 tonnes a year. It is purely an experimental plant funded by the RDA and Defra. It uses food waste and green waste from the local authority. People are trying to assess the optimum capacity of such fairly small plants. I was told when I visited that they reckoned on the early evidence that plants of around 15,000 tonnes would be more viable. Both plants were pumping huge amounts of electricity back into the grid from the process of anaerobic digestion from the waste, and, what is more, getting a product at the end of the day that could be put back on the land. That is the benefit.
There is a lot of work going on in getting energy from what would be formally called waste. Woodchip is a good example. It is always a pleasure to give Harper Adams agricultural college a plug, because it is such a well-run, successful college. It does an enormous amount of work on getting the right method of creating the pellets and the chips from waste wood to create energy. A huge amount is going on that is both clean and green, whichever way one wants to look at it.
Nevertheless, the noble Baroness is right to raise the issue. Proposed new Section 361B states that the London climate change mitigation and energy strategy “must include” the Mayor’s proposals relating to “supporting innovation” and “encouraging investment”. We have included this in the list of areas that the Mayor must cover in his strategy because London is potentially very influential in encouraging technological developments and innovative energy. Many energy companies are based here, as are many of the investors who could support the development of new energy technologies. The amendment would ensure that the Mayor would be required to support only the development of clean or green energy technologies, and I fully support the spirit of that. However, ensuring the development and deployment of new low-carbon technologies is critical for the long-term emissions target, and it is a key objective if we are going to decarbonise energy supply in the long term. We expect the Mayor to focus on this part of his strategy for low-carbon technologies. We fully expect that to happen. We want to take account of the fact that the strategy is designed to consider wider goals of energy policy, including maintaining security of energy supply and reducing fuel poverty. The development and uptake of energy technologies is likely to be very important in these areas.
Usually there will be synergies between the development of low-carbon technologies and support for energy security, low carbon and fuel poverty goals. For example, the development and deployment of renewables will bring about security benefits. That is self-evident. The development of energy efficiency technologies will hopefully address fuel poverty. In some cases, we need to recognise in the short term—many of these are medium to long-term goals that we are talking about—that investment will be needed in traditional technology. One example of such technology is the objective to maximise the exploitation of UK oil and gas reserves. That would reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas supplies in the short to medium term.
Increasingly, the companies working on the UK continental shelf are smaller and the oil and gas finds are much harder to access, making appropriate encouragement and support for the development of new technologies important. On the other hand, those reserves are there, although they are more difficult to exploit and get out. There is no reason why we should not try to maximise the use of our assets. They are on our doorstep; we are not vulnerable. As anyone knows who reads about the background of this, most of the gas seems to be in the most unstable countries. It used to be the case that it could always be said that the Soviet Union, or Russia, never reneged on a gas contract. There have been a few problems in the past couple of years that have woken people up. In 20 years’ time, when people flick a switch, they want their lights to go on. What we do now in terms of energy supply is absolutely crucial but there is no single factor or magic bullet.
It is very important to exploit our existing reserves, although they cannot be extracted in the way they have been for the past two or three decades. Using technology to exploit those reserves is not inconsistent with delivering transition to a low carbon economy in the long term because it is obviously helping us with security of supply in the short term. Effective exploitation of UK oil and gas reserves is an example but, of course, someone might say, “That is not low carbon; that is not clean and green”. We would not want anyone to get the wrong message from being so prescriptive, which is the effect of the amendment, whichever way around it is drafted.
We want to ensure that the Mayor has to consider support for technologies which support the full range of energy policy goals. The full range is the point. He does not have to support them all, but he can support the full range. We would not want the provision to be prescriptive. We hope that it will remain as currently drafted with the Mayor required to consider energy technologies consistent with the overall objectives of the strategy to contribute to wider energy policies, as set out in the new section as well as the climate change mitigation goals. We can return to this.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised a point about waste. I realise that creating energy from waste on a grand scale is debated in other forums. However, we have not had any serious in-depth debates about that, even in the department. In the past few months I have asked questions about anaerobic digestion as I saw my first examples of that on my last day as Minister in Northern Ireland. I saw three or four pieces of anaerobic digestion equipment, which were quite modest. Nevertheless, it is a good form of clean renewable energy.
In Defra we asked ourselves: Do we need a policy on anaerobic digestion? Sometimes with new technologies governments write policies that snuff out enterprise because it is new and does not conform to existing custom and practice, which is why we have been very careful. The Minister for climate change, Ian Pearson, and I have taken a close interest in this so the department has been proactive. Enormous numbers of people, groups and companies around the country are looking at ways of getting energy from what hitherto would have been put into landfill. That is fully consistent with the requirements we have placed on the Mayor. Therefore, I hope the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment. I have no doubt that we will return to the matter on Report. However, if I see the term “low carbon”, I want to claim credit for the authorship of the amendment.
I thank the Minister for widening the debate as this subject is enormously important. I was put in touch with somebody last week who is talking about a new system that uses plasma and which heats things up to an enormous heat. I have not had a chance to look at it. I think it is based at Milton Keynes. I am well aware that many companies and individuals are specifically looking at the matter. My point, and I am grateful to him for coming back to me on it, was that really the whole question of waste should be included. That is why I am happy that “green” is in, although it is not quite the right word.
One of the problems we have—in many ways it is clearly defined by the Bill—is that we have local government, Defra and the DTI, which is the other side of the equation. Fuller provision needs to be put in place in the future so that things do not fall between departments. At the moment it is quite difficult because Defra takes the lead on certain things, the DTI leads on others and then local government tries to implement it. There are real question marks against that for the longer term. Again, I thank the Minister for coming back to me, particularly regarding Germany’s 3,000 anaerobic digestion plants. We are way behind in some cases where I think we should be way further ahead.
Basildon in Essex is about to build an anaerobic digestion plant, but that is for south Essex rather than for London. It will be one of the largest anaerobic digestion plants in the United Kingdom. If the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, as a Minister in that department, could find some more money to put towards it, we would be most grateful. As the noble Baroness has just said, the money often falls across different departments. One of the problems that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, needs to resolve is where the money is coming from.
No, I have to make this clear; the last thing that we need to do here is talk about government money. The Government have to create the climate and the market and then let the providers provide. If these things are all predicated on the basis of government grants, they will not work. It is true that we can fund research and modest plants, as has happened. The German plants came about as a result of a long-term, 20-year commitment on some aspects of capital taxation. Also, they have planners who allowed the plants to be put on the farms. We have identified in Defra, along with our colleagues in DCLG, that the root cause of the lack of diversification in this country is planning and business skills, and we are addressing that in a report that is about to be published. I genuinely do not think that money is the answer.
The climate needs to be there and the renewables obligation has helped to create part of the market, and that is important. If one looks for money on this from the Government, nothing will happen. The fact is that there is more than one way of dealing with this, and there are a variety of technologies. There are people out there who have said to us, “We do not want the Government on our back. We are not looking for government money, but we do not want nit-picking on waste regulations that stop us using things simply because of the way that they are being interpreted, and we do not want you to be prescriptive on the planning regs simply because this technology is virtually unknown here”. We have to be much more open. The noble Lord is taking a very centralist, old-fashioned, authoritarian view. It is almost an old-fashioned socialist view, that government money is the solution to all the problems. I have to disabuse him of that.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Of course I will give him credit—low-carbon credit—for his very helpful suggestion; I am glad that he feels able to take that on board. I have learnt something in the debate about what a great centre of waste Essex is; I look forward to going to see the exemplary anaerobic digestion plant.
I am grateful to the Minister for the time that he took to reply. The investment is crucial. For example, the London Climate Change Agency was to have a revolving £6 million fund for investment in renewables and energy efficiency. I am not entirely sure of the position now, but it was threatened because of the shortfall and the funding pressure from the Olympics. What a fantastic exemplar of renewable energy the Olympics would be for people from all over the world. I hope that the Minister will keep his eye closely on all the proposals that there are to exhibit a real range of renewable technologies on that site and that they will not be bulldozed in the rush. I appreciate that the timescale is very short, but there is a danger that in that short timescale the route of least resistance will be taken and that the technologies that are put in will hark backwards and will not be as forward-looking as they should be, especially for the venues that are going to remain on the site.
If there is one thing that should be low carbon it is the Olympics. The Mayor has expressed the ambition that the Olympics should be low carbon, but the reality from the plans does not show so far that that will be the case. Perhaps we will return to that on another occasion. In the mean time, I look forward to having some more specific wording in this section on Report that will get to the heart of all our aims this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
113: Clause 40, page 43, leave out lines 14 and 15 and insert—
“(a) the National Consumer Council,”
The noble Baroness said: The Committee will be relieved to hear that I feel that Amendment No. 113 was very adequately dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, when he spoke to Amendment No. 103. I do not need to say anything further.
[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]
Clause 40 agreed to.
Clause 41 [The Mayor's adaption to climate change strategy for London]:
[Amendment No. 114 not moved.]
Clause 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 agreed to.
Clause 43 [Period of appointment of Governors to the Board]:
115: Clause 43, page 46, line 4, at end insert—
“(3) Nothing in this Part shall affect the exercise or performance of the general functions of the Board of Governors of the Museum assigned to them by section 3 of the Museum of London Act 1965 (c. 17) (general functions of board).”
The noble Baroness said: There are two amendments in the group, and the second was to be moved by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. Unfortunately, he is not able to be here this afternoon, but with the leave of the Committee I will speak to both amendments.
Amendment No. 115 aims to protect the board of governors of the Museum of London and allow it to continue to exercise its functions without influence from the Mayor or the Greater London Authority. The arguments in favour of the amendment were very persuasively set out by my honourable friends in another place, and even the Minister there was able to agree with the force of them, declaring that the amendment’s wording,
“is certainly the intention behind the clauses”.—[Official Report, Commons Public Bill Committee, 18/1/07; col. 293.]
This should therefore not be a controversial debate.
The one point of difference between the parties in the Commons was over the need to include the in the Bill. We continue to believe that it should be an explicit statement. It is important that the board of governors can continue to act as independently as it does now and always has done, without regard to any external factors. The change that the Bill will make, which compels us to propose the amendment, comes in the funding arrangements.
The Mayor will in future be responsible for giving a grant to the Museum of London. That rather naturally leads to the preoccupation that any Mayor might withhold part of the grant unless the museum conforms to or promotes his particular ideological or cultural beliefs. We would also like to see the money effectively ring-fenced from any future raiding, for reasons other than ideological differences. There might be economic pressures, for example, on the Mayor.
We appreciate that the Government are very much ad idem with us on this, and the position has been made clear with respect to the current Mayor. The concern relates to the future—a future Government who have not made assurances on the record, and a future Mayor—when it will surely be preferable to have this provision on the statute book.
I may need to speak a little longer on Amendment No. 115A, as I need to bring out some factors. The amendment aims to correct an imbalance in the scrutiny arrangements between the Greater London Authority and the City which will arise once the GLA assumes the responsibility for the funding that is currently provided through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
To explain the amendment, I need to give some background. The Museum of London was formed in 1965. It brought together several collections, the most prominent of which was housed in the Guildhall Museum, which had been set up and wholly funded by the City. Before the abolition of the Greater London Council, the museum was funded, and the governors appointed, by the City, the Greater London Council and the Government. Each party contributed one third to the funding and appointed one third of the governors. After the abolition of the Greater London Council, funding and appointment of the board of governors were split equally between the City and the Government. That is the current situation.
Part 9 will transfer the responsibility for the appointment of the board of governors, currently exercised by the Government, to the Greater London Authority. In other words, half the board will become mayoral appointees. That is provided for by Clause 42. The Greater London Authority will also assume responsibility for funding previously provided by DCMS. In other words, the Mayor will assume the role of funding half the museum’s expenditure. The City will maintain its responsibilities to appoint half the board and meet half the museum’s expenditure.
In order to identify the effect of those changes on scrutiny arrangements, I need to remind the Committee about some features of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Section 61 of the Act provides the London Assembly with a power to require attendance by various categories of persons at its meetings to give evidence and to produce documents. That power is backed up by the criminal law, and someone who refuses to attend commits an offence attracting a fine on level 5 of the standard scale, or a maximum three-month prison sentence.
The people subject to that power include staff of the Greater London Authority and its “functional bodies”, people in contractual relations with the GLA, the Mayor and Assembly Members. Importantly for the Museum of London, it also, however, applies to those who have received a grant from the Greater London Authority. They can be examined “in connection with” the grant, which must mean how they spend that money. Under Clause 5, the power to require attendance and produce documents will continue for eight years after the individual ceases to have the relationship with the GLA.
Now that the GLA will provide funding for the museum, it will be in the position of a body receiving a grant. The board and staff will therefore become subject to the requirement to attend Assembly meetings and produce documents—and be under criminal sanction if they do not. The museum is not a functional body of the GLA. Its board is independent, and the response of the Minister to Amendment No. 115 will, I hope, demonstrate that the Government intend to maintain that status. However, the new funding arrangement is intended to be permanent, and the legislation will put the museum in the same scrutiny position as a functional body of the Greater London Authority. In those circumstances, it is particularly important that the accountability provided to the GLA is matched by the accountability given to the other funding partner, the City of London.
Amendment No. 115A therefore provides that the power given to the Assembly to require attendance and produce documents as the result of the money that the GLA provides should also be given to the City as the result of the money that the City provides. I suggest that such a provision is clearly necessary to avoid a lopsided scrutiny arrangement that is inconsistent both with the museum’s independent status and the nature of the funding arrangements. It would be fair to say that I have been briefed extensively on this by the City of London. I beg to move.
I appreciate that in tabling Amendment No. 115 noble Lords opposite wish to ensure that the operational autonomy of the board of governors of the Museum of London will not be adversely affected by the Bill. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary. I hope that I can offer full reassurance to the noble Baroness.
As the Minister for Housing and Planning made clear in another place, the Bill does not give the Mayor and the GLA any greater power in respect of the museum than the Government have at present under the Museum of London Act 1965. The Act is quite clear in setting out both the functions and the powers of the board of governors in relation to the museum’s operations. That includes all matters relating to the care and display of collections, the employment of staff, the loan, acquisition and disposal of objects and the provision of archaeological services. None of that will change as a result of the GLA Bill which, for the most part, merely amends the 1965 Act to replace references to “the Secretary of State” with “the GLA”.
In addition to the 1965 Act, the museum is also a charity, bound by charity law. That means that the board of governors has a responsibility as charitable trustees to ensure that the museum is run properly, with due probity and in line with the museum’s objectives as set out in its founding legislation.
Members of the Committee will also be interested to know that Mayor Livingstone in his response to last year’s DCMS consultation on this issue stated that his role in relation to the Museum of London would be,
“to act as a sponsor providing strategic direction rather than as a manager taking day-to-day decisions”.
That is very much in line with the role that DCMS currently plays in regard to the museum. I do not believe, therefore, that amending the Bill in this way is necessary. I hope reading into the record those points will offer the reassurance that Members of the Committee are looking for.
I thank Members of the Committee for tabling Amendment No. 115A. Although the Government strongly resist it, it provides an important opportunity to clarify arrangements for the scrutiny of the Museum of London, which will apply when the Government’s responsibilities are transferred to the GLA. When the Bill comes into force, the Museum will be subject to the scrutiny of the London Assembly under the powers set out in Section 61 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This means that the Assembly may require the governors or staff of the Museum of London to attend proceedings and give evidence, or produce documents in their possession or control, which is relevant—I stress, relevant—to the funding relationship which the museum will have with the GLA. The Assembly’s scrutiny will, of course, focus chiefly on the Mayor’s exercise of his functions relating to the museum. It may also look at the museum’s use of those funds that it receives from the authority and the museum’s financial health as a whole, including the levels of funding from other sources, such as the City Corporation, and the use it makes of those funds.
However, I should like to draw a clear distinction between the Museum of London and the City Corporation. The Assembly’s legitimate scrutiny of the museum, which I have just described, should not extend to detailed scrutiny of the City Corporation. The Assembly’s powers to summon apply to the City Corporation only in respect to any specific contractual relationships between it and the GLA or any grant given by the GLA directly to the corporation. We do not believe that the Assembly’s powers of scrutiny mean that we need to make changes to the City of London’s powers. As co-sponsor of the museum, the City is, and always has been, able to agree with the museum as a condition of its financial support how it will scrutinise its operations. In practice, we would expect the City and the Assembly to work together co-operatively to establish a robust scrutiny regime for the museum.
To stress the salient points, Section 5 of the Museum of London Act 1986 requires the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to lay a report on the exercise of the functions of the board of governors of the museum before each House of Parliament every three years, so there is quite a high level of scrutiny. As a non-departmental public body, the museum is accountable to Parliament for the use of the funds it receives from central government. The museum’s accounting officer and other senior representatives currently can be summoned to appear before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about use of those funds. However, when the Government’s responsibilities for the museum are transferred to the GLA, it will cease to be directly accountable to Parliament as it will no longer be a body in receipt of a central government grant.
In taking the time to go through the new arrangement, I hope that I have been able to offer some reassurance. Before I sit down, I would like to say that the Museum of London is wonderful. I have been there many times and it does a tremendous job. I hope that the new arrangements will promote the museum and help it to develop.
I thank the Minister for her reply to the amendments. The response to Amendment No. 115 reinforces the reassurance given in the other place. I hope that that will be sufficient, but, if not, we will return to the matter at the next stage.
On Amendment No. 115A, I hear exactly what the Minister says about the parliamentary scrutiny that is available at the moment. The City of London clearly has concerns about the Assembly’s requirements and the length of time for which people can be answerable. I will read the Minister’s response in Hansard. I am conscious that things read into the record do not always carry the legal cachet that we all used to think they had, so I need to ensure that the City of London is content with the response, as it is in effect the sponsor of the amendment. For today, however, I thank the Minister for her reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 43 agreed to.
[Amendment No. 115A not moved.]
Clause 44 agreed to.
Clauses 45 to 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 [Common provision of administrative, professional and technical services]:
116: Clause 49, page 49, line 16, at end insert—
“(8) Any constituent body proposing to enter into any arrangements under subsection (2) above shall have regard to the needs and requirements of any constituent body with which it proposes to enter into such an agreement.
(9) In making any arrangements under subsection (2) above, the Mayor shall ensure that the Authority secures adequate resources from the constituent body proposing to enter into any agreements under subsection (2) above to fulfil its functions.
(10) For the purposes of subsections (8) and (9) above, the Mayor and the Assembly shall be treated as if they were constituent bodies separate and distinct within the Authority.”.”
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 116 is grouped with government Amendment No. 116A, although the connection between them is merely that they relate to the same clause rather than have the same content. Clause 49 is about the provision of administrative, professional and technical services—the back-office services, as they are sometimes called, which is slightly derogatory, given that legal services, human resources, finance and so on are all extremely important, and are what the clause is about. My colleague on the Assembly paid tribute in the Commons to Anne McMeel, the GLA’s Executive Director of Finance and Performance, for the work that she and others are doing to bring these services together to achieve efficiencies. As she has since decided to move on from the Greater London Authority, I shall quite shamelessly use this opportunity to put into Hansard my recognition, and that of the Assembly, of the absolutely outstanding work that she has done. The Metropolitan Police Service, to which she is moving, had better look out.
The amendment was moved in the Commons, and is intended to ensure that all parties are properly treated. I move it today to seek a comment from the Government on the position of the Assembly vis-à-vis the rest of the Greater London Authority. The answer from the Minister in the Commons, who gave assurances that every constituent body would be quite okay about this, did not seem to take on board the part of the amendment that says that the Mayor and the Assembly should be treated as if they were separate constituent bodies. The Minister there said that the Mayor would,
“consult the assembly before entering into any arrangement for the GLA to delegate or take on functional bodies’ back-office functions. The assembly will also be free to agree protocols”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/1/07; col. 295.]
That may well be so, but it does not meet the point that the Assembly itself, as distinct from the Mayor, needs to have its access to shared services protected. That is the narrow point on which I move the amendment; there should be a specific requirement that the Mayor, as a constituent body, ensures that the Assembly, as a constituent body, is provided with adequate access to, and support from, shared services within the GLA group. I beg to move.
Clause 49 inserts new Section 401A into the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which relates to the provision of administrative, professional or technical services—what might be called back-office services. That is in no way intended to be a derogatory term. Having run a charity for many years, I know how extremely important the work that people described as back-office providers do is. It enables any one of the five constituent bodies in the GLA group—the GLA itself and any of the four functional bodies—to provide back-office services to any of the others, or to receive those services from any of the others. It also allows those bodies to share such functions by establishing joint committees.
That change clarifies the current provision for delegating functions between bodies in the GLA group: provisions which are inconsistent between the five bodies. It also puts the GLA group on a level footing with local authorities generally, which may arrange for any one or more of their functions to be discharged by another local authority. We believe that that will encourage more collaborative working within the GLA group and encourage efficiency savings by streamlining back-office services such as legal, payroll, IT or publishing and printing services. I am sure that the Committee will agree that that is positive.
Amendment No. 116, tabled by the noble Baroness, would insert into Clause 49 additional duties on any constituent body—the GLA or any functional body—in delegating back-office functions to each other. Specifically, new subsection (8) would place a duty on constituent bodies to have regard to the needs and requirements of the constituent bodies with whom they are entering into an arrangement in respect of delivering back-office functions.
New subsection (9) would require the Mayor to ensure that the GLA secures adequate resources from a functional body before entering into an arrangement with it and new subsection (10) defines both the Mayor and Assembly as constituent bodies, rather than the GLA as a whole. Its effect would be explicitly to require the Mayor to have regard to the Assembly in respect to back-office functions before entering into an agreement with a functional body.
We simply do not agree that we need to legislate at that level of detail. Any arrangement between two constituent bodies that one discharges a back-office function on behalf of the other would be made only with the agreement of both bodies concerned. If both parties agree to the delegation of function, it is safe to presume that the recipient body has had regard to the needs and requirements of the donor body. Similarly, I cannot imagine a Mayor agreeing to take on a functional body’s back-office functions without reaching agreement with that body on the level of resources needed to carry out the function. Surely, when the Mayor and Assembly set a functional body’s budget, they will take into account any transfer of back-office functions.
The Government believe that it is preferable to treat the GLA as a single constituent body, rather than to divide its interests between the Mayor and the Assembly. It is normal practice for the Mayor and Assembly to share back-office functions. Clause 49 requires the Mayor to consult the Assembly before entering any arrangement for the GLA to delegate, or take on, functional bodies’ back-office functions. In doing so, it is implicit that the Mayor will have regard to the needs of the Assembly in deciding his course of action. I do not envisage a Mayor pressing ahead in delegating City Hall functions to a functional body in the face of concerted Assembly opposition.
Of course, the Assembly can agree protocols or service level agreements with any functional body that provides a back-office function for the GLA. That could be the appropriate mechanism for the Assembly, and the Mayor, to define the level and quality of service that it wants the functional body to provide. With these reassurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.
Government Amendment No. 116A is the third government amendment moved in response to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s consideration of the Bill. New Section 401A(7) provides for the Secretary of State, by order, to extend or restrict the services or functions to which the section applies. This order is currently subject to the negative resolution procedure. The amendment instead makes any order subject to affirmative resolution.
I never thought of myself as a particularly imaginative person, but the Bill has made me realise that I have a more vivid imagination than the Government about what might go wrong—as I have said before, not with the current cast of characters, but in some, I hope always, hypothetical future.
As I have said, the Mayor makes decisions and sets the budget. Things cannot always be as cosy and consensual as the Government suggest, so the Government are very happy when they are. If things were always cosy and consensual, the Assembly would not be doing its job terribly well. The GLA is in two parts. As we are in Grand Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
116A: Clause 49, page 49, line 20, leave out from second “in” to end of line 23 and insert “subsection (3) (orders subject to affirmative resolution Parliamentary procedure)—
(a) after “an order under” insert “any of the following provisions”;(b) for “or” at the end of paragraph (c) substitute—“(ca) section 401A(7),”.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.
117: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—
“Government Office for London
The Secretary of State shall by order designate those functions of the Government Office for London which shall be transferred to the Authority.”
The noble Lord said: The amendment flows from the arguments made by myself and my colleagues at Second Reading when we sought to argue that there was no longer any logic to the continued existence of the Government Office for London in its current form and that its functions should be transferred to the authority. The amendment is an attempt to provide a mechanism for doing so. It would allow the Secretary of State, by order, to designate those functions of the government office which should be transferred to the authority. In that form, it is a modest amendment, not requiring everything to happen overnight, but allowing functions to be transferred over a period.
Why? The principle argument is that the Government Office for London is completely unaccountable. In that respect, it is no different from any of the other regional offices across England. The difference is that there is an elected regional body to which it could be accountable. It was interesting to hear about the Museum of London, which is accountable up and down the place. The Government Office for London is, in reality, accountable to no-one. There is a strong logical argument for it to be based in the authority and accountable to the Assembly, so that those working on the functions which the government office currently provides should be required to explain how they perform them. Elected London politicians should be able to effectively scrutinise how functions of the government office, as it now is, are being undertaken.
What are those functions? Fortunately, the review which the Government undertook last year clearly sets out the functions of the Government Office for London in the new era. The first objective is to provide,
“high quality regional and local delivery within and between local areas”,
across the region. Setting this out in more detail, the Government explain that the role of government officers is being transformed, no less, from the administration of national grants to a more strategic relationship with local areas around overall performance. It seems to us that that is the kind of thing a regional body should be looking at.
The second objective is:
“Effective policy design for national programmes maximising impact on PSA delivery”.
The Government state:
“In this role GOs”—
“will provide performance and policy feedback to departments”.
Would it not be sensible if that policy feedback were informed by the views of the authority and the Assembly?
The third objective—there are only three—is to provide:
“High impact regional strategies improving regional outcomes”.
Again, the document says:
“In this role GOs will support the development of regional strategies”.
Where are regional strategies developed? In very large measure, they are developed by the authority and scrutinised by the Assembly. It is therefore logical that the functions of the government office should sit there.
What functions are we talking about? There is a whole list of them but, as progressive transfers, three cry out to be moved to the authority straightaway. The first relates to public health. I do not want to repeat our debates at Second Reading and in Committee about the peculiar role of the health adviser and the deputy health adviser, but, given the role of the authority in public health, it is logical that the public health activities of the government office could, and should, easily rest with the authority. The second function relates to the reduction of drug misuse and the goal of working with crime and disorder reduction partnerships, drug action teams and others. Again, this is logical, given the authority’s role and interest in this area. Such a function could be moved very quickly.
The third function relates to crime reduction policy. Again, this is logical, given the authority’s role in relation to the Metropolitan Police. There is logic in moving some of these functions from the government office, and there is a democratic deficit to be addressed. We have suggested a modest way of doing this, and we look forward to the Government accepting the logic of this proposal. I beg to move.
I have no particular brief for the Government Office for London, but I become upset when the GLA is considered to be a regional body. It is not. We have had endless discussions about this. It is a unique animal. It is neither local government nor a regional body; it is the Mayor for London and the GLA. Some aspects of what the government office does could probably be brought under the aegis of the Greater London Authority, but not under its aegis as a regional body.
I was interested in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and I cannot quibble at all with his ultimate objective or with his view that the functions that he listed and enlarged on are required. I wonder whether he will develop at some stage in this debate the argument that the existing arrangements have failed or have been subject to criticism, or that someone should have been doing something that they were supposed to do but have not. The noble Lord used the phrase “democratic deficit” more than once, I think, but frankly we are not in a business where everything can be perfect.
I am all for providing a mechanism whereby these things can be challenged, but I am puzzled as to why an existing arrangement that is working satisfactorily—that is the premise on which I build my argument—needs to be radically spatchcocked into the existing arrangements. I should say at this point that I am not suggesting that I have my ear to the ground; I am merely performing my function as a Member of this House, with local knowledge elsewhere. I would be grateful if the noble Lord would explain, first, why one needs to make these changes, and, secondly, whether he believes that they could be performed better within the structure of the Mayor’s office.
Perhaps I may deal with that point immediately. The noble Lord, I think, said that he was in favour of having mechanisms whereby the activities of the government office could be challenged. The problem is that currently there is no mechanism whereby the activities of the government office can be challenged. In theory, they can be challenged in Parliament, but in reality it is fair to say that they have not been challenged, certainly not in this House, nor scrutinised in any regular way in another place.
My main experience of working with the government office has not been in London but in Yorkshire. I know of a significant number of cases in which decisions have been made by the government office which have been opposed by, in one case, the RDA and by major stakeholders in the region. They have had no opportunity to question the decisions of the government office, which they felt were arbitrary.
In terms of the Government Office for London—my colleagues in London have more dealings with it than I—there are two things: first, there is a sense that the government office does not have to answer for itself; and, secondly, with the provisions in the Bill, there is increasingly a muddle between the roles of the government office and the authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, has highlighted an important issue. What is disappointing about his amendment is that it is so weak and watery. There is clearly a need for co-ordination of government departments’ activities in different parts of the country; that is the purpose and raison d’être of government offices.
The situation in London is unique, because London has the Greater London Authority. I shall not get into the unique animal pedantry that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, suggested might be helpful on this point, but I make the point that this is the only part of England where there is an elected body that is coterminous with a government office region. Therefore, there is a direct one-to-one relationship with an elected body, and it is the only one where we have an elected body that is charged with a whole series of strategic purposes, including the creation of regional strategies—a matter the noble Lord, Lord Newby, highlighted—which is something that the government office thinks is its responsibility to carry out.
I do not want to get into the argument of whether the Greater London Authority is a regional authority, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then perhaps we should treat it like a duck. The reality is that it is the only elected strategic body that has boundaries that are directly comparable with a government office region.
The points the noble Lord, Lord Newby, made about the lack of accountability of the government office are particularly pertinent, given the resistance there has been to the requests from the Assembly for people from the government office to attend on a regular basis to answer about some of the work they have done and some of the actions that have been taken.
The Minister, in responding for the Government to this amendment, needs to give a very clear account of why there is a distinct case for a Government Office for London. If there is such a distinct case, why does it need overlapping functions with the Greater London Authority? More particularly, perhaps they could explain why it would appear that the Government Office for London, which has the benefit of a strategic authority in that area, seems to require additional resources compared with other government offices, and why the arrival of the Greater London Authority has meant that there are now more resources in the government office than there were before the arrival of a strategic authority?
Prima facie, that gives the impression of a government office there to do a different function: to try to restrain the activities of the Greater London Authority. If that is what is intended, the Government should be a little more open and honest about that purpose, and we should have a little more accountability about what the office is doing, given that the Greater London Authority is directly elected by the people of London.
Before we hear from the Government, I apologise to the Committee and to the noble Lord that the amendment is, as the noble Lord described it, weak and watery. Given the muscle that the noble Lord has shown in Amendment No. 120A, I would be happy to work with him on a more muscular amendment. The amendment was accepted by the authorities in this House for debate. It has a little history, so it has been difficult to find a way to raise the issue.
The noble Lord puts the matter extremely well, but when he said that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the likelihood is that it is a duck, I thought that that was being a little unkind. Perhaps we could find a more elegant creature with which to compare it because, in this case, a duck may not be right.
I hope to be able reassure the Committee about the issues raised in this short debate. I am hoping that, while I am talking, I will come up with a better animal, but that may be too controversial an area to get into.
The Government have no intention of abolishing the Government Office for London. We believe that the office has an important role to play, and we firmly reject the amendment. Not only is the amendment defective—I shall not bore the Committee with it; well, I suppose I will—the Government Office for London is an administrative unit of central Government and has no legal status, but I strongly question the underlying thinking behind it.
Let me be clear, central Government will continue to have a strong presence and interest in London as the UK’s capital city and only world city. Even with the passage of the Bill, which gives the Mayor further important powers and responsibilities, there are many public services in London which the GLA will continue to have no significant statutory influence over and where responsibility will rightly remain either with central Government or London boroughs.
I am sure that the Committee will agree, for instance, that the performance arrangements for boroughs should remain the responsibility of Ministers. Similarly, in areas such as planning, where the Mayor has an important strategic role, there remains an important statutory role for the Secretary of State—for instance, in calling in planning decisions.
Furthermore, the Government were elected on a manifesto to transform public services and tackle the pressing problems facing ordinary people right across the country: problems such as poor schools, crime and anti-social behaviour. That inevitably means central Government engaging extensively with local bodies and communities in London and elsewhere so that real improvements are made on the ground.
The salient question to ask then is: what is the most effective way for central Government’s presence to be organised in the capital? One approach would be for individual departments to undertake their specific London-related functions operating directly out of Whitehall. In some cases, that may make sense, but that approach generally risks duplication and confusion. It is a potentially inefficient use of resources, especially when there is already a strong expectation from all sides that central departments themselves should be slimmed down.
Perhaps more importantly, that approach does not easily enable cross-cutting issues, which span across more than one department, to be addressed. It makes it much more difficult for the Government and boroughs to engage effectively with each other on specific problems and priorities facing particular parts of London, especially when there is greater appreciation across the political spectrum of the importance of place in the delivery of public services and the need for more joined-up thinking across the public sector.
That is why it makes sense to have a Government Office for London; that is, an office that can represent Whitehall in the capital, whose civil servants work directly to Ministers right across the Government, and which can forge strong working relationships with the GLA, boroughs and other local partners to ensure the Government’s priorities for public services in London. In this regard, the Government Office for London’s role is clearly distinct from that of the GLA and will become even clearer as the wider review of the government office network is implemented.
The Government Office for London’s focus will very much be, first, acting as the key interface between Whitehall and boroughs to ensure government priorities are delivered, particularly through the new statutory local area agreement framework and, more specifically, in relation to facilitating the Every Child Matters agenda, and driving forward crime reduction targets; secondly, advising Ministers on the Mayor’s strategies to ensure they are not inconsistent with national policy, in line with the Greater London Authority Act, as well as supporting Ministers in relation to London-specific legislation; and, thirdly, working in partnership with the GLA, emergency services and other public bodies to ensure that London is sufficiently prepared to respond to all kinds of civil emergencies, which reflect Ministers’ ultimate responsibility for civil resilience in London.
The Government Office for London will also focus on undertaking casework and advising Ministers in relation to their statutory planning functions in London, including where necessary calling in planning applications. Finally, it will help to bring together the public sector across London—whether central government agencies, mayoral bodies or boroughs—to deliver specific ministerial priorities which address London’s particular problems, such as the resettlement of offenders and most recently youth gun crime.
The Government Office for London’s role in administrating individual funding programmes in London will decline with the next round of European structural funds rightly becoming the responsibility of the Mayor, nor will it be responsible for preparing regional strategies for London, such as the housing strategy, which are again better undertaken by the Mayor. I believe that that picks up on some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. That transformation of functions will create a new Government Office for London that is significantly different from the one that existed 10 or even five years ago. The office will become considerably smaller and more streamlined, with staffing numbers already down by a quarter to 268 since 2004 and further reductions envisaged. Picking up on a point made by my noble friend Lord Harris, resources are being streamlined, and staffing numbers are being reduced and will reduce further. At the same time, it will create an office that is able to raise its game, to deliver ministerial aspirations and work in partnership with the GLA and boroughs to improve London’s public services and address the city’s challenges.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, suggested that more functions should be delegated to the GLA. We considered very carefully what further functions undertaken by the Government could be sensibly devolved down to the Mayor in our review of the GLA last year. We concluded in terms of functions undertaken by the Government Office for London that responsibility for regional housing and strategy, and the next round of EU structural funding, should be transferred to the Mayor. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to consider now, so soon after this review of the GLA’s powers, whether there should be any further major transfer of functions from the GOL to the GLA. The Mayor’s new powers and responsibilities as a result of this Bill need time to bed down.
I therefore thank Members of the Committee for this debate, which is very important. I do not think that there should be any complacency about the role of regional government bodies and how they relate to local government, and in this case the unique authority, the GLA. My noble friend said, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck”; although I am not quite sure how he intended finishing that. We are dealing with a unique situation, and the Government are very mindful of the need to be clear about maximising the relationship between the GLA and the boroughs, with the minimum resources possible, to achieve strong partnership working and very positive results for Londoners so that the Government’s priorities can be met.
The Minister’s response is very helpful. She has clearly outlined the role of the Government Office for London in co-ordinating several aspects of government policy, not all of which, I accept, are necessarily part of the Greater London Authority’s responsibility. However, I am not sure whether she has addressed the question of transparency and accountability. Given the unique situation in London, to which all the speakers in this short discussion have referred, surely it makes sense for the Assembly to have some special role in relation to the government office’s accountability and to be able to summon officials from the government office to give an account of the work that they are doing so energetically and ably on behalf of the Government in the interests of the people of London.
I am not sure whether I follow the logic of that. We were talking about the Government office for London, which represents 10 government departments, each with its own Ministers and lines of ministerial accountability. London MPs can, and do, hold Ministers to account for the activities of the Government Office for London. I would therefore hope that, in the interests of achieving very strong and close partnership working, there would be a very free flow of information and representations between the government office, the Assembly and the Mayor, and that all those parties would work very well and effectively together. I would be very disappointed if that was not the case.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that if the GLA is a unique animal, I hope that she would at least allow the insertion of “regional”, because the GLA is a unique regional animal, even if it is not a regional body. However, perhaps we can discuss that outside the Committee.
I cannot claim to be wholly surprised by the Government’s response, but I do feel that they have completely failed to acknowledge the lack of accountability to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has referred a couple of times. The theory is undoubtedly, as the Minister has explained, that MPs can ask questions, via Ministers, of the government office. The truth is that there is no regular, sustained scrutiny of any government regional office anywhere in England. London is no different from the rest, and the Bill will make no difference to that. As I said, we are not wholly surprised by the Minister’s response. We will take her comments away and consider what we want to do on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
118: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Local Government Finance Act 1992 (c. 14) is amended as follows.
(2) After section 40(9) (issue of precepts by mayor precepting authorities) insert—
“(9A) The Greater London Authority shall have printed an explanation and billing notice dedicated solely to the annual precept raised by the Greater London Authority.”.”
The noble Baroness said: The purpose of the amendment lies in the wording. The amendment seeks to increase London taxpayers’ understanding of exactly where their money is going, and it proposes that boroughs send out separate bidding notices for, and explanations of, council tax and the GLA precept. There is extensive support at all levels for such a proposal. London Councils openly supports it, the Mayor has indicated that he would not oppose it, and it will certainly be of interest to the residents of London.
The advantages of this suggestion are abundantly clear, stemming from transparency in billing. Taxpayers have been faced with steadily increasing bills each year, and would be able to see obviously how much of their money was being devoted to the GLA precept. It is well known that the precept has risen two-thirds above what it was when the Mayor first came in. It is increasingly going up, and that requires an explanation to rate payers, particularly when it now takes up to half of some boroughs’ total requirements.
It would helpful if there was a statutorily required explanation with the London tax bills. That is the purpose behind the amendment. I beg to move.
Is it not rather profligate with the planet’s resources to require that yet more paper be circulated to London householders? It will be stuffed through their doors, where they will probably discard it and simply consider the bill and the bottom line they will be required to pay. I am not sure that I understand the value of separate pieces of paper. Surely this could be better addressed with clearer codes of practice about how information is presented on existing bills?
Once again, as a Westminster council tax payer, I make it clear that Westminster City Council’s bills are very clear. They separate out, and it does not require a genius to work out exactly what the Mayor’s component is. I cannot see why, if everywhere was to follow the practice of Westminster, there would be a problem or why we should enter into the additional expense.
I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, and to my noble friends in particular for picking up on two points that I would respond to. Nothing separates the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and me on the need for council tax payers in London to understand who they are paying their council tax to, and what they are getting for it. That is absolutely no problem.
Our problem with the amendment is that it does not aid transparency, but will add to costs without helping the council tax payer to understand what she or he is getting for their money any more clearly. Nor am I convinced that the specific arrangements for the GLA, alone among precepting authorities, need to be changed in the way the amendment proposes. As we all know, the existing arrangements for the major precepting authorities are that the billing authority collects the tax on behalf of the precepting authority as part of its own billing process. In my own experience, this is generally effective and efficient. While I have no problem with the principle of the amendment, we have an issue with placing an additional requirement on the GLA to print its own bill and explanatory notes solely dedicated to the GLA precept. It would be costly and additionally confusing for council tax payers. Like my noble friend Lord Harris, I do not think that it adds value.
On transparency, to pick up the point of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, the billing authorities in London already have to highlight the level of GLA precept for a household on the face of their council tax bill. In addition, there is a statutory requirement for information about the GLA’s budget, expenditure and the impact of changes on the amount of council tax to be included in the explanatory material that accompanies bills. My noble friend Lord Harris alluded to the amount of stuff that comes through the door. In that envelope from my local council—mine is Lambeth—I am grateful to have that information, clearly spelling out what the precept is going to.
There is growing awareness of the GLA’s contribution to council tax bills in London, driven, in part, by the Olympics. As the GLA continues to mature, I am sure that Londoners will become increasingly aware of it. I should also say that the increases in precepts have been largely driven by increases in policing and the number of police in neighbourhood police teams, and we are very grateful for that. So I am not sure that a requirement on the GLA to print its own bill and explanatory notices for each of the 3 million eligible households in London would make much difference to the council tax payer’s understanding. I suspect that it might even have the opposite effect. Having received such a bill, council tax payers might assume that the GLA would be directly collecting the precept from them rather than through their borough. There is potential for confusion, which certainly would not aid transparency.
I am certain that this would be a costly process because the new requirement would impose a burden on both the GLA and the boroughs as both would need to co-operate with each other on the separate billing arrangements. That would be bound to be at the expense of front-line services, which I am sure would not go down well with London council tax payers. In a climate where we all want to see public sector administration costs kept to a minimum—the party opposite is well known for wanting that—to allow more resources to move from front-line services to administrative services is not good news. I am not convinced that requiring the GLA to produce its own billing notice would be the best use of resources.
The GLA estimates that rebilling all London households would cost £10 million a year. That does not seem to be a million miles away from what it would have to do if it followed these procedures. Ten million pounds a year could provide a lot of services for London council tax payers.
For those reasons, I believe that it would be best to continue with the system that we have—it is well-established, generally efficient, well understood and is becoming better understood—where the borough bills and collects the GLA precept on behalf of the GLA as part of its own council tax billing notice.
I hope that on those grounds the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for that reply, which was not at all unexpected. However, it denies the effect that the Greater London Authority is beginning to have on Londoners in terms of the amount of the precept. It also denies the reason why a local authority should have to explain why the Greater London Authority requires so much from council tax payers.
The Greater London Authority has responsibility for the police and fire authorities and raises precepts for other things. It is up to that authority to explain why the budgets have increased and what it has done to justify those budgets. That is not the local council’s responsibility. It is the local council’s responsibility to collect what the GLA demands. If the GLA had maintained the figure envisaged when the first GLA Bill was introduced, when I believe the relevant figure was something like 3 per cent—it was an extremely low expectation of what the Mayor would need from the London boroughs—perhaps there would have been no need for this amendment. An explanation is absolutely essential. Why the local authorities should have to give it, I do not know. If they give it, it may not be a very fair reflection of what the Mayor is doing because they all have different views on how he is performing. That is the reason behind the amendment. However, I hear what the Minister says. I beg leave to—
All I was going to say is there is another source of information in addition to the bills themselves and the explanations that go out. I do not disagree with much of what the noble Baroness said about the need for those explanations. However, the Mayor also produces the Londoner, which gives a very clear explanation of the precept and what it funds, and that goes to every household in London. So additional information is available to council tax payers.
120A: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—
“Assembly’s power to amend the Mayor’s strategies
After section 42A of the GLA Act 1999 (as inserted by section 2(2)) insert—
“42B Assembly’s power to amend the Mayor’s strategies
(1) Having consulted the Assembly in preparing or revising any strategy to which this section applies the Mayor shall submit a final draft version of the strategy or the revised strategy to the Assembly.
(2) The final draft version of the strategy or the revised strategy must be considered at a public meeting of the Assembly.
(3) After considering the final draft version of the strategy or the revised strategy, the Assembly must approve it with or without amendment.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) above, the only amendments which are to be made are those agreed to by at least two-thirds of the Assembly members voting.
(5) If no amendments are made on consideration of the final draft version of the strategy or the revised strategy or if the Assembly fails to consider the final draft version of the strategy or the revised strategy within 21 days of the Mayor having submitted it to the Assembly, the final draft version shall be deemed to be approved without amendment.”.”
The noble Lord said: I say at the outset that as I drafted the amendment it is no doubt deeply technically flawed and not a perfect rendition of what is required to achieve my objectives. The objective of the amendment is a fairly modest increase in the powers of the Assembly; a slight rebalancing of the relationship between the Mayor and the Assembly which I think would be enormously beneficial to the quality and nature of the Assembly’s work. I am very conscious that during the time I spent on the Assembly, much of the discussion on the mayoral strategies was fairly ritualistic and formulaic. In the final analysis, the Assembly could do nothing to make changes in those strategies. There was a two-stage process that required consideration by the Assembly, but at the end of the day they were very much the Mayor’s strategies.
I believe, as I have already argued in Committee, that we should have a strong mayor model and that the Mayor, because that individual is directly elected across London by all Londoners, should be able to ensure that the general direction of his policies is carried forward. The other principle underpinning the Greater London Authority Act is that the Mayor should strive to build consensus, to work with the different political parties represented on the Assembly and with the different interests and stakeholders across London, to try to achieve the best in the interests of the capital city.
This amendment says that when the Mayor finally puts forward his proposed or revised strategies to the Assembly, the Assembly may under very limited circumstances propose an amendment to them. To do so, the Assembly would have to achieve a two-thirds majority, which is the same test as is required for a change to the budget. So it is not a massive rebalancing of the powers of the Mayor and the Assembly. As we know, as regards the budget that is quite a high threshold and has yet to be achieved by the Assembly. A consensus would be required between a number of different political parties on the Assembly to achieve a two-thirds majority to make an amendment to a particular element of one of the Mayor’s strategies.
The Mayor no doubt is concerned that this might diminish his power to put forward his strategies and to deliver his policies in line with the mandate he has received from the people of London. I would say to the Mayor that under circumstances where it is possible for the Assembly to muster a two-thirds majority and for the Assembly to demonstrate a consensus between a number of political parties to achieve such a two-thirds majority, then the Mayor has fallen a long way short of the consensus that would normally be required for bringing forward the strategies and policies that he seeks to do.
The purpose of the amendment is a fairly modest rebalancing of the powers between the Assembly and the Mayor. I do not believe that it would inhibit the Mayor in achieving his or her objectives or that it would seriously undermine the principle of a strong mayor because there would have to be a consensus among several political parties on the Assembly for an amendment to be achieved.
The other benefit is that—and I was certainly conscious of this in my four years on the London Assembly—many Assembly debates and discussions were particularly pointless, trivial and maybe over-influenced by petty party political point scoring. I am sure that with my departure things have improved. However, this would provide a purpose to many of the Assembly’s activities. It would mean that in the detailed consideration of the strategies, which many Assembly Members spend a great deal of time engaged on, it would ultimately be possible to bring forward amendments; there would be a great deal of interest in the power among the people of London; and there would be a focus and perhaps more of a sense of purpose and responsibility from Assembly Members if they were able to exercise this power under the fairly limited circumstances which I have outlined in the amendment.
That is the purpose of the amendment. I apologise to the Committee for any infelicities in drafting, but I hope that we can have some discussion on the principles behind it. I beg to move.
Fairly early on in his introduction of the amendment, the noble Lord said that he was in favour of London having a strong mayoral model. I am not sure that it is necessary to support that point of view, because we already have a strong mayoral model. That aside, there is a great deal of practical sense in what he has said. He will not be surprised to have my support for this, or indeed for anything that enables the check and balance that was part of the original design to have more teeth—if a check and balance can have teeth.
It is interesting to compare what might happen when the Assembly deals with a strategy with the way in which the budget is dealt with. The noble Lord is right to point to consensus. One of the problems with the budget being one of the checks and balances is that the different political groups have in some cases entrenched positions on particular aspects of spending that are quite hard to move away from. The model that he has suggested might be made to work. I say this slightly diffidently, because I know that one should not be too optimistic about people falling into line and reaching consensus. Although I have always approached politics in that way, I have been proved to be naïve time and time again.
The proposal could be of considerable value, although possibly not at the point described in the amendment. The mechanism proposed would focus minds at an earlier stage. Whichever way one looks at it, knowing that this is a hurdle to be surmounted should from the very beginning ensure consensus in the minds of those promoting different parts of the different strategies. The mindset to which the amendment could give rise is important, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising the issue after we addressed similar points earlier on and at this stage in our consideration of this part of the Bill.
I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey might forgive me if I marginally disagree with the case that he has made. Perhaps I may explain why I am slightly worried about the amendment. One of the characteristics of our proceedings on the Bill is that there is a tendency among some Members to place great emphasis on the role that the boroughs must play in the government of London. I sense, not only in my observation of the proceedings but in discussions with people who are close to the whole GLA operation, that there is a lot of pressure from the boroughs on the Members of the GLA to accept the views of the boroughs when the Mayor decides issues of strategy. In fact, this is true of the whole policy of the GLA.
I sense that there is a tug-of-war going on. As I said, I am not a Member of the authority; I am just observing the dynamic as a council taxpayer in London. If that were to happen, I worry that, in certain conditions, you could build a consensus, a coalition of forces, within the GLA that sets out to undermine the strategy of the Mayor in favour of the boroughs arising from pressure exerted by members of the borough authorities through their political associations on Members of the GLA. There might even be a coalition that extended into the majority group, if there were to be one, where people felt that the pressure was so unrelenting that they had to give in. I suggest that, in those conditions, the Mayor's strategy, which could be deemed as in the interests of London, could be undermined simply by such pressures.
I put that only as a proposition. It may be that I am misreading what is happening, but I sense that dynamic of tension between the boroughs and the GLA which could, under those conditions, prove counterproductive.
I can never resist rising to a challenge, especially one posed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. The amendment would not do that. I remark to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that if only that pressure could have been operated by the London boroughs on how the Mayor operates, we might be in a much happier position.
The interesting thing about the amendment is that, earlier in our proceedings, the Government removed from the Bill the provision that the Mayor had to provide a final draft of the health strategy—I think. That was removed as being a procedure that was not required. I am not sure whether we protested very much at the time, but I was slightly surprised, because it seems to me that if you have a strategy, you must produce a final version.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, if enough Assembly Members manage to get together—that would be deeply unusual in itself—to say that there was something flawed in the Mayor's strategy, it would be much better if it were dealt with at that stage than that it got out to the wider body and became something to which people had to conform, have regard, or whatever. That would become a major problem.
I again find myself in the unusual position of supporting the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on the amendment because I believe that there should be a role for the Assembly in scrutiny. Perhaps it does not normally hold the Mayor to account but, in this case, where the strategy will have such a wide impact on London boroughs, there is a great deal of merit in the amendment.
My noble friend has clearly provoked a significant debate. Given the degree of agreement between us up to this point, I am disappointed but not surprised at his originality in finding an opportunity to insert what he describes as a modest rebalancing.
I take issue with whether it is indeed a modest rebalancing; it is more serious than that. At first sight, it seems harmless. It is not. It appears merely to apply the Assembly’s existing role in setting the GLA budget to the process of preparing and revising mayoral strategies—whether in housing, health, climate change, or whatever. Under the amendment, the Assembly would approve a mayoral strategy with or without amendment in the same way that it must currently approve the Mayor’s final draft GLA budget. It could make amendments only by a two-thirds majority. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has spoken eloquently about why that should be so.
The sentiment behind the amendment is therefore clear: what works for the GLA budget should work for the Mayor’s strategy. What could be simpler and what harm could this do? It could do quite a bit of harm. It would fundamentally alter the balance of power between the Mayor and Assembly. The noble Lord is right. I listened with great pleasure as he defended the strong mayoral model. He was very robust and eloquent in his defence, but his proposal would seriously undermine the balance. It would give the Assembly the power to amend any aspect of a mayoral strategy by a two-thirds majority, making it much more difficult for the Mayor to implement the manifesto commitments that he or she is elected to deliver, whether that is congestion charging, free public transport for young Londoners or the housing strategy on which we have spent so much time talking in Committee.
It may lead to a Mayor disowning all or part of the strategic framework for London. Given what Members of the Committee have said about this adding to the scrutiny functions of the Assembly, it is very important to be clear that it would lead to a genuine confusion in the demarcation of responsibilities between the strategic responsibility and the scrutiny function. At the moment, it could mean that the Assembly would set the strategic agenda for the capital, yet be expected to scrutinise the content and implementation of those strategies as well. There is a genuine issue about what the Assembly is there to do and how effectively it can do it. The parallel with the amendment and—
I believe that we made similar arguments in respect of the budget. The Mayor has responsibility for the total component budget and the Assembly’s role is to challenge the headline figures. It does not get involved in discussing the detailed scrutiny, which is a job for the component bodies. That is the case I was going to go on to make, which is where the analogy breaks down. The problem is that the Assembly is able to amend only the totals because the detail of what has been determined for the individual parts of the budget is left to the constituent body. The problem is that this amendment would allow the Assembly to amend each strategy to any level of detail and strategies do not have headline budgets in the same way. They are not equivalent to the component budget totals, so the Assembly could not do anything but get involved in the detailed determination of policy. Therefore, how could it be both judge and jury? How could it scrutinise effectively what it has already challenged and even predetermined? There is a genuine confusion of what could be achieved. I do not think that it is too extreme to say that it would be rather chaotic.
Let us go back to where we started this debate and the need to give the Assembly more confidence and a greater power of scrutiny. On day 1 in Committee, we discussed Clause 2, which was welcomed, as it was elsewhere. Clause 2 provides a strengthened role for the Assembly in strategy development. The Mayor will be under a new duty to have regard to Assembly responses to consultation and must write to explain which of its recommendations he will implement and give reasons for those he does not accept. That takes the Assembly into a new area of challenge and scrutiny where it has not been before. In this delicate balance of power, I believe that that is the right way to go and is the best balance to hold. The amendment, although superficially attractive, brings with it not least the arguments made by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, but some genuine difficulties. Although I commend my noble friend Lord Harris for his originality and determination to promote this important argument, I cannot agree with him. I therefore ask him to withdraw his amendment.
It is always gratifying to be commended for originality. It does not necessarily mean that you get anything other than nul points at the end of the analysis. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the discussion. I note that both opposition parties clearly think that there is some merit in these proposals.
Briefly, on the specific arguments raised, my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours talks about the boroughs. The Assembly was originally constructed precisely to avoid a situation in which Assembly Members felt that they were delegated by particular boroughs. Only 14 of the 25 Members represent geographical constituencies, and each of them has two or three boroughs on their patch. That means that a diffuse sort of pressure usually arises. My experience was that the amount of pressure that I received as a Member for a geographic area on the London Assembly from the two boroughs I represented was very limited; indeed, I would have welcomed rather more pressure and engagement from the borough authorities than was the case on some issues. That could clearly change in the future. The other 11 Members have a London-wide remit, specifically to ensure that that strategic overview is given.
The noble Lord might care to add that, in the case of the constituency Members with two or three boroughs making up their patch, as he puts it, there are few where there is the same party in majority control of the boroughs making up that patch. It is, in fact, quite a patchwork.
Will my noble friend give way? Is the point not that in conditions of it being known that two-thirds could undermine the strategy, that would then invite from the boroughs the very pressure I was referring to? It may well come through not the local authorities but the political associations.
I was about to move on to precisely that point, and say that that was a benefit of my amendment. Giving the Assembly responsibilities—fairly limited responsibilities—in this area will lead to greater engagement by the boroughs with the Assembly Members. It will lead to greater engagement by the public of London with the Assembly, given that they will recognise that this is a route by which they can exert some direct influence on the mayoral strategies.
The question is whether this fundamentally alters the balance of power. The Minister cited a number of examples of why this was different. She dismissed the argument that because this power exists for the budget it could not simply be transferred across to the strategies, because that might undermine specific mayoral manifesto commitments. I make the point that if the Mayor has made a specific mayoral commitment, then the chances of there being a two-thirds majority on the Assembly—an Assembly elected on the same day as the Mayor of London—against specific mayoral commitments is extremely low. Apart from the fact that the Mayor is likely to have colleagues from his or her own party—I appreciate that when the present Mayor was first elected, he did not have that advantage—it is unlikely that a Mayor with specific manifesto commitments will find them undermined by a cross-party consensus across two-thirds of the London Assembly. It is difficult to see how the arithmetic is likely to work.
You can conceive of circumstances in which there would be unholy alliances between some people who say, “If you vote against this line of this strategy for us, we will vote against this line for you,” and so on. You can see how that might create a position in which a two-thirds majority might be assembled. However, I would hope that London Assembly Members had a greater interest in the future of London and a greater responsibility towards what they are trying to do than to fall into that particular trap.
Over and above the welcome extensions to the Assembly’s responsibilities that have been included in Clause 2 and some of the other changes that have been made, this is about finding a way of ensuring that the Assembly is given a real purpose in life, which it currently lacks, that would not fundamentally undermine the principle of a strong Mayor. That is why I tabled the amendment. I have listened very carefully to the arguments put by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and the Minister, and I will consider them, but I also hope that the Minister will think about whether something can be done both to give the Assembly more purpose and, while ensuring that there is a strong mayoral model, to make it possible for the Assembly to exercise slightly more of a check and balance on the content of policy. Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 50 [Orders]:
120B: Clause 50, page 49, line 33, leave out “(whenever passed or made)” and insert “passed or made before this Act”
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 120B is a technical amendment that was tabled in response to a recommendation by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Clause 50 specifies that any power to make an order conferred on the Secretary of State by this Act includes the power to make incidental, consequential, supplemental or transitional provisions or savings. Such an order may amend any enactment, whenever passed or made, for the purpose of making any such provision or savings, and is subject to the negative procedure.
The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee rightly noted that there should be strong justification for amending future Acts and that there is no such justification in this case. The Government agree with the committee, and the amendment ensures that an order may amend only Acts passed or made before this Act. I beg to move.
I am extremely relieved to see the amendment, because there was a reference at an earlier stage to this Act or any other Act. In one of my more manic moments in our consideration of the Bill, I withdrew the only amendment that I had to withdraw and realised that a bit at the end of it challenged whether an Act could be amended in the past. I am therefore very relieved to see this. There is another bit in the Bill that we probably also need to take note of. If so, we will nip it back at the next stage of the proceedings. Otherwise, I have no objections to the amendment; it is very proper.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 54 agreed to.
[Amendment No. 120C not moved.]
Schedule 2 [Repeals]:
[Amendments Nos. 121 and 122 not moved.]
Schedule 2 agreed to.
Clauses 55 and 56 agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
The Committee adjourned at 6.25 pm.