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Hansard 7 July: Column 878 et seq ...
Hansard 7 July: Column 878 et seq

Opposition peers voiced concerns about the constitutional relationships between the proposed powerful mayor of London and the authority of the new Greater London Assembly.

Conservative spokesman Lord Dixon-Smith, former chairman of the Association of County Councils, and Liberal Democrat frontbencher Baroness Hamwee tabled amendents for the continuing committee stage to clarify the respective roles and to give the assembly say in board and staff appointments to the London Development Agency, the approval of LDA starategy and the mayor's powers to acquire shares in companies.

While they did press the amendments to a vote, the opposition indicated they would return to the issue - and that of the relationship of the mayor to the boroughs and City Corporation in planning matters - during report stage of the Greater London Authority Bill.

Baroness Hamwee wanted to give the GLA powers to reject the mayor's proposed appoinments. An opportunity would be lost, she said, if the scrutiny role of the assembly was downplayed. With the mayor 'possibly elected more on personality than politics, it would be right for the 25 assembly members to play a restraining and constraining role'.

DETR minister said the amendments stemmed from a difference of opinion on the respective roles of the mayor and assembly. The government proposed the mayor should play the executive decision-taking role and that the assembly should provide scrutiny of the mayor's actions. The majority of the authority's functions would be exercised by the mayor.

The minister added: 'It is not appropriate that those decisions should be exercised jointly,or partially jointly, with the assembly. That would not be a recipe for efficient and effective government, and it is not what we have discussed from the very begining, prior to the referendum, in terms of how the authority operates.

'The role of the assembly is very important. It is to hold the mayor to account for the way in which his executive functions are exercised. That is a model for good accountable administration'.

Lord Whitty said the amendments would undermine the government's essential approach. They would be unworkable, particularly in relation to important economic decisions.

Lord Dixon-Smith said: 'It seems to me that we should all be concerned if there was no agreement between the mayor and the assembly. The minister posed the rhetorical question: 'How would we then obtain action?'

'Democratic practice in this country has been that we proceed by agreement. In the new authority, if there is no agreement but there can still be action, we may find that at some point we are stepping into dangerous territory'.

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