My Lords, Amendment 7 modifies the processes for establishing a combined authority to provide, where the circumstances warrant it, a fast-track process that maintains all the necessary safeguards. We discussed a similar amendment on the first day of Report, and explained the Government’s rationale for streamlining the process for establishing a combined authority. We returned to that amendment on the final day of Report, particularly to consider it in the context of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report of
Noble Lords will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, sought further time both to consider my detailed explanation and for the House to consider the Delegated Powers Committee’s report. I withdrew the amendment and promised to return to it at Third Reading. In moving Amendment 7, I have considered the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report and I have had discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and considered his concerns. I have retabled the amendment with certain modifications, which I consider address those concerns.
The amendments that I tabled on Report provided for a fast-track process, which removed the requirement for councils to undertake the lengthy process of preparing a governance review and scheme, where the substance of these had been undertaken in a different way—for example, through agreeing a devolution deal. In this case, the requirements on the Secretary of State to apply the statutory tests and consult would remain. The amendments tabled on Report also enabled an alternative streamlined approach where the councils develop a governance review and scheme, while the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the councils that have prepared the scheme would be replaced by requirements that the Secretary of State must have regard to the scheme and the councils must consent to the establishment of the combined authority.
I have now tabled a modified amendment, Amendment 7, which removes the unnecessary duplication within the statutory process for establishing a combined authority, while ensuring that there is always a public consultation before a combined authority can be established. If the councils have prepared and published a governance review and scheme, including carrying out a public consultation, and if the Secretary of State considers that no further consultation is necessary, the Secretary of State can proceed without undertaking a further consultation. However, if councils have not prepared and published a governance review, including a consultation, or if the Secretary of State considers that the local consultation is not sufficient, the Secretary of State must undertake a public consultation. We consider that this streamlines the process for establishing a combined authority by removing the duplication of requiring both a local and a Secretary of State consultation without losing any of the safeguards inherent in the process. I beg to move.