My hon. Friend referred to the debate in the other place and to the nub of the argument, which is whether the clause will create additional burdens, bureaucracy, uncertainty and confusion. It seems to me that a forceful argument can be made for saying that bringing another party into the process will do exactly that. As it is, local authorities will have to undergo a substantial process of change in adapting to the Bill's constraints and demands. We raised the important issue of flexibility when the Committee last met, and my hon. Friend has rehearsed it again. It is important that local authorities have enough flexibility to meet these demanding targets.
Conversely, there is also the issue of clarity. The proposed change is significant and, although the message is simple, the implementation will be complex, given the complicated relationship between authorities, and their different profiles and performance, which we discussed at our previous sitting. Many people are concerned that the addition of a third party will reduce clarity and add to confusion.
I would therefore like the Minister to be tested on the issue, and I am interested to hear his views. Like
me, he will have studied the report of the Lords debate. I have it close to hand, and I was reacquainting myself with it as my hon. Friend spoke, because I wanted to be clear about the arguments. The Minister will be aware of those arguments, which were put in a measured and sensible way by Members of the House of Lords with some expertise in this field. I would like firm assurances that the clause will not lead to extra bureaucracy in the way that my hon. Friend suggests.