Clause 3

Part of Sustainable Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 23 May 2007.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Local Government & Community Cohesion), Department for Communities and Local Government 10:00, 23 May 2007

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is desirable to finish our proceedings today. We have had several sittings of detailed debate on how we can move forward with a workable Bill, which is the intention of all members of the Committee and certainly of the Government. Perhaps more from my point of view, we should also ensure that the Bill does not contradict other legislation, and in particular that it will dovetail with the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, which received its Third Reading in the House of Commons last night.

In our debates, we have outlined some of the difficulties and disagreements between members of the Committee as to how we can make the Bill workable, and I have tabled a number of amendments on behalf of the Government to try to improve it. In some instances those improvements have been seen by some Committee members as not helpful and as watering down the provisions. I have a number of problems with  the wording and the mechanisms, but I think that we have achieved tremendous success.

We have now engaged with the Local Government Association on how we can take forward the process of proposals coming up from local authorities, the LGA considering those proposals, the relationship between the LGA and the Government, and strengtheningthe central-local partnership. I think that that has been beneficial. We will be going on to discuss clause 5, so I will probably wait until then to express some of my fears over the mechanisms. I do not intend to oppose the amendments, although I have put on record some of my concerns, which are about what I regard as their imperfections, rather than disagreements in principle.

Finally, I will emphasise the importance, as we see it, of clause 108 of the local government Bill, which is directly relevant to clause 3. I reiterate what I said at last week’s sitting: the legal wording in that Bill may give the impression that clause 108 is discretionary.Let me assure members of the Committee that it isnot discretionary; it is a duty. The intention of the amendments is to build on that, so I will hold back my remarks and return to them in the debate on clause 5.