§ 137 Page 28, line 24, leave out ("representative of local government in England") and insert ("body")
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 137. The amendments in this and the next group starting with Amendment No. 137 respond to various points raised by noble Lords and make a number of important changes. The 72 amendments grouped here relate to the codes of conduct, standards committees and the duties of both the monitoring officer and relevant authorities. Amendments Nos. 137, 139 and 142 make it clear that, should the Secretary of State wish to do so, he may invite more than one body to submit proposals to form a code of conduct or revise an existing code.
Amendment No. 155 responds to points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and will ensure that if a relevant authority publishes its own newspaper it should include publicity about the adoption of a code within that paper as well as in a local newspaper circulating in the area.
Amendments Nos. 159 to 161, 163 to 165 and 167 to 169 relate to circumstances—which, we hope, will be few—in which a relevant authority fails to adopt a code of conduct within the timescale set out in the Bill, and ensures that the mandatory provisions of the model code governing councillors' behaviour will apply anyway, in spite of that authority's failure.
Amendments Nos. 162, 166 and 310 are essentially technical amendments but have the important effect of clarifying the provisions in Clause 48 to ensure that the code of conduct applies to any member of a relevant authority.
Amendments Nos. 174, 183, 186 and 195 deal with the ability of the Secretary of State to regulate effectively the size, composition and appointments to standards committees. They also allow the Government to regulate the proceedings of such committees, including access, agendas and publicity.
Amendment No. 196 clarifies the ability of the standards committee of a district council to delegate its functions in relation to parishes to a sub-committee of the standards committee, should the authority choose to appoint one. Amendment No. 197 duplicates that provision for Wales.
Amendments Nos. 43 and 268 will ensure that, where it is warranted, the Secretary of State (or the National Assembly) can require a monitoring officer report, or recommendations or action resulting from such a report, to be made public. This is important for the credibility of the authority's standards committee and will ensure that the public can have confidence in the integrity of local government.
Amendment No. 314, together with Amendments Nos. 312 and 313, prevents the consideration of reports from a case tribunal being delegated, thus requiring it to be considered by the whole council, or a standards committee of that council.
Amendments Nos. 315 and 316 address concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, when this Bill was last before the House. They clarify that the monitoring officer has responsibility for maintaining the register of members' interests and remove the requirement that members have to register the interests of their partners and other members of their household.
Amendment No. 321 makes provision within Clause 76 to allow for a separate code of conduct for the council manager. Amendment No. 326 further amends 73 the clause so that the definition of "qualifying employee" refers to all relevant authority employees except those excluded by regulations.
I thank all Members of the House with a wide range of experience in local government who have contributed. We have listened carefully and considered their points. The amendments pick up many of the points that flow from that knowledge. I commend Amendment No. 137 to the House and hope that the other amendments in this group will be accepted.
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 137.—(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.) On Question, Motion agreed to.