Explanatory Notes

Greater London Authority Act 1999

1999 CHAPTER 29

11th November 1999

Commentary on Sections

Part Ii: General Functions and Procedure

Sections 30 to 34: The general and subsidiary powers of the Authority

90.Section 30 of the Act provides for the Authority to have power to do anything which will further any one or more of its principal purposes. The Act defines the GLA's principal purposes as being - to promote economic development and wealth creation in Greater London; to promote social development in Greater London; and to promote the improvement of the environment in Greater London (see sections 30(2) and 424 for interpretation).

91.In determining whether or not to exercise its power to further one or more of its principal purposes the Authority is required to consider the effect this may have on the remaining purpose or purposes – in so far as that is practicable – and, over a period of time, to secure a reasonable balance between furthering each of its principal purposes. It must consider the effects the proposed exercise of the power would have on the health of people in London, and the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. If it decides to exercise its powers it must do so in a way which is best calculated to promote improvements to the health of people in Greater London and which will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.

92.The Authority will have to have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State under section 30(7) concerning the application of the Authority's general purpose.

93.Section 31 sets out certain limitations on the exercise of the Authority’s general power. The Authority will not be able to do anything using this power which would duplicate the statutory functions of TfL, the MPA or the LFEPA, and must seek to secure that it does not duplicate the activities of the London Development Agency. It will also be unable to duplicate the statutory functions of local authorities or of other public bodies, in particular the London borough councils and the London Health Authorities. Subsection (3) specifies the services in respect of which the GLA cannot incur expenditure - including housing, education, social services or health services - where these services may be provided by a London borough, the Common Council or any other public body. Subsection (7) gives the Secretary of State a power to add to the list things which the Authority is prevented from doing in this way. Subsection (8) contains a reserve power to impose limits on the expenditure that can be incurred using the general power, and subsection (9) gives the Secretary of State powers to remove or restrict any such prohibitions imposed by this section.

94.The Mayor will however be able to use the power in section 30 to co-operate with other public authorities or bodies, or to co-ordinate or facilitate the activities of such authorities or bodies on a London-wide or a wider than local basis. This might include, with the agreement of such authorities or bodies, providing a related specialist service which would be of benefit to London as a whole.

95.To protect other authorities or bodies, organisations or individuals whose interests might be affected by the exercise of its general power, section 32 (1) requires the Authority to consult such bodies or persons as it may consider appropriate in any particular case, prior to the exercise of the power. Section 32(2) provides that, in deciding whom to consult, the Authority must consider whether or not to consult the following bodies or organisations: the London Boroughs and the Common Council; voluntary bodies whose activities benefit the whole or part of Greater London ; bodies which represent the interests of different racial, ethnic or national groups; bodies which represent different religious groups; and bodies which represent the interests of persons carrying on business in Greater London. Combined, these provisions mean that the Mayor may exercise the Authority’s general power only after he has consulted bodies or persons whose interests will be affected by the exercise of that power.

96.Section 33 requires the Authority to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that, in the exercise of its general power and the preparation and implementation of its strategies, there is due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people. It also requires the Authority to publish, annually, a report setting out the arrangements which have been put in place during the year to which the report applies and making an assessment of how effective those arrangements were in promoting equality of opportunity. Section 34 provides for the Authority to be able to do anything which is incidental to the exercise of its functions, including its general power under section 30.

Sections 35 to 37: Exercise of functions: general principles

97.Section 35 provides the general principles for the exercise of the Authority's functions by the Mayor, by the Assembly or by the Mayor and the Assembly acting together. Section 36 provides for the procedures to be followed by the Assembly in preparing the Authority’s standing orders.

98.Section 37 and Schedule 4 provide for the discharge of the Mayor's functions when there is a vacancy in the office of Mayor or the Mayor is temporarily unable to act. In these circumstances paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 provides for there to be an “Acting Mayor”, who will be either the deputy Mayor or the Chair of the Assembly. There are certain functions of the Mayor which the “Acting Mayor” will not be able to exercise. These functions are set out in paragraphs 6 and 11 of Schedule 4: they are, the preparation of a consolidated budget for the Authority and the functional bodies; the preparation, alteration or replacement of any of the Mayor's strategies; and certain appointments including appointments to the functional bodies.

Sections 38 to 40: Functions exercisable by the Mayor

99.Section 38 provides for the delegation of functions exercisable by the Mayor. The majority of the functions of the Authority will be exercisable by the Mayor, who will be able to delegate those functions to any of the bodies or persons specified in this section including the Deputy Mayor, TfL and the London Development Agency. Section 39 provides for the establishment of joint committees with other local authorities for the joint discharge of functions where the Mayor has delegated his functions, under the provisions of section 38(1), to one or more local authorities. Section 39(2) provides for the establishment of joint committees with one or more local authorities where they have related or connected interests. Section 40 extends the provisions of Part II of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 so as to apply them to the GLA. This means that a Minister of the Crown may make an order providing for the contracting out of any of the functions of the GLA which are exercisable by the Mayor.

Sections 41 to 44: The Mayor's strategies

100.The Act requires the Mayor to produce a number of strategies, including strategies in relation to transport (section 142); economic development and regeneration (section 306); spatial development (section 334); biodiversity (section 352); municipal waste management (section 353); air quality (section 362); ambient noise (section 370); and culture (section 376).

101.Section 41 sets out the strategies to which the general duties of the Mayor apply, the duty of the Mayor to review and revise the strategies, and the matters to which the Mayor must have regard in preparing, revising or implementing those strategies. In preparing, reviewing or amending the strategies, the Mayor shall have regard to the need to ensure that each of the strategies is consistent with national policy and with such international obligations as the Secretary of State may notify to the Mayor, and with the other strategies. The Mayor shall also have regard to the principal purposes of the Authority and the effect the proposed strategy or revision would have on the health of people in London and the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. The Mayor shall also have regard to the resources available to implement each strategy, the desirability of promoting the improvement of the health of Londoners and the desirability of promoting and encouraging the use of the River Thames safely – in particular for passenger transport and freight transportation. The Mayor must set such targets as he or she considers appropriate for implementing each of the strategies. In doing so the Mayor shall have regard to national targets, objectives and performance indicators, and shall seek to secure that the targets set are not less demanding than these.

102.Section 42 places a duty on the Mayor to carry out consultations in preparing or revising the strategies. The Mayor shall consult, in the first instance, the Assembly and the functional bodies, and subsequently each London borough council and the Common Council. The Mayor shall also consult any other organisation or individual he or she considers it appropriate to consult, including bodies of the descriptions in section 32(3). Subsection (6) exempts the Mayor from the duty to consult as to a proposed revision of strategies where he or she considers those revisions do not materially alter the strategy: it will be for the Mayor to decide whether or not revisions to the strategies materially alter those strategies and therefore whether or not consultation about those revisions are necessary.

103.Section 43 requires the Mayor to take steps to give adequate publicity to the strategies, to send a copy to each London Borough and the Common Council, to make the current versions of them available for public inspection at the GLA’s offices and other suitable places, and to provide them at a reasonable cost to any person who asks for them.

104.Section 44 provides for directions by the Secretary of State as respects the preparation and publication of the first strategies. Should the Secretary of State consider that the Mayor who is first elected is failing to take the necessary steps to prepare the strategies, the Secretary of State will have a reserve power to direct the Mayor to prepare and publish the strategies within a specified period of time.

Sections 45 to 48: Public accountability

105.Sections 45 to 48 contain provisions on the accountability of the Mayor and Assembly. Section 45 provides that the Mayor will make a report to the Assembly at least three clear working days before each of the ten monthly meetings the Assembly must hold each year under section 52(3). The report must set out significant decisions which the Mayor has taken, with reasons, and responses to any formal proposals put by the Assembly. The Mayor will attend the ten meetings of the Assembly and will answer Assembly members’ oral or written questions, orally, or where this is not practicable, in writing. In answering Assembly questions, the Mayor will not be obliged to disclose advice received from GLA staff or from functional bodies or their members or staff. Similarly, GLA staff and functional bodies and their members and staff will not be obliged to disclose advice to the Mayor when summoned by the Assembly under section 61. The Assembly meetings which the Mayor attends, the Mayor’s reports, the text of questions and answers and the minutes of the meetings will be open or available to the public, subject to the exceptions for confidential and other exempt material set out in Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972.

106.Section 46 requires the Mayor to prepare an Annual Report. The Annual Report will assess the Mayor's progress on implementing strategies, including the achievement of any targets set, include information about the performance of the Authority's statutory functions which the GLA is obliged to publish under any legislation. The Mayor will also include in the report information of a type which the Assembly has asked to be included before the beginning of the year covered by the report. The Mayor will send the report to the Assembly before publishing it.

107.Section 47(6) requires an annual State of London debate to be held in April, May or June but it must not be held until at least 7 days after the publication of the Annual Report. One effect of this provision is to require the Annual Report to be published at least 7 days before the end of June in the financial year after that to which the Report relates.

108.Section 47 provides that the Mayor will hold and attend an event referred to in the Act as an annual public "State of London" debate. The debate will take place in April, May or June, at least 7 days after the Annual Report is published. Section 48 provides that the Mayor and Assembly will hold twice-yearly events, which are referred to in the Act as "People's Question Time". The Mayor must decide the form and procedures for both events, following consultation with the Assembly.

Section 49: The Deputy Mayor

109.Section 49 provides for the appointment of a deputy Mayor. The Mayor will be required to appoint a deputy Mayor from amongst the Assembly members, and will be required to appoint the deputy Mayor as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. The Mayor will be able to delegate functions to the Deputy Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor will, on agreeing to do so, become Acting Mayor if there is a vacancy in the office of Mayor or the Mayor is temporarily unable to act.

110.The Deputy Mayor cannot be the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Assembly.

111.The Mayor may dismiss the Deputy Mayor at any time. A Deputy Mayor may resign at any time. In either case, the Mayor must appoint a successor.

Sections 50 and 51: Chair and Deputy Chair of the Assembly

112.Section 50 provides for the offices of 'Chair of the London Assembly' and 'Deputy Chair of the London Assembly', and for the functions of those office-holders. Section 51 covers their appointment. The Chair and Deputy Chair will both be elected by the Assembly, from amongst its members. Neither can be appointed as Deputy Mayor and retain the office of Chair or Deputy Chair of the Assembly. If there is a vacancy in the office of Mayor and there is either no Deputy Mayor or the deputy Mayor declines to become acting Mayor, the Chair of the Assembly will become Acting Mayor and exercise the functions of the Mayor subject to the restrictions which relate to the Deputy Mayor - as set out in paragraphs 6 and 11 of Schedule 4.

Sections 52 to 60: Meetings and procedure of the Assembly

113.Section 52 provides for meetings of the whole Assembly. Within ten days of an ordinary election (as set out in section 3), the Assembly must meet to elect a Chair and Deputy Chair.

114.The Assembly must hold ten meetings each year, at which it will consider the Mayor's report (details of which are provided in the note on section 45), and question the Mayor and employees of the Authority. The Assembly may also consider other matters at these meetings. After each ordinary election, the first of these meetings must be held not later than 25 days after the date of the election. Thereafter, the Assembly must hold meetings of this sort at intervals of not less than 28 days. The Assembly may also hold any other meetings it chooses.

115.The Mayor and the staff he appoints (other than his two political advisors) will be required to attend these monthly meetings and answer questions put to them by the Assembly. Subsection (4) of section 70 specifies those employees of the Authority who are to be required to attend the Assembly's meetings as part of their terms and conditions. They will include senior permanent officers, together with the Mayor's ten personal appointments (see section 67).

116.Subsection (8) of section 52 allows the Chair of the Assembly to call extraordinary meetings of the Assembly at any time.

117.If the Chair refuses to call an extraordinary meeting after a request by five members of the Assembly has been presented to him, or if the Chair fails to call an extraordinary meeting within seven days of receiving such a request, then any five Assembly members may call such a meeting. The power to request or call an extraordinary meeting cannot be delegated by the Assembly to a committee or to an individual Assembly member.

118.Section 53 contains provisions on Assembly procedure. The Assembly will take decisions by a simple majority of those present and voting at a meeting, except where there is express provision to the contrary. The Assembly will be able to determine its own procedure and that of all its committees and sub-committees, including the size and composition of a quorum. This discretion will be subject, among other things, to the provisions set out in section 52 requiring the Assembly to elect a Chair and Deputy Chair, to hold regular meetings, and deal with the holding of extraordinary meetings.

119.Section 54 provides for the delegation of the discharge of the functions of Assembly. The Assembly may arrange for any of its functions to be exercised either by a committee or sub-committee of the Assembly, by a single Assembly member or by a member of staff of the Authority. In the case of delegation to a single member, the Assembly may only delegate its functions under section 67(2) – staff appointments – and section 70(2) – terms and conditions of staff – to a member of the staff of the Authority appointed by the Assembly. This section also provides for delegation by committees to sub-committees. In arranging for its functions to be exercised by a committee or individual Assembly member, the Assembly does not thereby prevent itself as a whole from exercising those functions. Certain functions must be exercised by the whole Assembly and are not capable of being delegated to all; for example, its duty to hold a meeting to elect a Chair and Deputy Chair, as provided for in section 52.

120.There are special provisions relating to the Police. Section 20 of the Police Act 1996 requires relevant councils to make arrangements for questions on the discharge of the police authority's functions to be put by members of the council at meetings of the council. Paragraph 78 of Schedule 27 inserts a new section 20A, which makes corresponding provision. The Assembly will not be permitted to arrange for its functions under section 20A of the 1996 Act to be exercised by an individual Assembly member

121.Section 55 provides for the appointment and membership of Assembly Committees and sub-committees. It also provides for the Assembly to appoint “advisory committees” and for the membership of such committees. Section 56 provides for minutes of meetings of the Assembly, Assembly committees and sub-committees to be kept in a form to be determined by the Assembly

122.Section 57 covers rules on the political composition of Assembly committees. Local government provisions governing the political composition of committees, set out in sections 15 to 17 of and Schedule 1 to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and regulations made under those provisions, will apply to committees of the Assembly. The effect of these provisions is to require the Assembly to ensure that the allocation of appointments to Assembly committees reflects the strength of different political groups in the Assembly as a whole.

123.The Assembly shall be required to review the political composition of its committees, as specified by section 15(1) of the 1989 Act, when it first appoints members to any committee.

124.Section 58 makes the Assembly and its committees and sub-committees subject to the rules, with some modifications, which apply to local authorities generally requiring them to hold meetings in public, give public notice of meetings and make documents publicly available. These requirements are set out in Part VA of the Local Government Act 1972 (sections 100A to 100K and Schedule 12A). The Authority is not required to make available for public inspection “background papers” which would disclose advice to the Mayor. The Assembly shall exclude the public from meetings where confidential information is going to be discussed and shall not make available documents which would disclose certain categories of commercially sensitive information which relate to TfL and the LDA.

Sections 59 and 60: General functions of the Assembly

125.Section 59 sets out the Assembly's powers to carry out reviews and investigations. The Assembly will be required to keep the Mayor's exercise of statutory functions under review. In particular, the Assembly will have power to investigate, and prepare reports about, any actions and decisions of the Mayor, any actions and decisions by any member of the Authority's staff, matters relating to the principal purposes, matters in relation to which statutory functions are exercisable by the Mayor, or any other matters which the Assembly considers to be of importance to Greater London.

126.Section 60 allows the Assembly to submit proposals to the Mayor. This power may not be delegated to a committee or an individual Assembly member, so any proposal submitted to the Mayor will have to come from the whole Assembly. The Mayor will be required to make a formal response to any proposals submitted to him by the Assembly in his report to one of the ten Assembly meetings provided for in section 52(3).

Sections 61 to 65: Attendance of witnesses and production of documents

127.Section 61 contains powers for the Assembly to summon certain categories of people to give evidence at its meetings and to produce documents.

128.Subsections (2) to (5) set out the categories of persons who may be required to attend or to produce documents. These are:

129.The Assembly will not be able to require GLA staff, functional bodies or their members or staff, to give evidence or produce documents which would disclose advice given to the Mayor.

130.Section 62 sets out the procedures the Assembly will be required to follow when it requires attendance at its meetings. These include the timescales within which the Head of Paid Service of the Authority (see below) must give notice of where and when people are to attend, and the documents or types of documents they must produce.

131.Section 63 provides that the Secretary of State may make orders prescribing the categories of information which a person summoned to give evidence to the Assembly may refuse to give, and categories of document which such a person may refuse to produce. Orders under this power are statutory instruments which are subject to the negative resolution procedure of the Houses of Parliament (as provided by section 420).

132.Section 64 covers the consequences of failure to attend proceedings. It will be an offence for somebody who falls into the categories set out in section 61 to:

133.Any person found guilty of such an offence will be subject to a fine of no more than level 5 on the standard scale (currently specified under the Criminal Justice Acts as £5,000) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months.

134.Section 65 provides that the Assembly's openness rules under section 58, with some modifications, apply to hearings under section 61.  Hearings will be open to the public, and documents available for public inspection subject to exceptions for confidential and exempt information.  Transcripts or other records of evidence will be available for public inspection, as will additional papers supplied by witnesses or documents prepared for Assembly members to use at the hearings.

Section 66: Ethical standards

135.Section 66 concerns ethical standards. Because of the allocation of responsibilities between the Mayor and the Assembly, the usual procedures which govern the conduct of business within local authorities cannot be applied to the Authority. The Act therefore provides a power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Authority about, amongst other things, the disclosure and registration of interests, voting in cases where an Assembly member has an interest in the matter in question, the exercise of functions by or on behalf of the Mayor, the deputy mayor or any member of the Authority’s staff in cases where the mayor, deputy Mayor or member of staff has an interest in the matter in question; and the prescription of model codes of conduct. The Secretary of State may also provide guidance on the establishment, by the Authority, of one or more committees concerned with ethical standards and about the functions of such a committee. A consultation document on this guidance was issued on 11 October 1999.

Sections 67 to 73: Staff

136.Section 67 provides for the appointment of three categories of employees of the Authority, and also provides for them to be appointed to the Authority in different ways.

137.Under the provisions of section 67(1)(a), the Mayor will be able to appoint two political advisers. They will be personal appointments made by the Mayor alone, and the jobs will not need to be advertised or be subject to competition. The Mayor will be required to report to the Assembly the terms and conditions of the appointments, including their duration. No appointment in this category can extend beyond the term of office for which the Mayor is elected.

138.The Mayor will also be able to appoint not more than 10 other members of staff - section 67(1)(b). These posts will be advertised and open to competition, and appointments will be made on merit in line with the provisions of section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. The Mayor will be required to report to the Assembly who has been appointed to each of the posts, and the terms and conditions under which the appointment has been made. No appointment in this category can extend beyond the term of office for which the Mayor is elected.

139.Under the provisions of section 67(2), the Assembly, or a committee or individual member of the Assembly, or a member of staff of the Authority, appointed under the provisions of section 67(2), to whom the function has been delegated, will appoint all other employees of the Authority.

140.Appointments under section 67 will be made subject to the restrictions and terms and conditions set out in sections 68 to 71 of the Act which reflect provisions in local government legislation for the appointment of local authority officers.

141.Section 72 requires the Authority to appoint a Head of Paid Service who will have the same duties as those imposed by section 4 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 on the Head of Paid Service in local authorities, and who will, in addition, have other responsibilities which reflect the separation of powers between the Mayor and Assembly. The appointment of the Head of Paid Service will be made by the Assembly following consultation with the Mayor.

142.Section 73 requires the Authority to appoint a Monitoring Officer. The Monitoring Officer will have the same duties as those imposed by section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 in relation to local authorities, and additional powers to reflect the separation of powers between the Mayor and the Assembly. The Monitoring Officer will act as monitoring Officer to Transport for London and the London Development Agency where they are exercising any function delegated to them by the Mayor under section 38 of the Act. This section also sets out the procedures to be followed when the Monitoring Officer submits a report to the Mayor and Assembly

Sections 74 to 76: General local authority provisions

143.By virtue of  section 74 the GLA will be included in the list of bodies subject to scrutiny by the Commission for Local Administration (commonly known as the "local government ombudsman"). This list is set out in the Local Government Act 1974 (as amended). Section 394 provides for the functional bodies also to be subject to investigation by the local government ombudsman.

144.The ombudsman is responsible for investigating and reporting on complaints by members of the public about maladministration. The ombudsman investigates complaints and where appropriate suggests a course of action for authorities to take.

145.The Act gives the ombudsman powers to carry out investigations in areas where the GLA and its functional bodies are competent. Members of the public will be able to make complaints to the ombudsman about maladministration by the GLA and the functional bodies in the provision of services. Because the GLA will be a strategic authority, it will be responsible for the direct provision of services to the public in only a few areas. It is likely that these will mostly be related to TfL's responsibility for highways and transport planning. (Public complaints about the provision of passenger transport services by TfL will be dealt with by the London Transport Users Committee.) Decisions taken by the Fire and Police Authorities that may have a direct impact on members of the public could include planning.

146.Section 74 also contains provisions to amend the parts of the 1974 Local Government Act which set out how the ombudsman should inform local authorities of investigations he is undertaking into them, and how he should present the conclusions that he draws. These amendments will allow for the different structure of the GLA, and will ensure that the ombudsman takes account of the division of responsibilities between the Mayor and Assembly when he is preparing or submitting reports on complaints of maladministration against the GLA. For example, when the ombudsman submits a report to the GLA he will submit it to both the Mayor and the Assembly.

147.Subsection (5) of section 74 amends the 1974 Act to allow the ombudsman to identify individual members of the GLA in any report on the Authority that he might prepare. Presently, the ombudsman can only identify individual members of local authorities who have contravened the local government code of conduct.

148.Section 75 makes the GLA subject to standard local authority provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 covering documents, notices etc.

149.Section 76 of the Act provides that the GLA should follow the same procedure as local authorities (set out in section 236 of the Local Government Act 1972) when it makes byelaws.

Sections 77 to 79: Local Bills

150.Sections 77 to 79 along with section 167, Schedule 5, Schedule 13, paragraphs 16 and 21 of Schedule 25 provide that the GLA, TfL and the LDA have the power to promote local legislation.  They provide that, before doing so, extensive consultation must take place.  Where a local Bill affects the exercise of statutory functions of a London local authority, the consent of that authority must be obtained.  Where more than one London local authority is affected, the consent of at least 90% of all London local authorities must be obtained.

151.Section 77 provides that the GLA, acting through the Mayor, may promote a local Bill for any purpose which is for the public benefit of the inhabitants of, or of any part of, Greater London.  The Authority may also oppose local Bills.  The section also provides that London local authorities may contribute to the cost of promoting such a Bill.

152.Section 78 enables the GLA to request provisions be included in a local Bill promoted by a London local authority and contribute to the cost of promoting the Bill.  Section 79 provides that the consent of the GLA must be obtained before a London local authority may promote a local Bill affecting the exercise of statutory functions by the GLA or its functional bodies, other than provisions included at the request of the GLA under section 78.

153.Schedule 5 provides for the procedure to be followed by the GLA when promoting a local Bill.  It sets out procedures for consultation and publicity in respect of the draft Bill and for publicity arrangements prior to its deposit.  Paragraph 6 provides that where the Bill affects the statutory functions of a single London local authority, that authority must give its consent to the Bill prior to the Bill being deposited.  Where the statutory functions of two or more London local authorities are affected, the Mayor will be required to obtain the consent of at least 90% of all London local authorities before depositing the Bill.

154.Section 167 provides that TfL shall be able to promote and oppose local Bills, subject to consent being obtained from the GLA.  Schedule 13 provides for a similar procedure to apply in respect of Bills promoted by TfL to that required of the GLA in Schedule 5.  Paragraphs 16 and 20 of Schedule 25 amend the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 to provide that the LDA may promote Bills in Parliament, subject to a similar procedure to that required of the GLA and TfL.

Section 80: Contracts

155.Section 80 concerns contracts. Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988 prevents local authorities from taking account of specified non-commercial matters when letting contracts for the supply of goods and services, or the execution of works. This section amends that section to include the GLA. The Act also makes similar provisions for the Metropolitan Police Authority in paragraph 57 of Schedule 27 and for the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in paragraph 50 of Schedule 29.