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Lord Dubs: That was interesting. I was surprised when the Minister said I was tub-thumping for the Labour Party. I made the mildest of pro-Labour council comments. If the Minister thinks that was an example of my making full scale pro-Labour Party comments, I am afraid that he has not heard me when I really want to do that. The Minister said that the amendments happen to resemble those that were put forward in another place on this Bill. That may or may not be a coincidence, but they were tabled because I had hoped better of the Government in this place than the Government achieved in the other place. Sadly, I am disappointed.

The Minister said that he was against too much interference and bureaucracy as regards local authorities, and suggested that I liked bureaucracy. I certainly do not; I dislike bureaucracy very much indeed. However, the Minister is setting up a complicated bureaucratic system. I put it to him and to the Committee that my amendments would lessen the bureaucratic load on local authorities rather than increase it. Let us consider Clause 5. As regards free newspapers, Clause 5(4)(a) states, with regard to the condition imposed on local authorities, that they should,


It is quite a burden for local authorities to establish that a paper is distributed to each dwelling in their area when that newspaper is not within their control, and indeed when they might have the choice of using a newspaper for sale where they do not have to worry whether it is distributed widely. It might be distributed in a narrow area. The Minister said that if a local authority's own publication was used, there would be the danger that a local authority would put its own gloss on the performance indicators. However, he then said that there is nothing to stop a local authority from using its own publication provided the information also went into one of the other publications specified in the Bill. He thereby conceded that if a local authority wanted to put its own gloss on the figures it could certainly do so. That does not seem to make much logical sense. I have a feeling that the Minister's heart was not in it because it does not stand up as an argument. I should like the Minister to say a little more before I decide what to do with my amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers: Of course I shall comment further. I shall be more than delighted to help the noble Lord. He said that his observations were merely mild pro-Labour Party comments. That is fine; I understand that. I shall watch out for the blast when he really gets going and I shall take cover! The noble Lord said that he thought better of the Government in this place than in another place. It is gracious of him to say that and I am sure that was a personal compliment that he was making to me. However, he will realise that

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governments tend to have a unified view as regards this place and another place. However, the exposition of it may be slightly different. That is the reason that I did not feel I could accept the noble Lord's amendment. I thought the phrase he used was charming when he said that if we accepted his amendment that would do away with bureaucracy. What is the very first amendment the noble Lord has tabled? His Amendment No. 1 states,


    "The relevant body may publish the information in accordance with a code of practice issued by the Secretary of State".

I shall let the noble Lord into a little secret. Since I have been in the Department of the Environment, I have seen codes of practice that appear on my desk which are submitted for approval. They are usually vast documents. I keep on saying that we should think of the people who have to read those documents. They are enormous great documents which state exactly what is to be done, how and why it is to be done, and who should do it, and other such matters. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, suggests that we should produce another one. It will be quite simple but it might be half an inch thick and all his local authority councillors will have to read through the wretched document--and what for?--to find out whether they can publish the information in their in-house newspaper. That is a waste of time. They can publish all the information they want in the in-house newspaper provided they also put it in other local newspapers.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was lost in imagination as to how an authority might publish the facts and possibly put a gloss on them. He did not seem to think that was at all conceivable, but then he went on to say that it was perfectly all right for them to put a gloss on the facts if they published that in a newspaper for sale. He therefore admits that they might put a gloss on the facts because if they can do that provided they put the facts in a newspaper for sale they can also do it if the facts are not in a newspaper for sale. The noble Lord made the argument against his case, hook, line and--if I may say so--sinker.

I do not think that the noble Lord has his heart in this. Now he is talking to the noble Baroness on his Benches because he is trying to inveigle her into getting involved. However, I do not think she will because her heart is not in it, either. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, knows perfectly well that if we proceed with the Bill as it stands all a local authority has to do is to publish the information either in a newspaper for sale or in a free newspaper, and in the local authority's newspaper--with a gloss, if the local authority wishes to put such a gloss on the information, which I am sure not even a Labour authority would wish to do as it would wish to give the facts--and then everyone will be satisfied.

Lord Dubs: I shall read Hansard tomorrow with great interest because in referring to putting a gloss on information, I was quoting what the Minister had said. If my memory is right--and I am pretty confident that it is--the Minister said the trouble with only publishing in local authority newspapers is that local authorities will be tempted to put a gloss on the information. I then suggested that if the Minister was happy that local

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authorities should publish the information in their own newspapers provided they also published it in others, he was saying that the gloss did not matter.

However, if the Minister is against codes of practice, I would refer him to a previous code of practice concerning the publication of financial statements and annual reports by local authorities which was published in February 1981. If the Minister is against the suggestion in this amendment, he is presumably against things that the Department of the Environment was putting out some years ago. However, there is a simple answer. The Minister needs only to accept my other amendments which do not cover a code of practice but which simply say that the local authority may publish in its own newspaper if it so wishes. I fear that the Minister is not to be persuaded this evening. I deeply regret that but I feel it would be wrong to take up any more of the Committee's time in what is a matter of some importance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 5 not moved.]

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.

Rating (Caravans and Boats) Bill

6.21 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Lucas.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Dean of Harptree) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Caravans and boats occupied as sole or main residence]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 1:


Page 1, line 20, at end insert--
("(4A) Subsection (3) or (4) above does not have effect in the case of a pitch occupied by a caravan, or a mooring occupied by a boat, which is an appurtenance enjoyed with other property to which subsection (1)(a) above applies.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to show that we listen to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, sometimes; and, incidentally, to ensure that pitches occupied by caravans or moorings occupied by boats which are part of a larger domestic property--such as a house with a river frontage with mooring--will be considered as appurtenances to the main property. They will, therefore, be domestic property. Without this amendment any such pitches or moorings would be non-domestic property and subject to non-domestic rates. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: Clearly, I welcome the amendment and thank the Minister for having responded to what was said at Second Reading and for the letter that he sent me explaining in some detail the thinking underlying the amendment.

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In so far as I understand the technicalities, I believe that it is an improvement on the Bill. I support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 2:


Page 2, line 11, leave out ("or 1st April 1995") and insert ("1st April 1995 or 1st April 1996").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 2, I speak also to Amendment No. 3. These amendments apply the Bill's provisions to the new post-reorganisation rating lists in Wales. These lists will have effect from 1st April 1995 but were compiled on 1st April 1996. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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