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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I trust that the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting him for a moment. I believe that it would be helpful for people present in the Chamber to know that there is a firework display going on outside the House, not a revolution.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. I was beginning to wonder what it was that I had said to cause so much discontent.

However, in the city areas, I believe that there will be pressure in the submissions made for BIDs for security provisions, not just for closed circuit television but for personnel on the ground. Whether they be called, as I believe they are proposed to be called in some areas, welcome wardens, or whether they are called community safety officers, is something which I am sure

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will need careful handling. I have seen, albeit on a brief and private visit to Baltimore, the public safety guides. I have read that they have been a great success. I realise that such personnel on the ground will only have the powers of a citizen. But I know to my cost, when trying to introduce a similar scheme in the authority which I led--and in which, I suppose, I should declare I still have an interest as a local authority member--that there are many uninformed charges of seeking to introduce vigilante groups and private police forces. It may not be for this Bill; but, I believe, it is a matter that will need great consideration and sensitivity when it arises out of schemes which form the part of BIDs, if the Bill is successful.

I believe that the Bill will be generally welcomed by the local government associations. Certainly, as we have heard tonight, London local government tried in its last general powers Bill to obtain such powers and only two boroughs objected at that time. I hope that the difficulties and reservations that local government have can be addressed. Consideration needs to be given to the length of the initial scheme, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding suggested. Perhaps I may suggest to him that we also need to look at methods of continuing a scheme where that is felt to be needed and wanting.

While not wishing to restrict initiatives, perhaps the refusal of an election order under Clause 9 should take into account some of the considerations to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred--the wider considerations that a local authority will have. I believe that the Bill will enable many of these important issues and ideas, and indeed problems, to be discussed in detail in your Lordships' House. That can only be to the benefit of those concerned about such issues and about the future of our existing commercial centres, both large and small; but particularly for the future of large town and city centres.

8.9 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and, if I may say so, pace the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, for the general welcome given to the Bill. When I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury we conducted a series of discussions. Noble Lords will remember the 1970s when one sometimes found oneself in the dark, with the lights gone out. There was one housing scheme which I remember that became universally known in Whitehall as the "candlelight scheme" because the details of it had been hammered out in an inter-departmental meeting lit solely by candlelight. I hope that this Bill will not become known as the "fireworks Bill". There was certainly a remarkable punctuation of my noble friend's speech from the Front Bench.

It would obviously be totally inappropriate, particularly at this hour of the evening, for me to attempt to reply to all the points made in the debate. Some extremely good points have been made. In my opening speech I indicated areas where I would be in favour of considering amendments that might be moved at Committee stage. I was encouraged by what the Minister said; namely, that we should have a thorough

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Committee stage on this Bill even if by the end of the parliamentary Session we do not succeed in putting the Bill on the statute book as that may be difficult due to problems in another place.

I am greatly encouraged by the fact that many noble Lords have said that there are many good ideas in the Bill. They need to be refined and explored and there may need to be additional safeguards. The Committee and subsequent stages of the Bill will provide admirable opportunities to do that. I hope that we shall obtain our Second Reading.

A number of noble Lords referred to the repatriation or localisation of the national non-domestic rate. It is interesting to note that in its consideration of what it calls the town improvement zones the Association of Town Centre Management did not regard the development of those schemes as indicating one way or another whether there should be a national non-domestic rate. The Minister said that the context in which this Bill would be considered might be changed when the Government publish the outcome of their review. I understood her to say that this may be before Christmas. It seems to me sensible that we should postpone the Committee stage until after Christmas. Knowing the pressures on business up until Christmas, that may be welcome to both Front Benches.

I must respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. In his comments I recognised the authentic voice of old Labour. His views were markedly different from those of everyone else on both sides of the House. Nevertheless one has to recognise that that point of view is still to be found in some parts of this country. He said that the proposal would be divisive and undemocratic. He said that some areas may be more favoured than others and that therefore no one should benefit from the proposal. I recognise that philosophy. I remember that I grew up on the argument: if I cannot have it, you cannot have it either. That was the climate in the immediate post-war years, and pretty depressing it was. I commend the report to the noble Lord that was produced by the Greater London Group at the LSE in which Tony Travers and Jeroen Weimar set out examples from the American experience. As my noble friend said, I recognise that parallels from the US may not be wholly exact. However, the report shows how business improvement districts have spread not just to the central parts of cities but have been set up with great enthusiasm in some of the really deprived areas of the major American cities. There is, for example, a business improvement district on 125th Street, New York, a major inner-city sub-centre; a long, wide street of mixed retailing with some public sector office blocks in Harlem, the self-styled "Black Capital of the World", the parallel of which, they say, would be Brixton or Harlesden in this country.

I take another example. On Lower East Side, a small struggling historic neighbourhood, on Orchard Street and from Canal Street to Houston Street there is a BID scheme. The corresponding area in London would be Spitalfields or Whitechapel. It is simply not true that business improvement districts are confined to the more prosperous areas of cities. Some of the most successful ones have been established in deprived areas. I am

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astonished that the noble Lord should seek to deprive those areas of the opportunities of regeneration which this Bill might help to promote.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I wish to make a few points. I have been to Baltimore and seen the magnificent development of the downtown area which extends over several miles in an area which was completely derelict before the development took place. I accept that it is magnificent. In the context of the argument, the schemes that have evolved in North America suit their situation well. What concerns me is that within a British urban area we could see a situation where in one district within a city there is a BID scheme but a neighbouring area that might be even poorer loses out because it cannot finance a BID scheme and therefore faces unfair competition.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to his view. Many of us have visited Baltimore over the years. It is perhaps a real pioneering example of inner city regeneration. I am not talking about a scheme of that size. One is talking here about the whole range of small schemes which can revive rundown commercial areas of many inner cities to the inestimable benefit of a city as a whole and the whole of its population. That is the American experience. There are hundreds and hundreds of such schemes. To damn them all, as it were, as the noble Lord did, and say that a scheme cannot go ahead as it is bound to be unfair to others seems to me an immensely depressing philosophy. No doubt the noble Lord will seek to justify his comments when he takes part in subsequent stages of the Bill.

The noble Lord made two good points. He asked whether this measure would not be regarded simply as a tax and therefore fall within the Treasury doctrine on public expenditure and taxation. I am firmly advised that if a charge is levied by a private company under an arrangement that has been reached under the provisions of this Bill that is not a tax and spending it will not form part of public expenditure. If a local authority makes a contribution--as many local authorities may expect to do--that will of course form part of that local authority's public expenditure. But the expenditure by the BID company and the tax that it raises is outside the public sector. I hope that as we proceed the Government may be able to express a firmer view on that point than we have heard--perhaps for understandable reasons--tonight.

I very much welcomed the support--which I had not anticipated from studying the names on the speakers' list--which I received from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. Her experience in Islington will be valuable. Let me look at her comments on the grounds for a local authority to refuse to hold a ballot. The point about the overall strategic role of a local authority would need to be taken into account. As I would have expected, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, as an active member of the Association of Local Government, was supportive. She

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made a number of points and we shall want to read Hansard carefully. Of course there is always the argument about additionality. It is unreal sometimes to expect either the Treasury, a government department or a local authority not to have at the back of their minds that something else may be available whether that is a lottery grant or whatever. One has tried to build into the Bill a clear statement that the provision must be additional. If the law states that, it puts a strong obligation on those who have to implement the measure.

The noble Baroness mentioned a dispute about pedestrianisation and a difference of view between visitors from outside, tourists and local residents. Leicester is a city which has gone a long way down the road of pedestrianisation. That has resulted in a remarkable transformation of that city, as has been the case with many other cities. These matters can be resolved. Often it is the commercial ratepayers who are at first hostile to pedestrianisation because they fear the lack of opportunity for people to take their goods away by road. It is only when pedestrianisation has occurred that they become enthusiastic supporters of it because it suddenly attracts all kinds of people into an area. There is much experience on that matter on which one can draw.

A number of speakers acknowledged the problem of the free riders and I understand the Minister's caution. The Bill enshrines a new principle and, as I indicated in my opening speech, it is at the heart. As was said by representatives of the Association of Town Centre Management in the last resort without the principle one may not have the kind of schemes one wants to see.

Having listened to some of the people who are currently running voluntary schemes and of their sense of frustration when well-heeled national businesses refused to contribute, saying that if it is going to happen anyway they need not contribute, one knows that that leaves a nasty taste. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that that is divisive and it is what the Bill is intended to redress. I take the point about the smallest businesses. Many schemes will wish to have a nominal sum or nothing from the smallest shopkeepers because, as was rightly said, many are operating on slender margins.

I am not able to answer what is the European experience. I was grateful to hear my noble friend refer to the Netherlands and Sweden. No doubt note will be taken of that and I will be better prepared for the subsequent stages of the Bill. I understand that the Government will require strong arguments as regards compulsory contributions being included in the Bill, a point made by the Minister. Having met some of the people who support the Bill largely on that ground, I hope that we will be able to produce those strong arguments and convince the Government that that is the way ahead. Some valuable points have been raised which, if we have time before Committee, we shall wish to study. I suspect that I shall be tabling some

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amendments and that others will be tabled from other parts of the House. I look forward to the Committee stage with pleasure; and, in the meantime, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

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On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at twenty-two minutes past eight o'clock.

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