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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The London boroughs will set their budgets and council tax by 11th March. They should also calculate the total council tax by that time, and there is no difficulty. The problem to which the noble Baroness continues to refer does not arise. If the GLA precept is delayed, the London borough will want to set the final tax within the due date, and the information will be available for it to do so. We are not talking about the Secretary of State delaying between 1st February and 1st April. We are talking about only a marginal delay as a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I hesitate to enter the debate at this late stage, but if we are talking about only a very small matter, I do not know why the Government are unable to accept the amendment. The reference in the Bill is,


Lord Tope: I shall read the debate with considerable interest. The Minister appears to be saying that the GLA can set its precept without having finalised its budget. I suppose that that is theoretically possible, but it would be rather difficult.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I did not say that.

Lord Tope: The Minister indicates that that is not what she said. Clearly, I need to read the Hansard report of this debate carefully. It seems to me that we are giving the Secretary of State power in relation to the GLA that he does not have in relation to the London borough councils, which will suffer exactly the same difficulties from a delayed finance settlement as will the GLA. We are creating an extremely difficult situation. We tabled this amendment in order to set the dates earlier; but the argument has been about the Government's intentions of enabling the dates to be set later. We have exposed some very real difficulties that will arise in the exceptional circumstances for which we are legislating. I shall read the debate carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 219B:


Page 200, line 5, at end insert--

("Publication

.--(1) The Mayor shall as soon as practicable publish each of the following documents--
(a) the Authority's consolidated budget for the year; and
(b) the component budget of each constituent body for the year;
(2) In this paragraph "relevant document" means any document required to be published under sub-paragraph (1) above.

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(3) A copy of each relevant document shall be kept available for the appropriate period by the Mayor for inspection by any person on request free of charge at the principal offices of the Authority at reasonable hours.
(4) A copy of any relevant document, or any part of a relevant document, shall be supplied to any person on request during the appropriate period for such reasonable fee as the Mayor may determine.
(5) In this paragraph "the appropriate period" in the case of any document is the period of six years beginning with the date of publication of the document pursuant to this paragraph.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 72 agreed to.

Clause 73 [Calculation of basic amount of tax]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 220:


Page 39, line 26, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Lord said: After all the fireworks, the noble Lord opposite will be relieved to hear that this simple little amendment is purely exploratory. At present, all national non-domestic rates are distributed through all existing authorities. That includes a subscription which goes to the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. It goes to the boroughs and all the local authorities across the land. That is a 100 per cent take-up of the national non-domestic rate. Now we are creating a new authority--and thus more than 100 per cent. But the pool is still the same.

I acknowledge that some of the parts of the Greater London Authority are already receiving national non-domestic rate as a contribution towards their expenditure. To that extent one feels no concern. But we shall now be distributing those funds to, let us say, a further 0.1 per cent of authorities. I am concerned that the 0.1 per cent might cause some difficulty, albeit marginal, to existing authorities. I thought it worthwhile tabling this amendment in order to enable the Minister to do two things: first, to explain what the new arrangements will be for the distribution of national non-domestic rate; and secondly, to demonstrate how the change will not affect any existing local authority in an adverse way. I look forward with a keen appetite to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I was glad to hear the noble Lord describe this as an exploratory amendment. I was slightly unclear about the intention were he to pursue it in a legislative way. It might have been to ensure that the GLA did not receive a share of the non-domestic rate. It is our intention that the GLA should receive a share. In terms of its knock-on effects, the position would be that, if the GLA received a share, that would not have an effect on authorities outside London. In effect, there would be a corresponding decrease in the amount of redistributed national non-domestic rates going to other London authorities. But there would be compensating changes in the RSG entitlement for those authorities. In other words, one would have to look at the total system. We are talking about relatively small amounts.

If the amendment were pursued, the effect would be to increase council taxes throughout London, and potentially to leave the GLA, theoretically at least, with

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an excess of income over expenditure. Clearly, we should not wish that to be the outcome. However, as the noble Lord is not pursuing the amendment, I leave it to him to decide whether my explanation of what would happen is sufficient for him or whether he requires further details, either now or at a later stage, or in writing, to explain exactly how the process would work. I hope that he will withdraw his amendment, subject to seeking further clarification in that respect.

Lord Dixon-Smith: If I have correctly understood the Minister, his intention is that the changes resulting from the introduction of the GLA should not affect the situation outside London, and if there is any variation within London it will be taken care of by adjustment of the general revenue support grant which the Government make to the London boroughs. I shall study what the Minister said and satisfy myself that that is the situation. I am grateful for his explanation. It should be a simple matter, and I hope it is. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 220A:


Page 39, line 43, after ("report") insert ("or determination").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 220A I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 220B to 220D and 220G to 220K. This group of minor technical amendments is necessary because the general GLA grant will be the subject of a determination, not a report. All of the other items of income referred to in Clauses 73(2) and 74(4) are the subject of a report. These amendments merely ensure that the Secretary of State will be able to set out the amounts of general GLA grant that he considers relate to police and non-police services in a more appropriate place; namely, the determination in which the total amount of general GLA grant will be set out. Therefore, the amendments relate to terminology. Although there are a lot of amendments, they are designed simply to deal with that point. I hope that the Committee can accept the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 220B to 220D:


Page 40, line 4, after ("report") insert ("or determination"").
Page 40, line 5, leave out ("(b) or (c)") and insert ("or (b)").
Page 40, line 7, at end insert--
("( ) in the case of the item specified in paragraph (c) of that definition, the determination under section 85 below for the financial year in question;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 220E not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 220F:


Page 40, line 40, leave out subsection (9).

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 220F seeks to omit from the Bill Clause 73(9). That subsection provides that if the precept is negative, council tax bills

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will not be reduced. I am in the slightly curious position of moving an amendment moved in another place by the honourable Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. I do not always have a great deal in common with him but here I believe that he has a point. The amendment would enable the GLA to notify the billing authorities, the boroughs, to levy a negative precept on its behalf; in other words, to reduce the burden on London taxpayers. No extra billing would be required for refunds because the amount billed by the borough would be reduced by this mechanism.

We have been urged to anticipate a lean and mean authority, according to the popular meaning of that term. I hope that it will not be an excessively mean authority. The Government's response in another place was that the Minister could not conceive of a case for treating the GLA differently from local authorities in general, but the GLA is a different authority with quite separate functions. This amendment is entirely in line with the arguments that we have put forward today about transparency and the importance of the authority's relationship not just with the boroughs but all Londoners. I beg to move.


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