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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Rooker: I have made my opposition clear since I came to this place. The level of scrutiny here is much greater, but we have not reformed sufficiently. The consequence of that is that, if there were to be ping-pong on the Bill, the only way in which we could protect the main thrust of the Bill is not to proceed with that ping-pong. This House will not have time, so Part 4 would be removed. That is not a threat as regards the Bill, but a consequence of the logjam that arises this summer.

Meetings go on all the while. I have to say, for the avoidance of doubt, that if anyone wants to write, the address is, "The right honourable Nick Raynsford, Minister of State for Local Government and the Regions, 26 Whitehall, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister". Nick had meetings with the British Property Federation only last week, well after Second Reading in this House. He is about to write to it. I do not need to repeat the words—the noble Lord did not misquote me—but if, when the BIDs are up and running and there is a sufficient number, we find out that the property owners are not properly engaged and there is sufficient cause for concern, we will look at the BIDs mechanism to see whether changes can be made. I do not know what kind of changes would be envisaged, because the system has to be as open as that. In other words, we have not closed the door once we have them up and running.

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In so far as major changes to the Bill are concerned, at this stage in the timetable and given what I have said about attempting to get Royal Assent, I suspect that there is not even scope to put an enabling clause in for property owners. That might sound okay, but once Parliamentary Counsel get hold of an idea like that, another 10 clauses will go into the Bill. We can forget that—it simply will not happen. There is no time to do it. The reason why we are in the Moses Room today and not the Chamber is part of the answer. We are sitting in parallel. There is no time in the Chamber to consider the Bill in Committee. That makes my case; I wish I had thought of that earlier, because it is a better example.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: I listened carefully to what the Minister said in response to the point that I made. I never had in mind an exercise in ping-pong. I had in mind what the Minister said. He told us that he was convinced that the process, as laid out, would work. I raised doubts as to whether it would. The Minister said that if, in the light of experience, it seemed that the process could be improved along the lines that we have suggested, he would be prepared to consider such improvements as might emerge. The Minister has been fair to the Committee, and I thank him for it.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I do not want to get involved in an argument about which House conducts its affairs more effectively. I suspect that there would be few people in either House who would not agree with what the noble Lord said in the past few minutes. We have to do the work that another place simply does not do because it has decided that it wants to go home and live with its family. It breaks up early, and large parts of Bills arrive here completely undebated. We are discussing Bills in the Moses Room on the promise that important Select Committee debates would be held at prime time on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Have they been? No, not one.

I do not know what has gone wrong, but that was part of the process. I said in the debate that I would support it on those grounds. More fool me, I suppose; I was a sucker. We have not had a Select Committee debate other than on a Monday or a Friday. That is not what was offered. However, I will not go into that.

We will have to come back to this, and I am sorry that the Minister did not say that he would continue to discuss the matter with the relevant interests in the mean time. That could be helpful. I am not sure that I necessarily agree with the Minister that, if we had a clause that gave a power to extend the process to owners, it would need to be as elaborate as he suggested. Perhaps that, too, might be explored.

I was surprised that—I was going to say, "My noble friend", but I could call him, "My noble co-president"—the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, felt that a review would be sufficient. If it came next year, it would be helpful, but would we need fresh legislation, against the background of the

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Government's congested legislative programme? Whole pieces of legislation, such as the Planning Bill, have gone now, and it is not likely to be any better next year. How long would we have to wait? If there were a power in the Bill, the matter could be dealt with by delegated legislation. I would like that option to be explored between now and the next stage.

I am not prepared to abandon the issue now on the basis that I am afraid that the Government might find themselves in difficulties in September. We have made a strong enough case. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, has not been present; I know that he would have spoken firmly and strongly in favour of the amendment. He asked whether he could put his name to it, and I encouraged him to do it. The initiative came from him. With the support of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, we have, in a sense, had all-party support for the amendment. I would have hoped that the Government would have given rather more weight to it.

It is clear, however, that we will make no progress on this this afternoon, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 114 and 115 not moved.]

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Additional contributions and action]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 115A:

    Page 20, line 23, leave out "or required"

The noble Baroness said: Following that discussion, Amendment No. 115A is something of a minnow.

In Clause 45, we find a list of those who are to be allowed to make financial contributions to enable BID arrangements to be carried out. Apart from billing authorities and county and parish councils in relevant areas, that includes,

    "any other person authorised or required to do so in accordance with the arrangements".

My amendment, which would leave out the words "or required" is designed to probe what is meant by the term.

In another place, the Minister, Mr Leslie, said, first, that he imagined that there might be circumstances in which a local authority might be a tenant of a property in a town centre and a ratepayer and, thus, bound to make a contribution in an area. Secondly, he said that he "suspected" that the provision would give power to public bodies to pay, if they wanted to do so.

If we are talking about public bodies other than the local authorities that I mentioned, why does the Bill say "required", if they are empowered? I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify the language. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Baroness seeks to find out what we mean by "required". The clause allows voluntary contributions for the BID to be received from anybody authorised or required to make a contribution in the BID arrangements. Certain

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public bodies are unable to make voluntary financial contributions to BIDs without expressly being required to do so. That is because of their accounting and auditing procedures. Such bodies may include, for example, police authorities.

The power will not allow the BID arrangements to force voluntary payments from organisations that are reluctant to contribute to the levy. It is simply aimed at allowing all organisations to give money to a BID if they wish but do not otherwise have the power to do so. Clause 45(1) makes it clear that bodies may make a voluntary contribution. Subsection 45(2) is supplementary to 45(1), so, even if the body is required by the arrangements to make a contribution, it is not required by subsection (1) to make that contribution; it merely has the power to do so. I hope that, with that bit of further elucidation, the noble Baroness better understands the clause.

Baroness Hamwee: I think that we are being told that the little words change the vires of some public bodies. The Minister did not shake his head. In that case, I find it interesting that the word "or" is not the word "and". The arrangement is an admirable one, and we support the BIDs process. I forgot to say that some of the major amendments in the previous group to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, spoke were tabled by my honourable friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton last time. However, the two little words "or required" mean that a public body such as a police authority must contribute, even if it does not want to. That is what the clause seems to say. I am happy to come back to this next time, unless we can get some more clarity.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Baroness is right in her first proposition. It changes the vires, and there is no doubt about that. We are trying to ensure that—how can I best put this?—even if a body has to match the requirement, by virtue of subsection (1), to make a contribution, it merely has the power to make that contribution.

We are trying, in a sense, to get the best of both worlds. The noble Baroness is unhappy with the response, and, having listened carefully to her, I can see where she is coming from. We will need to make sure that we have got it absolutely right. I think that we have, but she has raised a point that I would like to look at a little more closely.

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