Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Brennan: My Lords, I raise a particular problem about these regulations while otherwise welcoming them very warmly. The problem relates to Regulation 20, which rightly applies the regulations to institutions of further and higher education. The problem arises as to what is comprised by that phrase,

Regulation 17 expressly excludes schools, but there exist in this country 16 Catholic sixth-form colleges, which ordinary folk would call schools. However, for funding purposes various statutory provisions in recent years have assigned sixth-form colleges into the category of further education. So by dint of one entirely discrete legislative provenance those sixth-form colleges on the face of these regulations are caught by Regulation 20, by its use of the phrase "further education".

That is an anomaly that needs some attention because the directive seeks to protect employment opportunity. It uses the phrase "vocational training"

17 Jun 2003 : Column 792

obviously in the sense of tertiary and higher education at that level. The anomaly is accentuated by the fact that under Section 30 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, and a statutory instrument made under it in 2001, these sixth-form colleges are required by the legislation to operate in accordance with their Catholic trust deed; in other words, to provide places for Catholics. But this regulation would make that legislative intent on its face not tenable, or even illegal.

That is a significant problem because the 16 schools to which I referred are situated mostly in areas of significant deprivation and need, and most of them are successful. In the provision that they make for education only a small amount of what they provide is what might be termed "vocational"—craftwork and so on. It is therefore the position that by the combination of all those rather unusual circumstances the regulations catch a set of schools which can hardly have been regarded as the intent of the directive. Those problems have been—

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, could the noble Lord add to our knowledge on this matter? May I say that in asking that question I have very great sympathy with the case that he is advancing? Could he say whether these 16 bodies are supported by public funds?

Lord Brennan: My Lords, they come within the funding arrangements of various education Acts which have been passed by this House. But the fact is that in most of them the balance between Catholic and non-Catholic is about—I say "about" in a broad sense—55 per cent Catholic, 45 per cent non-Catholic. They are seeking to meet a local need as well as preserving to that small extent places for those of the Catholic faith.

Representatives of the Catholic Church have met various representatives of the ministry and the problem has been looked at afresh. It clearly seems to represent an anomaly. I know that the Government are considering the matter and I have made these points simply to place them on the record should we ever have to revisit this question.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the definition of "religion" under Regulation 2 is not a very precise one. It simply states:

    "In these Regulations, 'religion or belief' means any religion, religious belief, or similar philosophical belief".

It is clearly the intention that where people have strongly held views, which include humanism, or atheism or agnosticism, they would be covered under the phrase "or similar philosophical belief".

The noble Lord, Lord Lester, referred to his Parliamentary Question. I believe that was the Question in which he asked Her Majesty's Government to what extent the submissions received on the draft equality regulations had argued for the use of primary rather than secondary legislation or for a single equality Act extending beyond the employment

17 Jun 2003 : Column 793

field. I am sorry that the reply did not reach the noble Lord. I rescued it from the burning embers of the Lord Chancellor's Office. It states:

    "Of the 620 responses to Equality and Diversity: The Way Ahead, published in October 2002, 18 or 3 per cent said they would have preferred the Government to use primary legislation rather than secondary legislation as a way of implementing the employment and race directives. Sixteen responses, 3 per cent, suggested that new legislation on sexual orientation, religion and age should extend beyond the field of employment. In both cases the responses came from unions, faith groups and other representative bodies. One hundred and six—39 per cent—respondents to the parallel consultation on the future of Great Britain's equality institutions, Equality and Diversity: Making it Happen, argued for measures to harmonise anti-discrimination legislation, in particular through a single equality Act".

17 Jun 2003 : Column 794

I will sign that answer off tomorrow and let the noble Lord have it.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, of course, quality as well as quantity matters.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, so far as the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, are concerned, I think it best if I follow the points up and give a considered answer by letter tomorrow. I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Licensing Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons agreed to with amendments and with a privilege amendment; it was moved that the Commons amendments be printed.

        House adjourned at five minutes before eleven o'clock.

17 Jun 2003 : Column GC223

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Local Government Bill

(Sixth Day) Tuesday, 17th June 2003.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gould of Potternewton) in the Chair.]

Clause 78 [Statutory revaluation cycle]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gould of Potternewton): If Amendment No. 169 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 170 by reason of pre-emption.

[Amendment No. 169 not moved.]

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 170:

    Page 40, line 33, leave out "tenth" and insert "fifth"

The noble Earl said: This simple amendment seeks to find out why the Government want revaluations. I recall our discussions on a Local Government Bill in the early 1990s on this. At the time, the whole point of the revaluation and setting the bands was to avoid the hassle of future revaluations, but the Government want to change that. They seek now a revaluation every 10 years.

What is the point of doing a revaluation in the first place and, furthermore, what is the point of revaluing every tenth year rather than every fifth year? I beg to move.

Lord Smith of Leigh: In speaking to Amendment No. 171, I want to state clearly that I believe that revaluation does matter. Yesterday evening we touched on the matter of change in property values which distorts valuations and the need to value new properties. The impact of that is very important on the resource equalisation grant. Money going to local authorities reflects council tax valuations and the SIGOMA authorities, of which I am the vice-chairman, have calculated that some 250 million is being lost to those authorities because of the lack of a revaluation.

It goes without saying that house prices rise more rapidly in the most prosperous areas. Therefore, the areas which are most deprived are the ones that lose out on the resource equalisation grant. So this does matter.

I understand why my noble friend has set a period of 10 years for revaluation, because of the labour costs and administrative difficulties associated with doing it on a more frequent basis. Furthermore, as we touched

17 Jun 2003 : Column GC224

on yesterday, politics and public reactions come into this, which leads to further delays and a certain amount of resistance.

If we keep to the 10-year cycle of revaluation and if the current rate of house price inflation is sustained over that period, then by the end we could see differentials in value of between 60 per cent and more than 150 per cent of current values. Those differentials matter because, as I said, in turn they will impact upon grant.

My amendment proposes a very simple process of refreshing house price valuations on a regular, annual basis. These days data on changes in house prices can readily be made available. That data from the private sector is available locally and on a regional basis. Indeed, it could be used as a guide to changes in house price values. I fully accept that this may be something of a rough guide for individual properties, but then as I pointed out at Second Reading, the whole process of council tax valuation in the first place was hardly an exact science.

Over the 10-year cycle, we will be able to correct for any minor amendments that have taken place. If a system of annual refreshments were established, I think that we would have a much smoother and more publicly acceptable change and, of course, any such changes would be small.

I hardly dare mention this, but some years ago, after moving an amendment to a Finance Bill in another place, my noble friend on the Front Bench earned a place in political history for recognising the importance of making tax systems reflect inflationary pressures. Obviously he thought that was extremely important. I hope that he will now think carefully about whether we could do something similar in terms of property taxation.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page