Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-First Report


Annex 7

LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL - GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

Letter from Lord Rooker, Minister of State for Housing, Planning and Regeneration at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I am writing to you further to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's report of 3 April, which includes the Committee's comments and recommendations concerning the Local Government Bill.

I accept the conclusions reached by the Committee identified in paragraph 5 of its Report that clause 49(5) contains an inappropriate level of delegation. In practice it is extremely unlikely that the government would want to exercise such a power and I can confirm that it is my intention to bring forward an amendment to delete this subsection from the Bill.

I further accept the Committee's recommendations that the affirmative resolution rather than the negative resolution should apply to clauses 58, 73(4), and the power to make regulations under clause 57 (as to the non-domestic ratepayer entitled to vote in a ballot) as indicated in the Committee's report paragraphs 6, 7, 12 , and 17. The proposal to use the negative resolution, particularly with regard to the Part 4 of the Bill concerning Business Improvement Districts, was to ensure that the legislation was flexible enough to deal with the development of these new and innovative schemes. Nevertheless, I recognise that their very originality means that they will be of particular interest to Parliament and I am happy to bring forward amendments to make these clauses and sub-clauses subject to affirmative resolution.

I am also content to accept your recommendation that the affirmative resolution should apply to clause 98(10). As you know, I have some reservations about the application of the affirmative resolution if applied to Schedule 3 paragraphs 8(6), 9, 13 and 14(3) for sections 16 and 17 of the Local Government Act 1999 and sections 5, 6 and 9 of the Local Government Act 2000 as the Committee has suggested in paragraph 12 of the Report and discussions are ongoing between my Department and your Committee about how this can be taken forward. I do not want to pre-empt those discussions and do not propose to table an amendment with regard to Schedule 3 at this time. However, if it becomes clear from those discussions that an amendment is necessary, I will bring forward an amendment at a later date.

The Committee also sought an explanation of clause 56(4) and why the provisions appears to go wider than necessary before recommending that the delegation would only be appropriate if limited on the face of the Bill or subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The government's memorandum to the Committee stated that "It is not envisaged that any unilateral alteration or termination [of a BID] would be permitted". However, the innovative nature of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) means that I cannot rule out the possibility of a situation arising where there may be a pressing need to do so. The clause has therefore been drafted to allow flexibility to accommodate future experience of the working of BIDs. Nevertheless, I appreciate that the House may want to scrutinise the use of this power should such an occasion arise and I am content for the regulations to be subject to affirmative resolution and will bring forward an amendment.

The Committee considered that the delegation in clause 92 was too wide and recommended that it would be appropriate only if its extent were limited on the face of the bill to specific provisions in Part 6. Given the way that Part 6 works, identifying only certain provisions that will be subject to the proposed new powers runs the risk of limiting what can be achieved in future, even if all parties would otherwise be in agreement about what changes they would like to see and, for England, Parliament was prepared to agree that the changes should be made. However, in view of the Committee's concerns we are prepared to accept that the new section 87A powers introduced by clause 92 should extend only to sections 74, 75, 76 and 78 of the 1989 Act, and to Schedule 4 to that Act. Taken together with the proposed new powers in respect of the calculation of housing revenue account subsidy in clause 90, this should give an acceptable level of flexibility in the future.

In relation to clause 98 I accept the points made in the Committee's Report and are content that clause 98(1) should be amended so that it may not be used to amend either clause 94(2) or 96(2) of this Bill. I will table an amendment to effect this.

In paragraph 18 of its Report, the Committee advised the House that it might like to seek reassurances from the Government that all the relevant material is available as the Bill progress, regarding our consultation on the proposal to move the date of the local elections. I agree that this will be important for the House. On the 2 May therefore the Minister for Local Government, Nick Raynsford set out the government's response to consultation responses, together with details of the responses received to the consultation. I welcome the Committee's view that our reason for proposing the negative procedure was acceptable, and are happy to assist the House in this way.

Finally, I accept the conclusion in paragraph 13 that the power in clause 122(1) to amend an Act for supplementary or incidental purposes should be subject to affirmative procedure and will bring forward amendments to make these clauses and sub-clauses subject to affirmative resolution.

I am copying this letter to members of the Committee, the Committee Clerk and I will be placing copies in the House Libraries.

23 May 2003

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Rooker

Thank you for your letter of 23 May which my Committee considered at a meeting this morning.

We welcome your positive response to the recommendations relating to the Local Government Bill contained in our 16th Report. There is, however, one matter in your letter which troubled the Committee. It concerns your reference to discussions between the Committee and your Department. I hope that you will not mind if I take this opportunity to clarify generally the position of the Committee in regard to Government responses to our reports. Whilst the Committee is grateful to Departments for responding formally to our reports and recognises the assistance that this provides to the House, we do not believe that it is appropriate for the Committee to comment on a Government response. We believe that when the Committee has reported to the House, it is for the House to consider the Committee's report and the Government's response to it.

11 June 2003


 
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