Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Sixteenth Report


PART 4: BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS

41.  In considering whether provisions in this Part should be specified on the face of the Bill or dealt with by delegated legislation, the ODPM has balanced the importance of the matter in issue against the need to ensure flexibility in relation to business improvement districts. We particularly wanted to avoid too much technical or administrative detail placed on the face of the Bill.

42.  The framework of business improvement districts, their purpose, that they need to be approved by a ballot of the ratepayers in the area concerned is set out in the Bill, but it is supported by secondary legislation, for example, as to the details of how the ballot is to be run.

43.  All delegated powers in Part 4 are subject to the negative resolution procedure. We consider this is an appropriate level of Parliamentary scrutiny given the nature of those powers. The delegated powers deal with the technical detail in the establishment of business improvement districts.

44.  In the following paragraphs references to the Secretary of State include, as respects Wales, the National Assembly for Wales.

45.  Clause 43 gives billing authorities the power to make a business improvement district arrangements and explains the purpose of business improvement districts.

Clause 44: Joint arrangements

46.  Clause 44 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations about how the provisions of this Part will apply where two or more billing authorities come together to establish a business improvement district i.e. a cross border business improvement district. As with most of the powers in Part 4 we only intend to use them if absolutely necessary. We anticipate that billing authorities will be able to make their own joint arrangements without the need, in most cases, for the Secretary of State to make regulations. We do, however, wish to use this power to determine which billing authority is to be the lead authority in any joint arrangement if the authorities cannot agree among themselves.

Clause 49: BID Revenue Account

47.  Clause 49 requires billing authorities which have established a BID to keep a BID Revenue Account, so that BID monies are kept separate from other local authority revenues.

48.  Clause 49(4) and (5) enables the Secretary of State to make further provisions in relation to the BID Revenue Account. The power may be used to provide the technical rules on how the account is to be operated (note that the BID Revenue Account will be subject to clause 21 of this Bill). This includes a "Henry VIII" power, allowing the Secretary of State to amend primary legislation. Although there is an assumption that provisions that include such Henry VIII should be subject to an affirmative resolution, in this case the provision is very narrowly drawn and is limited to provisions relating to the BID Revenue Account. There is no current intention to use the "Henry VIII" power.

Clause 50: Administration of BID levy etc

49.  Clause 50 enables the Secretary of State to make provision in relation to the administration of the BID levy. It is likely that the administration, collection and enforcement of BID levy may be similar (but perhaps simpler) to the structure used for non-domestic rates (see Schedule 9 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988). The Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989 are similar to the provision we anticipate making under this power. Those regulations are subject to a negative resolution procedure.

Clause 51: BID proposals

50.  Clause 51(2) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to who may make BID proposals and the procedural requirements in drawing up those proposals. The regulations made under this power will be technical and procedural in nature including prescribing the necessary requirements placed on a person before they can draw up a BID proposal and the different matters that proposal must contain, the bodies with which that proposer must consult before bringing forward a proposal and the anticipated date of coming into force of the BID arrangements proposed.

Clause 53: Power of veto

51.  Clause 52 provides for a BID proposal to be put to the affected ratepayers in a ballot. Where the proposal is approved the billing authority has under clause 53 the power to veto the proposal in prescribed circumstances and within a prescribed period of the date of the ballot and in deciding whether to veto the proposal the authority must have regard to prescribed matters.

52.  In the note sent to the Commons Committee on BIDs we explained that the billing authority would only have the power to veto in narrowly-defined circumstances i.e. where the proposal conflicts with local or regional government strategic plans for the area concerned and we intend to use the power to prescribe those circumstances.

Clause 54: Appeal against veto

53.  Clause 54 gives any person who was entitled to vote in the initial BID proposal ballot the right to challenge the billing authority's veto by referring the matter to the Secretary of State for consideration. Clause 54(2) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the administrative and procedural arrangements for these appeals and the matters the Secretary of State must take into account in deciding such an appeal. Similar regulations have been made for appeals in the field of business rates and council tax (see Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) Regulations 1993 and Valuation and Community Charge Tribunals Regulations 1989) both these sets of regulations are made under the negative resolution procedure in Parliament.

Clause 56: Duration of BID arrangements etc.

54.  Clause 56 provides that BIDs may last no longer than 5 years without re-balloting. Clause 56(4) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the circumstances in which BIDs may be altered or terminated. Regulations, if any, made under this power are likely to provide a list of the circumstances in which the parties together can alter a BID or terminate it early, and make provision for meeting the outstanding commitments, if any of the BID. It is not envisaged that any unilateral alteration or termination would be permitted.

Clause 57: Regulations about ballots

55.  Clause 57 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the administration and procedural requirements for BID ballots. It is not anticipated that rules underlying the ballots will be contentious. By way of precedent equivalent regulations have been made previously by negative resolution procedure, see, for example, Local Authorities (Referendums)(Petitions and Directions)(England) Regulations 2000.

Clause 58: Power to make further provision

56.  This clause enables the Secretary of State to make supplementary, consequential, transitional or incidental regulations where it is considered necessary or expedient to do so for the narrow purpose only of giving full effect to the provisions relating to BIDs. The power includes a "Henry VIII" power which would be very technical in nature covering, as the clause states, supplementary, incidental, consequential, or transitional provisions in consequence to giving the provisions in Part 4 full effect. As such, t here is no current intention to use the "Henry VIII" power and it is included only to cover unforeseen circumstances arising in relation to BIDs. BIDs are an entirely new creation and it is not yet known how they will bed down in practice. Consequently the powers taken enable the Secretary of State to react to any unforeseen circumstances in relation to BIDs which may in the future arise.

PART 5: NON-DOMESTIC RATES

Clause 63: Small business relief

57.  Clause 63 amends section 43 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 by inserting new provisions which will create a new relief from business rates for certain businesses. New subsection 43(4B) gives the Secretary of State the power to prescribe the maximum amount of rateable value below which the relief will apply, the other conditions which have to be satisfied in order for the relief to apply to a particular hereditament and, as respects England only, the date by which an application for such rate relief must be submitted. New subsection 43(4C) gives the Secretary of State power, as respects England only, to prescribe the form and content of an application. New subsection 44(9) (inserted by clause 63(5)) enables the Secretary of State to prescribe the level of the small business relief. Other orders made prescribing conditions and administration of reliefs under section 43 have been made under the negative resolution procedure (see, for example, the Non-Domestic Rating (Former Agricultural Premises)(England) Order 2001 and the Non-Domestic Rating (Rural Settlements) Order 1997). It is noted that existing power of the Secretary of State to prescribed conditions under subsection 43(6B)(c)(ii) of the 1988 Act is subject to an affirmative procedure in Parliament. However, this provision gives the Secretary of State the power to create new classes of rural properties (which was done, for example in the case of public houses and petrol stations, see the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Houses and Petrol Filling Stations)(England) Order 2001) to which the rural relief applies. Whereas the power to prescribe in clause 63 does not give the Secretary of State such a power. The Secretary of State intends to exercise the power to prescribe conditions in order to provide that a ratepayer is only entitled to small business relief if he has only one property in the billing authority's area. So a ratepayer with a chain of small shops would not be entitled to the relief.

Clause 66: Transitional relief

58.  Clause 66 inserts a new section 57A into the Local Government Finance Act 1988. This new section will apply to England only. Existing section 58 (which currently applies to England and Wales) is amended by clause 66(2) to apply to Wales only.

59.  New section 57A is modelled on existing section 58 and differs in only a couple of places. This clause will require rather than empower the Secretary of State to make regulations that provide transitional relief to ratepayers following a rating revaluation. Under the current Non-Domestic Rating (Chargeable Amounts)(England) Regulations 1999, after a 5 yearly revaluation if a ratepayer's rate bill is calculated to increase by more than a specified percentage he does not pay the full amount of the increase immediately. Instead the increase is phased in over a number of years. In order to offset the cost to the general taxpayer of this relief the regulations also provide that where a ratepayer's rate bill is calculated to decrease by more than a specified percentage he does not receive the full amount of the decrease immediately. Instead the decrease is phased in over a number of years. In relation to the delegated powers, regulations to be made under new section 57A must be made using an affirmative resolution procedure (see section 143(4) of the 1988 Act, as amended by paragraph 24 of Schedule 6 to the Bill). The National Assembly for Wales will subject the regulations to be made under amended section 58 to its own scrutiny procedures.

Clause 67: Rating of meters

60.  Clause 67 inserts a new subsection 64(2A) into the Local Government Finance Act 1988. This new subsection will apply to England and Wales. The clause provides that gas and electricity meters are hereditaments for rating purposes. The clause allows the Secretary of State, as respects England, and the National Assembly for Wales, as respects Wales, to make an order to include meters of other services within the provision, for example, water meters. The purpose of the clause is to make meters separately rateable. Initially, this treatment will be extended to gas and electricity meters only. But the principle of making meters subject to separate rating is here established. In order to include the meters of other types of services in rating it is thought appropriate that the delegated power be a negative resolution instrument. Currently the value of the meter is included in the rateable value of the pipe line or wire network to which they are attached. So the order would not make these meters the subject of rating for the first time it would merely make the meter separately rateable. This has the effect that they are capable of being occupied separately from the pipe or wire network. If a competitive market develops for water meters (as it has for gas and electricity meters).The overall rate liability would, of course, remain the same. The situation is akin to that of sections 64(3) of the 1988 Act. Under that power the Secretary of State can deem that one hereditament is to be treated as two hereditaments. The delegated power in subsection 64(3) is subject to negative resolution procedure. The clause also provides that the Secretary of State, as respects England, and the National Assembly for Wales, as respects Wales, may make regulations to describe what is to be regarded as a meter. The use of this delegated powers would enable a clear demarcation to be drawn between the meter hereditament, any other associated equipment or contiguous hereditament. As such it will be a technical instrument. By way of a precedent the delegated powers the Secretary of State currently has in sections 64(3), (3A) and 65(4) are subject to negative resolution procedure.

Clause 71: Local retention of rates

61.  Clause 71(1) amends paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 which gives the Secretary of State the power (subject to Treasury consent) to set, by regulations, rules as to the deduction by billing authorities of an amount from their non-domestic rating contribution (the locally retained amount). This power represents a slight widening of the existing power of the Secretary of State to make rules as to the calculation of non-domestic rating contributions but it was not considered appropriate for these detailed technical regulations (see, for example, Non-Domestic Contributions (England) Regulations 1992) to be subject to an affirmative resolution procedure.

62.  Clause 71(4) amends section 99 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring billing authorities to share the locally retained amount between the other major precepting authorities in its area and as to the administration of this process. The power in section 99(3) already provides for the Secretary of State to require sharing of deficits / surpluses in the collection fund with the major precepting authorities. The existing regulations (see the Local Authorities (Funds)(England) Regulations 1992) were made by a negative resolution procedure. Extending the scope of the section 99 enabling power to the sharing of the locally retained amount does not have the effect of changing the nature of the existing power. The Secretary of State will provide a detailed paper for the Lords Standing Committee consideration of the Bill on the options for using the delegated powers.

63.  Clause 71(7) to (11) makes similar provisions as respects Wales.

Clause 73: Provision of information

64.  Paragraph 5 of Schedule 9 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 currently makes it a criminally offence to fail within 21 days to reply to a notice from the valuation officer seeking information. Clause 73 replaces the criminal offence with a system of civil fines.

65.  New paragraph 5F enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the information and penalty notices to be issued to ratepayers. New paragraph 5G enables the Secretary of State by order to increase or decrease the amount of the fines. By way of precedent, the fees for applications to court to obtain committal against ratepayers and various amounts a billing authority may levy in connection with distress against a ratepayer may be increased or decreased by statutory instrument made under a negative resolution procedure (see, for example, regulation 14 of and Schedule 3 to the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement)(Local Lists) Regulations 1989 - these amounts were increased by 25% in 1998 by S.I. 1998 /3089).

PART 6: COUNCIL TAX

Clause 76: Second and empty homes: England

66.   Section 11 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 ("LGFA 1992") provides for nationally set council tax discounts. Currently under section 11(1) there is a discount of 25% where there is only one resident, or all but one of the residents fall to be disregarded for council tax purposes, and under section 11(2) there is a discount of 50% where there is no resident or all residents fall to be disregarded.

67.  Billing authorities in Wales already have power under section 12 of the LGFA 1992 to reduce or remove the discounts which would otherwise apply under section 11, for classes of dwellings prescribed in regulations. English authorities have no such power at present.

68.  Clause 76 inserts a new section 11A into the LGFA 1992 which enables the Secretary of State to prescribe by regulations classes of dwellings for which an English billing authority may change the level of council tax discount. Under subsection (3), the Secretary of State may prescribe a class of dwellings where the billing authority may reduce but not remove the discount, and the regulations may not allow for the discount to be less than 10%. It is proposed to make regulations under this subsection to define a class of second homes which are not owned by persons who pay council tax in respect of tied accommodation elsewhere relating to their work.

69.  Under subsection (4), the Secretary of State may prescribe a class of dwellings where the billing authority may reduce or remove completely the discount. It is proposed to make regulations under this subsection to define a class of long term empty homes (which are not exempt dwellings).

70.  Regulations made under the new section 11A would be subject to the negative resolution procedure, in accordance with section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992. This is consistent with the procedure which applied before the creation of the National Assembly for Wales, for regulations made under section 12 of the LGFA 1992 to specify the classes of dwellings for which Welsh billing authorities could reduce the council tax discounts.  

Clause 78: Statutory revaluation cycle

71.  Clause 78 inserts section 22B into the Local Government Finance Act 1992, which will provide for a statutory revaluation cycle for council tax in England and Wales.

72.  Section 22B(3) establishes a requirement for a council tax revaluation every ten years after the first revaluation, due to take place in England in 2007 and Wales in 2005. The Secretary of State (in England) and the National Assembly for Wales (in Wales) will be able to make orders under this section to require the compilation of a new list (and hence revaluation) sooner than every ten years.

73.  The purpose of this power is to give flexibility in the timing of revaluation so that a shorter cycle could be introduced. The ODPM has no immediate plans to use this power. However it is possible that valuation of domestic properties using computer aided techniques may mean that revaluation could be carried out more economically in future. A future government might therefore consider having more frequent revaluation and this power would allow this to happen without further primary legislation.

74.  It would not however be possible to lengthen the cycle or to remove the requirement for revaluation completely without further primary legislation. Parliament's intention that there be regular revaluation of council tax could not thus be defeated.

75.  Any order made by the Secretary of State to bring forward the timing of council tax revaluation in England, will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in the House of Commons, in accordance with subsection (11) of the new section 22B.

76.  It was considered that changing the timing of a council tax revaluation, which would otherwise have been required by primary legislation, was a matter of sufficient political importance that the affirmative resolution procedure would be appropriate. The other critical decisions in respect of council tax revaluation relate to the substitution, by order, of different valuation bands and/or different ratios between valuation bands for those set out for England in section 5(1) of the LGFA 1992. An order substituting new council tax bands or new ratios between them, for England, is required to be made by affirmative resolution of the House of Commons under section 5(5) of the LGFA 1992. We thought that bringing forward revaluation was a decision of similar importance, justifying affirmative resolution procedure.

Clause 79: Power to change the number of valuation bands

77.  Section 5(4) of the LGFA 1992 allows the Secretary of State (in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, by virtue of the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/672)) by order, to substitute new council tax valuation bands, and the proportions which the council tax for valuation bands bear to each other. It is not beyond doubt that the existing power to substitute bands would allow a different number of bands to be substituted for the current eight.

78.  Clause 79 amends section 5 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 by inserting a new subsection (4A). This makes clear that the Secretary of State (in England) and the National Assembly for Wales (in Wales) can by order vary the number of council tax valuation bands at the time of revaluation. The Secretary of State's orders made under section 5 are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in the House of Commons - see section 5(5) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

79.  One of the main criticisms of the council tax system is that the bands are not fine grained enough to reflect differences in value at the top and the bottom of the property market. The proposed power would ensure that additional bands could be created if Ministers (or in Wales the National Assembly) so decided.

80.  Ahead of revaluation in England, Ministers will consider the views of taxpayers and local government about council tax bands and will decide nearer the time of revaluation whether or not there should be additional valuation bands.

Clause 80: Transitional arrangements

81.  Section 13 of the LGFA 1992 allows regulations to be made providing for the council tax payable to be less than it would otherwise be. This power was exercised to provide a transitional relief system when the council tax was introduced as a replacement for the community charge.

82.  The White Paper, Strong Local Leadership - Quality Public Services (Cm 5237) said we will devise a scheme in which gainers contribute to the costs of losers from the 2007 English revaluation for a transitional period.

83.  The Government considers that the national tax payer should not pay the whole bill for transitional relief to council tax payers in any particular billing authority's area. In the same way that transitional relief for non-domestic rating revaluations is to be "self-financing" the Government considers that council tax payers who benefit from revaluation should help pay for transitional relief for council tax payers in the same billing authority's area who would be worse off following revaluation.

84.  Clause 80 inserts section 13B into the Local Government Finance Act 1992. This will enable the Secretary of State (in England) and the National Assembly for Wales (in Wales) to make regulations to phase in changes to council tax bills following revaluation. Regulations under section 13B (unlike the existing section 13) could be used to make "winners" from revaluation (whose properties would be in a lower band following revaluation) contribute towards transitional relief for "losers" from revaluation (whose properties would move up into a higher band as a result of revaluation).:

85.  Until decisions are taken on the detail of revaluation, as to the new council tax bands, and ratios between them, it is not possible to say precisely what the transitional scheme would look like and therefore what would included in the regulations. Decisions on bands will be taken nearer the time of revaluation, when the Government has more accurate and up to date information as to changes in property values and their distribution throughout England.

86.  Regulations under the new section 13B would be made by negative resolution, in accordance with section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992. This is consistent with the procedure adopted for regulations made under section 13 of the LGFA 1992.

Clauses 81 to 83: Enforcement

87.  Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 enables the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to make regulations allowing local authorities to secure payment of any outstanding sum specified in a liability order. A liability order must be obtained from the magistrates' court before any of the other enforcement steps can be taken. Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 sets out a number of detailed and specific enabling powers, providing for different methods of enforcement. The detailed requirements are set out in the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/613), as amended.

Clause 81: Amendments relating to distress

88.  Under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992, regulations can be made allowing billing authorities to make an attachment of earnings order, so that the outstanding council tax can be recovered by requiring the debtor's employer to deduct amounts from the debtor's pay. Quite often, a local authority only finds out about a debtor's employment details late in the enforcement process, after the authority has tried other enforcement mechanisms provided by regulations under Schedule 4, including seeking to levy distress (permitted by regulations under paragraph 7 of Schedule 4), and if that proves unsuccessful, by applying to magistrates for a warrant to commit the debtor to prison (permitted by regulations under paragraph 8 of Schedule 4).

89.  For example, a person may only reveal their employment details during the hearing of the application for a warrant to commit him to prison, since the magistrates are required to inquire into the debtor's means before they can issue such a warrant. Where this happens, rather than proceed with the application for the warrant of commitment, the billing authority is likely to serve an attachment of earnings order. However, only the amount specified in the original liability order can at present be recovered through attachment of earnings. This will include the outstanding amount of council tax, plus a sum in respect of the costs of obtaining the liability order (in accordance with regulations made under paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992). It will not, however, include any costs incurred trying to levy distress after the issue of the liability order or any costs incurred during the hearing of the application for the warrant of commitment itself.

90.  Clause 81(1), (2) and (3) will enable regulations to be made providing for costs incurred in trying to levy distress or incurred during the aborted hearing of the application for the warrant of commitment to be recoverable through an attachment of earnings order. A regulation making power was chosen, as this is consistent with the existing statutory framework governing the administration and enforcement of council tax, in Schedule 4 of the LGFA.

91.  Clause 81(4) amends paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA by inserting a new sub-paragraph (4A). This will enable regulations to be made by the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to prescribe information which authorities or bailiffs must supply to debtors when distress has been levied or when distress has been attempted unsuccessfully. The existing paragraph 7(4)(a) of Schedule 4 only allows the imposition of requirements on local authorities to supply information prior to the levy of distress. There are no powers to impose requirements to supply information when the process is complete or when someone tries to levy distress but fails.

92.  Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under the new provisions inserted into Schedule 4 of the LGFA 1992 by clause 81 will be subject to the negative resolution procedure in the same way as regulations made under the existing provisions of Schedule 4, by virtue of section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992.

Clause 82: Charging orders: aggregation

93.  Paragraph 11 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 enables billing authorities to apply to the county court for a charge against the debtor's dwelling for which the council tax remains unpaid, in respect of a liability order made by the magistrates' court. Regulation 50 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 stipulates that at the time of the application for the charging order, at least £1000 of the amount for which the liability order was made must remain outstanding.

94.  Clause 82 enables local authorities to aggregate two or more liability orders made against the same person to meet the £1000 limit to enable an application for a charging order. The clause inserts a new paragraph 11A into Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 to allow regulations made under that Schedule to include appropriate provision.

95.  Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under the new paragraph 11A inserted into Schedule 4 of the LGFA 1992 by clause 82 will be subject to the negative resolution procedure in the same way as regulations made under the existing provisions of Schedule 4, by virtue of section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992.

Clause 83: Quashing of liability orders

96.  When a taxpayer falls behind with their council tax, billing authorities have to apply to the magistrates' court for a liability order before they can seek to use various powers to recover the debt. There are relatively few defences against the making of a liability order - these include the fact that an amount has not properly been demanded or that the amount has been paid. Unless a defence is accepted by the court, the order will be granted. In practice very few are refused.

97.  However, it can emerge after the liability order has been made that a mistake has occurred, for example, the taxpayer may later find receipts proving that he had paid. In such cases, no action should be taken under the liability order. However, some taxpayers view the liability order as an unwarranted stain on their character and demand that the liability order be deleted from the record. At present, this can only be achieved on application to a higher court. The cost involved is unwarranted where there is no dispute about the facts.

98.  Clause 83 (which inserts into Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 a new paragraph 12A) allows the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to make regulations giving magistrates' courts powers to quash a liability order if the court is satisfied that the liability order should not have been made. This only applies where the local authority has applied to have the liability order quashed. It does not give council taxpayers a right to require magistrates' courts to reconsider all liability orders made.

99.  New paragraph 12A(b) enables regulations to be made permitting the magistrates' courts to substitute a liability order for a lower amount where it considers that a liability order could properly have been made had it been made for that lower amount (which would include a sum for the costs incurred in obtaining the original order).

100.  A regulation-making power was chosen as it is consistent with the existing legal framework for obtaining liability orders under Schedule 4 of the LGFA 1992. Any regulations made by the Secretary of State under the new paragraph 12A inserted into Schedule 4 of the LGFA 1992 by clause 83 will be subject to the negative resolution procedure in the same way as regulations made under the existing provisions of Schedule 4, by virtue of section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992.

Clause 84(2): Major precepting authorities: combined fire authorities in Wales

101.  Clause 84 adds combined fire authorities in England to the list of major precepting authorities in the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The constituent authorities which make up a combined fire authority currently contribute to its expenses in proportion to their council tax base. Under the proposed new arrangements, a combined fire authority would issue a precept for each financial year to the billing authorities in its area.

102.  The Welsh Assembly Government consulted on the position in Wales. The view which emerged was that no change should be made at present to the status of combined fire authorities in Wales. If circumstances were to change, subsection (2) of clause 84 provides a power to allow the National Assembly for Wales to make an order to add Welsh combined fire authorities to the list of major precepting authorities. While this is a "Henry VIII" power, allowing the National Assembly to amend primary legislation, it is very narrowly drawn.

103.  Subsection (3) of clause 84 will require the National Assembly for Wales to consult representatives of local government in Wales, and such other bodies or persons as it considers appropriate before making any such order. Any such order will be subject to the National Assembly for Wales's own procedures in accordance with its standing orders.

104.  The National Assembly for Wales would (by virtue of clause 122 of the Bill) be able to include in such an order the necessary consequential amendment to section 6(1A) of the Fire Services Act 1947 (which is to be inserted by paragraph 1 of Schedule 6), so that combination scheme orders for Welsh combined fire authorities need not contain provisions as to the contributions to the CFA's expenses to be made by the constituent authorities. Clause 122 would also allow the National Assembly for Wales to make consequential amendments, equivalent to those contained in Part 2 of Schedule 7, to the combination scheme orders establishing the Welsh combined fire authorities.


 
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