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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,
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 aboutI say "about" in a broad sense55 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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