HC Deb 09 November 1966 vol 735 cc1409-10
Dr. Dickson Mabon

I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 4, line 34, after 'boards', to insert: 'which are, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, of a similar type to the local authority or, as the case may be, joint board concerned'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if with this we discussed Amendment No. 13, in page 4, line 33, after 'other', insert 'such'.

Dr. Mabon

Amendment No. 14 implements an undertaking which I gave in Committee and makes it clear that when the standard of performance of a local authority is being compared with those of other authorities, regard shall be had only to authorities of a similar type. For example, a small county council would not be compared with a large county council and a small burgh would not be compared with a large burgh.

Amendment No. 13 is another attempt to make the same point, but, having considered it, I counsel the Opposition that we have fulfilled our pledge and that our own Amendment is a little better.

Mr. Wylie

As the Under-Secretary has said, Amendment No. 13 was aimed at the same problem. I entirely accept what he said about the desirability of his wording, and in the circumstances I agree that his Amendment is preferable.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 4, line 37, to leave out 'resources'.

When we were considering this matter in Committee, the Under-Secretary said that he would consider the phrase "financial resources" to see whether he could be a little more definite. This is reported at col. 171 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings. During our discussion in Committee, several hon. Members agreed that financial resources ought not to be the sole yardstick and that a more appropriate yardstick would be the phrase "financial or other circumstances". With the phrase "financial resources" there is a danger that, whereas some poor authorities might have a more limited expenditure than others with substantial financial resources, those who were overspending might not be captured by the Clause.

The Clause provides that the Secretary of State can reduce grants to an authority which is overspending. We want to make sure that that provision is fairly applied and that an authority will not be penalised simply because the total rateable value of its area is relatively low. If overspending is the crime with which the Clause will deal, we want to make sure that the Clause will be fairly applied throughout the country and not simply with regard to the financial resources available. I hope that, even if he cannot accept the Amendment, the Under-Secretary will ensure that the matter is covered.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

As I said that I would, I have looked at this matter again and all that stands between the hon. Gentleman and me is what would appear to be excessive and unreasonable expenditure by a local authority. The hon. Gentleman argued with me that rate burden per head of the population was an index worthy of consideration and I insisted that it was better to look at rate burden per household and so on. The Amendment simply leaves out "resources" and as far as I can see does not make any discernible difference to the issue between us and I am happy to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I beg to move Amendment No. 16 in page 5, line 12, to leave out subsection (3).

The Amendment omits the definition of "joint board" from the Clause and the definition is transferred by a later Amendment to the Interpretation Clause.

Amendment agreed to.