HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc1142-3

Lords Amendment: No. 240, in Page 118, line 41, leave out from the beginning to "in" and insert "with the agreement of the council of every district

Mr. Speed

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Lords Amendment we can take also Lords Amendments Nos. 241 and 242.

Mr. Speed

Clause 166 provides for a rate equalisation scheme to be made in a metropolitan county by the council of a metropolitan county acting jointly with the councils of the districts in the county". A number of local authorities have sought confirmation that this means that all the authorities in a metropolitan county must be in complete agreement before a scheme can be made, and some suggested that the Clause should be amended to make the position absolutely clear. I remember that when I moved the Clause as a new Clause on Report I was under the impression—and gave an undertaking to that effect at that time; and I remember the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) responding on that occasion, and certainly it is still our legal view—that there is no doubt that the Clause as it stands is unambiguous in this respect.

Nevertheless, in the light of representations received from local authorities and hon. Members asking for an Amendment to make the matter clear, we have provided this one, the effect of which is to provide that schemes under the Clause shall be made by the council of a metropolitan county with the agreement of the council of every district in the county. It makes it clear beyond peradventure.

Under the Clause a rate equalisation scheme in a metropolitan county will remain in existence till all the authorities in the county agree to revoke or vary it. Under these Lords Amendments such a scheme would apply for one year only, and could be renewed only with agreement of all the authorities in the county. The Amendments are made at the suggestion of a number of local authorities. There is nothing to prevent the authorities concerned from renewing a scheme from year to year, and one would expect that, in the majority of cases, this would happen. The Amendments stop an open-ended commitment which might be possible under the Clause as originally drafted.

Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)

As these Amendments were made in response to a request from Southport I think I should be failing in my duty if I did not express our appreciation to the Government for recognising the observations offered, and for initiating these Amendments which, I have no doubt, improve the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to (Special Entry).

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