HC Deb 15 July 1980 vol 988 cc1430-2
Mr. Fox

I beg to move amendment No. 271, in page 225, line 25, at end add— '5A.—(1) In section 17B(2) of the General Rate Act 1967 (supplemental provisions as to liability to progressive surcharge in respect of unused office property) for the words from "(not being" to "section 19(2) of this Act" there shall be substituted the words "whose net annual value falls to be ascertained under section 19(3) of this Act and which consists of one or more non-industrial buildings, with or without a garden, yard, court, forecourt, outhouse or other appurtenance belonging thereto, but without other land (and for this purpose "non-industrial building" and "appurtenance" have the meanings assigned to them by section 19(6) of this Act)". (2) In section 30(1) of that Act (county and voluntary school premises) for the words "gross value" wherever they occur, there shall be substituted the words "rateable value". (3) In section 68(4) of this Act (definition of "material change of circumstances" for purposes of new valuation lists) for the words from "Schedule 11" in paragraph (g) to the end of paragraph (h) there shall be substituted the words "section 19 of this Act". (4) In subsection 2(b) of section 79 of that Act (effect of alterations to valuation list made in pursuance of proposals) for "(h)" there shall be substituted "(g)".'. The amendment makes four minor amendments that are consequential on new clause 22.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. John Tilley (Lambeth, Central)

I beg to move amendment No. 272, in page 225, line 43, at beginning insert—

  1. '(1) In paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 after the words "a sub-committee", insert the words "or a member".
  2. (2) In subsection (2) of section 101 after the words "a sub-committee", where they first appear insert the words "or a member" and after the words "discharge of any of those functions by", insert the words "a member or".
  3. (3 In subsection (3) of section 101 after the word "sub-committee", insert the word "member".
  4. (4) In subsection (4) of section 101 after the word "sub-committee", insert the word "member".
  5. (5) In paragraph (a) of subsection (5) of section 101 after the words "joint committee of theirs or by", insert the words "a member or".'.
The amendment attempts to put right an issue on which the will of Parliament has been thwarted either by confusion or by decisions of the courts. Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a local authority could arrange the discharge of any of its functions by a committee, sub-committee or officer of the authority, and it was always thought that that provision simply restated earlier provisions in local government Acts that a local authority could arrange for matters capable of delegation to a committee to be dealt with by the mayor or the chairman of the committee as a matter of urgency. However, in recent years the validity of that practice has been questioned in the courts on the ground that the relevant provisions of the 1972 Act, which enable powers to be delegated to committees, do not define the word committee and it can be argued that a single member cannot be a committee.

Because of that, many local authorities have felt it necessary to set up special machinery, such as urgency sub-committees, to undertake what is often formal and non-controversial business that arises between committee meetings. The procedures are cumbersome and take longer than they did previously, when it was relatively straightforward for a chairman to take urgent action. Hon. Members who have experience in local government know that the new procedures that are being enforced are more expensive to ratepayers, more inconvenient to councillors and may damage the interests of those involved, particularly when, say, social service orders are being implemented with regard to children in care. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, on the ground that it restores the position to what everyone thought it was before. Finally, I hope that it will endear the amendment to the Secretary of State when I tell him that I put it forward on behalf of the London borough of Lambeth.

Mr. King

The amendment deals with the power to delegate full authority to a single member to carry out the functions of the council. This goes much further than the position put forward by the hon. Gentleman. It is not clear to the Government why the borough of Lambeth feels particularly that it needs to entrust its affairs to one man to discharge on behalf of the whole council. This is not a problem that has been raised on behalf of other councils, which are able to work perfectly adequately under the law. It is common for a council committee to authorise one of its members or the chairman to act between committees, subject to ratification at the next meeting of the committee.

I have to warn the House that the amendment goes a lot further than the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) suggested and gives complete powers to a single member. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman had in mind, but I could not recommend the House to accept the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

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