§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, this Bill is designed to rectify an anomaly in the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937. The 1937 Act gave power to a local authority to contribute towards the expenditure incurred by any local authority or by a voluntary organisation in providing or maintaining within the area of the contributing authority, or on a site where it will benefit any of the inhabitants of that area, such amenities as village halls, gymnasiums, playing fields, swimming baths and other facilities having athletic, social or educational objects.
Since that Act was passed, a considerable number of contributions have been made every year, but there have been a certain number of cases where it has not been thought by the Council fair to make a grant of money. These cases have been where the proposed amenity will benefit only a small percentage of 972 the taxpayers or, in other cases, where the organisation which runs the proposed amenity is paying its way. In that connection it is thought not fair to give a grant of money. But very often in both these cases the local authority would desire, and would think it right, to make a loan. The operative word in Section 4 (4) of the 1937 Act is, "contribute". There is some legal doubt as to whether a loan from a local authority is a "contribution" within the meaning of this subsection. There has been no test case on this point, but in practice it is impossible for a local authority to give a loan.
Subsection (1) of the first clause of this Bill gives power to the local authority definitely to make a loan, with the proviso that such a loan can be given only for capital and not for current expenditure. Clause 1 (2) enables the authority to lay down conditions on which such a loan should be made. Subsection (3) was inserted by a Standing Committee in another place at the request of the Scottish Home Department, and enables the Scottish district councils incurring expenditure to raise the district rate to meet it. Clause 2 enables expenditure by the local authority to rank for equalisation grant. Clauses 3 and 4 are formal and relate this Bill in scope and sense to the 1937 Act.
This Bill has the support of the National Association of Parish Councils, the County Councils Association, the Urban District Councils' Association, the Rural District Councils' Association, the National Playing Fields Association, the Convention of Royal Burghs in Scotland, and the District Councils' Association for Scotland. During its passage through another place the Bill was supported on all sides. May I ask your Lordships to give it similar support here? I beg to move.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Denham.)
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, this Bill, as the mover has indicated, is designed to remove doubts as to whether local authorities, in addition to having power to make grants for purposes comprehended within physical training and recreation, also have the power to make loans. That is the main purpose of the Bill. I could, in parenthesis, say that I regret that the 973 expense of promoting physical training and recreation is now dealt with on the basis of the percentage grant and will be merged, on the passing of the Local Government Bill, in the general block grant. That is not a defect which relates only to this Bill, and we shall support the Second Reading, wishing it a speedy passage on to the Statute Book.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.