HL Deb 28 October 1997 vol 582 cc981-2

3.18 p.m.

Read a third time.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, that the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Hayman.)

Lord Bowness

My Lords, I said at Second Reading that this was not a Bill which we on this side of the House could support and I regret to say that the passage of the Bill has not led us to feel any differently about it. Despite the number of occasions on which the noble Baroness has talked about the Bill being for the purpose of building and improving houses, I think it is true that this is a Bill about more local government borrowing to finance revenue and increase public spending. It is not about the release of the accumulated receipts and certainly not about the release of future receipts. The amounts involved, at least initially, are very small compared with the hopes that have been raised; perhaps that is a good thing in view of the borrowing aspects.

Although we cannot support the Bill, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the courtesy and patience with which she has dealt with the points raised from this side.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, those who have followed the course of the Bill will realise that I am not my noble friend, for whose absence today I am here to apologise. We take a slightly different view of the Bill from that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness. Broadly speaking, we support it, but we feel that it does not go far enough in allowing local authorities more freedom to invest their own money where they wish to invest it. That having been said, I am happy to see the Bill go through.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I am grateful for the comments made by the noble Baroness in the absence of her noble friend. I understand the reservations about the Bill not having gone far enough, but I am grateful for the support for what we have managed to achieve.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, for the second part of his remarks. The whole of the debate has been conducted with patience and courtesy and it was useful in terms of the amendment that we managed to discuss. I am disappointed, if not surprised, that the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, has, to the end, kept up what can only be described as a very carping attitude to the Bill.

The Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill will provide the Government with the legislative foundation for a capital receipts initiative that can begin to reverse years of cuts to Exchequer support for housing. In that context, and in view of the undoubted distress, concern and ill health that bad housing causes in this country, I am sorry that noble Lords opposite cannot give their wholehearted support to such a move. The Bill is neither lengthy nor complex. In essence it will simply allow the Government to distribute additional public expenditure in the form of supplementary credit approvals, striking a balance between the historic generation of capital receipts and need. This is far and away the most effective way to release the additional spending represented by set-aside capital receipts. I should also say that, despite the criticisms that have been made, it is the mechanism that has received the endorsement of the local authority associations, of individual local authorities and of key housing practitioners.

In 1997–98, in England, an additional £174 million will be released to local authorities, followed by a further £610 million in 1998–99. In releasing those receipts, the Government are fulfilling their manifesto commitment. We have brought forward the legislation needed to distribute the resources fairly and we consulted widely and openly on our proposals. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill passed.