HL Deb 27 February 1998 vol 586 cc885-908

11.58 a.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Jenkin of Roding.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Business Improvement District (Election) Orders]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 11, after ("authority") insert (", or in relation to which the authority is discharging the functions of another local authority as respects the establishment of a business improvement district").

The noble Lord said: I am aware that there is other business to follow this Committee stage that was put down after this Bill was scheduled to be heard today. At the same time I have to say that if there is to be any chance of this Bill reaching the statute book in this Session we need to examine it properly in this House because of the well-known, well understood problems that may exist in another place.

In moving Amendment No. 1, I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I also speak to Amendment No. 28. The amendments go together. They are intended to deal with the situation where a local authority wishes to arrange to discharge its functions through another local authority. At Second Reading I gave the example of the Park Royal industrial estate where the boundaries of three local authorities impinge on that estate. It would be awkward if there had to be three separate procedures with three separate local authorities. It would add considerably to the complications of a business improvement district in those circumstances.

At present the Bill requires an area which is the subject of an election order to be wholly comprised within the area of the authority to which the application has been made. But it should be possible for authorities in those circumstances to make arrangements for one of the other authorities to discharge its functions with respect to the administration of the application so that where a bid area covers two or more authorities one authority would act on behalf of them all. There is no such provision in the Bill as drafted. Amendments Nos. 1 and 28 enable that to be done. I hope that it strikes the Committee as a sensible improvement. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before commenting on the amendments, I hope that the Committee will be indulgent if I make comments about the Bill as a whole. The Bill before us today provides a useful opportunity to consider how local services are provided to ratepayers and how that service is funded and accounted for. In that respect, it is an important contribution to the wider debate now going on about the renewal of local government. We believe that the needs of local people are best served by locally elected councils. We want to establish a framework for a modern, relevant local government; one in which local councils lead their local communities and work in partnership with businesses, the voluntary sector and local people to deliver quality services and improve their areas.

The modernisation of local government will demand a radical programme of democratic renewal. It will challenge authorities to deliver services at best value. It will also require changes to the local government finance system to reflect the need for authorities to have greater local discretion and be more accountable to their communities.

Over the past six months, we have been discussing the finance issues with local government, with the representative business organisations and other interested parties. Nearly three weeks ago we published a consultation paper entitled Local Democracy and Community Leadership. Over the next month or so, we shall be publishing further consultation papers on the local government finance system, including a paper on the options for business rates.

The concerns which have prompted the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, to bring forward this Bill are shared by the Government. We are addressing them in the series of consultation papers which we have issued, or are about to issue. Today's proceedings therefore are an important part of the debate about the future shape of local government. I shall listen with interest to the Committee's deliberations.

With the full consultation process that is being, and will be, undertaken on the financing of local government, it seems to be premature to be considering the implementation of a compulsory mechanism as provided for in the Bill. If the Bill makes progress, there are a number of detailed issues that the House would wish to consider—for example, how such a scheme would tie in with the non-domestic rating system under the 1988 Act, and what form of enforcement mechanism might be appropriate.

However, I recognise that the Bill provides a very useful opportunity to discuss the principles. I should like to raise two specific points of concern which noble Lords will wish to consider as background to the debate. First, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said in his contribution to the Second Reading of the Bill that he had been advised that the money raised and spent by the BID company would not be treated as a tax and would not therefore be considered public expenditure.

This is an important point and the Committee will understand that I too have taken advice. It is clear that under the provisions of the Bill, businesses in an area will have to pay a certain amount if there has been a local vote to that effect. Although individual businesses will have the opportunity to vote, they will not have a choice on payment of the charge if the decision is taken to implement the draft scheme. As I am sure the Committee will recognise, this is exactly analogous to the taxation system in any democratic country. We can influence the level of income tax via the ballot, but there is no choice on whether or not to pay. This is, by definition, a tax and and spending of the income received would count as public expenditure. Section 2.68 of the European System of Accounts, used by the Office for National Statistics, makes it clear that expenditure of this type by BID companies would count as public expenditure. The Committee may well reflect on the Bill in the light of this advice.

I am also concerned about the issue of accountability. The Bill makes provision for the charging, on a compulsory basis, of all businesses within the BID area. This being the case, it would be important for all those businesses to have a clear idea of how their money is being spent and accounted for. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, intends that this should be the case. However, it appears to me that the Bill as presently drafted does not provide any details on how the BID company will specifically account to the providers of its income. Where a local authority raises money and spends it, there is a framework of legislation and audit—it is not perfect, I am sure—which ensures financial probity and accountability to protect the interests of the ratepayers. There does not appear to be any provision made in the Bill for representation of the scheme chargepayers, and neither does there appear to be any supervision, reporting back or audit provision over and above what might be available through the Companies Acts to members of the company. Bearing in mind the compulsory nature of the contributions that would fund the company, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, might wish to consider whether such mechanisms might be appropriate.

I turn now to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord. This provides for an election order to be made in a situation where one local authority was discharging the functions of another local authority. This seems to be a worthwhile clarification of a potential scenario. If the Bill progresses, then noble Lords will wish to consider the detailed wording of the clause to ensure that it works as they would wish.

Amendment No. 28 makes a useful point. If a local authority wishes to arrange for the discharge of its functions as respects the establishment of a business improvement district by another local authority, then no doubt this should not be discouraged.

I apologise for the length of this intervention. It was felt that it would be helpful to place on record the Government's position.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

That has somewhat taken me by surprise. I hope that the noble Baroness will not take it amiss if I say that we have had, as it were, a mini-Second Reading speech at the beginning of this Committee stage. The noble Baroness raised several points of considerable importance. We shall need to bear that in mind. We must deal with the amendments before us at Committee stage now, but at later stages of the Bill, we shall need to see to what extent we can take account of those important points.

The noble Baroness, on advice, seems to have arrived at a clear position on whether the charges made by a BID company are taxation and whether the expenditure is to be regarded as public expenditure. That has wide ramifications. There are many forms of partnership arrangement. If that doctrine is to be extended more widely, there may be some anxiety about the future of other schemes.

I read the consultation paper with some interest. No doubt in due course we shall have an opportunity to discuss that and other local government consultation papers foreshadowed in it. One point struck me. The published paper, Local Democracy and Community Leadership, gives notice that, the Government intend to replace section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 due to concern over 'ultra Vires' which may inhibit partnership activities including participation in companies". It seems to me that we are in danger of getting two messages: one that the Government actually want to give encouragement—indeed, I welcome the opening remarks of the noble Baroness—while at the same time there appear to be new restrictions, or at least a clarification, that contrary to the view I expressed at Second Reading, to which the noble Baroness made reference, such activity may become more difficult as it will have to come firmly within the system of public expenditure control and charges amounting to taxation. We shall need to examine the noble Baroness's remarks with some care.

The question of auditing and so on can be dealt with effectively by further amendments at a later stage although, once again, it would have been helpful to have heard comments at an earlier stage of the Bill. One could have taken account of them and there would have been more than one opportunity to get the drafting right.

The general tenor of the noble Baroness's remarks was one of welcome. She indicated that she is looking forward to the discussion; we can all approach it in that sense.

As for this amendment, we will examine the drafting in regard to this matter. However, I hope that the House will be able to accept Amendment No. I now, and, when we come to it, Amendment No. 28. Then, if necessary, we can examine the matter again between now and Report to make sure we get the drafting right.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Application for election order]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 14, at end insert— ("() state whether a financial contribution or other assistance is anticipated from the local authority and if so, the extent of that contribution or the nature of the assistance;").

The noble Lord said: It would be helpful to discuss Amendment No. 9 with this amendment. Their purpose is to make absolutely clear that a BID scheme can include a partnership with a local authority. When the Bill was originally drafted we had assumed that that would be possible. However, this pair of amendments puts the matter beyond doubt. The reasons for wanting to make it clear are that a number of local authorities would very much like to feel that they are part of a BID scheme and, secondly, that although it would be possible under the Bill for a business improvement district to be initiated from scratch it is much more probable that a BID will develop from existing collaborative arrangements. At Second Reading I gave a number of examples. Since then, I have heard of a good many others which are currently operating and where those working them would welcome the provision which is the central purpose of this Bill to avoid the problem of free riders.

Many of these arrangements involve local authorities. It is not the Bill's intention that the process of partnership between the public and private sectors should be in any way discouraged. I have always been very strongly in favour of that partnership and the Bill is intended to reflect that. These two amendments put the point beyond doubt. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

The noble Lord introduces these two amendments with a reference to partnership with local authorities. The obverse of that coin is the question of additionality, referred to by a number of noble Lords at Second Reading. In other words, BID schemes should not replace the projects that are properly a matter for the local authority. As I read these amendments, that point does not seem to be affected either way. However, if the noble Lord could confirm that, I should be grateful.

12.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I may respond to the noble Baroness. The amendment is certainly in no way intended to change the intention of the Bill that the expenditure by a BID should be additional to that which a local authority is undertaking. It may well be that local authorities would welcome sub-contracting some of their services to a BID company. We shall come to that provision in a later amendment. One can imagine, for instance, that it would be very awkward if one had two different groups of street cleaners, one working for the local authority and the other topping up the work, as it were, by the BID. The sensible course would be for the BID to contract with the local authority and then contract under the contracting out procedures for its share of that to be done by the BID, and of course paying for it.

The additionality point is important. I am aware of anxieties expressed by some ratepayers. I wish to state clearly that it is the intention of the Bill that the expenditure by a BID should be additional.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The Bill requires applicants to prepare a detailed package of information to be submitted to the local authority. That will be of great assistance to the authority in deciding whether it would be appropriate to issue an election order. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 2 and 9 is to ensure that as part of that process a local authority can take account of the role that it might want, or be expected, to play. We recognise that a local authority may wish to assist a BID company. I am pleased that these amendments make any contribution that is anticipated from a local authority explicit from the outset, so that local taxpayers' money is accountable.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Consideration of application]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 33, leave out subsection (1) and insert— ("(1) In considering a draft scheme a local authority shall have regard to such representations as may be made by—

  1. (a) any ratepayer in respect of a hereditament within the area specified in the draft scheme;
  2. (b) any other person in respect of such a hereditament, being a person having an interest in that hereditament in any capacity;
  3. (c) any person who is either resident within the area specified in the draft scheme, or is not so resident but is affected by the improvements which are proposed by it.").

The noble Lord said: It will be within the recollection of noble Lords that at Second Reading a good deal was said about the need for wide consultation on a proposed BID and that the local authority which has to make the decision as to whether to make an order for an election must take account of a wide measure of representations. I gave an indication on that occasion that ordinary residential council tax payers would clearly have an interest in the establishment of a BID if it was to cover the area where they lived or even where they were accustomed to doing their shopping and so on. I quoted the example of the Fitzrovia proposals for the area between Oxford Street and Euston Road in London. Others have said that their views should be taken into account. One such group is obviously the owners of buildings. The charges, indeed the whole provision, are based on occupiers, who in many cases will be tenants. But the owners of buildings may well have views which they want to put. Amendment No. 3 therefore includes the reference in paragraph (b): being a person having an interest in that hereditament in any capacity".

There may well also be ratepayers, paying the national non-domestic rate or whatever may take its place, who, though not liable to pay under the scheme because it may be proposed that they be exempted or excluded under the provisions of the Bill, may nevertheless have a view. All those people are entitled to be heard. This amendment ensures that the local authority shall have regard to such representation. It will have to listen to them and take them into account. The amendment therefore meets the anxieties expressed from all parts of the House at Second Reading. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Amendment No. 3 recognises that the establishment of the BID may impact upon parties other than those listed on the draft bid charge list. I fully support the principle of ensuring that consideration is given to representations received in response to a draft scheme.

However, it is important that in making representations interested parties have access to the relevant information. It is not clear from the Bill what information would be made available to those parties. At present Clause 2(5)(a) requires that the application is advertised in a local newspaper in the area to which the application applies. However, there is no indication given to the applicant as to what information should be incorporated within the advertisement. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, will wish to consider whether further provision could be included to address this issue.

The amendment to Clause 3 will extend the scope of representations to enable persons from outside the area but with an interest in it—for example, those working in shops or offices—to submit their views on the scheme. In view of this, the Committee may wish to consider whether there is a need to advertise the BID application outside the area to which the application relates.

Finally, as representations will be taken into account in the local authority's consideration of the application, Members of the Committee may wish to give thought to whether such representations should be made available to the BID applicant.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

The Minister has made an extremely helpful point. I wish to give careful consideration to the further detailed changes which she suggested. I believe that she indicated that this amendment is acceptable so far as it goes and perhaps the Committee may therefore be able to agree to its incorporation in the Bill. I give a clear undertaking that we shall look carefully at the other points which the Minister made.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 37, leave out ("28") and insert ("42").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 5, which I do not intend to move. Amendment No. 4 proposes that representations received within 42 days—rather than 28 days—after the date of the first advertisement should be considered by the local authority. Six weeks is not a very long period: it seems to me a more suitable period than 28 days. The local chamber of commerce, for example—which I hope would be involved in the drawing up of the scheme, but may not be—should perhaps have an opportunity to consult its members and put considered comments to the local authority; or perhaps individual businesses might need that longer period in order to consult other local businesses and generally to consider the matter.

The period runs from the date of the first advertisement. Clause 2(5) requires both an advertisement and the service of a copy of the application on individual ratepayers included in the list. I believe that six weeks would be a more useful period. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am pleased to note Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to Clause 3(2) and the intention to have a clear time-frame within which interested people could submit their comments. I note that the noble Baroness does not intend to move Amendment No. 5. As originally drafted, there would have been a degree of uncertainty as to when the last date for representations to the draft scheme should be submitted, depending on the date the scheme was advertised under the provisions of Clause 2(5)(b). This meant that there was some degree of latitude as to when the advertisement could be submitted. This amendment reinforces the importance of full consultation.

Lord Jenkin of Boding

I am happy to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that we are willing to accept this amendment. I am glad that she has decided not to move Amendment No. 5 because I could not have been so forthcoming on that; I believe that in certain circumstances it might have had a rather perverse effect. Amendment No. 4 seems to me to be a considerable improvement to the Bill and I hope that she will press it.

Baroness Hamwee

I am grateful for that. I came to the same conclusion with regard to Amendment No. 5 a couple of minutes before I rose to speak to Amendment No. 4.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [Making of election order]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 6: Page 3, line 4, leave out ("subsection (2)") and insert ("subsections (2) and (5)").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6 and hope that the Committee will agree to discuss with it Amendment No. 15. These amendments concern the case where a local authority, having received an application and considered it, is prepared to embark on the procedure but wishes to see modifications to the application. New subsection (5) is intended to provide that, where a scheme has been modified, the local authority shall inform the applicant of the modifications. I am advised that it is necessary to include that provision in order to make absolutely clear that the applicant should know of the modifications. It seems unlikely that the local authority would make modifications and the applicant not know about it, but modifications may affect an applicant's decision as to whether to go forward. The modifications may be substantial and significantly change the nature of the scheme originally submitted. The applicant may therefore decide in the light of the modification that it would not be appropriate to go forward at that stage without more consultation. Therefore, the application can be withdrawn, consideration can take place and, if thought proper, another application can be submitted. It is for that reason that applicants must be told of any modifications. That is what these amendments are intended to provide, and I hope that the Committee will accept them.

Lord Bowness

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend how that provision would affect the other interested parties whom we talked about under the amendment to Clause 3. Will there be an obligation on the local authority, if it makes the substantial modifications to which my noble friend referred, to re-consult those who have to be consulted under the amended Clause 3?

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My noble friend has raised a very good point, which we should like to consider. A further amendment may be required.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

This seems a sensible requirement that should be included within the Bill. The noble Lord may also wish to consider whether in such a situation provision should be made to establish whether the applicant would want to proceed with the application, with the local authority's modifications, prior to the local authority making an election order.

Lord Jenkin of Boding

I hoped I had covered that point. I am not sure that it would require a provision in the Bill. Taking the point made by my noble friend Lord Bowness, perhaps we need to look at the procedure as a whole. As the noble Baroness indicated, this amendment seems to be a good one, and perhaps the Committee can accept it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 7: Page 3, line 5, after ("may") insert ("at its discretion").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 7, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10, which is grouped with it. Also in this group is Amendment No. 8 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Boding, which is, I believe, a drafting amendment.

Amendment No. 7 proposes that in Clause 4(1)(b) it be made clear that the local authority has complete discretion as to whether it can refuse to make an election order. I assume that that is the case but believe it may be helpful to have confirmation of that.

Amendment No. 10 proposes that under Clause 4 (3) a local authority should be able to make modifications which it not only thinks are necessary but which are also reasonable. I tabled the amendment because the term "necessary" seems to me to be an extremely narrow one, even though I note that the modifications would be those that the authority "thinks" are necessary rather than, more objectively, "are" necessary. Nevertheless, to allow it to take account of what it considers to be "reasonable" would allow it to assist in the creation of a better scheme. I beg to move.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

It might be helpful to the Committee if I say a brief word about Amendment No. 8. The Minister may then like to express a view on the whole group and I could then respond.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested, Amendment No. 8 is a drafting amendment. It is technical and intended to make clear that local authorities should not make an election order where the scheme does not appear to be to the benefit of all the scheme chargepayers, as opposed to all the ratepayers in the area, some of whom may not be included because they have been exempted under, for instance, Clause 2(4)(j).

The reason for the amendment is that there has been some concern by small businesses that large occupiers might dominate bids and result in skewed projects which leave the small occupiers on the sidelines. The amendment is intended to reassure people that the local authority has to take account of whether the scheme will benefit all chargepayers.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 appear to be sensible clarifications of Clause 4(1)(b) and (3). The amendments improve the Bill, which otherwise might not make clear what scope local authorities have in considering applications.

We fully support the principle behind Clause 4(2) in ensuring that the local authority takes into account the impact of the draft BID scheme. However, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, may wish to consider the effect of Amendment No. 8, especially when seen in conjunction with Amendments Nos. 11 and 16 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It seems to me that the local authority would not be required to take account of the impact that the proposed BID might have on those ratepayers who would not be scheme chargepayers under the draft scheme.

While all businesses within the proposed BID can make representations to the local authority, the noble Lord may wish to consider whether it is desirable for the local authority, in assessing the potential impact of the draft scheme, to exclude from its consideration the impact it might have on those businesses within the BID boundary which the local authority has decided will not be scheme chargepayers by virtue of the level of the NDR that they pay.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Once again the noble Baroness raises some points of importance at which we will need to look carefully. I was a little surprised that she was ready to accept Amendment No. 7 and the insertion of the words "at its discretion". My advice was that I would be able to give to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, an assurance that the use of the word "may" implied discretion and therefore the additional words would be unnecessary. That is not a particularly good reason for excluding the amendment altogether, but normally draftsmen are quite particular, especially when government Bills come forward, and one of the most frequent reasons for asking people to withdraw an amendment is that the words are unnecessary. I confess therefore that I am a little puzzled by that.

We entirely take the point in relation to Amendment No. 10. My only comment is that I believe that the word "reasonable" is now in the wrong place. I do not believe that the intention of the noble Baroness was that the thing should be either reasonable or necessary. If that amendment is withdrawn, I shall undertake to bring forward at a later stage in the Bill an amendment introducing the concept of a "reasonable" modification in line 3 of subsection (3), which would then read, Before making an election order a local authority may, having regard to the grounds for the refusal under subsection (2) above, require such [reasonable] modifications to be made to the draft scheme as the local authority thinks necessary". That may reflect the intentions of the noble Baroness more clearly. If she will withdraw the amendment I shall give an undertaking to accept such an alternative at a later stage.

I am grateful for the Minister's view on Amendment No. 10. We will need to consider what was said. However, I am concerned as to whether the words, "at its discretion", are necessary. I would not be too worried if they were to go in, but I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, may be prepared not to move that amendment. However, I hope that we can deal with Amendment No. 10 in the way I suggested.

Baroness Hamwee

I am grateful for that response. I will of course not move Amendment No. 10. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for proposing to come back with an alternative amendment. Whether that other amendment should be worded, require such [reasonable] modifications … as the local authority thinks necessary", I am not sure. It may not be the right combination of terms. However, that is perhaps a matter for another stage.

The noble Lord's response to Amendment No. 7 was rather more what I expected than the response from the Government Front Bench. I was seeking an assurance that discretion was the order of the day within Clause 4(1)(b). On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 8: Page 3, line 9, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 10 and insert ("scheme chargepayers;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 9: Page 3, line 12, after ("application,") insert ("and having regard to any contribution which the local authority proposes to make or other assistance the authority proposes to give,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 11: Page 3, line 23, at end insert— ("() for the exclusion from the provisional BID charge list of hereditaments whose valuation for the purpose of non-domestic rates is of an amount determined by the local authority or below that amount:").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 11, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 16. There was some talk at Second Reading of concern for small businesses which, through these proposals, may have a charge—a tax—levied on them which could be disproportionately difficult for small businesses to bear. I understand that the scheme could contain the exclusion of certain hereditaments. Amendment No. 11 seeks to allow the local authority to exclude from the charge list hereditaments whose valuation it believes is below a level which seems appropriate in the circumstances.

I appreciate that that is a broad brush approach to the issue, but I felt that some attempt to deal with the point was required. Amendment No. 16 is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I might respond before the Minister replies, simply to say that this is an issue on which we are still consulting. It was raised at Second Reading. If I give an undertaking that the consideration is continuing, and if I perhaps have an opportunity to discuss the matter with the noble Baroness at a later stage, she may feel able not to press the amendment.

The points I make are twofold. First, there is already provision under Clause 2(4)(j) to, describe any ratepayer or class of ratepayer who is proposed to be excluded from paying", and therefore the scheme could properly make provision for doing that. Secondly, there is no intention that BIDs should be drawn in straight lines and sweep up everybody in them. I had the experience of introducing enterprise zones. It may be within the recollection of noble Lords that some of the enterprise zones looked like pieces of jig-saw puzzles. They were quite clearly intended to take in particular buildings and pieces of land and to exclude others. When one saw them on a map, one thought that it was dotty; but, on the contrary, it was in fact extremely good common sense. There was no point in conferring the benefits of being an enterprise zone on owners and occupiers where it was completely unintentional.

I have been discussing, in relation to a proposed BID which might run along part of Oxford Street on both sides, exactly how the line might be drawn so as to leave out small shops in the side streets which might derive only marginal benefits from the kind of improvements which I know the City of Westminster has in mind with a number of its major ratepayers in the area. One could draw the line very carefully so as to exclude the small shops.

Thirdly, there is the idea that the little kiosk might be excluded. I am told that some of these small kiosks are real money-spinners. Their overheads are extremely low but they are able to trade very profitably. If there were an increased footfall as a result of a BID scheme it would be absurd that they should not be contributing to that because they would benefit very directly.

There are a number of provisions in the Bill and a number of other considerations which might make it difficult to embody an exclusion simply based on the amount of the non-domestic rate that small traders may pay. Having said that, I am well aware that a number of small retailers are trading on narrow margins and that any additional charge would be a considerable burden to them. We are trying to consider this with representatives of retail trades, chambers of commerce and so on to see whether we can find something that will reflect the clear intention which the amendments have in mind.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

In the light of the points that have been raised and the position that is being taken, it may be helpful if I comment on the amendments, which seek to exclude from the BID charge list those businesses where the NDR valuation is below an amount determined by the local authority. We would support the view that in setting a compulsory charge we need to make provision for those businesses which may be unable to absorb the additional cost that the BID would introduce. I think, in particular, about small businesses which may already be operating against very tight margins. For this reason we support the principle of the amendments. However, there are a couple of points which the noble Lord may wish to consider and reflect on in the light of the amendments not being moved today.

First, there needs to be consistency in the application of the clause. It is not clear from the provisions of the Bill how the NDR figure below which businesses would be excluded from the payment of the BID charge will be arrived at. There could be considerable disparities between different areas. Is it the intention that there should be this much flexibility?

Secondly, the exclusion of the business from a BID charge list on the basis of its NDR would mean that it was excluded from the vote procedure and a say in the activities of the BID. While I accept that those not paying may not have as much right as, say, those who are paying, noble Lords may want to consider whether it is right that small businesses should be fully prevented from having some voice in the BID when they are likely to be affected by its activities.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I may respond to that. On the noble Baroness's final point, the amendment which we have already accepted on the question of representations specifically included people on the representations who might be excluded from the scheme. So I think we have now taken account of that point.

On the question of consistency as against flexibility, we would like to reflect on that. It is envisaged that this procedure may be applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. Certainly if the experience in other countries is any guide, they can be very large schemes or quite small schemes. They can be in potentially very prosperous areas of town centres; they can sometimes be in very deprived areas where a little extra help can stop the process of further dereliction. So I think it would be quite difficult to provide a single measure of what might be an exclusion on the basis of NDR.

However, we shall look at what she said and see whether there is some way in which that can be dealt with. My view is that flexibility in this is likely to be more valuable than uniformity or consistency. However, if the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will withdraw the amendment, I undertake that we will be discussing further how we can achieve what I believe is the same purpose.

Baroness Hamwee

I am grateful for that. As I indicated, I did not feel that my amendment was necessarily the right amendment. However, I felt it was appropriate at this stage of the Bill to get the matter within your Lordships' consciousness as one that perhaps needs to be pursued. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 12: Page 3, line 26, leave out from ("determined") to end of line 31 and insert ("in accordance with section 7(2); and").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we are discussing Amendments Nos. 13, 14, 17, 18, 19 and 20. They all bear on the same point: what is the majority that should be necessary to activate a scheme? The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and I have come up with exactly the same answer, which is that it should be two-thirds. The Bill originally provided for more than half. We are providing two-thirds or more—at least, my amendments are providing two-thirds or more: I am not sure that that is necessarily implied by the noble Baroness's amendments. However, if my amendment is accepted, it will not then be possible to put the noble Baroness's amendments as they will have been pre-empted. I believe that my amendments will achieve the purpose of establishing a two-thirds majority as the threshold for the approval of a scheme. I hope that has the approval of the Committee. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I have to tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 12 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 13 or 14.

Baroness Hamwee

I am happy to be pre-empted on this and support the noble Lord's amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We welcome the amendments. The proposal to increase the proportion of votes needed to establish a BID from a majority to two-thirds will ensure that any BID established has the clear support of businesses in the area.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am grateful for that support. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 not moved.]

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 15: Page 3, line 34, at end insert— ("(5) Where a draft scheme has been modified pursuant to subsection (3) above, the local authority shall inform the applicant of the modification before making an election order.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 6. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Provisional BID charge list]:

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Elections]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

In calling Amendment No. 17, I should point out that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 18 and 20.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 17: Page 4, line 32, leave out ("a majority") and insert ("two-thirds or more").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 19: Page 4, line 34, leave out ("more than halt") and insert ("two-thirds or more of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Services etc provided by local authority]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 21: Page 5, line 15, after ("section") insert ("4(1) or").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 22 and 23. Amendment No. 21 queries why in Clause 9(1)(a) as regards a local authority and the reference to, in coming to an opinion as to the making of an election order Clause 4(1) is not mentioned, but Clause 4(2) is. However, I am beginning to be even more confused than I was when I tabled the amendment because I am now wondering whether it is correct to mention Clause 4(2) at all. That subsection refers to not making an election order. Whether it is right in Clause 9(1)(a) to speak about, coming to an opinion as to the making of an election order under section 4(2) when that subsection speaks about not making an election order, I am not sure. However, that amendment is not down for consideration. I am probably taking the Committee around hoops that may be unnecessary. My query is as to why Clause 4(1) is not mentioned.

Amendment No. 22 deals with the local authority's assumption about existing provisions. That takes us back to the point made earlier today. I have suggested wording which I am not wedded to. I do not believe that it is perfect. The local authority may make an assumption. I am proposing that it has a report on the issue. Although not every local authority proceeds with the speed at which the last few minutes of this Committee stage have progressed—that is in no way a criticism of the Deputy Chairman of Committees because I see him looking at me—it is nevertheless sometimes the case that local authorities do not give public consideration to matters in a desirable way. Having reports on paper which are then available to the public is often useful. I am proposing that a report should be considered and not simply a move direct to the assumption. Amendment No. 23 is consequential to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I may be able to relieve the noble Baroness of some of her anxieties. I share the view that the drafting of these amendments is not in a form appropriate for entry into the Bill. The noble Baroness has raised some important points on Clause 9. With my advisers, we are continuing to examine what is the best way of dealing with the matter. Amendment No. 21 seeks to relate the opinion of the local authority about making an order to Clause 4(1). That subsection confers the power on the local authority to make, or to refuse to make, an order: it does not refer to the opinion of the local authority in coming to that decision. Clause 4 is silent on the way in which local authorities exercise their judgment generally. It is assumed that, as a matter of law, that will be done reasonably. If a local authority makes a decision which is unreasonable, as I know to my cost, one may find that it is open to review in the courts. We see the point that the noble Baroness is getting at, but I do not believe she has succeeded—and we have not succeeded—in tabling an amendment which addresses the issue in a watertight fashion. I can assure the noble Baroness that work is continuing on it.

As regards Amendments Nos. 22 and 23, the point that the noble Baroness made is accepted. This returns to the matter of additionality. I am equally clear that this is not the way to deal with it. So on the undertaking that we are looking carefully at these matters and still consulting—and I certainly undertake to have a word with the noble Baroness—it may be helpful if she does not press these amendments.

Lord Bowness

My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding said that the matter is still under consideration. I believe that at Second Reading I raised a point about the wording of, not in substitution for the existing provision", and attempted to make the point that an "existing provision" is easier to determine when one is looking at revenue. It seems to me that one of the things that a BID company might wish to do is to bring forward capital improvements. It can be argued that staged capital improvements across an authority were its "existing provision". I would not want the wording, not in substitution for the existing provision to prevent the BID company making an application which involved what otherwise would have been done by a local authority at some time in the future being done at an earlier date. When we discussed that at Second Reading the point may well have been taken. I hope that the question of capital expenditure is still part of the ongoing consideration.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The debate on Amendment No. 21 has been interesting. The advice that I have received is that the amendment is not necessary to achieve the objective. I believe that it would be helpful for discussions to take place between now and the next stage of the Bill.

Amendment No. 22, requiring local authorities to consider a report of existing provision, is attempting to ensure that the improvements from the BID scheme are in addition to those delivered by the local authority. We can certainly support the thrust of these amendments which is to ensure that where businesses put in extra money they receive extra services rather than providing an excuse for the local authority to withdraw its own spending.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, said, although the amendments try to deal with this risk, I am sure that the Committee will recognise the difficulty of fixing a level of service and assessing how it can be sensibly measured and maintained over a number of years. The noble Lord referred to what may be a capital programme that is intended to take place over a period of years. While Clause 9 is directed towards the idea that a BID's provision should be additional to existing levels of service, I am sure that the Committee would wish to consider whether it is really effective in proposing a way of measuring that or of enforcing the intention.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am very grateful for the Minister's remarks. The growing use of service level agreements is one way in which it is becoming easier to measure the given level of service, particularly as increasing numbers of services are provided under such agreements with private contractors.

As regards capital, that is an issue we still wish to consider. My noble friend rightly said that it could be a considerable advantage to ratepayers in a particular area that a much-needed capital improvement, perhaps embodying a traffic scheme or something of that sort, could be advanced and brought into operation earlier than it would have been possible for the local authority to achieve under its capital programme.

So it is clearly envisaged that there could be one-off capital schemes of that kind as part of the BID. Similarly, as regards the addition of amenities—whether tree planting, providing tubs or whatever—that could be advanced and brought in earlier. That would be an undoubted improvement. It is not just relieving the local authority of expenditure. The scheme will have to ensure that the local authority is involved and makes an appropriate contribution. The Bill makes provision for that, and is strengthened by some of the amendments already passed. Everybody agrees with the principle; we simply have to find the best way of doing it.

Baroness Hamwee

This has been an interesting exchange and we shall take these matters further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

1 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 24: Page 5, line 18, at end insert— ("() Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to such provision as would otherwise be made by a local authority in the discharge of their functions which is, pursuant to an order made under section 70 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (functions of local authorities) made through the exercise of those functions by a BID company authorised by the local authority in that behalf.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is intended to deal with a situation where a local authority and a BID company agree that the company should undertake specified functions on behalf of the local authority. I referred to this in a debate on an earlier amendment. It can be achieved by making an order under Section 70 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. I said that it would be silly to have two cleaning companies charging round the streets and that the local authority should be able to delegate that function to a BID. On the Park Royal Estate, to which I referred earlier, there is already considerable evidence that the local authorities would be happy to contract with the new BID company for quite a lot of the services on the estate. There are no council tax payers on that estate. It comprises entirely commercial ratepayers. This seems a sensible way of developing and improving the services for the benefit of the occupiers. This amendment is intended to make that possible. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I note this new provision which helpfully distinguishes when a BID scheme is acting on behalf of a local authority and when it is acting on its own account. In this way, it would avoid Clause 9 having the, I am sure, unintended effect of overburdening local authorities in circumstances where activities had been contracted out following an order made under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I commend the amendment to the Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Formation and functions of BID company]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 25: Page 5, line 35, at end insert— ("(No BID company shall be constituted so as to be a company to which the provisions of Part V of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (companies in which local authorities have interests) apply, by reason of being a company under the control of, or subject to the influence of, a local authority within the meaning of that Part.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment was drafted before we had the introductory remarks made by the Minister at the beginning of this Committee stage. The amendment as drafted was designed to ensure that the expenditure of a BID is not imputed to the local authority. That would arise if the BID company were construed so as to fall within Part V of the Local Government Housing Act 1989. That would clearly be a substantial constraint and a disincentive to setting up a BID. The consequence of the amendment would be that local authority participation in a BID and in the company would be limited. However, it does not preclude the involvement of local authorities and existing partnership arrangements under, for instance, town centre management schemes which often mirror the minority interest which is required to avoid the operation of Part V.

However, I think that we shall need to reconsider the provisions in the light of the advice that the Minister has clearly received from her officials and no doubt from other departments, including the Treasury. We shall have to explore the best way of making sure that that advice is correct. I am apprehensive that if that view is upheld we shall find ourselves in some difficulty. It may well be that the provision would become inappropriate in those circumstances. It is intended to deal with a particular problem. I would be happy to know whether, in the light of the circumstances which the noble Baroness has disclosed today, it would still be appropriate to go ahead with this amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I apologise if the timing of the views expressed at the opening of this Committee stage has been inappropriate and thus unhelpful to the noble Lord. I offer him an opportunity to discuss the issue between now and Report stage. I note that this amendment is intended to ensure that the BID company will not be under the control of the local authority, and that the business community will be very much in the lead. This matches the aim of a BID, but perhaps the Committee might want to give some thought to the issue of accountability which was raised in the debate on Clause 1, and whether the clause would meet its aim at all times after the company has been launched.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am grateful for that. However, in the light of the anxieties that I expressed and what the Minister has said, I do not believe that it would be right to press the amendment, so I do not intend to move it.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 26: After Clause 13, insert the following new clause


(".—(1) This subsection applies where—

  1. (a) premises are let to a person ("the tenant") who by reason of his occupation of those premises is, or becomes liable to, a business improvement district charge; and
  2. (b) that person alleges that, having regard to the nature of the improvements proposed by the business improvement district scheme to which the charge relates, the whole or part of the charge ought to be borne by the person from whom the premises are let ("the owner").

(2) Where subsection (1) applies—

  1. (a) the tenant may, in the absence of agreement as to the part of the charge to be paid by the owner, apply to the county court, and the court, after hearing the parties and any 905 witnesses they desire to call, may make such an order as the court considers just and equitable in the circumstances of the case, regard being had to the terms of any contract between the parties; or
  2. (b) the court may, at the request of the owner or tenant, determine the lease.").

The noble Lord said: This new clause raises a point which has caused those who are advising me and myself considerable anxieties. It is not in doubt that we shall have to deal with the issue of people other than the occupier or the tenant of shop premises. There may be superior lessees and there will certainly be owners. If there is a short lease and there are to be significant improvements, much of the improvement will accrue to the benefit of the owners with regard to the value of their property, and it might be argued that the owners should therefore have to contribute by paying part of the charge. If it is a very long lease or if the improvements are relatively transitory, it may be that they will inure entirely to the benefit of the current occupiers, with very little impact on the value of the property.

It has become clear that there is a problem to be addressed. Discussions with bodies such as the British Retail Consortium, the British Property Federation and chambers of commerce have convinced us that that is the case. An amendment is clearly necessary because under the original Bill there was no provision for involving owners. We have already passed an amendment that owners will be entitled to make representations and will have to be consulted, and the local authority will have to take their views into account. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that, in the absence of agreement between the leaseholder (the occupier) and the freeholder, there is a procedure for application to the courts for a fair decision to take account of the respective interests and benefits. Essentially, we are seeking to provide such a mechanism.

Happily, there is a good statutory precedent because exactly the same situation arises under Section 170 of the Factories Act 1961 where a county court can apportion the cost of structural alterations between an owner and a tenant. The circumstances are different, but one can well imagine that the Factories Act might require structural changes that will enhance the value of a building and that the owner should pay part of that. Under that 1961 Act, where there is no agreement, a simple county court procedure is provided. That is the solution that we are proposing here.

That Act refers to the terms of a contract in deciding apportionment, but in their wisdom—I think it is entirely right—the courts have made it clear in case law that a court does not regard itself as bound by the terms of the tenancy alone. If it were so bound, the provision would be unnecessary and otiose. The courts have been able to resolve differences by taking account of all the circumstances and making a fair division. It may be suggested that recourse to the courts means that the problems of litigation and the costs involved are a considerable burden. However, one needs a fallback provision. It is envisaged that in most cases it would be perfectly possible to reach a solution. The knowledge that it would be open to one or other party to go to the courts would be a powerful incentive to agree.

I believe that this offers a more satisfactory route than the one considered earlier which involved the deployment of a disregard in assessing rental values where improvements were effected by a BID scheme and paid for by tenants through BID charges. The disregard route might be taken by analogy to the Landlord and Tenant Act but, having considered the matter and discussed it at some length with the representative bodies involved, we believe that the precedent of the Factories Act 1961 offers a better procedure. I hope the Committee agrees that that is a reasonable solution to a very real problem. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The Bill envisages that it is the business ratepayers, normally the tenants, who will participate and pay charges. However, one of the possible consequences of a successful BID scheme would be to push up capital and rental values. Some tenants might feel that this was unfair. Amendment No. 26 enables a business tenant who thinks that the owner should bear part or whole of the scheme charge to apply to the county court. The court would then have discretion to apportion the charge between landlord and tenant or, at the request of either party, determine the lease.

I fully endorse the efforts made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, to draw up a provision aimed at producing a greater degree of equity between landlord and tenant. However, I wonder whether the amendment as drafted is necessarily the most appropriate way to address the point. In particular, the noble Lord will want to consider whether court proceedings are the most effective means of determining these matters. I have two particular concerns. First, the court would have the quite draconian power to determine the lease on the request of either party. It is not clear why it should have the power to terminate a private contract, especially in view of its wide discretion to apportion charges between landlord and tenant. Secondly, there is potential for a large number of cases. It is quite likely that many tenants will wish their landlords to make some contribution to the cost of the BID. It is equally likely that landlords will wish to resist. This would add significantly to the burden on the courts. I note that in this regard the Bill provides little guidance on how to determine cases.

The noble Lord has identified a particularly important point about balancing the responsibility between tenants and landlords within the area of a BID. However, bearing in mind these concerns, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment and consider in due course a more appropriate mechanism for finding the right balance.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am not altogether surprised by the line that the Minister has taken. I hope that there was a note of tentativeness in the way that I moved the amendment. This is certainly not the only possible solution. As to the possible burden on the courts, it is my understanding that the comparable provision in the Factories Act has given rise to very few cases, and that knowledge of the fact that there is power to apply leads the parties to reach an agreement. There are a number of trip wires at earlier stages in the process—consultation and so on—which would enable owners to make known their views very forcefully. I take the Minister's point that to terminate the lease would be a draconian measure. I believe that that is drawn directly from Section 170. That may not be appropriate in these circumstances.

I am happy to accede to the Minister's request. I do not press this amendment. I am equally convinced that we must find a solution to the problem, and in the end that may have to be done by the courts by one procedure or another. If there is no agreement it must be resolved by someone. We will take account of the important points that the Minister has made. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.15 p.m.

Clause 14 [Alteration of business improvement district charges]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 27: Page 6, line 5, leave out ("all") and insert ("three-quarters of").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 27 which is another probing amendment. Clause 14 provides that the level of the charge can be increased if all the ratepayers who are liable to pay it agree to that increase in writing. I am by no means convinced that the agreement of three-quarters of the ratepayers to an increase is the right number, but rather than be tedious and specify 99 per cent. or some other such figure I simply look for a device to query the practicality of the provision. As drafted, one chargepayer can block what may be a small sensible increase. I shall be grateful to receive any clarification that the noble Baroness may be able to provide.

Lord Bowness

I support an investigation or further discussion of how the Bill can be amended to avoid the requirement that all ratepayers should agree. That may bring to an end something that is very worth while. I am sure that the appropriate figure can be reached in discussion.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am glad that the noble Baroness has moved this as a probing amendment. I do not feel able to accept it as it stands. I believe that if ratepayers have decided to go ahead with a scheme on a certain basis and are already coercing the minority—whether it be one-third or less who are against the scheme—this will add additional burdens. They might find it extremely difficult if they were to be coerced still further. It was for that reason that originally we inserted "all" so that all of them would have to agree if the figure was to be raised.

I accept my noble friend's point that it would be rather silly if 1 per cent. suddenly dug in their toes. Perhaps we can consider it. I would lean toward making it all, but I would certainly not want a scheme to be frustrated because one or two very unreasonable people who represented a very small share dug in their toes and said, "If you want us to agree, ante up". That would be the wrong spirit in which to approach the matter. Maybe we require some kind of de minimus disregard. We shall think about it. I do not think that the figure of three-quarters is right.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We support the principle behind Amendment No. 27 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and look forward to hearing the outcome of discussions as to whether three-quarters is the precise figure.

Baroness Hamwee

I am grateful for the indication that further consideration will be given to this matter. As the noble Lord was speaking, it occurred to me that the right balance might be a given proportion but also with reference to a proportion of the charge. As the noble Lord put it, there should be a de minimus provision. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 to 28 agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 28: After Clause 28, insert the following new clause


(" . Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted as constituting an express provision within the meaning of subsection (1) of section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 (arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities); and accordingly, a local authority may arrange for the discharge of their functions as respects the establishment of a business improvement district by any other local authority.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment earlier. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Interpretation]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 29: Page 8, line 45, at end insert— (""proper officer" means an officer appointed by a local authority for the purposes of Part III of this Act;").

The noble Lord said: The definition needs to be inserted into the Bill. "Proper officer" must be defined because reference is made to it in earlier parts of the Bill. Perhaps I may assure noble Lords who are anxious to debate the Crown or the countryside that we covered the legislation as quickly as we could. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

This is a sensible clarifying amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.