HL Deb 27 January 2005 vol 668 cc1439-40

2.13 p.m.

Lord Rooker rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 15 December 2004 be approved. [4 th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order is made under Sections 70 and 77 of, and Schedule 16 to, the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The order provides for billing authorities in England and Wales to authorise other persons to exercise functions relating to the administration and enforcement of the business improvement district (BID) levy.

First, I need to draw your Lordships' attention to a minor technical matter in relation to the draft order. Noble Lords will note that the title and citation refer to the year 2004. That reflects the date when the draft order was laid but, because the order takes the year when it is made, the references to 2004 will need to be changed to 2005. That is a normal part of the process. A Bill is introduced one year and becomes an Act in another. No amendment is necessary as the change is made in the normal course of events.

The order is of interest primarily to billing authorities. We consulted the Local Government Association, which agreed that the order was not contentious but simply extended powers already enjoyed by billing authorities. This is not new policy. It was therefore agreed that a full consultation was not necessary.

The order complements the business improvement district regulations, which came into force last September. Those regulations allow local authorities and local businesses to work together for the benefit of their local community. BID schemes could include a wide range of different measures for improving the places where people work and live. That might involve increasing security or cleanliness, improving public access and the street environment, or enhancing or promoting the town centre or business area in other ways.

Those improvements would be funded by a levy raised on the non-domestic ratepayers, or a defined class of ratepayers, in the area covered by the scheme. However, before any proposal goes ahead, the businesses concerned have the opportunity to vote in a ballot. Since September, there have been three BID ballots, all of which were successful. The first was in Kingston upon Thames; more recently, there was one in the heart of London covering the Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square area; and, within the past day or so, we have heard of the success of another London BID, known as Better Bankside.

The billing authorities in those areas—that is, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Westminster City Council and Southward Borough Council—will shortly be collecting the BID levy as agreed in the ballots. Your Lordships will be interested to know that a further five BID schemes are out to ballot at the moment and another four are expected to go to ballot shortly.

Existing legislation enables billing authorities in England and Wales to contract out their collection and enforcement functions relating to non-domestic business rates. Around 40 authorities out of the 384 make use of these existing provisions. This order will allow billing authorities to do the same in collecting the business improvement district levy. Of the 22 billing authorities with BID pilots in their area, three—namely, Plymouth, Bromley and Liverpool—already contract out their non-domestic rates collection function. So this is nothing new and I therefore commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15 December 2004 be approved. [4th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Rooker.)

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I think that this order is unexceptional and I do not oppose it in any way.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, we also support it from these Benches.

On Question, Motion agreed to.