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Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) is right that this is purely and simply a tidying measure in respect of Wales.

I can understand why the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge is confused about the interrelationship of references to a Minister of the Crown and to the National Assembly for Wales in the four clauses, so I shall try to clarify the consequences of the amendments. Originally, clause 31 gave powers for Ministers to pay grants to a local authority, clause 32 gave additional powers for Ministers to require information in that respect, and clause 34 extended references to a Minister to include the National Assembly for Wales. The new provisions of clause 31 make it clear that Ministers can make grants to local authorities in England and that Ministers or the National Assembly for Wales may pay grant to local authorities in Wales. There is therefore no need for the separate provisions of clause 34, which essentially imply that a reference to a Minister should be taken to cover the National Assembly for Wales. I hope that that clarifies the provision and puts the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest.

Mr. Hammond rose—

Mr. Raynsford: I fear that it does not.

Mr. Hammond: If the Minister is acknowledging that the demise of clause 34 is in no way consequent upon the demise of clause 32, I will be happy. However, Lord Rooker clearly stated that clause 34 was no longer necessary as a result of the deletion of clause 32. It seems to me that clause 34 and the changes to clause 31 are self-contained, but clause 32 is a different matter.

Mr. Raynsford: I thought I had explained that the two were interdependent. We decided that clause 32 could be removed from the Bill only when we were satisfied that the powers under clause 31, specifically subsection (4), would enable Ministers or the National Assembly for Wales to obtain the information necessary to satisfy

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them when making a grant. Clause 34 extended to the Welsh Assembly the powers that were otherwise granted only to the Minister. That is the nature of the interrelationship.

I accept that it is a complex matter, and I understand the hon. Gentleman's difficulties, but I hope that he agrees that the outcome is better. The change reduces by two the number of clauses, reduces an unnecessary burden on local authorities and streamlines the procedure for ensuring that grants can be paid in a suitable framework with the ability of the grant-giving body—a Minister or the National Assembly for Wales—to obtain the information that it needs to satisfy himself or itself that the grant will be spent for the purposes for which it is made. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees and that the amendments can be accepted.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 8 to 12 agreed to.

Clause 49

Bid Revenue Account

Lords amendment No. 13

Phil Hope: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to consider amendments Nos. 14 to 17, 22 to 25, 29, 30, 33 to 35, 45, 46, 50 and 55.

Phil Hope: This large group of amendments is significant because it implements recommendations made in the 16th report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. As such, I am sure that the whole House will welcome it. We accepted the Committee's recommendations on business improvement districts; provision of information in respect of non-domestic rates; adaptation of enactments with regard to housing revenue accounts; charging and trading; and clause 122, which makes standard provision for orders and regulations in the Bill.

Mr. Hammond: Ministers have developed a new technique—rapid fire.

This large group of amendments reflects the observations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, an admirable body that has helped to ensure that legislation avoids some of the pitfalls that it can often encounter as a result of the inadequacy of the time that we have to scrutinise Bills in detail in Committee. I hope that the Government are learning how to filter out some of the unnecessary and inappropriate provisions at an earlier stage so that they do not have to wait until the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, rather publicly, recommends that they do so. If we see a reduction in these catch-all clauses in future and more requirements for affirmative resolutions where it is appropriate in the original drafts of Bills, that will be a good thing.

Lords amendment No. 13 removes the odious provision in clause 49 that allows regulations under subsection (4)—I am about to fall into the trap of which

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I cautioned the Minister of using the wrong clause references because we are working with two different editions of the Bill. There is the Bill as it went from this place and the Bill as amended on Report in the House of Lords. The issue is the power that is being given by regulations to amend any enactment. There are always questions both in this place and in the other place about the use of secondary legislation to amend primary legislation. That has to be the position so long as our arrangements for scrutinising secondary legislation are such as they are. In this instance, however, we are discussing the breadth of the power. It is a power to amend any enactment past or future. In other words, no matter what a future Parliament were to legislate, the powers under this Act would enable a Secretary of State by statutory instrument to amend legislation in the interests of his regime under this regulation. It is absolutely right to remove that power.

I must check my clause numbers and not go wrong again. If it is right to remove the provision at clause 49, why is it not also right to remove the provision at clause 58(2), where a similar provision to make regulations amending any enactment is included? Baroness Hanham moved an amendment in another place. We know that proceedings in the other place are slightly different from those in this place. Rather curiously, Lord Rooker, the Minister of State, signed my noble Friend's amendment. Later, they had a slight disagreement over whose amendment it was. Lord Bassam of Brighton seemed to take the slightly imperial view that notwithstanding the fact that my noble Friend had tabled the amendment, the mere fact that his noble Friend had signed it made it the Government's amendment.

After Lady Hanham had thanked the Government for accepting her amendment, Lord Bassam said, rather churlishly:

We could go on endlessly. The fact is that in the Bill the Government attempt to give themselves sweeping powers. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee cries foul and my noble Friend proposes an amendment to implement that illustrious Committee's recommendations. A Minister then signs the amendment and tries to claim the credit for amending the Bill. Perhaps the best solution would be if, next time, the Government try to anticipate the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and get the Bill right the first time round. Let them be a little more circumspect in the granting of sweeping powers to themselves.

7.15 pm

I move on to Lords amendments 14 to 16, and 29 and 30, which are consequential. We welcome the inclusion of a requirement for affirmative resolutions to confirm regulations made under these sections. This is a great step in the right direction. As the Minister knows, all Ministers who have to deal with the Opposition in Committee know that we greatly prefer affirmative procedures to negative procedures. All that we need to

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do now is to implement an effective process for scrutiny of secondary legislation. At present, all a Minister has to do in a Standing Committee—I am not suggesting that the present Minister would do so—is to keep his head down and blather for 90 minutes, and then write a letter afterwards correcting what he said. I emphasise that I am not referring to the Minister of State. However, I could name Ministers who adopt that approach.

Mr. John Horam (Orpington): It is interesting to hear my hon. Friend. He is doing what perhaps the Minister should have done, which is to explain fully what is happening in this instance. Does not this example demonstrate the utility of the House of Lords not only in itself but in improving democracy in this place?

Mr. Hammond: As my hon. Friend rightly observes, we have come to a sorry state of affairs when our democracy and our democratic scrutiny in this Chamber is so severely curtailed by the extensive use of timetable motions—

Phil Hope: Oh, come on.

Mr. Hammond: The Minister says, "Oh, come on." We have seen a classic example of that process this evening. It seems unlikely that the debate will reach the moment of interruption, yet we have been deprived of an opportunity to talk about quite an important set of amendments in respect of which there has been a meeting of minds. The Government have come some way to meeting the Opposition's proposals in the other place. There has been an informative and constructive suggestion, and we could have asked the Minister to explain further the Government's position. That debate will take place tomorrow in the other place because we have not been able to clarify exactly what the compromise means in this place.

I think that all right hon. and hon. Members would recognise that this type of minor tidying and correction of a Bill—improving future scrutiny of secondary legislation—is increasingly being left to the House of Lords and the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before the Government seek to impose the same kind of inflexibility on the House of Lords to curtail debate there, as they have already curtailed debate in this place.

I am not sure that merely moving from a negative procedure to an affirmative procedure in relation to clause 58 answers or meets my objection to clause 58(2). Clearly, the affirmative procedure rather than the negative is always to be preferred.

Amendment No. 17 removes the references in clauses 54 to 56 to the affirmative provision for Wales. It is clear that Wales cannot be subject to the regime because of devolution. Welsh matters that come properly within the jurisdiction of the Welsh Assembly cannot be subject to an affirmative resolution in this place. The effect of the resolution, however, is to deny to Welsh business ratepayers the additional protection that the affirmative procedure provides in respect of any modifications that are proposed by the Secretary of State in England to their English counterparts. It may be that the Minister can clarify the procedure in Wales.

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Welsh Assembly regulations are not even subject to the negative procedure. It appears, therefore, that there would be a serious lack of scrutiny in respect of Wales. I do not claim to be an expert on the procedures of the Welsh Assembly. Perhaps it has procedures in place that give effective scrutiny of regulatory proposals by the Executive; if so, there is no mention of them in the Bill. I would be interested to know what the procedures are.

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