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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Interventions are to be brief.

Sir Paul Beresford: I think that the answer to my hon. Friend's question is that I was attempting to make the amendment sufficient, but succinct.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I, too, have followed closely the logic of the hon. Gentleman's exposition of the amendment. I understand that if the Local Government Finance Act 1992 were to remain in place, there would be a guaranteed revaluation. Indeed, his party's position coming into the debate was that it wanted the provision for a guaranteed revaluation to stay in place because that was what they voted for. Is it the case that amendment No. 3 would mean that the position relative to the 1992 Act would change, so it would be an addendum to a Bill that he would then happily support, or does he want it to replace the position in the Bill? Alternatively, does he want to change the policy adopted by his Front Bench for the debate?

Sir Paul Beresford: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his complex twisting questions and red herrings. I think that he will accept that the Bill changes the situation by removing the programming of revaluation, but allowing the Secretary of State to set the timing for a revaluation—if that ever happens. I thus suggest that there might be an opportunity to save the enormous expense of national revaluation by having local revaluations, if that is appropriate. As the hon.
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Gentleman will be aware, given his interest in local government, the cry for a national revaluation is virtually nil.

Mr. Gummer: Is not my hon. Friend being rather unkind to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead)? Is it not clear that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what has happened simply because his Government came into power saying that there would be a revaluation, but have now decided that there should not be one, which has left him confused?

Sir Paul Beresford: My right hon. Friend is perhaps right. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) gave a long dissertation on Second Reading and I think that it supported the assumption of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I declare an interest as a member of Kettering borough council. I am trying to wrap my mind around my hon. Friend's amendment in the context of Kettering borough. Due to Government diktat, there will be 13,100 extra houses in the borough up to 2021, which will increase the local population by a third. Given that one of the consequences of council tax revaluation in Wales was a large increase in council tax bills, should residents in Kettering borough be worried that the Government might impose a revaluation—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that I might just protect the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) so that he does not stray on to Wales during the debate.

Sir Paul Beresford: Bearing in mind my accent and recent sporting activities in Wales, that is probably a very good thing, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank my hon. Friend for citing the sort of situation in which a local revaluation might be appropriate.

Mr. Quentin Davies: My hon. Friend argues the case for the law to be changed to permit individual or group revaluation instead of universal revaluation. The Government have already disgracefully spent £60 million on preparing for revaluation, although they now say that that might not happen. A general revaluation would be enormously expensive, so perhaps my hon. Friend can indicate how much that would cost. What would be the cost of an individual revaluation for an average authority? Before we agree to allow individual authorities to be revalued, surely we should have an idea of the cost of such a revaluation that the taxpayer would be obliged to bear.

Sir Paul Beresford: Unfortunately, I do not have the figures with me. However, I am sure that the Minister for Local Government, who is smiling at me, has them in his large portfolio and that he will produce them. Presumably, the cost of revaluation for an individual authority or a group of adjoining authorities would be proportionate to the expenditure for a national revaluation. However, I suspect that the Minister will find reasons why a local revaluation would be proportionately much more expensive, if he does not
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accept that the amendment is a genuinely positive move that, in a funny way, supports the Bill that he brought forward in the first place.

Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield) (Con): Some 80,000 homes will be built in Hertfordshire, mostly up in Stevenage, which is above my constituency. If my hon. Friend's amendment were accepted, would it be possible for my district to opt out of the grouping for a revaluation, or would it be linked with the revaluation because of the vast number of new homes in Stevenage?

Sir Paul Beresford: I am worried that as many hon. Members are citing areas in which they want revaluation, they seem to be supporting the view of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test that we might need to have a national one. Fortunately, there are a few hundred Members to go.

I have had ample assistance in explaining why it is necessary to make this small amendment to the Bill. I suspect, however, that the Minister will not accept it, although it would give us the opportunity, in a funny way, to support both the Bill and the reasoned amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on Second Reading. I say that with a touch of concern because when my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) made his winding-up speech on behalf of the Opposition on Second Reading, he said that he felt that my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon and I were not following the party line. Perhaps I can persuade him to follow the proper line rather than necessarily the party line in this particular case. That might even tempt the Minister to accept at least the drive of the amendment.

If the Minister gives the matter careful thought, he will realise that the amendment could be useful. It would have been useful if such a provision had been included in the Bill, but I suspect that he rejected that opportunity, if it had even occurred to him, because it would have looked as if he were going for no national revaluation—at least not for a considerable time—which would have made his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, who sat behind him on Second Reading, really upset, instead of just mildly upset.

Mr. Quentin Davies: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I left the Chamber a moment ago—I apologise for such discourtesy to my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley and hope that I missed only a small number of sentences of his speech—to find out whether I could now get a copy of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. Staff of the Vote Office tell me that the Act will not be with them for at least an hour and a quarter, so we will have had about two hours of a debate on an amendment to a Bill that refers to a text that we cannot see. Is that your feeling of how the business of Parliament should be conducted, Madam Deputy Speaker? If it is not, may we accelerate the production of the text, or else suspend the sitting until the text is available?

Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when Mr. Speaker made his ruling about the urgency of getting the papers into the Vote Office.
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That happened little more than half an hour ago. I think that we can proceed with the debate, and I will be informed as soon as the papers are in the Vote Office.

Mr. Gummer: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. When the Speaker made those points, it occurred to most of us that we were talking about a shorter period than two hours. Can you make sure that the Speaker himself knows that it is taking two hours for us to receive the text? The Speaker's words and their tone suggested to most of us that it would be a matter of a few minutes, or perhaps half an hour. May he please be informed of the matter?

Madam Deputy Speaker: My intention, which I hope will satisfy hon. Members, is to make further inquiries into precisely how long we might have to wait. In the meantime, we can proceed with the debate.

Mr. Forth: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps you will help by allowing my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) sufficient flexibility to expand his remarks for about two hours, so that he could give us the benefit of his wisdom and we could postpone our contributions until we had the appropriate documents in our hands.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Perhaps I will not be minded to do that.

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