Mrs. Lait: I beg to move amendment No. 605, in clause 168, page 95, line 35, leave out may and insert must.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 606, in clause 168, page 95, line 41, at end add
(7) Regulations under this section may make provision concerning the holding and investment of funds raised by way of CIL..
Mrs. Lait: It is not often that I wish to be prescriptive in my dealings with local authoritiesor anyone else, for that matter. However, I want assurances from the Government that the community infrastructure levy does not necessarily need to be paid in money when there are other ways of reimbursing a community. For example, someone could donate land, or construct a facility that does not involve the community other than to ensure that it is what the community wishes. By tabling an amendment that proposes to replace may with must and by trying to build flexibility into the community infrastructure levy, it makes the levy more easily deliverable by those who are being asked to pay.
Amendment No. 606 would make the levy payable at the beginning of the development. That then begs the question that if money is paid over, will it be used immediately? If it is not going to be used immediately,
John Healey: The hon. Lady puts her points down by describing them as techie. They are both rather important. On amendment No.605, which is designed to probe the issue of payments in money or payments in kind, we are discussing the matter with local authorities and the development industry. We are anxious to get their view on how this might best work. At this point in the process, I believe that the amendment would remove any flexibility for us to draw our conclusions at the appropriate time. I will ensure that she is kept fully informed on any progress that we make.
Amendment No. 606 raises a very important point, which is not just techie but is of significant interest in both senses of the word. We believe that the powers under the provisions for local authority investments cover what the hon. Lady wants. However, I will reflect further on the amendment and if necessary will come back with observations and reflections. We may return to the matter at a later stage if further amendments are required.
Mrs. Lait: As the Minister has been so helpful, I throw in another thought. If the Government are to allow local authorities to issue bonds, will money going into a CIL be useable in local government bonds? That really is techie.
John Healey: It is techie; it goes beyond even the long title of the Bill. However, I will look at the matters raised by the hon. Lady on investment and CIL receipts. If necessary, I will table further amendments to ensure that the issue is covered, and I will update her and other members of the Committee at the appropriate stage.
Mrs. Lait: I am grateful to the Minister for his very positive response and look forward to receiving the information he has promised us. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
John Healey: I beg to move amendment No. 560, in clause 168, page 95, line 38, leave out one and insert
a charging authority or other public.
John Healey: These clarifying amendments make it clear that if circumstances require it, a number of authorities may collect the levy on behalf of a charging authority. They also make it clear that authorities
The purpose of amendments Nos. 562 to 565 is to provide greater detail on possible enforcement measures. They confirm and clarify that surcharges may be imposed, provide for the enforcement of payment through civil proceedings, and allow regulations to empower charging authorities to stop development until a community infrastructure levy liability is assumed.
Finally, in the interests of fairness for all those who pay the levy, acts or omissions may warrant criminal prosecutions in some circumstances. Before there is a sharp intake of breath across the Committee, examples might include persistent evasion of payment or the provision of false information relating to payment, and the obstruction and assault of charging authority officers who may be trying to carry out their duty to investigate non-payment, all of which the Government believe could apply to the levy. They are set out in the amendments.
However, there is a question about the proper limits on the term of imprisonment that could be imposed for criminal offences under the levy, and we shall return to that, probably on Report.
Mrs. Lait: Will the Minister enlighten us on the nature of the discussion he has had with the industry about those proposals and where he has got to on that, because while there are good developers, there are also those who are perhaps less than satisfactory? That question arises from a case in my constituency. We discovered a developer who had run out of money and was unable to finish the development, and there is no effective enforcement against him.
Although we will have a community infrastructure levy, there is no effective way to force a developer who runs out of money to finish a development. There is technical enforcement, but no effective enforcement. If a bust developer has paid the community infrastructure levy and is committed to it but does not complete the development, would the powers that come into play then force him to complete the development, and how can that be done when they have paid the community infrastructure levy?
John Healey: I am sorry to hear of the situation in the hon. Ladys constituency, but those powers are related to the enforcement of the liability to pay the levy. In all probability, were a levy to be part of the system in such a case, the developer would have already paid the levy
John Healey: The enforcement powers might not help the hon. Lady with regard to getting the development completed in her constituency, but they are not really designed to do that.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 561, in clause 168, page 95, line 39, at end insert authority..[John Healey.]
Clause 168, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Amendments made: No. 562, in clause 169, page 96, line 4, at end insert or surcharge;.
No. 563, in clause 169, page 96, line 8, after pending, insert
assumption of liability for CIL or pending.
No. 564, in clause 169, page 96, line 10, at end insert
(including, in particular, offences relating to evasion or attempted evasion or to the provision of false or misleading information, and offences relating to the prevention or investigation of other offences created by the regulations)..
No. 565, in clause 169, page 96, line 10, at end insert
(g) for enforcement of sums owed (whether by action on a debt, by distraint against goods or in any other way)..[John Healey.]
(2A) Regulations made under this section may may make provision for land owners and developers to reclaim CIL should infrastructure not be delivered in accordance with agreements..
The purpose behind the amendment was brought to our attention by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. It is a very reasonable question to ask and I look forward to the Ministers answer. There could be instances in which there is a failure to deliver the infrastructure that has been promised. In previous debates I have cited some possible reasons for failure, such as changes in Government priorities and poor financial control. Will the developers be able to claim back CIL if the partners fail to deliver their part of the bargain? Would the developer have to take the other organisations to court, would there be an automatic repayment, would the developers be expected to go ahead and provide the infrastructure or would the levy automatically transfer to another project? I would be interested to hear the Minister enlighten us with his views on this matter.
Dan Rogerson: The amendment raises an interesting point. However, I am a little concerned about the way in which it is drafted. The phrase in accordance with agreements is a little wide. I can see the point that is being made. An important development might be held up by the lack of infrastructure promised by CIL. However, to say that it must be in accordance with the original agreement implies that it should be in accordance with it to the letter. Issues might arise in the course of delivering a development, for example, through further planning considerations, which mean that it is delivered in a slightly different way. I would hate to see the developer in question being able to take the money back by saying that the result is not exactly to the letter of the agreement.
Mrs. Lait: If I had the resources at my command to get all of my amendments right, I would probably get on a lot better. The same is true for the hon. Gentleman. However, if the Minister is prepared to accept our arguments, we will be very happy to amend the drafting of the amendment.
Dan Rogerson: I accept the hon. Ladys point and I am glad that a fine-toothed comb has not been run over the amendments that stand in my name because I am sure that they are not perfect. I can understand her question, but the CIL provisions must be written in a tight, binding way to ensure that developers cannot slip away from their obligations.
John Healey: I, too, am a little concerned about the hon. Ladys drafting, but I understand the point that she makes in her defence. I am also concerned about the points of substance that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It is difficult to see how the amendment would work when agreements are not part of the CIL. It will be raised whether or not the owner or developer agrees. As we discussed under the previous clause, an authority might raise and collect the levy liability but then bank it for some time before allocating it to a scheme some way down the track. We would not want the developer to be able to challenge and reclaim the money that they have paid in such circumstances.
To deal with the spirit of the hon. Ladys point, it is a central element of the design of the levy that it should be raised to support the development of infrastructure. Although we are discussing clause 169, the hon. Lady will see that clause 167(5) provides for regulations to set out requirements on an authority to monitor and report how the levy funds have been raised, how the levy funds have been transferred and how they have been spent. Those requirements to report publicly should help to ensure that authorities charged with delivering planned infrastructureas a contribution to which they raise the levyare held to account and can be publicly challenged. I appreciate that that is a different form of accountability from the contractual accountability that the hon. Lady seeks.
Mrs. Lait: Let me give the Minister a for instance that might help him. Some years ago, we had bad floods in the south-east after which it was recommended, and agreed by the Environment Agency and the Government, that various flood alleviation works would be carried out. We then had the debacle of the Rural Payments Agency, and the Environment Agency was required to forgo some of its budget so that it could bail out the RPA. That meant that the flood defence works were politely postponed. How would that situation play into what is, I accept, the poorly drafted spirit of the amendment, given that the Environment Agency could not carry out its work? It does not have to be the Environment Agencyit could be any stream of fundingbut the Environment Agency could not carry out, for whatever reason, the commitments into which it had entered.
John Healey: To put it terribly politely, the hon. Lady totally misrepresents the scale and the impact of the consequences of the Rural Payments Agencys problems with the Environment Agency and its investments and programme of flood defences.
It is not a comparable position because we have said consistently that the levy could be spent only on infrastructure development, which clearly is not the case in the hon. Ladys contention in respect of the Rural Payments Agency and the Environment Agency. I continue to believe that clause 167 does the job.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Mrs. Lait: This is one of those clauses on which the Minister has been relatively helpful. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 169, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2008||Prepared 1 February 2008|