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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, if there is a query about the future, how was the present management or board on which the doctor and businessman were invited to serve peopled, and who had the power to do it?
Lord Stewartby: My Lords, I mentioned very briefly in passing that the majority of the board was appointed by the Secretary of State, but it was a small board. The members were appointed after extensive local consultation in order to get the appropriate range of skills. It was a very small board and therefore one did not have the opportunity of bringing in as many people as generally seems desirable.
I turn to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I thank him for his very kind personal comments which I appreciate. He first asked about the consultation process. That was initiated with the proposals put forward in 1992 with public meetings and representations invited in Letchworth. In addition to those which were made at the time various representations were made to the committee on the Bill in another place and petitions were lodged and so on. The committee proceedings in another place went through the whole process from start to finish. Those who had made representations to the corporation in the consultation process frequently made further representations so that they could be considered by others. I believe that it is open to anyone to make such representations to the committee of your Lordships' House. If there are matters which are still unresolved those representations will be made and it will be in order to do so.
Various objections have been raised on this; for example, there was a proposal to include specific provisions about future land use which would be exceedingly difficult to formulate. There are certain general principles already embodied in the preservation of the estate but to specify which pieces of land can be used for which purposes indefinitely would probably be impractical.
Other objectors were concerned about the accountability of the board. From what I have said I hope that the noble Lord will have gathered that the new structure provides very much wider accountability to the interests in the town and it is something which I would have welcomed in my time, but it was not within the constitutional structure at that stage.
The noble Lord also asked about the commissioner. The Letchworth ombudsman will have powers broadly analogous to those of a local government ombudsman under the Local Government Act 1974. He will be concerned with maladministration in the foundation but not with contractual or commercial transactions. He will be totally independent of the foundation and will be appointed by the president of the new society. He must also be somebody with no previous interest in the foundation or the town. That is an innovation. Because the garden city has not been a local authority it has not partaken of the legislation which applies to local authorities. It is therefore a move in line with up-to-date arrangements for local authorities.
The noble Lord asked why the change was being made and why it was necessary. I go back to the point that the current constitution is anomalous in many respects. I have already explained that I do not believe that it provides wide enough accountability. But, purely in constitutional terms, to have what is technically a public body, and therefore in the public sector, for what is in substance a charitable foundation creates a great many difficulties. For example, its expenditure has to be vetted by the Government not because there is anything improper about it but merely because technically it is part of the public sector. As I said, the public sector status derives from the fact that the Secretary of State has been appointing the majority of the board and the residual funding guarantee from the county council in case, in the early stages, the corporation had not got enough resources of its own. It is now very prosperous; the town has been successful and the estate is more valuable. It has a good revenue, so that provision no longer applies.
The mind boggles because one imagines that there is not a community in the country which would not like a group of good people promoting the relief of poverty and sickness within their community. What is in the minds of those promoting this provision and what is the manner in which they would do that?
I do not want to wear your Lordships' patience any longer with the details because I believe that they should be very thoroughly considered by the committee. A great deal of what we are discussing is very technical. Anyone like the noble Baroness who has looked at the 19th draft of the rules will know that there is a great deal of detail to be looked at. I strongly support the general principle. It will create greater accountability in the first garden city. It will also provide a structure which recognises the actuality of the fact that this is a charitable foundation which we all hope can continue the original aspirations of its founder.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, the 10 draft orders before the House tonight relate to the implementation of the forthcoming rating revaluation in Scotland. These all follow a well-precendented pattern and, in introducing them, I will therefore touch only briefly on their detailed provisions.
The coming revaluation is being conducted on a fully harmonised basis north and south of the Border with assessors and the Valuation Office Agency working closely together to approach subjects on a similar basis. This allows special ad hoc provisions that attempted to iron out previous differences to be removed. Also, the emerging outcome of the revaluation has allowed the Secretary of State for Scotland to fix the new rate poundage at the English level, and rates burdens should, therefore, now be fully harmonised. Together, these allow the abolition of industrial derating and the revocation of special orders relating to petrochemical plants and caravan sites. It is with these matters that the revocations and the mines and quarries order are concerned.
For the utility undertakings concerned, the remaining orders roll forward the prescription of rateable values for these major undertakings and others in direct competition with them, such as independent electricity generators. Here, the general level of values has been rolled forward on a fairly static basis to reflect the emerging outcome of the revaluation throughout Great Britain. The valuations are on the same basis as those for England and Wales which are contained in equivalent orders that have already been approved. The arrangements for annual adjustment and apportionment to rating areas which are incorporated in these orders reflect the well-established arrangements that have operated successfully, with the approval of the House, in previous years. I commend these orders to the House, and I beg to move.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Carmichael apologises for not being here. He has asked me to say that there is nothing exceptional in what has been done and the orders meet with the approval of this side of the House.
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