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Lord Jenkin of Roding: Once again the noble Baroness raises some points of importance at which we will need to look carefully. I was a little surprised that she was ready to accept Amendment No. 7 and the insertion of the words "at its discretion". My advice was that I would be able to give to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, an assurance that the use of the word "may" implied discretion and therefore the additional words would be unnecessary. That is not a particularly good reason for excluding the amendment altogether, but normally draftsmen are quite particular, especially when government Bills come forward, and one of the most frequent reasons for asking people to withdraw an amendment is that the words are unnecessary. I confess therefore that I am a little puzzled by that.

We entirely take the point in relation to Amendment No. 10. My only comment is that I believe that the word "reasonable" is now in the wrong place. I do not believe that the intention of the noble Baroness was that the thing should be either reasonable or necessary. If that amendment is withdrawn, I shall undertake to bring forward at a later stage in the Bill

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an amendment introducing the concept of a "reasonable" modification in line 3 of subsection (3), which would then read,

    "Before making an election order a local authority may, having regard to the grounds for the refusal under subsection (2) above, require such [reasonable] modifications to be made to the draft scheme as the local authority thinks necessary".

That may reflect the intentions of the noble Baroness more clearly. If she will withdraw the amendment I shall give an undertaking to accept such an alternative at a later stage.

I am grateful for the Minister's view on Amendment No. 10. We will need to consider what was said. However, I am concerned as to whether the words, "at its discretion", are necessary. I would not be too worried if they were to go in, but I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, may be prepared not to move that amendment. However, I hope that we can deal with Amendment No. 10 in the way I suggested.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful for that response. I will of course not move Amendment No. 10. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for proposing to come back with an alternative amendment. Whether that other amendment should be worded,

    "require such [reasonable] modifications ... as the local authority thinks necessary",

I am not sure. It may not be the right combination of terms. However, that is perhaps a matter for another stage.

The noble Lord's response to Amendment No. 7 was rather more what I expected than the response from the Government Front Bench. I was seeking an assurance that discretion was the order of the day within Clause 4(1)(b). On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 3, line 9, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 10 and insert ("scheme chargepayers;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 3, line 12, after ("application,") insert ("and having regard to any contribution which the local authority proposes to make or other assistance the authority proposes to give,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 3, line 23, at end insert--
("( ) for the exclusion from the provisional BID charge list of hereditaments whose valuation for the purpose of non-domestic rates is of an amount determined by the local authority or below that amount;").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 11, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 16. There was some talk at Second Reading of concern for small businesses which, through these proposals, may have a charge--a tax--levied on them which

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could be disproportionately difficult for small businesses to bear. I understand that the scheme could contain the exclusion of certain hereditaments. Amendment No. 11 seeks to allow the local authority to exclude from the charge list hereditaments whose valuation it believes is below a level which seems appropriate in the circumstances.

I appreciate that that is a broad brush approach to the issue, but I felt that some attempt to deal with the point was required. Amendment No. 16 is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: Perhaps I might respond before the Minister replies, simply to say that this is an issue on which we are still consulting. It was raised at Second Reading. If I give an undertaking that the consideration is continuing, and if I perhaps have an opportunity to discuss the matter with the noble Baroness at a later stage, she may feel able not to press the amendment.

The points I make are twofold. First, there is already provision under Clause 2(4)(j) to,

    "describe any ratepayer or class of ratepayer who is proposed to be excluded from paying",

and therefore the scheme could properly make provision for doing that. Secondly, there is no intention that BIDs should be drawn in straight lines and sweep up everybody in them. I had the experience of introducing enterprise zones. It may be within the recollection of noble Lords that some of the enterprise zones looked like pieces of jig-saw puzzles. They were quite clearly intended to take in particular buildings and pieces of land and to exclude others. When one saw them on a map, one thought that it was dotty; but, on the contrary, it was in fact extremely good common sense. There was no point in conferring the benefits of being an enterprise zone on owners and occupiers where it was completely unintentional.

I have been discussing, in relation to a proposed BID which might run along part of Oxford Street on both sides, exactly how the line might be drawn so as to leave out small shops in the side streets which might derive only marginal benefits from the kind of improvements which I know the City of Westminster has in mind with a number of its major ratepayers in the area. One could draw the line very carefully so as to exclude the small shops.

Thirdly, there is the idea that the little kiosk might be excluded. I am told that some of these small kiosks are real money-spinners. Their overheads are extremely low but they are able to trade very profitably. If there were an increased footfall as a result of a BID scheme it would be absurd that they should not be contributing to that because they would benefit very directly.

There are a number of provisions in the Bill and a number of other considerations which might make it difficult to embody an exclusion simply based on the amount of the non-domestic rate that small traders may pay. Having said that, I am well aware that a number of small retailers are trading on narrow margins and that any additional charge would be a considerable burden to them. We are trying to consider this with

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representatives of retail trades, chambers of commerce and so on to see whether we can find something that will reflect the clear intention which the amendments have in mind.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: In the light of the points that have been raised and the position that is being taken, it may be helpful if I comment on the amendments, which seek to exclude from the BID charge list those businesses where the NDR valuation is below an amount determined by the local authority. We would support the view that in setting a compulsory charge we need to make provision for those businesses which may be unable to absorb the additional cost that the BID would introduce. I think, in particular, about small businesses which may already be operating against very tight margins. For this reason we support the principle of the amendments. However, there are a couple of points which the noble Lord may wish to consider and reflect on in the light of the amendments not being moved today.

First, there needs to be consistency in the application of the clause. It is not clear from the provisions of the Bill how the NDR figure below which businesses would be excluded from the payment of the BID charge will be arrived at. There could be considerable disparities between different areas. Is it the intention that there should be this much flexibility?

Secondly, the exclusion of the business from a BID charge list on the basis of its NDR would mean that it was excluded from the vote procedure and a say in the activities of the BID. While I accept that those not paying may not have as much right as, say, those who are paying, noble Lords may want to consider whether it is right that small businesses should be fully prevented from having some voice in the BID when they are likely to be affected by its activities.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: Perhaps I may respond to that. On the noble Baroness's final point, the amendment which we have already accepted on the question of representations specifically included people on the representations who might be excluded from the scheme. So I think we have now taken account of that point.

On the question of consistency as against flexibility, we would like to reflect on that. It is envisaged that this procedure may be applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. Certainly if the experience in other countries is any guide, they can be very large schemes or quite small schemes. They can be in potentially very prosperous areas of town centres; they can sometimes be in very deprived areas where a little extra help can stop the process of further dereliction. So I think it would be quite difficult to provide a single measure of what might be an exclusion on the basis of NDR.

However, we shall look at what she said and see whether there is some way in which that can be dealt with. My view is that flexibility in this is likely to be more valuable than uniformity or consistency. However, if the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will withdraw the

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amendment, I undertake that we will be discussing further how we can achieve what I believe is the same purpose.

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