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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I certainly treat the reasoning behind the amendment with sympathy. However, I am afraid that this is another example of a scheme which needs to be adapted to local conditions rather than being laid down prescriptively on the face of the Bill. The fundamental principle is accepted. We shall want to see improvements in public transport before a charging or licensing scheme is introduced. That will be a condition for securing the Secretary of State's approval of the order to give effect to the scheme. That is the fundamental safeguard which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, seeks.
The requirements for securing scheme approval depend on local factors. They depend on the size of the scheme and on the availability of alternatives to the car. Such factors will vary between one scheme and another. Some small-scale schemes may not need extensive up-front improvements to local transport. Larger schemes are certainly likely to need more substantial improvements.
However, it would not be sensible to set out on the face of the Bill the improvements to public transport--or, in this case, the majority of the improvements outlined in the local transport plan--that should be in place for any particular period, whether it be for six months or any other period. It is possible that we shall want to see more of the local transport plan in effect and for a longer period before the Secretary of State approves an order. However, that must depend on the size and scope of the scheme and the nature of the public transport improvements which are possible and necessary. Such factors should not be prescribed on the face of the Bill.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. He has at least treated the principle with sympathy, if not the detail. I shall study his reply and, in the meantime, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Clause 177(2) provides for the occupier of a premises or any person specified by the national authority in regulations to be liable for the workplace charging levy. We believe that, if a tax is imposed, it should be imposed locally. It is not appropriate for the national authority to determine who should pay it but the authority which makes the scheme. After all, that authority will raise the tax and will enjoy the benefit of the revenue, if revenue there be. There is some doubt
We feel quite strongly that there should be a direct link between those who decide to generate a tax and draw the revenue and those who decide how it should be implemented. We do not believe that it is necessary--I return to my local authority responsibility point--for the national authority to make that definition. We believe that it should be left to the authority which makes the scheme. That is the principle which should be followed. If an authority is to receive criticism or praise for what it has done, it should have absolute responsibility for what it has decided rather than being told how to decide it before it sets about the task.
I turn to Amendment No. 217 that deals with a small point that we debated earlier. The Bill provides that a workplace parking levy licence may last for only 12 months. We think that that very often, that is too uncertain certain and the Bill should permit a licence to be valid for a period longer than 12 months. This amendment gives effect to that belief and that is why we have tabled it. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I deal first with Amendment No. 217 which may have the opposite effect to the noble Lord's intention. The principal effect of his amendment, if carried, would be to remove an important safeguard for businesses. Our intention was simply to protect businesses by ensuring that a licensing authority could not require a business to take out and pay for a licence for more than one year and therefore could not ask them to pay for several years at once. If the amendment were carried, that protection would be removed. I do not believe that the business community would necessarily thank the noble Lord for that. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will not press that amendment.
I did not entirely follow the noble Lord's argument on Amendment No. 216 because its effect would be to remove a degree of flexibility from local authorities and from the way in which the regulations are drawn. It would specify that in all the circumstances, the occupier would be the person responsible for paying the workplace parking levy. In the vast majority of cases it will be the occupier, but there are a very small number of instances where it would be more appropriate to make someone other than the building occupier liable for paying the levy. That is why we have provided that regulation-making power in paragraph (b) of that subsection. It needs, in particular, to cover a situation where someone other than the occupier of the premises was using the car park for his workforce or for a situation where premises are shared by more than one occupier. That is why that regulation-making power exists.
Thus, far from the amendment providing a more direct relationship between the local authority and the payer of the charge, it removes the ability to provide some flexibility in identifying who is the appropriate
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the Minister explained his objections to Amendment No. 216. It is not the regulations that need to define who is going to pay the charge; it is the scheme that needs that definition. I do not think that one needs that to be defined in regulations in order to have it defined in the scheme. It seems to me that if a charging authority is to make a scheme, it will certainly not make it without defining with sufficient precision--in the circumstances in which it finds itself in its own area--who is going to pay. It is a sine qua non of making a scheme that if one is going to do this, one has to define who is to pay and must take account of differing circumstances.
On Amendment No. 217, the Minister is quite right. I suppose that my amendment might make it possible for someone to draft a licence that was for five years and require a payment for five years at the time the last licence was drafted. It tempts me to bring a revised amendment forward at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
A lot has been made of the fact that this is hypothecation of expenditure for the local transport scene. If the idea is good then it is right that the money should be hypothecated. But the problem is that the Bill then goes on to provide a limit to the hypothecation and it will be hypothecated for 10 years in the first instance.
We debated this in Committee and the objection raised, not least from colleagues sitting on my right, was that even if an authority had achieved all the transport improvements that it could ever envisage, a charging scheme might still be desirable for the disincentive effect that that may have on drivers.
It shows a remarkable lack of confidence in what we are about if that can be seen to be so because that statement is an admission that public transport cannot fulfil the needs of the community and one may need to have artificial fiscal incentives to dissuade people from otherwise travelling by car. That is rather a depressing thought.
Being a man of a sensitive nature and, for once in my life, listening to what was said, it occured to me that there is a different way of dealing with the Government's--or my--dilemma in believing that it would be inappropriate to have a local tax devised, set and made locally for local purposes subsequently, as I would put it, purloined by the Treasury because the hypothecation ran out.
We tabled this particular series of amendments with that in mind so that if that Utopian day were to come when there was nothing in the transport field on which the local transport authority had to spend this money, the revenues would accrue to the local rate fund. That would leave the charge in place with motorists paying their contribution. It could be argued that the cost to the local community would subsequently be neutral, and so it would. But, of course, there would be a deal of value being transferred from one particular section of the community to the community at large.
I do not like the idea that those specific charges that were originally devised for transport improvement should continue, but if they must do that--and from the debate we had in Committee it seems they must--then at least the benefit should stay locally and the local community should be allowed benefit from it. It seems to me that the amendments follow a very important principle. I beg to move.
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