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The noble Lord said: At present, Clause 78 differentiates between England and Wales with regard to revaluation. Whereas a new list must be compiled in relation to billing authorities in England on 1st April 2007, for Wales the list is to be compiled on 1st April 2005. Amendment No. 168 queries why the two are treated differently. If it is simply for administrative convenience, could the Minister say whether, somewhere down the line, he foresees separate revaluation cycles for different elected regions, which the Government are so keen on? I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness: I should have liked my noble friend's amendment to have read "Line 31, leave out '2007' and insert '2005'" for the very reason that he gave. I was Minister of the Environment when revaluation was considered. As my noble friend said, it frightened many in Scotland. If he had changed the English date to 2005, at least the Labour Party would have had to live with its decision. If it is left at 2007, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will be in opposition and my noble friend will be the Minister of State.
Baroness Maddock: It seems that everyone is worried about revaluation. The purpose of the amendment is to provide for revaluation to happen every 10 years. I support the Minister on the issue. There have been huge changes in house prices around the country; therefore, there must be revaluation every so often. However, there could be problems if there is not provision for when revaluation should take place. It seems good that everyone should know when it would happen.
I read that a Member in another place said that revaluation would not happen more frequently than every 10 years because it costs so much. About 10 years ago, when I was first elected to another place, almost all my caseload dealt with appeals on the value of people's houses which determined their banding. It is
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The reason for the two different dates is on practical grounds. England could not be ready in 2005 because the task there is much bigger. I am sure that the noble Earl knows that there are 20 million properties subject to revaluation in England and only 1 million in Wales. We have taken account of the views of the National Assembly for Wales, which decided that it would like the revaluation sooner than we planned for England. The Valuation Office Agency was able to accommodate that in its work programme. It is a simple explanation of the reason.
Baroness Hamwee: Before the Committee takes a decision on that, may I make a plea either for tomorrow's session to be moved to a room where the atmosphere is better or for something to be done about the atmosphere in this room? I suspect that that is not possible. Members of the Committee who have left the room and come back in will have been hit with the unpleasant atmosphere, which we probably do not notice so much when we are sitting here. Add to that
Lord Rooker: The noble Baroness is quite right. I threatened last week that if something were not done I would take my coat off. That would create ructions. Revolution would come to this place. There is a shortage of rooms, and Black Rod is on the job, but there are not many more remaining sittings of the Committee. However, the situation applies to other people who must use the room. These are appalling circumstances. I do not know whether Rooms 4B or 4A would be better, but at least they have windows that could be opened and they would be perfectly satisfactory. I hope that Black Rod will consider the matter before tomorrow.
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