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Lord Rooker: My Lords, speaking off the top of my head, simply because of the value of the property, I do not believe that that would count in classifying this as a tax. But we shall obviously take advice on the matter if and when we reach the point of bringing in property owners on a mandatory basis. It is hoped that we shall not need to do so; we hope that the arrangements will be a success. But we shall genuinely review the process. I do not want to repeat what I have just said, but we are quite genuine and positive about the approach.
Incidentally, we are very grateful to the property owners, who have been very up-front about what they want to do. I pay tribute to their clarity in this matter, including in their most recent letter to Nick Raynsford just a few days ago. They have been very constructive. However, the Bill is not the way to go forward on this issue and, certainly, this amendment is not the way to bring about a new tax.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am happy to accept that this may not be an ideal way to bring about a new tax. However, it seems to me that that is what happens in the United States. I know that our tax regimes are not the same, but it cannot be difficult to make inquiries about the regime in the United States. Is the US able to tax and include these matters on a mandatory basis? That is what we are talking about. I quite see that the Government will not be able to introduce a new tax systemif, again, that is what it is. The Minister and the Inland Revenue have said that it is. Therefore, I presume that we must accept that.
I believe that leaving out the owners on a mandatory basis is unfortunate. I very much hope that that will not be one of the difficulties in getting BIDs off the ground. The Minister spoke about town centre projects but those are quite different. With BIDs, one may be looking at a far wider and far larger project than would be the case under what I described as "urban environmental improvements". Without the owners being involved so significantly on a statutory basis, it could be the death knell to the BIDs. That is what I am concerned about. I believe that we all support this concept. We all want to see it work and we want to give it the best possible shot.
A review is a review, and I am sure that that will be good when it is carried out. If it is found to be lacking that will require more tax. We are off down a path and will take years before the landowners will be involved mandatorily. There will be a review and legislation. The amendment was an attempt to provide for something within this legislation which meant that it would not be a requirement, a necessity, and we would not have to go zooming off to find other legislation in which to place a provision.
I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. I thank him for telling me about the meeting with the British Property Federation. I thank him too for the invitation to my noble friend Lord Jenkin, who is not in his place. I shall check whether he can make that meeting at a convenient time. In view of the fact that he is not in his place and has been deeply involved in this matter I should like to be able to take further advice on what the Minister said. However, in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
In Grand Committee I probed what was meant by those words. As I understood it, re-reading his words, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, acknowledged that this would allow a change in the vires of public bodies. The requirement within Clause 45(2)(c) arises from BID arrangements, which are subject to Secretary of State regulations. In other words, it seemed to me that if one follows the route throughI raised this in Grand Committeethe regulations would, in effect, indirectly be changing the vires of public bodies. Certainly, I do not seek to preclude the participation of public bodies in that, but is this the correct way to go about it?
The noble Lord and I both felt that we were unable to pursue the matter any further in Grand Committee. I have tabled the amendment again and I hope that the speaking notes will pick up on what I say. I am just trying to pursue the last thing I said in Grand Committee on this subject. I should like to understand what is going on here. I beg to move.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I hope that by reading my notes, which are the same as those I used in Grand Committee, and which are brief and very precise, I shall be able to satisfy the noble Baroness. There is a good reason for this. It is true that an explanation is needed and I shall give an example.
Amendment No. 52AA seeks to remove the power of the BID arrangements to require voluntary contributions from certain people or organisations. The power to require a contribution to a business improvement district is placed in Clause 45 to give a public body the opportunity to contribute to a BID
The BID arrangements will require a financial contribution only where the body concerned has expressed a wish to contribute but would be unable to make that financial contribution unless required by statute to do so. The example I have is very brief.
A police authority may wish to contribute to a BID which is intending to put up closed circuit TV cameras in a town centre. The BID arrangements would then require a financial contribution as otherwise the police authority would not legally be able to make a contribution. In other words, without the word "require", even if the police authority wanted to make a voluntary contribution to the BID, which is clearly a matter in which the police might want to be involved, they would not be able to do so. Therefore, the word "require" is included so that there is a statutory requirement for them to do so within their own legal framework.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. I do not want to be instrumental in stopping public bodies engaging in any such scheme. My point really was to question whether it is right for regulations to be able to change the vires. Perhaps this is an example of benign regulation. I shall not press this further, not least because it requires the consent of the authority to make the payment, although I am not sure that that goes to my argument which is rather technical but, nevertheless, still quite worrying, about whether such things should be allowed in regulations.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I accept that there is a point here about the joint arrangements and the way the law is set out. But whatever is in regulations, this provision is on the face of the Bill in Clause 45(2)(c). That is clear and unambiguous in statute; it is in an Actin primary legislation. I do not think that anyone will be able to say, "Oh, they have slipped this requirement in by way of statutory instrument". It is here in primary legislation.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I shall try to draw this to a conclusion. The reason I raised the issue is that, if I read the Bill correctly, the regulations come about because the BID arrangements depend on various regulations. It was that kind of chain that I was pursuing. The provision is on the face of the Bill, but not as required for any particular arrangement. I have now got that off my chest. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I asked then why it was necessary to limit the power which appears under Clause 50(1) when subsection (2) states that the power includes certain things. I did not feel that the Government's response addressed the point. I am very persuaded by some of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about the need for consistency and clarity in legislation, so I felt that that gave me the excuse, if one were needed, to try to pursue the point.
I stated last time that I was sorry to be "picky" but that was the job. Sometimes tiny points such as this have completely unintended consequences, so I felt that in one minute, which is all I have taken, I should put the point again. I beg to move.
Clause 50 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations concerning the administration and collection of the BID levy. During the debate on this amendment in Grand Committee I was asked why Clause 50(3) is necessary when subsection (2) is an indicative, not an exhaustive list. The inclusion of subsection (3) is a standard drafting formula to make sure beyond doubt that the general power in Clause 50(1) is not limited by the specific terms set out in Clause 50(2).
Where, as in Clause 50(2), a list of terms is given, but there is no provision equivalent to subsection (3), the list in subsection (2) will read as an exhaustive list of the areas in which the Secretary of State may make regulations.
Amendment No. 52CA would restrict the Secretary of State's power to make regulations to those items listed in Clause 50(2). That would mean that the Secretary of State would not have the power to introduce an entirely new system of collection and enforcement for the BID levy.
We have always made it clear that we intend to administer the collection and enforcement of the BID levy through the existing non-domestic rating mechanism. However, we want to retain the flexibility to create a different system if the experience of early BIDs suggests that the arrangements are not working. The amendment would remove that flexibility, hence the reason we need subsection (3) as part of Clause 50.