Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 53:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 53 is a small amendment. It would make it obligatory for a billing authority, if it was going to veto a BIDs proposal, to give notice within three months of the veto taking place. It may seem quite odd to put in a time definition, but people sometimes do not notice time passing. It must be right that there is a time limit by which these decisions must be made and notified, so that the people who have voted for the proposal know of what that decision is.

I cannot imagine that many local authorities would not give notice within such a time, but perhaps those that were still requiring a minimum reserve might be a little more dilatory about these things. Therefore, we should have a time limit. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Clause 53 gives a billing authority the power to veto a business improvement district. The noble Baroness has moved an amendment which limits that to three months after the BID ballot has taken place. That is fair enough and we agree.

We believe the amendment is unnecessary. Clause 53 already gives the Secretary of State the power to prescribe the time period in which the veto can be exercised in secondary legislation. This means that the time period in which the veto can be exercised can be altered to reflect the experience of BIDs once they are up and running. That is a very important part of the flexibility that we are trying to achieve in the BIDs framework.

If we prescribe the time period in which the veto may take place in primary legislation before we have any knowledge of the way in which BIDs will work in practice, we will be unable to alter the time period to reflect the experience of developing BIDs. So we think it would be counter-productive. This flexibility is the general approach we are taking with most of the legislation.

I imagine that the noble Baroness is seeking reassurance that the local authority will not be able to veto a BID a year after a successful vote has taken place and when the BID would or should already be in operation. The Secretary of State intends to prevent that from happening and to use these powers to do so.

In any case, before the BID proposal is voted upon, the local authority should have been working with the BID proposers and pointing out any areas of concern. So we hope in any event that the veto will be exercised very rarely. I cannot see many circumstances in which a group, which has taken the trouble of creating a BID,

16 Jul 2003 : Column 927

does not properly involve the local authority in it and so creates a situation in which the local authority feels obligated to exercise this veto. We see vetoes as only rarely happening. So the power is already there. We want to retain a flexibility in terms of the time period so that we can see how BIDs work in practice. If we were to go with the amendment that the noble Baroness proposes, I am sure that she well and truly understands that it would mean we would have an inflexible proposition written on to the face of the Bill. We think that would make it far less workable. The thing about BIDs is to enjoy the beauty of the way they express themselves in the myriad of different ways.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, how very poetic. I hear what the Minister says. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 [Commencement of BID arrangements]:

[Amendment No. 53A not moved.]

Clause 56 [Duration of BID arrangements etc]:

[Amendments Nos. 53B and 53C not moved.]

Clause 57 [Regulations about ballots]:

[Amendment No. 53D not moved.]

Clause 60 [Wales]:

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 54:

    Page 25, line 21, leave out from beginning to "to" in line 22 and insert—

"( ) Sections 56(7), 57(4) and 58(3) do not apply in relation to Wales.
( ) In their application in relation to Wales—
(a) the remaining provisions of this Part have effect as if for each reference in those provisions"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if Clause 60 is not amended in this way, it effectively means that the statutory instruments relating to the business improvement districts produced by the National Assembly for Wales would have to be laid in Westminster for scrutiny. Given the fact that the National Assembly for Wales has perfectly adequate procedures of its own for scrutinising statutory instruments, we should not be doing that here. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 55:

    After Clause 63, insert the following new clause—

"Relief for charities and community amateur sports clubs
(1) In section 43 of the 1988 Act (occupied hereditaments: liability) for subsection (6) there is substituted—
"(6) This subsection applies where on the day concerned the ratepayer is—
(a) a charity or trustees for a charity and the hereditament is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes (whether of that charity or of that and other charities); or

16 Jul 2003 : Column 928

(b) a community amateur sports club within the meaning of Schedule 18 to the Finance Act 2002 (c. 23) (relief for community amateur sports clubs) and the hereditament is wholly or mainly used for the purposes of that club or of that and any other such community amateur sports club or clubs."
(2) In section 45 of that Act (unoccupied hereditaments: liability) for subsection (6) there is substituted—
"(6) This subsection applies where on the day concerned the ratepayer is—
(a) a charity or trustees for a charity and it appears that when next in use the hereditament will be wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes (whether of that charity or of that and other charities); or
(b) a community amateur sports club within the meaning of Schedule 18 to the Finance Act 2002 and it appears that when next in use the hereditament will be wholly or mainly used for the purposes of that club or of that and any other such community amateur sports club or clubs.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we debated the equivalent of this amendment in Grand Committee for three-quarters of an hour on 11th June. For those who want to read the debate, it is at cols. GC 156 to GC 168. On that occasion there was ne'er a contrary voice. Dare I say that the Ministers opposite exhibited a certain sympathy for what the amendment seeks to achieve? I beg noble Lords' pardon; I can see heads shaking vigorously.

I do not propose to rehearse the arguments put in Grand Committee. First, I must say that both the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sheppard of Liverpool, whose name was on the amendment and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, are unavoidably prevented from being here tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, whose name is on this amendment, has just been required to rush off and deliver a speech in lieu of a Peer who has fallen ill.

More germanely, the reason I am not going to—I was going to say "rabbit on", but I should say—"proceed at length" is that, because this clause has money consequences, there is an onus on us to try and clarify and make as certain as possible what is the cost of this proposal. I refer not only to the direct cost to the Treasury but to the indirect costs societally; for example, the potentially benign consequences of the amendment in terms of a typical small sports club, thereby having extra funds available to increase facilities, which draws in more members and which takes young tearaways off the streets into creative engagement, and so on.

As I say, we have a duty to the House to go as far as possible towards clarifying just what are the pros and cons of this in direct and indirect financial terms. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has his name with mine on the amendment. We both concur that it would be advantageous to have discussions with the Treasury, if possible. More than a fortnight ago, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggesting discussions. It is no reflection at all on him, except his workload, that that has not yet borne fruit. But I should like to think

16 Jul 2003 : Column 929

that by Third Reading we shall have reached the end of the line—realising that the end of the line will still be a series of estimates. Therefore, although I shall now move the amendment, I wait to hear whether the Minister can accede to it before going any further. I beg to move.

Lord Pendry: My Lords, the most recent—indeed, the only—White Paper on sport, published in 1975, attempted in a fashion to consider the problems of voluntary sports clubs. Unfortunately, its conclusions were woefully short of what was needed to address the problems. The introduction stated:

    "In the present circumstances, it would be unrealistic to issue any statements of Government policy or intentions for sport and recreation without indicating the extent to which action is likely to be inhibited by our present economic difficulties . . . It would be clearly wrong to exempt recreation from whatever financial constraints it may be necessary to impose in the light of the developing economic situation".

I took part in the debate that followed that White Paper, and I found it greatly depressing. However, a few months later, I found myself to be a Minister in Northern Ireland with an economic brief and a rating order that I inherited from my predecessor. My first deputation as a Minister was from a very angry Sports Council for Northern Ireland. I let it put its forceful case to me, tore up the rating order and said, "Let's start again". As many will know, the result of that is that we have mandatory rate relief in Northern Ireland for voluntary sports clubs at 65 per cent.

Some argued and may still argue that voting for the amendment, if it proceeds to a vote, would create a precedent. I tell my noble friend the Minister that that cannot be argued. He now knows that the precedent has already been set—although not at 80 per cent but at 65 per cent. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said, we all know that the main obstacle in matters of this kind is generally the Treasury. But I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom we all know to be a bit of a sports fan, will carefully consider the amendment. I am sure that he would calculate that a relatively small amount of money would go from the Treasury coffer. I am sure that we could all—even my noble friend—argue the benefits of sports clubs to society. They cannot be judged on mere economic terms.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, on his efforts on the issue over the years. I also congratulate the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the noble Lord, Lord Monro, and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, first, on his promotion to shadow Minister for Sport; and, secondly, on the contribution that I am sure that he will make today. I must say that I prefer him to be in opposition as shadow Minister for Sport than to be the Minister, although I do not say that in any detrimental sense. Indeed, I shadowed him when he was Minister for Sport for some years. I should also like to thank others whom I shall not mention for all that they have done to fight for sport clubs.

16 Jul 2003 : Column 930

I applaud the Government for pumping record amounts of money into sport. Last week's announcement by the Minister, Mr Miliband, about expanding the specialist sports programme was commendable. However, it is often voluntary sports clubs that pick up where schools leave off and to which kids go when they leave school. We must consider them in this debate.

In brief, it makes sense for me to support the amendment, although it would be to go against my Government. I hope that it will not come to that, because we are not in the same kind of economic climate as we were when the 1975 White Paper was issued. Thanks to the state of the United Kingdom economy—this is where I pander a little to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—thanks to my right honourable friend's running of the economy, we do not have the bleak economic backdrop that we did then.

So I hope that my noble friend, who I know is really sympathetic to the new clause, will reflect before Third Reading and ensure that we have a sensible provision based on the amendment. I look forward to listening to my old sparring partner, who will make a valuable contribution to the debate.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who continues to make a remarkable, lasting and exceptionally positive impression on the world of sport. Only today, he was leading an important discussion about coaching in this country. Over decades, not just years, his contribution has been outstanding. I listened to everything that he said and it is a privilege to follow him in the debate.

As advocates of the amendment, we on these Benches start from a strong position, because, in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, opened well on 11th June. He said:

    "I should like to say that I have just heard five brilliant speeches in favour of a brilliant amendment . . . It is supported by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour Members and Cross-Benchers".

For that alone, I would vote for the Minister as parliamentarian of the year. But he should have stopped there, because he was clean bowled by his officials straight after, when he said:

    "I am on a hiding to nothing . . . I come with the bad news that I cannot accept the amendment, but nevertheless, I agree with every point made in those speeches".—[Official Report, 11/6/03; col GC 162-3.]

This evening, neither I nor other noble Lords intend to repeat the valuable exchanges that we had in Committee. However, I should like to place on record my appreciation for the outstanding work done on the subject by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and for his contribution this evening. I share his concern about the importance of a reply to the letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am conscious that further discussion with the Treasury team would be beneficial before we decide whether it is appropriate to test the will of the House. I therefore also recommend

16 Jul 2003 : Column 931

that we return to the subject armed with the Chancellor's reply and following further consideration at Third Reading.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page