Clause 1 — Local retention of non-domestic rates
Keeping of Primates As Pets (Prohibition)
Robert Syms (Poole, Conservative)
I, too, have been an Opposition politician. Opposition politicians often argue that Bills taken on the Floor of the House really ought to be taken in a Public Bill Committee; and when there is a Public Bill Committee, they argue as eloquently as possible that the Bill ought to be taken on the Floor of the House. When Opposition politicians are not sure what to do about a Bill, one thing they say is that it has not been considered for long enough. They then try, as amendment 20 does, to delay the commencement date, because that is a good substitute for hearing their views on such reforms. If they can press an amendment, such as amendment 20, to a Division after a debate, that is very good, because in that way they cannot discuss some of the important issues in, say, schedules 1, 2 and 3. Perhaps we will end today not quite knowing where the Opposition are on some of those issues.
The reality is that we probably have the most centralised system of local government in the western world. The Bill is a step in the right direction for devolving power. Perhaps it does not go far enough, but we will doubtless see as the Committee progresses over its three days what assurances we get from the Minister on the pace at which the Government are going.
I am confident that the Government’s instincts are right. My experience of local government officials is that they must always second-guess central Government. Some are pretty good at it. Rather than prevaricating, if we are to change the system, the sooner we do so, the better. I therefore support my hon. Friend the Minister.