Amendment No. 14 implements an undertaking which I gave in Committee and makes it clear that when the standard of performance of a local authority is being compared with those of other authorities, regard shall be had only to authorities of a similar type. For example, a small county council would not be compared with a large county council and a small burgh would not be compared with a large burgh.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor:
I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 4, line 37, to leave out 'resources'.
When we were considering this matter in Committee, the Under-Secretary said that he would consider the phrase "financial resources" to see whether he could be a little more definite. This is reported at col. 171 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings. During our discussion in Committee, several hon. Members agreed that financial resources ought not to be the sole yardstick and that a more appropriate yardstick would be the phrase "financial or other circumstances". With the phrase "financial resources" there is a danger that, whereas some poor authorities might have a more limited expenditure than others with substantial financial resources, those who were overspending might not be captured by the Clause.
The Clause provides that the Secretary of State can reduce grants to an authority which is overspending. We want to make sure that that provision is fairly applied and that an authority will not be penalised simply because the total rateable value of its area is relatively low. If overspending is the crime with which the Clause will deal, we want to make sure that the Clause will be fairly applied throughout the country and not simply with regard to the financial resources available. I hope that, even if he cannot accept the Amendment, the Under-Secretary will ensure that the matter is covered.
As I said that I would, I have looked at this matter again and all that stands between the hon. Gentleman and me is what would appear to be excessive and unreasonable expenditure by a local authority. The hon. Gentleman argued with me that rate burden per head of the population was an index worthy of consideration and I insisted that it was better to look at rate burden per household and so on. The Amendment simply leaves out "resources" and as far as I can see does not make any discernible difference to the issue between us and I am happy to accept it.