Clause 3

Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 5th June 1985.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 38, leave out 'which'.

The Chairman:

With this amendment it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 39, leave out from '1985' to the end of line 40.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

We are now galloping towards the close. There has been a slightly ungracious welcome for the amount of co-operation that we have given to the Bill. We are allowing it through in a remarkably expeditious fashion. As an instance of that, in the normal Committee stage I could have been happily entertained for many hours discussing the amendments now under consideration. I say that unashamedly. I shall now dispose of them in about 90 seconds, to my considerable regret. It is an exercise in self-discipline that surprises me.

This matter arose on Second Reading. The Committee will remember that clause 3 says:

"This Act … shall come into force on the expiry of 2 months beginning with the day on which it is passed."

I want an assurance about whether that means that the Bill does not come into force until two months after it has completed its passage through the House of Lords. While I accept that their Lordships will not delay the Bill, that means that the two months will start in some weeks' time.

8.45 pm

The order is an essential part of the apparatus without which we cannot have positive action to disburse money. If it cannot be laid until the Act is in force, I suspect that, because of the parliamentary timetable, we could not have it until the autumn. That will delay the whole business of calculation and disbursement so far into the financial year as to raise substantial difficulties for local authorities and for the Scottish Office.

Can we have an assurance from the Minister that if he insists on keeping the time lag of two months in the Bill it will be possible to lay and debate the statutory instrument within that two-month period without having to wait until the Bill comes into force? If the answer is yes, it will remove my fear to some extent.

The Minister might take a minute to explain the matter, I am not sure why we need the provision that the Bill shall not come into force until two months after it completes its passage through Parliament. There does not seem to be any rationale in that. Obviously there must be, and perhaps the Minister will explain it.

The real problem is that it seems illogical if the statutory instrument depends upon the Bill. If the Bill does not come into force for two months, can we start the statutory instrument on its way before the expiry of that two months? If we cannot, there will be considerable problems. I am sure the Minister has followed the point and I shall be grateful for his answer.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scottish Office)

As I said in reply to the Second Reading debate, the Bill is in accordance with normal practice in coming into force after two months. Much requires to be done before effect can be given to the Bill. We have to give local authorities and ratepayers a period of two months to make the necessary arrangements. The order setting out the details of the scheme must be brought before the House after the Bill has been enacted. To answer the point the hon. Member was making, this can be done after Royal Assent has been given to the Bill and does not have to wait until the Bill comes into operation in two months’ time.

We are working towards a period of two months during which certain administrative arrangements will have to be made. The order will have to be laid and approved by both Houses of Parliament. Thereafter, at the end of two months the scheme will be capable of being operated. We wish to see the scheme in operation if possible before we get to the stage when rate bills have to be paid in September. The timetable in the Bill will allow that to happen.

If the amendments were to be accepted they would not in practice make any difference to the timetable because the work will have to be done in any event. The timetable does not delay the operation of the Bill in the sense of making sure that it achieves what it set out to achieve within the time scale that both the hon. Gentleman and I want. On that basis, I hope the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I will be prepared to withdraw the amendment on that assurance. Like the Minister, I am anxious to see the machinery in operation as quickly as possible. Many people will already be paying their rates on the 10-month instalment basis. The first instalment will have been paid in May so adjustments will have to be made, presumably in the subsequent instalments towards the end of the financial year. A new book will be issued showing a lower rate of contribution for those who are getting something out of the rebate scheme.

If the Minister is satisfied that he does not need to delay the statutory instrument and that the period of two months is really of no importance, I am prepared to take that assurance. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.