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New Clause 21 — Tax

Part of Road Safety – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 18th May 2011.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2:15 pm, 18th May 2011

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I am anxious to deal with as many of the issues raised by hon. Members as possible, because this debate is time-limited, and for good reason. I hope that I have dealt, in large measure, with why it is appropriate to adopt the Government amendments, and why that is preferable to placing a veto in the hands of the boroughs, which would create a potential conflict of interest, or the earlier Opposition proposition of leaving a veto with central Government, which would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Bill.

I will cover one final topic before I finish, if I may. Another proposal in the group, which I anticipate will be put, is amendment 351, tabled by Heidi Alexander, the next-door neighbour of part of my constituency. The amendment relates to the London housing and regeneration board. It is important that the Bill transfers housing powers and responsibilities from central Government agencies, in the form of the Homes and Communities Agency, to the Mayor. That has been welcomed across the piece politically in London. It is envisaged that the London housing board will be the vehicle within which that work is carried out.

As I read it, and I will happily be corrected if I am wrong, the amendment would prescribe in statute a requirement that the GLA should have a London housing and regeneration board. I cannot go that far because although it is no doubt a sensible thing to have, certainly at the moment, and is something that works well enough with the involvement of the Mayor’s office and the boroughs, we do not think it is consistent with the spirit of localism for us to prescribe, in one particular area, the manner in which the GLA should carry out its activities. Interestingly, that again seems to be a little bit of potential centralism creeping in through the back door. I would prefer to give the Mayor and the boroughs flexibility in determining how to take those issues forward.

I hope that I have dealt with all the topics in what has perhaps been a livelier debate than might have been anticipated when we started to talk about tax clauses, which I note have not featured in the controversy at all, perhaps not surprisingly.