Committee (3rd Day)

Part of Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 29th June 2015.

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Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 29th June 2015

I wish to emphasise what my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Smith, have just said. In Committee last week, I said that the real elephant in the room was the issue of fiscal devolution; otherwise the Bill is about decentralisation. I listened to the Minister and I agree with my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Smith, that this will ultimately get lost unless there is something specific in the Bill. I hear what the Minister says about this being an enabling Bill, but there needs to be something in it that gives a framework—not a straitjacket—to understand the kind of fiscal autonomy that local authorities could have. If there is not, then we are, fundamentally, talking about a local government finance system that is not fit for the 21st century possibly being reallocated in a different way.

I accept that there is talk about TIF or business rate growth being able to be held at local level. However, it is fundamentally much more than this. As my noble friend Lady Janke said, it is about different approaches. Last week, the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, spoke about the Mayor of Tokyo talking to potential international investors in his city. I am a former council leader who talked to international investors. As I said last week, they do not necessarily ask about the nameplate on your door. They want to talk about what tax incentives my area can give compared to elsewhere, rather than there being a national scheme. In the real world, those are the kind of issues being looked at.

So I ask the Minister to reconsider. This is so important; we are talking about a brand new deal for devolution and for local areas to become much stronger and authors of their own destiny. But we need some framework in the Bill. Otherwise, like the noble Lord, Lord Smith, I fear that when the Treasury gets hold of this, it will not treat it, as the Minister wishes, from a local government perspective.