Clause 70 - Withdrawal of designation

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 27th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

I have a small point to make about this clause. It clearly states that, having designated an area, a local authority may withdraw that designation. On what basis will the clause apply, and how will local authorities be able to inform all those relevant and   affected, including domestic householders and owners of business premises? What will the cost of the clause be? The regulatory impact assessment is not specific: it states that there will be a cost to local authorities of maintaining a database, but it does not state how much that will be. Therefore, a double cost could be incurred under this and the previous clause.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is fascinating that the hon. Lady asks about the costs associated with a clause that deals with removing costs. If the local authority concludes that designation is no longer necessary, and that therefore the cost of maintaining it is no longer necessary, it can remove it. I would have thought that this is sensible flexibility, and I cannot understand her wish to retain an inflexible system and make local authorities maintain a designation whether or not it is still needed.

It is slightly odd that the hon. Lady is referring to costs in relation to this clause. In reference to her one source of information—Westminster city council—it is worth pointing out that the proposed system under the Bill is less costly than the London system already applied by Westminster. The logic of that, and of the authority's communications with Conservative Members on the Opposition Front Bench, seems a little curious.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

I shall try to help the Minister. His document—the regulatory impact assessment—states that there will be a cost to local authorities that maintain a database. Clearly, the database that local authorities are asked to update will easily become out of date in a year, given the number of people who change homes and the number of business premises that change ownership or tenant. The alarm systems might be changed, with the introduction of new ones and the lapsing of old ones. It was in the spirit of probing the Minister about how he imagines the database will be kept up to date that we tabled the amendment. It seems extraordinary that the Government have made no estimate of the cost of keeping such a database.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

If I am right we are dealing with clause 70, which has nothing to do with the maintenance of a database; it has more to do with ceasing to have to hold a database, because of ceasing the designation. It is logical that the removal of a designation, which we have already discussed, should be notified to people in the area. I am sorry, but I cannot follow the logic of the hon. Lady's contribution, probing or otherwise.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.