Clause 9

Business Rate Supplements Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 27th January 2009.

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Regulations about ballots

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I beg to move amendment 13, in clause 9, page 5, line 25, leave out ‘may’ and insert

‘must within 90 days of the coming into force of this section’.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 14, in clause 9, page 5, line 27, leave out ‘may’ and insert ‘must’.

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

At the risk of boring Members who were not present for deliberations on the Planning Bill, I shall again refer back to it briefly. One issue that we debated was that that Bill made provision for regulations, as is customary, but that some of those regulations had a significant effect on how the Bill would affect people in the real world. There was disquiet that the detail of those regulations might influence people’s view of the Bill as a whole, because they were crucial elements of it.

Given that we have had such a lengthy discussion about ballots and when they should be used, it would be useful to tighten up one or two of the regulations. Amendments 13 and 14 would do so, stating that regulations on how a ballot will work should be provided as early as possible. Obviously, the length of time that we have chosen could be made shorter or longer, but it is a means of sending a signal so that people out there in the real world who will need to deal with the provisions will have an early indication, if possible, of how that ballot should take place and what form it should take.

The amendment is probing, but I would welcome the Minister’s point of view. I have proposed one or two other amendments to other clauses in a similar vein. Let us put as much information as we can on the face of the Bill now, so that when other Members get a chance to consider it later, they will know exactly what they are dealing with and be clear about how the provisions will affect business communities and the local authorities forced to carry out such consultations.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his probing amendments. I know that he has experience with the planning board, and I can see why he has tabled them. They are interesting amendments that seek to strengthen the provisions in clause 9 in relation to regulations about ballots. None the less, I will explain why they are unnecessary and why I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw them.

Clause 9 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations in relation to the procedure of a ballot on the imposition of a business rate supplement. Among the topics that the regulators may cover are

“the timing of the ballot; the form that a ballot may take; who is to hold the ballot” and

“the conduct of a ballot.”

Regulators may also provide for the delegation of functions in relation to the ballot.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government sent a statement of intent to you, Mr. Atkinson, on Friday 23 January, which set out the approach that we intend to take on the secondary legislation that will be needed to give full effect to our proposals for the business rate supplement and to enable levying authorities to exercise the power to levy a BRS. Our intention is that the regulations should come into force as soon as possible after Royal Assent to the Bill. The ballots’ regulations will contain all the procedural detail, and they must be in force before the first business rate supplement can be levied on 1 April 2010. We believe that the regulations should cover the same issues that the hon. Gentleman proposes. With that reassurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendments.

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I thank the Under-Secretary for his comments. The parallel that I was drawing was with the Planning Bill and the community infrastructure levy. The debate on how that should be implemented has been contentious. I am sure that the parties involved will have their minds focused even more by the economic difficulties that we now face. It was my intention to encourage the Government to be as clear as possible about how the provisions will be enacted, so that the regulators will be given all the information they need as soon as possible. However, I take the Minister’s point that further information has been released. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.