Clause 27

– in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 3rd February 2009.

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Special introductory provision

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

Photo of John Healey John Healey Minister of State (Department of Communities and Local Government) (Local Government)

I shall speak briefly to this clause because the special introductory provision requires comment. It is needed because big projects can take some time to get under way and we do not want to exclude authorities  that may have already been working in partnership with local businesses and business organisations, developing detailed plans based on using BRS as an element of their budget stream. That applies in particular to projects that in the long term will bring real benefits to wide areas. The clause therefore provides a general power to do that, and subsection (6) specifically allows the Secretary of State to make regulations on the establishment and operation of a BRS in London in the period up to 1 April 2012.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

Is the Minister not concerned that the nature of the provision goes to the heart of what I suspect will be an ongoing concern for both individual businesses and large business organisations: additionality? If a programme is effectively already in place after much thought and consultation with local businesses, and some sort of plan has been devised in the preceding years, waiting for BRS to come on board goes to the very heart of concerns about additionality. I am not saying that it is an easy problem for the Minister to grapple with, but we risk making business more cynical, particularly in these difficult times, about having to pay for something through a BRS that it believes should already have been paid for.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Minister of State (Department of Communities and Local Government) (Local Government)

The hon. Gentleman is right. However, we discussed in both the evidence and the scrutiny sittings that BRS in the case of Crossrail and London is an essential element, without which the funding package for the Crossrail project would not stand up and that project would come to a juddering halt. That will be the consequence if this House and the other place do not ultimately approve the Bill’s provisions. I have not heard the concept of additionality persuasively contested in the case of Crossrail. The importance of that certainty and confidence in making such big projects work needs to be balanced against the hon. Gentleman’s concern, and the way to deal with that is to make the clause’s powerful provision properly time-limited.

In other words, the special introductory provision can be used only up until 1 April 2012. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that we are trying to strike the balance between not stopping big projects such as Crossrail in their tracks, where a considerable amount of work has appropriately gone on, and allowing what some might regard as a potential loophole to the principle of additionality for BRS in any future projects.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.