Valuation of other land in drainage district

Part of Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome 4:00 pm, 11th March 2019

Before speaking to clause 3, I need to address amendment 1—which I was just about to do, obviously. Since I introduced the Bill, new data protection legislation—the Data Protection Act 2018—has come into force, and the amendment updates the Bill to reflect that. Rather than simply changing the year of the Act mentioned, the amendment refers to data protection legislation as defined in section 3 of the 2018 Act, which means that it incorporates other related and relevant data protection legislation, including the general data protection regulation and related secondary legislation.

Returning to clause 3, proposed new section 37A(5) of the 1991 Act enables the appropriate national authority—the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers—to update and/or amend references to qualifying persons and/or qualifying purposes by regulations to be made under the affirmative procedure. Proposed new subsection (8) ensures that such regulations may be made only with the consent of the commissioners for HMRC.

New section 37B provides restrictions on onward disclosure of Revenue and Customs information. In essence, all onward disclosure is prohibited unless it meets certain criteria, as set out in subsection (1). Subsection (2) sets out the circumstances under which information may not be disclosed by the VOA without the consent of the commissioners for HMRC. It is an offence if a person contravenes the first two subsections by disclosing information relating to a person whose identity is specified in or can be deduced from such a disclosure, as is set out in subsection (4). The associated penalty of imprisonment, a fine or both is set out in subsection (6). Finally, new section 37C sets out further provisions about disclosure of information under the previous new sections, such as the conditions under which the data issued by the VOA would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

While clause 2 amends the Land Drainage Act 1991 in respect of calculating the value of other land, clause 4 makes amendments in respect of calculating the value of chargeable land—namely, agricultural land and buildings. Clause 4 inserts new section 41A into the 1991 Act, enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations, again by the affirmative procedure, to establish an alternative methodology for calculating the value of chargeable land. Although the issue of missing or incomplete data does not affect the 1991 Act’s method for calculating the value of chargeable land, the change is necessary to reduce the risk of imbalance on either side of the apportionment calculation. The Secretary of State will be able, within the new regulations, to provide a new methodology for calculating the value of chargeable land that makes use of more recent data than that dating back some 30 years.

New section 41A(3) allows the regulations to make provision about the methods to be applied or the factors to be taken into account in valuing chargeable property, including land. As before, subsection (9) allows the regulations to provide for IDBs to elect that the regulations apply to them and to specify the procedure for making such election. As I mentioned in respect of clause 2, that means that they can determine whether to adopt the new methodology and, if they do not wish to do so, nothing will change. Together, the changes will enable new, complete, available data to be used to provide alternative, fair methodologies for the calculations, which fairly apportion payment of IDB expenses between the drainage rate and the special levy.

In Wales, the situation is slightly different from England. There are 12 internal drainage districts, but each is administered by Natural Resources Wales. However, those districts are funded in a similar way, and these provisions of the Bill extend to Wales to enable the Welsh Government to make similar updates there.

Like other hon. Members, I am keen for the benefits of IDBs to be more widely available, where appropriate and where communities and local authorities support them. I am aware of hon. Members who support the creation of new IDBs, or the expansion of existing ones. The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who is not in his place, supports the Cumbria flood action plan, which proposes the establishment of an IDB for the Lyth valley.

I do not want to delay things any further, so I hope that hon. Members agree with all that I have said and I commend these clauses to the Committee.