§ Mr. Younger
I beg to move Amendment No. 96, in page 166, line 34, at end insertand the words from 'in order' to 'relates' and the words from 'in accordance' onwards shall cease to have effect".
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
With which perhaps it would be convenient to take Amendment No. 201, in Schedule 27, page 279, line 36, column 3, at end insert:In section 262(1). in paragraph (b) of the proviso, the words from "in order" to "relates" and the words from "in accordance" onwards.
§ Mr. Younger
Section 262 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 deals with the period for repaying any sum borrowed by a local authority. Under proviso (b) of subsection (1) where money has been borrowed by a local authority under Section 258 of the Act in order to lend to another local authority or joint board the money borrowed by the first local authority must be repaid within one month after the loan which it has made is due to be repaid by the second local authority or joint board.
Two phrases in the proviso are applicable to money lent to other local authorities and joint boards but not to other bodies such as community councils or harbour authorities to which the proviso is extended by paragraph 20 of this Schedule 9 to the Bill. Neither phrase is strictly essential to the reading of the 475 proviso and the amendments are designed to repeal rather than alter them.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not quite follow why this is necessary. Is it about ease of access by local authorities to the capital market?
§ Mr. Younger
It is not precisely that. The provision as it stands is that where a local authority has borrowed and has then lent to another local authority, when the loan is repaid the original local authority must pay back what it originally borrowed within a period of one month. As I mentioned, there are two phrases in the proviso applicable to money lent to other local authorities and joint boards, but not—and this is the point—to bodies such as community councils and harbour authorities, to which the proviso is extended by paragraph 20 of this Schedule 9 to the Bill. That is why the amendment is necessary. Neither phrase is, therefore, strictly essential to the reading of the proviso, and we propose to repeal them rather than alter them, which would have been the alternative.
§ Mr. Ross
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. Will he tell me if I am right—that this paragraph 20 will now read—let us listen to the words with which we have to grapple—In section 262, in subsection (1), in paragraph (b) of the proviso for the words paragraph (d), (e), (f) or (g)' there shall be substituted the words paragraph (d), (f), (g) (ga) or (gb)' and the words from 'in order' to 'relates' and the words from 'in accordance' onwards shall cease to have effect".That is perfectly clear!
This is what we are expected to view and discuss in the limited time we have for the Bill. It is shocking. Of course, we have to take the hon. Gentleman's word for it that it means something, but anybody reading this paragraph in the schedule will find it just nonsense. I wish something could be done about this kind of legislating.
As far as I can see, the amendment is not entirely consequential because it mentions harbour authorities as well. It seems to be a change in the law as well as being consequential to the reorganisation of local government. We are taking quite a bit for granted when we get stuff 476 like this thrown at us by Parliamentary draftsmen and are expected to understand it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 97, in page 167, line 13, at end insert:
'and subsection (2) shall cease to have effect'.—[Mr. Younger.]
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ In Schedule 2, in paragraph 2, for the words "as may be prescribed" there shall be substituted the words ", not exceeding such sum as may be prescribed, as the local authority may determine".
§ A local authority may incur expenses under section 24(2) of the Act, relating to repair of a house or building in serious disrepair, which are chargeable to the owner or occupier of the house. As a means of assisting the authority to recover its expenses, Schedule 2 enables the authority to make them the subject of a charging order, which provides and declares that the house or building is thereby charged and burdened with an annuity to pay the amount of the expenses.
§ Paragraph 2 of the schedule provides that the annuity charged shall be such sum as may be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State for every £100 of the amount due, shall commence from the date of the order, and shall be payable for a term of 30 years to the local authority. Thus, strictly, a statutory instrument requires to be made every time interest rates change—and they do frequently. The amendment alters the position of the Secretary of State by allowing the amount of the annuity to be determined by the local authorities up to any maximum prescribed by the Secretary of State. This will enable the local authority to determine the amount of the annuity to be included in a charging order according to the interest rate prevailing at the time the order is made without the Secretary of State having to make a new statutory instrument with each change of interest rates.
§ Mr. Ross
This is eminently sensible, but I am surprised that the Government have not gone even further. It saves the 477 prescription constantly having to be made by the Secretary of State with changing rates of interest. The amendment readsnot exceeding such sum as may be prescribed, as the local authority may determine".Could we not have trusted the local authorities that much further and left the whole question of a prescription by the Secretary of State out altogether? It is still up to a maximum amount which is to be laid down by the Secretary of State.
Is this so terribly important—a matter on which the whole fate of the economy of the nation will undoubtedly depend—that the Secretary of State must keep his hand there and say, "I do not trust the local authorities to do justice. I must prescribe a maximum"?
Last night I invited the Under-Secretary of State to assert himself. He has not got a senior Minister of the Scottish Office or any other Department present, but I assure him that he will get the support of everyone behind him if he decides to withdraw the amendment and puts down a manuscript amendment giving full freedom to the local authorities. The hon. Gentleman has missed his chance. The Secretary of State has arrived. Therefore, I will address this point to him.
Great play has been made about the extent of the freedom being given to local authorities. We have been given an example here. But we have found—the Secretary of State will find that this is a point worthy of his attention—that the extent of the freedom being given to the local authorities is such that, instead of the right hon. Gentleman approving every possible change, he will in future prescribe only the maximum. I suggest that, without putting the whole economy of the nation at risk, the right hon. Gentleman could have given full freedom to local authorities to determine this whole matter.
§ Amendment agreed to.