Lords amendment: No. 150, after clause 154, in page 128, line 15, at the end insert—
AA.—(1) In subsection (5) of section 46 of the Land Drainage Act 1976 (by virtue of which the aggregate amount for which precepts in respect of the expenses of a local land drainage district may be issued for any one financial year to a local authority may not, unless special consent has been obtained, exceed 1.7 times the estimated penny rate product for the relevant area of the authority for that year) for the words from "1/" to the end there shall be substituted the words "the amount calculated by multiplying the estimated penny rate product for the relevant area of the authority for that year by such number as the Ministers may specify by order made for the purposes of this subsection".
(2) In subsection (6) of that section (effect of special resolution) for the words from 1/" to "area" there shall be substituted the words "the amount calculated by multiplying the estimated penny rate product for the relevant area of that authority for that year by such number as the Ministers may specify by order made for the purposes of this subsection".
(3) Accordingly, in section 109 of that Act (regulations and orders)—
(4) The amendments made by this section shall have effect in relation to every rate period, within the meaning of the General Rate Act 1967, beginning with such rate period as the Ministers may by order made by statutory instrument specify.
(5) An order under subsection (4) above shall not specify a rate period beginning before 1st April 1981.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendment No. 151 and the amendment thereto and Lords amendment No. 260.
§ Mr. Fox
I do not have to refer hon. Members to the costs of maintaining and improving our rivers to suggest that this needs rectification. I can assure the House that, before making an order under these new powers, the Minister will have close regard to the need to restrain public expenditure. The local authority associations are represented on these boards and will be very careful in approving any increase.
Lords amendment No. 151 is concerned also with drainage. The intention is to remove the distinction which at present exists between certain hereditaments, mainly mineral workings, and general hereditaments for the assessment of drainate rates by internal drainage boards. I hope that hon. Members will accept that very brief explanation.
Lords amendment No. 260 is consequential upon Lords amendment No. 151.
§ Dr. Edmund Marshall (Goole)
Lords amendment No. 151 repeals section 65(8) of the Land Drainage Act 1976, and my amendment seeks to ensure that that does not take effect until 1 April 1981.
However, before explaining my proposal, I wish to express my gratitude to the Minister for agreeing with Lords amendment No. 150. The purpose of it is exactly the same as that of my Ten-Minute Bill, the Land Drainage (Amendment) Bill, which the Government resisted earlier in the year. I am delighted that they have had second thoughts and come round to the view that this provision is necessary.
Turning to Lords amendment No. 151, while I do not challenge the principle in itself, I understand that difficulties might occur if the Lords amendment came into force immediately the Bill was enacted. That would be in the middle of a rating year, and it could result in some rateable values of hereditaments such as gravel 416 pits and other mineral workings being changed in the middle of a rating year. Internal drainage boards might then have the prospect of having to pay back to the owners and occupiers of such hereditaments drainage rates which they had already collected during the year.
I am sure that if my amendment were accepted it would reduce a lot of the confusion that could arise if the Lords amendment came into force in the middle of a rating year.
§ Mr. Fox
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's welcome of the Government's acceptance of Lords amendment No. 150. I pay credit to him for his foresight in introducing his Ten-Minute Bill.
The hon. Gentleman is right about the problems which would be created should repayments be demanded, and I undertake to do whatever I can to impress upon ratepayers that this benefit needs to be looked at very carefully. If immediate repayment would cause hardship, we would have to do what we could to help some of these small authorities which obviously would be in financial difficulty.
§ Mr. Spearing
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was interested to hear the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend's amendment. Cannot we hear whether it is accepted?
§ Mr. Fox
I did not mean to give the impression that the Government accepted the hon. Gentleman's amendment. I said that we were aware of the problem and that, if rebates were forced upon some of these smaller authorities, we would do what we could to mitigate the hardship. Where one helps people, it is not unreasonable to make certain that they understand any immediate problems that may be created.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Lords amendment No. 151 agreed to.