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Growth and Infrastructure Bill (Ways and Means (No.2)

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, it is expedient to authorise provision for, or in connection with, altering the dates on which non-domestic rating lists are to be compiled.

Following the debate on the Bill’s Second Reading on 5 November, the House agreed to a ways and means resolution that authorised “the charging of fees”

and

“the recovery of costs by virtue of the Act”,

and made

“provision for the inclusion in licences under the Gas Act 1986 of conditions requiring payments to be made to holders of licences under that Act.”

Subsequently, an oversight was identified: the resolution does not cover the Bill in its entirety. Additional provision is therefore needed to cover clause 22, which is entitled

“Postponement of compilation of rating lists to 2017”.

As the House is aware, the Public Bill Committee is currently undertaking line-by-line consideration of the Bill. I have therefore moved a supplementary motion to ensure that clause 22 is covered by a ways and means resolution before the Committee reaches the clause.

The parliamentary draftsman has apologised for the fact that the oversight occurred. It was not noticed by the House, or by those who advise us. Let me add the Government’s apologies for not having identified the omission before the House agreed the resolution on 5 November. I hope that it will now agree to the supplementary resolution.

We are having this debate because the Minister has had to move a second ways and means motion. The first was clearly a rushed and shambolic effort. It was rushed and shambolic because it accompanies a Bill that is rushed and shambolic. Tabling the motion when the Public Bill Committee is currently sitting does not strike me as an entirely sensible or logical way of conducting the business of the House.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill is simply an eclectic assembly of clauses that constitute a knee-jerk response by the Government to their failure to support the economic recovery. The fact that this disappointing and potentially damaging Bill and associated secondary measures were thrown together in a hurry is borne out by the huge number of consultations on the Bill that have been churned out by the Department for Communities and Local Government in its apparent haste to legislate for growth.

In recent weeks, the Minister and his colleagues have published a number of consultations on major changes to legislation and planning processes, many of which were published just hours, or in some cases minutes, before they were due to be scrutinised. The consultation on the extension of permitted development rights was published just minutes before the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was due to take questions in the House. The consultation on planning performance and the planning guarantee was published the morning on which the measures in it were due to be scrutinised by Parliament. Yesterday, the Department chose to publish the consultations entitled

“Nationally significant infrastructure planning: expanding and improving the ‘one stop shop’ approach for consents”

and

“Nationally significant infrastructure planning: extending the regime to business and commercial projects”.

Both those hugely important and potentially controversial changes have already been included in the Bill.

One issue on which the Government have yet to consult—although perhaps they will do so immediately before Members are due to debate it—is clause 22, which will postpone the business rates revaluation. It is that aspect of the Bill to which the redrafted Ways and Means resolution relates, and which—as the Minister explained—the previous attempt did not consider. I am therefore concerned about what else Ministers may have neglected to consider. The Department has bandied about a figure suggesting how many it thinks will win and lose as a result of this postponement, but the British Property Federation, the British Council of Shopping Centres and the Association of Convenience Stores are just a few of the organisations that have questioned the logic. I would like the Minister to reassure us that he is sure of the impact that this measure will have. The impact assessment, another seemingly hurried document from the Minister’s Department, does little to allay my fears in that regard. It does not properly set out the impact, let alone assess it, on that or a number of other key issues in the Bill. Does the Minister accept that the rush for legislation will do nothing to promote growth but may do much other damage? The Opposition do not intend to reject this Ways and Means resolution, but we question the manner in which it has had to be introduced today.

With the leave of the House, may I thank the hon. Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods) for what she said? However, I suggest to her that she is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The Ways and Means resolution was agreed at the time of Second Reading and no issues about it were raised then. The parliamentary draftsmen and women, and the Officers of this House, who prepare numerous and varied resolutions that enable us to adhere to the procedures of this House, have noticed an error in this instance and have moved speedily to correct it. This relatively minor oversight will cost us only a few minutes to rectify. She is opposed to the Bill, but Government Members make no apology for getting on with the Bill. We are anxious to see the economy grow and to see more investment in infrastructure—she is not, which is why she voted against the Bill in the first place.

Question put and agreed to.