Clause 1: Relief from local non-domestic rates: occupied hereditaments
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 14, after “energy,” insert—
“(aa) the day concerned falls before 1 April 2022,”
My Lords, this amendment will place in the Bill the five-year duration for the rate relief scheme for new fibre. The scheme will apply retrospectively from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2022. The need to have the five years on the face of the Bill was discussed at Report. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for raising this matter and agreeing to withdraw his amendment at that stage so that we could bring forward these changes.
The amendments will also allow for the period of the rate relief scheme to be extended by regulation using the affirmative resolution procedure. This will ensure that, if the Chancellor wants to repeat or extend the rate relief scheme, that can happen quickly without the need for another Bill but still with the approval of Parliament. I trust that noble Lords will agree that the amendment meets the commitment I gave on Report. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth. I draw the House’s attention to my interests as a local councillor in Lewisham and vice-president of the Local Government Association. As he said, we had a very fruitful meeting after I tabled my amendment at Report. I was very happy to withdraw that, and I am very pleased with what the Minister has brought back today. As he says, it has enabled the Government to put the dates in the Bill. If they want at some future point to extend the scheme, they can, without the need for primary legislation. It is a very sensible move.
My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my register of interests as a councillor in Kirklees and as another vice-president of the Local Government Association. As we discussed on Report, we agree with and support the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. We thank the Minister for his very helpful meetings on the Bill. I have certainly explored a number of issues, although I have not got very far, and I do not intend to let them go. There is a growing need to think about the accessibility and affordability of broadband and mobile networks for people less well off than the majority, when they are going to rely on them for access to public services and other important aspects of their lives. That issue will not go away, and I hope Ministers will take that point away and think about it.
As for the amendments, we will obviously support them.
My Lords, I shall respond to the typically generous comments from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, regarding the Bill in general. I also want to put on record a couple of other issues. First, I undertook that we would look at gaming, and after discussing the issue with Ofcom and Gamma Telecom—I have shared this with the opposition parties—they have concluded that there is no risk of gaming in relation to fibre, but we shall keep a watching brief on that issue. I also take note of what the noble Baroness said about rural issues and deprived and isolated areas that are difficult to get to. Again, we would want to take account of and pay special attention to that.
At Second Reading we benefited from hearing about the concerns about business rates of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and my noble friend Lady Harding. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for their constructive approach to the Bill. I am also grateful to my noble friend and co-pilot Lord Ashton for the support and expert knowledge he has provided throughout the Bill’s passage. I also extend thanks to the Bill team: Jonathan Denning, Nick Cooper, Pete McDougall, Stewart Kemsley, Thomas Adams and the ever-smiling Homaira Abdullah.
This Bill will help to close the digital divide and to get higher-quality, more reliable connectivity to households and businesses across the country, benefiting every sector of the economy. I beg to move.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Amendments 2 to 4
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 16, leave out “that day” and insert “the day concerned”
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(4FA) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend paragraph (aa) of subsection (4F) above so as to substitute a later date for the date for the time being specified in that paragraph.”
4: Clause 1, page 1, line 17, leave out “subsection (4F)” and insert “subsections (4F) and (4FA)”
Amendments 2 to 4 agreed.
Clause 2: Relief from local non-domestic rates: unoccupied hereditaments
Amendments 5 to 8
5: Clause 2, page 3, line 6, after “energy,” insert—
“(aa) the chargeable day falls before 1 April 2022,”
6: Clause 2, page 3, line 8, leave out “that” and insert “the chargeable”
7: Clause 2, page 3, line 21, at end insert—
“(4EA) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend paragraph (aa) of subsection (4C) so as to substitute a later date for the date for the time being specified in that paragraph.”
8: Clause 2, page 3, line 22, leave out “(4E)” and insert “(4EA)”
Amendments 5 to 8 agreed.
Clause 3: Relief from central non-domestic rates
Amendments 9 to 12
9: Clause 3, page 3, line 38, after “list,” insert—
“(ba) the chargeable day falls before 1 April 2022,”
10: Clause 3, page 3, line 40, leave out “that” and insert “the chargeable”
11: Clause 3, page 4, line 17, leave out “this section” and insert “subsection (3)”
12: Clause 3, page 4, line 22, at end insert—
“(4A) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend paragraph (ba) of subsection (1) so as to substitute a later date for the date for the time being specified in that paragraph.”
Amendments 9 to 12 agreed.
Schedule: Consequential amendments
13: The Schedule, page 6, line 25, at end insert—
“6A_ In section 143 (orders and regulations)—(a) in subsection (3), for “(3A)” substitute “(3ZA)”;(b) after subsection (3) insert—“(3ZA) The power to make regulations under section 43(4FA), 45(4EA) or 54ZA(4A) is exercisable by statutory instrument, and a statutory instrument containing any such regulations (whether alone or with other provision) may not be made—(a) in the case of regulations relating to England, unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament;(b) in the case of regulations relating to Wales, unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by resolution of the National Assembly for Wales.””
Amendment 13 agreed.
My Lords, briefly, I want again to thank the noble Lord for handling this Bill in his usual courteous manner. It has broad support across the House and I have been very happy to work with the noble Lord and his colleagues on it. I also thank his Bill team—all the names that he mentioned. I have met a number of his officials and they have been helpful and courteous at all times.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.