HC Deb 03 December 1990 vol 182 cc146-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Beith

I have only a small point to make about clause 2, which provides for retrospective provision and for repayments to be made, in relation to Scotland. How will those entitled to repayments know that they can make a claim for repayment? It seems likely that quite a large number of people will not realise that that money is due to them and will not be aware of the procedure, especially the closing date after which no repayment will be available to them.

It is important that the publicity should be widespread well in advance of that closing date. What steps are to be taken to ensure that those who are eligible for a refund, which in some cases will be substantial, will know that in good time and will therefore be able to claim it?

Mr. Portillo

My right hon. Friends' plan is that they will write to the trade associations—or perhaps I will—letting them know about their entitlements and the procedures that they will follow. I am sure that the trade associations can be relied upon to circulate to their members full details of how claims can be made and the cut-off dates.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent on behalf of the Crown signified.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

12.12 am
Mr. Beith

The briefest of intervals between Committee, Report and Third Reading has enabled me to look again at the point about which I was asking the Minister a question a moment ago in relation to clause 2 stand part. I am not entirely satisfied with his answer. We are concerned not only with site owners, but with individual tenants who may have paid a standard community charge and therefore be entitled to a refund. I am concerned about making information available to those people.

This seems to be the opportunity for the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) to make his debut on his return to the Government Front Bench, because I am thinking especially about those who have paid the standard charge in Scotland, who will be entitled to a refund but who may not know that and who will have to apply—in some cases, their executors may have to apply—by 30 September 1991 or lose the opportunity of a refund.

I foresee many aggrieved people in Scotland, and a few people in England with caravans in Scotland, discovering after 30 September 1991, that they have been denied the opportunity of a refund. Unless people are generally made aware of the provision, many Members will receive letters asking if there is any way in which the date can be extended, which they will send on to Ministers.

12.16 pm
Mr. Portillo

In the vast majority of cases, standard community charges have not been collected by local authorities and so the problem is not widespread, but one wants to deal with it nonetheless. I believe that, as a matter of good administration, one should have dates on which various files can be closed, and there should be some sensible cut-off date.

As I said before, in relation to making sure that trade associations are aware, I believe that many people who own caravans or mobile homes will be members of associations which have newsletters, which is where we should like such information to appear. We shall also take great care to ensure that, in the caravan and mobile home press, to which many of those involved will subscribe, information will be given about their rights and the closing date for applications. It was always a problem to know how to reach all of a target audience, but the most we can do is to contact all the associations, with the hope of influencing their newsletters and the specialist press, which such people are likely to read.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.).