HC Deb 22 March 1948 vol 448 cc2706-7

Lords Amendment: In page 19, line 19, at end, insert: Provided that if the Secretary of State is satisfied on representations made t) him by any local authority or by any such association as aforesaid that the first of the said investigations should be made in a year prior to the year 1952–53, he shall cause an investigation to be made in that prior year, and in that event the foregoing provisions of this section shall have effect with the substitution of that prior year for the year 1952–53 or such later year as aforesaid.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Mr. Woodburn.]

10.24 p.m.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

This Amendment deals with a matter on which there has been very great controversy ever since the Bill was first introduced into this House. That is whether the equalisation grants are to be calculated in a way which will give equality of treatment as between England and Wales and Scotland. The Government have recognised that the different systems of valuation and rating existing between the two parts of the United Kingdom make it necessary for them to introduce a figure to give more justice to Scotland, and the figure chosen is 25 per cent. in addition to the figure for England and Wales. There has not been any proper defence or justification for that figure. Lord Morrison, in speaking on this matter in another place, did attempt to make some defence, but he was merely arguing from figures which were quite irrelevant and in no way helped to arrive at a proper judgment. Indeed, I have come to the conclusion that he must have been speaking from a brief prepared by the Ministry of Health and not by the Scottish Office.

The Secretary of State's only defence or justification of the figure was that it had been in existence for some 27 years. He said he took it from the party which now sits on this side of the House, but it was in very different circumstances and applied in very different ways, because now the whole basis on which a grant is calculated is on the rateable value per head of the population. When this figure was last used for the purpose of calculating an Exchequer grant the principal basis of the sum which had to be calculated was population weighted for unemployment and several other things. Here the sole criterion is rateable value. The right hon. Gentleman attempted on the Third Reading to show that the matter required further investigation. He said: It is a matter which would require a far greater investigation than could possibly be carried out under the cover of a Bill of this kind. He further remarked: I gave Glasgow a pledge, and I give the hon. and gallant Member a pledge, that we will have these figures examined and try to make some investigation into this matter to see if we can come to a conclusion as to the relative merits of the 25 per cent. or some other percentage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 1875, 1877.] As the Bill then stood the right hon. Gentleman would not appear to have any possibility of carrying out that pledge, but this Amendment gives him the chance of doing so. We on this side of the House welcome the Amendment, and we trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way at the earliest possible moment to make a complete investigation into this matter. We do not believe 25 per cent. is either just or equitable to Scotland. We believe that this has been proved conclusively especially by the Corporation of the city of Glasgow, and we hope, therefore, in the interests of Scotland, that he will see that the matter is investigated without any further delay.