§ Considered in Committee of the whole House under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees) [Queen's Recommendation signified].
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the limit on the contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament which may be made under section one of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1944, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys so provided of any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable out of such moneys under the said section one, under Part I of the Local Government Act,
1948, or under the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1954.—[Mr. Deedes.]
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The hon. Gentleman is having to work hard tonight, because he has not got his hon. Friend with him, which makes him have to work twice as hard, and he has not even got the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The last time we had a Money Resolution on a Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill the Financial Secretary came in and we got a speech out of him. Tonight, I want to ask him what the blazes this Financial Resolution means. With most of these Resolutions, it is possible, with a little tortuous imagination, to follow them, but this is one of the finest collections of jargon I have ever seen on the Order Paper, and, quite frankly, I do not understand it. It says:That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the limit on the contributions"—and I should have thought that if we increased the limit we reduced the amount payable—it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys so provided of any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable out of such moneys under the said section one, under Part I of the Local Government Act. 1948"—I do not know what that means. There is no provision to raise the money. The last reference is to the Local Government Act, 1948 and the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1954, which, presumably. refers to the equalisation grant. I do not see where it comes in.
The Resolution as it stands is meaningless, and I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will have a shot at explaining it to us and will tell us how it provides for the money to be made available. Secondly, while he is on the job, will he also return, in this debate on the Financial Resolution, to this business of the extra cost to be imposed under the arrangements we made in the previous Act?
As he quite rightly said, that Act voted £27½ million, which was the extra cost of spreading it over £30 million of capital more than was envisaged. We are now raising the capital sums by a further £40 million, but there is no provision—unless 151 under this Financial Resolution it is to come out of the £40 million—for this extra cost involved by the arrangement we debated on the last Act. Either we are now intending to spend money which we have not voted, or this Financial Resolution, to anybody lucky enough to understand it, provides for that money to be paid out of that sum. If it does, then the capital sum must be less than £40 million.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will try to explain what these otherwise meaningless sentences mean, and also tell me whether the extra costs involved under the arrangements made in the last Act are to be met or whether this Resolution means that they are to come out of the £40 million.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)
I should like to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's last point first. I repeat that none of this interest is coming out of the sum of £40 million. The right hon. Member, if he desires, will have an opportunity of debating the additional money when we come to the Estimates. This will be a matter for annual Treasury accounting. That is where the additional money required by this rate of interest will be found. The £40 million capital sum remains for the purposes that the Bill indicates, namely for water and water and sewerage only. Over and above the rate of interest on that are Exchequer charges and it is there that he will have an opportunity of saying anything that he may wish.
As to the Financial Resolution, that authorises the additional expenditure from Exchequer funds which will be required if the Bill becomes law. It is mainly the expenditure of additional grants under the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage 152 Acts. It also includes—and this was the point he particularly raised—additional Exchequer equalisation grant under the Local Government Act, 1948, and the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, because Exchequer equalisation grant is calculated by reference to the total expenditure of the authorities to which it is paid. The Bill will enable the authorities to carry out more rural water and sewerage schemes and thereby increase their expenditure by reference to which Exchequer equalisation grant is calculated. That is the reason for the reference to the Exchequer equalisation grant in the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. Brown
if the Parliamentary Secretary says that that is what it means, I must accept that that is what it means, but I do not see how it is made to mean that. I return to the other point, that of interest. If, in fact, as he now tells us, these are only Treasury payments borne on his Department's Estimates in the ordinary way, therefore forming no part of this arrangement, why did we vote £27,500,000 in the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1955? Presumably there was no need to vote it, because it would have been borne year by year. It sounds as though the Parliamentary Secretary's arguments and defences change every time he comes to the Dispatch Box.
§ Mr. Deedes
The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten what was the purpose of that Act. It was to authorise new arrangements whereby this money should be paid by instalments. It voted no sum of money. It did say what the financial consequences would be, but all it did was to authorise the arrangement under which we are now working. This is the Bill which authorises the money.
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.