§ Queen's Recommendation having been signified—
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the amount of financial assistance available under Parts I and II of the Housing Act 1969, and under certain provisions of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1968 and of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969, as respects expenditure incurred in local government areas wholly or partly within development areas, or intermediate areas under section 1 of the Local Employment Act 1970, it is expedient to authorise any payment out of money provided by Parliament which is attributable to any provision which, as respects works or expenditure in such local government areas completed or incurred within the period of two years beginning with 23rd June 1971.
and to authorise any payment into the Consolidated Fund attributable to the said Act of the present Session.—[Mr. Channon.]
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
In lines 8 and 9 the Money Resolution refers toexpenditure in such local government areas completed or incurred within the period of two years …May I take it from the Minister that the word "incurred" does not debar amendment of the Bill in respect of the word "approved" to be inserted in the Bill, should the Government change their mind in relation to the points that we have been discussing in the Second Reading debate?
I realise that towards the end of his speech the Minister said that the Government woud not change their mind, but I hope that they will have second thoughts next week and will change their view. In that situation I should not like them to be embarrassed by having to amend the Money Resolution. Does the word "incurred" within the Money Resolution imply that if the Government change their mind after representations being made from hon. Members on both sides of the House the word "approved" in the Bill could be used in the Amendment?
850 My other question arises from the Minister's concluding remarks. I do not want to harass him further, but he said that he would look the matter up. He said that he thought that there was power to vary the levels. If he studies the Bill he will see that the power to vary has been modified. I am open to correction about this, but I should like to be taken through it. Clause 2(4) is in italics, and refers to the power to vary, and in relation to that I should like the Minister to examine paragraph (h) of the Money Resolution which amends, by subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) the amounts referred to in the Bill on page 5 by means of orders and regulations.
I cannot follow the language. I realise that it is lawyers' language. It says that the ordermay be a regulation or order making provision for expenditure to which this Act applies which is different to the provision made for other expenditure".Does this mean that the Money Resolution is confirming, before we have even debated the matter, that we will be amending the ability of the Minister and the Secretary of State to vary orders and regulations? If so, the Government could find themselves in difficulty over this in Committee, if we are able to convince them that the power to vary should be in the hands of the Minister.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Bridgeton (Mr. James Bennett) has pointed out previously that the builders estimate costs going up by about 1 per cent. per month, which in the context of this Measure is 24 per cent. That, in relation to the maximum of £1,500, is a lot of money and the Minister may want to vary in the way I have mentioned.
Before we pass the Money Resolution, I hope we will be assured that the Minister is not hobbling himself—and, more important, is not hobbling Parliament—over this matter in the face of the inflation in building costs.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
I wish to register a protest against the narrow way in which the Money Resolution is drawn, because it inhibits amendment of the kind I had hoped would be possible in Committee. I had hoped to suggest at that stage the inclusion in the Bill of certain constituencies which are at present excluded.
851 The Minister said that hon. Members would be able in Committee to make the points which are particularly concerning them. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) complained on Second Reading about the lack of time available for us to reflect the points of view of our local authorities. Now the Money Resolution imposes a lack of scope for making Amendments.
§ The Amendment that I had hoped to submit would have been to Clause 1(1) to include the city of Manchester in the Bill, but this appears to have been made wholly impossible by the way in which the Money Resolution is drawn. I hope that in future the Government will pay closer attention to the scope of these resolutions to ensure that a fair discussion in Committee is not made impossible.
§ I recall the protest made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) about the way in which the Money Resolution pertaining to the Coal Industry Bill had prevented important Amendments going forward. The same thing is happening to this Bill. I therefore hope that the Government and the Treasury will in future frame Money Resolutions in such a way as to allow a fair discussion of points of great concern to hon. Members.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)
My answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) about the word "incurred" is that it is not for me to say what will or what will not be in order in Committee.
I pointed out earlier to the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) that we already had power, either by way of order or administrative action, to increase the maximum grant. This power is included in the 1969 Act, during the passage of which the hon. Gentleman played a distinguished supporting part. I cannot offhand give him the precise provision in that Measure where this power resides.
The hon. Member for Greenock will appreciate, as he was a Minister for longer than I have been in office, that a money resolution is simply designed to provide the money for the purpose of the Measure. Most of this Resolution deals 852 with what will happen in England, though sub-paragraphs (c) to (h) specify the corresponding increases in Exchequer contributions for Scotland, and I am advised that what is provided for in relation to Scotland in this Resolution is on all fours with the provision made for England.
I appreciate what has been said about the merits of the Resolution. I assure the hon. Member for Greenock that he will be able to make the points he wishes to make and to ask any questions he has in mind when we debate Clause 2(4) in Committee. In other words, if the hon. Gentleman requires further clarification of any of the points he raised, he will be able to do so at that point. The Money Resolution provides us with the actual money, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite allow us to have the Resolution I am sure that any points they wish to raise in Committee will be dealt with then.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I gather that the hon. Gentleman is saying "We are still keeping the power to vary", and I am pleased about that. I raised this point because I could not understand why the phraseology to which I referred has been used.
§ Mr. Channon
This is a technical matter which is covered by Clause 2(4) of the Bill. That deals with Section 22 of the 1969 Act, and that relates to the power of the Secretary of State to vary contributions. I would prefer to deal with this point when we come to, say, Clause 2 stand part in Committee, or when replying to any amendments that may be tabled on this subject. I promise a full answer on that occasion.
The Money Resolution merely gives us the money to take this power. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we should not have it, then we can go into this next week and take a decision, and on that occasion I will, as I say, give the fullest explanation of the provision which the hon. Member for Greenock has in mind.
I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) that the Resolution is drawn rather tightly. It is normal for that to be the case with a Bill of this kind. Whether or not something will be in order in Committee is, of course, not a matter for 853 me, though I hope that all hon. Members will have an opportunity to raise any points they think should be raised. I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman finds the Resolution too tightly drawn. It is difficult to see how it could have been drawn in a different way and yet be as efficient. I am advised that it follows normal precedent for Bills of this kind.
§ Question put and agreed to.