HC Deb 15 March 1971 vol 813 cc1085-158
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Before I call the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell), it has been represented to me that it would be convenient for the House to have a debate for these two Orders together, which I am quite prepared to allow, on the understanding that one and a half hours would be sufficient for both. If that is the wish of the House, we should proceed along those lines.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we were taking them separately, it would be one and a half hours each, making three hours.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House decided to take them separately, that would be one and a half hours each. It has been represented to me that on the whole that is not the wish of the House. But we shall have to see whether it is the wish of the House or not. If that is so, then that is how it would be, and I would then call Mr. Secretary Campbell.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What is contained in the Orders is so important to Scotland today that it does not do justice to all the facts in the documents to take just one and a half hours. I hope that representations will be made to have the full three hours.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If that is the wish of the House, that is what it must be. But the House must understand that there will have to be two entirely separate debates on reasonably narrow issues. I would advise hon. Members to carry out what has been suggested to them, but if hon. Members do not want that, that is their business. I advise them to take my advice and do what I say.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I take it that you are suggesting that the House has two courses of action, either to take your initial advice, one and a half hour on both Orders taken together, or to take the two Orders separately with one and a half hours on each, that being the time limit, totalling three hours? Is there not a third course of action: namely, to take both Orders and to see how we get on? There can be no excess of three hours, but it may be less than three hours but more than one and a half hours. Is that course of action not possible?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Not really, because the House, or at any rate one side of the House, would be seeking to have all possible advantages. I should have thought that the fairer way of dealing with the matter would be to take the line I suggest. After all, the scope of these Orders together is not great. I think that the House would manage very well on one and a half hours if it saw fit to do that.

Mr. Lawson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we were to take both Orders together, would that mean that we could have a Division on both Orders after one and a half hours?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes, definitely. May I take it that my original suggestion is the wish of the House? Mr. Secretary Campbell.

Dr. Mabon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry, but it is obvious that we cannot accept that. It will disrupt both Front Benches greatly to take the Orders separately, but I think that we had better do so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House wishes to take them separately, so be it.

12.15 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

I beg to move,

That the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1971, dated 4th February, 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th February, be approved.

I had made inquiries earlier to find out what appeared to be for the convenience of the House. The message which I received earlier, which I understood came from the Opposition Front Bench, was that it would be convenient to take the two Orders together. But I prepared myself to take them separately, because I realised that that might be what the House wished.

I am sorry that we should be starting this debate at this late hour. We are beginning a period of two weeks in which six days will be taken by the Report stage of the Industrial Relations Bill, which means that the only days on which we are not discussing that Measure until midnight are Thursdays, and the Opposition decided that it was more convenient to take these Orders at this hour after midnight on a Monday than at 9 or 10 p.m. on a Thursday. We have been glad to meet the convenience of the Opposition in that.

This Order, which I shall refer to as "the main Order ", is the third of its kind to be made under Section 2 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1966. Hon. Members are aware that rate support grant is in aid of local authority current expenditure which would otherwise fall to be met out of rates; that is, current expenditure, including repayment of capital debt on virtually all the local services except the housing revenue account and the trading services, which are expected to be self-supporting.

The main Order is to fix the amount of the Exchequer contribution to this expenditure in each of the financial years 1971–72 and 1972–3. It is based on estimates of the reckonable expenditure of local authorities which have been reached after consultation with the local authority associations and are based on prices ruling at the end of 1970. To arrive at the amount of grant for each year, the percentage to be adopted for that year is applied to the estimate of expenditure to give the aggregate of Government assistance. From this grand total of Exchequer grant, the specific revenue grants are deducted, and the balance is the total of the rate support grants. For the two years covered by the Order, the total is a little under £520 million, or equal to roughly two-thirds of the reckonable expenditure of the local authorities.

As the House will recall, there are three elements of rate support grant, each distributed on a different basis. The first is the domestic element, which is an amount sufficient to make good to rating authorities prescribed reductions in householders' rate poundages for each year. It is distributed in proportion to the amount of domestic rateable value in each rating authority's area. The second is the needs element. Three-quarters of the balance of grant after deduction of the domestic element is distributed on the basis of population as weighted for a number of specific factors such as the number of pupils at different stages of education, the proportion of elderly persons, road mileage relative to population, rate of population change, and relative urban or rural distribution of population. These are factors which give a broad indication of the need of individual authorities. Thirdly, the remainder of the grant, the resources element, is distributed to local authorities with below average rateable resources, in relation to their short-fall of resources and to the amounts of their "relevant local expenditure". The main Order prescribes the method of distribution of the resources element and the needs element. This time there are no changes, and the formulae remain as prescribed last year in the 1970 Increase Order.

One of the first tasks which the 1966 Act requires of me in preparing a Rate Support Grant Order is to consider, with the local authority associations concerned, the latest information available as to the rate of reckonable expenditure.

This year, with the agreement of the associations, the first stage was tackled in a new way. Provisional figures of expenditure on the main services in 1969–70 were supplied by the associations before the middle of the year. On the basis of those figures, officials and representatives of the associations were able to reach a wide measure of agreement in discussions extending over several months on the existing level of expenditure and the trends in such matters as manpower and pupil numbers. Complete returns for the past year and the current year were obtained in October in the usual way and prices were updated to November to provide the best possible price base for the Order.

Next, the provision for growth has to be considered against the general economic background. The Leader of the Opposition put the connection between the two very clearly in his statement three years ago, when he said in the House that a substantial area of public expenditure lies within the control of local authorities… it is vital that local authorities, no less than central Government, make their full contribution to restraint".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th January, 1968; Vol. 756, cc. 1590–91.] The right hon. Gentleman went on to interpret that as a limit of 3 per cent. growth in real terms over their expenditure in 1968–69.

Like the right hon. Gentleman, I too, am asking local authorities to restrain their expenditure in some directions, but within the more reasonable limit of slightly over 5 per cent. I have no doubt that, in this way, we have been able to base the forecasts embodied in the Order more firmly than those in either of the two previous Orders. This belief is shared by the associations.

Estimates of reckonable expenditure—

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell

No. I think that I had better continue. I have no doubt that we have been able—

Mr. Douglas

On this point—

Mr. Campbell

I have not yet finished the point. Estimates of reckonable expenditure have, therefore, been put together after consideration and discussion of the amount of growth in real terms which is necessary and desirable. We have also considered the savings of expenditure which could be expected from a critical review by the authorities of their activities and administration on the lines of that which is being undertaken now by central Government.

I have, therefore, asked the authorities to look for ways of saving expenditure through improvement of efficiency and through elimination or reduction of tasks which do not require to be undertaken by public authorities. It is particularly important that the authorities in Scotland should not take advantage of the impending increases in rateable value resulting from the 1971 quinquennial revaluation in order to undertake development and improvement at a cost beyond what the country and the ratepayers can afford.

The estimates of reckonable expenditure for individual services are shown at Appendix A of the Report on the main Order.

Mr. Lawson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell

No. I ask the hon. Member—

Mr. Lawson

The right hon. Gentleman has plenty of time.

Mr. Campbell

No. The hon. Member himself said that we did not have enough time, and he has on several recent occasions not given way to me when he has challenged me to reply to questions.

Mr. Lawson

I have always given way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Campbell

No. I recall the hon. Member having done that, and I ask him to listen to this opening speech because he will have his opportunity later to put his questions.

The estimates of reckonable expenditure for individual services are shown at Appendix A of the Report on the main Order. Collectively, they include £68 million in the first year and £76 million in the second year for the servicing of local authority debt, amounts based on an increase of from £481 million in the capital debt of local authorities at May, 1969, to an estimated total of £766 millon at May, 1973.

I come now to the forecasts for some of the individual services, starting with the largest, education. In the 1969 Order, the last Government called for stringent economies from the education service and, on the whole, these were achieved, but at a cost. Authorities cut mainten- ance expenditure or reduced expenditure on supplies. Our forecasts try to face up to the needs of the education service and to the consequences for current expenditure of our polices as a whole.

The teachers being produced by our colleges are urgently needed in our schools and must be paid for, but we have also given special consideration to non-teaching costs in schools where most of the economy measures of the last two or three years have taken effect. We are assuming that average non-teaching costs per pupil will grow by 3½ per cent. a year between 1969–70 and 1971–72, and by a further 3 per cent. in 1972–73.

The last Government were in the embarrassing position of having to launch the new social work service on something of a shoestring. In the event, the Scottish local authorities are developing the service rather faster than the cautious pace envisaged in the 1969 Order, and I am glad to be able to provide for a more rapid rate of growth over the next two years. This will cover our share of the new measures in this field which I announced last November, with increased expenditure on services for the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill and the elderly. It will also generally cover the cost of operating the new buildings which are going up under our social work building programme, the steady increase we expect in the number of trained staff, and the introduction of the children's panel system.

For police expenditure, the estimates provide for continued development in manpower and equipment, and, consistent with recent improved recruitment trends, allow for average annual increases of some 200 in police strengths, as well as additional traffic wardens and civilian staff. The fire service forecasts assume an average annual increase of 80 men, allowing for increasing emphasis on fire prevention work and for likely developments arising from the recommendations of the Holroyd Committee.

As we foreshadowed in our White Paper of October last, the forecasts allow for an increased rate of development for local health services and, in particular, for further improvement in home nursing and health visiting services, and for development of family planning facilities, in the light of local authorities' additional discretionary powers under the provisions of the Health Services and Public Health Act, 1968, which were brought into effect last autumn.

For roads and roads lighting expenditure I have assumed that increases of about 4 per cent. annually should be made available for the improvement of maintenance standards on local authority roads, over and above the standards achieved in 1969–70. For the miscellaneous local environmental services, which include cleansing, sewerage and public health, I have assumed a steady growth in expenditure on maintenance and servicing of existing facilities, and have provided for increased loan charges from a rising rate of capital investment, especially in new sewage disposal schemes and schemes for urban development and redevelopment.

These are the estimates: they amount to £415 million for the first and £437 million for the second year. Having reached these totals, I had to take some account of the review of expenditure and efficiency to which I have already referred, and I decided that it should be possible for the local authorities collectively to achieve savings amounting to at least one-half per cent, of the totals to be made available for continuation and improvement of their different services, making a saving of some £2½ million in the second year and at least £1 million in the first year.

Since the scope for savings will not be the same in each authority for each service, I decided that this is a matter for the judgment of individual authorities; and that I should not allocate against particular services. This leaves it to each authority to scrutinise diligently the expenditure of all departments, including apportionable administrative expenditure, to avoid cost increases and to secure actual reductions. This process may not be entirely painless, but I am sure that it will bring results. Essentially, it is a matter of value for money. Many authorities have already made efforts to secure greater efficiency, but considerable scope remains, and it is in the greater interest both of the authorities and of their ratepayers that savings should be found. In particular, I hope that authorities will look carefully at the use they make of their labour resources, at whether their purchasing arrangements are sufficiently competitive, and more generally at the efficiency of management and the use of management services. Even with these reductions, the settlement represents an average annual increase in expenditure at constant prices of just over 5 per cent. on what the local authorities spent in 1969–70.

The aggregate sums of Exchequer grant prescribed in the Order are £273 million and £289 million—that is 66 per cent. of the estimated 1971–72 expenditure and 66½ of the estimated 1972–73 expenditure, increases of ½ per cent. in each year over the percentage rates adopted for the final year of the second grant period.

These increases compare with annual increases of 1 per cent. in the first four years. Reaching, as we have, the point at which two-thirds of local expenditure is met by the central Government, I think this slowing down is inevitable, and in the local authorities' own interest. As the Royal Commission on Local Government, the Wheatley Commission, put it: If local government is to be stronger, more of its expenditure must be ingathered locally and less from the Exchequer. This principle should apply not merely to the sum total…but service by service. This was in paragraph 134

The additional money made available by the annual 1 per cent. increase in grant percentage has up to now been mainly devoted to the domestic element and has enabled the domestic rate reduction to be increased from an initial 10d. in the £ in 1967–68 to 3s. 4d. in 1970–71. The yearly steps of ½ per cent. which I propose for the third grant period would, other things being equal, allow the domestic element to be raised by 5d. instead of 10d. in the £ for each year of the Order to 3s. 9d. and 4s. 2d. But we have to allow for the 1971 revaluation, as a result of which I estimate that rate reductions of 2s. 1d. and 2s. 4d. in the £ would give the same amount of relief, and cost the same, as reductions of 3s. 9d. and 4s. 2d. on the current valuations.

In terms of the new currency, reductions of 2s. 1d. and 2s. 4d. are approximately 10½ and 11½ new pence. In order to avoid the administrative inconvenience to local authorities of dealing in ½p and to give the benefit of slightly greater relief to the domestic ratepayer, I have decided, with the agreement of the Associations, to make the domestic element 11p in the £ for 1971–72 and 12p for 1972–73.

The 1971 revaluation also has a bearing on the notional rent provisions in paragraph 6 of the Order. The purpose of these provisions is to fix minimum amounts of rent income to be taken into account for calculation of the expenditure on which resources element of grant is payable to the authorities who qualify for it. Since the total of resources element is itself fixed by the Order, the notional rent provisions do not affect the overall Exchequer contribution; they affect only the distribution amongst authorities and act to prevent low-rent authorities being subsidised at the expense of other authorities.

Mr. Lawson

The right hon. Gentleman is reading.

Mr. Campbell

For the two years of the second grant period, notional rent income—[Interruption.] I know there are hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)—

Mr. Lawson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Might we not occasionally have the right hon. Gentleman looking up from his brief and a few words that come from thought instead of the right hon. Gentleman simply reading from a brief prepared by some civil servant? Cannot we get something from the right hon. Gentleman himself, since he is talking about himself all the time?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that is a point for me.

Mr. Campbell

If the hon. Gentleman had paid more attention, he would know, as the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) does, that I have been an expert in this subject for the last 10 years and have been following it when I was in opposition as well as when I have been in government. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who I regret is not here this evening, has on previous occasions in the last few years, when he was in office, also given us a very careful account of this complicated subject, which we on these benches have followed and have not interrupted in a thoroughly rude and irresponsible manner as the hon. Gentleman has.

For the two years of the second grant period notional rent income was prescribed—this is a matter about which many hon. Members are much concerned, because it is complicated—as 110 per cent. and 120 per cent. of the gross annual value of the houses concerned. In order to avoid uncertainties for local authorities pending the issue by assessors of notices intimating their proposed valuations, the period for which extends to 30th June next, the Order prescribes the 1971–72 notional rent income in the old valuation terms—that is, at 140 per cent. of the 1970–71 gross annual values. For 1972–73 the notional rent incomes will be 85 per cent. of council house gross annual values for that year. These figures correspond roughly to average rents of £74 and £85, compared with actual averages of £63 in 1969 and £72 in 1970, after deduction of rebates.

These, then, are the estimates and the figures. The hon. Member for Mothewell (Mr. Lawson) will note that I have carefully given the figures which are important. I have given as much information as I can in the time available.

12.36 a.m.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

This Order, which is the most significant piece of parliamentary business affecting local government in Scotland for this Session, suffers from a tremendous handicap in not being debated during the day. It is a matter of deep regret to all of us, including the Government presumably, that we have to have this debate at this time of night. I am grateful for the fact that we are having the debate on Tuesday morning rather than on Friday morning. I pay tribute to those—the Lord President of the Council, the Opposition Whips and the Government Whips—who intervened so that we could have the debate tonight.

However, that does not alter the fact that it is wrong that a major debate of this kind, voting £250 million in the second year and dealing with a budget of over £400 million for a small country like Scotland, should be debated now. The English and the Welsh had the good fortune—we do not begrudge them this—on 10th December to have a whole day devoted to this subject, as was our practice when we were the Government.

I cannot accept from the Secretary of State that he has been boxed into a corner by the Opposition and is unable to secure time from those responsible on his own side so that we can be accorded the same courtesy as the English and the Welsh were accorded. Admittedly their budget is greater, but proportionately ours is as great and as important.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I tried to explain this briefly at the beginning of my speech. As our financial year for the local authorities starts two months after the English one, we are confined to a certain period, in which business has been greatly taken up by the Committee and Report stages of the Industrial Relations Bill, which meant that we did not have time earlier today.

Dr. Mabon

I will not go into merits or demerits of that Bill which we have been discussing for so long and under such arduous and very unparliamentary conditions. That does not detract from the fact that this is the principal debate in the Scottish local government calendar of events and it should have been held during the day. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, as the leader on his side of the Scottish Members, must accept responsibility for not securing a whole day for us. There are whole days going begging. After all, there are days on which we have had debates which could have been taken for this debate. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman could have made his representations more strenuously.

Just as we feel inconvenienced, so local government officials and councillors in Scotland naturally feel distressed about this debate taking place at such a late hour. Not all hon. Members are at their best in the middle of the night, though this varies according to temperament. I register this protest so that it is on the record, and also so that the Secretary of State will, we hope, use his influence with his colleagues in Government to ensure that we debate these major Instruments at a more opportune time.

I will not digress and refer to the next increase Instrument which will be before us next year. I trust that the Secretary of State will ensure that that comes before Parliament at an early hour, because that will be even more important than this Order. Without going into a list of statistics, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the times when we brought forward similar Instruments when we were in power, compare favourably with the hour at which we are considering this Order tonight.

I must, unfortunately, register another complaint of a procedural nature. One would imagine from reading this Instrument and the one which will follow it later that they were rushed through at the last minute, perhaps because of the great discussion that has been going on with the authorities concerned. In fact, however, they were published on 12th February. Despite that, these Instruments contain a number of items that must be corrected. Indeed, there are more corrections in them that I can recall seeing in any similar Instrument.

The Order which will follow still contains one major error. I give notice to the right hon. Gentleman that we will raise this matter later. It is wrong that the House of Commons should be treated in this way, with lists of corrections. That Instrument contains five correcting Amendments, with a corrigendum of four points relating to page 7. It is intolerable that hon. Members and people outside who must deal with these matters should be treated in this way.

There must be an explanation for these shreds and patches. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) were here he could make a great deal of the Amendment which proposes to substitute 1972 for 1872. How could such an error arise? Is it a typographical error? I will not blame the civil servants, who would, in turn, probably blame the printers. But there are errors here which must clearly be the responsibility of Ministers, probably because they did not correctly read the drafts. I register this complaint and trust that it will be noted.

The Secretary of State's speech to some extent entertained us—with the exception, of course, of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson)—and he covered a number of points which I had intended to raise but will not now raise. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman could introduce an Instrument of this kind without saying much about the quinquennial review which will take place on 16th May. I agree, however, that he referred to the accumulation of the domestic element in relation to the rate poundage, but he did not explain the general expectation of rate increases in this revaluation year. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education used to be hot stuff on this issue only four years ago when similar changes were introduced. Are we to be told the expectation of the increase in the rate burden?

Without going into the exact figures, I recall that it was a substantial figure for 1961. It was to be 20 per cent., but the out-turn was something over 19 per cent. The rate burden increase for 1966, despite appeals to Ministers, exceeded 15 per cent., though I think the out-turn was 16 per cent. It is not for me to recite the figures. That is the Minister's job, and I hope he will perform it when he replies to the debate.

What is the rate burden the Government are estimating for this year? No alibis are required. We are not asking for targets. Can the Minister justify the increase this year, based on an 85 per cent. increase in domestic valuations, and then make an estimate of the domestic element, apart from the decimalisation problem? We appreciate the need to make an adjustment because of decimalisation. He must be able to give a figure. I realise that the Conservative Party are embarrassed by targets, but I want estimates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If the Government reach targets as well as we did, I shall congratulate them. We set ourselves targets—and did well. They are setting no targets and will do badly.

I am asking not for targets but for estimates before the rate poundages are fixed and before the revaluation is published. I should have liked them at the beginning of the debate and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not see the value of such figures. It is the belief in Scotland that because of inflation, rising costs and the pressure of events, largely caused by the Government, there will be a substantial rise in rates this year. In a revaluation year, such increases are usually very substantial. How substantial will they be?

I turn to the so-called savings. Under paragraph 25, the right hon. Gentleman says that because of adjustments in the domestic element he can save £2 million in 1971–72 and £4½ million in 1972–73. From whom is he saving that money? Obviously the domestic ratepayers. There is, of course, a confusion—not of the Government's making—between new pence and old pence, and there is also the calculation which one must make about revaluation, but the Government are saving money if we base our calculations on the progression from 1966 when we first instituted this form of finance. The Secretary of State gave some figures for the increasing Exchequer share of the total bill. In fact, in 1967–68 the figure was 62.5 per cent. and in the succeeding years to 1970–71 it rose by 1 per cent. a year to 65.5 per cent. According to this Order the share will be 66 per cent., not 66.5 per cent., in 1972–73 and then 66.5 per cent., not 67.5 per cent. That is where the Government make the savings. Are we to expect the domestic ratepayer to carry a higher rate burden, and what will that rate burden be?

In paragraph 20 there is reference to other savings—efficiency savings they are to be called. A sum of £1 million is to be saved in 1971–72 and £2.5 million in 1972–73. I believe that if he had had his way the Secretary of State could have saved a little more, but I cannot debate that; I can debate only what is in the Order. In any event, the figures are substantial. But these are not true savings because the expenditure will take place—except that they will take place at the cost of the ratepayers.

In view of all his speeches—for which he gave himself credit tonight in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell—I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had given comparable figures over the last ten years. We might have seen the reason why local government finance has been changed since 1966 and why we may see a further change. It is a pity, a few months before we are to have a Green Paper on the subject, that we have been given no indication of what local authorities will have to bear, not just in the two years but in projected years. The right hon. Gentleman cannot complain if I refer to Orders yet to come, since every speech lie made in the past on these Orders was in fact about Orders yet to come.

I wish he had said more in that passage of his speech which referred to other sources of local finance. Will he give some idea, in future projections, of other possible sources of revenue? We have heard various stories but we cannot be sure what the right hon. Gentleman intends.

More particularly within the context of present legislation and of these Orders, why is it not possible for the Government to encourage profit-making local authority services? For example, one of the Under-Secretaries is to help the Secretary of State to pilot through a Bill to denationalise the State-managed liquor trade which operates in parts of Scotland. Why cannot that trade be sold to municipalities and counties to help their profit-making activities? It would help considerably to furnish the treasuries of many areas. The organisation is well run and I am sure that it would be welcome in the Highlands and elsewhere. But one sees prejudice rearing its ugly head as hon. Members opposite mutter their opposition to a fair suggestion which would help to alleviate the immense burden placed on ratepayers.

Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)

What about fee-paying schools?

Dr. Mabon

I will come to fee-paying schools in a moment. Hon. Members must know that there is a manoeuvre within the order which may not be to the liking of Wigtownshire or even the whole of Galloway. However, I do not want to interpolate into a private discussion about Scottish education from which some of us were lamentably excluded.

The order runs parallel with what we have come to expect from the Government—a hostility to public expenditure as such. One can see this from the White Paper itself. The right hon. Gentleman is not very good at inventing phrases, particularly when the phrases have been used in an English Order, but I will quote one. Hon. Members can read for themselves the comparable words in the English companion memorandum: The Government takes the view that the continuing growth of public expenditure accompanied as it must be by ever increasing taxation and discouragement of personal effort is damaging to the economy and must therefore be restrained. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said in the English debate, an examination of modern industrialised countries in Europe and elsewhere shows that countries with a high rate of growth are those countries with a high rate of public expenditure, and a growing proportion of their public expenditure vis-à-vis the g.n.p. runs with that high rate of growth. This runs contrary to the ideological beliefs of the Tories.

For as long as you have been in politics, Mr. Speaker, certainly longer than you have been in your present nonpolitical capacity, rates have been a regressive form of taxation. Therefore, the more there is a shift from taxation to rates, the more there is an unjust shifting of the burden from the better-off to the less well-off, and that is identified again in the Order.

We see it in the excuse about efficiency, so called, and cutting down the domestic rate element, as though that were some inevitable process of the laws of the Medes and the Persians. I am by no means against seeking higher standards of efficiency in local government—we all welcome them, irrespective of party—but we are anxious that they should be genuine increases in standards of efficiency and not disguised forms of cutting services.

We are all disappointed that the order does not deal with concessionary bus fares. There is a clear anomaly between those counties which run concessionary bus fares and get grants to do so under the Transport Act, 1968, and those burgh authorities which do not. It is clear from the Transport Act and from the Minister's circular in March, 1970, that it was intended that bus companies should be advised by the Minister of some form of assistance.

It would not be obligatory but it would be considered by the Minister, and, as I understand it, the Minister is denying all responsibility for this. We gathered that from our Adjournment debate the other night.

Mr. Brewis

Is this not a perfect example of transferring expenditure from central government, which the hon. Gentleman is recommending, to local authorities, and, therefore, completely contrary to what the hon. Gentleman has been arguing up to now?

Dr. Mabon

The hon. Gentleman has not listened. I said there ought to be grants given to those authorities who opt to do this. The hon. Gentleman represents a rural area and I will not accuse him of self-interest, but what is happen- ing is that rural areas can get grants if they make such attempts to help their people but burghs will be denied this because of the Government's failure to rectify the position and to act within the context of the 1968 Transport Act.

I put it quite strongly that we feel something ought to be done about this. There are three burghs, quite apart from a number, including my own and the burghs of Port Glasgow and Gourock, trying in their own ways to put forward concessionary bus fare schemes for the elderly and handicapped. It is a matter of sincere regret that the Government have failed to apply the provision by which they can help, through central funds, any scheme for concessionary bus fares that individual burghs may wish to take up themselves.

I turn now to roads. When we look at the reserves here about roads and compare it with the paltry winter works programme, we are very disappointed, to put it mildly, that the Secretary of State has not thought fit to go further. Roads are an essential part of the infrastructure of Scotland, and despite the Under-Secretary of State for Development eulogising the previous Government for having established, virtually 100 per cent. I think he said, the infrastructure of Scotland—he was selling Scotland so we can forgive him, but he was overheard—the fact is that not all our infrastructure is completed and a great deal of the money is essential for the better development of many parts of Scotland trying to welcome industry.

I deal now with sewers, and, naturally, in doing so I think of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), who is a very earnest sewer man, from time to time. I refreshed my memory of the contribution that he made in his usual fluent way on 20th February, 1969, when he said: Another recent Act, the Sewerage (Scotland) Act, has not yet been put into operation. On the other hand, there are places which are waiting for the Act to become operative. In Kirkcudbright, for example, there is a desirable development of private housing construction which is waiting for the Bill to become operative so that connections with the drains can be made. This comes under the specific grant. I notice, under the specific grant, that the amount to be spent on this service is going down."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1969; Vol. 778, c. 812.] Naturally, he and I looked forward to this debate and the publication of these Orders and the memorandum with great interest.

The Sewerage Act does not seem to be being implemented by the Orders. I may be mistaken, I may have misread it. Will the Minister tell me: Is the Sewerage Act now in operation and is this enough money for the beginning of the Act? It was passed a long time ago and the hon. Gentelman was complaining less than one year after it was passed that it was not being implemented. Obviously tonight I will receive embarrassing support from him, demanding that this should be put into operation quickly.

We might have an adjustment, with an Increase Order next year but I do not know how it will be done. There are many private developers and municipal developments too for that matter, which need sewerage. In this context and the context of that Act we would like to see money provided for developments. It has always been our contention that, matched with a rising public sector programme of house building, there should be the fullest possible development of owner-occupation and housing association activity. I would hate to see the Conservative Government standing in their own light on this matter. I hope that I will have the support of the hon. Member for Galloway and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith), who smiles in agreement.

Mr. Brewis

Why did the Labour Government produce the Act if they had no intention of implementing it?

Dr. Mabon

I was deeply interested in the Act, and I know full well the intentions of the Labour Government. It was proper that it should take its parliamentary place in 1968. It did not follow that, because we were the Government, it had to be implemented then. I am still waiting to see the trigger mechanism which the Government will propose to put into operation an Act which they, when in opposition, demanded, should put into operation at once. Our Act would have been put into operation, and I hope that it will be put into operation now. Hon. Members opposite who helped us with the Bill made speeches demanding that we should act promptly. I will look up Questions to see how many times we were asked to act promptly.

We are very disappointed with the Order. It is not sufficient in amount. I will not quote the figures which the associations demanded of the Government. I have always regarded them as not being relevant because they were naturally excessive and were put forward in the knowledge that they would not be met. I will not repeat the shortfall between their figures and these figures because these are not real. However, the Government's cuts are real and they amount to millions of pounds and add up to a a very heavy additional rate burden on people who can least afford it.

We do not have an Allen Committee to analyse the rate burden of the different social classes in Scotland, but it must be worse in Scotland in view of the structure of our society. The Allen Committee said that those at the bottom of the scale, those in class 5, paid a far bigger share of their real income towards servicing local municipalities and counties than those at the top. This unjust way of financing must be dealt with in more imaginative ways even than those we proposed, but not by an Order like this which is regressive in its effect, inequitable in its distributon and inadequate in its total.

1.2 a.m.

Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)

I welcome the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order and—

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

On a point of order. I understand that we are not discussing the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order.

Mr. Brewis

I welcome the Order we are discussing.

I wish, not to pursue the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) about the Act which we had about three Sessions ago, but to raise a subject which arises from the actions of the Labour Government, particularly under the Transport Act, 1968. I refer to the need for rural buses.

Under the Transport Act it became possible for the first time for local authorities to offer a subsidy to rural bus services. I think that a specific grant of 50 per cent. is paid towards any subsidy given to rural bus services under the Transport Act, but, in addition, any subsidy given by local authorities to bus services comes under the rate support grant. This has created very great difficulty in the rural areas in Scotland. I am glad to see present my hon. Friends the Members for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) and Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), because many local authorities are very worried about the bus services in their areas. In my area the local bus service—S.M.T.—has not only said it is going to withdraw all services, but, what is more, that it will withdraw also the school bus services, which puts the local authorities in very great difficulty indeed.

I wish to know what sort of percentage will be payable under this Order to local authorities if they decide to subsidise bus services? There are two sides to this. Most buses run through the landward area of a county, but the small burghs are usually at crossroads and, normally, the bus services go through them. When a small burgh council decides whether to contribute on a population basis its proportion towards the bus services it has this to consider, that the service will go through the burgh. I find many small burghs in my area saying, "Why bother to subsidise the bus service because it has to come our way anyway? Let the county council subsidise it, and we shall get the benefit of it." This does not seem to me at all a just solution, and I am not at all sure that Section 34 of the Transport Act is the right way of dealing with rural services, and here I have a certain amount of sympathy with what the hon. Member was saying, that certain services should come from the Government and not from local authorities.

I shall be very interested if my hon. Friend will give me some idea of how he sees local services being run in future, and whether the burden will fall on those living in the landward areas, and whether there will be some contribution from the small burghs and the large burghs through which the services pass.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh North)

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I was wanting to ask him if he is aware that this very same problem with which he is dealing as affecting his part of the world applies also in the eastern part of the Borders of Scotland, in Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, and whether he does not think it rather strange that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), the sole representative of the Liberal Party for that part of the country, is not here, although he is complaining all the time in his local newspapers about the rural bus services. Now he has an opportunity to make his contribution here in debate about that, and yet does not come.

Mr. Brewis

I agree with my noble Friend. It is most remarkable that from the large area of the eastern Borders we should have here no Member representative of it.

Mr. Hamish Gray (Ross and Cromarty)


Mr. Brewis

None at all, as my hon. Friend says.

When railway services were closed—and the one I am thinking of in particular was closed by the Labour Government, the Stranraer to Dumfries service—we were given a very generous amount of express buses, but we were not informed at that time that those buses would be taken off after two years. We were not informed of this at all. Now we are faced with a position where we shall have to lose express buses and where, if the local authorities do not subsidise the ordinary stage fares, we shall have no buses at all.

My particular point is, what percentage will the local authorities have to bear if they subsidise these services, as has been requested under the relative Section of the Transport Act? I hope that my hon. Friend, when he replies to the debate, will be able to deal with this point which, though a small point, is very important for rural areas.

1.9 a.m.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, when he comes to that Box, always assumes such an air of righteousness, and if I sometimes appear a little bit annoyed it can perhaps be understood. He put on the air of much regretting the fact that we are having this debate at this hour of the night. What he was seeking to sug- gest—more than suggest: to infer in every possible way—was that the onus lies on us on this side of the House. He knows that the business that had been put down for Thursday consisted of a debate on the steel industry, which would take 3 hours, interrupted at 7 o'clock for Private Business, which would take 3 hours, with a good chance of the pressure to take it far beyond the 3 hours succeeding. The debate on the Order would therefore have come on at 12 o'clock or 1 o'clock, and I did what I could to have it brought forward to any other night than Thursday.

I object to this pious air of shock, of being wounded, that is so regularly assumed by the right hon. Gentleman. He lectures local authorities for not taking advantage of the revaluation. They will not escape from having to charge more rates, but the onus is being thrust on them. Local authorities are well aware that, whether the rate poundage is 20s., 13s. or 15s., it is the total amount of money which people have to pay with which they are concerned. There is no question of local authorities trying to take advantage of revaluation, yet the right hon. Gentleman talks as if there is a possibility of local authorities engaging in some deceitful practice.

This is especially annoying when one recalls that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are pushing through in Committee a rating reform measure which will take away from the local authorities a large amount of money by virtue of the derating of intensive fanning buildings. This will be paid for out of the pockets of the ordinary taxpayer, but the right hon. Gentleman says nothing about this. I am annoyed at the double-talk and deceit. The Government are filching money from the taxpayers by this agricultural buildings 100 per cent. derating measure, whereas my hon. Friend treated agricultural buildings as factory buildings with 50 per cent. derating.

The Order speaks of notional rent income—that is another falsity. Notional rent arose from the fact that in many cases valuation was very different from rent. The Government insisted—rightly so in many cases—that where a local authority pursued a low rent policy the notional rent should be regarded as the rent they should be charging. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is being ended, that in a series of steep steps the Government intend to take away the rate and Exchequer subsidies on houses. These things have been put to the local authorities.

Mr. Gordon Campbell indicated dissent.

Mr. Lawson

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. We have tried to get this information out of him. Another thing which annoys me is that he does not say frankly what he has in mind. He tells us in devious ways that the subsidy will be taken from the bricks and mortar and placed on people—those who are supposed to be most in need of it. In other words, there will be a universal means test for all local authority tenants. But it cannot be done, and the right hon. Gentleman should admit it, unless the rate subsidy and the Exchequer contribution are removed from houses and we have a rental system which is no longer notional rent but first of all perhaps on the basis of historic cost and then virtually becomes a rent which hon. Members opposite might call a "fair rent".

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but is he not going a little wide of the Order?

Mr. Lawson

I am discussing the part of the Order which deals with notional rent income. Mr. Speaker. Page 2 refers to it, while Schedule 4 deals with notional rent and places a certain percentage on which the rental is to be calculated.

All that is worked out here is the position in which we no longer have notional rent but actual rent, which might mean in some areas an increase of £200. I see that the Under-Secretary of State is screwing up his eyes, but that is not a fantastic statement because such an increase can be involved.

Let us have more honesty and less of this smug air of righteousness so characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman. Let him tell us what he has in store for the people. While we might not like it, we might have a little more respect for what he has to say.

1.18 a.m.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

No one likes to pay out money, whether in rates or taxes. I particularly welcome my right hon. Friend's emphasis upon value for money. Although we are all loth to part with our money, at least it is slightly better if we feel that we are getting our money's worth and that it is being well spent. One of the reasons why so many people have been unhappy in the last few years is that they have been seeing so many examples of money not being well spent.

My right hon. Friend brought in the subject of family planning. I was extremely glad to hear him again placing some emphasis on this, because it is a subject where the English have got ahead of us. I am glad that he has implemented the wherewithal for local authorities to go ahead as from last autumn. But because he has introduced this air of urgency into ensuring better value for money, I most warmly applaud my right hon. Friend and support him in this Order.

1.20 a.m.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie (Rutherglen)

Like my hon. Friends who have spoken in the debate, I have felt it rather a pity that the matter should be debated in such a short time and at such an hour. For those of us who have spent most of our active political life working in the local authorities, this seems the most important part of the year. I was much more often as a councillor on the receiving end than on the handing-out side. It is important that we examine with great care and at much greater length the implications of the Order.

My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) was rather disturbed during the course of the Secretary of State's speech because he thought that the Secretary of State was reading it and was perhaps spelling it out in rather greater detail. I took the opportunity of looking at the right hon. Gentleman's speech on the last occasion on which we debated this matter, and, without being patronising, he made a very much better speech tonight than he did when he was sitting on this side of the House.

I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell what the now Secretary of State was then implying. He took the point, very properly, that local authorities are always looking to greater growth and greater growth within the national economy, and he promised us that if he were in power, by implication, industry would be booming in Scotland, that we would not have selective employment tax, and, during the course of a Rate Support Grant Order, he promised us, above all, that there would be a splendid future for the Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) is not present to support him. That was a rather more wide ranging debate than we have had tonight.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

I was wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman said that all these things were to be saved "at a stroke".

Mr. Mackenzie

Not "at a stroke". The right hon. Gentleman said that had he been in power for four years there would be a brighter future for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but now that his party is in power it does not seem that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Would the hon. Member for Rutherglen tell me how the right hon. Gentleman got in order in making that reference?

Mr. Mackenzie

The right hon. Gentleman got it in very well. I thought it fair because it caused great concern on the opposite side of the House. At that time the Secretary of State pointed out the need for steady growth of the economy. I can only point out now that, with 118,000 unemployed and the skills and talents of those people not being used, and the future being rather bleak in the eyes of many of us, we have a lot of cause for concern. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read his 1969 speech with great care and that when next he brings forward one of these Orders he will give a brighter picture than he has given tonight.

There are two comments on the subject of revaluation contained in the Report on this Order. The first is that the new revaluation should not be used to extend extra services. The second is the determination of the domestic element in the Rate Support Grant. Arising from these two points my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell very properly made a "guestimate" of what the rents might be in local authorities, and this is a question we are all anxious to hear about because it has a great bearing on rateable value, and on the figure which the Secretary of State, in the Rate Support Grant, allows for rate rebate schemes.

The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State will know that I have been very concerned about houses owned by the Western Heritable Trust in Glasgow, and this is a fair way of projecting what the rents picture may look like in a few years' time. At the moment, the rents of these houses are somewhere in the region of £38 to £42. Now that they have come out of the old category into the new category, the rents being fixed for these houses in my constituency, in Craigton and in King's Park have gone up from £40 to £260. Reading the words of the Secretary of State for the Environment and the speeches of some of his right hon. and hon. Friends, this would seem to be the sort of figure that the Government have in mind for local authority houses. When the Under-Secretary replies to the debate, he must come clean on this matter, since it also affects the rates that these people will have to pay.

If a council house in my constituency is to cost over £200 to rent, one wonders what the rateable value will be. We have heard some very odd figures put on the estimate that the Secretary of State has made about the increases in rates in Scotland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will comment on that.

I hope, too, that the hon. Gentleman will have a little to say about another important matter raised in the Order. I see that provision is made of £1.6 million for rate rebate schemes in 1971–72, with the same provision being made for 1972–73. If there is to be a general increase in rents and rates in Scotland as envisaged in the legislation likely to be brought forward by the Government, that provision seems to imply that no increase in rate rebates is to be given to the people affected. The Government argue that they want to subsidise not houses but the people in them. I hope that the Under-Secretary will deal with this point when he replies.

1.27 a.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I want to make special reference to article 13, on social work. In many ways, its inadequacies are typical of the objectional nature of the Order.

The article makes reference to the growth in services caused by the introduction of the children's panel system, a substantial growth in the number of professional staff, the new accommodation being provided by the social work building programme, and the increase in the development of domiciliary services, all of which I welcome. However, it makes no mention of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. I hope that its omission is an oversight on the part of the Government.

In local authority welfare sevices, this is probably the part which is in greatest need of growth. We know that current knowledge of the responsibilities of local authorities is such that we see only the tip of the iceberg. We do not know how much work is necessary. However, we know that if the local authorities begin to take their responsibilities in this connection seriously, there will have to be a very substantial increase in the funds made available.

I am particularly concerned about the number of disabled or chronicaly sick young people who, left without parents or relatives to look after them, find that the only place to which they can go is a hospital geriatric ward. Some disquieting evidence is coming to the attention of the public which shows that young people placed in the company of the elderly for all their waking hours begin to exhibit signs of premature senility.

We take strong exception to this sort of situation, and I hope that the Government are prepared to take some action to improve it. One way of doing so would be to develop housing units similar to those provided for elderly people. I am thinking of welfare homes where there is not necessarily the full residential provision but certainly a great deal of residential provision and a great deal of help is available at various hours of the day or night to people who are chronically sick or disabled. It is a misconception to think that only elderly people require help in the middle of the night. A young sick person may well need the whole range of services which, we say, should be provided for the elderly. That is why we should look at this service in particular.

I accept that the provision of the building is capital expenditure and, therefore, it might be argued that local authorities will borrow capital to provide the services. Again, among the burdens to be met by local authorities, however, is the increased burden of loan charges. It is fashionable today—I am probably as guilty of this as anyone—to complain about loan charges in local authority housing. What we are, perhaps, beginning to see more and more is the effect of loan charges on education provision and the provision of welfare services.

Therefore, it is disquieting to see in the Order that the constant increase in loan charges is recognised as a reason for having an Increase Order. In these circumstances, I hope that the Government, if they have not already taken care of this expanding service, which needs even greater expansion, will do something in future years to cater for it.

In his introduction, the Secretary of State mentioned in passing that there was a reduction in the domestic element of rate subsidy. This shows an all too familier pattern of the transfer of responsibility from one section to another. This was touched on to some extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), who said that this was a question of rewarding one's friends.

I calculate that in Aberdeen the local authority will be out of pocket to the tune of £150,000 this year because of the reduction in the domestic element. This means that the householder must find the extra money and the people who will benefit thereby are the commercial and industrial interests, which are already derated.

I regard this as being specifically against the election pledge given by the Tory Party to protect householders and ratepayers from increased costs. In these circumstances, I hope they will appreciate that they have broken that pledge and that this transfer of responsibility from one section to another within a local authority is quite against the whole trend which we are trying to put forward. This is especially so as the Allen Committee on local government finance pointed out the regressive nature of rate taxation. I hoped that with the promise of a Green Paper on local authority finance, the least that the Government might have done was to maintain the same rate of increase as the last Administration, at least until such time as we looked at the whole question of the reform of local government taxation.

To finalise my comments, if one looks through all the objectionable features of the Order, which we have not had a chance to debate properly, one can only say that it demonstrates clearly the Government's failure to understand the needs of local authorities and, perhaps more specifically, the needs of individual ratepayers. It is a philosophy which is more in keeping with 1871 than 1971, and the original mistake in the first Order may well have been simply a Freudian slip.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Younger.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gather there was some confusion as to whom you intended to call on the last occasion. Is there any reason why the debate on this Order must finish at a certain time?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that it has to finish at a quarter to two, and the Minister has asked for ten minutes in which to reply. I was merely seeking to convey a message to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) that I hoped that he would finish by twenty-five minutes to two. We then deal with another Order.

Mr. Brown

Further to that point of order. Can I take it, without presuming too much, that you will be generous as to what we can cover then, because it is this Order which is important, too.

Mr. Speaker

I will deal with questions of order on the next Order when we come to them. Mr. Younger.

1.35 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)

It is quite right that the House should look carefully and critically at these Rate Support Grant Orders, and I am glad that we should have a serious debate on the subject. I am only sorry that it is necessary to debate them at so late an hour. It is not the time we would choose, but, as hon. Members know, the timetable is such that it was not possible to have the debate at any other time. We must just make the best of it.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) raised a number of points which I would like to answer. First of all, he mentioned the corrections, and I repeat the apologies already made by my right hon. Friend. There is nothing significant about the need for these corrections. They were the result of an error in the printing, and as the corrections themselves show they have been put right in good time, and the House had plenty of advance notice of them.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the effect of a revaluation year on rates generally. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman himself said, and it is really too much to pretend that this is purely coincidence, that in every year in which there has been a revaluation there has been a fairly considerable increase in the rates levied, but it is not at all possible—and the hon. Gentleman said this, too, when he was on this side—nor would it be fruitful, to try to estimate in advance what the effect will be on local authorities generally or on particular local authorities in the years to come.

So it is necessary now to say that the Government naturally will do all they can to encourage local authorities during the first year after revaluation to levy only the rates which are absolutely needed for their normal needs and not in any way to increase the rates levied during that year, because of the fact that the revaluation makes it a little more difficult for people to appreciate, that I hope that this can be done, and it is the wish of most people to whom I have spoken to recognise this problem.

The hon. Gentleman asked several questions about the Sewerage (Scotland) Act. The present Government have decided that at the present time we will continue the process started by the former Government of leaving the Act to be implemented at some future date. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was something of a surprise to us, having worked through the Scottish Standing Committee some years ago to put the Measure through, to find at the very last minute that it would not be possible to implement it because there was apparently not enough money to do so. We hope to put that matter right, but not this year.

Various hon. Members have mentioned the Allen Committee's comments on the burden of rates. This is a perfectly valid point, but it will be known that the Committee reported before the introduction of the rate rebates by the previous Government, and these have to some extent, but only to some extent, moderated the regressiveness of rates. I do not say that this invalidates the points made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it should be recorded and made clear.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to refer to the efficiency element, and several hon. Members have asked how the £3½ million efficiency savings are to be attained by the local authorities. We should get this matter in perspective. We are asking for savings amounting to about a quarter of one per cent. of reckonable expenditure in the first year of the grant period and to a little over half of one per cent. in the second year of the grant period. I am confident, and I think that everyone will be confident, that treasurers and finance committees can find various ways of obtaining savings of this order out of the £850 or so of total expenditure with which they are dealing.

I certainly want every authority to undertake a thorough review of its costs and activities. Incidentally, I had a useful meeting with the local authority associations on this matter of improved efficiency in local government, and I found them most receptive and anxious to do all they could to help in every way.

Mr. Douglas

Surely the hon. Gentleman would not expect the authorities to tell him that they were inefficient, would he?

Mr. Younger

No, but they might have taken a somewhat sceptical view of the matter, rather like the hon. Gentleman seems to be doing. But I can assure him that this is not so. They took an enthusiastic interest in ways of improving their own efficiency, and I think they will find ways of doing so without too much difficulty. They will certainly be asked to look carefully at all estimates of expenditure, of management operational costs, the services which they offer, and the fees that they charge for these services.

I am sure that savings can be found from increased efficiency rather than by cutting down on standards or on desirable improvements. They must take the widest possible look at the problem and have complete local independence and judgment in deciding how best this efficiency can be forwarded in their own areas.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Green Paper on local government finance. This is due to be published later this year, but I cannot at this stage forecast what may or may not be in it. At this stage we have to work, without doubt, on the present system, and I do not see any advantage in trying to make different arrangements at this stage before we know precisely what the new ones will be.

I was asked by my hon. Friends the Members for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) and for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith), as well as by other hon. Members, about the Question of rural bus services. I should like to make it clear that the rural bus services which may be threatened with withdrawal by the bus companies are able to be helped by local authorities through the Transport Act. It is a fact which I do not think is fully appreciated by them, that they not only get the standard 50 per cent. grant for such services as they may wish to help—that is 50 per cent. of the cost but also that the remaining 50 per cent. is eligible for rate support grant. In the case of many authorities this is a very substantial amount indeed.

Therefore, if a local authority does, as I hope some of them will, decide that it is in its interest to support local bus services which may be withdrawn, it is getting a substantial amount of Government help amounting to a higher percentage in many cases.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Why are we not having these concessions in the burghs?

Mr. Younger

I am coming to that. This applies to rural bus services at the moment. I have been asked what happens when a bus service goes through a burgh. All I can say is that the burghs also have much to gain from these buses being supported if they are necessary to the community. It is not enough for a burgh to feel that it is not connected because it is not in a rural area, because naturally rural people come into the burghs to do their shopping and so on, and it is definitely in the interests of the burghs to join together, if they think fit, with the surrounding landward areas to see that such services are supported.

I emphasise that this is not a question of expecting the local authorities and ratepayers to bear the whole cost. The vast majority of the cost comes from Government money, and, on the whole, it is a very reasonable bargain to strike.

I was asked about concessionary fares for old people. This is not expenditure which is reckonable for rate support grant. This is expressly barred by Section 138 of the Transport Act, 1968. This does not come into the same category as the rural bus services, which are to do with the services themselves as a whole, and are not related particularly to concessionary fares to certain people using these services.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of the Proceedings on the Motion, Mr. SPEAKER put the Question forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1971, dated 4th February 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th February, be approved.

1.45 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

I beg to move, That the Rate Support Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order 1971, dated 29th January 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th February, be approved. This Order deals with the second grant period, 1969–70 and 1970–71, and follows up the main Order of 1969. The reasons and objects are given in the accompanying report on the Increase Order.

The House will remember that an Increase Order was made in February, 1970, to restore the original main settlement to the values prevailing at the end of 1969, but during 1970 there were further substantial pay awards to local authority employees and price increases which again affected the value of the grant which the main Order had provided. Among these was a salary award of just under 17 per cent. for teachers in Scotland, effective from the beginning of last April. Manual workers' wages were affected by the general increase from November, 1970. There were increases for most other local authority employees.

Including consequential increases of national insurance and superannuation, wage and salary awards add nearly £30 million to the 1970–71 cost of operating local authority services. Non-staff costs have also been affected as detailed in Appendix I of the report. The servicing of debt, a large item in current expenditure, especially in the capital-intensive services, has been affected by the continued high level of interest rate at which local authorities have had to borrow and reborrow during 1970. Higher costs are, of course, proportionately reflected in higher levels of charges by local authorities for reimbursable services, a factor which offsets to some extent the general increase in expenditure.

The extent of the various cost changes has been assessed in consultation with the local authority associations. Assessments of individual prices movements are based on sample information supplied by the local authorities, on movements of established indices and by reference to the terms of wages and salary awards. Effects of these price movements are calculated by reference to detailed analyses of total local authority expenditure on the different services.

As a result of these calculations I have agreed with the local authority associations that, in order to maintain in real terms the value of the last grant settlement, estimates of expenditure for 1969–70 should be increased by £2.9 million and the estimate for 1970–71 should be increased by £37 million. The consequent and related figures are shown in Appendix IV of the report. I commend the Order to the House.

1.48 a.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I add my protest to those already expressed at the complete mismanagement of Government business affecting Scottish local authorities. It is outrageous. This is not synthetic indignation.

I do not care who is responsible for getting us into this difficulty because of the Industrial Relations Bill, but the Secretary of State cannot be advancing very convincing arguments in Government circles if this is the best he can do in the interests of securing a fair discussion for an important matter affecting Scottish local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to know that I am not being personal in saying that. This mismanagement is regrettable, particularly at a time when greater interest is being shown in the affairs of local government than at any time in the last 30 or 40 years.

We have before us the Government who were going to protect the ratepayers' and taxpayers' money. Tonight they have obliged us to approve expenditure of £300 million in less than an hour and a half. Not one hon. Member from a Glasgow constituency has had an opportunity to ask even a few of the many questions that need to be put.

Despite several speeches from the Government Front Bench, there has been no mention of the promises made by Conservatives at the last election. What about the help that was promised to Glasgow and elsewhere by the Prime Minister. Because something did not appear in the Conservative manifesto—which the Secretary of State no doubt carries with him, ticking off each item as it is fulfilled; or should I say "is not fulfilled"?—but was a verbal promise by the Prime Minister, does it mean that the Secretary of State can forget all about it? As I said, many questions relating to particularly the last Order remain unanswered, but I will not stray out of order by asking them at this stage.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

In view of the hon. Gentleman's references to Glasgow, he might like me to explain that neither this Order nor the previous one applies to housing, as I indicated in my earlier remarks. It does not apply to the housing revenue account. The hon. Gentleman has, I think, been referring to a, subject with which I dealt in a statement to the House on 3rd February.

Mr. Brown

I may not be an expert on these matters, but I appreciate that these Instruments do not refer to housing subsidies. But there are ways of assisting local authorities other than by giving housing subsidies. The Prime Minister did not specify subsidies of this kind when he promised help. Can we assume that, if any help is to be given, it will be by way of housing subsidies only?

1.54 a.m.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)

I would be failing in my duty to my constituents if I did not voice my disappointment at the way in which this debate is being conducted. I strongly object to the time at which we are having to debate these matters and the duration of the discussion.

I listened with interest to the Secretary of State's remarks about special aid to people covered by social work legislation. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education in his place because he will recall that last Friday I had the pleasure of debating this matter on television.

I was told, in answer to a Question which I put down to the Secretary of State, that there would be a 25 per cent. increase in grants for social work—which sounded excellent. But all it means is an increase of £5 million for the whole of Scotland from 1969–70 to 1972–73, which is a totally unrealistic figure, showing a callous indifference by the Government for the disabled in Scotland. What will £5 million do? I asked recently how many local authorities had provided housing which catered specially for the disabled, and I was told, in reply to my Question, that not one local authority in the whole of Scotland had submitted such housing proposals to St. Andrew's House. There was a reason why—there was no money.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith)—he is my pair—who has left the Chamber, complimented the Secretary of State on a family planning project sponsored by him recently. I am not complaining about that. But I complain bitterly that when I asked for the same support—for a Press or television campaign to let the chronically sick and disabled people of Scotland know their rights—my request was turned down. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman can reconcile his priorities between family planning and the needs of the chronically sick.

I also asked about the provision of telephones for house-bound people. I consider it essential that this increased expenditure should allow for such telephones, but I gather that it does not, although I compliment Aberdeen City Council on the fact that it has made some provision in the local authority budget for telephones for house-bound people.

I asked how much was being spent on research and development in respect of disabled people, because by such research and development we can give mobility and, above all, dignity to the house-bound and chronically sick, enabling them to live as other citizens live. The sum provided for 1970–71 is £55,000, which is shockingly inadequate and certainly pays no regard at all to the large number of people in Scotland deserving of this help.

Even the simple act of implementing Section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970, dealing with the provision of badges for the cars of disabled persons so that they may park in no-parking areas, cannot be undertaken under the rate support grant and therefore the disabled people who have to leave their cars in busy city centres and other no-parking areas cannot be helped because of the failure of the Secretary of State to introduce a simple order which would permit local authorities to make this provision for people within their areas.

My reason for asking about rate support grant assistance was to enlist the support of the Secretary of State for more home helps for disabled people. But I was told, in an answer to my Question, that this £5 million would go a long way to provide for some more home helps. As I pointed out recently, Glasgow needs at least treble the existing number of home helps if it is to tackle the problem—and already it costs Glasgow £1 million to administer to present home helps scheme, which is grossly insufficient. When we consider that not one local authority has a fully staffed social work department and that this £5 million is meant to cater for the staff of social work departments, for the buildings and for home helps, and then bear in mind that Glasgow itself could take the whole £5 million and still not have an adequate social work department, we see the measure of the task and the inadequacy of the provision which the Government are making.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should devote these resources to home helps and cut out family planning? If so, I entirely agree with him. I think that family planning is a lot of bunk, generally.

Mr. McElhone

I am conscious of the fact that I must keep in order, and I should incur the displeasure of the Chair if at two o'clock in the morning I discussed the subject of family planning. However, if it came to a choice, I know what my choice for the expenditure would be.

The Secretary of State and his colleagues have shown a totally unrealistic appraisal of the real needs of certain sections of the community. We treat our disabled shockingly. They are still treated as lepers and they are often incarcerated in their homes for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I compare that with the record of Continental countries, particularly Sweden, where the chronic sick have dish washing machines, washing machines, tape recorders, and so on to help them. The increase in expenditure for which the order provides is totally insufficient for the needs of social work.

So I say to you, Mr. Minister—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

The hon. Member is addressing me, not the Minister.

Mr. McElhone

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am fortunate enough to have in my area a team of volunteers knocking at every door to ascertain the number of chronic sick people, for the Government do not know the total with whom we have to deal.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member is going a little wide of the Order.

Mr. McElhone

It is difficult to keep within the bounds of order.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely my hon. Friend is arguing that the increase is not enough and is showing why that is so. Surely that is very much in order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is in order so long as the hon. Member keeps to it, but when he starts to enlarge about surrounding subjects, the Chair is put into some difficulty. The debate is narrow. This is difficult for the Chair, and I am sure that hon. Members will wish me to keep within order as much as possible.

Mr. McElhone

I appreciate your difficulty, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I hope that you will appreciate mine. I am trying to explain the difficulties of the chronic sick and disabled in Scotland and saying that the only way in which their position can be relieved is by the provision by the Government of sufficient capital.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) mentioned the promise of special housing aid for Glasgow. I agree with him that the aid mentioned by the Prime Minister could be supplied in ways other than by strictly housing subsidies.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There is nothing in the Order about housing.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To some extent the Secretary of State has inadvertently misled the House by referring to the needs and resources elements mentioned in paragraph 13 of the report. The provision called special aid is given to Glasgow by virtue of the substantive Order made last year. My hon. Friend is arguing that to some extent that should be repeated by this Order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

But there is nothing about housing in the Rate Support Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order.

Dr. Mabon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are discussing not special aid for housing but special aid, which is financial aid. My hon. Friend is arguing, not specifically for aid for housing but for aid to deal with the financial problems.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Because housing and housing subsidies are not included in the Order, I could not speak about housing, which is the Opposition's complaint.

Mr. McElhone

I appreciate your difficulty, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the difficulty of keeping within the terms of the Order, but my hon. Friend the Member for Provan indicated that aid to Glas- gow need not necessarily take the form of housing subsidy aid, and there are other ways of fulfilling the promise given by the Prime Minister. It could be fulfilled by the clearance of slum property. Glasgow has a serious slum clearance problem. There is no reason why special aid for Glasgow should not be given under this Order. I am sure that special aid to assist with slum clearance would he welcomed. As I pointed out on 18th December, the situation is so bad that one hospital in Glasgow receives 1,000 children per year with dysentry and gastro-enteritis because of slum housing conditions. This point should be borne in mind by the Secretary of State.

We cannot fail to remember the promises made by the Conservative Party when it was in opposition. The Prime Minister said in Glasgow that the people deserved a better life and that the only reason he was in politics was to make sure that they got it. The only way by which the people of Scotland can get it is by giving them the assistance which they need. With rising inflation and increasing costs, it is difficult for local authorities to fulfil their budgets. The shabby treatment of Scotland by the Government will not go unrecognised at the next election. The Secretary of State has failed miserably. He has tried to conceal his gifts in the tinsel of percentages which fool no one. The Government's Scrooge-like attitude towards the chronic sick and disabled people has been exposed.

2.9 a.m.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

There has been an escalation in costs since the first estimate of about 11 per cent. We must view that within the context of the Government overall attitude to public expenditure. The Secretary of State might find himself in some difficulty here. In view of what has been happening over the past 12 months and what is happening now, will there be some modification in increases in costs to local authorities?

To put this in the overall general context of public expenditure, the Government are committed to giving some indication of their expectation that local authority expenditure is expected to increase at an annual rate of about 3.5 per cent. between 1970–71 and 1972–73. Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing the case for expanding the underlying prospects of this Order by saying that, by some magic, we will tone down the rate of increases to local authorities over the years? If not, we need to know how he will get local authorities to maintain and increase the services expected of them. I represent the smallest county in Scotland which has the undistinguished claim to fame of being the highest-rated authority in Scotland. There are grave constraints on local authorities trying to meet the need of their electorates.

The right hon. Gentleman has given us some idea of the reasons for bringing forward the Order. One was the increase in interest charges. This is not a direct responsibility of local authorities, it is something for which the Government have responsibility. Although housing does not come within the ambit of the Order it is symptomatic of the general trend in increased charges to local authorities. On Wednesday, 28th October, 1970, in answer to a Question by me the right hon. Gentleman said: In 1967–68—the latest year for which actual figures are available—the proportion was 63 per cent. The estimated proportion for 1968–69 is 64 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October 1970; Vol. 805, c. 151.] High interest charges lie at the Government's door. They are operating a high Bank Rate and a high lending rate through the Public Works Loan Board to local authorities. Local authorities are right to press the right hon. Gentleman for an indication of when these high interest charges will be relieved, because they are inhibiting purposeful development.

The Under-Secretary had the good grace, earlier, to mention that certain things had been done by the Labour Government to make the rates less regressive, but he did not say that one of the reasons for this was the increase in the domestic element. We introduced this to alleviate the regressive nature, but it does not completely do the job. What we are seeing here, in this perpetual need to bring forward Orders like this to bolster up the system of local authority finance, is a clear indication that local authority finances will not bear the burden of necessary local government expenditure in this last part of the 20th century.

While we have had some indications generally that the Secretary of State and his right hon. Friends wish to constrain local authority expenditure within the remit of constraining public expenditure, local authority expenditure must expand. Indeed, all the evidence is indicative that it will expand at a rate greater than even the growth rate of the national income, and this is because the demands on local authorities for their services are increasingly great, because of the fact—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is straying a little too wide of the Order. This Order is not drafted as a matter of policy but simply to take care of increases which have come about.

Mr. Douglas

Well, with great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I accept that, but I am trying to indicate, within the bounds of order, that one of the reasons for this Increase Order and for other orders which will come forward is the deficiency in the form of finance now available. I return directly to the Order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must realise that there is in this Order nothing about the form of local government finance. It is very narrow indeed. I do not wish to be unduly difficult for the hon. Member, but it is my duty to keep the debate within the bounds of order. I am sure he understands that.

Mr. Douglas

Yes, I fully appreciate the need to constrain the debate within the bounds of order. Nevertheless, the underlying elements are related to how the Government see local authority finances at the present time. One of the points I would put, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman is: what elements are the Government intending writing into local authority finance in the interim, when the Royal Commission and White Paper proposals are going through? The interim nature of this Order will mean stresses and strains upon local authorities and will, perhaps, mean holding up expenditure. The provisions of this Order and of future Orders necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to carry forward his own plans in the interim will produce stresses and strains for local authorities, and he has to take some account of them.

The debate on this Order shows quite clearly that no palliative, no bolstering up of the present system, will meet the demands which will be placed on local authorities. Therefore I say to the right hon. Gentleman that when we get the Green Paper we will have a long, lingering look at it, and he will have responsibility—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to reply to those points because it has already been ruled by the Chair that the system of local government finance cannot be discussed on this Order.

Mr. Douglas

Well, when the right hon. Gentleman brings forward his proposals perhaps he will give us some indication how this Order will carry the strains which he will place on local authorities in administrative terms, in employment terms, to meet the coming needs.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I must make it plain that this Order deals only with the past two years. It cannot touch on the future.

Mr. Douglas

Yes, I fully accept the point the right hon. Gentleman is making, but I was indicating to him that he might give us some indication of his present thinking in terms of the future so that we might anticipate it.

2.19 a.m.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

Since I have been a Member of this House, and that is a long time now, this is the first occasion I have ever ventured to take part in a debate on local government or, above all, on local government finance. Indeed, this is probably the only point I have in common with the party opposite—a colossal fund of ignorance of aspects of local government finance.

Therefore, it is only because of a strange combination of factors that I rise to participate in this debate tonight. One is the gross mismanagement of having this debate after midnight. The Under-Secretary of State on the earlier Order stressed that the efficiency squeeze would be only a small percentage of the vast budget, but £800 million is still £800 million, and this is what we are debating after midnight at the fag end of a long debate on other matters.

It is not enough to say that the Government were squeezed for time. They chose to take the Industrial Relations Bill on the Floor of the House. Either the Government are responsible or they are not responsible. If they want to give up government we will take over. As long as the Government claim responsibility they must accept it, with the whips and scorpions that go with it—even the Whip on the Front Bench now. To have this debate on the £800 million budget for the people of Scotland at this time is a disgrace and a shocking piece of mismanagement. The electorate in May will—

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

The longer the hon. Gentleman goes on complaining the later will he be in saying what he is going to say, which is perhaps related to the Order.

Mr. Buchan

The importance of a subject is often in inverse ratio to the smallness of the hour. We are concerned to discuss this subject at any time, day or night. The lateness of the hour, the shoddiness of the Order and the smallness of the increase being suggested show the low priority which the Government place on these important services.

I said that only a curious combination had brought me to my feet. Hon. Members will remember the curious incident of the dog in the night. When Inspector Gregson asked what the curious incident was as the dog had done nothing, Sherlock Holmes said "That was the curious incident". There is in the Order the curious incident of the dog that barked in Glasgow. Fee-paying in local authority schools in Scotland has been abolished for the past year. Nevertheless, income from fees came in because Glasgow charged fees in a different way so as to perpetuate fee-paying schools in Glasgow. What have the Government done to condemn that and to adjust the rate support grant accordingly? If that income is coming in and has not gone into the normal amount while we have these fees, where has it gone? What is Glasgow's share of the rate support grant going to be? What are the deductions and additions going to be? Is this to be an abnormal amount, because it must be an abnormal amount for charging for recreational and physical activities? This is the first curious incident missing here.

But it gets curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said, because there is another dog failing to bark here. Where is the fulfilment of the pledge to assist Glasgow? We were not told what that assistance would be. When my hon. Friend asked about it, the right hon. Gentleman said that we were not allowed to discuss housing. It is not under housing as far as we know. Yet, he has discarded it in this Order, and, therefore, it must surely come directly under housing. It is money, cash, that we are talking about. It is not going to be any phoney business of the improvement of one or two old houses. If the dog does not bark here, we are waiting for it to bark the next time the right hon. Gentleman mentions housing. If it is omitted here, what is to be done about it?

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) has devoted much of his activity to trying to develop this kind of work in his constituency, repairing the omissions of the Government. He has taken the social work legislation and is beginning to do the job the Government should be pressing on the local authority. I see that you are looking at the Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The relationship of what I am saying with the Order is that the Government should have been pressing local authorities to get on with this social work and find out the full needs of the disabled. If they had been so pressing, there would have been an increased cost. I understand that I am in order because I am asking why the amount is not more. There should have been a greater increase for expenditure on social services.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) has returned to his bed at 2 a.m., having said that he does not believe in family planning. If his views are to be carried out, then under the provisions dealing with dental officers, nurses, midwives and auxiliaries there should have been an increase.

I began by accusing the Government of mismanagement. These two Orders are a dog's breakfast. It is almost like a game of "Spot the deliberate mistake". The first Order had a series of correc- tions, and this one has at least one and there may be more. It is not good enough to throw this kind of mess at us after midnight and expect us to deal with it seriously. I congratulate those of my hon. Friends who have spoken on managing to make some sense of the Orders and on showing up the inadequacy of the Government in general and the inadequacy of these Orders in particular.

2.30 a.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I rise not to detain the House long with any particular discussion on the Order but to ask a point of information with reference to Appendix I on page 6, where are specified changes in prices, costs and remuneration taken into account when this increase Order was laid. Most of them are clear. The section headed "Pay Awards", for the various people who have obtained pay awards, is clear, as are other increased costs in the second section, where one appreciates the need for increased expenditure for loan charges, National Insurance contributions, pensions and superannuation, and so on. But what puzzles me is why it should be necessary for an increase to be made available—I am not objecting to any increase being made available to local authorities—on the fifth item, "Property costs", where for 1969–70 the figure is £0.526 million and for 1970–71 it is increased to £4.309 million, which is by far the most substantial individual amount of the other increases in costs.

I shall not ask the Under-Secretary to specify the final line, which is "Other increases in costs", which surprisingly have risen from £0.171 million in 1969–70 to £1.464 million for 1970–71. On a perfectly genuine point of information, I ask exactly what the property costs are which necessitate this increase of over £4 million.

Mr. Gordon Campbell rose

Dr. Dickson Mabon

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I to take it that the Secretary of State intends to ask permission to speak twice and later on third time? There are still some questions that we have to ask.

Mr. Campbell

I understand that there is a right to reply without asking permission in the debate on the Order.

Dr. Mabon

We are not finished by any means.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No one got up. They may have been going to get up later, but they did not get up then. The Secretary of State got up, so I called him.

Mr. Robert Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am certain that you would not deliberately overlook an hon. Member, but I distinctly saw my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray) rising to his feet almost simultaneously with the Secretary of State. Bearing in mind that one cannot see both sides of the House simultaneously, with respect, I think that you inadvertently overlooked him.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I certainly did not see the hon. and learned Member rise. I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman as to what he wishes to do.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Further to that point of order. I hope to speak at the end of the debate, but as no one was getting up and I was waiting for the hon. Gentleman to get up I presumed that he was not going to speak. I was very surprised when no one else was getting up.

2.34 a.m.

Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)

I was a little tardy at getting to my feet. Looking at Appendix II of the Order, on sewers and drains there appears to be a very modest increase in the two-year period covered. How much, if any, of this increase is going to the City of Edinburgh, for example, which has a tremendous problem in trying to modernise its sewage system so as to cope with the requirements of the Lothians River Purification Board? An abrasive dialogue has been taking place for some time and, I contemplate, will continue up to 1975, 1977 or 1978, which is the last date for starting that the River Purification Board have been persuaded to accept. But this is a large problem confronting the City of Edinburgh, because over the years it has neglected the need to have a modern sewage system instead of discharging crude sewage into the Forth. This is a problem of great dimensions going beyond the capacity of the ratepayers of the City.

It is obvious that public funds from the Exchequer will have to be provided to the city to enable it to carry out these necessary works. This is right, because the modernisation of the city's sewerage will be to the advantage of all local authorities whose areas about the estuary of the Forth. This is obviously a public health matter, too. Everyone wishes to see the Forth clear of discharges of crude sewage, and a major contributor is the City of Edinburgh. It is a matter of great regret that this Order gives no indication of what action is contemplated by the Government to speed up this modernisation. It is one of great urgency, because the discharges will increase as the population increases. It is time that the matter was tackled, and I hope that the Government have more to say on the subject than the Order seems to suggest.

2.37 a.m.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

It must be admitted at the outset that we are dealing with two historic years, the second of which, 1970–71, is about to finish. Is not it remarkable, however, when looking at Appendix II, the apportionment between services of extra costs and income, that the increase in costs on sewers and drains comes to £620,000, whereas, if one looks at the Order which we have just passed, the amount which is put aside for the whole increase in the next two years is of the order of £200,000? It is very strange that an Increase Order should carry such a large sum compared with the Order which we have just passed.

The Secretary of State may argue that this reflects increases in salaries. Perhaps that is the reason. Certainly when one looks at the Explanatory Memorandum on the Increase Order, one sees on page 4: Pay awards the other increases in costs are estimated to increase expenditure by £3.61 million in 1969–70 and £742.00 million in 1970–71. I admit that wage increases in this current year have been substantial, but that is an obvious error. Exactly what the figure should be, I do not know. Perhaps it should be £7.42 million. I should not like to guess. Is not this a case of another inaccuracy, and is not it a dreadful example of the Ministerial mismanagement of these Orders and explanations?

These papers are supposed to help hon. Members. Instead, they confuse us in some cases. This is not good enough, and I come back to the incredible situation where the amount given for sewers and drains exceeds the amount that we have just voted for the two years to come, beginning in May, 1971.

When one looks at the next item in Appendix II, Parks, it is difficult to recognise that in Scotland there are three regional parks, and I assume that they must in some way come within this heading. I refer to the Muirshiel, Strathclyde and Culzean parks. I remember the Strathclyde park intimately, because I was involved in the negotiations with the principal authorities, the two large burghs and the county. From recollection, the estimate was of the order of £1½ million. Since this was inaugurated in 1969–70, I can hardly believe that the sum of £870,000 for 1970–71 in column 7 can really be for the purpose of these three parks and that that is the end of three parks and that that is the end of State would like to look at that.

It is interesting that if comparison is made between the actual increase for parks over our two years—at least, a year and a half were ours—and what we have just voted in the other Order for the increase for parks, it is incredible what very small progress the Secretary of State proposes to achieve in the Order on which we have just voted.

Another item in column 1 of Appendix II is "Education, including school meals and milk", but in the Order which we have just passed it is called "Education". Why is there this continuance of the inclusion of school meals and milk but their absence in the principal Order, where the item is simply "Education"? Does this mean that school meals and milk are no longer a heading and are on the way out completely?

I would accept the explanation that this is another error and that the item should be struck out of this Order because it is to be a new fashion not to itemise school meals and milk. I am sure that my hon. Friends would also generously accept that as an explanation. If it is not an error, however, why are not school meals and milk mentioned under the heading "Education" in the principal Order? In other words, we are not seeking to argue textual errors, although there have been plenty of them. We are asking what the Government mean by the form of the principal Order when we reflect on the Increase Order which we are now debating.

With my hon. Friends, I regret very much the circumstances in which we are debating this matter. We had a tortuous explanation from the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), concerning assistance to burghs which wish to advance concessionary fares. The Secretary of State was concerned in the deliberations on the Transport Bill—now the Transport Act, 1968—as I remember to my everlasting cost. He often interrupted us and advocated various courses of action.

The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware—I hope that he is—that in one of these years, 1970–71, a circular was issued from St. Christopher House dated 19th March which described how the Minister had permissive powers under Section 138(7) of the Transport Act for calculating the cost of travel concessions made between operators and local authorities. We have had a number of references to this.

The explanation given by the Under-Secretary was one of the most tortuous I have ever heard in Parliament—and that is saying something—because he advanced the proposition that while there were concessions for rural authorities and rural bus services, there might be some for burghs provided that the bus services went through rural areas. What is a rural area? If we are to take the sewerage Acts as—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We cannot go into the question of what is a rural area on this Order.

Dr. Mabon

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the grants to which I have referred for rural water supplies and sewerage are within the definition of what is a rural area. I always understood a rural area to be, for example, a burgh, which may be in a rural area, with over 300,000 population. That is the Scottish administrative judgment. It may have changed, but when I was a Minister, that was the judgment.

I understand what the Minister argued previously and I am asking where, if anywhere, this money appears in the Order. To my surprise, the Minister—I have never heard the argument before—said that, somehow, burghs in rural areas could qualify for these grants. Where is the money shown?

In discussing these Orders with the Secretary of State, the big complaint of the local authorities is that there is a disparity of treatment between rural areas and burghs. It is the Convention of Royal Burghs which is pressing the Secretary of State to bring in amending legislation to entitle the royal burghs to the benefit of what they think is happening in the counties. I appeal to the Government that, in fairness, if there is something being given to the counties it should be given to these burghs, either through this Order or by means of amendment of the local government finance Acts or the Transport Act. There should be some means of adjustment.

The circular indicated that there was to be some sort of agreement between the bus companies and the local authorities. I have a letter here from the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, which states: I would like to stress, however, that the absence of an Order"— that is to say, an Order under the circular which was sent out in March 1970: need not prevent any local authority or bus operator from discussing or implementing any scheme in the meantime. There would be no retrospective effect if an Order were made.… Is that the policy of the Secretary of State? Are we to take it from this Order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is nothing about policy in the Order. The Order simply takes account of the increase in prices and seeks to cover that fact. To raise the question of policy, of whether or not something should be done is not quite fair.

Dr. Mabon

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the increase Order is fathered by the substantive Order which I had the privilege to propose to the House in 1969. There are within it references to other services. I have demonstrated that in the financial year 1970–71 there was a circular from the Government about possible expenditures involving bus services specifically in burghs, not rural areas. It might have been the intention of the Government of which I had the honour to be a member, or of this Government, to bring in money in that way. I simply ask the Secretary of State to confirm that it is not within the Order; that he has no intention of bringing it within either this increase Order or one that may follow the substantive Order we passed earlier today. What I cannot do is to leave unacknowledged the Under-Secretary's reply in the last debate, in which he tried to infer that somehow or other small burghs could benefit by existing legislation outwith the Order, because that is not quite true. We shall read his words with great interest tomorrow to get quite clear just what he meant, and to pursue it.

My hon. Friends have already discussed the consequences, and have dealt with the needs element and the resources element of the grant. It was in these two elements that, after a great deal of argument, we were able to persuade the local authorities, very reluctantly, to agree to a reshaping of the formula that gave Glasgow initially £1½ million extra in redistribution of moneys available. The local authorities in Scotland, and many people in Scotland did not like that. Many local authorities postively objected to it, but we did it.

That was the way in which we sought to assist the city of Glasgow in all its social problems. I believe that within this increase Order, and with the way in which the need element and the resources element have risen—and I readily concede that they have risen quite considerably—the amount of money going to the assistance of Glasgow in the last full year when we were responsible and in this present year which is just ending must be getting close to £¾ million or even £1 million.

But that is not the point. Where is the new increase? Is the Secretary of State telling us that this is what was meant all along when the special aid was announced by the Prime Minister on 9th June, 1970? Is this the fulfilment of the promise? Is this Order, which gives an increase in the need element and in the resources element distributed more favourable to Glasgow than was the previous series of Orders? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that this is the end of the matter? Or is he to tell us that this, plus the announcement in relation to Larkhall and Stonehouse—which was the mountain compared with the mouse the Secretary of State said we had conceived—is the answer to the question, or is he to tell us that neither of these matters is relevant? That may be his answer, that it means that we are expecting some new announcement of special aid to the city. I hope the Secretary of State is able to refer to this, without going out of order. Is there something beyond it, and, if so, what is it?

2.50 a.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I will try to deal with all the points that have been raised. First, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), like me, deplored the fact that the discussion of these Orders was taking place so late at night. I should point out to him and to later speakers that it was the Opposition who asked that the Committee stage of the Industrial Relations Bill be taken on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I think that the real objection which we on this side of the House have to taking these Orders at this time of the night is not so much the time of night itself as the fact that by taking them at this time there has been such a restriction of the time available. The Prime Minister has chided us for trooping through the Lobbies on what he called a fruitless exercise. We would much rather be here till 5 or 6 a.m. so that we could be allowed to make all our points. As I say, our real objection to taking the Orders at this hour is that the amount of time available has been restricted.

Mr. Campbell

I understand that, but the change which led to the Orders being given only 1½ hours was introduced by the late Government, by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who recently announced that he will not continue to sit in the House.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Is that really fair? The English and Welsh Orders were debated by our English and Welsh colleagues for seven hours the other day. Surely we should have had seven hours, too.

Mr. Campbell

That is exactly what I tried to say at the beginning of our debate on the first Order, and I am again trying to say something about it. I am just coming to the English Order. The English and Welsh Orders were debated, I think, on 10th December, before the Industrial Relations Bill appeared in Committee on the Floor of the House and before the campaign, demonstration, singing of "The Red Flag" and all the other things started. They started after the Christmas Recess, in January.

The English local government financial year runs from early April to early April, whereas the Scottish financial year runs from mid-May to mid-May. Therefore, when our Orders were published in February, which is the normal time—these were laid this year on 12th February—we found ourselves in the middle of the Committee stage of the Industrial Relations Bill and other important Orders whose dates were running out and which had to be taken by a certain time.

The difficulties of this week and next week are that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, in response to requests from the other side of the House, gave an extra two days for the Report stage of the Industrial Relations Bill, as well as having agreed to the Opposition request that the Committee stage should be taken on the Floor of the House.

It was the accident of the way in which the Scottish local authority financial year falls that forced these Orders to be taken during this busy period. This is why I have been doing my best to get the Orders taken earlier than midnight. I was hoping that the Orders might come on at about nine o'clock on Thursday, but when I discovered that a Thursday evening was worse for Scottish Members we had no alternative but to take them on another night.

I deplore this as much as anybody else. However, there has been very little co-operation on various other Orders which have been taken in recent weeks. They have not been as important as these Orders, yet they have been filibustered through the night and it has been difficult to get them through, because it has been apparently part of a demonstration. I can understand it if hon. Members want to make a demonstration and make it difficult for Orders to go through.

Mr. Lawson

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Clearly the Secretary of State's suggestion is that we are engaged in a filibuster. Do you accept this?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I did not think that was the case. I think that the Secretary of State would be wiser to leave this argument and deal with the Order more precisely. I am anxious not to exacerbate feelings at this time of night if we can avoid it.

Mr. Campbell

I shall be glad to pass on, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That was why I dealt with this very succinctly in the debate on the first Order. A number of hon. Members have expressed their feelings about this and I therefore wanted to spell out why it had happened and why I, like them, am sorry that the Orders are being taken so late at night.

The hon. Member for Provan and other hon. Members have raised the question of special help to Glasgow. That special help was from the beginning related to such problems as housing, redevelopment, density of population, and overcrowding. I recognise that it is possible to make available some special help for Glasgow under a rate support grant Order. The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) said that the Labour Government had made a special allocation of £1½ million, but he also pointed out that it was unpopular with the other local authorities. Therefore, it would have been rather surprising if we had used this Order to do that kind of thing.

The rate support grant Orders operate on the basis of distribution by very carefully worked out formulae. Factors such as population and road mileage figure in the formulae. Local authorities have for a long time worked in working parties making recommendations as to how these factors should be brought together and the formulae put into action. This is not a very likely way of giving special help to an individual city.

On 3rd February I made an outright statement of what we were proposing to do. More will be announced before long and I hope that hon. Members will be pleased with what they hear when it comes. It is not within this Increase Order, so I cannot expand on it tonight.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) raised the question of social help and home helps. In an Answer to the hon. Gentleman on 24th February my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office said that Section 14 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act, 1968, would come into operation on 1st April and that this would make it obligatory on local authories to provide home helps.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke of the disabled. He has been in the House for a year or so, but his Friends will know that in opposition I was one of those who took up the whole question of the disabled and the chronic sick about five years ago. I recall the occasion when the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), having come first in the Ballot, came to me and asked my advice about whether to launch a Measure on behalf of disabled persons and the chronic sick. I had been interested in that subject for a couple of years—indeed, I had been specialising in it some time previously—a fact which that hon. Gentleman was good enough to mention when he spoke on the Third Reading of what became his Bill, which is now the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970.

I appreciate the interest of the hon. Member for Gorbals, in this subject, and although my interests must now be much wider, I have been delighted to note the interest which hon. Gentlemen opposite have shown in this subject, which, as I say, occupied much of my time a few years ago.

As for having a register to help identify the disabled, this was a subject about which I was plugging away for years. Indeed, it was in reply to a Parliamentary Question from me that the Minister responsible said that the then Government would conduct an inquiry. That was three or four years ago. It was as a result of that study that Sections 1 and 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act arose. As the sponsor of that Measure said, I had been originally very much concerned with the whole issue. However, Sections 1 and 2 of that Act do not apply to Scotland. That was the decision of the Labour Government, who recognised that similar provisions existed in other legislation, particularly in the Social Work (Scotland) Act. This is, as I have pointed out, a subject which is close to my heart.

Mr. McElhone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have a letter, signed by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, addressed to one of my hon. Friends indicating that Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act does all that is implied in Sections 1 and 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act? I do not doubt the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity in this matter and I appreciate his continuing interest in the chronically sick. Is he aware that this makes more appalling the fact that he has allowed for the spending of only £5 million in this sector over the next two years for the whole of Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman uses the word "only" in relation to this sum of £5 million, but it is the fastest growing part of the services. As I mentioned earlier, the social work increase in the coming three years will amount to 25 per cent. I pointed out that this would cover our share of the new measures which I announced last November in terms of expenditure on services for the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill and the elderly.

The hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) said that public expenditure was bound to increase. He is right. I said that we were expecting it to grow by 5 per cent., though we recognised that it was important to contain and restrain it. I also pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, attempted to limit local authority growth to 3 per cent. Both parties when in Government have recognised that in the economic circumstances of Britain in the last few years, it has been essential to try to restrain public expenditure in the local authority sphere.

Inquiries were made about possible future increase Orders. We are discussing this Order, which is related to the last two years, and, as the Secretary of State, I am restricted by the 1966 Act. Under Section 2 of that Act the Secretary of State is required to make grants…to local authorities in Scotland. In order to arrive at the aggregate amount of the rate support grants the Secretary of State is to determine the aggregate of Exchequer grants to local authorities on a percentage to be specified of their reckonable expenditure for each year. It is not a question of extra expenditure in future or even that authorities have embarked on expenditure additional to their estimates. The Order is related to increases in costs and prices which were unforeseen and which have actually occurred. That is what limits the debate and also limits what can be done in the Order.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) asked about property costs and referred to a figure in the table. I can tell him that of the £4.3 million for increased property costs, £2.2 million was for increased rates, £1.1 million for repairs and maintenance, £0.8 million for heating, lighting and cleaning and £0.2 million for furniture and fittings.

The hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Murray) gave an interesting discourse on a subject which has been topical—Edinburgh's sewerage arrangements. He did not consider the rival project—the Opera House. What he said was important, but nothing can be done about it in this Order. However, he had an opportunity to give his views on a subject which is of concern in that area. Two-thirds of the cost of sewerage is in loan charges, which have not increased much in the period covered by the Order, and none of it has anything to do with Edinburgh's plans for the future. But I congratulate him on managing to make his points on an important matter.

The hon. Member for Greenock raised various points. He began by referring to the Transport Bill on which both he and I spent very long sittings. It was a marathon. He said rather quickly that it has become an Act, but he did not mention that no fewer than 23 pages of it were dropped by the Government while the Bill was going through the House as a result of pressure by my hon. Friends and myself during Committee stage and that a further chunk was postponed so effectively that when we returned to office after the election we were able to make sure that it never took effect at all. We removed parts of the Bill which we did not like and supported those parts which we did like.

In replying on this Order I am afraid that I cannot assist him in what must be his misunderstanding about rural areas and burghs. He said that he would look closely at what was said by my hon. Friend in winding up the debate on the earlier Order, and I will look into the matter. But it does not arise under this Order and he has misunderstood what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie (Rutherglen)

Can this question of concessionary fares and bus services be dealt with under the Social Work (Scotland) Act? Can burghs and county councils which have not been able to operate concessionary fares for the elderly and disabled in fact do so under part of that Act?

Mr. Campbell

Even if it were not out of order to reply to that question, I could not do so without notice, but I will undertake to look into the question of the inter-relationship of the various Acts in assisting the disabled, because I am particularly concerned about that.

The hon. Member for Greenock pointed to a misprint in the Explanatory Memorandum. The £742 million should be simply £42 million.

The hon. Member for Greenock asked whether there was any significance in school meals and milk being mentioned at one point and not at another. The item for education has sometimes included school meals and milk and sometimes not. It sometimes did under the Labour Government and sometimes did not, and there is no significance in whether it is in or out.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I am glad to have that assurance. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough in the few minutes left to him to help us about the figure of £742 million? He said that it ought to be £42 million, but surely that cannot be right.

Mr. Campbell

I understand that there has been a misprint, but I will certainly look into this. I cannot do so now, but I will get in touch with the hon. Gentleman. It may help him to see the point if I say that £42 million is the gross figure.

I should like quickly to refer to the important issue raised by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan); fee paying and Glasgow's practice of charging fees to pupils at the former fee-paying schools for the provision of social, cul- tural and recreational facilities. He asked how we had dealt with this in the Increase Order.

Fees for school education were still charged in 1969–70, the first year covered by the 1969 order. When this order was made, it was assumed that as a result of the enactment of the 1969 Education (Scotland) Bill, which had not even entered Committee by the time the negotiations with the local authorities were concluded, there would be no income at all from fees for school education in 1970–71. It was not foreseen what use Glasgow education authority would make of the power to make charges under Section 3(b) of the 1962 Act as set out in Section 1(1) of the 1969 Act.

As a rate support grant order can be varied only by an Increase Order when the rates of charges have changed and not when new or altered sources of income had been opened up, we have not been able to achieve an explicit power to take account of this factor in the present Increase Order. In other words, the 1969 Act did not leave us a suitable power which we can use to take explicit account of what Glasgow has done.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education announced in Committee on 2nd February, we propose to add a new Clause to the Education (Scotland) Bill on Report which will enable us to take account in an Increase Order of any extra income or reductions in expenditure which authorities will enjoy as a result of the passage of the Bill. We shall be discussing the amount of the adjustment with the local authority associations in the usual way in due course.

Mr. Buchan

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for taking up this matter. As he has now said that Glasgow's use of this power was entirely unforeseen, would he now condemn what Glasgow has done?

Mr. Campbell

Certainly not. Glasgow Corporation considers that it has been making legal use of the power in the 1969 Act and I certainly would not condemn it. However, if there is any apparent anomaly, it will be resolved when the current Bill becomes law. The problem was created by the Labour Government's decision to deprive local authorities of their freedom to charge fees if they wished to do so.

The debate has raised a number of issues. I point out again, however, that an Increase Order looks to the past and we are limited to seeing what increases in prices and costs there have been. It is that to which we have to address our minds and although interesting subjects have been raised—

It being one and half hours after the commencement of Proceedings on the Motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Rate Support Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order 1971, dated 29th January, 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th February, be approved.

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