HC Deb 07 June 1972 vol 838 cc509-45


Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move Amendment No. 141, in page 56, line 13, leave out from 'order' to end of line 16.

If it meets with your approval, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that we might take at the same time Amendment No. 142, in page 56, line 20, leave out paragraph (b).

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House agrees, so be it.

Mr. Strang

These Amendments relate to the Draconian default powers which the Secretary of State proposes to take to impose this piece of legislation on the people of Scotland, to impose what must be one of the main socially vindictive and class biased pieces of legislation which has ever gone through the House, and to mount a massive assault on the powers of locally elected town and county councils throughout Scotland.

The first Amendment refers to the additional unspecified functions which the Secretary of State wishes to take in order that he can operate them in cases of default. The second Amendment seeks to delete paragraph (b) under which, among other things, the Secretary of State gives himself power to ignore the provisions of the Act when he intervenes with a default order.

I am conscious that we debated this issue in Committee. I have taken the trouble to read that debate. However, it seems that the Under-Secretary of State said very little in his speech. He made no serious attempt to answer many of the important questions put to him by my hon. Friends in Committee. The hon. Gentleman made the point that if there were a default he certainly would not regard it as the fault of the officials; he would hold only the councillors responsible. That is what we would expect. He also pointed out that in these situations he would be able to take power to issue instructions to local authority officials as though the councillors did not exist, but that all these powers could not be operated until after a fairly lengthy procedure, including a public inquiry.

The Under-Secretary made no attempt to explain precisely what he would do in a situation where a local authority said to the Government: "If you intend to impose these measures on our electors, if you intend to take away all these powers from us, if you intend that this rebate scheme should be applied to every person in this area, then you can jolly well do it yourselves".

We are dealing with a different situation from that which existed before. The default powers have existed for many years, but we knew that there was little likelihood of them being used. However, because of the actions of this Government we have reached a situation in which it is almost certain that if and when the Bill becomes an Act the Secretary of State will in due course be required to intervene.

The controlling group on Glasgow Town Council has indicated it is not likely to implement this legislation. The Labour group on Edinburgh Town Council on Monday evening, although not in control, also indicated that it was of a mind not to implement this socially vindictive Measure. We know—there is no use pretending otherwise—that a host of local authorities throughout Scotland are of a similar mind.

Why have we reached such an unprecedented state of affairs where local authority after local authority is totally opposed to the Government on this issue and is talking in terms of refusing to implement the provisions of the Bill? First, because this is an extremely bad piece of legislation. It is aimed at redistributing the purchasing power of wage earners to the owners of property and capital. Basically, that is what the Bill is about, and that is why it is being met with such massive opposition from the representatives of ordinary people in Scotland.

More important in the context of the debate, we have this tremendous opposition because the Secretary of State is attempting to inflict the most massive assault ever on the powers of our elected local authorities. I know of no previous legislation this century which attacks and undermines to this extent the existing powers of democratically elected local authorities.

It has been said repeatedly in our debates that the Government seek to fix the rents of all local authority houses, to fix the size of rent increases and, most incredibly, to lay down in the most minute detail the rebate scheme to be applied to every person in local authority areas.

Clause 18 is humorously entitled: Extent to which authorities may depart from model schemes". Everyone who has read the Bill knows that there is virtually no scope for local authorities to depart in any significant way, apart from a few isolated cases, from the absolute holus-bolus operation of the rebate scheme.

This is not a rent rebate scheme. This in fact is a differential rent scheme, because the vast majority of tenants will pay a rent related to their income. A rebate scheme is something applied to a small proportion of tenants, to tenants on low incomes.

The Government are making local authority officials the agents of the central Government. Local authority officials who are required to administer the rebate scheme will have less scope to depart from it than have the officials in the local branches of the Department of Health and Social Security. All hon. Members have had experience with the local office of that Department. They know that, although the whole thing is laid down centrally, there is a fair amount of discretion in local offices. Honourable Members who are on good terms with the managers of these local offices know this.

Under the Bill when enacted these officials will have virtually no power to depart from the rigorous, socially vindictive rebate scheme. If it were desired to operate a rebate scheme of this nature, it would have been logical to take it away from the local authority altogether and to have it operated by the Depart- ment of Health and Social Security. All the other issues of housing finance could have been left with the local authority.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

It is done now.

Mr. Strang

It is done now to some extent in the case of tenants who are on supplementary benefit.

The Government seek to create a situation in which officials who are supposed to be responsible to elected councillors will be operating in the most minute detail schemes which have been laid down by the central Government. Next Session there is likely to be a massive Bill implementing the reform of local government. In this Bill the Government are making a mockery of local government. We had the Education (Milk) Bill. Further, the people of Glasgow voted for comprehensive education and against selection, but then the Government intervened to prevent the electorate from having their way. The National Health Service (Scotland) Bill takes powers from local authorities instead of giving the larger local authorities more power. However, those are almost trivial attacks on the powers of local authorities compared with this massive piece of housing legislation under which the Government are turning councillors into the messenger boys of the Secretary of State.

Another reason for this massive confrontation is the inevitable approach of the Government to human problems, whether in industrial relations or in personal matters—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think this is relevant to the Amendment.

Mr. Strang

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow me to say that the Government have provoked this confrontation, because that is what these default powers are about. That is why we were anxious to have a major debate on this question and to draw out the Secretary of State and to find out precisely what he envisages. We know that the massive confrontation is about to take place unless the Government are prepared to adopt a more reasonable and flexible attitude. The opposition to the Education (Milk) Act will look like an argument at a Sunday school picnic compared with what will happen in relation to this housing legislation.

The Secretary of State seeks to impose his will on local authorities, although the vast majority of hon. Members from Scotland oppose his policies. He is the Secretary of State for a country the vast majority of whose town councillors are totally opposed to the Government's policies. Only last month there was an unambiguous demonstration by the people of Scotland in the local elections that they were totally opposed to this legislation.

Despite that, the Government persist in their inflexible approach. Why are they not prepared, even at this late stage, to say, "We are prepared to discuss this with you. We are prepared to accept the change in the composition of many crucial local authorities and we are prepared to think again. Although we do not agree with your views, we are prepared to sit down and try to reach a compromise"? We might not like the compromise, but it would at least avoid the confrontation which will undoubtedly take place if there is no change of heart.

The debate on this issue has been characterised by obstinacy and by the Government's display of ignorance of the views and feelings of the people of Scotland.

Mr. Dempsey

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the intense feeling among councillors about this unwarranted interference with their personal liberty? This attitude will make it almost impossible for people in my part of the country to be persuaded to enter into local government.

Mr. Strang

That is a fair point. This is the reason for this situation, because councillors have been elected under false pretences. They have been elected to carry out what they regard as important functions in housing. They are fighting to protect these freedoms and to preserve some powers in matters which should be decided locally by locally elected councillors and not be decreed by an autocratic, obstinate, dogmatic, Secretary of State, who does not represent the views of the people of Scotland and who is almost an alien in his own country because of his display time after time of a total ignorance of the feelings and aspirations of the people of Scotland.

6.30 p.m.

I conclude by reverting to the important speech in Committee of the Under-Secretary of State when he was asked by my hon. Friends to say precisely what he was going to do and to explain why he needed power to take over all these additional functions, not only the functions set out in the Bill, but any functions which are somehow associated with these matters. The hon. Gentleman said: This is a hypothetical matter…It is a rare occurrence. If the incredible happened, the Secretary of State would be able to issue instructions to local authority officials to exercise a particular rent scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, First Scottish Standing Committee, 26th April, 1972, c. 2057.]

We are not talking about the incredible. We are talking about a probable development. Unless the Secretary of State tones down his attitude, unless he is prepared to show some awareness of and react in some way to the views of the democratically elected local authorities in Scotland, this situation will arise time and again. I hope that even at this late stage the Secretary of State will be prepared to reconsider the position and will, at the minimum, make some effort to explain precisely why he needs these Draconian powers, and how he will act if the worst comes to the worst.

Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

It seems to me that what we are dealing with here is another indication of government by the few hammering their will upon the many, and another indication of the general trend which is developing, I say regrettably, in our democratic system whereby a small number of people impose their will on freely elected individuals, some of them 400 500 or 600 miles away. This is the kind of stuff of which nationalism is made, and the people of Scotland, who have demonstrated in no uncertain way how they feel about the Conservative Administration, are being forced into a situation where they are becoming more and more frustrated with what they call remote Westminster rule.

The crux of the Amendments tabled by my hon. Friends is to pinpoint Government interference with the desire of freely elected local authorities to control their own affairs. The Bill is another indication of the way in which the Government mind is working, in addition to what they have done in Measures to interfere with the freely expresssed will of the people of Scotland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) cited education. What happened there was a glaring example of the action of a Government who, not very long ago, when local authorities were of the persuasion which they thought was sympathetic to them, steamrollered through a Bill which they said would enable local authorities to put forward an education point of view of their own, and not one forced upon them. When the people of Scotland cast their votes at the last election in opposition to them the Government changed their mind, and they are now trying to impose their will upon people whose views are entirely different from their own.

Who benefits by these housing provisions? Who is it who receives all the munificent, beneficent, largesse which the Government are handing out? It is not the people of Scotland, because they, in any case, pay for the housing which they get. One way or another, it is the people of Scotland, and not any one group of individuals, who pay for the houses which are being erected.

I submit that what the Secretary of State is doing is making it a bit easier for his Whitehall masters to hand out large sums of money in other ways; for example, by way of surtax relief, and so on. That is what the whole exercise is about. I am not saying that I completely concur with rentals which are almost on a par with what they were before the last war, but in areas where there are extremely low rents, if the houses are completely municipally-owned, it is the people of that area who should say whether they want to bear that burden or not. People in Scotland, and particularly those in the large burghs—I am thinking of Glasgow, but I am not excluding other areas which are represented by my hon. Friends—have indicated quite clearly that they want the whole aspect of housing to be left to them to build and to administer.

In connection with this default Clause, I ask the Secretary of State to tell me how I, personally, stand in this matter. My son is a councillor in Glasgow, and he is on the housing committee. The wife of one of my hon. Friends is also on that council, but I do not know whether she is on the housing committee. My son is bitterly opposed to the Bill. The little that I have learned about this Measure I have learned from him. He is a single man, and he lives at home. If he is surcharged, shall I have to pay the surcharge? What kind of sanction will be imposed upon me if my son takes it upon himself, in conjunction with other members of the council, I shall not say to defy, because that has a ring of arrogance about it, but not to comply—that is a better way of putting it—with the unreasonable demand which the Secretary of State is making?

I shudder to think of the depths to which local government could be descending with the whittling away bit by bit of the power and authority which local government has. In an era in which communications are relatively easy and which, parodoxically, makes splitting up easier, we should be looking for a method of keeping our United Kingdom together. The only way in which that can be done is by a system of devolution. I submit that what the Secretary of State is doing here is making it even more difficult for a devolutionary process to take place. Local government is becoming a farce, and this is another nail in its coffin.

I have always believed that finance is not the most important part of housing. I cannot gainsay its importance, because local authorities must have money to build houses, but it is not the most important part of housing. Raw materials, the ability to build, the willingness to build and the erection of the houses are the most important aspect of housing.

As I have said, in any case people pay for the houses which are built, and in places such as Glasgow—I am not making any excuses, and I am not ashamed of putting in a plea for Glasgow—the housing shortage and the slums are a national responsibility. It is not the fault of the people of Glasgow that they have had to be born, live and bring up children in these areas. There is a national responsibility and the Secretary of State should not try to invoke powers to diminish that responsibility.

Although they do not have the articulate garrulousness of Members of Parliament, ordinary people say some sensible things. Over and over again, they say, "If there were a war, we could find the money to pay for it. Why can we not find money to demolish the slums and build the houses instead of always concerning ourselves with ways of paying for the houses?".

Sir J. Gilmour

I could agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) if I felt that we had in Scotland a situation in housing which we wanted and of which we could be proud. But we should resist the Amendments. My right hon. Friend is trying to ensure that we provide the houses for all the people who need them.

Conditions in Glasgow are very different from those in my constituency, where small burghs have a larger proportion of privately owned houses and they are not keen to build more council houses because at the present level of rents there would be a bigger burden on the rates. This is what has happened. In the cities, are we certain that because we have pursued a low housing rent policy over the past years in Scotland—much lower than in the rest of the United Kingdom—we have achieved better housing conditions and tackled our slum clearance much more quickly than Liverpool and London? The answer is, "No". This is why my right hon. Friend is right. If the Bill is to work, we must have these reserve powers.

As I said on Second Reading, it is distastefully like putting the cart before the horse to take powers to force local authorities to do things in the year before reforming local government.

Dr. Miller

The hon. Gentleman surely realises that the City of Glasgow has built more municipal houses than any comparable city in the whole of Europe.

Sir J. Gilmour

But it is the very fact that the whole effort has had to be channelled into municipal housing that means that we have not reached the solution that we want. If we could also have had an extra amount of private housing, we might have a better situation in Glasgow.

It is sad that we have to do this in advance of local government reform. Despite all the housing Bills that have gone through the House over the years—the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) cited a great stock of them in Committee—we still have not reached the housing situation that we want in Scotland in the shortest possible time.

The powers my right hon. Friend seeks are an opportunity to reach the sort of housing situation that we require. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree, but at least over the past 15 or 20 years, experience has shown that housing legislation has not produced the desired results. It is well worth while to try to do it in a different way. The Amendments should therefore be resisted.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Baxter

The problem of rents is very difficult and has daunted most of us who have served on local authorities. I have been in local government or Parliament for 41 years.

The Clause and the Amendments are rather sad. They are a measure of the Government's inability to solve the problem successfully without using the sanctions of the big whip on the local authorities. If I were Secretary of State for Scotland I should look carefully at this Clause. It presupposes a complete failure of my attempts.

There are some commendable features of the Bill. There is reason for a fair rents basis. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) rightly said on the last Amendment, there is a method of approach which is worth some thought—that the increase should be spread over a longer period so as to give people time to adjust to new circumstances.

It would have been better if the Secretary of State could have taken with him, if not the tenants of the houses, at least the elected representatives of the people. It must concern him that those representatives, of all political opinions, are diametrically opposed to certain aspects of this Measure. They do not disagree entirely with the principles. Everyone must agree with the need for fair rents. When inflation is running riot, the problem becomes even more difficult.

The people of Scotland are not unreasonable; they appreciate the difficulties. They do not object to paying a fair rent for council accommodation. But I am sad to think that this Clause is the only way in which the Government can force this issue down the throats of elected representatives. It is not only the high rent increases which should concern us all. They are bad enough. But the ratepayers will also have to carry a heavy burden. That is a breach of contract by the Government with the local authorities—the cutting away of all housing subsidies.

In my 41 years in local government I have seen Secretaries of State, Labour and Conservative, come and go. Each has shied away from the terrible step of removing subsidies which his predecessor had agreed to pay to local authorities. I appreciate the magnitude of the task that confronts any Government or local authority in trying to be equitable and fair in this matter.

We have spoken about those who live in local authority and privately rented accommodation. We must not overlook the third section of the community, owner-occupiers. We must be fair to all three sections of the public and I accept that it is sometimes impossible to do so.

Because of the reasonableness of our people, I am sure that if this matter had been explained to them in reasonable terms, the Secretary of State would have had a different response. The Government should have adopted the sort of reasonable attitude taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) when he was Secretary of State.

Mr. Ross

I thank my hon. Friend.

Mr. Baxter

I am sometimes critical of my right hon. Friend, but he knows that from time to time I give him full marks for an action successfully carried out. I pay the present Secretary of State a compliment for trying to introduce a fair rent scheme which is acceptable to local authorities, tenants and ratepayers.

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

I agree that we must try to be fair to all three categories of people to whom the hon. Gentleman referred. He mentioned owner-occupiers as the third category. He also spoke about the withdrawal of subsidies. Is he aware that the subsidies are simply being changed and that, in amount, the new subsidies will come to more than that paid in the past?

Mr. Baxter

That is hypothetical.

Mr. Campbell

Not at all.

Mr. Ross

It is also untrue.

Mr. Baxter

I would not say that the Secretary of State is deliberately misleading the House and I have no doubt that he seriously believes that local authorities will get back as much as they are losing, but I do not think that that will be the case for Stirling County Council, which has solved its local authority housing problem in terms of slum clearance, over-crowding and so on. We own about 80 per cent. of the property in the area, which is a considerable percentage. I take pride in the fact that the county of which I was a vice-convenor has such a good record in this respect. As I say, I do not believe that Stirling County Council will receive the same sum in subsidy that it has received in the past.

Mr. Campbell

I would not wish in any way to detract from the efforts of Stirling in this matter. We have stated that in four years the total paid in subsidy in Scotland is likely to increase from about £55 million to £70 million.

Mr. Baxter

When dealing with the last Amendment the Under-Secretary said that the figure of 37½p would be increased to 50p, and that will make up for the increase in the cost of living. If the present rate at which the cost of living is going up continues until 1975, it does not take a mathematician to show that the total amount of subsidy which will go to the people of Scotland will not be as high as the Secretary of State indicates.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that by these provisions the Government are taking considerable powers and rights away from local authorities, and that is something which we should do only grudgingly. After all, if this establishment were as efficient as some of our local government institutions we would be in a happier position. To take away the powers of local authorities or introduce a power that is tantamount to a sanction on them should be done only with the greatest care.

In view of our feelings about what is likely to happen to the powers vested in local authorities after local government reform, it is no wonder that we oppose the Wheatley Committee's contentions and are chary about the possibility, which seems to be borne out by the thinking of the Government, of these powers being further curtailed. This is one of the more disgraceful features of the Bill.

The giving of rent rebates to people not in local authority houses but in private accommodation is not a bad thing at all because people should be treated equitably. This aspect of the Bill has my wholehearted approval and I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for trying to solve a problem that has worried many of his predecessors.

However, the right hon. Gentleman should reconsider certain aspects of his proposals, even at this late stage, and should not take steps which might make local authority representatives go against the law of the land and incur the disfavour of the court.

Mr. Dempsey

This group of Amendments condemns the provisions in the Bill which give the Secretary of State—I am not referring specifically to the present Secretary of State—such wide powers that he could desiccate the operations of many local authorities.

The right hon. Gentleman already has considerable powers, and I do not object to that. It is right that the right hon. Gentleman who holds his office, Labour or Conservative, should take decisions and approve or disapprove of proposals from time to time because the Government are, after all, the largest ratepayer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)found himself in that position not long ago.

Many hon. Gentlemen opposite, some in the Government, have in all probability not had experience of being councillors. I ask them to realise precisely what is involved for our many councillors throughout Scotland. They must, for example, engage in local elections. A campaign machine is required. They must issue election addresses to convince the electors of the need to support their policies at the polls.

We in Coatbridge and the town of Airdrie deliberately set out at the last elections to secure a mandate from the electorate to oppose this iniquitous Bill. The result was that for the first time in the past few years we have had elected a clear Labour majority in Coatbridge, and we increased the Labour majority on Airdrie Town Council. This is the mandate of the local electors.

The Bill is saying, "Irrespective of what your local electors think or what the secret ballot produces, and no matter what the ratepayers decide, the Secretary of State will decide matters". This reaches an unwarranted stage of interference by any Secretary of State for Scotland—by that, I mean either the present Secretary of State or any future Secretary of State. After all, local democracy has been tested and has given its verdict. Just as we are democratically elected by secret ballot and are given the mandate which we operate, it is reasonable and fair that local elected councils which have such a mandate should be entitled to conduct their operations as they wish.

7.0 p.m.

We should try to ensure that we have laws that it will not be necessary to break. That is what the debate is about. The propositions contained in the Bill are very serious and require a great deal of explaining. What do we mean by a "defaulting local authority"? What penalty would be imposed? For example, are councillors to be surcharged if they refuse to operate this legislation? To illustrate the seriousness of the situation I give the example of one authority—not a Scottish authority but an English authority—where the rent will rise to £21 per week. The members of that authority take the view that they were never elected to allow that or to operate such a policy, and they cannot do it. It is not that they want to break the law or to defy authority, but they just cannot in conscience justify doing a thing like that. That is how serious the provisions of the Bill are to local authority members.

When the Minister replies, he should give us information about the penalties involved. What will it mean, for example, to councillors or councils who refuse to operate these provisions? Can it mean that they will lose their votes for seven years? Will they be surcharged and, if so, by what amount and how will the computation be arrived at? Will it mean that local authority officials, who are paid by the authority, will be instructed by the Scottish Office to do the job that the local authority should be doing? If that happens, it would bring them into unpleasant relationships with their bosses, the elected local representatives. I should like further information from the Minister about this matter.

At the end of the day, many local authority members will take the view that if they are being asked to operate a policy which is completely in conflict with their own conscience, why should they put up with the holding of an election and with the day-to-day interference in their private life by electors coming to their door. I have been visited by electors and I know what it is all about. There are no Saturdays and Sundays off for local councillors. A councillor's house is a public house. A local authority member will ask why he should suffer this when the Government are taking such powers away from him and leaving councils bereft of authority, especially when dealing with housing, one of the most sensitive services in local authority administration. The Secretary of State will say, "I will dictate the rent and the rent rebate system. I will do this and that." The councils arrive at the conclusion, "What the devil are we here for at all? Is our journey necessary?"

These are the serious implications of the Bill. At this stage I am not concerned about scoring points. I am concerned about the future of local democracy, and that is what attracted me to participate in the debate.

If I were allowed to digress I could quote some of the most able persons in local government who will resign as soon as the new local government district councils are introduced. They refuse to give all their time to dealing with one function, housing and stair head rows. This is unattractive and nauseating. These individuals feel so sorely about it that now they are tempted to go at an earlier date as a result of the big stick tactics provided in the Bill. In spite of all the sacrifices of these individuals in serving the public and the molestation of their family life, in spite of the interruption of their leisure time and their endeavours towards personal advancement which they are sacrificing for the sake of the community, they are bound to take the view, "Why should we bother when the man from Whitehall knows best and will decide our laws, especially in the sphere of housing, rents, rebates and rates?"

I hope that the Government realise what they are doing. We must remember that they are saying in the Bill to thousands of tenants that they will now have to pay subsidies, rates and rent. In reply to one of my points last night, the Minister said that it was not fair to say that they were losing all subsidies. But I have a statement from the county treasurer showing the average income and expenditure for a house in Lanarkshire. The expenditure is £172, with an income of about £67 from rent, rates of £55 and Government subsidy £50. By 1977–78, the tenant will be paying the rent plus—I emphasise this—the Government subsidy of £50, plus the rates contribution of £55—a total of £172. This is what the Bill is about and this is what is being imposed upon tenants. Councillors are resisting and rejecting this. Instead of that particular authoritative cane being waved in front of their eyes when they are being told, "You must do it", the Minister should find a much more convenient, acceptable and British way of getting around a problem of this nature.

Would not the Minister, even at the last minute, get together with local authorities around a table to thrash it out and reach an understanding that Bills of this nature which affect local government should be introduced only after the most careful examination by representatives of local government.

Mr. Ewing

In debating this subject after the heat and passion that has been generated by this particular aspect of the Bill in Scotland, it is difficult to realise that we are debating it in this almost funereal atmosphere of the House of Commons. I am sure that if many of those who took part in public meetings and demonstrations in Scotland were here today they would find it difficult to recognise the subject we are discussing at present.

One thing ought to be said right away, and that is that local authorities are not saying at present, nor have they said in the past, that they will break the law. What local authorities are saying is that they will not implement the provisions of the Bill. There is a very substantial difference between breaking the law and refusing to implement the Bill.

The Secretary of State is responsible for the present confrontation between local authorities and the Scottish Office. The one thing that is certain, and about which local authorities have no choice is the fact that rents will rise. As my right hon. Friend rightly pointed out yesterday, the increase in revenue from rents in Scotland will amount to about £55 million in the first year alone. Local authorities have no choice about this aspect of the Bill. The Secretary of State may say in defence of this and the default powers which he seeks to take, and which we seek to amend, that he is introducing a rent rebate scheme. But this is a voluntary aspect of it. I do not want to take up valuable time in going into the arguments of take-up of social security benefits and so on, but those of us with experience in these matters know only too well that when a person has to apply for a rent rebate or any social security benefit, he is very reluctant to do so.

Without a shadow of doubt rents will rise. The Secretary of State cannot and will not dispute that. However, there is some division of opinion as to whether the global sum given in subsidy will rise or fall. Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends accept that, because of the carrot that was dangled out with the housing submissions before 1st December, 1971, there will be an increase not in the first four years but in the first two years, and that local authorities will gain some advantage—but only in the first two years. Even the Secretary of State should realise that no local authority plans its housing need for only two years ahead. So when the Secretary of State says in these default powers that he will take over the housing administration of a local authority if it is in default of the Bill, he should be more specific. He should make clear exactly what powers the Secretary of State will take over. For instance, will he take over the repairs element in housing administration, or the letter or re-letting policy? Will he take over the planning of future needs and planning house building? Exactly what will the Secretary of State take over if local authorities find themselves in default of the Bill?

My remarks will be brief. It is nauseating to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have been accused from time to time of inspiring local authorities to defy the Government that still fresh in our memories are the tactics employed by Conservative Members of Parliament in Scotland on the question of the General Teaching Council and the selective schools in Edinburgh before the General Election when, on the advice of Conservative Members of Parliament, those teachers and the Edinburgh Corporation were advised to defy the Labour Government. Now we have a situation in which the present Government are holding themselves up as paragons of virtue saying that they ought not to be defied, even on this terrible legislation which is being introduced.

I do not agree with everything that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) but I agree with him that the mere fact that these default powers are in the Bill is a clear admission of failure, of an acceptance by the Secretary of State that neither the people of Scotland nor the local authorities which represent them are prepared to accept these iniquitous measures being introduced by the Bill.

I join with my right hon. and hon. Friends in an appeal to the Secretary of State, even at this late hour, to have second thoughts on the question of penal sanctions on local authorities which do not implement the Bill's provisions, and to adopt a more realistic and flexible attitude in order that some at least peaceful co-existence can prevail until such time as the electors of this country are not denied their right and can change the Government, thereby introducing a much more acceptable and realistic policy.

The hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) is my Member of Parliament and I remind him that it is important, in drawing comparisons between England and Scotland, to realise that the effect of these provisions on the people of Scotland is much greater than the effect of the Housing Finance Bill will have on the people of England and Wales. The simple explanation is that nearly 80 per cent, of houses in Scotland are local authority owned. That is why this Bill will have a much more far-reaching effect on the Scottish people than the Housing Finance Bill will have on the English and Welsh.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

I support the Amendment. I have not taken part in housing debates for a long time, but I was impelled to do so yesterday and feel impelled again to intervene now.

It is the grossest hypocrisy that the Government and this Minister should be introducing into this most class-ridden of Measures these default Clauses. It was the bare bones of this Administration before the last election which encouraged local authorities—one in particular—to try to defy the law and look for loop-holes in it in order to preserve the class structure of education. It is particularly insulting now to have these default powers threatening councils throughout Scotland.

The Secretary of State must no longer say, as he said earlier, that the subsidies are to be increased. He is positively oozing benevolence, yet no city or town treasurer agrees with him. The truth is that there is to be an increase not only in real terms but in terms of inflationary money values over the next three or four years—a temporary period. But in the long run the public expenditure in support of housing in Scotland is to be cut, and he knows it. That is precisely how these proposals were first presented—as a means of cutting public expenditure. He is either attempting to "con" us tonight or he was "conning" his own supporters two years ago.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Like the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter), the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that this would not keep pace with inflation. As I explained, the Financial Memorandum's estimates were made at current prices.

Mr. Buchan

That is rather what I am trying to say. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should tomorrow examine his words in HANSARD. That ignores the second part of the run down of the subsidies after that period.

Just as the Industrial Relations Act was not an Act dealing with industrial relations, so this Bill is not a housing Bill. It is a transference of wealth Bill. It transfers a burden to the private tenant, the council tenant, and the average owner-occupier in order to give a tax benefit to the small and already privileged and powerful wealthy group. That is the background against which the penal Clauses must be judged.

It is for this reason that we are seeing an unprecedented situation. The right hon. Gentleman should be aware of it and take it back to the Cabinet. In all the important sectors of political interest and conflict, the same thing is happening. We see the introduction of default powers, penal measures, the use of the law and, when no law exists, the creation of a law—as in the case of the National Industrial Relations Court—in order not to use the law as it has time honoured been, as an impartial arbiter of a healthy community, but as a means of securing victory in a political conflict which the Government themselves are provoking.

This is a very serious situation. All great movements in history have arisen from a simple combination of factors. This is when the people are no longer content to be ruled in the old way and the Government find they can no longer rule in the old way. The pressure from below by the one becomes intolerable to the ruling group at the top and they then have to use even more Draconian measures to preserve their privileged position. Hence these two penal Clauses. It is a serious situation. It is exemplified by the attitude of the respectable bailies and the councillors of Scotland. We used to say, "Once a bailie, always a bailie". These are the people who are leading the resistance. They have dedicated themselves to the health of their communities. They are the epitome of respectability, and they are the very people leading the movement against the Bill.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the Government's policies on the question of freedom. It is a curious word, freedom. Many sins are committed in its name—none so many as in the last two years. The Scottish Tory Party manifesto for the last General Election said: …we believe that the right of local authorities to decide what is best for their areas should remain. Nothing much of that remains after this Bill. The Prime Minister said: The most urgent reform of local government is to get the Government spanner out of the works. Under Labour there can never be real reform of local government for they will always seek to use their powers to bend the local authorities to their will. Who is bending whom to whose will now?

The Government have created a difficult and dangerous situation. We have seen it over the question of school milk. We are seeing it today, when a default order is being argued in the Court of Session against Glasgow City Council, which wishes to introduce comprehensive education, which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to prevent. We have seen it in the attack on trade union freedom. We see it now in this attack on local authority freedom. Today's hearing in the Court of Session is a dry run for the right hon. Gentleman to see whether he can get away with some Draconian measures on housing. The danger is not that he cannot bring all his powers to bear on the local authorities, although he has not told us what they are to be, but that he is like King Lear— …I will do such things— What they are yet I know not; but they shall be The terrors of the earth. King Lear told us but the right hon. Gentleman has not told us. The problem is that the law itself is being brought into contempt when it is used in this partisan way, and when the law is brought into contempt by its use in a partisan way the fabric of society itself is endangered. That will be the right hon. Gentleman's epitaph in Scotland as it will be the epitaph of the whole Government.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

We have listened, as always, to very thoughtful contributions from hon. Members on this side of the House and have even heard one from the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour), although his was notable in being mainly a criticism of the Secretary of State in terms of these penal Clauses.

I suppose that a reference to the Amendments is required now and again. We are seeking, obviously, to curtail the default powers contained in Clause 71. I do not want to say that I am glad to see the Secretary of State here, but he could not be any worse than the Under-Secretary of State in Committee. We got no indication from the Under-Secretary of State about the circumstances in which the default powers, amended or un-amended, might or might not be used. Having regard to the English situation, I hope this might encourage the Secretary of State to be as bold and forthcoming in spelling out what he sees might happen if local authorities fail in any of their responsibilities under the Bill.

My hon. Friends have explained why the local authorities are so incensed by the Bill. It is true that this is linked with many other matters. The right hon. Gentleman would be failing in his duty if he did not recognise that. I pay tribute to the work done by civil servants in preparing what might be a blue print for housing finance in accordance with Conservative ideology. It might almost be true to say that many of the officials in facing a practical problem have come up with realistic suggestions. But they are not the politicians. They are not the people who have to answer to the electors. They are not the people who have to answer local people questioning whether parliamentary democracy is effective. Therefore, it is not enough for the right hon. Gentleman merely to repeat a brief which says "We are not taking additional powers: these are old powers from this Act or the other." Everyone knows that a civil servant will look at the precedents and will tell a Minister "It is all right; you are not creating any new precedent." I hope we shall not get that case tonight because we are concerned not about where the powers have originated but about the fact that they were necessary in the old days to compel local authorities to carry out some of their functions.

These default powers were originally necessary because too many local authorities were still run by the landed aristocracy and were not prepared even to start building houses. That is the true history of the default powers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will enlarge at least his political and historical knowledge and recognise that we are not now dealing with that kind of situation. We are dealing here with all sorts of frustrations on the part of local authorities. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that Labour won the General Election in Scotland, although I am not arguing this on a nationalistic case. Does he realise the position in which he is putting honest, hardworking councillors? Constituents will come to them in future and complain that their rent is going too high. The councillors will say "I am sorry, but we have no power. This was done under the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, and the Government decide these things."

The obvious result will be an increase in the already too high level of cynicism among people who say "What the hell is the use of bothering about local government? Why should we even vote?" Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is one of the reasons already why only 30 per cent, of the electorate vote in local elections, in spite of the other arguments in the Wheatley Report? Does not the right hon. Gentleman mix with people? So many ordinary people just will not vote, whether it be Labour, National or Tory, because they are so cynical and uninterested in local government. The Bill will add to that situation. It is against this background that many local authorities—and this is a point which may be dangerous to make—may see that they can give expression to some of their frustrations, and they are not always looking in an entirely objective way at the provisions of the Bill. It is a human failing and it is understandable in the circumstances. Unless the Secretary of State recognises that fact, his reply to our questions will be nonsense.

7.30 p.m.

There was a reference in the Daily Record on 13th May to the Government's attitude to local authorities. The Daily Record seemed to be the only newspaper that referred to the speech by the Under-Secretary at the Unionist Party conference. It said: Scots Housing Minister George Younger said the Government would take a strong stand with local authorities who did not implement the new Rents Bill. There was nothing in his main speech, so I assume he referred to it in replying to the debate. This is not a hypothetical question. Suppose a local authority—Clydebank or Saltcoats—refuses to implement the Bill. What will the Secretary of State do? Some of the authorities think that they will merely pass a resolution telling the Secretary of State "We are not implementing that part of the Bill dealing with increases and rebates, but we will operate everything else." Does the Secretary of State make an order or appoint a commissioner or send in someone to do the job? What other housing functions, other than fixing rents and rebates, will he take over? Will a commission be appointed in the way the English Minister has said? Will he start doing the things which the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) is keen on, such as selling council houses? What other powers will the Secretary of State use? Which powers does he see himself using, and will he take over all the housing functions of the housing authorities?

We are entitled to some indication, because this is not a hypothetical situation. Local authorities, including Scottish local authorities, will be meeting in Sheffield on Saturday. Labour-controlled authorities in Scotland still have to make up their minds about this. I will not say that the Secretary of State is using the big stick if he explains to us what he thinks will happen. We are entitled to know what functions he will take over and in what circumstances councillors can be surcharged, perhaps ending up in gaol—if they do not have fathers like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller)—if they do not pay fines.

In the absence of any replies from the Under-Secretary in Committee, I hope that the Secretary of State will say something tonight.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

In introducing the Amendments the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) used extravagant language about the Bill. His description rendered the Bill unrecognisable. From the way he described it, it could hardly have been a Bill which is introducing a comprehensive rebate scheme for the first time in the history of housing in Scotland, including a scheme covering tenants in private accommodation—a proposal which has been very widely welcomed in Scotland.

From the hon. Member's description one would hardly recognise a Bill which is limiting the increase which can be made in the public sector rents on average to 50p per week per year. Many people working in housing matters, regardless of their politics, and especially social workers, have been advocating that the assistance from taxpayers and ratepayers should be related to the circumstances of the family and the individual and no longer to bricks and mortar. That is the reply I can give to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller), who asked what the Bill held for the people. The answer is that the Bill relates the assistance from the Government to the circumstances of the individual and the family for the first time. On my visits to housing association and other schemes in Glasgow before I became Secretary of State I heard social workers advocating strongly that this was something, above all, that a Government, no matter what Government, should do. It has now been done in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Kelvingrove spoke unusually extravagantly about my obeying my Whitehall masters. I think that was the term he used. But in the Bill we are removing especially the burden on the Scottish ratepayers who at present are paying 35 per cent. of the cost of council housing in Scotland. In England and Wales the equivalent amount is about 7 per cent. The estimates of the increase in the Exchequer contribution at current prices, and, therefore, making allowance for any inflation, is from about £55 millions at present to £70 millions to £75 millions in four years. The United Kingdom exchequer contribution is increasing, and in comparison to the English and Welsh position the burden on the Scottish ratepayer is being reduced. Surely the hon. Gentleman cannot try to continue with his accusation that this is something which is being done at the instigation of Whitehall masters.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

On the 35 per cent. contribution of the ratepayers to the housing revenue accounts will the right hon. Gentleman indicate how many council tenants pay into the 35 per cent. rate contribution.

Mr. Campbell

I intended coming to that later. Council tenants are ratepayers just like other people. When they pay what they call "the rent" they do not realise that they are paying rates as well, because the two go together. Therefore, with other ratepayers in Scotland they will benefit from the easing of this burden, which is estimated to amount to £20 million in four years' time.

The hon. Member for Kelvingrove spoke about slums and the need for slum clearance in Glasgow, and I agree with him. But the Bill provides for a new subsidy for slum clearance for the first time, and we expect that this will accelerate the clearance of slums.

Dr. Miller

If the Bill does everything that the right hon. Gentleman says it does, why does it meet with universal dis- approval from the Labour-controlled local authorities in Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

That is a very easy one. It may met with disapproval from the Labour groups in the local authorities but that is largely because of the extraordinary propaganda put out by Labour Members. We heard it this afternoon. Listening to it, one could not have recognised that it was describing the Bill. I did not recognise it as describing any Bill I have introduced. Hon. Members on the Opposition side seem completely deceived by their own propaganda and are overlooking what is contained in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) pointed out that there were difficult circumstances in different parts of Scotland. We referred to this at Question Time the other day. Although there are lists of applicants for houses in parts of Scotland there are also large numbers of council houses which are empty. There are also complaints about large estates with very few amenities, and I do not need to expand on that.

These are some of the problems involved in getting the sort of housing that is needed in the places where it is needed. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) mentioned ratepayers, and I have said that the ratepayers of Scotland will benefit. The tenants are ratepayers, too. He thought that the estimates in the Financial Memorandum would be wiped out by inflation. I have pointed out to him and to the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) that it is expressly stated that these are estimated at current prices. That is not, therefore, a valid criticism.

Mr. Baxter

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the full amount of subsidy, as indicated in the Financial Memorandum, will be paid irrespective of what else happens?

Mr. Campbell

I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman even further. These are the best estimates that can be made of what is expected to happen, but they are not limits or ceilings. Subsidy will be payable under the Bill to the extent that entitlement arises. If the need is greater, increased expenditure will reflect this.

Turning to Amendment No. 141, Clause 71 augments the default powers of the Secretary of State under Section 195 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1966. The Amendment would restrict the powers of the Secretary of State to take over the functions of the local authority to the powers contained in Parts II, III and IV of the Bill. These are very necessary reserve powers. We do not expect a situation of this kind to arise. This is a hypothetical situation, and we would regard it as most unlikely, despite some of the things that have been said tonight. When local authorities see what is in the Bill instead of listening to the version that we have heard this evening, they will realise how it will benefit the ratepayers. Authorities will surely think several times before depriving their tenants of the substantial benefits which the Bill will confer upon them and depriving private tenants of the benefits of allowances and depriving Scottish ratepayers of the benefits of the reduced rate fund contribution to the housing revenue account's deficit.

Mr. Gourlay

Surely we are no longer in a hypothetical situation, because a number of prominent Scottish local authorities, knowing the contents of the Bill, have already said that they are not prepared to implement that part of the Measure dealing with rent increases.

Mr. Campbell

I have read some reports of what has been said. This Bill is on Report here; it has yet to go to another place. It is a little early for any local authority to be making a decision.

Mr. Robert Hughes

If local authorities say to the Secretary of State "The minute this Bill leaves the House tonight we will not implement it. We regard the Secretary of State as being responsible for any rents", what is the position? Are they free from any prospect of surcharge?

Mr. Campbell

They will look at the Bill after it has been passed, after it has been to another place, and they will see that there are some default powers, as well as many benefits. That is the time for them to take decisions on this matter.

Mr. Dempsey

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the points that I have raised? Would he explain what the consequences of default will be for a local authority?

Mr. Campbell

Amendment No. 142 seeks to delete the new provision con- tained at paragraph (b) of the Clause, to the effect that as part of a default order made under Section 356 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, or as part of a supplementary order imposing a rents scheme under Section 195 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1966, or under an order rendering exercisable by himself the powers of the authority under the same section the Secretary of State may direct that specified requirements of the Bill shall be modified or cease to have effect.

This provision is essential. It will allow the Secretary of State to direct that, for the purpose of remedying the default, an authority should increase its rents by more than the maximum average rent increase prescribed by Clause 28 to obtain the target rent income which would have been achieved had the maximum average rent increase prescribed by Clause 28 been correctly charged over the required period.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

An added penalty.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Campbell

It is not. It means that if the local authority does not carry out something in the Bill it will not be at an advantage later over another local authority which has carried it out. Similarly, to recoup lost rent income it might be necessary to prescribe a higher limit than the 75p per week prescribed in Clause 30 for individual weekly rent increases.

Otherwise, without these provisions, it would be unfair between different authorities which correctly implemented the Bill and those which did not. We hope that this situation will not arise. Situations have arisen when Secretaries of State have had to serve default orders. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) served one in 1969. These are things which we hope happen only rarely in Scotland, but Governments of all political colours have had to have these reserve powers, hoping that they would not have to be used.

When the local authorities have realised what is in the Bill and how it will benefit them, as opposed to the version of the Bill which I have seen at times, then I feel it will be most unlikely that situations will be created in which these Clauses will need to be used.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) expressed regret that the Under-Secretary, in attempting to explain the default powers in Committee, had singularly failed to do so. He suggested that the Secretary of State could not possibly be as bad.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I was wrong.

Mr. Younger

We knew that was coming.

Mr. Ross

Of course, because we know the right hon. Gentleman and we know his limitations. We are trying to be kind to him. Our Amendments are related purely and simply to the default powers of the Secretary of State. We have sought to find out what he will do in carrying out his duties and responsibilities under this legislation. He spent the first 11 minutes of his speech giving us a prelude to his Third Reading speech. This will be about the fourth time that we have heard that speech.

The right hon. Gentleman must accept responsibility for what he says. He was purporting to reply to the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). For 11 minutes, he strove to avoid what was relevant. He is learning quickly from his immature junior Minister. He tried to arrange matters so that only the four minutes of his speech remaining would be related to the substance of the debate. The right hon. Gentleman gave no indication of the functions that he intends shall be taken over. That is the first Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan asked the right hon. Gentleman directly whether it was intended to take over the letting functions of local authorities and the whole management of the housing revenue account. My hon. Friend asked whether the Government intended to sell off to private builders land that local authorities had already bought and whether it was intended to resort to the decanting of housing. What is the right hon. Gentleman's intention in taking the power to take over not only the function in respect of which the local authorities have failed to fulfil their statutory obligation in his view but the other functions as well? On my reading of the Clause, I think that the right hon. Gentleman could have accepted this Amendment without reducing his powers. Of course, this is not exactly the best-drafted Bill that I have seen coming from the Scottish Office. However, I will come to that later.

The right hon. Gentleman went out of his way to say that he intended to take over powers or functions, but he gave no indication of those in his mind. He said that the local authorities were misguided and ignorant and that they had been deluded by propaganda. Local authorities in Scotland have as good a civil service as the right hon. Gentleman has—

Mr. John Robertson

It is the same one.

Mr. Ross

I am talking about the municipal civil service—the town clerks, the treasurers, and the rest of it.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Why reorganise local government?

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman had better ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The fact is that not only has the right hon. Gentleman given little credit to the municipal civil service, but he knows quite well that he relies on it when he is preparing for this kind of legislation. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that Scotland's municipal civil servants have not been able to make their own estimates about the future of housing, rents and the effect of the Government's rebate scheme as against the existing rebate schemes? A survey was made recently in Glasgow of the effect on a certain number of people of the Government's rebate scheme as against the Glasgow scheme. Three to one are worse off. All these facts are known to the local authorities.

Behind this proposal is what the local authorities construe to be a breach of faith and the taking from them of the duty of determining rents which has been theirs since they first started building local authority houses. I can remember the time when we asked the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) to include in his powers of default the power to act against a local authority which was charging rents which were too high. The hon. Gentleman said that he could not do it, that local authorities fixed their own rents and that he did not want to interfere. That was on 15th March 1962.

The Government are prepared to be tough with local authorities, but they are not prepared to tell the country in what respects they intend to be tough. They should not forgot that when they deal with local authorities they are dealing with men and women who have given dedicated voluntary service to municipal government. They and their families have been in it for decades. They never got a penny. They never wanted a penny. They wanted to serve the public. As they seethe position, these default powers are unworthy of a Government who believe in democracy. The Government are telling local authorities what to do, and the local authorities are becoming the unthinking agents of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. No longer can they say what rents are to be. They have to apply the rents decided by the Government.

During all our discussions, there has been not a single movement on the part of the Government to accept any Amendment which seemed to challenge their figures. That is an indication of weakness. It is not an indication of strength. The Government are afraid that if they take out one brick the whole edifice will crumble. If that is their view, clearly this is a pretty bad Bill.

The Secretary of State said that it was hypothetical what local authorities would do. Then he said that it was unlikely to happen. Finally, he said almost despairingly that he hoped that it would not happen. The way that the right hon. Gentleman has conducted himself, through his Under-Secretary, has created a confrontation. The Government have not even accepted the powers that we offered them yesterday whereby they could take a side step to avoid a confrontation. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman would have been wise to take that power. I warned the Under-Secretary about this in Committee. He seemed to be listening seriously. He said that there were no new powers, that the Government would not use them, blah, blah, blah.

We had a very different speech from the English Minister about his attitude to English local authorities. Whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not, I am sure that he will be pushed from behind by his colleagues to take a big stick to those local authorities which have not Tory majorities. What about the electors? They do not return Tories when it comes to general elections. This is the great weakness of the Secretary of State. He cannot speak for the people of Scotland.

Mr. Galbraith

He can speak for justice.

Mr. Ross

He can speak only for what he thinks is justice.

Mr. Galbraith

And for what we think is justice.

Mr. Ross

I shall quote later some of the words of the hon. Member for Hill-head. I hope that he stands by what he says. He despises people who live in local authority houses. It was he who called them second-class citizens. That is the hon. Gentleman's view about the people of Scotland.

This is behind the whole idea that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are putting forward. But I must warn them that they are moving towards the most serious confrontation that we have seen in local government in the past 50 years. The responsibility will rest entirely upon the Government. If they have failed to convince local authorities that this is a wonderful Bill, the responsibility is theirs. They have the Press, television and radio at their disposal. The trouble is that they have not got a case. The knowledge of the problem arises mainly among those working in the field

I am sorry that the Secretary of State has failed to make his intentions clear. As Secretary of State he has a responsibility to see that his Bill works. If a local authority tells him that it does not intend to break the law but that it is not implementing the Bill and that it is its own responsibility, the right hon. Gentleman should tell the House what he intends to do and how quickly he intends to do it.

The right hon. Gentleman and his Under-Secretary have opposing views, The Secretary of State said that the Bill was not law, that we were only on Report, that it was not yet through the House of Lords, and that only after that could decisions be taken. However, the Under-Secretary was telling local authorities that they should be preparing now and that they should be raising rents in the month of May of this year. We want to know what preparations the Secretary of State has made. A prudent Secretary of State faced with this situation ought to know what he is doing. He should have made

his preparations. He has given no indication of them. In view of that, I do not believe that this House should give him the additional default powers for which he asks.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 234, Noes 258.

Division No. 209.] AYES [8.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) McBride, Neil
Albu, Austen Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McCartney, Hugh
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Foley, Maurice McElhone, Frank
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Foot, Michael McGuire, Michael
Armstrong, Ernest Ford, Ben Mackenzie, Gregor
Ashley, Jack Forrester, John Maclennan, Robert
Ashton, Joe Fraser, John (Norwood) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Atkinson, Norman Freeson, Reginald Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Barnes, Michael Galpern, Sir Myer Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Gilbert, Dr. John Marks, Kenneth
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Marsden, F.
Baxter, William Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Grant, George (Morpeth) Mayhew, Christopher
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Meacher, Michael
Bidwell, Sydney Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Bishop, E. S. Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mendelson, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mikardo, Ian
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hamling, William Millan, Bruce
Booth, Albert Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hardy, Peter Milne, Edward
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Harper, Joseph Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morgan, Elystan (Cardinganshire)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hattersley, Roy Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Buchan, Norman Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hooson, Emlyn Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Horam, John Moyle, Roland
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Murray, Ronald King
Cant, R. B. Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Oakes, Gordon
Carmichael, Neil Huckfield, Leslie Ogden, Eric
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) O'Halloran, Michael
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hughes, Mark (Durham) O'Malley, Brian
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Oram, Bert
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Orbach, Maurice
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hunter, Adam Oswald, Thomas
Concannon, J. D. Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Conlan, Bernard Janner, Greville Padley, Walter
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Paget, R. T.
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena Palmer, Arthur
Crawshaw, Richard Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Pardoe, John
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard John, Brynmor Parker, John (Dagenham)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurie
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.) Pendry, Tom
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Pentland, Norman
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kaufman, Gerald Prescott, John
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kelley, Richard Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Deakins, Eric Kinnock, Neil Price, William (Rugby)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lambie, David Probert, Arthur
Dempsey, James Lamborn, Harry Rankin, John
Doig, Peter Lamond, James Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Dormand, J. D. Lawson, George Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Leadbitter, Ted Rhodes, Geoffrey
Driberg, Tom Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Richard, Ivor
Dunn, James A. Leonard, Dick Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Eadie, Alex Lestor, Miss Joan Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Robertson, John (Paisley)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lipton, Marcus Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Ellis, Tom Loughlin, Charles Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
English, Michael Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Roper, John
Evans, Fred Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rose, Paul B.
Ewing, Harry Mabon. Dr. J. Dickson Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Faulds, Andrew Rowlands, Edward
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Sandelson, Neville Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Wells, William (Walsall, N)
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Swain, Thomas White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Taverne, Dick Whitehead, Philip
Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff,W.) Whitlock, William
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Sillars, James Tinn, James Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Silverman, Julius Torney, Tom Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Skinner, Dennis Varley, Eric G. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Spearing, Nigel Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woof, Robert
Spriggs, Leslie Wallace, George
Steel, David Watkins, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stoddart, David (Swindon) Weitzman, David Mr. Walter Harrison and
Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Wellbeloved, James Mr. James Hamilton.
Strang, Gavin
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Knox, David
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fidler, Michael Lamont, Norman
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Lane, David
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Astor, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Atkins, Humphrey Fookes, Miss Janet Le Marchant, Spencer
Awdry, Daniel Fortescue, Tim Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Fowler, Norman Longden, Sir Gilbert
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Fox, Marcus Loveridge, John
Batsford, Brian Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Luce, R. N.
Beamish, Col, Sir Tufton Fry, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. MacArthur, Ian
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Gardner, Edward McLaren, Martin
Benyon, W. Gibson-Watt, David Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Biffen, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) McMaster, Stanley
Biggs-Davison, John Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McNair-Wilson, Michael
Blaker, Peter Goodhart, Philip McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester. S.W.) Goodhew, Victor Maddan, Martin
Body, Richard Gorst, John Madel, David
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil
Bossom, Sir Clive Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mather, Carol
Bowden, Andrew Green, Alan Maude, Angus
Braine, Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Bray, Ronald Gummer, J. Selwyn Mawby, Ray
Brewis, John Gurden, Harold Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hall, John (Wycombe) Miscampbell, Norman
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W.)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hannam, John (Exeter) Moate, Roger
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Molyneaux, James
Buck, Antony Haselhurst, Alan Money, Ernle
Bullus, Sir Eric Havers, Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie
Burden, F. A. Hawkins, Paul Monro, Hector
Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn) Hayhoe, Barney Montgomery, Fergus
Carlisle, Mark Hicks, Robert More, Jasper
Chapman, Sydney Higgins, Terence L. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hiley, Joseph Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Chichester-Clark, R. Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Morrison, Charles
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Holland, Philip Mudd, David
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Holt, Miss Mary Murton, Oscar
Clegg, Walter Hordern, Peter Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Cockeram, Eric Hornby, Richard Neave, Airey
Cooke, Robert Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Coombs, Derek Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Cooper, A. E. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Normanton, Tom
Cordle, John Hunt. John Nott, John
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hutchison, Michael Clark Onslow, Cranley
Cormack, Patrick Iremonger, T. L. Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Costain, A. P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Crouch, David James, David Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Crowder, F. P. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Parkinson, Cecil
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Percival, Ian
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Jessel, Toby Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Dean, Paul Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pink, R. Bonner
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kaberry, Sir Donald Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Price, David (Eastleigh)
Dykes, Hugh Kilfedder, James Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kimball, Marcus Proudfoot, Wilfred
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Emery, Peter King, Tom (Bridgwater) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Eyre, Reginald Kinsey, J. R. Raison, Timothy
Farr, John Knight, Mrs. Jill Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Fell, Anthony Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Redmond, Robert Stainton, Keith Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Stanbrook, Ivor Waddington, David
Rees, Peter (Dover) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh. W.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Ward, Dame Irene
Risdale, Julian Stokes, John Warren, Kenneth
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Weatherill, Bernard
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Sutcliffe, John Wells, John (Maidstone)
Rost, Peter Tapsell, Peter White, Roger (Gravdsend)
Russell, Sir Ronald Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart) Wiggin, Jerry
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wilkinson, John
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, Robert (Croydon. N.W.) Winterton, Nicholas
Sharples, Richard Tebbit, Norman Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Temple, John M. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Shelton, William (Clapham) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Woodnutt, Mark
Simeons, Charles Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Worsley, Marcus
Sinclair, Sir George Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Skeet, T. H. H. Tilney, John Younger, Hn. George
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Soref, Harold Trew, Peter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Speed, Keith Tugendhat, Christopher Mr. Michael Jopling and
Spence, John Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robert Mr. Hamish Gray.
Sproat, Iain van Straubenzee, W. R.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Eight o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) and the Orders [11th April and 6th June], to put forthwith the Questions on Amendments moved by a member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Eight o'clock.

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