HC Deb 05 April 1982 vol 21 cc715-21

`(1) The provisions of Part I of this Act shall cease to have effect at the expiration of one year from the date on which it comes into force unless extended by order of the Secretary of State made by statutory instrument

(2) No statutory instrument containing such an order shall take effect until it has been approved by resolution of the House of Commons.'.—[Mr. Oakes.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Widnes)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 2 is short and would simply limit the duration of part Ito 12 months from the date on which the legislation comes into force, giving the Government an opportunity to renew part I by statutory instrument approved by the affirmative procedure of the House.

There are three principal reasons why the Opposition want to discuss the new clause in the House. First, the Secretary of State himself, the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services and the Under-Secretaries of State have repeatedly, on Second Reading and throughout the Committee stage, referred to this as an interim measure. The Opposition believe that if it is to be enacted at all, it should be enacted as interim legislation. At the penultimate sitting of the Committee, the Minister made it clear at that late stage that the Government intended to operate clauses 1 and 2 retrospectively. Because of that, the Opposition wanted the House to have the opportunity to debate what the Committee did not have the opportunity to debate as a result of that extremely late intervention by the Minister.

5.15 pm.

Ministers have continually said that this is interim legislation. It is detested by all local authority associations. They would be mollified a little if they knew that the Government would treat the legislation as being an interim measure.

Our second reason might interest Conservative Members, if they were here in sufficient numbers to be interested. They often express concern about reform of the rating procedure, on which the Government introduced a Green Paper. The final date for representations to be made on the Green Paper was 31 March this year. The Minister—indeed, all Ministers—continually tell the country that they intend to act on the rating system. If they intend to do something, why are they introducing this measure as primary legislation for all time? Our new clause will strengthen the arm of those who want something done about the rating system, as it will give the Government only 12 months to operate the Act—by which time, presumably, they will have done something about the Green Paper and put proposals before the House to deal with the reform of the rating system.

Thirdly, throughout the Committee stage we were presented with a kaleidoscope. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) has left the Chamber, as the matter is apposite to Bedfordshire. Matters changed from week to week, and the Government changed the Bill from week to week. The issue of Bedfordshire is apposite to clauses 1 and 2. We believe that it is wrong for the Government to have introduced retrospection in primary legislation, which is intended to remain for all time. Were the legislation intended to be interim, we could understand that, but the House should not allow the Government to introduce retrospection in primary legislation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) will speak about clause 4 and part II which are intimately connected with part I. During the weekend, we witnessed an international shambles created by the Government. Members of the Committee were not surprised, as a permanent shambles was presented to us by the Government. We understand that there is likely to be a major change to clause 4, which in itself was a major change to the original Bill, which in turn was a change to the Local Government Finance (No. 1) Bill. In such circumstances, it is wrong for the House to pass part I as primary legislation. The Government should at least partly rectify the position by saying that this is interim legislation, that it is for only one year and that the House will have the opportunity annually to review it.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich, East)

I rise briefly to support the new clause. As the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) has said, we are here stepping into very dangerous and uncertain waters. I certainly do not wish to explore the Bedfordshire case at this point, but it highlights the fact that unanticipated events have occurred even during the passage of the Bill. If it can happen in Bedfordshire, it can happen elsewhere and it is clear that other problems may crop up that even the Government have not anticipated or expected. In that situation, it seems sensible to review the application of part I annually.

The right hon. Member for Widnes referred to the situation as a kaleidoscope. That is a colourful term, but I should have thought that the present situation for local government was more like a switchback, with considerable ups and downs and some very nasty turns and bends, not to mention jolts, for some local authorities. It would therefore be sensible for Parliament to review this major change. The removal of the right to levy supplementary rates, which has existed for many years, is a major and extremely important change that should not be lightly made, and it is right that it should be reviewed annually. I therefore support the new clause

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

It seems to me that in Committee we covered, if not exactly this ground, at least very similar ground, as well as what I might describe as allied ground. In other words, the new clause represents yet another attempt by the Opposition to prevent the Government from banning supplementary rates.

This is in no way a temporary expedient. Reference has been made to the comments on Second Reading of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services. I see no contradiction whatever between the two statements. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said: In all it is an important measure to carry us forward to the next stage which will follow the consultation we have now begun on the reform of local government finance itself."—[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 58.] It is in that context that we must see the total ban that the Government intend to impose on supplementary rates.

I assure the House that this measure is not intended to avoid the need for the fundamental reform of the domestic rating system to which we are committed. As the House knows, consultation on this finished at the end of last month. We must now consider the results of that consultation. The ban on supplementary rates and precepts is an interim measure, at least in the domestic sector, pending our proposals for the reform of the domestic rating system. In the commercial and industrial sector, in which rates may well remain for the foreseeable future, the ban is likely to continue.

I think that I have explained to the House why we oppose some of the arguments advanced in favour of the new clause in relation to our proposals for rating reform.

The real reason behind our banning of supplementary rates was stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on Second Reading, when he said: What the House clearly has to face, and what is at the centre of the controversy about so much of local government today, is that parts of local government are determined to scrap the traditional relationship between central Government and local government whereby local government recognised and accepted the right of central Government to set the level of local expenditure."—[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 49.] Last year, a situation developed in which 30 local authorities levied supplementary rates. That was something of a novelty, and the Government are not prepared to allow it to continue.

In further justification of our decision to abolish supplementary rates, I must point out yet again that they have never been allowed in Scotland. We have come to the conclusion that ratepayers in England and Wales have the right to seek the protection of the Government from the depredations of irresponsible local authorities, as large numbers of ratepayers have done in the past six months. Our objective in banning supplementary rates and precepts is to give ratepayers that protection and to prevent hasty and ill-considered increases in spending after the financial year has begun and both domestic and non-domestic ratepayers have made their financial plans for the year.

I repeat that there is nothing temporary about the measure that we propose to abolish supplementary rates. Therefore, I must ask the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Oakes

All that the Minister has really said in reply is that in the vocabulary of Her Majesty's Ministers "interim" means "permanent" and "permanent" may mean "interim". In the words of a famous comedian, there is no answer to that. There is no point in debating the matter further. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House on the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 262.

Division No. 118] [5.25 pm
Abse, Leo Cohen, Stanley
Adams,Allen Coleman,Donald
Allaun, Frank Conlan,Bernard
Alton,David Cook, Robin F.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cowans, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Ashton,Joe Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M' hill)
Atkinson,N, (H' gey,) Crowther,Stan
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Cryer, Bob
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cunliffe,Lawrence
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Cunningham, DrJ.(W'h'n)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dalyell, Tam
Bidwell,Sydney Davidson,Arthur
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Bottomley, Rt HonA.(M'b'ro) Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)
Bradley, Tom Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Deakins,Eric
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Brown, R. C. (N' castle W) Dewar,Donald
Brown, Ronald W. (H' ckn 'yS) Dixon,Donald
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dobson,Frank
Buchan,Norman Dormand,Jack
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Douglas,Dick
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't 'n& P) Dubs,Alfred
Campbell,Ian Dunn, James A.
Campbell-Savours,Dale Dunnett,Jack
Canavan,Dennis Dunwoody, Hon MrsG.
Carmichael,Neil Eadie,Alex
Cartwright,John Eastham, Ken
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stolS) Edwards, R. (W'hampt'nS E)
Ellis, H.(NE D'bysh're) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
English,Michael O'Halloran,Michael
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Neill,Martin
Evans, John (Newton) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Faulds,Andrew Park,George
Field,Frank Parker,john
Flannery,Martin Parry,Robert
Fletcher,Ted (Darlington) Pendry,Tom
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Penhaligon,David
Ford,Ben Pitt,WilliamHenry
Forrester,John Powell,Raymond(Ogmore)
Foster,Derek Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Foulkes,George Race, Reg
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Radice,Giles
Freeson,Rt Hon Reginald Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Garrett, John (NorwichS) Richardson,Jo
George,Bruce Roberts,Albert(Normanton)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Roberts,Allan(Bootle)
Ginsburg,David Roberts, Ernest (HackneyN)
Golding,John Roberts,Gwilym(Cannock)
Graham, Ted Robertson,George
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Robinson, G. (CoventryNW)
Hamilton,James (Bothwell) Rooker, J. W.
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Harrison, RtHon Walter Rowlands,Ted
Haynes, Frank Sandelson,Neville
Heffer, Eric S. Sever, John
Homewood,William Sheerman,Barry
Hooley,Frank Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Howell, Rt Hon D. Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Howells,Geraint Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Hoyle,Douglas Silverman,Julius
Huckfield,Les Skinner,Dennis
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Snape, Peter
Janner,HonGreville Soley,Clive
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Spearing,Nigel
John,Brynmor Spriggs,Leslie
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Stallard, A. W.
Johnston,Russell (Inverness) Stoddart,David
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Stott,Roger
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Strang, Gavin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Straw,Jack
Kilfedder, JamesA. Summerskill,HonDrShirley
Kilroy-Silk,Robert Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Lamborn,Harry Thomas, DrR.(Carmarthen)
Leadbitter,Ted Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
Leighton,Ronald Tilley,John
Lestor, MissJoan Tinn, James
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW) Torney,Tom
Litherland,Robert Varley, RtHon Eric G.
Lofthouse,Geoffrey Wainwright,E. (DearneV)
Lyon,Alexander(York) Wainwright,R.(ColneV)
McCartney,Hugh Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
McDonald,DrOonagh Watkins,David
McKelvey,William Weetch,Ken
MacKenzie, RtHonGregor Wellbeloved,James
McNamara,Kevin Welsh,Michael
McTaggart,Robert White, Frank R.
McWilliam,John White, J. (G'gowPollok)
Magee, Bryan Whitehead,Phillip
Marks,Kenneth Whitlock,William
Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS) Willey,RtHon Frederick
Maynard, Miss Joan Williams, Rt Hon K(S'sea W)
Meacher, Michael Wilson,William (C'trySE)
Mellish,Rt Hon Robert Winnick,David
Mikardo,Ian Woodall,Alec
Millan,RtHonBruce Woolmer,Kenneth
Miller, DrM.S. (E Kilbride) Wright,Sheila
Mitchell,Austin (Grimsby) Young, David (Bolton E)
Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Tellers for the Ayes:
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Mr. Allen McKay and Mr. George Morton.
Newens, Stanley
Adley,Robert Ancram,Michael
Aitken,Jonathan Arnold, Tom
Alexander,Richard Aspinwall,Jack
Alison,Rt Hon Michael Atkins,Robert(PrestonN)
Atkinson,David(B'm'th,E) Gorst,John
Baker,Kenneth(St.M'bone,) Gow, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Grant, Anthony (HarrowC)
Banks,Robert Gray, Hamish
Bendall,Vivian Greenway, Harry
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Griffiths,E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Berry,HonAnthony Griffiths,Peter Portsm'thN
Best, Keith Grist, Ian
Bevan, DavidGilroy Gummer,JohnSelwyn
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hamilton, Hon A.
Biggs-Davison,SirJohn Hamilton,Michael(Salisbury)
Blackburn,John Hampson, DrKeith
Blaker,Peter Hannam,John
Body,Richard Haselhurst,Alan
Bonsor,SirNicholas Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Hawksley,Warren
Bowden,Andrew Hayhoe,Barney
Boyson,Dr Rhodes Heddle,John
Braine,SirBernard Henderson,Barry
Bright,Graham Hicks,Robert
Brinton,Tim Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Brittan,Rt.Hon.Leon Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Brotherton,Michael Holland,Philip(Carlton)
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Hooson, Tom
Browne, John (Winchester) Hordern,Peter
Bruce-Gardyne,John Howe, Rt Hon SirGeoffrey
Bryan,Sir Paul Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk)
Buck,Antony Hunt,David (Wirral)
Budgen,Nick Hunt,John(Ravensbourne)
Burden,SirFrederick Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Butcher,John Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Cadbury,Jocelyn Jessel, Toby
Carlisle, John (Luton West) JohnsonSmith,Geoffrey
Carlisle,Kenneth(Lincoln) Jopling,Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Chalker,Mrs.Lynda Kellett-Bowman,MrsElaine
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Kershaw,SirAnthony
Chapman,Sydney Kimball,SirMarcus
Clark, Hon A. (Plym 'th, S'n) King, Rt Hon Tom
Clark, Sir W. (CroydonS) Kitson,SirTimothy
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Knight, MrsJill
Clegg,SirWalter Knox,David
Cockeram,Eric Lamont,Norman
Colvin,Michael Lang,Ian
Cope,John Latham,Michael
Cormack,Patrick Lawrence, Ivan
Costain,SirAlbert Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Cranborne,Viscount Lee, John
Critchley,Julian LeMarchant,Spencer
Crouch,David Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Dickens,Geoffrey Lewis,Kenneth(Rutland)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lloyd, Ian (Havant& W'loo)
Dunn,Robert(Dartford) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Durant, Tony Loveridge,John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lyell,Nicholas
Eggar, Tim McCrindle,Robert
Elliott,SirWilliam McCusker,H.
Emery, Sir Peter Macfarlane,Neil
Fairbairn,Nicholas MacGregor,John
Fairgrieve,SirRussell MacKay, John (Argyll)
Farr,John Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fell, Sir Anthony McNair-Wilson,M. (N'bury)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)
Finsberg,Geoffrey Madel,David
Fletcher,A.(Ed'nb'gh N) Major,John
Fletcher-Cooke,SirCharles Marlow,Antony
Fookes, Miss Janet Marshall,Michael(Arundel)
Forman,Nigel Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mates,Michael
Fox,Marcus Mather,Carol
Fry, Peter Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gardiner,George(Reigate) Mawby, Ray
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mayhew,Patrick
Glyn,DrAlan Mellor,David
Goodhart,SirPhilip Meyer,SirAnthony
Goodhew,SirVictor Miller,Hal(B'grove)
Goodlad,Alastair Mills,Iain(Meriden)
Mills, Peter (West Devon) Shepherd,Richard
Moate,Roger Shersby,Michael
Monro,SirHector Silvester,Fred
Montgomery,Fergus Sims,Roger
Moore,John Skeet, T. H. H.
Morgan,Geraint Speed,Keith
Morris, M. (N'hamptonS) Speller,Tony
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Mudd,David Sproat,Iain
Murphy,Christopher Stevens,Martin
Myles, David Stewart,A.(E Renfrewshire)
Needham,Richard Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Nelson,Anthony Stokes,John
Neubert,Michael Stradling Thomas,J.
Newton, Tony Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Onslow,Cranley Temple-Morris,Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Thompson,Donald
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Thorne, Neil (IlfordSouth)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Thornton,Malcolm
Parris,Matthew Townend,John (Bridlington)
Patten,Christopher(Bath) Townsend,CyrilD,(B'heath)
Patten, John (Oxford) Trippier,David
Pattie,Geoffrey Trotter,Neville
Pawsey, James van Straubenzee, SirW.
Percival,Sir Ian Viggers,Peter
Peyton, Rt Hon John Waddington,David
Pink, R.Bonner Wakeham,John
Porter,Barry Walker, B. (Perth)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Prior, Rt Hon James Waller,Gary
Proctor, K. Harvey Ward,John
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Warren,Kenneth
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Watson,John
Rathbone,Tim Wells,Bowen
Rhodes James, Robert Wells,John(Maidstone)
Ridley,HonNicholas Wheeler,John
Rifkind,Malcolm Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Whitney,Raymond
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Wickenden,Keith
Rossi,Hugh Wiggin,Jerry
Rost, Peter Wilkinson,John
Royle, Sir Anthony Williams,D. (Montgomery)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wolfson,Mark
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Young,SirGeorge (Acton)
Scott,Nicholas Younger, Rt Hon George
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Shaw,Michael (Scarborough) Tellers for the Noes:
Shelton,William (Streatham) Mr. Peter Brooke and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Shepherd,Colin (Hereford)

Question accordingly negatived.

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