HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc343-62 12.58 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

I beg to move, That the report on the Rate Support Grant Reduction (Stirling District) 1982–83, a copy of which was laid before this House on 5th July, be approved. I would like to start by reminding the House of the reason why it was necessary to take last year the powers to reduce the rate support grant payable to an individual authority and why we are having to use these powers again this year.

All Governments have taken steps to control local authority expenditure. There may be disagreement about the way in which that is to be done, but the general principle has been accepted and acted upon by successive Administrations, including the Labour Government. When this Government took office we inherited a situation where local authority expenditure was at a high level and was increasing. That had serious implications for the national economy. The Secretary of State's first action was therefore to urge local authorities to reduce their expenditure, both to protect their ratepayers from excessive rate burdens and to reduce the overall level of public expenditure in the national economic interest.

Some authorities made efforts from the start to comply, but unfortunately a few continued to budget for a high and increasing level of spending. Both in 1981 and in this year a small number of Scottish local authorities accounted for a significant part of the excess of budgets over guidelines. This was the reason why the Secretary of State took powers last year in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act to allow him to reduce grant selectively when he was satisfied that an authority's budgeted expenditure was excessive and unreasonable. That meant that the Secretary of State was able to take action to prevent an authority from spending excessively instead of being limited in his action until the expenditure had taken place.

Selective action under the powers taken last year therefore has two merits. It acts before the expenditure has taken place and it concentrates on authorities that are principally responsible for the planned overspending. In 1981–82, as well as taking selective action, it was necessary for the Government to impose a general cut in rate support grant because the budgets of authorities as a whole were in excess of the Government's spending plans. The selective action reduced the amount of the general abatement. It is therefore in the interests of authorities as a whole that the Secretary of State should act in this way.

In 1981–82, Scottish local authorities budgeted to spend at 8.8 per cent. or £180 million, above the level estimated for rate support grant. This year, local authorities budgeted to spend 8 per cent. or £205 million, above the level implicit in the grant settlements.

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

Was that just Stirling?

Mr. Stewart

That was for all Scottish local authorities.

Mr. Foulkes

What is being done about the others, then?

Mr. Stewart

This year, as last year, some authorities budgeted both to spend well above the average excess and contributed significantly to the total. One of them was Stirling district council—the subject of the report before us tonight.

The Secretary of State, in his letter of 27 April to Stirling district council, which is contained in the report, sets out the information that has led him to the view that the authority's planned expenditure for 1982–83 is excessive and unreasonable. Stirling's excess is the highest for any district council in Scotland. Guidelines are, of course, not the only measure that the Secretary of State uses when reaching his view. However, it is worth noting that Stirling's excess is more than double the excess of any other district council in Scotland. In addition to the authority's guideline excess, the Secretary of State's letter contains information that shows that Stirling planned to spend significantly more per head of the population, not only than the average for all district councils—

Mr. Foulkes

Does it apply to Orkney?

Mr. Stewart

—but also considerably more than the average of closely comparable authorities. Perhaps hon. Members would like the figures. Stirling's planned expenditure per head was £75.6. The average for closely comparable authorities is £56.2. Stirling's rates at 44p in the pound are again significantly above the average for all district councils of 32p in the pound. The district has shown a steady increase in expenditure from 1978–79. Each year the guidelines have been exceeded to a greater degree.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

Perhaps the Minister would care to comment on the figures on page 4 of the Stirling district council's official response regarding its expenditure as compared with that of other district councils in Scotland. They would appear to show that Stirling's expenditure is reasonable when compared with other local authorities.

Mr. Stewart

The figures demonstrate no such thing. Stirling claimed that the authorities selected by the Secretary of State as comparable were not those that it would have chosen. The annex to the report shows, however, that even in relation to Stirling's own choice of comparators the excess is similarly very great.

Each year, the guidelines have been exceeded to a greater degree and cumulative growth in expenditure per head between 1978–79 and 1982–83 is 41.6 per cent. in real terms. This figure has to be compared with an average increase for all district councils in Scotland of 6.1 per cent. and for closely comparable authorities of 7.9 per cent. Even over the last year, between 1981–82 and 1982–83, Stirling's expenditure per head shows an increase of almost 20 per cent. in real terms.

Taking all those factors together, the Secretary of State was of the opinion that the council's planned expenditure for 1982–83 was excessive and unreasonable. He invited the council to make representations to him. The district council's representations are set out in its letter of 27 May 1982 which also appears in the report before the House. The points made in that letter were amplified in the course of a meeting between representatives of the district council and myself on 2 July and a record of that meeting, which has been agreed with the district council, has been placed in the Library.

In its representations, Stirling district council makes a number of points and I will make a few main comments on them. We accept that local democracy has an important part to play in our system of government. However, although local authorities are free to determine their own spending priorities, they must take into account the wider economic interest and the part that national democracy has to play. With local authority expenditure accounting for one-quarter of public expenditure, it is not reasonable to argue that local democracy justifies local government ignoring the requirements of the national economy for which national Government are democratically responsible to this House.

Stirling district council questioned the choice of authorities with which the Secretary of State had compared it. This perhaps relates to the point raised by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan).

Mr. Canavan

No, that was not my point.

Mr. Stewart

At any rate, it was a major point put forward by the district council. The comparator authorities were chosen by the Secretary of State on a systematic basis by choosing authorities whose rateable subjects relative to population and whose settlement pattern and level of multiple deprivation were most similar to those in Stirling. However, Stirling suggested an alternative list of comparators.

In the annex to the report hon. Members will find the equivalent information for Stirling's choice of comparators. The main additions made to the list of comparators are Aberdeen and Dundee districts, neither of which we regard as being closely comparable to Stirling. However, the average expenditure per head for Stirling's choice of comparator authorities, including Aberdeen and Dundee, is still well below its own planned expenditure per head. Similarly, the growth rate for this group is well below that of Stirling.

I met representatives of the council on 2 July. As I have said, a note of the meeting agreed with Stirling is available in the Library. At that meeting, the council amplified its formal representations as the note makes clear. I reported to the Secretary of State what the council had said. After careful consideration of the representations in the light of the discussion at the meeting, the Secretary of State remained satisfied that Stirling's estimated expenses for 1982–83 were excessive and unreasonable.

However, in the light of these representations and the fact that part of the financial year had already passed, the Secretary of State decided to reduce the proposed reduction in RSG from £1..5 million to £1.2 million. Accordingly, the report before the House proposes a grant reduction of that lower amount.

At my meeting with the council's representatives, they said that the council had not yet reached a decision on whether to reduce its rates. I very much hope that the council will give further consideration to the possibility of reducing its rates as it has the power to do under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. If it does this, it will return the savings made to its ratepayers instead of forfeiting them to the Exchequer. It has always seemed to me inexplicable that a council faced with a requirement, approved by the House of Commons, to reduce its expenditure, should choose to surrender that amount of rate support grant to the Exchequer rather than return it to its ratepayers. This, of course, is the reason why we have sought further powers in the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Bill this Session to ensure that in future any such savings cam be returned to the ratepayers by means of a reduction in the rates.

I hope that Stirling will follow the example of the Renfrew district council in my own constituency last year in agreeing to return money to its ratepayers—domestic, industrial and commercial.

If the House approves this report tonight, there would be an appropriate period before the Secretary of State notified the district council of the reduction in its grant. Within that period the council can exercise its choice to reduce its rates. The Secretary of State is under no obligation to modify or drop a proposal to reduce grant in the light of a reduction in the rate, but I can assure the House that he would consider carefully and sympathetically any such proposals made by Stirling.

Mr. Canavan

The hon. Gentleman would get a rate rebate.

Mr. Stewart

So, of course, will the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire.

Mr. Canavan

I would rather have improved services.

Mr. Stewart

However, I emphasise that while we are prepared to co-operate with the council if it genuinely intends to reduce its rates, we are not prepared to delay notification, because it is in the interests both of the ratepayers and the council that the savings which it has to make are implemented very soon to minimise unnecessary disruption in the council's activities.

The figures set out in this report, and in particular in the appendices to the Secretary of State's letter to the district council of 27 April, make it crystal clear why the Secretary of State is satisfied that Stirling district council's planned expenditure for 1982–83 is excessive and unreasonable. The figures provided in that letter admit of no other interpretation. The district council's representations do not produce any reasons why its expenditure should be regarded by the House as other than excessive and unreasonable. For these reasons, I ask the House to approve the report.

1.14 am
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

The House listened with some admiration to the Minister. He is trying harder and harder in his new office as the weeks go by and there were distinct signs of animation as he tramped his way through his script. There were blinks of an ersatz political philosophy. He clearly has an ambition to be remembered as the Edmund Burke of Newton Mearns when he talks about the inter-relation between local and national democracy.

We should make it clear that the hon. Gentleman is not regarded as the author of our present misfortunes. Alter all, he was not in charge when the present legislation under which the report is made went on to the statute book. Indeed, he was probably tramping loyally but uncomprehendingly through the Lobby, and he must now try to maintain a largely untenable position in the pitched battles that have pock-marked the political scene in Scotland over the last two years as a result of the changes in section 5 of the 1966 Act.

I and my hon. Friends deplore the way in which section 5 of that Act has been taken out, dusted down and improved—I use those words with some cynicism—and has appeared in our midst as a sort of instrument of oppression. One of the reasons why we object to its use on this occasion is that the consequence has been great damage to the relationship between central and local government, which has been exacerbated daily.

The House is entitled to ask about the Minister's sense of proportion. Yet again we are considering a report that causes much disillusion and bitterness. At the end of the day, the saving will be £1.2 million. In the totality of Scottish local government spending, the trouble and disruption to the system that the Minister is causing are out of all proportion to the benefits, even if one accepts the Tory view of local government finance and the level at which it should be set.

Although the figure is not large, it is of great significance to the small local authority that is the victim on this occasion. I do not suggest that what is happening here is petty and unimportant or a minor vendetta between the Government and Stirling district council. It illustrates important matters of principle, and it is of vital importance to the district council.

As the Secretary of State says in the letter attached to the papers, Stirling's rate support grant total this year is £2.5 million. The needs element is £1.7 million, and the cut will be £1.2 million. Therefore, we are eating away the majority of the needs element allocation and making a whopping hole in the total rate support grant available to the district council in 1982–83. All that comes on top of a massive cut of £700,000 in the previous year, and it is bound to have dramatic and drastic effects on the financing of Stirling district.

I know that some of my hon. Friends with a direct constituency interest hope to participate in the debate, but I have talked to two officials of Stirling district and they are worried that the council will have to postpone yet again, for the second year running, important developments of basic services that it believes are essential if it is to carry out its remit and provide the kind of services expected of a modern and progressive authority.

There is nothing essentially wicked about a plan to replace Stirling's library headquarters, which are inadequate and which do not meet even the most basic modern office requirements. There is nothing wrong with the appointment of a director of leisure and recreation. That appointment is presently in train, but I understand that it may have to be scrapped if the order is pushed to the ultimate by Ministers.

That illustrates the hypocrisy of what the Government are doing. I have spent much time in the last few months, as have many of my hon. Friends, serving on the Committee that has considered the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Bill, which will be reappearing in the House, probably for the last time, next week. That Bill implements the Stodart report, which says that district councils must become the sole authorities dealing with leisure and recreation and the only authorities involved in tourism.

Stirling is an area where leisure and recreation are of paramount importance. It is one of the main tourist centres in Scotland. When it does something as elementary as proposing to appoint a director in charge of these areas of responsibility, and tries to unfreeze the post of assistant recreation officer (tourism), which it could not fill last year, the Government have the brass neck to come to the House and ask us to authorise a measure that will deprive the council of the resources that will allow it to shoulder those responsibilities. There will be serious consequences for a work force of about 900 people who are directly employed by the district council. Whatever euphemism is used, whether it be "rationalisation" or "slimming down", there will be unemployment and jobs will be lost as a result of the cuts.

It is ridiculous and a desperate piece of brassneck that we should be asked to consider the report on the very day when the unemployment figures for Scotland have come out. We have in Scotland at the moment 348,000 people out of work. Even on the seasonally adjusted figures, we are spiralling over 300,000—an unprecendented situation.

I accept that Oppositions are prone to be tempted to go in for the politics of denunciation—we sometimes overstate our case—but, in the light of the unemployment figures that we have seen, when a measure, however minor and modest, will clearly increase the job losses in Scotland over the next year, we are entitled to protest about the way in which we are being asked to add to the dispiriting prospects for employment in central Scotland and in Stirling district.

There are a whole battery of objections, all of them compelling and valid and all of them sufficient in themselves, never mind taking them collectively, to lead the House to reject the report.

The Minister has prayed in aid the indicative guidelines which very often, when it suits him, he says are not really compulsory and do not mean very much but are merely a kind of aide memoire for local authorities. But very often the guidelines are the justification for the punitive and repressive action which has become a hallmark of this Administration.

What is wrong with the guidelines is that they are based upon a fraudulent strategy, and the Minister knows it. There are 65 local authorities in Scotland and, on the 1982–83 figures, only eight of them have met or bettered the Minister's guidelines. Only three are below the guidelines with any comfort at all, and their outturn figures may prove them to have been optimistic.

The Minister has used the oldest trick in the game. He has defined the guidelines on an impossible basis and then complained when people have failed to achieve the impossible. He has allowed himself the luxury of stalking round the political scene in Scotland, arbitrarily picking out the targets that he wants to hit and justifying them as he could justify hitting Bearsden or Sutherland or Shetland or Skye—or Argyll, for example, which is well over 50 per cent. above the guidelines—on the basis that they have failed to do what he manifestly knows that no local authority in Scotland can do. The House should treat the report with contempt, as it borders on organised fraud.

I have read one document today which has come into my possession. It is not a new document; the Minister will be very familiar with it. I found it illuminating and it is one that we can fairly pray in aid. It is a statement from the Lothian regional council on the subject of its difficulties, but it came from the Conservative-controlled Lothian regional council after the recent May elections. It says that the guidelines and other criteria used in assessing 'unreasonable and excessive spending' are seen by Lothian and the other major Scottish authorities as dauntingly severe. The present proposal to reduce the rate support grant to Lothian seems to be a particularly draconian product of the methodological system, and the sum specified … is inexplicably high and unmanageable'. That is the view of a Conservative-controlled council, rightly speaking on behalf of all the major authorities, irrespective of their political complexion. They are saying, in effect, that the Government are being "dauntingly severe", that their methodology is wrong, and that their results are "inexplicably high and unmanageable".

If I cannot convince the Minister that there is something fundamentally wrong with his approach, surely he will listen to his political allies in the Lothian regional council. We object to the arbitrary element that has been introduced. There is no consistency and no logic in the way in which the Minister has proceeded in these matters. The damage to the system has been compounded almost every day by his own actions. I hope that he will not take it as personal if I say to him that at times I think that what has been said by the Scottish Office in these matters has dripped with hypocrisy.

I shall take one current example. The first page of the report contains the following sentence: After careful consideration of representations in the light of the discussion at the meeting, the Secretary of State remains satisfied that Stirling's estimated expenses for 1982–83 are nevertheless excessive and unreasonable and is of the opinion that the needs element payable to stirling should be reduced. That at best is palapable window dressing. I can think of some rather more uncharitable things to say. The meeting took place on 2 July, which was a Friday. We are told that the representations that were made at the meeting were carefully considered. However, on Monday we have the report printed and in the Vote Office, including this poppycock about "careful consideration". I do not believe that any fair-minded person could believe that there was "careful consideration" and that the representations were properly approached in an open mind. It is self-evident that the decision had been taken and the report printed, including the nonsense and hypocrisy about "careful consideration". This does the Minister no credit and it brings discredit upon the machinery of government. We should not go in for this nonsense.

If the Minister tells me that the report was not printed beforehand and that it was not a fait accompli, we are entitled to ask how much was paid in overtime to the printers, who presumably on the Sunday after this "careful consideration" burnt the midnight oil to get the document ready for The Scotsman on Monday morning. I do not believe a word of it and the Minister has a great deal to answer for.

I am not here to defend everything that Stirling district council has done or has not done. I do not claim that if I had been a Stirling district councillor I would have voted for everything in the present budget and that the council's priorities would have been the same as mine. However, the general principle of local democracy is one of great importance and not something that we can ignore.

I return to the statement of the Conservative Lothian region. It states that there must be a relationship which is a partnership; and a partnership must be recognised as such by both sides. The council"— that is, its council but it goes for any council— is a democratically elected body responsible to its own electorate, which expects local priorities to be respected, and local needs to be treated with sensitivity. By implication it states as clearly and as plainly as it could that the partnership was one-sided and that there was no reciprocal trust on the part of central Government. It implied that sensitivity and respect for local priorities were not forthcoming from central Government. When Lothian region expressed those views it was right. It was reflecting views that are held across the board. That insensitivity and that jack-booted approach to what should be the preserve of local democracy has been shown in the report.

It is incredible that a Minister should say at this late stage in a Parliament, and with the air of one making a lordly concession, "I concede that local democracy has a part to play." I have no doubt that that will bring great relief to many who thought that the principle had been abandoned by the Government, but it should not be a last-minute grudging concession. Local government has an extremely important part to play. The central role of local authorities is to assess needs in their areas, to bear in mind the resources that are made available by central Government, which central Government have a right to vary, to decide what can be done by raising local resources to meet needs and to answer at the end of the day at the ballot box for what they have done. That is what "priorities" mean when Lothian region says that priorities have not been respected. That is what we mean when we talk about sensitivity and partnership.

For all the posing of the Minister, these fundamentals have been sacrificed to expediency and Treasury diktat. This mean report will have a devastating effect on the local authority and it represents a flaunting of all the principles that we believe to be important. Against that background we shall divide the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Mr. Michael Ancram.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There are three hon. Members who represent parts of Stirling district, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing), myself and the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), who is not even present. In other words, two Labour members and one Tory Member represent parts of Stirling district. The majority of Scottish Members, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are Labour Members. Cannot priority he given in the debate to Labour Members who have turned up and who represent Stirling℄

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not usurp the responsibility of the Chair to select speakers. There wi11 be plenty of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members to speak if speeches are relatively short.

1.31 am
Mr. Michael Ancram (Edinburgh, South)

I shall keep your strictures in mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to delay the House for long.

As usual, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has made a persuasive case. All the cases that he makes are logical in themselves. The only problem is that the logic that he presents starts so often from the wrong premise and the conclusion that he reaches is rarely accurate. That is precisely what has happened tonight. The hon. Gentleman, in his reference to the document produced by the Conservative group in Lothian region, said that the relationship between local government and central Government was a partnership. What he has failed to point out is that it is not a relationship in which local government asks and national Government gives.

If, because it is democratically elected, local government has a right to ask the national Government to treat it with certain respect, it also has an obligation to behave responsibly. The issue before the House is whether Stirling district has acted responsibly in terms of the expenditure that has been proposed. The criteria on which this is based is whether the expenditure is reasonable and not excessive. the hon. Member for Garscadden did not examine carefully the figures given by the Minister. The hon. Gentleman gave the impression that it would be impossible for Stirling to carry on in a civilised manner. He failed to mention that Stirling's expenditure is well beyond that of any comparable authority.

My hon. Friend the Minister gave the growth comparisons. He pointed out that the average growth for all district councils between 1978–79 and 1982–83 was 6.1 per cent. The average for Stirling was 41.6 per cent. He mentioned that this was much greater than the authorities put forward by Stirling for comparison. He failed to say that the growth comparisons put forward by Stirling over an equivalent period were of 9.6 per cent. and 41.6 per cent.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

There have been several references to comparable authorities. I have spent some considerable time in local government. I do not recognise the expression. Will the hon. Gentleman give his definition of a comparable authority? Will he state the names of the comparable authorities?

Mr. Ancram

The comparable authorities to which I am referring now are those provided by Stirling district itself. They include the districts of Dundee and Aberdeen neither of which would I think, be viewed by the House as low-spending authorities. Even those authorities, in a comparable period, had a growth expenditure amounting to only a quarter of that proposed by Stirling district. On that basis alone, it is possible for the House to see the extent to which Stirling is out of line with district councils across Scotland.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

Does my hon. Friend think that north-east Fife district might be comparable with Stirling district, a district under Conservative control, where the rates have increased by just one penny in two years?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because it underlines the point that I am making. I make the point—and I am rather surprised that it has not come from the mouth of the hon. Member for Garscadden and other Opposition Members—that Stirling district's rate increase this year was only 10 per cent. I am a ratepayer in Lothian region and I know what phrases such as "only 10 per cent. or 5 per cent." mean, when there have been two, three or four years of high rates before that. Last year Stirling district had a rate increase of about 122 per cent., and 10 per cent. on top of that is considerably more than higher rate increases in other areas.

The picture that is being drawn—I return to what the hon. Member for Garscadden said about a partnership—is that of an authority that is not accidentally exceeding the guidelines, but deliberately deciding, as Lothian region did last year under Labour control, to take on the Government to break the Government's economic policy. That is not the type of partnership to which the hon. Member for Garscadden referred. If that partnership is to exist it must be on the basis of co-operation between local and national Government.

Until Stirling can persuade me and other hon. Members on the Government Benches that that is what it is trying to achieve, I support the motion before the House. The hon. Member for Garscadden made a great point about the so-called concession made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. He said that the Secretary of State had reduced the amount of reduction for which he had originally asked. The Secretary of State has apparently accepted the arguments of the Lothian region Tories which were put forward in that document. We do not know that for a fact, but there is no motion before the House, dealing with Lothian and that leads me to believe that that is the case. If that is the case in Lothian, it is also true in Stirling regarding the reduction that has been made. It is not an arbitrary decision by the Secretary of State. He considered the matter after representations were made, and he has made a reduction.

I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that what we are doing tonight and what we are endeavouring to achieve by the legislation is, as he said, to protect ratepayers. That is vitally important because of the burden that has been placed on ratepayers in Scotland over the past few years. I hope that he will accept that on the Government Benches we do not see this as other than a temporary substitute for rate reform. In the end the Government will have to grasp the nettle of rate reform and change the inequitable system that exists, to provide equity for ratepayers in Scotland in the future.

1.37 am
Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth)

I know of no hon. Member who has done more damage to local government in Scotland than the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram). It is a great pity that he did not have the good sense to follow the example of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), and stay out of the debate and not seek to defend what is indefensible. The Minister treated a serious matter in the most flippant manner. The way in which he approached the subject leaves a great deal to be desired.

It is important that we trace the history of what we are discussing tonight. As the Minister rightly said, it is the second order affecting Stirling district council, which is the only authority in Scotland to have a second order reducing the rate support grant applied to it. The first order was for a £1 million reduction. It was subsequently reduced to £700,000 by £300,000 being restored in February of the financial year 1981–82.

The council's outturn expenditure figure for 1981–82 appears to be £5,085,000. I assume that that was acceptable to the Government, because they reinstated the £300,000. If my assumption is correct, we must look at the proposed expenditure of the district council for 1982–83—the year with which the order is concerned. The increase is not 46 per cent. more than the 1981–82 figure, but £900,000 more than last year's outturn figure.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John MacKay)

Almost £1 million.

Mr. Ewing

The Under-Secretary displays his academic knowledge. I accept that £900,000 is almost £1 million. The increase is almost the same as that of Argyll, which is the hon. Gentleman's constituency. We know that the Under-Secretary is good at sums.

The 46 per cent. that was mentioned is the excess over the Government's guidelines. The proposed expenditure of the district council is reckoned by the Secretary of State to be 46 per cent. over his guidelines. But those guidelines have never been accepted by COSLA. They have always been disputed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) rightly criticised the Minister for the way in which the whole matter has been handled. The history must be put on the record, so that the people of Stirling understand the unfair and underhand way in which the Government have dealt with the matter.

I have with me the minutes of a meeting that took place between COSLA and the Government, one of whose representatives was the Under-Secretary who opened the debate, on 23 April this year when the RSG settlement was discussed. When the Secretary of State was pressed about which local authorities had been selected for the sort of treatment that we are discussing in this debate he said that the matter was still under consideration and no decisions had been reached. That is clearly on the record in the minutes of that meeting.

That meeting was held on Friday 23 April. On Tuesday morning 27 April, only four days, including Saturday and Sunday—when no one in the Scottish Office is at work—after the Secretary of State had said that no decision had been made, Stirling district council received the letter telling it that its RSG was to be reduced by £1.5 million.

On 2 July, when the representatives of Stirling district council went to New St. Andrew's House to see the Minister, it was worse than my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden said. Early in the morning of Monday 5 July, the chief executive of the council received a telephone message—even before the Scottish Grand Committee met in the Assembly Hall that day—telling him that the order was being laid in the House of Commons that day. That was the consideration that was given to the representations of Stirling district council.

The Minister will do himself a great disservice if he seeks to argue that the reduction from £1.5 million to £1.2 million was the result of the persuasion or consideration that he is supposed to have given. Let me tell him why the amount was reduced to £1.2 million. It was reduced because someone in the Scottish Office discovered that the £1.5 million represented 60 per cent. of the total amount of rate support grant to be given to Stirling district council, when the Government were claiming that its proposed expenditure was 46 per cent. above the Secretary of State's guidelines. When it was discovered that the £1.5 million represented 60 per cent. of the rate support grant, the figure was reduced to £1.2 million which represents 46 per cent. of the rate support grant for that council. The Minister knew that he could not justify a 60 per cent. reduction and argue at the same time that Stirling district council would exceed his guidelines by 46 per cent.

What did the Minister do? He came to the House and said that he would reduce Stirling district council's rate support grant allocation by £1.2 million, which represents 46 per cent. That happens to be the same percentage by which the Government claim that the council has exceeded the guidelines.

It is important to put the matter on the record for the benefit of the people of Stirling. As its Member of Parliament, I know the unrest that is felt in the city about rates. They are an emotive issue. No one likes paying rates, however high or low they may be. I accept that the rate increase there last year was about 122 per cent., and last year's figures appear to be acceptable to the Government because they have done nothing further to them. Indeed, they reinstated £300,000 to the council in February this year.

This year's rate increase is 4p in the pound, or 10 per cent. The Government are saying that it will be acceptable if Stirling district council is prepared to return the £1.2 million to the ratepayers. Incidentally, £1.2 million represents not 4p in the pound, but 6p in the pound. So the Government are saying that Stirling district council should not have increased its rates, but should have reduced them by 2p in the pound, in spite of the fact that over the years it has been a traditionally low-spending authority.

It is also important to understand in money terms what this means to Stirling district council. As my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden rightly said, it is proposed to take the £1.2 million from the needs element of the rate support grant. That will leave Stirling district council with only £523,000 of needs element.

Whatever the Under-Secretary may say, that simply is not sufficient to meet the requirements of Stirling district council. I hope that he will justify the deduction of £l.2 million in a more constructive manner than when he introduced the order.

If the Under-Secretary finds that local authorities are having great difficulty in accepting what the Government say about negotiations and their sincerity, he only has himself to blame in view of my comments on the dates of the meetings and the way in which the whole matter has been handled.

The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary's predecessor, now the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in whose footsteps I hope that the Minister will not follow, have done a great deal of damage to the relationship between local government and central Government in Scotland. That will take a long time to repair.

The reduction in the rate support grant will have serious effects on Stirling district council. We are talking about a district that has been devastated by Government decisions. Stirling university has been subjected to savage cuts as a result of the Government's directive to the University Grants Committee. Cape Insulation, one of the biggest employers in Stirling, has reduced its workforce not because of any rate burden but because the Government abolished the direct grant for home insulation. John Player and Son Ltd. is closing down altogether. It went out of its way to say that that closure had nothing whatever to do with rates, but was the direct result of people's response to the health education programme in smoking less.

The Minister had better not tell us that all the closures and redundancies are the result of rates. It is now well known that in manufacturing industry the element of rates in the cost of the manufacturing industry is no more than 0.06 per cent. The biggest cost that manufacturing industry has to bear is the Government's interest charges and insurance surcharge.

Mr. John MacKay

What did the Labour Government do?

Mr. Ewing

The Under-Secretary with responsibility for health should not parrot what he hears other people say. The Labour Government introduced the insurance surcharge but the Government substantially increased it in the Budget 18 months ago. If Ministers do not know that, they should do some homework.

All the Government-imposed measures have had a much more serious effect on industry and commerce in Stirling than anything done by Stirling district council in relation to rates. Stirling district council will be the victim of the report tonight in a way that I am sure that the Minister does not comprehend.

The Minister made some play about comparatives. The comparatives that have been used are interesting. For example, Kyle and Carrick starts from a much higher spending base than Stirling district council started from or has ever been on. In 1978–79 it spent £64.5 per head of the population and in 1982–83 it proposes to spend £66.1 per head of the population. If one begins on a reasonably high spending base—I do not suggest that it is astronomically high—it is fairly easy to remain on it.

The Government have failed to take account of the fact that Stirling is traditionally a low spending authority. The Government appear to believe that a low spending authority will always be a low spending authority. The Government do not want to make any transitional arrangements for allowing a district council such as Stirling to move from a low spending base to a reasonable spending base to meet the needs of the community.

Services in the Stirling district need to be improved. About 13,000 out of the 29,000 people in the area live in St. Ninians. Recently a community centre was built there. Another community centre will not go ahead because of the Minister's decision. The first library outside the main library was built at St. Ninians. It was decided to extend that project to other areas of Stirling, but that will go by the board because of the Minister's decision.

Unemployment in Stirling is very high indeed. The figures for June show that in Stirling 4,104 people were unemployed, among whom were 921 young people.

I hope that the Minister will, for once, be sincere and say that he is still open to negotiation, even if the order is approved. Whether the Minister likes it or not, neither he nor the Secretary of State have given any consideration to the pleas of Stirling district council. The timing of the orders makes it impossible for such consideration to have been given. The dates involved make it impossible for the Minister to have considered the matter properly.

I hope that more consideration will be given to the pleas of Stirling district council so that its circumstances can be taken into account.

Rates are not popular. I have friends in every part of Stirling who are not content with the way that rates systems have developed, but that is not a sound argument for deceiving people into believing in an easy answer. Services have to be paid for. We shall never be able to pay for them under the proposed arrangements.

1.58 am
Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

I, too, am concerned about the relations between central Government and local government. I am equally concerned about the relations between local authorities. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said that Stirling is one of the main tourist areas of Scotland. I do not disagree, but Perth and Kinross also form a main tourist area.

Central Government bodies and regional authorities have to pay district rates and that is why, among many other reasons, central Government must take an interest in the level of rates. There is a knock-on effect on regional authorities, which can be substantial, when district authorities increase their rates.

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) suggested that there was no relationship between rates and employment. He used as a measure the percentage in manufacturing industry. Of course, I must cite the hon. Member for Garscadden. In tourism, rates for hotels and shops form a substantial part of the expenditure incurred by big employers. The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth said that Stirling district was a low-spending authority. I shall compare expendiure in Stirling district council with the average figure for district councils, and then with Perth and Kinross district. [Interruption.] The figures that I give will be in pounds per head of the population.

In 1978–79 Stirling district council's expenditure per head of the population was £53.4. The average figure for district councils was £48.8, but the figure for Perth and Kinross disrict was £42.5. In 1979–80, expenditure in Stirling district was £56.1, the average for district councils was £50.6 and Perth and Kinross achieved £44.

Mr. Tom Clarke


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Walker

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have given the figures, because they are all related and I may lose my thread if I stop now.[Interruption.] In 1980–81 Stirling district council had a figure of £62, the average for district councils was £50.7 and the figure for Perth and Kinoss—hon. Members should note—was £40.7. That was a reduction from the figure in 1979–80.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock)


Mr. Walker

I shall give way in a moment, but I wish to complete the figures. I am being interrupted because Opposition Members do not want to hear the figures. If they do not like the facts they make noises.

In 1981–82 the figure for Stirling district was £63.2, the average figure for district councils was £50.5, but the figure for Perth and Kinross district was £42.9. In 1982–83, the figure for Stirling district was £75.6, the average was £51.8 and the figure for Perth and Kinross district showed another reduction, this time to £42.7.

I shall draw the attention of hon. Members to the percentage change between 1978–79 and 1982–83. For Stirling district the figure is 41.6; for the average district council it is 6.1 per cent. and for Perth and Kinross it is 0.5. Between 1981–82 and 1982–83 the change is 19.6 per cent. for Stirling district council, 2.6 per cent. for the average district council and minus 0.5 per cent. for Perth and Kinross. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) if he will note that Perth and Kinross district council has clearly shown that in that period a district council can reduce its rates in some years. However, the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) said that Stirling was a noted low-spending authority.

Mr. Tom Clarke

So that the House can have a greater appreciation of the quality of life in Perth and Kinross, will the hon. Gentleman say what are the average rents in his district? Will he say what the grant in terms of the needs element is? What is the cost for the provost sending Christmas cards with his photograph to all his friends? Will he answer those questions so that we can have a full understanding of those matters?

Mr. Walker

If the provost of Perth can afford to send cards, yet the district authority can maintain a rates expenditure based on per head of population of the figure that I have given, that shows what can be done with prudent expenditure. With regard to council house rents in Perth, Perth has always pursued a policy of—

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that the debate was on the Stirling district report, not on the Perth and Kinross district council. The hon. Gentleman was making some comparisons earlier, but he is now talking entirely about Perth and Kinross and not about Stirling.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was replying to a question asked by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke). Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the debate is about Stirling.

Mr. Walker

I started my speech by talking about the relations between the Government and local government and between local authorities. I can show how the relations between local authorities are affected only if, by picking up points made by Opposition Members, I consider the suggestion that Stirling district is a low-spending authority. I thought that I would demonstrate what I judged a low-spending authority to be. I made the comparisons. That is a valid way to show why the Government suggested that there must be a reduction in the planned expenditure of Stirling district. Perth and Kinross is the adjacent authority. We are the authority next door. We have a great interest in what happens across the border.

Mr. Henderson

When my hon. Friend makes more comparisons, is he planning to draw attention to the fact that if certain local authorities grossly overspend in a wholly unreasonable way, there is less money in the pot for other local authorities that have taken great care of their ratepayers' money?

Mr. Walker

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. It saved me making the point that I was about to make.

I shall conclude by drawing attention to where the matter of the charge on the rates impinges on the problems of jobs and job creation. In Stirling district the rate poundage for 1981–82 will be 40p, but in Perth and Kinross it will be 12p. One does not have to be a mathematician to work out that that must be a colossal oncost on employers in hotels and shops, who provide substantial employment, as the hon. Member for Garscadden said, who knows all about tourism. Tourism is a big employer in Perth and Kinross and in Stirling. That is why more firms are now clamouring to come to Perth and Kinross and are leaving the high-spending authorities such as the Stirling district council. The Government are merely trying to help the ratepayers in Stirling district by ensuring first that there is lower expenditure and, second, with the co-operation of the local authority, that the reduction will be returned to the ratepayers.

2.9 am

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

There have been three speeches so far from the Tory Benches, one from a junior Minister who is just a mouthpiece of the Secretary of State, one from the chairman of the Tory Party who was hot even elected by the Tory Party in Scotland but was "elected" by the patronage of the Prime Minister in Downing Street, and the third from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, claim to represent either the people of Scotland or the people of Stirling district by election or by patronage, and thank heaven for that.

It is clear that, despite all of their protestations, the report represents a concerted campaign by the Tory Party in Scotland against a Labour controlled local authority. It is also an attack on the people of Stirling district. Last year, the Tory Secretary of State robbed Stirling district council of £700,0DO. The robbery is even greater this year as he plans to reduce the rate support grant by £1.2 million. None of them hay succeeded in justifying that reduction.

Last year, the Secretary of State tried to justify the reduction of rate support grant by saying that Stirling district council had imposed an abnormally high rate increase. That claim cannot be made this year. The increase is only about 10 per cent.—roughly the level of inflation. In money terms, the increase is 4 pence in the pound—the average for all district councils in Scotland. The Secretary of State's own statistics in appendix D give 14.3 per cent. as the percentage increase for all district councils and 14.7 per cent. for all local authorities in Scotland. Therefore, no one could argue that the percentage increase of the rate poundage is well above the Scottish average. It is well below that average. The rate poundage, even currently is by no means the highest in Scotland.

Mr. Ancram


Mr. Canavan

No, I shall not give way to anyone unless he can claim to represent the people of Stirling district.

The Secretary of State may argue that the rates in Scotland are generally too high. I admit that high rate increases are unpopular. It is interesting to note that even the present Government have failed to produce a constructive alternative to the rates. Perhaps they would be better if they turned their attention to that.

I draw attention to a report by Dr. Midwinter who is a lecturer in administration at the University of Strathclyde. He referred to central region in which Stirling district Lies. In conclusion he said: Central region is not an overspending authority in relative terms but has nevertheless incurred a substantial rate increase of 25 per cent. Central Government decisions were a major cause of those increases. II is time for a change of course.

Mr. Ancram


Mr. Canavan

I shall not give way. If the hon. Gentleman would stand for election in Stirling district, either at local or parliamentary level, I might give way to him. The chairman of the Tory Party in Scotland has had more than his fair share of the debate already.

The Minister has still not answered my point about the statistics on page four of Stirling district council's official reply. I shall leave him a few minutes at the end of my speech to answer that point. I understand that the source of that was the rating review and I should welcome his comments on that.

All local authorities are different. Stirling has a population of 80,000 which is spread over 800 square miles. Most of the area is rural and the district council has gone out of its way to try to develop tourism. In the light of the Stodart report and the increased expenditure that it recommended, it seems strange that the Government are putting more responsibility on the district council while robbing it of the funds to put those statutory responsibilities into effect.

The present district council, Labour-controlled since 1980, inherited a great deal of neglect and deficiency as a result of the miserable budgets of the previous Tory-controlled council. Some hon. Members may regard certain district council functions such as leisure and recreation services as in some way secondary or nonessential, but there is an increased demand for those services—not surprisingly, in view of the high unemployment, especially among young people in the area. It would be sheer madness for any hon. Member to regard those functions as peripheral activities.

Stirling district council certainly does not take that view. It helped to set up a district sports council, providing grants for it and for local voluntary organisations. It also tries to levy only a minimum charge for the use of facilities such as football fields. The swimming pool in Stirling town was opened before regionalisation and as a regular visitor I know what a tremendous asset it is to the local community. The number of staff is now smaller than it was when the pool was opened and sufficient staff cannot be employed for the new conditioning room—a type of gymnasium that was recently opened. With great regret, the charges have also had to be increased, although not by so much as the Tory Government would have liked. All this gives some idea of the difficulties that the council faces.

Reference has been made to libraries and to the fact that it is desirable that new library headquarters be established. The staffing of the Stirling library department is 14 per cent. below minimum standards. Essential requirements are for a stock editor and a children's library for one of the outlying areas. The planning department also pointed out in the submission given to the Minister at the meeting that extra staff are needed to provide for the development of tourism, recreation and access to the countryside. Moreover, although housing expenditure does not come directly into this matter, housing is still the most essential of all the district council's functions and it is indirectly related in that the rate fund contribution to the housing revenue account for the current year is less than last year, so if the cuts are applied they may indirectly affect rent levels.

What services would the Minister cut? Would he cut the children's library facilities in rural areas? Would he make the amateur football teams pay higher fees to play on a Saturday afternoon? Would he call for further decreases in the rate fund contribution to the housing revenue account, which would inevitably lead to higher rents? Which of those options does he wish to impose on the district council? [HON. MEMBERS: "All of them."]

Perhaps the Minister would prefer to cut jobs. At present, the district council is a major employer providing about 900 jobs in an area in which unemployment is already well over 4,000. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) referred to the relationship between rate levels and unemployment. Not long ago in an official parliamentary reply the Government stated that as a percentage of the costs of manufacturing industry rates accounted for 0.66 per cent.—less than 1 per cent.

The detrimental effects of Government policy on manufacturing industry and indeed on the service industries are far greater than any unfortunate effects of rate increases. I refer, for example, to the loss of development area status in the Stirling area. The impending loss of 500 jobs at the Player's factory is partly due to the taxation imposed by the Government.

The loss of jobs, the further loss of jobs and the loss to the University of Stirling's economy are due to the direct effect of the Government's cuts. Despite the protestations of Conservative hon. Members, I am forced to conclude that there is a political vendetta on the part of the Government against a Labour-controlled local authority. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] The hon. Gentleman says "rubbish", but although he may not know Stirling district very well the Secretary of State has one of his homes in Stirling district. It may be that at all these Tory tea parties and cocktail parties the local Tories lobby the Secretary of State and say "What about it, George? Get the boot in to these local lefties". That is what is happening. It is a conspiracy between the Secretary of State and the local Tory establishment to put the boot into the local Labour councillors and the people that they represent. It is noticeable that the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has not bothered to be here tonight. Having failed to win his case in the Seychelles he now fails to defend the excellent case of his constituents in places like Aberfoyle, Callendar and Dunblane.

The Secretary of State is using his traditional jackboot dictatorial tactics to destroy local democracy.

The consultations have been an absolute farce. As my hon. Friends pointed out, a so-called consultation meeting was held with the district council on Friday, but the order was tabled on Monday morning. The Government must be honest. The Secretary of State's mind was made up before the meeting was held.

What is at stake is much bigger than the £1.2 million. It cannot be measured in money terms. Money cannot buy the important principle of local democracy that is at stake. Conservative hon. Members sneer at overspending by local authorities, but local government has a far better record of accountability on expenditure than has central Government. At the end of the day it is up to the electorate. Adequate opportunity is given to the electorate to decide whether a council has been reckless or has spent excessively or unreasonably. The Secretary of State is undermining local democracy when he seeks to intervene in local decision-making.

The Stirling district councillors have a mandate from the local people. The Secretary of State for Scotland does not. Indeed, the Secretary of State has no mandate from the people of Scotland. He is behaving like the son of a medieval viscount, riding roughshod over the wishes of the people of Scotland, and in particular the people of Stirling district.

If the House is daft enough to approve the order, which undermines local democracy and is an attack on a basic principle, it will be a sign of the inherent lack of democracy in this place. The Government and their supporters should bear that in mind. The people will see what is going on. The Government's action tonight will bring about more disrepute and dishonour on the wicked Tory Government and on the so-called Parliamentary democracy which they supposedly represent and defend.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

On a point of order. There are six minutes left for this debate. Is it reasonable for this debate to be a private fight between the two main parties? Cannot the voice of reason be heard?

2.24 am
Mr. Allan Stewart

We shall be interested to see which Lobby the right hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) goes through tonight.

It was perhaps inevitable that the debate would end with the conspiracy theories of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). He said a lot about democracy, but he will face the test of the electorate as well, and we shall see how he gets on as Labour candidate in Stirling county at the next general election.

The key difference between the speeches of Labour Members and my hon. Friends was that Labour Members made great play of all sorts of general factors such as the relationship between central and local government, unemployment, the national insurance surcharge and so on. On the other hand, my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) and for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) talked about the figures in relation to Stirling district. That is what the debate is about.

Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it possible that the Minister is feeling slightly unwell and that a few minutes more sitting down might give him time to recover?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure the House wants to hear the Minister's reply, and points of order such as that take up his time.

Mr. Stewart

Of which, Mr. Deputy Speaker, very little is left.

Labour Members suggested that somehow these figures are unreasonable and that there will be disastrous consequences for Stirling district. After the £.1.2 million deduction is made, Stirling's excess over the guidelines will be 20 per cent. The excess of comparable authorities will be 13 per cent., and the excess of the comparable authorities chosen by Stirling will be 9.16 per cent. Expenditure per head in Stirling after the deduction will be E60.70—more than comparable authorities and more than Stirling's choice of comparable authorities. Precisely the same arguments apply to the growth figures.

Labour Members have, significantly, not sought to defend Stirling's budget. The figures are clear and indisputable. No rational case has been made against them, either from Stirling district or the Opposition. I ask the House to vote for common sense, for reason in Scottish local government expenditure and for the order.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 94, Noes 42.

Division No. 285] [10.15 pm
Abse, Leo Deakins, Eric
Adams, Allen Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Allaun, Frank Dewar, Donald
Alton, David Dixon, Donald
Anderson, Donald Dobson, Frank
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dormand, Jack
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dubs, Alfred
Ashton, Joe Duffy, A. E. P.
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) Dunnett, Jack
Bagier, Gordon AT. Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Eadie, Alex
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Eastham, Ken
Beith, A. J. Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Bidwell, Sydney English, Michael
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Evans, John (Newton)
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro) Ewing, Harry
Bray, Dr Jeremy Faulds, Andrew
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Field, Frank
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Fitch, Alan
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Flannery, Martin
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Buchan, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Forrester, John
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Foster, Derek
Campbell, Ian Foulkes, George
Campbell-Savours, Dale Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Canavan, Dennis Freud, Clement
Cant, R. B. Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Carmichael, Neil Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Carter-Jones, Lewis George, Bruce
Cartwright, John Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Ginsburg, David
Clarke, Thomas C'b'dge, A'rie Golding, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Gourlay, Harry
Cohen, Stanley Graham, Ted
Coleman, Donald Grant, John (Islington C)
Conlan, Bernard Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Cook, Robin F. Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cowans, Harry Hardy, Peter
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Crawshaw, Richard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Crowther, Stan Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cryer, Bob Heffer, Eric S.
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Dalyell, Tam Home Robertson, John
Davidson, Arthur Homewood, William
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Hooley, Frank
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Howell, Rt Hon D.
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Hoyle, Douglas
Huckfield, Les Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Richardson, Jo
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Janner, Hon Greville Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
John, Brynmor Robertson, George
Johnson, James (Hull West) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Rooker, J. W.
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Roper, John
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Kerr, Russell Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Kilfedder, James A. Rowlands, Ted
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ryman, John
Lambie, David Sever, John
Lamond, James Sheerman, Barry
Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Leighton, Ronald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW) Short, Mrs Renée
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Litherland, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Silverman, Julius
Lyon, Alexander (York) Skinner, Dennis
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
McCartney, Hugh Snape, Peter
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Soley, Clive
McElhone, Frank Spearing, Nigel
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Spriggs, Leslie
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Stallard, A. W.
McKelvey, William Steel, Rt Hon David
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
McMahon, Andrew Stoddart, David
McNally, Thomas Strang, Gavin
McWilliam, John Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Tilley, John
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn) Tinn, James
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Torney, Tom
Maxton, John Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Maynard, Miss Joan Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Meacher, Michael Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Mikardo, Ian Wainwright, R. (Colne V)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Watkins, David
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Weetch, Ken
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Welsh, Michael
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) White, Frank R.
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Whitehead, Phillip
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Whitlock, William
Newens, Stanley Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
O'Halloran, Michael Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
O'Neill, Martin Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Palmer, Arthur Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Park, George Winnick, David
Parker, John Woodall, Alec
Parry, Robert Woolmer, Kenneth
Pavitt, Laurie Wrigglesworth, Ian
Pendry, Tom Wright, Sheila
Penhaligon, David Young, David (Bolton E)
Pitt, William Henry
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prescott, John Mr. Frank Haynes and
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Mr. George Morton.
Race, Reg
Radice, Giles
Adley, Robert Aspinwall, Jack
Aitken, Jonathan Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)
Alexander, Richard Atkins, Rober (Preston N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)
Ancram, Michael Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Arnold, Tom Banks, Robert
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fookes, Miss Janet
Bendall, Vivian Forman, Nigel
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Best, Keith Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Bevan, David Gilroy Fry, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Blackburn, John Glyn, Dr Alan
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Sir Victor
Body, Richard Goodlad, Alastair
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gorst, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gow, Ian
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Gower, Sir Raymond
Bowden, Andrew Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gray, Hamish
Braine, Sir Bernard Greenway, Harry
Bright, Graham Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)
Brinton, Tim Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Grist, Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Grylls, Michael
Brotherton, Michael Gummer, John Selwyn
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Hamilton, Hon A.
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hampson, Dr Keith
Buck, Antony Hannam, John
Budgen, Nick Haselhurst, Alan
Bulmer, Esmond Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Burden, Sir Frederick Hawkins, Sir Paul
Butcher, John Hawksley, Warren
Butler, Hon Adam Hayhoe, Barney
Cadbury, Jocelyn Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Heddle, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Henderson, Barry
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Hill, James
Chapman, Sydney Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Churchill, W. S. Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Hooson, Tom
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hordern, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clegg, Sir Walter Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Colvin, Michael Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cope, John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Corrie, John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Costain, Sir Albert Irvine, Bryant Godman
Cranborne, Viscount Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Critchley, Julian Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby
Dickens, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dorrell, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Dover, Denshore Kaberry, Sir Donald
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Kimball, Sir Marcus
Dykes, Hugh King, Rt Hon Tom
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Kitson, Sir Timothy
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Knight, Mrs Jill
Eggar, Tim Knox, David
Elliott, Sir William Lamont, Norman
Eyre, Reginald Lang, Ian
Fairbairn, Nicholas Langford-Holt, Sir John
Fairgrieve, Sir Russell Latham, Michael
Faith, Mrs Sheila Lawrence, Ivan
Farr, John Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fell, Sir Anthony Lee, John
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Luce, Richard Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lyell, Nicholas Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
McCrindle, Robert Rossi, Hugh
Macfarlane, Neil Rost, Peter
MacGregor, John Royle, Sir Anthony
MacKay, John (Argyll) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Scott, Nicholas
Madel, David Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Major, John Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Marland, Paul Shelton, William (Streatham)
Marlow, Antony Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Shepherd, Richard
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Shersby, Michael
Mates, Michael Silvester, Fred
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Sims, Roger
Mawby, Ray Skeet, T. H. H.
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Smith, Dudley
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mayhew, Patrick Speller, Tony
Mellor, David Spence, John
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Squire, Robin
Mills, Sir Peter (Wast Devon) Stainton, Keith
Miscampbell, Norman Stanbrook, Ivor
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stanley, John
Moate, Roger Steen, Anthony
Monro, Sir Hector Stevens, Martin
Montgomery, Fergus Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Moore, John Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Morgan, Geraint Stradling Thomas, J.
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Tapsell, Peter
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Mudd, David Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Murphy, Christopher Thompson, Donald
Myles, David Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Neale, Gerrard Thornton, Malcolm
Needham, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nelson, Anthony Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Neubert, Michael Trippier, David
Newton, Tony Trotter, Neville
Normanton, Tom van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Nott, Rt Hon John Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Onslow, Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Waddington, David
Osborn, John Wakeham, John
Page, John (Harrow, West) Waldegrave, Hon William
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Walker, B. (Perth)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Wall, Sir Patrick
Parris, Matthew Waller, Gary
Pattie, Geoffrey Walters, Dennis
Pawsey, James Ward, John
Percival, Sir Ian Warren, Kenneth
Peyton, Rt Hon John Watson, John
Pink, R. Bonner Wells, Bowen
Pollock, Alexander Wells, John (Maidstone)
Porter, Barry Wheeler, John
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Proctor, K. Harvey Whitney, Raymond
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Wickenden, Keith
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wilkinson, John
Rathbone, Tim Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Winterton, Nicholas
Renton, Tim Wolfson, Mark
Rhodes James, Robert Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Tellers for the Noes:
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Mr. Anthony Berry and
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Mr. Carol Mather
Division No. 286] [2.28 am
Alexander, Richard Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ancram, Michael Benyon, Thomas (A'don)
Arnold, Tom Berry, Hon Anthony
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Moate, Roger
Blackburn, John Morgan, Geraint
Boscawen, Hon Robert Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Bright, Graham Murphy, Christopher
Brinton, Tim Myles, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Neale, Gerrard
Cadbury, Jocelyn Nelson, Anthony
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Newton, Tony
Colvin, Michael Normanton, Tom
Cope, John Osborn, John
Cranborne, Viscount Page, John (Harrow, West)
Dorrell, Stephen Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Pollock, Alexander
Dover, Denshore Proctor, K. Harvey
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Renton, Tim
Fairbairn, Nicholas Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Garel-Jones, Tristan Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Goodlad, Alastair Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Gummer, John Selwyn Sims, Roger
Hamilton, Hon A. Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hannam, John Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Hawkins, Sir Paul Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hawksley, Warren Stanbrook, Ivor
Heddle, John Stevens, Martin
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stradling Thomas, J.
Lang, Ian Thompson, Donald
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Trippier, David
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Viggers, Peter
Lyell, Nicholas Waddington, David
MacGregor, John Waller, Gary
MacKay, John (Argyll) Watson, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Wells, Bowen
Major, John Wheeler, John
Mather, Carol Wickenden, Keith
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Wolfson, Mark
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Mayhew, Patrick
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tellers for the Ayes:
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Mr. Peter Brooke and
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Mr. David Hunt.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Home Robertson, John
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lambie, David
Canavan, Dennis Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Carmichael, Neil McCartney, Hugh
Clarke, Thomas C'b'dge, McKay, Allen (Penistone)
A'drie McKelvey, William
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Cook, Robin F. Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
Cryer, Bob Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Milian, Rt Hon Bruce
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) O'Neill, Martin
Dewar, Donald Parry, Robert
Dormand, Jack Prescott, John
Eadle, Alex Robertson, George
Ewing, Harry Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Foulkes, George Skinner, Dennis
George, Bruce Strang, Gavin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Welsh, Michael
Hardy, Peter Whitlock, William
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Haynes, Frank Tellers for the Noes:
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe and

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report on the Rate Support Grant Reduction (Stirling District) 1982–83, a copy of which was laid before this House on 5th July, be approved.