HC Deb 26 April 1983 vol 41 cc737-823
Mr. Speaker

I have to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

3.47 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

I beg to move, That this House condemns Her Majesty's Government for the massive reductions in grants and subsidies which, together with the repressive imposition of unrealistic spending ceilings and penalties, have led to a damaging deterioration in the standard, range and availability of local and community services and have had such an effect on the lives of the British people. In recent days there has been much discussion of the sensational discovery of a document that has been lost for years, the authenticity of which is in serious doubt. I refer of course to the Conservative election manifesto of 1979. Those who believe that it is not simply a clever forgery contend that the leader, in the dying days of the regime, handed it over to a trusted pilot for safe keeping. That pilot is still alive and now lives in well-merited obscurity as Secretary of State for Employment. Other experts have carefully examined its contents, with its promises to reduce unemployment, cut taxation, abolish the rates and so on, and say that it cannot possibly be genuine because no one charged with governing a great country could have penned such material and expected to be taken seriously.

After the passage of the years, no section of that manifesto seems more preposterous than the passage lamenting the fate of the old, the sick, the handicapped and the deprived. Those are the sections of the community that have suffered most severely since 1979, and one of the main causes of their suffering has been the Government's attack on the local authorities.

The Government have taken away massive sums of money from our local councils. The cumulative cuts in rate support grant add up to more than £6 billion. Reductions in housing subsidies total a further £2.9 billion. All told, local authorities in England alone have lost £9 billion that they would have received if Labour had continued in office.

Last Thursday, the Prime Minister asserted in this House that local authorities' expenditure is under their own control and not that of the Government. She implied that it was nothing to do with the Government, and that it is the local authorities' fault alone if rates go up. The right hon. Lady should ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show her the rate demand that he must recently have received from Surrey county council. An accompanying explanatory document lists all the spending cuts that have been made by that Conservative-controlled council. The document states: In the coming financial year, the County Council is asking you to pay 13.7% more for your services. Why? As you may know, the cost of County services—like education, roads, fire brigade, libraries, social services and police—is met partly from the rates and partly by grants from the government. This year the Government have reduced by £16 million the amount of grant support to Surrey's ratepayers. Almost 8% of the rate increase is directly due to grant loss. Those are the problems afflicting a bad council with poor services, such as Surrey, but the impact of the Government's policies on good councils that try to maintain satisfactory services is much worse. Those councils are handicapped not only by reductions in grant but also by the absurd expenditure ceilings set by the Government. Last year, some of them managed to escape the worst constraints of those ceilings because they were permitted, without penalty, to spend up to their grant-related expenditure assessments if those were higher than the ceilings. The Government justified that relaxation—which, in the main, assisted Tory councils—by pointing out that the grant-related expenditure assessments laid down a standard level of service for each local authority. The implication was that a local authority was justified in spending above its ceiling in order to provide the level of service that the Government expected of it.

That amnesty has been withdrawn this year. Mr. John Horrell, the chairman of the Conservative-controlled Association of County Councils, has said: The public will find it difficult to understand why their services should be reduced to meet a target below the DOE's own assessment of need … The alternative"— of keeping services at the higher level— will result in financial penalties on the local ratepayer which will be even more unfair. It is true that what Mr. Horrell complains of has led to the most extraordinary contradictions. Gillingham, for example, has been allotted a spending ceiling of £2,484,000 and a grant-related expenditure assessment of £5,030,000. The puzzled residents of that Medway borough have been watching its councillors wrestle with an insoluble dilemma. If they spend no more than the ceiling imposed by the Government, they will be spending 49.4 per cent. of what the Government tell them that they ought to spend. On the other hand, if they are foolhardy enough to heed the Government and spend what the Government say they ought to spend, they will suffer a grant penalty for spending 102.5 per cent. more than the ceiling above which they are forbidden to spend.

Moreover, if they are improvident enough to provide some services which they get grant to provide, they will defraud their ratepayers, who would benefit financially if the service was not provided at all. Grant for nursery education, for example, is not paid in recompense for nursery education being provided. That would be too simple.

Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Kaufman

When I have made this point, I shall gladly give way to my right hon. Friend.

Grant for nursery education is paid according to the number of children who would benefit if the service was provided. Camden, therefore, which provides the best nursery education service in the country, with 77.1 places per 1,000 under-fives, receives no grant of any kind for nursery education or anything else. Kent, on the other hand, provides 0.4 places per 1,000. It gets far more grant than Camden would get, if Camden were getting any grant, even though Camden's nursery education service is nearly 200 times better than Kent's.

Mr. Ennals

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, although they are very low spenders, are considered by the Secretary of State to be high spenders, which are to be penalised—to the extent that if their spending was in line with the national average they would receive no Government grant at all. That has meant a switch to the rates of 19.3p in the pound. Is that not ludicrous?

Mr. Kaufman

The whole system is demented. My right hon. Friend will be glad to hear that Norfolk provides a nursery education service that is two and a half times better than that of Kent. However, it is still only one-seventy-seventh as good as that of Camden, yet Norfolk gets grant, while Camden gets no grant at all.

Local authorities are being squeezed painfully between the Government's harmful withdrawal of finance and their restrictions on spending. The result is that roads are unmended, the sick untended and children neglected, and opportunities for both work and recreation are being savagely reduced.

The Government have now divided local government expenditure into two distinct categories. Capital spending —as we are insistently told—is virtuous, and every council should do as much capital spending as possible. Current expenditure, however, is wicked, and only the most depraved councils will indulge in that forbidden vice. Such a crude categorisation is as unthinking and therefore as totalitarian as Snowball's slogan in "Animal Farm": Four legs good, two legs bad. The Government have discovered the virtues of capital spending very late in the day. Within three months of coming to office, in the middle of the financial year, they cut the housing investment allocation programme left by the Labour Government. They have gone on cutting it. At the same time, they upbraid local authorities for not spending enough on capital account, and in particular for not spending their capital receipts from selling council houses. However, despite the Prime Minister's answer today to one of the questions to which she could find the answer in her brief, it would make much better financial sense for a council not to sell council houses and not to have capital receipts to spend. A council has to sell 10 houses to get the money to build one new one. Every time a council builds a house on the basis of the capital receipts, it acknowledges the loss of nine houses from its stock.

Last week, the Prime Minister said that Britain was enjoying a house-building boom. She repeated that statement today. We cannot afford many such booms. They would result in the complete elimination of our rented housing stock. Of course the Prime Minister was speaking at the CBI dinner, which must have been the most glutinous orgy of mutual congratulation since the first board meeting of TV-am.

At that dinner, the Prime Minister told her audience that house building was now increasing by 30 per cent. She was perfectly right, but she omitted to say that it was 30 per cent. more than the lowest level known for 70 years. She was enunciating the Government's new doctrine of economic recovery—knock the patient unconscious and then proclaim any flicker of life that returns as a miracle cure.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister still does not realise that most capital expenditure has current expenditure consequences, and current expenditure by local authorities is liable to attract Government penalties. If she cannot understand that simple fact, Preseli district council in South Wales will explain it. That council is Tory-controlled, with 49 independents and one Labour member. It was naive enough to take the Government at their word and to plan a £540,000 sports centre—badly needed in an area of massive youth unemployment.

The council then discovered to its shock and surprise that the centre had not only to be built, it had to be used as well, and that running costs would be £68,000 per year. On Saturday, therefore, the council will be asked to approve the following recommendation: That the current Milford Haven sports centre proposals be deferred pending a review of the whole basis of the scheme with a view to revised proposals being considered for a less ambitious project appropriate to the needs of the area but bearing in mind the overall financial constraints suffered by the council through economic circumstances and Government expenditure restrictions". That was Milford Haven sports centre that was.

Government expenditure restrictions have inflicted grievous damage throughout the country. In the first two years of this Government, the number of residential places for the elderly fell from 118,783 to 117,517. The number of home helps per thousand elderly fell by 8 per cent., meals by 5.3 per cent. and day care by 2.6 per cent.

In Birmingham—apple of the Government's eye—housing repairs, subject to the Government's latest paltry stunt, were cut by £750,000 last year and the cut is being maintained this year. In Kent, the Tory-controlled county council has wiped out its £500,000 contribution to sheltered housing provided by district authorities. Bus services in the Isle of Sheppey are in serious danger because the county council has broken its promise to pay a subsidy. In Berkshire, highway maintenance expenditure per head of population is the lowest in the country. The Conservatives have decided to cut provision by £1.6 million, so the resurfacing programme in Berkshire has been reduced to a cycle of once every hundred years.

Wokingham district council operates a concessionary travel scheme for the elderly limited to those with incomes not exceeding £49 per week. Plastic tokens are provided to the value of £13.75 per year. Not surprisingly, the tokens are known locally as tiddlywinks. Yet Wokingham receives as much grant as a council providing an acceptable concessionary fares scheme.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Sefton metropolitan district council has a similarly iniquitous scheme. The elderly receive an insulting handful of tokens instead of bus passes. Sefton is the only local authority in the northwest to use such a scheme. Now, however, to the enormous gratitude of the elderly in Sefton, the Labour-controlled Merseyside county council is taking over the scheme and providing bus passes in default.

Mr. Kaufman

I trust that the electors of Sefton will take that into account on 5 May.

Oxfordshire scrapped its school museum service, closed children's homes and shut down homes for pensioners in which the average age of residents was 86. East Sussex hit the elderly by reducing the home help service and harmed the young by reducing cleaning standards in schools.

Dyfed has had no new school furniture for the past five years and parent-teacher association funds are being used to provide books. A particularly imaginative cut affected a mentally handicapped youth living in a village. He was gaining confidence by attending an adult training centre in Tenby, but the Government cut off transport to Tenby, so he now has to get a lift in an ice cream van.

Cuts of that kind do not merely mean worse services or no services at all for the old, the sick, the handicapped and the deprived, who are mentioned with such compassion in the Conservative manifesto. The cuts also wipe out jobs and add to unemployment. The community must then pay for the unemployment instead of using the money to provide jobs and services.

Local authority employment in construction has fallen by 11.8 per cent. in the past three years. Employment in public libraries and museums has fallen by 2.8 per cent., in recreation, parks and baths by 2.3 per cent., in environmental health by 4.4 per cent. and in refuse collection and disposal by 12 per cent. Employment in social services has risen by 1.9 per cent., but when measured on the accepted criteria of service levels—demand and need by those relying on the services—it, too, has fallen.

All this means shoddier, needier, more tawdry and neglected cities, towns and villages throughout the land.

Some jobs, of course, remain. The local council in Milton Haven advertised one a few weeks ago, for which there were 14 applications. One came from a girl who had done particularly well at school. Dyfed is the Prime Minister's paradise county, as it has no comprehensive education system. The girl had won four CSEs at her secondary modern school and went on to grammar school where she obtained two A-levels — clearly the embodiment of the Victorian virtues that the Prime Minister extols. With the aid of those qualifications, the girl defeated her 13 competitors and got the job. She is now a road sweeper.

The Prime Minister, in her famous interview with Brian Walden, said this: Winston put it best. You want a ladder, upwards, anyone, no matter what their background, can climb, but a fundamental safety net below which no-one can fall. That's the British character. As Winston might have put it: some ladder—some safety net!

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

How would my right hon. Friend compare the efforts of people who scramble all their lives to get on to the first rung of the ladder with a person who starts fairly high in the first place and then, like the Prime Minister—despite her attacks on tenants living in what she claims are still subsidised council houses — has had the audacity since 1975 to have the tenancy of a National Trust flat in Scotney castle, Kent, which has been subsidised to the hilt during that period?

Mr. Kaufman

One of the most demeaning aspects of the Prime Minister's statements on house purchase today was the implication that there is something inferior about being a tenant, and certainly a council house tenant. It was also clear that she had no idea of the way in which rents have risen. For her, Victorian values mean a return to the poor law and to poverty of every kind.

The Prime Minister's latest little stunt is to appoint a Minister with responsibility for putting children to play. It is about time that she appointed a Minister with responsibility for putting adults to work.

No doubt the Secretary of State will talk about alleged profligacy by Labour councils which, in his view, spend too much on their services. It is certainly true that in some respects Labour-controlled authorities spend much more than their Conservative counterparts. Expenditure per head on personal social services last year was £65 in Tory London boroughs and £115 in Labour London boroughs. It was £45 in Tory metropolitan districts and £59 in Labour metropolitan districts, £37 in Tory shire counties and £44 in Labour shire counties. There were 5.7 home helps per 1,000 of population aged over 65 in Tory London boroughs and 10.8 in Labour London boroughs, 7.4 in Tory metropolitan districts and 9.5 in Labour metropolitan districts, 5.3 in Tory shire counties and 7.5 in Labour shire counties. If the Secretary of State calls that overspending, the Opposition plead guilty with pride.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)


Mr. Kaufman

Perhaps the Secretary of State will recommend instead that such services should be privatised — an ugly word for an ugly practice. Happily, privatisation is not quite the success that the Government would like it to be. So far, 16 local authorities out of 480 have gone in for it. One is Tory Gillingham which, last year, privatised the cleaning of Gillingham precinct. Such a bad job was done that the contract was put out to tender again and the direct labour organisation won it back.

In the Sedgemoor district, which is in the Secretary of State's constituency, the Conservative group was not at all convinced of the merits of privatisation and decided last year not to proceed with a proposal to privatise housing repairs and maintenance. Since then, the Sedgemoor direct labour organisation has won all the contracts for which it has tendered. The Secretary of State will be glad to know that his local direct labour organisation has grown from strength to strength.

Mr. Townend


Mr. Kaufman

One ardent advocate of privatisation is the Prime Minister. At the Tory conference last year she declared, in that endearing way of hers, that there was increasing evidence of the savings that could be made: As Dr. Johnson nearly said"— as usual, the Prime Minister nearly gets it right— Depend upon it—When you know you are going to be privatised in a fortnight, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. The Prime Minister's borough of Barnet was an obedient disciple. It spent £100 on the book of its experiences which Southend council is touting around. I should not mind having Lord Dacre's opinion on that one—or perhaps not. Barnet seriously considered the privatisation of refuse collection—

Mr. Townend


Mr. Kaufman

—but its mayor persuaded it that it was more cost-effective to retain the council service.

The Opposition have never had to be persuaded that the public need is better served by public service and that cuts in help for the needy and the afflicted are not a matter for pride but a source of shame. Nor have we ever had to be persuaded that compassionate care and useful employment will go hand in hand.

Mr. Townend


Mr. Kaufman

That is why a Labour Government will remove the spending constraints that the chairman of the Surrey county council's policy committee, Mr. Douglas Robertson, said put his county in an extremely grave situation". That is why we shall restore grants and subsidies to enable councils to carry out those responsibilities to their citizens. Millions of people in England and Wales can strike their blow for better services and better job opportunities when they vote on Thursday next week. Meanwhile, we can play our part by voting for this motion.

4.13 pm
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tom King)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its efforts to promote economy and efficiency in local government; notes that the average rate increase in 1983–84 is the lowest for five years; urges Her Majesty's Government to continue to discourage excessive levels of current expenditure of local authorities to the benefit of ratepayers and taxpayers alike; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's measures for improving standards of education. I had not expected to get to my feet at this stage. I find it incomprehensible that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) should have finished his speech already when a major attack on the Government and a major statement of Labour policy on local government and education was trailed. I understood that two distinguished Opposition spokesmen would deploy all their skills to demolish the Government's stance. Now, at 4.14 pm, have we heard the last of the right hon. Member for Ardwick? Has he nothing else to say?

I had intended to say that the right hon. Gentleman's speech followed a fairly predictable pattern. The House will have noticed a few quite elegantly tailored jokes which are, no doubt, preparatory to inclusion in that well-known column which appears from time to time in the top people's newspaper. The House will also have noticed one or two rather more tawdry cracks which also crept in. After that part of the presentation, we have usually come down to some rather more serious meat.

I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have given way to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend). I am stupefied that we have heard the sum of the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to the debate. This is perhaps the fifth time in four years that the Opposition have launched such a debate. It is always a major occasion, with a full day's debate on these major issues. The right hon. Gentleman's speech demeaned all of those who are interested in local government and the cause of those people whom it is its duty to serve. We had virtually nothing except, if I heard correctly, in the last line of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, when he merely promised a lot more grant and a lot more money so that there would be a lot more services. Before anyone listened too carefully, the right hon. Gentleman quickly sat down. That appears to be the sum of the Opposition's policies.

Although the right hon. Gentleman carefully omitted to mention it, we must consider another document which is equally obscure. It is called "The New Hope for Britain". If I had had any association with that Labour party plan, I should not have used the phrase which the right hon. Gentleman employed at the beginning of his speech. He said: no one … governing a great country could have penned such material and expected to be taken seriously. I could not have thought of a more appropriate description of "The New Hope for Britain". The right hon. Gentleman penned that well. If I was thinking of a title for that document, "Some Hope for Britain" might be more appropriate.

We have today the opportunity to examine what the Government have tried to achieve and what might be the alternative, as offered at various stages by the right hon. Gentleman and his party. We can see what they say. I was interested to note that "The New Hope for Britain" says: We will give local authorities freedom to implement comprehensive local plans, covering economic, social and environmental policies. We can find out what that comprehensive freedom means from an interview which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Municipal Journal as recently as 22 April. The comprehensive freedom is an important new Labour policy. The right hon. Gentleman said: Local authorities have the best gardeners in the country. Why should they not use that expertise to set up their own garden centres? Local authorities through their involvement in provision of school meals have great experience in public catering. Why should they not use that experience to cater for weddings and other private celebrations? Why should they not open restaurants, cheerful, efficient and modestly priced? That is the great new Labour freedom. That is the policy which has not been completely revealed in all its glory today but awaits Britain in "The New Hope for Britain". I have a feeling, as a result of my acquaintance with local government, that the electorate does not want a great new expansion of municipal horticulture, still less a great expansion of municipal wedding cakes. The electorate wants its local authority to provide the services that the local authority is best fitted to supply. It does not want its rates to be spent on things that have nothing to do with the proper functions of a local council.

These debates follow a traditional pattern and it is an early task of anyone who has the privilege of responding to the right hon. Gentleman, whose selective recall is notorious, to give him a few facts. He deployed—pretty briefly—the customary attack that every service in the country has been slashed to ribbons. That must be set against the background of the Government's seeking to achieve a reduction in local government expenditure of 5.6 per cent. over three years—less than 2 per cent. a year —when the number of school pupils has fallen by 8 per cent. and when, as every hon. Member knows, education represents substantially more than half of current local government spending. The vast majority of local authorities have achieved those modest reductions, and have behaved responsibly. For the current year, 350 out of 413 authorities have budgeted to spend within 2 per cent. of the Government's target—that is 80 per cent. of all authorities. Local authorities may overspend in the current financial year by £770 million, which is 4 per cent. above the expenditure target, but more than half of that overspend—hon. Members must listen carefully to this — is caused by two Labour-controlled authorities, the Greater London council and the Inner London education authority.

An interesting picture emerges from the pattern of rate increases. The average rate increase for the whole of England this year will be 6.5 per cent., which is the lowest increase for five years. However, if the GLC, ILEA and the West Midlands county council had hit their targets, the average rate increase for England would have fallen to 2.7 per cent. If from 413 authorities we deduct the top 18 spenders which are those authorities where Labour is in control or is overwhelmingly the largest party, the average rate increase throughout England would have been zero.

The overwhelming majority of responsible authorities recognise that high rates destroy jobs, destroy businesses, fuel inflation, strain the family budget and do tremendous damage. It is a tragedy that the right hon. Member for Ardwick said nothing about the authorities that support his party and continue to impose intolerable burdens throughout the country.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I shall set aside the distortions in which the Secretary of State is currently, engaged, but does he recall that—inadvertently, I am sure — he gave the impression that education cuts in local authorities were only 5.6 per cent.? If he did not make such a mistake and believes that, will he explain why it is now two years since Her Majesty's inspectorate said that if the present rate of cuts continued, standards in schools would be seriously jeopardised?

Mr. King

The figures that I gave were the Government's targets, which have not altered, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science knows. I am interested that they come as a surprise to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who may have been taken in by his own party's propaganda. We sought to achieve those targets, which are necessary to make modest reductions in local government expenditure.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)


Mr. King

I shall complete my comments, which will be of interest to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). In London—the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate this—the average rate poundage in a Labour borough is 50 per cent. higher than in a Conservative borough. In the metropolitan districts the Labour figure is 25 per cent. higher than the Conservative one, as it is throughout the shire counties. The message to the right hon. Gentleman and to everyone who is listening is that to keep one's rates down one should vote Conservative on 5 May.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

The Secretary of State says that high rates destroy jobs, which must mean that zero rates will improve job prospects. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an independent report published today states that, in its first full year of operation, the Tyneside enterprise zone has suffered a net decrease in jobs?

Mr. King

I am aware of the report, because I published it and issued a press release with my comments on it. The hon. Gentleman may think that that was a clever point, but we know that with the present state of industry and the problems of the world recession, no one measure can be guaranteed to be a bulwark against all the pressures that Britain and other countries face. I said in the press release that this was just the first progress report, and that it is too early to judge the position. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in believing that the enterprise zone can make a contribution—in some areas there are signs that it can—to Tyneside.

The new Vickers factory was developed quickly because of the enterprise zone—[Interruption.] Instead of heckling me from a sedentary position, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) might wish to get his information direct from the management, as I did. The company said that there was every likelihood that, without the enterprise zone, jobs would have been lost. As it is, the company now has the largest open-span, purpose-built factory in Europe. It has been an extremely valuable major construction project, because the company was working in uncompetitive conditions, as anyone who saw the old factory will know, and it did not believe that it would be possible to reinvest. I am hopeful for the future of the enterprise zone.

Mr. Jay

In order to tell the truth to the House, perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us that the reason why the GLC has had to increase its rates is that he has withdrawn the entire Government grant from London education for the first time. He is responsible for the increase in rates.

Mr. King

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the facts about ILEA. I always thought that he came to the House well informed about such matters. I am not talking about grants or rates, but about ILEA expenditure. Its overall expenditure has increased consistently and significantly above the rate of inflation. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to tell the House about the fall in pupil numbers in ILEA during the past four years? To save him making a further intervention —he obviously has the figures very much in mind—I will tell him that during the period of this Government pupil numbers are likely to fall by more than 20 per cent. If he can explain to the House why, with pupil numbers falling to such an extent, expenditure has increased as though the population was expanding and not contracting, the House will be interested to hear him.

Mr. Jay

As the right hon. Gentleman is talking about facts, does he deny that ILEA now receives no Government grant?

Mr. King

If that authority's expenditure showed even the sightest recognition of the circumstances, or achieved some economies, there would be a substantial improvement in its grant. Every hon. Member knows that it is not a question of increasing the grant purely for the sake of ILEA, because any extra grant for that authority must come from other authorities that are trying to moderate expenditure. It would be monstrous to rob prudent authorities to fuel higher-spending authorities such as ILEA.

After four years of effort, many local authorities have made sensible economies. Manpower has been reduced by 5 per cent. since we took office, and we have halted and reversed a trend that was rising steadily for 30 years. We are on a promising path, and we intend to build on it. We firmly believe that economies can be made without unacceptable consequences to the provision of services.

In some cases local authorities have been their own worst enemies. A few authorities have done a great disservice to local government as a whole. That is clearly seen in some authorities' use of ratepayers' money for sectional party political purposes: sending out blatant political propaganda, like the GLC with The Londoner; the notorious activities of the London borough of Islington; or aiding a host of political activities, like the Sheffield council. Until recently no ruling group of whatever party would have used public money in this way. Local councillors recognised that their duty was to the community as a whole and they had a sense of responsibility.

I deeply regret that some statutory discretions given to local authorities are being abused. The Government would be very reluctant to reduce areas of local authority discretion, but the spirit in which this is used has clearly changed and we are watching this carefully.

I believe that our prime concern should be with the consumers of local government services and with the quality of provision they receive. There is no immutable law that the more one spends the more one gets. A high quality of provision does not automatically require massive additional expenditure. Economic and efficient use of resources is consistent with the best traditions of service and is compatible with justice and compassion.

There are enormous savings available for those authorities which take a value-for-money approach, a businesslike approach that reduces costs. It is also true that services often become more secure if the efficiency of their delivery is improved. There is now abundant evidence — often produced by local government itself — about value-for-money initiatives. I look to the Audit Commission—which the House will know is now in operation—to make a most valuable contribution. I said that we would be commenting from time to time on Labour party policy. It is interesting to note that the sole contribution that Labour appears to make in this field in its policy document is a savage and vicious attack upon the auditor.

Comparative statistics have a major role to play as well. Why is it that the net cost of providing all services in Manchester—this will interest the right hon. Member for Ardwick—was over £547 a head, when in Liverpool the figure was £466 and in Birmingham it was £390? I am arranging for every council leader to receive a statistical analysis of his authority's performance compared with other similar authorities and I hope that they will study it to good effect.

The most dramatic examples of the scope for reducing costs come from councils which contract out services. In the Wirral, contractors will now be delivering savings worth £1.4 million a year on refuse and cleaning services. In Wandsworth there will be a saving of £7.5 million on refuse collection over the contract period, a further £1.5 million on street cleaning and £1 million on the maintenance of gardens and open spaces. The same story can be told of Bromley, Merton, Kensington and Chelsea, Eastbourne, Southend, Milton Keynes, South Oxfordshire, Bath and the many other authorities that have made striking savings by operating their services using private sector contractors.

The spur of competition has also led to a dramatic productivity improvement in other authorities — Sedgemoor, for one, and Birmingham, a bit larger, for another. When the members of the work force were faced with private competition they offered productivity improvements of 40 per cent., worth £3.5 million a year and over £15 million in five years.

Our policies do not pose a threat to local services. What we seek to do is to protect important local services by exposing the scope for economies which exists in local authorities and suggesting that work forces should no longer be insulated from the discipline of competition. The threat is to inefficiency, the wasting of ratepayers' money, low productivity, historic working agreements, outdated bonus schemes and short working weeks. Those are the things that we threaten in the interests of all those whom a local authority has a duty to serve.

In many areas we have also brought about a much more effective partnership between the public and the private sectors. We have, especially in housing, opened up opportunities, widened choice and improved standards for tenants and home owners alike. We came to office with a firm commitment to give council tenants the chance to buy their homes. The right-to-buy policies have been a resounding success. In the last four years roughly half a million tenants in Great Britain have bought their homes —more than in the whole of the previous 25 years—and the applications are still coming in. These were at the rate of about 40,000 a quarter in 1982.

The wider benefits of the right to buy are indisputable. We have extended the opportunity for home ownership to many who could not previously have dreamt of it. They now enjoy the satisfaction of home ownership, which most of us take for granted but which for many seemed out of reach, and of course the sale of council houses is producing significant capital receipts for local authorities. The House will know that last year alone the figure was no less than £1.7 billion, and that is of enormous benefit to local authority finances.

We have also encouraged local authorities, developers and financial institutions to co-operate in a range of initiatives to widen choice in housing. There is a five-point low-cost home ownership programme: the sale of land by local authorities to builders for starter homes; partnership arrangements to build low-cost homes for sale; shared ownership — one of the most exciting initiatives for many a year in housing—which is part buying and part renting, with an option to purchase the whole later; homesteading, by which unimproved houses are sold to individuals or small groups for improvement with the help of grants; and local authorities and housing associations improving houses themselves for subsequent sale.

This shows what can be done through co-operation between local authorities and the private sector. This is not an attack on local government; it is providing more people with the kind of housing they really want.

We have also, of course, tackled the problem of more freedoms and better standards for tenants. We have given public sector tenants a range of statutory rights, providing them with greater control over their homes and a bigger say in the decisions taken by housing management. We have promoted initiatives to improve the quality of management, especially in the most difficult and rundown estates. We are now taking powers to introduce a right-to-repair scheme to enable tenants to do certain repairs themselves and to be reimbursed.

In Lambeth, Bolton and Hackney, the priority estates projects have shown how improved security, locally based management and repair services, local letting policies and tenant consultation and involvement can turn estates round and produce a remarkable improvement in the quality of life for the residents. On Merseyside, our community refurbishment schemes use the skills of local unemployed residents to carry out at a modest cost repairs and improvements to the houses and the environment of a number of the poorer quality estates.

We are combining the services of the Manpower Services Commission, the urban programme and local authorities to produce satisfactory results for the tenants and a sensible use of materials and people. Almost the most radical initiative of the lot, taken in partnership with the Labour authority at Knowsley, was the launching—my hon. Friend was there to inaugurate this—of the Stockbridge village trust. This was a former council estate in a deplorable condition, from which people were trying to get out as fast as they could. It is now offered real hope for the future, with a combination of private and public sector investment and new management.

It does take a little time—I apologise to the House for this—to list the vast range of initiatives which this Government have sought to take in housing, particularly under the leadership of my hon. Friend. Having done so very quickly, it is interesting to read this tawdry Labour document.

In this area above all, the abject poverty of Labour's housing policy is most starkly revealed. Its twin planks of repealing the right to buy—taking from many people possibly the most exciting new opportunity that they have had—and building more council houses show that the Labour party knows nothing about what people really seek in housing, and, what is more, it does not want to know.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain the difference between the rate levels per head of population in Manchester and Liverpool by the fact that Liverpool has a housing waiting list of 30,000—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense".] It is not nonsense. I have the facts and figures from Liverpool council in front of me. That council has a waiting list of 30,000 and is building no council houses and families are incarcerated in tenement blocks. In addition, rents have doubled since 1979. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain those figures in relation to the rate levels in Liverpool?

Mr. King

Any honest attempt to make any assessment of local government expenditure has been bedevilled by just that sort of intervention from the hon. Gentleman. That is what it is all about. That is his reason for explaining the differences. His attitude is "Do not inquire any further, there is the reason." It is a superficial excuse. He hopes that no one will get into the detail and examine service by service what is happening.

I recall a delegation of Labour Members coming to see me when Birmingham was under Labour control. They said that the council was £1 million over target and that there was no possible way in which that could be prevented because, for all sorts of reasons, that was the situation facing Birmingham. They said that nothing could be done. One thing was done. The electorate elected a Conservative authority, which immediately put its refuse collection out to competition. Within six months it had saved £3½ million a year. Up to then, nothing could be done because of the difficulties that Birmingham faced.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statements just made by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) are scurrilously incorrect? The figure given to me only two weeks ago by the chairman of Liverpool's housing committee was that there were 13,000 people on the waiting list, not 30,000, and that 5,000 council houses and flats were empty. In other words, the list could be reduced to 8,000 if those 5,000 empty houses and flats were filled tomorrow.

Mr. King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for shining the light of facts and accurate information into the fog that Labour Members like to spread.

We are now also seeing the first results of the Government's important policy on the use of partnership between the public and private sectors. The classic illustration is our urban development grant scheme in which we have used public: money, not as an end in itself but to prime the pump for private sector investment.

I have already announced my approval of the first 57 projects for different schemes in different parts of the country — housing, small factories, land reclamation, sports facilities and a wide range of different items. So far, there has been £16 million of grant to attract £80 million of total new investment. I can announce today a further group of larger schemes, including the largest project yet approved. I approved it this morning. These projects include Gateshead, Wandsworth, Rotherham and Wolverhampton. I can announce a scheme in Hull for a major hotel, housing and marina project. The largest scheme of all is the Paradise circus scheme in Birmingham involving offices, a hotel, a multi-storey car park and civic and shopping facilities. As a result of this scheme, just over £4.5 million of urban development grant could stimulate about £5 million of expenditure by the city of Birmingham, leading to £24 million of private investment on a site close to the heart of the city which has been an eyesore for a decade. It will lead to total public and private investment of about £34 million.

I have now, therefore, approved 65 projects where about £30 million of public funds should lead to about £150 million of new investment in construction, jobs and real improvements in our cities.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend give further details of the project that he has approved for Wolverhampton? How much taxpayers' money and private funds will be put into it?

Mr. King

I shall have to write to my hon. Friend, because I do not have the details with me.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The Secretary of State will recall that I wrote to him about the second list that he has just announced. I asked what consideration he was giving to Sheffield. Will there be a further list and will Sheffield be considered?

Mr. King

Further lists will be coming forward. These projects are being appraised as fast as possible. Anyone who has seen one knows that they need careful appraisal. We shall make further announcements as soon as possible.

Mr. Jay

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Wandsworth. Is he referring to the British Land scheme on which we have been waiting for six months for a decision from him and about which I have written to him three times?

Mr. King

As I recall, that is not the scheme, but I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman to confirm that.

Our approach to urban policy—not mentioned by the right hon. Member for Ardwick but important in this context — is that we hope that we are dealing more effectively with problems on the ground, be they housing estates, schools, derelict sites or neighbourhoods where all too often shops and factories are boarded up. Resources are in limited supply and always will be. For that reason, we seek to generate the maximum private sector investment.

That is not an apology for not making a substantial public contribution as well. This year, 48 authorities with special status under the Inner Urban Areas Act will receive nearly £300 million under the urban programme, including urban development grant. That is a record figure. That, allied to our efforts in the traditional urban programme and the work in the local enterprise agencies, the enterprise zones and the urban development corporations in London docklands and Liverpool docks, is a substantial attack on the problems of urban deprivation.

For four years we have co-operated with local government whenever we could in a whole range of new initiatives. I welcome the fact that a vast majority of authorities have responded. In "The New Hope For Britain" I looked for the Labour party's attitude. It says that it will take action to encourage councils to make their services more responsive to the needs and wishes of their clients and the local community". Does that mean that Labour councillors will actually listen to the long-suffering ratepayers in their areas? Will they keep spending within reasonable limits? Does it mean a sensible response to criticism? Does it mean looking for efficiency and value for money for the ratepayer? On the other hand, is it much closer to the contempt succinctly expressed by Mr. McGeer of the London borough of Islington, who as a Labour councillor says: No one can have any views about the performance of council staff except ourselves". Is that the new voice of the Labour party? Is that its attitude?

Does that attitude mean taking any notice of the Sheffield industrialists, when a number of steel firms in Sheffield, facing all the problems that they are, are now paying more than £1,000 per employee per year in rates? That is the burden that they are carrying as they try to face the challenge of international competition. No wonder that in a recent survey in Sheffield, 34 per cent. of the firms said that they were seeking ways to move out.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

In the London borough of Greenwich, many firms have a rate burden of £1,000 or more per head per year. What is more, the rates have gone up by 27 per cent., which means that all the money for expansion or pay increases has been absorbed. The major criticism from my constituents is that local authorities apparently still have the power to go through the penalty box on spending targets and to put rates up by 25 per cent., 30 per cent. and 25 per cent. again, and that local authorities can still find clever ways to spend ratepayers' money on what most people regard as an abuse — political promotion of their own party, using ratepayers' money. My right hon. Friend would do well, not only today but on other occasions, to express his concern about the level of rates increases and the political propaganda, and to find ways to stop local authorities getting away with what they are doing at the moment.

Mr. King

As I said earlier, there is a delicate balance between the responsibilities and the powers of local government. It has been respected by leaders and councillors of all parties in the past, who realised that they needed to work within the spirit as well as the letter of the law. There are those in senior positions and positions of power in local authorities who support the Labour party and who are putting at risk the continuance of freedom and independence. I say that in as moderate and restrained a voice as I can, but I know that I am summarising some intolerable abuses in certain places.

It is interesting to note—it may not be a coincidence that we are having this debate today—that today marks the launch of the NALGO campaign against alleged cuts in services and privatisation; £1 million of its members' funds is to be spent on the campaign. All the advertising tricks of the trade, including hot air balloons to proclaim to the nation the dire straits of its members, are to be used. There is a rather endearing passage in its document about the value of hot air. The right hon. Member for Ardwick will understand the abilities and the attraction of hot air in drawing attention to oneself and the fact that sometimes it enables one to rise above one's fellows.

To prepare for the campaign, NALGO commissioned a research report to establish the attitudes of the public. I have here a copy of that report. Far from reinforcing the NALGO ambitions of opposition to the Government, a different picture emerged. This research is concentrated on Labour and alliance voters, what it describes as the "broad Left" who were thought most likely to be sympathetic.

It is interesting to note that the report describes the people of the Left wing in the broadest sense, that is, from Labour voters to wet Conservatives. However, I noticed that in the survey the word "Conservative" is not used again and we have C2D women, those who are 39 to 54 and voted Labour in the last election, and BC1 men, those who are 25 to 39 and intend to vote for Liberal/SDP at the next election. I believe that the latter made a useful contribution to the research in the last category. These people were chosen because they were thought to be those who were most likely to be sympathetic to the case that NALGO wished to deploy.

This is what the survey discovered: Local rates were very important in high spending areas … particularly to those who were owner-occupiers … they felt that money was deliberately being wasted, quite apart from being inherently mis-managed, in an attempt by local councils to defy the Government… People were still able to cope with the present standard of services … several people felt it was about time that public services were cut—because they were seen to be inefficient and mismanaged and that if cutting back involved depleting an over-manned workforce and a top-heavy administration that was to be welcomed. The attitudes to public services were similar to those towards nationalized industries — i.e. they were sloppily run and operated. Consequently, therefore, it was felt that the cuts could be afforded—larger budgets were only necessary because the money was mismanaged and wasted … Generally the opinion was held that private industry operated more efficiently than nationalized, because the profit motive and competition were good incentives to work harder and more effectively. It may come as a shock to my right hon. and hon. Friends to know that I am quoting the views of the broad Left in the survey. There may be one or two right hon. and hon. Labour Members who feel that they are becoming slightly out of touch with what some of their supporters are thinking.

Talking about the way private services operate brings to me to privatisation. The conclusion that the report reached was that Not only cuts, but to varying degrees privatisation could be also welcomed in this context, because that implied increased efficiency and effectiveness. The most frequently mentioned example of this was the privatisation of the refuse collection. The good sense of the British public is shown in the next conclusion: There was a general feeling that cuts had to be made because we were living through a recession and we could no longer afford the large public spending budgets we were used to. The report went on to test the attitude to its proposed advertisements. Another unpleasant shock awaited NALGO. The reaction was that NALGO was being dishonest and hiding behind a political issue to protect its skin. That was the view of the broad Left respondents to the survey, commissioned by NALGO, and the advertisements in the campaign that it launches today to fight the Government. The research team concluded—I can understand its conclusion—that the results were, in the main, very depressing.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)


Mr. King

The House will understand that I hold the view that the contrary is true.

The report shows that the vast majority of people, including those who do not support the Government, recognise that in spite of all the political propaganda there is scope for economy and greater efficiency, that there are better ways in which many of the services can be provided, and that in a serious world recession those economies must be made. All those things can be done without serious deterioration of the services. In some cases, services can often be improved. That is the approach that Conservative authorities have followed in the best interests of their ratepayers and all those in their areas. That is the approach that our amendment, which I am proud to move, encapsulates. That example illustrates the vacuity of the Labour motion and the inadequacy of the speech of the right hon. Member for Ardwick. Our approach is the right approach and it is the one that we shall continue to pursue.

5 pm

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The debate has dwelt for the most part on the south of Britain but when I look at the motion and see references to the massive reductions in grants and subsidies … the repressive imposition of unrealistic spending ceilings and penalties … a damaging deterioration in the standard, range and availability of local and community services I am reminded overwhelmingly of the experience of my city of Sheffield under this Government, in particular its east end and my constituency of Attercliffe.

The motion fairly reflects the enormous cutback in Government grants that Sheffield has suffered over recent years and the millions of pounds in penalty that the Government propose to inflict on its people in the coming year for not carrying out Tory policy. To a considerable extent, what the Secretary of State's case amounts to is that there are authorities in Britain, mostly in the north, which are utterly resistant to his Government's policies and therefore they will be penalised or, as has happened briefly this afternoon in the Minister's speech, insulted.

On top of that, the Government have redistributed what remains of grants and subsidies to local government away from the major cities to Tory strongholds in the rural areas. Through the grant-related expenditure for 1983–84, the Government have cut Sheffield's spending and placed the city 29th in the league table of 36 metropolitan districts. In addition, the Government are punishing Sheffield through the grant penalty system, which will cost Sheffield's ratepayers over £14 million in 1983–84, despite its unemployment, industrial wasteland and tremendous inner city problems.

When Sheffield's grant is compared with that going to other major cities with comparable inner city problems, it is conclusively seen how badly the Government have treated the people of Sheffield. If Sheffield had had the same grant as Liberal-controlled Liverpool in the last year, the same expenditure and services could have been provided with a rate freeze rather than an increase. Thousands of people in Sheffield's inner city are suffering from bad conditions, including high unemployment, overcrowding and bad housing, according to the report published by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys just before Christmas.

There was not a reference to that in the Secretary of State's speech. Around one tenth of Sheffield's inner city population is in the five worst categories of areas listed. Those categories also include a high number of one-parent families and people living in institutions.

In his speech the Secretary of State claimed on behalf of his Department that its housing policy opened up opportunities and widened choice. Let me remind him of a recent letter dated 15 February 1983 from the chairman of the housing committee in Sheffield, Councillor Clive Betts. In that letter the Minister for Housing and Construction—who is no longer with us—was told that Although a small number of new homes will be started (present estimate around 300 instead of the 1000 designed for and needed) they will be mainly pensioners' bungalows and will all be on redevelopment sites in inner-city and priority areas. They will be mostly in a ward in my constituency. I know how inadequate that provision will be alongside the need, of which I am reminded at my surgery every Saturday morning and of which I shall be reminded again this Saturday.

In his letter, Councillor Betts goes on to say: The rest of the allocation will be spent on the enormous task of maintaining and improving our existing housing stock, and on maintaining our Housing Action Area programme and the provision of improvement grants. The Secretary of State's claims on behalf of the Government's housing policy are unrealistic and irrelevant to Sheffield's needs.

The official report from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys says that Sheffield is the least badly affected of the four large cities in Yorkshire and Humberside. Thus, there are severe problems in the region which are not relieved in the slightest by the growing bias in favour of the south. It was interesting not only to me but to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) that, as we listened to the debate, again and again it focused on the south of Britain. Those who come from the northern constituencies are anxious to see a more active attempt on the part of all hon. Members to correct this obvious bias in favour of the south —a bias that has been reflected so far in the debate.

The Yorkshire and Humberside County Councils Association is well placed to take the initiative in promoting the region's interests democratically. The four county councils of South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Humberside and North Yorkshire are the strategic planning authorities and have recently published a regional strategy review in consultation with a large number of other bodies that are concerned with life in the region.

In recent years trends have moved strongly against Yorkshire and there has been a rapid decline in some of its basic industries. At the same time, the problems of the inner cities and the remote rural parts of the region have increased. Unemployment is above the national average and is still rising rapidly. Household incomes are the lowest in Britain and there are serious problems arising from the industrial environment, dereliction, a deteriorating housing stock, and rural isolation.

The Yorkshire and Humberside County Councils Association must have extra help to reverse those trends and to tackle the worst of its problems. It must have assistance from the Government and the EC if it is to realise its considerable potential to create new jobs and improve the quality of life. Yorkshire has a large and experienced labour force; attractive, serviced industrial land and buildings; assured energy supplies; an established commercial base; a location in the centre of Britain; good living environment; a range of inexpensive housing; and a strong cultural and sporting tradition. But it badly needs a stimulus to replace the regional aid that the Government have progressively withdrawn from Yorkshire and Humberside.

As well as maintaining the quality of life in Sheffield, the city council is also anxious to keep people in work and to provide work for industries and to service employers in the area. Sheffield is the first local authority in the United Kingdom—perhaps the first in Europe—to create an employment committee and an employment department. Its aims, among others, are to prevent job loss in the city and to alleviate the worst effects of unemployment and to stimulate new investment.

Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)

If the aim of that employment committee is to stimulate jobs in Sheffield, how does Sheffield justify the cost of £1,000 per employee on the rates? That must surely work to the disadvantage of employment in Sheffield rather than to its advantage.

Mr. Duffy

Yes, I have made a note of that information from the Secretary of State. However, he said nothing about the services that are provided to those industries mostly located within my constituency. I meet all the firms and employers in my constituency regularly and keep in close touch with them. I am well aware that what I am saying is going on the record and will be read by most, if not all, of them. Therefore, I shall have to defend what I am saying, which is in the light of my experience and in an attempt to provide a balancing factor.

It may be—I am trying to be fair—that what the city council is doing in support of local industry is not as clear as the facts that the Secretary of State has given the House. Nevertheless, I am confident that Sheffield city council is properly, honestly and genuinely motivated. It has set up this department, which is the first of its type in the country and it is in its early months. I am watching its progress with the closest interest as I am the Member of Parliament who will be most affected. I shall be looking for results as earnestly as the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler).

Although these are early days the department's aims, among others, are to prevent job losses in the city, to alleviate the worst effects of unemployment and to stimulate new investment. Any normal Government in the present position would welcome and assist local initiative and enterprise and encourage such imaginative and probably historic developments. Not this Government. Why has not the Secretary of State made a gesture in the direction of the Sheffield city council and its employment department? Instead, the Government have given the impression they are making every effort to suppress municipal enterprise, but the Conservative party is supposed to be the great believer in local democracy and delegated authority.

It is interesting to compare rate increases with central Government tax increases in the light of election promises made in 1979. The House has heard much about Labour authority rate increases in the debate, but what about tax increases by this Tory Government? Let us consider an average family—a man, wife and two children living in a semi-detached three-bedroom house with as near as possible average rateable value. For purposes of comparison, let us consider the three major areas of deductions from earnings — rates, national insurance payments and the standard rate of income tax. A family in Sheffield has had to find an extra £193 since April 1979 in domestic rate payments. My findings are that the same family has incurred a central Government levy of a further £870 over and above the payments being made when the Government took office. The staggering fact is that in Sheffield the average family will have paid four times as much in national taxation between 1979 and 1983 than it incurred in local rate increases. Meanwhile, the Conservatives proclaim their belief in tax reductions but point the finger at Labour authorities such as Sheffield.

Nothing illustrates better the Conservative Government's four years of embarrassing failures than their increasingly vindictive attitude towards innovative and dedicated Labour councillors such as those who lead and man the Sheffield city council. Nothing typifies and characterises the Conservative Government's approach more than privatisation, because it serves to harden the face of municipal Toryism.

5.13 pm
Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

I am rather disappointed that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) is leaving the Chamber, as he most ungraciously refused to give way to me during his opening speech. Whether that was because he was aware that I have experience at the sharp end of local government as the leader of a county council at a time when, so I am told, he was writing the scripts of "That Was the Week that Was", I do not know. He seemed to be putting forward the view that the higher the level of spending the higher the quality of service. That statement needs challenging and does not stand up to examination. To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, who has now left the Chamber, I shall not be biased by considering two Conservative-controlled authorities, but it is interesting to examine two Labour-controlled authorities. If we examine the figures for the Labour-controlled Leeds council on education and compare them with the figures for the Labour controlled Inner London education authority, some interesting facts result.

Leeds spends £829 per secondary school pupil whereas ILEA spends no less than £1,427 per pupil. According to the point of view put forward by the right hon. Member for Ardwick, hon. Members would expect that the standard and quality of education for ILEA pupils would be higher than for pupils in Leeds. When considering the results of O and A-level examinations in Leeds and ILEA — I am the first to admit that examination results are only one factor in judging the quality of education in schools, but they are an important factor and cannot be ignored — surpisingly, ILEA does not lead by a substantial amount, as would be expected if expenditure were the sole criterion. The record of Leeds is substantially better.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

It is 50 per cent. better.

Mr. Townend

My right hon. Friend tells me it is 50 per cent. better. I knew the level of exam passes was about that figure, and I am grateful for that confirmation. It is significant that Leeds has 50 per cent. better examination results with nearly 50 per cent. less expenditure. The right hon. Member for Ardwick ought to consider that point.

Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)

Are there not other variables in the comparison, such as the ethnic mix, the cost of teaching and the great range of costs that bears on ILEA in comparison to Leeds? Will the hon. Gentleman be fair when giving statistics?

Mr. Townend

As a northerner, I feel at times that the north's position is not fully appreciated in the south of England. I wonder if the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) has been to Leeds when he talks of ethnic minorities. There are substantial ethnic minorities in Leeds. Leeds is considerably smaller than London and it might well have a not dissimilar percentage of ethnic minorities. Bradford has an even greater ethnic minority. If ILEA operated its expenditure within Government guidelines, additional grants would have been available for it to deal with its social problems.

Mr. Wheeler

Before my hon. Friend leaves the topic of ethnic minorities in London and other cities, does he agree that this Government have greatly increased the special allowance under the section 11 funding that goes to the local education authorities, such as ILEA, to provide extra teaching staff to help deal with those special problems? 'That figure is now £90 million a year.

Mr. Graham

That is the expenditure.

Mr. Townend

I accept those figures.

Without doubt most people will agree that there is a great need for promoting economy and efficiency in local goverment services. The Government's effort to encourage local authorities to take a reasonable and responsible attitude towards expenditure by means of penalties have met with varying success throughout the country. Some Labour-controlled authorities have defied the Government and have lost substantial amounts of grant. Many members of the general public have difficulty in understanding the Government's policy. Unfortunately, the people who have to pay for the irresponsibility of Labour-controlled authorities are the ratepayers. They have to pick up the bill. I am afraid that my constituency is in the Humberside county council area, which is one such authority. In 1981, the Socialists took control of the county council. Their first act, virtually within days of taking power, was to embark on a spending spree. They increased the current year's expenditure by no less than £6 million and levied a supplementary rate of 12p. That expenditure was one of the main reasons why the council overspent on the Government's limits and it resulted in a loss to the ratepayers of £7 million in grant.

That was only the beginning. At the end of the first year, the Labour party levied a rate that was 58p higher than the Conservative party's rate in the previous year. In one year, there was an increase of 61 per cent. Admittedly, the situation this year has not been quite so bad because of the public outcry, but the rate has still increased by another 6p and we have suffered a penalty of £9.3 million in lost grant.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Will the hon. Gentleman give the figures for the reduction in rate support grant from the Government in the same period?

Mr. Townend

I just said that there was a reduction of £9.3 million as a result of the council's irresponsibility.

Our area has high unemployment. One in four men — 25 per cent. — are unemployed in Bridlington. The situation is nearly as bad in other parts of my constituency. Surely such policies are mad. The largest plant in Bridlington, the BP chemical works, is just within my constituency's boundaries. The works general manager sent a letter to the county council after the 61 per cent. increase in the rates. He wrote: The unprecedented increase in county council rates in 1982 places a considerable strain on the works' financial stability. The increase in our rates bill of approximately £250,000 comes when we are already making serious losses, which because of fierce competition in the market place cannot be passed onto our customers. We are left … with no alternative but to reduce our fixed costs, of which by far the highest proportion is wages, and already this year we have had to reduce our number of people employed even further than anticipated due directly to this increase. Another major international firm, Reckitts, announced that its plans to find 100 new jobs for school leavers had to be dropped because of the 61 per cent. increase in the rates. Three weeks ago there was an announcement in the local newspaper that a firm in Hull's shopping centre was closing. Part of my constituency, which consists of Hull's commuter belt, will be affected. The company had previously employed 50 or 60 people but was closing because of the high rates. 'The rates affect everyone, and both large and small businesses. The proprietors of small businesses, in particular, have only two options: either to go out of business, or to cut their costs and reduce the number of jobs available.

Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)

Does my hon. Friend agree that if local authorities, particularly those that are Labour-controlled, took more notice of the value of privatisation they could create more job opportunities for local people? Does my hon. Friend also agree that people would prefer their local authorities to consider privatisation instead of spending ratepayers' money on political propaganda?

Mr. Townend

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that point; I was going to mention privatisation later. Ratepayers are now sick and tired of the burdens that they have to bear. Although many of us—particularly those who have spent years in local government—have a high regard for the desirability of local government autonomy, there is growing public demand for the Government to provide some protection against the profligate and rapacious Labour-controlled county councils.

Many people feel that we should fix a ceiling to rate increases, particularly when industry and commerce, which provide the jobs and carry a significant proportion of the burden, have no vote.

Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)

Why are Labour councillors re-elected year after year if there is so much public demand for protection? Does not that demand then come from the minority? How can the hon. Gentleman explain the fact that the collective figure for the rates in Yorkshire and Humberside is one of the lowest, although the unemployment rate there is one of the highest?

Mr. Townend

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is living in a little bit of a fool's paradise. It is false to say that control of the council does not change hands. At the time of the first election, the Labour party controlled Humber county council. The Tories gained control at the second election and during their period of office they kept rate increases below the rate of inflation. If the Labour party's manifesto for the last county council elections had stated that it intended, in its first year, to increase rates by 61 per cent., it would never have been elected. If the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McKay) was a betting man, I would have a straight fiver on the proposition that the Labour party will not be re-elected.

I should like to contrast the irresponsibility of the Socialist county council with the responsible attitude of many of the non-Socialist district councils. The little district council of Holderness has a majority not of Conservatives but of Independents. Without too much difficulty it came within the Government's guidelines. It had to work at it, but it got there in the end. East Yorkshire district council, which has a Conservative majority, made a substantial saving by putting out the job of refuse collection to private tender. The work force then came up with quite considerable savings. One wonders how it had been possible to make such savings overnight. The council decided to accept the substantial savings from improvements in productivity offered by the work force and continued to do its own refuse collection.

One of the principal problems is manpower. Many councils have not made any significant effort to reduce manpower. One of the main causes of the massive rate increases in Humberside was that manpower was increased immediately after the Labour party gained power. According to the manpower watch figures for March 1981 to March 1982 — the Labour party started to take on people in May—the number employed increased by no fewer than 1,267. Many cleaners were included in that figure. The county council was formed from several authorities, such as the county borough of Hull, the borough of Grimsby, parts of east, north and west Riding, and parts of north Lincolnshire. Hull had a Labour-controlled council that was dominated by the unions and it was found that as a result of low productivity and high manning levels the cost per square foot for school cleaning was considerably higher than for schools in any other part of the county council area. Hull was thus brought into line, much to the annoyance of those with vested interests. As soon as the Labour party returned to power, it increased manning levels to the previous level and they are now much higher than anywhere else in the county.

Things did not stop there. The following year, in 1982–83, the council took on another 532 staff. Although the number of pupils was falling and was down by 2.9 per cent., the Labour party increased the number of school meals staff by 46 and the number of ancillary workers, including cleaners, by 132. The Labour party always claims that any increase in staff is to improve services to the public. It is interesting to note in the budget statement that other departmental administrative staff were increased by 61. In the current year that party proposes to take on yet another 103 people. It is a question not of cutting the work force but of not expanding it. The county council now employs 3,500 more people full-time and part-time than previously.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) pointed out, there is plenty of scope for making savings without affecting services. Privatisation can provide healthy savings. There isrenttremendous scope for privatisation in Humberside and I am convinced that, when a Conservative majority is returned after the next county council elections, we shall have no difficulty in getting back within Government guidelines. We shall then receive millions of pounds of extra grant which will enable us to make substantial reductions in the rates to benefit large industry and small businesses, and help increase the employment prospects of our people. I totally support the efforts that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made throughout the country. My only sadness is that my poor constituency is in an irresponsible Socialist county council area and not in a responsible Conservative one.

5.30 pm
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

During the debate we shall hear speech after speech pleading for constituency interests. I do not suppose that my speech will be different, although I wish it were because I hate being dragged down to that level. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) made his usual witty contribution. I trust that he will publish his speeches at some time in the future. We then had the usual robust response from the Secretary of State. But it is always the same old tune. The sooner we get away from this perennial ding-dong, the healthier it will be for local government in Britain.

We have heard no tributes to the quality of local government officers, who continue to maintain high standards despite provocation either from the daftness of the militant Left or the zealots of the Right. We have just heard from the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) who believes that privatisation is the only way forward. Why destroy good public services, of which authorities are justly proud, on the altar of privatisation?

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) will be interested to know that I recently had a visit from two doyens of the Cowes scene, one of whom was Sir Maurice Laing, who pressed on me the need to do something about what I believe is known as the world's premier yachting port, which is badly in need of new investment. They said to me, "Look, Ross, you must do something about the lack of provision for yachtsmen in Cowes". Sir Maurice Laing drew to my attention the facilities on the coast of France. He told me that he takes his boat down the coast of France and uses the marvellous facilities of the marinas there, which are all provided by the local authorities. I said that, if only the Government would allow it, we would like to do the same thing, but this Government believe that local authorities should not be involved in the provision of such public services. Local authorities are able to do so in France. The French are able to run good public companies, such as the Renault car company, which has been nationalised since 1946. Why cannot we get it into our heads that it is not always right to run public services down?

The Seceretary of State has not given us any guidance on what he will do about rating reform. Presumably, there will be no change. There should at the very least be a revaluation, which should be carried out on the basis recommended by Layfield. A revaluation is now 10 years overdue and local authorities are suffering because of that. It is also regrettable that good finance officers are leaving local government because they are being tempted into the private sector by accountants who themselves will shortly be carrying out the audit of local government. Good people are being lost in that way.

We have had no reference to Liberal authorities apart from Liverpool, where Labour and Tory groups continue in an unholy alliance. Labour refuses to take office despite being the largest party. The same has happened in Cannock Chase. Liberals have control, or are in charge of affairs, in eight authorities. I should like to put it on record that the Isle of Wight county council, which I led until today, has increased rates by only 5.5 per cent. The rate is 134p, which is almost the same as Hampshire's. The Medina council has cut its rate by 0.5 per cent.; Adur has made no rate increase at all; Pendle has made no rate increase; Hereford has made no rate increase; Cannock Chase has made no rate increase; Wyre Forest has cut its rate by 2 per cent.; and Liverpool's rate has increasd by 7.7 per cent.

My local authority has avoided a penalty but it will be very difficult during the year to stay on course. On the whole, the new formula does not treat us too badly. It is certainly better than the old one, but there must be something drastically wrong with it when the highest percentage rises in the counties of England are to be found in Cornwall, which is not an overspending authority, where the rate has increased by 14 per cent.

Mr. Allen McKay

Nor a Socialist one.

Mr. Ross

In Surrey, which can hardly claim to be a Socialist authority, the rate has increased by 13.7 per cent. In Buckinghamshire, where, I am told, the leader of the council walked out of a meeting with the former Secretary of State for the Environment, the county council is poised to exceed the target by more than 2 per cent.

The sooner local government is given much greater freedom to raise its own finance, the healthier and better it will be for all concerned. I believe that central Government funding should not exceed 30 per cent. in total. If we could implement Layfield without further prevarication we might get somewhere.

On the whole, local government tries its best to implement central Government diktats, whichever party is in power. Although I accept that a growing number of Labour-controlled councils have behaved irresponsibly, that does not have to be cured by penalties. If one third of an authority is elected annually — this might be the answer to the problem of the hon. Member for Bridlington —the public will do the rest. In 1984 a review is to be carried out. The election of one third of an authority annually is one of the changes that could be introduced. Another change — the sooner it is made the better —should be the return to the all-purpose unitary authority as was originally intended by Redcliffe-Maud, but please deal with the Isle of Wight first, because having three authorities there is driving us all mad. That would save money.

If anyone doubts that the vast majority of local councils have kept within Government guidelines one has only to study the Solace fact sheet, which, unfortunately, runs only to 1981. No doubt the record will be even more impressive today. It shows specifically how local government has managed to keep control of spending. At a time when total Government spending increased by more than 100 per cent., local government spending increased by only 75 per cent. The answers are in that fact sheet and I draw the attention of hon. Members to it.

Unexpected problems can push many authorities into severe penalty. In my constituency we have experienced road subsidence. We have had difficulty with the coastline, which is eroding in several places. Although coastal protection is a second tier authority job, roads come under the county council. The expenditure involved in carrying out that work tends to push us over the edge into penalty. We also have packaged chemicals washed ashore. We receive no help from central Government, nothing from insurance and nothing from the Department of Trade to help us with the problem. It is just another charge on the rates.

This year we introduced industrial de-rating for one year, which has cost the county council about £30,000. That may not be big money for some authorities but it is big enough for us. Because we are not an assisted area we must from time to time find industrial incentives to keep firms within the boundaries of the Isle of Wight. I have had to agree to such a scheme with the new owner of Ronson Products. He received a glittering offer to take his production line to the north-east. We have had to offer to reimburse rent and rate payments for three years to maintain production in the constituency. We have also had to meet other charges. Had we not done so, the factory would have closed with the loss of 75 jobs.

We are put in that position because of the unfairness of Government policies. For example, although unemployment in the area stood at 16.3 per cent. a month or so ago, we do not qualify as an assisted area. There is also the unfairness of urban development grants, about which we heard today. I do not begrudge the urban areas their money but if a hotel and a marina were offered to us we would grab them with both hands.

There is also the unfair effect of development agency activities. The Welsh Development Agency is spending a fortune on television advertising night after night. In addition, there is the effect of enterprise zones. In an area of high male unemployment, and high unemployment overall, it is difficult to fight against the incentives that are on offer.

I listened anxiously to the list of cuts presented by the right hon. Member for Ardwick in case he had discovered a chink in my authority's armour. We were spared, and rightly so, because we can fairly claim to have maintained services in spite of all the difficulties. However, I readily accept that the concessionary fare scheme is miserly and that the education budget is inadequate. My greatest concern lies with social services, where I fear that we are failing to keep up with demand. I understand that each year an additional 1,000 people reach retirement in the constituency.

The problems that lie ahead are immense. Surely it would be justifiable to employ more teachers, reduce class sizes and to train more social workers. Too often head teachers find themselves spending time, both in and out of school, dealing with parents' social problems. There are many children who come from broken homes or single-parent families. Very often the parents turn to the teachers for help and guidance, and much time is being spent in dealing with these problems.

I hope that we shall have the revenue to staff our new day centre at Ryde. There will be an enormous problem if the present regulations are maintained.

On the other side of the coin, we have the daft way in which the Government introduced much greater housing improvement grants. The money was suddenly thrown at the authorities and provision was made for 90 per cent. roofing grants. I was in hospital when the programme was announced. I learned from watching television that I could qualify for a 90 per cent. roofing grant. When I left hospital I returned to my constituency and told the authority that I wanted such a grant. I explained that I had an old house with a peg-tile roof, that there was no felt under it and that each year a lot of snow came through the roof. The roof was probably put on the house in about 1860. I was told that the grants were discretionary and that the authority was not implementing them as they would cease at the end of the year.

I thought about the grant and bore in mind that it would be described as a put-up job if a Liberal Member in a Liberal-controlled authority were given a 90 per cent. re-roofing grant. I did not apply for a grant and I spent £2,800 on a new roof. I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West will tell his dear wife about that.

The re-roofing scheme has now been extended to March 1984 and queues are forming. Money is being thrown at people. Those who went ahead and re-roofed their properties themselves, including myself, feel a bit done out of what should have been theirs. However, that is how the money has been spent. The Government threw the money at the local authorities, which were not ready to take on the task. They did not have the staff to deal with it. There are now appalling queues of applicants —anything between 400 and 500 — and the authorities cannot deal with them.

When Liberals have been in power they have implemented some desirable reforms. However, they have all too often found themselves balked by the dogma of the traditional parties. A good example is the Liverpool dustmen.

Mr. Budgen

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that eventually he would have put another roof on his house irrespective of the roofing grant? Probably the money would have been wasted on him.

Mr. Ross

I think that anyone is a bit of a fool to look a gift horse in the mouth. I should probably say that about anyone who did not take up the grant. I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's political viewpoint. I think that a 90 per cent. roofing grant is probably too generous. On the other hand, I am not against the Government encouraging people to re-roof their houses. I should have preferred the Government to introduce a lesser grant. I did not want to go through another winter with snow in the roof. In fact, I could have got through because we had no snow this year.

Mr. Budgen

The hon. Gentleman would have paid for the re-roofing himself.

Mr. Ross

I was about to give the example of the Liverpool dustmen. It is one that shows the stupidity of our Tory and Labour opponents. In Liverpool the authority is seeking to privatise cleaning services. The dustmen wanted to submit a tender as a co-operative. They engaged the services of a well-known firm to help them, and they were encouraged to do so by the Liberals. However, the Tory and Labour parties in Liverpool got together and ensured that they would not be allowed to tender. I gather that the National Freight Corporation is likely to have submitted the winning tender. That is an example that should concern the electors on 5 May. Under a Liberal administration electorates have the chance to express their views under a charter of public participation at annual public meetings.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The hon. Gentleman has spent some time stressing the record of the Liberal authority on the Isle of Wight. I understand that the Liberals have not increased rates on the Isle of Wight this year. However, they raised them by 19 per cent. in 1980 and by 22½ per cent. in 1981. The same authority on the Isle of Wight raised rents in 1980 by 26 per cent. They were increased in 1981 by 41 per cent. Is it not rather misleading the House to suggest that Liberal local authorities are especially careful about the use of resources? The bill for the cuts that are taking place fell on ratepayers in previous years, and it has fallen on council tenants in the past three years.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman has not said to which authority he is referring.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Medina borough council.

Mr. Ross

I know that rents have increased by 95p this year. The hon. Gentleman knows that most local authorities have been obliged to increase their rents because of the Government's demands. That is not really within the authority's remit. I have some doubt about the figures that he has quoted but I am willing to give him an exact answer in writing when I have studied them in the Official Report.

I think that a clear answer will be given on 5 May, when the Liberals will again win control on the Isle of Wight. At least we give the electorate the chance to attend annual public meetings. Individuals can attend meetings and speak to petitions when they want to present them.

We are not dogmatic about services. For example, there is the joint provision of sports facilities. In some instances we are prepared to lease out the facilities to private operators — I think that they probably run them much better than the local authority. We have an especially efficient waste collection system, which is still within the public sector. Great savings have been made and the number of vehicles has been reduced from 13 to eight by the effective use of performance reviews. That approach was greatly recommended by Lord Redcliffe-Maud, but for some reason it seems not to have been pursued by many authorities other than those which are Liberal-controlled. We have overhauled the housing repair and maintenance services.

These are all matters of common sense, and clearly problems must be considered on their merits. I remind the House that it was Liverpool that pioneered the joint council/private-builder-for-sale-scheme.

Local government is in an appalling dilemma over Sunday trading. A guideline from the Association of District Councils states that it should not take action, but local authorities are being obliged to do so. They are being required by shopkeepers who do not open their premises on Sundays to deal with those who do. A firm in my constituency that trades in garden furniture and other similar supplies is demanding that action be taken to prevent other garden centres opening on Sundays. Some garden centres come under the Medina borough council and others come under South Wight.

The South Wight borough council has about 12 centres within the area that it controls, and it has no intention of taking action to prevent them opening. The Medina borough council finds that it is under a legal obligation, if pressed to do so, to take action against one of the centres that remains open on Sundays. This is absolutely daft, but I am sure that similar instances can be found throughout the country. Home Office guidelines are needed desperately. The Government should say what action they will take on Sunday trading. It is perfectly sensible for garden centres to trade on Sunday afternoons and I think that they should be allowed to stay open. It would be crazy to mount a series of prosecutions of those who do 30 per cent. of their trading on Sundays.

5.49 pm
Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)

I hope that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) will forgive me if I do not take up the theme of his speech. I shall instead take up the excellent address of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, because I wish to draw attention to the Government's considerable success in widening the scope of housing opportunities during the lifetime of this Parliament.

This morning I was present in Charlotte mews in the north of my constituency with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, otherwise known as the chairman of the Conservative party. We attended the opening of some shared ownership houses, which have provided young married couples in the district with their first opportunity of home ownership within the community in which they were born and in which they have lived for many years. The housing is of a quality that they could not have hoped for previously. The shared ownership scheme has been one of the most successful and attractive propositions to have been encouraged by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. It is also value for money.

Three or four homes are obtained under the shared ownership scheme for the same money as one home under the traditional fair renting procedure. It means that the community as a whole is enriched. Shared ownership—home ownership in the council sector — means that people have a stake in their environment. They belong to it, they and their children contribute to it, they are concerned with the quality of life and the preservation of law and order, with good relationships with their neighbours and a host of things that build up a satisfied and contented society. My right hon. Friend properly drew the attention of the House to those achievements, which the electors in the local government elections outside the Greater London area will be considering on 5 May.

It is often said that proper democratic control over local government spending is best achieved by ensuring that those spending the money are directly accountable through the ballot box to those being taxed. It may be said that the United States was born out of the ideal that there should be no taxation without representation. The trouble with the rating system in Britain is that it fails to do that. About 57 per cent. of local authority money arrives at the door of the town hall via the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who raises it by direct taxation, and 24 per cent. of local government finance comes from commercial and industrial ratepayes, including the gas and electricity authorities, the Health Service and the retail food industry.

It is of significance that London Electricity is paying £30 million a year in rates. That cost goes on to the standing charge and into the accounts of commercial and domestic users alike. For the domestic user of gas and electricity, it probably means an extra £12 a year on the standing charge, and that is directly related to the rates. Yet the commercial and industrial ratepayers—the gas, electricity and other big providers of rating sums, the 24 per cent. to which I referred — have no part in the election of local authorities. They have no say in the way the money is raised or how much is raised and no say in the manner of its spending. It is not true, therefore, that local government is democratic. It is not.

Another problem with the rating system is that the impact of inflation in recent times has been such that, combined with the increase in wage inflation, it has driven up the rates to an extremely high, if not unacceptable, level. The Conservative Government have succeeded in containing inflation, now down to 4.6 per cent., and it is hoped that it will go even lower in the months ahead, and that is making a contribution to the control of rates. The mystery is how it is possible for local authorities to put up the rates excessively above the average rate of inflation. Why they should need to do so is a question to which the electors in England and Wales should address themselves in the days ahead.

Mr. Murphy

My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the way in which local authorities, in the view of many people, misspend the ratepayers' money. Does he agree that that is more than a misfortune for firms which move out of the Greater London area because of the high level of rates, only to find themselves in areas which, because they are Labour controlled, are misspending the rates and increasing rather than decreasing the numbers of local authority employees? If they were decreasing those numbers, they would help not only to keep the rates down but to keep the firms there.

Mr. Wheeler

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Large businesses in the city of Westminster are deciding to move out of central London because of the high level of rates. The prudent ones look to areas where Conservatives are traditionally in control. They move their offices and businesses to those areas because they know that they can look for stability and fairness in projected levels of rate increases in the years ahead. That is important to them, because they must remain competitive with overseas companies, and they have a duty to their employees to maintain their businesses and ensure that their employees have a future.

When we further consider the concept of democracy in local government it is necessary to look at the abomination of the precepting authorities. It is of great significance that in this debate we have heard that the three precepting authorities which cause so many difficulties are the Greater London council; its committee, the Inner London education authority; and West Midlands county council.

The truth is that those authorities are not democratic. Their councillors do not go to the hustings and account directly for the money that they spend. They are able to collect the rates money through the other local authorities, and the councillors of those other authorities — in London, the 32 London boroughs — are responsible directly to the electors for raising that money. It is a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs. It is now urgent for the Government to reconsider the role of the precepting authorities. If local government is to be maintained, it should be local in character, democratic and accountable to local people. It should be organised on the basis that local people can have a direct say in the running of their affairs. That is not the case now.

Mr. Allan Roberts

The hon. Gentleman has made a good case for democratising the Health Service and water authorities. Is he advocating that those bodies should also be run by democratically elected councillors?

Mr. Wheeler

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Health Service receives its finance from central Government, that it is not funded locally through the rating system, and that this House is responsible for the high and increasing standards of service in and increasing expenditure on the NHS. It is not a matter for local government control.

Mr. Roberts

What about the water authorities?

Mr. Wheeler

If we consider the precepting authorities, we see that the electors do not find much favour with those bodies and do not take part in local government elections. In the May 1981 GLC elections about 43 per cent. of the eligible electorate in the Greater London area turned out to vote. Sadly, 41 per cent. of the votes cast were for the Labour party and just under 40 per cent. were for the Conservatives. The electors of London believed then that the leadership of a Labour GLC would be under the control of Mr. McIntosh, who is now translated to the other place, and they were surprised to find after a few hours that the leadership had been seized by the Left wing of the Labour party and Mr. Livingstone, and they have subsequently inflicted on the people of London one of the worst kinds of local government institutions that has been known in the history of this country.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The hon. Gentleman was making a case for ending the precept arrangements that the GLC currently enjoys. Is he advocating the hiring of more bureaucrats by the GLC to send out additional rate demands over and above those sent out by the boroughs?

Mr. Wheeler

Far from advocating an increase in the bureaucracy of the GLC, I am suggesting to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there should be no GLC at all. It no longer has a function. Since it was created in 1963—in those days the Labour party was opposed to its creation — it has increasingly lost the services that were given to it. The ambulance service was passed to the National Heath Service, water is now part of the Thames water authority and housing is now with the 32 London boroughs. The "doing" functions of the GLC are London Transport, where it has failed miserably to provide an efficient and cost-effective service, and education in the inner London boroughs. What is needed is an abolition of the giant precepting county councils, such as the GLC, the West Yorkshire and Merseyside county councils. They are remote, and they are not democratic. They do not serve the best interests of local people.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I thought that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was going to draw a parallel between Andrew McIntosh and Ken Livingstone, who now leads the London Labour party, and the present leadership of the national Labour party.I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that, win or lose, the Labour party is most likely to change its leader. It might be led either by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) or by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). I am sure that if the choice were put to the electorate, there would be the same effect at the national election as there would have been if Mr. Livingstone had led the London Labour party at the last GLC election.

Mr. Wheeler

I am indebted to my hon. Friend for his intervention. In the unlikely event of the electorate favouring the Labour party in the general election, it could not know who would be the leader of that party, and presumably the Prime Minister. Would it be a case of Mr. McIntosh and Mr. Livingstone again? One might go further. If Mr. Livingstone succeeds in his ambition to obtain the nomination for the constituency of Brent, East, it could be Mr. Livingstone. Those are matters where I feel that speculation, however entertaining, is not part of the debate.

Some hon. Members have already referred to the Inner London education authority. It is the most expensive education authority in the country. I know from my experience of looking at other education authorities, such as Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, that those great cities have a similar range of problems to those in inner London. The difference is that in inner London the authority spends upwards of £1,500 per pupil, whereas authorities in other great cities spend between £700 and £800 per pupil, generally for a better standard of education. What is going on in inner London to justify that increased expenditure? It is clear from an examination of the ILEA's records that proportionally more is being spent on bureaucracy and administration than on the provision of teachers teaching in schools. I am told that there are now more bureaucrats in the ILEA area than school teachers. I am further told that no fewer than 500 of the ILEA teachers never actually teach in schools but are away at courses, conferences and other gatherings.

The ILEA is not directly accountable to the parents and the people of inner London. It is too large and remote. The Westminster city council provides most of the money for the ILEA, but there is only one councillor representative on that authority to speak for the whole of the city of Westminster, the principal funder of the ILEA. That is profoundly unsatisfactory.

One question that should concern the House and, I hope, the Government is whether such an authority can be justified in future and whether it would be better to do as many of the Conservative inner London boroughs request — to be their own education committees. Certain matters would need to be resolved if that were to be approved. I can think of two immediately. The first relates to special schools and the second to higher education establishments. Both those important questions could be resolved if the councillors of the inner London boroughs were allowed to consider their future and how those special situations could best be dealt with in the interests not only of the children and young people who attend those special schools and education establishments but of the staff who work in them and those who foot the bills — the ratepayers.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the hon. Gentleman aware — he must be—that on three occasions in recent years reports inspired or carried out by Conservatives have offered much the same critique of the ILEA as he has and that on every occasion their recommendations have been turned down, even by the hon. Gentleman's Government? Secondly, is he aware that in the ILEA area the authority and staff have to deal with a greater diversity of cultural backgrounds among the children than in any city in the world, not just in Britain? The teachers out of the classrooms who are undertaking courses are nearing—not meeting—the recommendations of the James report for the whole country, and that report was made in the 1970s. If the ILEA were to spend what the Government say that it should spend, it would break the law, in the view of a responsible authority, Mr. Peter Newsam, the former chief executive.

Mr. Wheeler

I shall pursue the hon. Gentleman's points as best I can. None of the studies that have been undertaken by members of the Conservative party into the ILEA and its future has been ruled out of court permanently. All those options, in a free society looking for what is in the best interests of all the people, must remain under consideration. In the past year or so, even after some of the reports had been made, some of the inner London boroughs have requested a review of the matter. The request has come from the very people who are dissatisfied with the services that the ILEA provides. If local government is to be local, it should be accountable to the man in the street. Large authorities, such as ILEA, are not accountable to the man in the street. One councillor has to represent the whole city of Westminster on the ILEA. How can it be acceptable for one person to have to speak for a great city, such as the city of Westminster?

The hon. Gentleman's second point was about the nature and diversity of the community in central London. I need no lessons from the hon. Gentleman on that. I serve the House as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. I have visited the big cities of this country and of other parts of the western world, such as New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta. I have seen how the people of similar communities — often immigrant communities—are brought into society, even though they may not have a command of the English language. I have seen other educational systems and authorities at work. It is not true to say that ILEA has to grapple with a situation which is unique either in the United Kingdom or in the western world.

The Government recognise the problem and have strengthened and improved the special grant arrangements under the Local Government Act. Section 11 provides for funding for extra teaching staff for education authorities such as ILEA which have particular problems. The funding has been increased, and the scope of section 11 extended. The ILEA cannot get off the hook on that basis. The figures show that an excessive proportion of money goes into bureaucracy and administration — far more than in any similar education authority in the country.

I am concerned about the impact of rates on those who live in London. In the city of Westminster the average domestic ratepayer will pay £821.99 in 1983–84. The Government's rate relief will reduce that by £139.12. That leaves a net payment of £682.87. Of that, the overall cost of providing the services of the city council is a mere £99, although the city council is the doing authority, concerned with housing, street cleaning, refuse, environmental services and all the services that the people enjoy. Where does the rest of the money go? The GLC grabs £211 of it and the Inner London education authority snatches £408. The Metropolitan police take £61, but no one in my constituency would begrudge them that money. Because the city of Westminster is in the inner London equalisation pool, it has to pay £41 to other inner London boroughs.

The problem is that three quarters of the rates that my constituents pay go to the precepting authorities — the GLC aand ILEA. I wish that I could report to the House that the GLC spends that money in an acceptable way, but it does not. Under the Local Government Act, about £57 million is available to the GLC for expenditure on grants.

I shall tell the House about some of those grants and the anger that has been aroused in central London as a consequence of that expenditure. Some hon. Members will find the experience unpalatable, but the truth deserves to be heard. How is it justifiable to spend £35,000 to celebrate the Karl Marx centenary? As I understand it, Karl Marx produced a political theory which, unhappily, has been adopted by some nations with the consequence that millions of people have been done to death. It would have been just as sensible for the GLC to spend £50,000 on celebrating the birthday of Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

The GLC is to spend £630,000 on the Waltham Forest Police Monitoring Group, which is opposed to the local police, although I understand that the people of Waltham Forest are in favour of the prevention of crime and welcome the appearance of more police officers on the beat in their neighbourhood in an attempt to stop crime. A mere fleabite in GLC terms—£800—goes to Babies Against the Bomb. No less than £16,000 goes to the Irish Women's Group. Why cannot the Irish women be part of British society without special funding? For some reason, Women in Greenwich receives £21,000. Why? The List is endless.

It is worse than that. One of the most undesirable developments in local government in recent times has been the desire and commitment of the GLC to spending ratepayers' money — the money that ordinary people have to work for — on straightforward political propaganda. Hundreds of thousands of pounds is being spent on a political propaganda sheet—The Londoner—which contains naked and unashamed political propaganda of the worst and most shoddy kind.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds is spent on propaganda against the police service in London and against the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. The House is responsible for considering the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. That is not a matter of concern to any of the 600 councils in England and Wales, least of all the GLC, which has no responsibility at all for the police service in London. It is for this House to decide whether the Bill is what the country wants, and to approve or amend it.

It is intolerable that the money of my constituents and of businesses in inner London should be stolen from them under this precepting rating system to be spent in such a way. That is one of the ugliest of political developments of modern times. It is profoundly unsatisfactory that a council should set itself up to be in opposition to the elected Government and Parliament. That state of affairs should be roundly condemned by everyone, including Opposition Members.

Local government should be what it was intended to be in 1888, when county councils were first established. Councillors in those days saw themselves as acting independently — often not as members of a political party — as representatives and servants of the local community, discharging services passed down from this House to the local authority as part of the process of delegation. Those councillors saw themselves not as squanderers of ratepayers' money but as servants of the local community.

Local government these days has become remote, too large and bureaucratic. Sadly, some local authorities—notably the precepting authorities — have abandoned ideals, such as fairness, in the straightforward pursuit of narrow political dogma and interests. That is against the interests of the people of this country, and, above all, of the ratepayers who have to provide the money.

6.20 pm
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

I follow the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler) only to say that in my view it is the duty of an elected authority to act according to the manifesto on which it is elected. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, in this day and age local elections are determined on political lines. People vote for Labour or Conservative candidates, and in some strange areas of the country they vote for SDP or Liberal candidates.

Nothing is worse than councillors being elected on a manifesto and then ignoring it, and nothing is more unwise for politicians here than to suggest that local government should not be political and that local elections should not be conducted on political lines. At national and local level, that is what our democracy is about—a polarisation of issues and principles which I believe is adequately exemplified in the two-party system. If the electors want independent councillors who, in my view, act in a Right-wing way but who are independent of any political party, they have to opportunity to vote for them in local elections. In many parts of the country a large number of candidates calling themselves independents stand for election and are defeated.

The manifesto now being implemented by the Labour group on the GLC is that which was placed before the electorate in the GLC elections and had nothing to do with the identity of the leader of the Labour group at that time.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

When I read the Labour manifesto for the last GLC election, I saw no reference to money being given to the Karl Marx centenary or Babies Against the Bomb and even in my own borough I saw no reference to money being given to Women in Greenwich. I should be grateful to know whether the hon. Gentleman read the manifesto more carefully or whether these were new proposals hidden from the electorate.

Mr. Roberts

Specific organisations were not listed, but the manifesto stated that there would be an entirely new approach to the giving of grants. The same is true of political parties fighting national elections. The Conservative manifesto at the last general election nowhere mentioned purchasing Trident, but anyone reading the manifesto would realise that that was the kind of activity that the Conservatives would get up to if they were elected. Exactly the same applies to the GLC.

Mr. Wheeler

The hon. Gentleman represents a division of the city of Liverpool. Why is no Labour Member from a London constituency present to explain the excesses of the GLC?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I do not represent any part of the city of Liverpool, although I intend to refer to it. I represent Bootle, in the area of Sefton metropolitan district council, a Conservative-controlled authority to which I shall also refer. I think that I am entitled to say something about London, however, as I pay rates to the borough of Tower Hamlets and thus to the precepting authorities, the GLC and ILEA. Indeed, I paid my bill just this week.

The hon. Member for Paddington said that the present system of local government was too remote, too large and not accountable. I agree with some of his comments. It was a Conservative Government who established the present two-tier system of local government. This led to conflict, unnecessary complication and bureaucracy not just in the metropolitan areas, selected by the hon. Gentleman beacause those county councils are Labour controlled, but throughout the country wherever the two-tier system exists.

I favour getting rid of two-tier local government, but in so doing we must ensure that all the services now controlled by any tier of local government—as well as many local government services that have been hived off by successive Governments, especially Conservative Governments, to non-elected undemocratic bodies such as area health authorities and water authorities — are democratically controlled and accountable. The hon. Gentleman carefully ignored my point about water authorities. Water rates are paid locally, but the people running the boards are elected by no one. Indeed, legislation has recently been pushed through to make those boards still more undemocratic and to remove local authority representation from them.

The main theme of the debate has been the juxtaposition of the need for local authorities to provide decent services —education, health, social services, housing, construction and improvement work to help people in need—and the attempt to levy reasonable rates to provide those services. Traditionally, until the Government's local government legislation, in local councils and at local elections there was a sensible debate between Labour and Conservative parties about the level of services required to meet the needs of the area and the rate levels to be set. Local elections were about the balance to be struck between the level of rates and the level of services and the electors made up their minds on that basis. In general, Labour-controlled councils had better services to meet the needs of those dependent on them—of whom there are now far more than there used to be—but higher rates, whereas Tory-controlled authorities had worse services but lower rates. The arguments in local government elections were about issues of that kind. Generally speaking, too, successive Labour and Conservative Governments provided about 60 per cent. of local government expenditure through rate support grant.

Mr. John Heddle (Lichfield and Tamworth)

The hon. Gentleman is talking arrant nonsense about local democracy in council elections. Most of the rate revenue of local authorities comes from industrial and commercial ratepayers who have no voice and no vote, no say and no sanction in the way in which profligate councils spend the money.

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman is certainly wrong to say that most of the revenue is from that source, but if he and his party feel so strongly about the way in which the rating system operates we may look forward to publication of the long-heralded reforms that the Prime Minister has been promising for 10 or 15 years but which are still no nearer.

Until recently, the people who can vote in local elections would decide through the ballot box what type of council and therefore what level of services and what level of rates they wanted. We also have the system of rate support grant which used to take account of the needs of different areas. There was a needs element in rate support grant for local authorities such as the Inner London education authority, Manchester council, Liverpool council and areas with more children needing school meals, one-parent families and elderly people who depend on services. The rate support grant system used to provide extra grant to relieve the burden on industry and others.

Most of the time, rate support grant amounted to about 60 per cent. of local government expenditure. It seemed that if we were to have a rating system at all, that was a reasonably fair one. Under this Government, that system has been completely altered. It ill becomes Conservative Members to talk about democracy and accountability in local government when the very nature of local government elections has been destroyed.

It is no longer possible to go to the ballot box and determine the level of rates and what services should be provided for one's children, the elderly or people in housing need. Everything is now determined by central Government, computer civil servants and politically motivated Ministers in the Department of the Environment. They dictate what rate increases will be allowed and what levels of rates can be levied by each authority. They also control the level of services in each local authority.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) said, the Government invented the ideal imaginary local authority. My right hon. Friend called it Heseltinia. I suppose that it is just a Kingdom now as we have a new Secretary of State. They invented a model local authority which could be fed into the Department of the Environment's computer. It has just the right number of elderly, just the right number of children and just the right number of one-parent families. Out of that model comes a pattern for every local authority in the country, no matter how different they may be. The instructions then go out and central Government grant is cut. The instructions dictate the level of rate and rent increases and cuts in services. Any democratically elected local authority that fails to conform with those instructions is penalised dramatically.

The consequences of cutting public expenditure by reducing Government grant to local authorities and forcing them to cut services are dramatic for the people who receive local authority services. Today's debate is not simply about local government cuts; it is about the consequences of the cuts in the services which are provided for the communities.

The Secretary of State said that if people want to keep the rates down they should vote Conservative on 5 May. Does that mean that if the Conservatives are returned at the local elections the Government will increase block grant and rate support grant allocations? The largest contributing factor to rate increases is the cut in Government grant. If inflation increases, every local authority must increase the rates to maintain the same level of services. If inflation increases by 10 per cent., local authorities must increase rates to maintain the same level of services in the following year unless rate support grant is increased to keep pace with that inflation.

Rate support grant has not kept pace with inflation—it has been cut during the past three years when inflation has been pretty high. As a result, local authorities have faced two options. They can either cut services or increase rates. Most have tried to do a balancing act and saved or cut where they can — they do not want to and the decisions have been painful—and increased rates to save some of the services. However, they have increased rates at their peril because the Government tell them that if they increase their rates to save services the Government will take even more grant away.

The metropolitan borough of Sefton is the lowest-rated metropolitan council in the country. It is Conservative controlled and should be a model for the Government. In its budget report, it said: The Government has issued expenditure guidance to local authorities for 1983/1984 and a forecast of individual expenditure targets for each authority. The purpose of these targets is to make clear to each authority the contribution it is being asked to make to achieve the overall reduction in the real level of local authority expenditure which the Government are seeking as part of the general plan for reducing public expenditure. Sefton's target is £87.884 million at out-turn prices. Sefton's expenditure in 1983/84 at out-turn prices i.e. including contingency is estimated to be £88.912 million. This means that Sefton will be exceeding the Government's target by about £1 million. That is Tory Sefton, the lowest-rated metropolitan borough in the country. It spends £168.98 per head of population on education. The average is £212. Sefton spends only £37 per head of population on social services whereas the average is £47. Even Liberal-Tory Liverpool spends £60.79. Sefton has Southport, which is a holiday resort, in its area, yet it spends a mere £3 per head of population on pools, sports and recreation centres. The average is £5.70. Knowsley, which is not exactly a holiday area, spends £8.53 and Newcastle spends £12.76. On housing, other than the housing revenue account, Sefton spends £7.27 per head of population, whereas the average is £12.08. Sefton is one of the meanest councils in the world but it will exceed Government targets by about £1 million. The council's report continues: The Government are 'proposing to reinforce targets by harsher penalties. Even authorities such 'as Sefton who are spending below the GREA level could suffer penalties if they exceed the Government target. Sefton is getting round the problem. The local authority, with which the Secretary of State for Education and Science has discussed voucher schemes and which is so Right wing that it makes the Prime Minister look like a Communist, is proposing to get round the Government's legislation.

The report continues: In order to protect the best interests of the Council and to promote a more flexible approach towards recording expenditure in response to Government targets and Block Grant penalties, it may be helpful to create a 'Reserve and Repair Fund' which would be operated with full regard to proper accounting principles. That is a method to get round its own Government's proposals to penalise it.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the trade, that is now known as cosmetic accountancy?

Mr. Roberts

Yes. It happens in several local authorities because it is difficult for a totalitarian Government to control democratically elected local authorities that happen to be responsive to the people in their areas, even when they are Conservative authorities that wield the axe with as much relish as the Secretary of State for the Environment.

The report also points out that the Government have reduced the grant of non-spendthrift Conservative Sefton from 56.1 per cent. to 52.8 per cent. In 1979, under a Labour Government, it was 62 per cent. It should be remembered that Sefton includes inner city areas such as Bootle, which needs massive amounts of public expenditure. When one considers that, in my area, 30 per cent. of active males are unemployed and 48 per cent. of properties in the inner city are still owned by private landlords, lack basic amenities and are unrepaired, one can see the need for more public expenditure.

The consequences of Sefton metropolitan district council's policies on the community will be extensive. Charges for amenities such as parks and open spaces will increase, car parking charges will be introduced, and charges at the municipal golf course will rise. It has closed a swimming pool, shortened the season of Bootle stadium, reduced maintenance provision for swimming baths and increased charges for them. It has closed down swimming pools at primary schools, in an area where children drown in the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It intends to amalgamate 12 infant and 12 junior schools, and to reduce provision for cleaners at schools and colleges, which will affect 50 part-time staff. It will cease to provide transport to take children to swimming lessons, and cease to employ two full-time and six part-time swimming instructors. It has closed a special school for the handicapped in Bootle, and the pupils have been transferred to a school 20 miles away. It has reduced some courses and abandoned others at colleges of further education in Bootle, and has increased fees for adult education centres, while closing some. It will no longer provide school milk except for medical cases. School meal charges will be increased, and the style of catering will be changed, which means that children will get less for the same money, and the services of two youth advisers are to be withdrawn.

Part-time libraries will be closed, mobile library services reduced by nearly 50 per cent., fines increased, newspapers and periodicals cancelled, record library charges increased and the hours of opening for libraries reduced.

Cuts in social services will affect people in need, for whom Conservative Members claim to care. The council will delete six trainee posts in the social services department, reduce food provision in children's homes, increase charges for day nurseries, increase meal charges at day centres and adult training centres, and introduce a £1 per person a week minimum charge for domestic help for the elderly and handicapped and an adjustment of the maximum charge. It will increase charges for meals on wheels and luncheon club meals, reduce provision for aids and adaptations for the handicapped, increase the rental charge for telephones, and reduce the provision of new telephones for community services and holidays.

Those are just some of the cuts that the Tory-controlled council has imposed on the people of Bootle because of its policy of keeping down rates and because of the massive cuts in the rate support grant imposed, even on that authority, by central Government. It is said that local authorities squander money, but if they spent money on those services, not a penny of it would be squandered.

The Secretary of State seemed to praise Liverpool in his opening speech. That is not surprising, because there is a mutual admiration society between the Liverpool Liberals and the Conservative party. Sir Trevor Jones asked the Prime Minister not to remove_ the previous Secretary of State for the Environment as Minister for Merseyside, and the present Secretary of State holds Liverpool up as a paragon of virtue compared with Manchester, which surprises me. The Secretary of State may not know about Manchester, but he should know Liverpool because he has visited it frequently. At one time Liverpool was to twin with Hanoi. Both cities look as though they have been bombed, but the difference is that Hanoi has been bombed whereas Liverpool has been set about by the Conservative-Liberal coalition that runs the local authority.

Last year the Liberal slogan in Liverpool was, "Marxists out, Liberal in," and the party lost seats. This year the approach is softer and the slogan is, "Love Liverpool, vote Liberal". Anyone who loves Liverpool will not vote Liberal, if he considers what the Liberals have done to the city. The Labour party is receiving a good response on the doorsteps in Bootle with our slogan, which is, "Do you want Bootle to be run like Liverpool? Vote for the SDP-Liberal alliance if you do." No one wants his area run like Liverpool.

The figures that I quoted earlier were accurate—there is a massive housing waiting list—and were provided by the chief executive of the council. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) were provided by the Liberal chairman of housing, and are sure to be wrong. The hon. Gentleman must be careful about praising the Liberal party now that he has left Liverpool, because I believe that it is strong in the area to which he has moved.

The consequences of the Liberal-Conservative alliance in Liverpool have been devastating. It was the so-called home of community politics, but the Liberal council has stopped community politics, and all expenditure on community workers and community projects in which the council was involved. An organisation that becomes involved in community politics and that criticises the council will no longer be supported by the council.

The council also closed Croxteth comprehensive. If ever a community rose up against cuts, demanded that its school should continue, and fought on the basis of parental choice, it has been Croxteth, where the Liberal-Tory council, with the approval of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, closed a much-needed community school. The parents and children have kept open that school, supported by the trade union movement in the area, and dedicated teachers are now teaching children who will sit 0-levels, but who were told before the council threatened to close the school that they were not fit to sit or to pass exams. It is a wonderful example of a community showing a council that it wants a decent education service and that it will not put up with cuts imposed by a Conservative Government or a Liberal council.

The council, with Liberals and Conservatives voting together, has decided to close the welfare rights centre in Liverpool, but such a centre is badly needed in Liverpool, with its high unemployment. A campaign has been started to keep open the centre. The city council has also waged a campaign against the Merseyside county council unemployment centre, which is helping the unemployed in many ways. However, it is a community activity and is opposed by the Liverpool Liberals.

Closures of community facilities in Toxteth were going ahead apace just before the riots there. However, in the inner part of Liverpool 50 per cent. of the population is unemployed. During the past three years the number of people claiming supplementary benefit on Merseyside has increased by 31 per cent., and the number of those claiming unemployment benefit has increased by 91 per cent. The area needs public expenditure. It depends upon the services provided by local authorities, and the local authorities need Government backing to provide those services. However, all that they have received are palliatives. Money has been provided for urban aid, for inner city partnerships, and for a flower festival, but those are drops in the ocean compared with the massive amount of rate support grant that has been taken away from Merseyside during the past three years.

I conclude by giving some figures that show how much rate support grant Merseyside has lost. In 1981–82, Knowsley received £38 million in rate support grant, but in 1983–84 it will receive only £33 million. In 1981–82, Liverpool received £115.4 million, but in 1983–84 it will receive £103 million. In 1981–82, St. Helens received £33 million, but in 1983–84 it will receive £32 million. In 1981–82, Sefton—the famous authority about which I have told the House—received £47 million, but in 1983–84 it will receive £40 million, which is a cut of £7 million by the Conservative Government whom it supports. The grant for Wirral will be reduced from £55 million to £50 million. Those figures are at 1981–82 prices, and they show how those who depend on local government services, such as the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled and children, are being starved by the Government of the money that they need to live decent lives and to rebuild their communities.

6.50 pm
Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich, East)

Like other Members who have served in local government and who look back with some nostalgia to their time in town and county halls, I always feel sad when I see that local authority debates have the power to empty this Chamber to the extent that they do. Looking round the Chamber, one would hardly imagine that local elections are to take place in most of the country next week.

This lack of interest reflects the fact that the institution of local government is losing public confidence. It is under pressure from two directions. First, it is under pressure from the growing centralisation of control by national Government. That inevitably reduces the ability to introduce local initiatives and local enterprise, which in my view are the heart-blood of local government. Secondly, local government is threatened by the activities of some Labour councillors who seem to act as though the local authority is merely the extension of their Labour party apparatus. I believe that both those trends are undermining public trust and faith in local government.

Three things bother me about central Government's approach to local government as we have seen it develop over the past few years. First, we have seen a deliberate switch in paying the costs of local services from central taxation to local rates. The proportion of relevant local council expenditure met by the rate support grant in 1980–81 was 61 per cent. It fell to 59 per cent. in the following year. In 1982–83 it was 56 per cent. In the current year we are told it will be 52.8 per cent., but many of us believe that penalties will reduce it below 50 per cent.

I want to see less dependence by local government on central Government grants. I think that we ought to try to wean local government from its dependence on the great cash register in the sky, but that can be done only by providing a sensible viable and alternative source of local government finance. Cutting grants and not providing an alternative source of finance merely adds to the strain on the rating system, and many of us recognise that ratepayers are now being asked to do too much in terms of meeting the burden of council spending.

Secondly, we have seen a switch in the allocation of Government resources away from the hard-pressed inner urban areas. For example, in the current year's rate support grant settlement we are using the revised population figures based on the 1981 census. That means that in many of the inner urban areas the population has fallen. As a result, the rateable value spread over a smaller population produces a higher figure of rateable value per head of population, and that, magically, suggests that the area has become richer, and as a result it loses grant. Everyone with experience of inner city areas knows that as the population decreases problems tend to increase. The people who leave the inner city tend to be the young, the skilled, the articulate, the physically strong. Those who are left behind tend to be disproportionately the elderly, the unskilled, the disabled and families with problems. Unemployment, which is always much worse in the inner urban area, accentuates and aggravates these social problems. So the need is to spend more, not less, in that inner urban situation.

I very much welcome what the Secretary of State has done in an attempt to attract more private investment into the inner cities. It is a step in the right direction, but it does not reduce the need for social service spending to attack the real hard-core problems of the inner city areas. I think that most experts would agree that in inner London, for example, the social service grant-related expenditure assessments woefully understate the social needs of inner London.

I do not want to intervene in the somewhat detailed debate we have had about ILEA's performance. It is not for me, as an inner London parent or Member of Parliament, to defend everything that ILEA does, but it does seem extremely odd that for three years in succession ILEA has not got a penny piece of central Government grant. That means that taxes paid by my constituents help to educate children in other parts of this country, but not one penny piece goes towards the cost of educating their own children. That strange situation is the result of the Government's approach to local authority spending.

The third thing that I resent about the Government's approach is this complex spider's web of financial control that they built as a means of controlling local council spending. Each piece of legislation, each successive rate support grant settlement, has tightened the screw, and we now have a complicated system of targets and penalties which is quite incomprehensible to the public and, I think, even to many in local government. They certainly do not act as though they understand how it operates.

I believe that that is bad for local democracy. I believe that, if we go on with a system of imposed targets calculated on the basis of complicated mathematical formulae, instead of local judgment about local needs and priorities, the whole purpose of local government will eventually be called into question.

I also quarrel with the idea of the penalty system, because I think that makes local government less accountable. When every pound of spending costs the ratepayers £l.60, because of the loss of Government grant, it is impossible for the average citizen to compare the cost of the service with the benefits that flow from it. Furthermore, Government interference provides a perfect excuse for inefficient or wasteful councils to increase rates and simply say, "It is not our fault. The wicked Government cut our grant. We are not responsible." As has already been pointed out, it is all very well for the Government to talk about penalties being applied to local authorities, but the penalties fall not on the local authorities; they fall on the luckless ratepayers. The Government's response is that ratepayers are voters, too; but many voters are not direct ratepayers, and that simply confuses the whole situation. Many people who are benefiting from the services or whose rates are paid by supplementary benefit are simply not involved in the business of paying the bill at the end of the day.

One of the most frightening statistics that I have seen lately in connection with this argument is that showing the steady fall in the percentage of rate income coming from those who actually vote in local elections. The most recent figures put it as low as 8 per cent. of rate income paid by people who actually vote in elections. That is something that we ought to be concerned about if we want to increase the accountability of local authorities.

I would also point out — as have other London Members who have spoken in this debate—that it is not much good saying to us that ratepayers have votes, because in London we have votes only once every four years. We had our vote last year and we are paying for it this year, and we will pay for it, I suspect, the year after and the year after that. Magically, in the fourth year, when the electors have the opportunity to vote—I would put my money on this —rate demands in London will be much lower than in the preceding period. That is a fact of life which applies whoever is in control, but I think that it undermines the force of the Government's argument that those who have to pay rates have the opportunity of changing the composition of their council.

The London borough of Greenwich—my own local authority—has not in the past been noted for massive rate rises, and it has always provided sensible government whichever party has been in control. We have this year a rate rise of 29.8 per cent. We have achieved the doubtful distinction of tying with the London borough of Islington in having the highest rate rise in the whole of Greater London. Our council says, "It is not our fault. It is the fault of the wicked Government," Every problem that comes to it, whether it be window frames that do not fit or the lack of transport for the disabled, the response is the same—"It is not us, guy, it is all down to the Government." That is the sort of excuse that we get every time.

I do not dispute that the Government have set spending targets in Greenwich which are too low to meet the problems, but I think that the Labour-controlled council has made a difficult situation worse by the whole range of low priority spending with which we in London have become familiar. For example, there is the council newspaper. There is nothing new about council newspapers—we have all had them in the past—but they have been produced by council staff and have provided a reasonable view of what is going on in the town hall. Our council newspaper is produced not by council staff but by journalists from Tribune, who are moonlighting on a very well paid basis at the ratepayers' expense.

We have had all the nonsense of contributions to the London Labour leaders' organisation, political propaganda on the dustcarts, and all the rest of it, and now we are beginning to see what this means in terms of employees of the local authority.

We are now told that there will have to be a 10 per cent. increase in the borough council's work force to carry through the Labour party's manifesto. An officers' report published this week says: The precise scale of manpower growth is still being calculated as service committees consider their plans but is certain to exceed 500. Apparently they will be white collar local government jobs. In passing, I noticed that Mr. Ken Livingstone made some trenchant comments to NALGO against increasing white collar jobs in local government, but apparently that is what we shall see in Greenwich.

The council's community affairs committee is considering a package of 29 new jobs, costing £173,000. It includes a health worker, education workers, 12 workers to cater for the needs of ethnic minorities, three information assistants, a grants officer — that sounds ominous—a police adviser, a women's adviser and five administrative posts. We are warned that the extra staff will need more office accommodation and additional car parking space.

That is a strange sense of priorities in an inner London borough. My constituents point regularly to the problems that they think ought to be tackled. There is the problem of lengthy delays in council house repairs. Pavements are left broken and dangerous for weeks. Council houses and flats are left empty month after month awaiting repairs. Children's play areas have been shut because there are no staff or no equipment. Those are the bread and butter problems that local government ought to be tackling, rather than the trendy Left-wing projects so beloved of the new leadership in the London Labour party.

Mr. Allan Roberts

One of the trendy proposals mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was the employment of workers to deal with the ethnic communities and the problems of racialism in Greenwich. Is the hon. Gentleman opposed to that or to the scale of the council's proposal? Does he believe that there is a need for such essential work in his constituency?

Mr. Carthwright

I am a vice-president of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality. I have worked with and supported that body for a long time. I shall watch with interest to see what the 12 additional workers to cater for the needs of ethnic communities do. If there is a problem, I am in favour of tackling it, but no one has yet demonstrated to me what these workers will do or even that there is a job for them to tackle. That is not how we should approach these important proposals.

Experience such as that underlines the need for a new approach to local government finance. I believe that we must have a closer link between voting and paying for services. We must make local councillors more directly accountable for their spending decisions.

Three things can be done to achieve that desirable end. First, we must reduce local government dependence on central Government grant. Secondly, we should transfer the non-domestic rate to central Government. It is a matter of accident whether local authorities have a large or small level of non-domestic rate. Many councils which increase their rates simply to get more money are pushing out much needed employment from the hard-pressed inner urban areas. By taking that tax into central coffers, Government would be able to decide where it was sensible to have a lower rather than a higher level of non-domestic rate.

Thirdly, we should introduce a system of local income tax which would more fairly share out the burden of paying for local services. Were the tax deduction clearly shown on one's pay slip, it would concentrate the mind wonderfully and make people more interested in what went on in their town halls.

We should not be surprised at the current state of local government finance. The Layfield report in 1976 predicted that we would have creeping centralisation by default. It stated: We believe that there is bound to be an increasing shift of power to the centre, but in circumstances in which responsibility for expenditure and local taxation will continue to be confused". That is just what we have. We cannot continue debating local government finance for decade after decade. We must grasp the nettle. By reforming local government finance, we could breathe new life into local government and make it responsive and accountable to local people.

7.5 pm

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) for his thoughtful and non-partisan speech—I do not mean that to be insulting—in which he dealt with a number of grave but intractable problems in a modest way without suggesting that he had the ultimate solution that has evaded many Governments for so long.

In a short and oblique passage the Secretary of State talked about the delicate balance between the power of the local authority and the power of central Government, but he did not say what the balance should be. He merely left it alone.

When we go back to the hustings, one of the perfectly reasonable criticisms that will be levelled against Conservative candidates is that we promised to do something unspecified about local government and that we have done nothing effective. I shall no doubt recollect the arguments that I put forward about the need to preserve the independence of local authorities.

I put forward those arguments on the basis of considerable ignorance. I have never been a member of a local authority, and my concept of one was similar to the historical position stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington (Mr Wheeler), who recollected how local government had been in the 1880s when it was first set up.

I am beginning to think that the proper but stuffy arguments that I put forward in 1979 have been much overtaken by events. I am supported in that argument by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts). He rightly said that local elections are no longer decided on the level of the rate or the amount of the services. This year, like last year, there will no doubt be much talk on the doorsteps about whether candidates did or did not support the Falklands expedition. There will be much talk about whether they are in favour of capital or corporal punishment, our membership of the European Community or proportional representation. As the hon. Member for Bootle clearly showed, the electors are thus demonstrating their lack of interest in specifically local issues and their desire to concentrate their attention on central authority.

There are perfectly good reasons for that. After all, potential ratepayers can be divided into three groups. I say "potential" because in Wolverhampton, with 25,000 unemployed—17 per cent. or 18 per cent. of the work force—a high proportion of the population enjoys rate and rent support. Frankly, those people are indifferent to the level of rates. There are areas in Wolverhampton where, if one asks, "Do you wish to pay a bit more on the rates and have an extra person to help your children across the road?", people would reply, "Sorry, we are not interested in the rates. We would rather have another person to help our kids across the road." There is no relationship whatever between spending and taxation.

The second category, which has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle), is that of the industrial ratepayers, who have been disfranchised. It would be difficult now to enfranchise them. We in the black country find that this part of the problem is exacerbated by the changes in ownership that have occurred over the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The owner of a small to medium sized industrial business, who lives in the area where he manages his business, has been overtaken. The arguments about economies of scale have meant that these organisations, if they have not shut down, are part of much larger organisations. The managers who come to live in Wolverhampton come as temporary whizz-kids, people who wish to demonstrate the expertise that they have learned from some business school—I do not say this in any denigratory sense. They do not become involved in the politics or life of the community in the way that an old-style owner-manager would. Their view about the level of rates and services is not expressed in the way that the old-style owner-manager expressed his view.

The third group consists of the householders who, in the west midlands, bear the heavy brunt of the burden as well. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East pointed out, this lack of relationship between spending and taxation is made yet worse by the system of rate support grant. I go further than that in that I believe that it is made even worse by the process of direct Government grant, under which, as the councillors so often express it, they are spending not their money but Government money, and Government money must be spent.

It is difficult to see how this state of affairs can be rectified. Shall we withdraw rate support grant in our democracy? Shall we take away rate and rent subsidies? What would the consequences be for those who have organised their incomes in the expectation of the continuance of that form of subsidy? I regret to say that I have come to the reluctant conclusion that when my constituents at the next general election say to me, "What have you done about the balance between central and local government?", I shall be far less inclined to support the argument for local autonomy, and will say that I believe that local independence is of declining importance, and a future Conservative Government must act with views informed by that prejudice.

One hears a great deal about how dreadfully restrictive the last Secretary of State and previous legislation were. The present Secretary of State is meant to be an authoritarian monster, but all these highly questionable elements of expenditure continue. The ratepayer in London is not protected from Mr. Livingstone's political activities. For instance, I may write to the Secretary of State for the Environment and say that many of my constituents do not like the idea of an Afro-Caribbean centre in Wolverhampton, or that a large number of my constituents, thank you very much indeed, would not like a welfare rights movement or that some of them do not think that these grants would be adequately balanced by giving large grants to Anglican churches as well. There would be no question of the Secretary of State saying, "Oh well, we shall not provide any of the money."

The principle of local autonomy means that central Government funding may be given to a highly debatable activity, whatever it may be, but some small part of the excess is borne on the rates. I am coming to the conclusion that a future Conservative Administration will have to be rather less sympathetic to the pleas for local independence. The constitutional balance should change as a consequence of the technical irresponsibility of both local authorities and local electorates.

As I said earlier, I do not have any direct experience of sitting on a local authority, but in Wolverhampton we have an organisation called the Wolverhampton economic development sub-committee, to which I and the hon. Members for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) and for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Edwards) are invited. I am not quite sure on what basis we are invited but we are allowed to contribute to discussions. I do not have great experience of the provision of social services, for the sake of argument, through a local authority, but I have for some years taken some interest in the shelling out of taxpayers' money to industry.

I do not come to these deliberations entirely ignorant. I have never heard any such sentiment like that in the motion expressed on the Wolverhampton economic development sub-committee. I have never heard a word about it being short of money and not being able to afford this, that or the other. Instead, I have often heard of subtle ways by which the town extracts more Government money, and of ways in which the goodwill of the council can be expressed by one form or another of industrial intervention. I have not heard a word about the necessity to save the ratepayers' money or — even more extraordinary—anything about saving taxpayers' money.

When the Secretary of State talked about the urban development grant to Wolverhampton, he turned to me, plainly expecting that I should be delighted at the idea of the taxpayers' money being spent in Wolverhampton, as though it would be self-evident to me that spending Government money in Wolverhampton would cure our problems, and that I should be the first to rush up, take his hand, pull my forelock and say, "Thanks very much for the bit of corruption—that should bring me back into the next Parliament."

The money to be granted is £54,000 towards a total investment of £340,000 for what appears to be a repair workshop in Wolverhampton. The Secretary of State does not explain whether in his opinion £54,000 is making the crucial difference between that investment going forward or not. He does not explain what other taxpayers will feel about the subsidy to that workshop, which is not enjoyed by other industrial activities. He does not explain what the legitimate attitude of, for instance, the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) will be when he sees his constituents not enjoying such a handout.

We have an extraordinary multiplicity of aids to industry. There is the urban development grant proposal; within local authorities there are enterprise boards and grants and subsidies through those. We have county council grants and subsidies as well. We have the west midlands development organisation which is, using the phraseology of an American management consultant, "headed up" by Mr. Geoff Edge, who may be remembered in the House as having great panache and expertise. We also have the multifarious activities of the Department of Industry.

None of those activities takes account of the various tax reliefs, such as those given to the development of small industrial estates. The council is not so hard-hearted as to take any notice of what is happening in the market place. Industrial premises continue to be provided at a time when roofs are continually being taken off empty industrial premises but, to show the council's compassion, it is necessary to provide yet more industrial premises at the expense of the ratepayer and the taxpayer.

I confess that when I hear the Secretary of State say that he believes that the enterprise organisations will help to improve industrial and economic conditions in the west midlands, and that he is delighted to be able to tell us about an urban development grant for Wolverhampton, I am unrelenting in my belief that the country wants lower public expenditure, both nationally and locally. Above all, the west midlands entrepreneur wants the universal benefits of lower rates, not the selective benefits of grants. If he can get that, he has the energy, the vigour and the compassion to exploit whatever advantages the market may open to him.

When I next knock on doors, plenty of people will tell me that, for example, they have run a small foundry business in Wolverhampton in recent months and have had to sack many people. They will say that not with pride or pleasure but with profound distaste and misery, because they have deep concern for their people. They will also be deeply resentful when they recount that, for instance, the Wolverhampton council has a no-redundancy policy for its ever-growing work force, although they know that it is for ever contemplating bigger and better ways of spending the ratepayers' and taxpayers' money.

The west midlands does not want a euphoric suggestion that the expenditure of public money is the way to get us out of our difficulties. We want to be able to rely upon our independent activity because that is the way in which we, not the Government, will resuscitate our hard-hit area.

7.23 pm
Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I should love to knock on the doors with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) before the election on 23 June when he tries to explain to his electorate why he has failed in his major mission to shift the balance of local and central power in our democracy. I do not know what their reply will be.

If, reading the comments of the hon. Gentleman and any others who may be in the same disaffected mood, the Secretary of State decides to withdraw the substantial grants that he is handing out, I hope that he will look benignly on the delegation that is coming to see him within the next fortnight to seek more funds for the Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent garden centre project. It will be willing to accept money for a worthy cause. We are grateful for the millions of pounds that have been given to Stoke-on-Trent to reclaim the area where the Shelton steelworks used to be. None of the estimates of the ultimate cost of such projects is ever accurate and the £1.2 million that the Government have put into the scheme will prove to be inadequate. I hope that the Secretary of State will respond favourably when the delegation asks for a rather higher sum.

I do not want to discuss major principles such as what has happened to local government finance or the delicate balance between local and central Government. I am speaking as a rather punch-drunk chairman of an education committee in Staffordshire who has reluctantly come to the conclusion that nobody will ever cause the Government to change their mind fundamentally. All that we can hope to do is influence them at the margins and suggest an odd change here and there.

I want to talk about education, not about cuts because the Government cannot be persuaded to change that policy, and to ask the Government whether they appreciate some of the fundamental difficulties that arise in practice. I want to talk about some examples of the small timescale in which the Government require massive changes and the need for synchronisation in their decisions, which is fundamental to the carrying out of their policies.

Let us consider the problem of falling rolls. I do not know who invented that poetic phrase but I shall accept and use it. Minister after Minister at the Dispatch Box and in speeches throughout the country say that local education authorities' expenditure must fall in proportion to the fall in rolls of an area. That sounds very nice indeed. It may be possible for the Government to say that the number of children in the schools have fallen by a certain amount and that therefore the region's education expenditure must fall by a similar amount or some close approximation. Schools must close.

We in Staffordshire are not as stupid as the Liverpool Liberal and Conservative-controlled local authority. Anyone who read the article in this morning's education section of The Guardian, which states that Liverpool has a secondary school with 1,700 places and only 320 pupils, would not consider that to be sensible. If a policy of school closures is embarked upon and 40 per cent. of places are to be lost, certain allowances must be made, because it is impossible for children to travel 10 miles in a country area to satisfy an arithmetical or statistical formula. There are bound to be difficulties and dangers in travelling which make the equation impossible.

Equally, if local authorities are asked to close schools, the Secretary of State for Education and Science must assist in closing them. It is very difficult to obtain a decision to close a school. I tabled a parliamentary question in July last year asking if the unit could cope with the number of schools that it would have to deal with. I was informed that the unit would be expanded if necessary. As at least a term's notice is required before it is possible to act upon a decision of the Secretary of State, there is no point in creating a panic because the Secretary of State for Education and Science has not produced the decision as quickly as he should have done. Now that the summer term has commenced, outstanding decisions remain to be taken that were placed before the Secretary of State in July 1982. No doubt we shall survive. My local authority tries to save money but it does not always get cooperation.

A more difficult problem is the redeployment of teachers. If a local education authority has falling rolls, it is expected to cut its expenditure by redeploying teachers, which is a euphemism for getting rid of them. It is a method of reducing the establishment by a given number. In the past three years, Staffordshire has redeployed or reduced the teacher establishment by 800. This task is becoming increasingly difficult. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West referred in his usual contemptuous tone—which he no doubt uses in the law courts — to local authorities having a no-redundancy policy. I am not ashamed of that. Staffordshire has redeployed or reduced the number of teachers by 800, but none has been sacked. Staffordshire's earnest endeavour is to carry out future redeployment policies without any redundancies.

Local education authorities are in difficulties because they are run financially by the Department of the Environment which is no doubt run by the Treasury. They are also caught on one flank by the Department of Industry and on another by the Manpower Services Commission.

The morale of the teaching profession is very low. It is important also to consider the emerging age structure of teachers. It will not be long before all teachers are aged between 30 and 50. There will be no young teachers, because hardly any young people are going into the teaching profession. There will not be anybody over 50, because teachers over 50 are now securing early retirement. The lack of those skills that teachers must have to provide the necessary courses at the high school stage is becoming a serious problem. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), will agree that a specific sum of money should be invested to provide some new blood, not only in the universities but in the teaching profession generally. Otherwise in two or three years' time there will be serious problems.

Mr. Kinnock

I wish to respond to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) has said, with all his experience. He will be aware that, far from getting the new and retrained blood that is needed, the Government are saying to Britain's 400,000 teachers, "You can keep your jobs only if you take enormous cuts in your standard of living or if you accept a cut in the standard of provision for teachers in schools. If you try to get better conditions in your schools or a decent standard of living, we will sack you en masse." That is no way to get new blood, as I trust my hon. Friend agrees.

Mr. Cant

I would not have made that suggestion, but I agree that those are the implications of much of the Tory policy. I assume that the only way to change the policy is for my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty to become Secretary of State for Education and Science.

The grant-related expenditure assessment for education was the bright and new idea that was to restore the rate support grant and the affections of not only Ministers but local authorities. It has been a disastrous flop. Most people would agree with that. I do not say that we should hold out our hands and say, "Come back, old rate support grant. All is forgiven." The way in which the grant-related expenditure assessment is arrived at is unfortunate, because it can work in a discriminatory way, as it does in Staffordshire. In the grant-related expenditure or education in Staffordshire, no allowance is made for the existing pattern. Civil Servants have merely decreed, for example, that Staffordshire should spend £2,750,000 on non-statutory education for children under the age of five. That is worked out in accordance with a sort of national criterion.

Because of Staffordshire's development and the ideas that those in control of education have had for many decades, Staffordshire spent about £9,750,000 on nursery education a year or so ago. The difference may appear to be only £7 million but the issue is not as simple as that. The penalty and the 1:2:5 formula has led to the horrendous result that the overspend on nursery education accounts for almost the whole of the penalty attracted by Staffordshire's education authority. The authority may be level on every other component of the estimated assessment, but as a result of the rather maverick figure of £9,750,000 it has to pay not only £1 for £1, or £2 for £1, but £5 for £1 by way of penalty.

There are two points that I find very disturbing. We are told that revenue expenditure is the villain of the piece and that local authorities tend to underspend on capital expenditure. That may be true for various reasons. However, let us consider the position in the first three months of this year. I am sure that the very interested and intelligent hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has considered it, as it is linked to the public sector borrowing requirement, which he takes to bed with him. There was an underspend in the central budget. As a result, local authorities that had continually been told to cut expenditure were told to spend as much as they liked on capital account, provided that the expenditure was made by 31 March 1983. People might have thought that there was a new light on the horizon, that the Government had changed their mind and that things would improve. However, when Staffordshire education committee then put forward its prescribed capital expenditure bid, thinking that the Government wanted everyone to spend more and more on capital account, it found that the amount had been cut from £12 million to £7 or £8 million. Thus we are back where we started.

What is the Government's message? Are we to spend on capital account or not? The Secretary of State for the Environment should restore the £4 million cut that he imposed on us. We would then show him how that money should be spent. There is a terrible problem that affects both the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education and Science. I refer to the emergence and gathering momentum of the Manpower Services Commission. These days, it is difficult to know where the money comes from, but there are clearly masses of money available to the MSC. Whatever the complications, I do not object to that, because I am prepared to accept large or even small amounts from almost any source. However, one must accept that a serious dichotomy is developing in education. It is difficult to know where it will lead.

On, I believe, 21 December, the Prime Minister made an announcement at the Dispatch Box when most hon. Members had gone home. She said that there was to be a new technical and vocational initiative. We know that that took the Secretary of State for Education and Science by surprise, but is it true that it took the MSC's director by surprise? He is upstairs, talking at a meeting that I was going to attend before I was persuaded to contribute to the debate because of the shortage of hon. Members in the Chamber. It would be interesting to know the answer to that question, but I commend the thrust of that announcement. The Department of Education and Science has been sitting on its hands for far too long and has not tried, despite the press releases from the Secretary of State. Incidentally, have I spoken for too long?

Mr. Peter Bottomley


Mr. Cant

I shall draw to a conclusion, although my instructions were to speak as long as I liked.

The MSC is involved in its ramifications with the new technical initiative and with the sixth forms in our schools —those delightful things "of proven worth", to steal a phrase from the Secretary of State for Education and Science. What will happen? Every education authority will approach September 1983 with some alarm, wanting to know how many 16-year-olds will go into further education and into sixth forms and how many will opt for £25 per week and the youth training scheme.

7.49 pm
Mr. John Heddle (Lichfield and Tamworth)

I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) will forgive me if I do not dwell for too long on education, the subject to which he devoted the majority of his speech. The hon. Gentleman was honest, as all hon. Members know him to be, when, in a little aside a moment ago, he informed the House that he had been invited to speak for as long as he liked, the reason no doubt being that few Opposition Members have anything positive to contribute to the debate. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman's aside highlighted the fact that few Opposition Members are present. Apart from the contribution made earlier today by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), no Liberal Member has been present during the debate. I find that extraordinary when we are told that the Liberal party is the party of the grass roots and local government.

Mr. Cartwright

If I heard the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) correctly, he made the extraordinary allegation that no Liberal Member had been present during the debate. That shows that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth has not been present throughout the debate because the hon. Member for Isle of Wight spoke earlier and has been present since on several occasions.

Mr. Heddle

I ant grateful for the opportunity to explain to the hon. Member that I prefaced my remarks by saying that, apart from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, no other Liberal Member has been present. On a point of explanation, I regret to say that I had to leave the Chamber at five o'clock to attend Standing Committee D to move a new clause to the Dentists Bill. I did so with the permission of Mr. Deputy Speaker, who was then occupying the Chair. I returned to the Chamber before the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) an hour or so ago.

The contribution of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central invites me to make a point about the management of the Staffordshire education authority. I believe the hon. Member to be an honourable man but sadly within the ranks of the Staffordshire education authority are members much further to the Left than he, who have no sympathy or understanding of the rural vote and no sympathy or understanding of the rural community or rural life. I deplore the way in which the Staffordshire education authority, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, has closed the Thomas Barnes primary school at Hamstall Ridware, the Fairlea school at Chorly and the St. Mary's Church of England primary school at Weeford in my constituency, without giving the parents, the governors and the staff statistical, mathematical and financial data to enable them to launch an appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Cant

The Secretary of State has approved those closures.

Mr. Heddle

The hon. Gentleman is right. I regret to say that my right hon. Friend has approved the closures, for the simple reason that the hon. Gentleman's committee has not given my constituents the statistical and financial information to enable them to launch an appeal to which my right hon. Friend would have regard.

Mr. Kinnock

As the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter and as it will be of interest to all hon. Members whose constituencies face school closures, it might be appropriate to inquire percisely what the hon. Gentleman was doing when his constituents were starved, as he alleges, of the necessary information. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, as a Member of Parliament for the area, he has made inquiries of that local education authority and has been refused information? Has he not the imagination or the skill to be able to obtain it? If he is saying that, his reputation in the House will go down.

Mr. Heddle

I welcome that intervention from the hon. Gentleman. I have tried time and again, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central will know, to obtain from him and from the director of education of the Staffordshire education authority the very information to which the hon. Member has referred. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should direct his remarks not to me but to his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central.

The debate is timely and welcome. It is timely because it enables the House to pick at random two major local authorities, Birmingham and Manchester, which will be subject to polls on Thursday, 5 May. The House will know, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in an excellent speech earlier today reminded it, that Birmingham, when it came under Conservative control a year ago, immediately put out its refuse collection services to the private sector to obtain an independent tender. It was found by the direct labour organisation of the city corporation, under pressure of competition from the private sector, that the work could be done with a saving of £3.5 million. This enabled the Conservative-controlled city council to reduce the rates by 12 per cent., while maintaining services at the same level. Simultaneously, it was able to remove from the shoulders of the industrial and commercial ratepayers the burden of paying rates on empty commercial premises. A comparison of that record with that of the Manchester city corporation, which this year has levied a rate increase double the rate of inflation, speaks for itself.

The debate enables the House to consider local government in the round. Local government is big business. Local government accounts for 25 per cent. of GNP; one in ten people in this country are employed directly or indirectly by local government; £22 billion was spent last year by local government on services and salaries, £11.8 billion of which came from central Government, representing a 5 per cent. increase — a £300 million increase—on the previous year. Yet the words of the Labour party's motion suggest that there have been cuts.

Mr. Graham

Yes, and unemployment.

Mr. Heddle

The Labour party is fond of castigating my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her Victorian values, but some of the more admirable Victorian values were to live within one's income, an emphasis on saving rather than spending, an emphasis on spending on those in genuine need to encourage those who are able to help themselves and to spend for those unable to help themselves. There is now a genuine understanding that local government must keep current spending within levels that the nation can afford. I pay tribute and give credit to the Lichfield district council which has managed to keep its rate increase well below the rate of inflation for the past five years. There is also a growing realisation of the strains that uncontrolled spending impose on the householder or the ratepayer, in particular on business and commerce—that sector which is charged with the creation of real wealth from which real jobs will come. That is in no small measure due to the Government's steadfast approach to the management of the economy. They have managed so far in this Parliament to reduce inflation to the lowest level for 15 years.

Local government is now trimmer, slimmer, and fitter but still provides the same level of services as before.

Mr. Kinnock

That is absolute rubbish and the hon. Gentleman knows it.

Mr. Heddle

The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham), who referred to unemployment, will surely agree that employment in local government does not necessarily have a direct relationship with the services provided by local government. Many functions and services that local authorities have traditionally provided could equally well be provided by the private sector. There is a genuine and growing realisation that the town hall does not always know best. There is a growing realisation that the private sector may be able to carry out some of those services hitherto carried out by the local authority. Another tenet of our Victorian forefathers was "Waste not, want not".

Let us consider one or two areas of local government waste. In 1982 the London borough of Lambeth employed a poet at the cost of £3,000 a year to advise electors on how to write poetry. In 1981, three gas lamplighters plus a mate were employed in Liverpool although the last gas lamp had been extinguished eight years before. That cost the Liverpool ratepayers about £250,000.

Let us consider briefly some of the actions of Manchester city council. No. 15 Ladybarn lane, Manchester is an end-of-terrace house. It was bought by the city council's highway department in 1968 and was bricked up in 1969. It seems that later it disappeared entirely from the council's housing records. The ownership of the house passed to the Greater Manchester council after local government reorganisation in 1972. It seems that the record of ownership was not transferred. A report to the city housing committee in 1975 stated that the house should be improved, but two years later it was still idle, derelict and unoccupied.

A review of properties in 1980 led to the recommendation that No. 15 Ladybarn lane should be pulled down. Manchester city council reached that decision because of the bad condition of No. 15. The site will probably become a garden for the house next door but the house has still not been pulled down. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) knows that it is still standing, because it is in the heart of his constituency.

Another property in the heart of the right hon. Member's constituency is No. 13 Hulme Hall lane, Manchester. The house has a similar history. It was bought by the city council in 1969 for proposed road widening. It had a sitting tenant, but in 1972 the tenant left and the house was bricked up. It remained empty and was demolished in 1981. Why did that happen? It seems that there is no road widening programme now. That house, which was in the heart of the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, was left empty, unwanted and unlived in, for about nine years, although it was desperately needed by families on the Manchester housing waiting list.

The saga continues. No. 15 Elbow street, Manchester 19 remained empty for eight years. Nos. 4 and 5 Prince Albert avenue, Manchester 19 were empty for six years. All these properties were in the heart of the right hon. Gentleman's constituency.

A little nearer home are Nos. 94 and 96 King George street, Greenwich, London SE10. The two houses were bought in advance of tentative proposals to expand a school, but they were not passed to the GLC for housing use because they were bought originally by the Inner London education authority. The expansion proposals were never firm and they have now been abandoned. No. 94 King George street has remained empty for 19 years while No. 96 has been empty for eight years. They are now entirely derelict.

Manchester city council's housing department officials are crying out for more money to build more council houses for those on the waiting list, when under their very noses, in their files which pass from in-tray to out-tray to teatray and back again, there are houses that are ready and able to be occupied. These houses and others remain idle because some council employees have no commitment. These properties remain idle, wasted, wanted and needed.

I suggest that we embark upon a save-it operation and upon a war of cuts. I shall suggest five ways in which we can save ratepayers' money, and in so doing provide them with the services that they rightly need. Let us save money by bringing forward the land that has now been revealed, with some reluctance, by some local authorities in land registers. Let us pass that land out of the councils' ownership, out the ownership of the dead hand of bureaucracy, to the hands of private builders, who can build for sale, for let or for partnership on an equity share or half-and-half scheme with the local authority, which has probably sat on the land for years on end.

Let us save homes and families by expanding still further our right-to-buy legislation. That legislation should not be confined to those who qualify by virtue of three years' tenancy of a council house. We should move on under the provisions of the Housing and Building Control Bill, which is now being considered in another place, to the concept of shared purchase, which will enable young people to get on the first rung or two of the home ownership ladder by buying a proportion of their house for the time being. This is the real way to distribute wealth throughout the country.

Let us save money, delay and frustration by encouraging local authorities, when they process right-to-buy applications, to ensure that legal and valuation services do not necessarily have to be dealt with by the men in the town hall. Let the processing work be put out to solicitors and chartered surveyors, thereby transferring properties from the councils to the people more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently and in a less costly manner.

The third point in the "operation save it" plan is to reduce homelessness by bringing back to life the properties to which I have referred in Manchester and in Greenwich, by ensuring that all local authorities have a mandatory duty to report to the Department once every six months any property in its ownership that has been empty for more than six months. If the reasons for the house having been left empty for more than six months are not valid or do not stand my right hon. Friend's scrutiny, the property, in its present condition, should be let on a homesteading basis to eager tenants on the council's housing waiting list. If my constituency experience is anything to go by, at least eight out of 10 of those who desperately need homes are do-it-yourself specialists. They can probably improve, renovate, and refurbish properties at least as effectively as, and certainly much more quickly than, local authorities' direct labour organisations.

Let us save salaries, too, by putting out to the private sector the architectural work that is currently undertaken by local authorities. Let us extend that approach to maintenance work, building work, cleaning work and refuse collection.

Let us save jobs, too, by taking the burden of heavy rates off the shoulders of industrial and commercial ratepayers. I suggest that central Government should peg the amount which authorities can levy each year on industrial and commercial ratepayers. As I said when I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), local government is not accountable. Locally elected councillors are not really responsive to their electorates' wishes.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Scunthorpe)

My hon. Friend has given five excellent examples of how to save money, jobs and industry, but does he realise what he is up against? I have a quote from a Scunthorpe Labour councillor which the leader of the Conservative group is drawing to the attention of those living in Scunthorpe in his election address. The Socialist councillor said: We are not a bank. We are elected to spend ratepayers' money, not to save it. Labour councillors condemn themselves with their own words.

Mr. Heddle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In agreeing with everything that he has said, I remind the House that the opinion of the majority of industrial and commercial ratepayers in the part of the west midlands that I represent is that they are not getting value for money because they have no vote, no voice and no sanction in the way in which their councils spend their money. In many instances they feel that they are served badly—this view has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and it is voiced in other parts of the west midlands—by town halls that are currently under Labour domination. Local councillors of all party political persuasions should be dedicated to giving ratepayers and taxpayers value for money and to ensuring that money goes to those within their electorates, as it does to ours within our constituencies, who are in genuine need.

8.10 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Having sat here since 2.30 this afternoon and having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant), I may be forgiven for feeling unwanted. I shall attempt to stick to the subject of the motion, because little of that has occurred during the debate. The Secretary of State, using all his powers of oratory and relying on his brief, tended to distort the truth or, to be kind to him, tried to blur the vision of hon. Members. He emphasised mostly the problems of local government in London—certainly the problems of the south—and I got the impression that the debate would be about local government in London. Indeed, by the time the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler) had completed his speech, I felt convinced of that. Apart from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), there has been little said about the situation beyond the boundaries of London.

I assure the House that there is good and responsible local government outside London. I cannot help but think that Tory Members are allowing their judgment to be blurred by what is reported as happening in London. That is regrettable. Our main task today should be to ascertain whether there have been reductions in local government services throughout the country. If we should find, through honest and truthful argument, that those reductions have occurred as a result of Government policy, we should say so and condemn that.

Some hon. Members use parliamentary language, others use intellectual argument and yet others use public school jargon. I am not a student of any of those. Those who use such tactics tend to do so—today has been no exception — to blur the truth. At the end of the day, dressing the position up in any clothes one wants, the people on the receiving end know what the real facts are. I shall attempt— briefly because other hon. Members have been waiting all day to speak—to show that there have been reductions in local government services arising out of Government policy.

Unemployment in the construction industry has increased by 2½ per cent. while the Conservatives have been in office. There has been tremendous unemployment in the construction industry, from 156,000 in 1979 to 366,000 today. Whatever language is used to try to dress it up, that is a fact. The industry is being stripped of its skill and assets. Apprentice training has declined rapidly and skilled workers are leaving the industry and will not be replaced. Building firms are going into liquidation or are being forced to sell off their capital assets. The present state of affairs in the industry will make things more difficult for any incoming Government, whatever their political persuasion.

The house building side of local government in Britain is in an equally sorry state Completions of new dwellings have fallen from 280,000 in 1978 to 170,000 in 1982. In the public sector the decline has been even more dramatic, down from 107,000 to 52,000 over the same period, making it now the lowest since the 1920s. We have been told that in this financial year starts are higher than in previous years. But even with the additional starts about which the Government are bragging, we are below the figures for the 1920s. Again, whatever language is used to dress it up, that is a fact.

In the older housing sphere there is an equally dismal picture. Slum clearance is at such a low level that every house must last 800 years. According to a survey of the condition of English houses, the number of unfit homes is increasing and the amount of disrepair is rising by 22 per cent. for houses estimated to have cost less than £7,000 and by 45 per cent. for those costing over £7,000. Improvement grants have dealt with amenity problems such as baths, WCs and sink units, but we have not been dealing with the disrepair and unfitness of the exteriors of dwellings. In other words, while we have been improving the internal structures, we have ignored the outsides of properties.

In 1979–80, £1,720 million in subsidies was paid for public sector houses, but it is likely to be only £824 million in 1983–84. By comparison, mortgage interest tax relief to private owners has risen from £1,450 million in 1979–80 to an estimated £2,150 million in 1983–84. All these figures are in real terms. Consequently, many more tenants are having to rely on means-tested rate rebates.

The Government's legislative response is to produce housing Acts that are irrelevant to the main issues. In accordance with the 1978 Act, houses are being sold off to privileged tenants at large discounts. The Government are obsessed with forcing owner-occupation on everyone, but they have done precious little to improve the old housing stock to cater for families in need.

Even the unified housing benefit system was a device to cut Government costs at the expense of many unfortunate claimants and the local authorities which were expected to administer the scheme. The director of SHAC recently said that 2.5 million people were worse off under that system. The whole situation surrounding the sale of council houses is undoubtedly the price the country has had to pay for what was an election gimmick. In fact, the Government's main, if not only, housing policy as been to sell council houses. Not content with that, in the new Housing and Building Control Bill they are proposing to sell properties belonging to charitable housing associations.

Mr. Kinnock

I should like to give my hon. Friend some good news. The other place threw out the clause on that subject by a majority of two to one.

Mr. Lofthouse

As I have been here since half past two, my hon. Friend would not expect me to know that, but I am pleased to hear it.

Why are the Government so obsessed with council house sales? The answer is obvious. The Secretary of State said that 500,000 council houses have been purchased. That may be so. If that figure is right, it means that we have sold off £1,700 million worth of the nation's assets. I am not arguing about the merits of selling council houses. I readily concede that many of my constituents have purchased their council houses, have been glad to do so, and support the policy. I would be less than truthful if I did not say that. That is a fact. However, at the same time we must ask what the expenses are to the nation. They are public assets. As far as I understand, the sales are worth the equivalent of 50,000 new homes. If the Government sold every council home, which, according to their policies they would gladly do, that staggering sale of 15.3 million council dwellings would be a sale of public assets worth £32,000 million. That is what we should tell the people. That is a hell of a price to pay for electoral popularity.

There has been great emphasis on the situation in London. I have referred to events in London blurring the judgment of the Secretary of State and his colleagues. I have also referred to other responsible authorities outside London. My local authority is responsible and responsibly led. No accusations can be made about that authority, as about others. However, it is experiencing problems arising from the reduction in services, brought about by the Government's policies. In real terms, Wakefield's HIP allocation for 1983–84 is less than a third of the value of the allocation in 1979–80. It is the lowest initial allocation in cash terms since HIP was introduced. It is accepted that we can top up by the use of capital receipts, but they are governed largely by the number of council house sales. The number of applications to buy council houses is now dramatically falling. There is no doubt about that. The Government want to increase the discount from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. The deterioration in council housing stock because of the lack of finance is quite marked. If more finance were available, the council could get the necessary work done.

Difficulties in the Wakefield metropolitan district council area in social services are basic. Capital is made available and the council is encouraged to spend, but it needs more finance to meet the revenue consequences. An example is a special care unit for severely mentally handicapped people, which should be ready for occupation at the end of the year. It is in Hemsworth, which is represented by one of my hon. Friends. There is no special care unit in the district at the moment. However, there could be great difficulties in opening the centre because of lack of revenue for staffing costs. That is a crazy system. We can use capital to provide facilities, but then have difficulties in finding the revenue with which to run them. The district is desperately short of accommodation for the mentally handicapped.

There are joint funding projects between the health authority and Wakefield metropolitan district council. Joint finance is extrememly limited and, in any event, tapers off after a few years. The district will have difficulty in picking up the tab after that time.

A growing number of elderly, especially the frail elderly, usually aged over 75, require greater care and more intensive staffing in the various old people's homes. Unfortunately, the district cannot afford the additional staffing costs required. An example of this is an old people's home in my own town of Pontefract, where the staff have threatened industrial action because of the pressure of work and the difficulty that the social services department has had in appointing additional help.

I can give further examples of cuts in revenue programmes. Repair and maintenance programmes have had to be severely cut back. The result will be longer-term deterioration and, ultimately, greater costs. In-service training of teachers has had to be reduced. Charges for school meals have had to be increased, and there is a real fear that children who need school meals are unable to afford them and that their nutrition is suffering as a result. The library service has had to be reduced. Vacant posts have been left unfilled, even for essential categories of staff. The purchase of books and school equipment has had to be cut back, and so children's education has suffered. Contributions to parish councils under sections 136 and 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 have had to be reduced. Wakefield has been forced to charge for home helps and meals on wheels, and, again, those in need have consequently missed out on the provision.

Local government has been obliged to provide additional services without being given further resources. Under the Education Act 1980 the local education authority is expected to make sure that detailed education information is available, and to give details of school policy. As a result of a case known locally as the Coventry case, the costs of lunchtime supervision have increased and more help has had to be appointed. The administration of the sale of council houses has had to be financed. The full costs of the joint financing schemes with the area health authority, which have come to an end, have been transferred to the local authority, resulting in an extra £500,000 having to be absorbed. The urban aid schemes have tapered off and have been transferred to the local authority after five years. As a result, a further £250,000 has been imposed upon the local authority. The commendable policy of transferring the aged, the infirm and handicapped from hospitals into local authority homes and ordinary houses has also resulted in additional costs to local authorities.

Recently, the Pontefract area health authority, in an attempt to provide hospital care for its severely mentally handicapped aged people, has had to consider closing down some of the facilities for other aspects of medicine to try to find the money. There are currently only 22 beds available in the area for such patients.

The Government have continued to reduce the percentage of local government expenditure that they are prepared to fund. The rate support grant stood at 59.1 per cent. in 1981–82. It was reduced to 56 per cent. in 1982–83 and further reduced to 52.8 per cent. in 1983–84. Current expenditure relevant for RSG was said by the Government to be rising by 1 per cent. in 1984–85 and 2.5 per cent. in 1985–86. However, taking inflation into account, that represents a cut of between 4 and 5 per cent. Could anyone honestly say that that does not represent a cut in local government services?

I have provided ample evidence from a council that is responsibly led and responsibly run to show that cuts are having to be made and that the House should support the motion.

8.28 pm
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

The hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) will not be surprised to hear that I disagree with him. I believe that the amendment is preferable to the motion.

An interesting feature of the debate is the fact that there is a three-line Whip for the Opposition and thus, presumably, for the Conservative side as well. The reason is presumably that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) performs best with plenty of support behind him. No doubt we may expect to see many more of his colleagues arrive for the Division than have been present for the debate. It is a disgraceful sign of disinterest that local government debates attract so few Members. I suspect that many people stay away because such debates seem to provide an excuse for people to speak for 15 to 30 minutes rather than making practical points. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), however, actually suggested ways in which the rating system could be improved and listed ways in which local government could save money and provide more effectively the services that it is duty-bound to provide.

If my father's grandfather—Richard Robinson, who was leader of the London county council at the turn of the century — or my wife's grandfather's grandfather —George Garnett, who was responsible for education in the borough of Ryde 100 years ago—were here today, they would wonder what had happened to the Labour party, which would be new to them in any case, as a result of whose policies Labour authorities seem to be spending more and more ratepayers' money without any regard to Government expenditure targets or to the propriety of their politically partisan expenditure.

In Committee this morning I made the distinction between disagreements with Government about, for example, building Waterloo bridge, and the propaganda spending that is now bringing local politics into disrepute. It can be stopped if Government take effective control over such spending or if the present leaders of the Labour party in the House are prepared publicly to condemn the actions taken by people who claim to be their political colleagues in, for instance, County Hall in London and the town halls of Greenwich and Islington. The standard of leadership in the Labour party has sunk abysmally. It would earn far more respect throughout the country if it would sing the same tune in opposition as in government and tell aberrant members of the party to stop what they are doing because it is bringing local politics into disrepute and forcing local ratepayers and residents to put far more pressure on the Government to take direct control.

Central Government have moved towards greater control because of the activities of some local authorities —at present mainly Labour-controlled authorities—and the House should expect the hon. Member for Bedwellty to join in the condemnation of those activities when he winds up the debate. It is too much to hope that he will spend more time on Labour plans than on the previous Conservative manifesto which he seems to have been reading avidly during the debate. No doubt it is also too much to expect that when he talks about ILEA, as I am sure that he will, he will tell us the extent to which the number of children in ILEA schools has dropped in the past four years and the extent to which the authority's spending has decreased or increased. I am sure that he does not intend to give those figures, but I hope that I will provoke him into doing so before he launches into his usual tirade.

On local government and rates, it is important to follow up the suggestion of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East that local government elections should take place every year, or almost every year. Too often politicians get way out of touch with the views of their constituents. I should not mind if one fifth of the House of Commons were elected each year. That would be a perfectly reasonable way to set about this. One needs constant contact with the electorate. Visiting the three major estates in my constituency in the past week or so, I have found that tenants are far more interested in obtaining entryphones for their blocks of flats and ensuring that access to underground garages is restricted to tenants so that vandals cannot bring in cars or blow up the cars already there.

Local government could respond to the interests of tenants far more adequately if authorities dropped their pale imitation of national politics, stopped campaigning for CND from Greenwich town hall or going on marathon walks to raise funds and issuing press releases from focal authority press offices about activities of that kind. They could then spend more time listening to ordinary people who are concerned about their ordinary lives.

One reason why ILEA is so out of touch is that its main elections take place at the same time as the GLC elections, which cover a different area and are often dominated by different issues. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) is one of the few hon. Members who has mentioned education today. Similarly, the GLC elections have hardly mentioned education. We then discover that ILEA goes off on a course that is not supported by most people.

Several pensioners with whom I talked on Friday at the Ivy Club in Southwood road said that they live in Bexley, which is just outside the ILEA area and the borough of Greenwich, but do not understand why they do not get the cheap holidays that Greenwich council provides. I asked them whether they would like their rates to increase by 30 per cent. as has been the case in Greenwich in the past month. That increase probably represents £200 a year for most pensioners in my constituency. I asked them whether by paying that extra £200 they would like to have a chance of getting a subsidised holiday every so often or whether they would prefer to keep the £200 a year in their pockets year after year to provide for their own holiday. They said that, put like that, they would much prefer to pay for their own holidays. People should be able to make their own choices.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to assert that all people get for an additional margin of rates in the other borough is a subsidised holiday for old age pensioners, or could there be some other subscriptions to public welfare? What facilities are there in his borough for pensioners to claim rate rebates, thereby reducing the burden, albeit with a means test, of higher rates which lead to better services?

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the rates do not go simply on cheap holidays. However, to answer the question which those pensioners raised, the immediate comparison must be with the change of rates in each of those boroughs. I have already given the increase in Greenwich.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty knows as well as any other hon. Member that the rate rebate system is roughly the same throughout the country. He does not seem to pay much attention to many people such as the widow who came to see me on Friday — I use only last week's experience but I could use experiences from the past year. She asked how long she was supposed to go on managing without appealing for help. She said that both she and her husband thought that she would be able to manage, but in the past five years her rates have increased from £178 a year to £610 a year. There have been increases of 10 per cent., 25 per cent., 52 per cent., 26 per cent., and 30 per cent. Worst of all, those increases are cumulative, as they are added to the amount of rates that must be paid the preceding year rather than the initial base figure.

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity to speak. No doubt he will start to flail around. I suggest that he does what Opposition spokesmen are supposed to do—answer the debate.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Greenwich council spends money only on holidays. No. Greenwich council is one of those which propose to contribute ratepayers' money to the Labour leaders' committee. Because that issue has hit the light of day, it is no longer to be called the Labour leaders' committee or association. It will be a slightly odd association of local authorities, all of which have got their councils to approve certain objectives which would only be approved by Labour authorities, and only some Labour authorities at that.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty would do well to consider the matter. Perhaps he would like some advice from his hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham), who is an expert on the matter as he has shared the experience of the debate with me. The hon. Member for Edmonton might brief his hon. Friend. We shall hear what the hon. Member for Bedwellty has to say about it all at 9 pm. He might say whether he supported the 6 per cent. cut in local government spending in 1976. I suspect that he will say he was against it.

We should draw the historic lesson that, almost every time a new generation of Labour leaders comes to that Front Bench, they criticise and disapprove of everything that the previous Labour Government did. That has been true for the Labour Government of 1945–50 and the Labour Government of 1964–70 and precisely the same is now true of the Labour Government of 1974–79. All that we see is the Left-wing ratchet of the Labour party. That is one reason why I believe that inner city areas need Tory central and local government much more than country areas. Many of the richer areas could even afford local government that is run by the alliance or the Labour party but inner city areas have suffered far too much for that.

In my constituency I hope that the sale of council houses, which affects local government finance and people's decisions, will continue until its profile of owner-occupation is the same as, or better than, that of the rest of Britain. I sympathise with many of the aims of the Labour party, but its approach is misguided. The Labour party believes that a professional—someone paid by a local authority — will make correct decisions, which as an individual he cannot. In my constituency the local authority employs people to decide whether two couples can exchange homes, but the Labour leaders in Greenwich do not wish them to buy their homes and to make the decision without involving people like themselves in making decisions at the ratepayers' expense. I do not want to hear more elderly people saying that, because they stayed and looked after their parents in their old age, someone like them, but paid by the local authority, can tell them to move home after living 50 years in the same house. They want to make the decision themselves. The reason for the spread of home ownership is not only to provide mobility, but to put people in a position similar to that of the friends of the right hon. Member for Ardwick in local authority housing departments, who take decisions that ordinary people can, and want to, take for themselves.

Mr. Graham

The hon. Gentleman is less than fair to council officials and councillors. He presented the problem of the individual who has lived in a house all his life and who wishes to continue living there although the property may be under-occupied. At the same time, officials and councillors must take into account the fact that some people who live in one or two rooms desperately need three rooms. The hon. Gentleman normally advances his case fairly, but he has not done so tonight by denigrating the genuine efforts of council officials and councillors to solve difficult problems.

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman misunderstood my argument. If people in authority, such as councillors and council officials, in their professional or political capacity can make those decisions, so can the ordinary individual. A person who is recruited by a housing office or elected as a councillor should be able to make the same decisions in a private capacity as he would be paid, or elected, to make in a political or official capacity.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight asked me to pass a message to my wife, perhaps because he believes that she is his natural successor, or perhaps because the matter is of general interest. As a ratepayer in the Medina borough council area, and to the Isle of Wight county council, I noted from my rate notice — I congratulate my hon. Friends on ensuring that such information reaches all ratepayers — that the rate reduction comes from withdrawals from balances. That is an unfair way of achieving a ½p reduction in the rate. I also noted that the county council rate would have been higher had it not made substantial withdrawals from balances. However, I shall not abuse my position as a Member of Parliament by doing anything to improve or to worsen the hon. Gentleman's electoral prospects.

8.43 pm
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

I am surprised by some Conservative Members' comments that there are no cuts, and that local authority services should be cut to save money. Will we ever get it through the thick skulls of Ministers and other Conservative Members that the 8 per cent. cut in the rate support grant since 1979 and the varying rates of inflation mean a cut in the services provided to the community by councils? They all say there have been no cuts. The Secretary of State himself is no exception. He preached from the Dispatch Box, as the Secretary of State for Education and Science will when he winds up the debate for the Government tonight. There have been definite financial cuts for all local authorities, so that means a cut in services. It must mean that. Hon. Members on the Government Benches nod their heads. I do not believe that they know what they are talking about. They should come to the north and see what cuts imposed by central Government on local government mean.

I will give right hon. and hon. Members, including the Secretary of State for Education and Science, some examples. The cuts in adult education are shocking. We should be providing a lot more, but we cannot, because the rate support grant is cut every year and has been ever since the Government took office in 1979.

Not long ago the Secretary of State for Education and Science visited my constituency. He went to a school for the disabled called Fountaindale — a beautiful school which has everything it needs. Not far down the road, however, we enter the Victorian era of which the Prime Minister talks so often. There are schools there that were built in the Victorian era and that we have to go on using. The toilets are at the other end of the playground, not in the building itself. We are not in a position to provide the finance to do anything about that problem. The Secretary of State should have gone down the road from Fountaindale when he visited my constituency and looked at some of the provision for the education of youngsters. We are not providing a proper service for them, and they are the adults of tomorrow. It is all very well for hon. Members on the Government Benches to brag about what they are doing, but they are not doing what they say, and we are not providing the things that we should be providing.

All this argument about overspending stems from 1974, when the right hon. Gentleman implemented the reorganisation of local government. That is where all the problems started. He was responsible; it was his baby and he foisted it upon this nation.

Cutbacks are a very serious matter. I am proud of my county council in Nottinghamshire. Even though the Government have cut the rate support grant, since 1979 my local authority, including my district council, has lived up to its responsibilities, but in order to do this it has had to put the rates up. If the Government cut the rate support grant and there is inflation, rates have to be increased in order to stand still, to provide the services that are already being provided, never mind expanding the services.

Mr. Kinnock

Could I just provide an illustration from my hon. Friend's own county? Some might think it frivolous, but I do not and he certainly will not. It concerns the subject of cricket teaching in schools. The newly appointed Minister with responsibilities for children's play was much exercised by what he called "the deplorable standard of cricket achievement" in the schools of Britain. Then a host of evidence arrived from those interested in cricket—as my hon. Friend is and as I am—that it was because of the collapse of expenditure that the wickets were not being maintained, which was due entirely to Government cuts. The exception was—

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I cannot hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying because he does not appear to be addressing the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Yes. The hon. Gentleman should address the House.

Mr. Kinnock

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The exception was the county of Nottinghamshire, which has just provided 150 practice cricket wickets in its schools. I am sure, therefore, that you will join me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in congratulating the youth of Nottingham on the future success they will probably achieve, while other youths will be denied that success because of Government cuts.

Mr. Haynes

I thank my hon. Friend for making that important point. Nottinghamshire now has the opportunity to provide a proper cricket service, and we shall have more Derek Randalls as a result.

The county council is also responsible for social services. I served for many years on the county council and know what the provision of proper services means. The council is nowhere near providing enough meals on wheels. On one occasion when I accompanied the supervisor around my constituency, we asked an elderly gentleman, "What would you do if we did not bring this meal to you?" He replied, "I would be eating bread and cheese." But because of the cuts in rate support grant, Nottinghamshire is unable to provide the required number of meals for the elderly.

It should not be forgotten that today's elderly have made their contribution to society and it is our responsibility to look after them. We do not look after them by imposing cuts in their services—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain) can nod his head. He is in that age group, but he is living well.

Sir Albert Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)


Mr. Haynes

Many of my constituents in the hon. Gentleman's age group are not living well.

Sir Albert Costain


Mr. Haynes

I shall make my point even though the hon. Gentleman does not like it. The truth really hurts. The hon. Gentleman is living quite well, thank you—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way".] There is not enough time.

The home help service must also be financed from the social services department budget. Not long ago, an elderly constituent told me that her twice-weekly home help had been cut to once a week so that the service could be eked out. That cut in social services is reflected in the cut in rate support grant.

Conservative Members do not know what is happening in their constituencies. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) talked about knowing one's constituents. I know mine, because I live and work in the constituency, but many hon. Members, particularly Conserative Members, have outside interests. As a result, they cannot get involved at grass roots level with the people they represent, yet they draw parliamentary salaries. Perhaps they should think about that and stick rigidly to the job that they have been elected to do.

Like other hon. Members, constituents have told me, "I am buying my council house, but last week I lost my job and cannot keep up with the mortgage repayments." I should like to know, whether from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for the Environment or anyone else, how many people have been given the opportunity to buy their council house but have had to back out because they have lost their jobs and cannot meet the mortgage repayments. Local contact is purely in the hands of the Member for Parliament. If he does not have such local contact, the electorate should toss him out and put someone in who is prepared to do the job. It is one thing to be able to buy a council house, but it is another to have a job to be able to pay the mortgage repayments.

The rate support grant has been cut back by the Government, but I hope that they will change their minds in the future. I hope even more that we shall have an early election and get rid of the lot of them. We must have a Government that will really help the people and not help the people who line the pockets of the Conservative party. That is what is happening, despite the shaking of heads on the Conservative Benches.

One only has to look at Budgets going back to 1979 to see how the rich have been helped and the poor have been hit. The lower-paid workers, those on fixed incomes, and even the pensioners, have been robbed. It is no good arguing that it is not happening because these people are being robbed and will continue to be robbed while we have this lot in power. I hope that at the next general election we shall toss them out and put in a Government that are prepared to work for all the people.

8.56 pm
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

The motion is headed Government attack on local government and community services". I am a Londoner and represent a London constituency, and should like to talk about the attack on the ratepayers by local government, which is far more important. The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) spoke of cuts, but if he had the misfortune to live in Greater London he would find that his county authoritiy was spraying money around as if there were no tomorrow.

The Government were elected to control wasteful public expenditure. A couple of years later, when the present Greater London council was elected, the Labour party was led by Mr. Andrew McIntosh. Presumably, those who voted Labour believed in Mr. McIntosh and his policies, and he and his colleagues were expected to run the council. We all know what happened. Within 24 hours Mr. McIntosh had disappeared from the scene and was replaced by Mr. Ken Livingstone and his colleagues. They now control the county authority in Greater London, which has mounted a massive attack on the ratepayers of Greater London and is causing great distress to individual ratepayers and businesses.

I have been looking at the grants that the GLC made during March. Some of them are to organisations of which we should all approve, but there are some interesting entries in this long list which do not give me the impression that the GLC is suffering any financial hardship. I see that £16,000 is to go to "Brilliance Books, gay literature". Some £35,000 is to go to the Karl Marx centenary. This was mentioned upstairs in Committee. I do not think that the ratepayers of Uxbridge or even some of those in Ardwick would think that £35,000 celebrating 100 years since Karl Marx's death is a good way to spend ratepayers' money. In the past few days, we have been hearing much about the misdeeds of Islington. Not content with spendng £35,000 on the Karl Marx centenary, I see that the Marx Memorial library in Islington is to receive £4,600 from the GLC. There are other interesting items in the list, such as the £7,283 going to Chile Democratico-GB. So it goes on, down this long list. Flipping through it as I have done, one sees on almost every page one or two items that make one wonder whether those who control the GLC are concerned with what happens to London ratepayers.

Why are we spending £14,773 on the Gay London police monitoring group? Why are we spending £35,216 on "Police Accountability for Community Enlightenment", or £250 on "Families Against the Bomb", and so on? Last week we were treated to another little item of expenditure which should command some attention—£11,585 of ratepayers' money on a service provided by the Greater London council called "Lesbian Line". Do the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues really think that the Labour party in London is exercising financial prudence or has any regard whatever—

Mr. Kaufman


Mr. Shersby

I shall not give way —for the ratepayers who bear the burden which leads to the present inflated GLC rate?

When I mentioned some of those interesting items in Committee I was challenged by a Labour Member. I said that such items do not commend themselves to normal people and I was asked who are normal people. I should say that normal people are those who expect local government to act responsibly in spending their money and who are normal decent family people. That is surely what we all believe, so why are we spending money on "Lesbian Line", on the Gay London police monitoring group, and similar nonsense so beloved of the GLC?

I regard that as an attack on the ratepayers. It costs a firm in my constituency, to which I was talking last week, £400 for every employee and a large slice of that £400 goes to the GLC. It certainly does not pay a large slice to the London borough of Hillingdon because its rate rise this year was only 4.9 per cent.—spot on the rate of inflation—and a good council it is too.

When Labour Members talk about the attack on local government they should begin to look at some of the weirdos in local government in Britain who belong to their party and who are making substantial grants to organisations that most sensible people would think were questionable. I shall vote against the motion tonight because it is a lot of nonsense and we know it is.

9.1 pm

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

The speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) was—

Mr. Richard Page (Hertfordshire, South-West)


Mr. Kinnock

It was a fitting end to the contributions from Conservative Members, which have been hallmarked by statistical superficiality and deep-rooted prejudice. I shall take second place to no man or woman in this House, nor would I expect you to, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in my observation of and support for what the hon. Member for Uxbridge calls family decencies. Included among those decencies is a spirit of tolerance and understanding for people who have an enormous assortment of problems in this great sprawling city and who need and deserve the odd £2,000—it never amounts to more than that—to relieve and protect themselves from what must be the dreadful agony of being in those minorities. It is an utter disgrace that the hon. Gentleman should indulge in saloon bar prejudice as he has done and still try to call himself a decent family man with civilised standards.

We could draw attention to the fact that typical of the order of affairs that the hon. Gentleman represents are people who go to race meetings and show their backsides in public. Indeed, the offspring of some of his colleagues will go into a restaurant in Oxford and smash it up just for a jape. We do not think that they are typical of the class that the hon. Gentleman represents, or of Conservative Members. Nor do we think that they are typical of their standards.

The hon. Gentleman might do us, the people that he represents and the people of London the justice and the decency of understanding that there are those in our society who require help. Any civilised local authority or Parliament will seek to assist them. Even the Prime Minister in her most recent homilies on Victorian values said that the necessity taught to her by her grandmother was to give a hand to her neighbour. I ask Conservative Members who, in the context of this debate, is their neighbour and how much does it really mean to give them a hand? Is it just another instance of sickly Tory sentimentality in place of a real policy of assistance?

I would like to think that this debate is taking place with the glorious prospect of a forthcoming general election, although, as hon. Members heard this afternoon, only the Prime Minister can tell the House the date. It is not altogether distant from the minds of hon. Members. We have heard that "Maggie May" or Maggie may not. The House was reminded of the Liverpool song. I would not dream of infringing upon the rules of order by reciting part of that song, even though the debate is of an educational nature. My recollection of the song is that Maggie May —it is a long time since I heard it—was a good-time girl with a golden heart. The Prime Minister fails on both counts.

Against that background, my right hon. and hon. Friends have proferred some grave charges against the Government, which appear in the Opposition's motion. We have accused the Government of causing and fostering repression, regression, decay, depression and demoralisation in the community and in the local government services that are essential to a decent life in this country.

From the Government Back Benches there has been studied complacency about the consequences of Government cuts and their changes in legislation which, in some cases, have amounted to cruelty. I hope that Conservative Members will be able to defend that attitude before their constituents in the next few months. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) claimed that people living in the inner cities would be better off if they elected Tories to represent them. That extraordinary claim is contradicted by all the evidence.

Published Government figures show that in the boroughs and district councils, which are the subject of elections next Thursday, the average in Tory-controlled authorities as a percentage of three and four-year-olds in pre-school education is 45 per cent. whereas in the Labour-controlled boroughs the average is 64 per cent. In the Tory boroughs the average pupil-teacher ratio is 18.8 but in the Labour boroughs it is 18. As to the cost of private education, which includes special residential education —for which all hon. Members acknowledge the need and will continue to support—the average expenditure on private place-buying in the Tory boroughs is £3.2 million, but in the Labour boroughs it is £1.4 million, all of which is allocated to place-buying for children with special needs as a consequence of their handicaps. The average council house rent in the Tory boroughs is £13.52 a week whereas in the Labour boroughs it is £11.86. It is possible to produce a host of statistics. The Tory average on pounds spent on social services per head of the population is £45 a year compared with the Labour average of £59 a year. The Tory figure for home helps per thousand of the population aged over 65 is 7.4 compared with a Labour average of 9.5.

Mr. Peter Bottomley


Mr. Kinnock

If the hon. Member for Woolwich, West is concerned, as a compassionate man, with protecting the interests of those in the inner cities, those figures conclusively demonstrate that where Labour has control, even with the Government restrictions, higher priority is given to the provision of home helps, to the reduction of class sizes, to the support of the education service and to the support of the social services. The figure is 40 or 50 per cent. more than Tory councils, which by and large are in more prosperous areas.

Mr. Bottomley

Will the hon. Gentleman give the figures for the number of children in school in the Inner London education authority and nationally, and those for the amount of spending per head in real terms, as they have changed in the past four years? The hon. Gentleman apparently wants to deal with the balance between the cost and provision of services, so will he pay some attention to the effect of the rate increases that I mentioned on those living in inner city areas? I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will not deal adequately with my questions, either because he has not got the figures or because giving them would not help his case.

Mr. Kinnock

I am delighted to respond to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman took the bait. I am concerned about rate increases for those who find difficulty in paying. Indeed, we were promised that the abolition of rates would be considered. However, I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's question much more adequately than he dealt with mine. I am aware not only of rate increases, but of their basic cause, which is the monstrous erosion—and in some cases eradication—of the rate support grant. That, in turn, has thrust the greater burden of the provision of local and social services on to the backs of the people.

It is hideously dishonest of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West to give one set of figures without giving the causes behind them. — [Interruption.] I do not dispute the figures; they are a matter of public record. Earlier, I said that, given this massive city's diversity of cultures and the obligation to meet educational provision, especially in post-school and higher education, the Inner London education authority could be expected to spend much more than other authorities that appear to have similar problems. One more thing must be said, in case the hon. Gentleman continues to distort the facts and to mislead his constituents and others—[Interruption.] I do not have the figures with me, but they are a matter of public record. I am more than prepared to publish them, because they are well known. Indeed, I am always glad to debate them because that at least saves us from the distortions and dishonesties of Conservative Members.

In many ways the Government's response to the challenges that have been made is even worse than that of their Back Benchers. There is a claim to be interested in economy and efficiency. However, we have been given figures that relate only to the alleged savings that can be made on garbage collection in about a dozen boroughs. We have been asked to applaud low rate rises, but the Government have not had the honesty to admit the awful consequences for local, social, housing and education services.

The Government assert that reduced current expenditure benefits "ratepayers and taxpayers"—to quote their amendment—without admitting that millions of ratepayers and taxpayers are severely disadvantaged and impoverished as a result of the cuts in the financial regime. For the Government plaintively to ask us in their amendment to congratulate them on improving standards in education is pure bunkum. That is the truth about the alleged improvement in education standards, but we would not expect anything much better from a Government of frauds—[Interruption.] Even in the light—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that no hon. Member is a fraud, and that is official. The hon. Gentleman should withdraw his remark.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it permissible, Mr. Speaker, in the interest of accuracy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw"]—to replace the word "frauds" with "fraudulent claims"?

Mr. Speaker

In replacing the word the hon. Gentleman is withdrawing it. Over the years the charge of fraudulent claims has been levelled many times at parties in this House.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. The term "fraudulent claims" will do for the moment but I hope that the House and the country will notice the great sensitivity with which Conservative Members have responded. I suspect that that has nothing to do with parliamentary decorum but everything to do with the accuracy of my statement. Nevertheless, I will let the matter rest. The Conservatives give forgery a bad name, even in the light of recent experience.

The greatest deceit practised against the people of this country since 1979 is the Prime Minister's claim in her own constituency that "taxes must be cut and taxes will be cut." Recent figures from the Government demonstrate that that was an absolute deceit but there are other deceits. There were promises to strengthen local democracy, but all we have had is "Big Sister" centralisation. There were promises to save on bureaucracy. What has been imposed is a new autocracy of cash limits and means tests. The Conservatives' promise to raise educational standards has been atomised by cuts in provision which threaten even numeracy and literacy in primary schools. [Interruption.] I shall give the figures in a moment if Conservative Members have the patience to wait for them. The Government's local government financing system, exposed brilliantly yet again by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), achieves the unique result of simultaneous under-provision of housing and many other local services and underspending in those services, including housing. They have managed to combine miserliness with waste, which is an achievement. Indeed, it is the quack economics that we expect from the Conservatives—the recommendation of a starvation diet to someone suffering from anorexia nervosa.

We see the same consequences in every service. As a result of Government policies there has been a 58.1 per cent. cut in expenditure on housing in real terms since 1979. Indeed, 75 per cent. of all public expenditure cuts have come from housing. That is from a party that has the gall to present itself as the one that emphasises the interests of the family. No party that is demolishing the possibility of millions of young families having a house in the foreseeable future can describe itself as the party that defends the family.

In 1982, the number of public housing completions was the lowest since 1918. In 1982 the number of private sector completions was the lowest since 1954. There has been no great downward slump in the number of our people who require public housing. By taking away resources, the Government have squeezed the life out of the construction industry and have deprived people of that basic requirement of a satisfactory, happy and civilised existence—a secure home.

My message to voters in the local elections who have been on a housing waiting list for two years is that it is the Tory Government's fault. That is where the fault deserves to lie. A further message is that, if people do manage to get a council house now, they will pay a higher rent in real terms than at any time in the past 20 years. The services to council tenants are worse than ever before. The only reason that the position is not even more disastrous is that the Labour Government kept council house rents at a civilised level, thereby mitigating the consequences of the Government's action.

Under this "family party", the party of Victorian values, not only have services been cut back but local authorities, especially Tory local authorities, have developed new ways to offset what expenditure they are prepared to undertake on services such as home helps. Old-age pensioners will pay a pound or two or suffer the loss of a home help and the isolation and loneliness that go with it. As my hon. Friends have said during the debate, that is an example of the Victorian approach.

In the past three to four years we have seen attendance charges for those attending mentally handicapped centres. Charges have increased for adult education classes, and consequently there has been a reduction in the number of classes on offer, especially for the sections of the population that are probably the poorest and in greatest need of a continuation of their education and the opportunities for socialising that go with evening and adult classes.

Bus fares are increasing and consequently isolating still further those in inner cities, suburbs and rural areas. Comforts have been withdrawn from old people's homes. These withdrawals have not had enormous financial consequences but the effect on the morale of old people has been great. Her Majesty's inspectors have twice reported an increasing and worrying increase in dependence upon parental contributions to buy things as basic to proper education as essential textbooks.

We used to worry that we would see these rises in charges as a consequence of the tax cuts that the Government promised. We used to say, "Tax cuts will be welcome but they will have to be paid for." But we have not had the tax cuts. We have had all the extra charges but we have not had the cuts. There is something missing, and the people should be reminded of the missing element.

A married couple with two children would need a family income of £29,567 to benefit from income tax cuts. If Conservative Members are on £40,000 a year—I use the Government's figures—they can expect an income tax cut of £24 a week. Those on average earnings, double average earnings, three times average earnings or four times average earnings have not had tax cuts. In real terms they have had tax increases.

We did not expect that to occur, but it has happened. The terrible tale is that slump increases social mobility in a variety of ways, especially family break-up. The local rescue and support services are cut to below sensible levels and, in some instances, to below the statutory level. There is isolation and neglect for those who are afflicted, and to these problems are added poverty for the old, the young, the disabled and for those who are socially inadequate in various ways.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Kinnock

On top of all that, we have smug sermons from self-righteous rich Tory ladies about Victorian values. That is a disgrace.

The Government say that they welcome measures to improve education standards. That is a travesty. Conservative Members probably remember as well as I do the promises that were set out in the Conservative party's manifesto, although I am sure that they do not want the document quoted at them. However, they will get it.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Sit down, you little bore.

Mr. Kinnock

The manifesto stated: We shall promote higher standards of achievement in basic skills. The previous paragraph stated: We must restore to every child, regardless of background, the chance to progress as far as his or her abilities allow. What do Her Majesty's inspectors have to say about that? They are an authoritative and independent source of information. They reported last year on the impact of public expenditure cuts on local authority education services, and stated: Unless the level and pattern of staffing and the provision of other resources for primary schools can be maintained in such a way that they allow broad coverage of the curriculum and both expertise and time for teachers to deal with the range of learning needs identified, it is unlikely that existing standards, particularly in numeracy and literacy, will be maintained. For the secondary schools they listed ways in which the cuts had sorely afflicted the curriculum and, taken together, they said in paragraph 69: these characteristics add up to a serious threat to the maintenance of standards and desirable improvements. They put it in a nutshell in paragraph 72 when they said: many LEAs and schools are surviving financially by doing less; but they are often obliged to take the less in the form that comes easily to hand rather than shaping it to match educational priorities". That, they said, meant a general retrenchment, the loss of specialist subjects and less acceptable standards of provision for children with special educational needs. That was Her Majesty's inspectorate's response to the Tory promise that higher standards would be achieved. As for restoring standards of opportunity, one cannot restore or achieve such standards when the Government's programme for higher education consists entirely of taking away 27,000 university places for qualified young people and a further 14,000 to 16,000 places in public sector higher education for qualified young people. Those promises have proved to be nonsense. We have had Californian scale fund-cutting in education and we are in danger of getting Mexican levels of provision in education.

There is a principle behind all those plans. None of them is unconscious or regretted or is an accidental byproduct of the Government's policies. They are central to the economic policy and social philosophy of the Government; the economic policy of monetarism and the social philosophy of privilege. We heard it in the Prime Minister's speech to the Women's Royal Voluntary Service in 1981, we saw it in the leak from the Think Tank last autumn and we witnessed it in the family policy group leaks of February of this year. Running like an infected vein throughout the policies of the Government is the deliberate purpose of the destruction of the welfare state. Indeed, for the welfare state there is an equivalent of privatisation. It is called domestication.

It sounds superficially as if it is a cosy, intimate, soft and attractive idea—that of putting people who need assistance and support back into the bosoms of their families—but it does not work like that. I am sure we would all be in favour of it if it were a practicable objective in a modern society. But the individual respect which the family policy group said that it wanted to nurture is being destroyed as individual dignity is being destroyed by mass unemployment. Individual respect will not be enhanced with cuts in benefits so that people are turned into supplicants, or cuts in services so that they are deprived of all forms of support.

As for the individual responsibility which the family policy group said it wanted to reinforce, that is a mockery, certainly when people are burdened with the worry, insecurity and fear of poverty, of being jobless or ill or of having no decent home. Nothing destroys families—the family policy group and everybody else should know this —more quickly than those strains and worries, and their running mate, unemployment.

That has shattered families and driven youngsters from their homes in Wales, Scotland, the north-east and the north-west. The people from those areas could lecture us from bitter experience about what family policies should be, and in none of those lectures would we get a hint that it should be any part of a modern, caring, democratic Government's purpose so to cut back on essential services as to deny people necessary care, to wipe out opportunities, to cripple them socially and isolate and deprive them so that we are observing not just a fall in standards of living but a collapse of standards of civilised conduct in Britain.

Have the speeches today keen on that line of thinking? We have heard about economic efficiency, bashing Labour councils and garbage collection, but no one has stood up for Victorian values or for the family policy group's definition of what we should seek to achieve. It is not as if we have heard all wets. We have not had saturated soldiers, but quite a few dries. We have had old sticks like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and fossils like the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend). There has been hardly a wet in the place, but the hon. Members who spoke did not stand up for any of those values. Are they embarrassed? I suspect that they are. When they hear the Prime Minister lecturing people in the way that she does and contrast it with the consequences of her policies, they know that the people of Britain were deceived in 1979. Further deceit is planned for the people of Britain if, by some dreadful accident, we have Victorian values governing us again under the Prime Minister, with all the antique policies that go with them.

However, the people could go for the other choice. They could choose Labour policies from the 1980s for the 1980s. There is a choice for the people of Britain between old rope and new hope. I think that they will vote for Socialism when they get the first chance next Thursday, and for homes, education, services, liberties and civilisation. The call will be—and it will be responded to—"Vote Labour".

9.31 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

The Chamber has been surprisingly empty, particularly the Opposition Benches, for what was heralded as a great attack on the Government. The opening speech by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) and the wind-up by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) were both strong in criticism, but they were totally lacking in suggestions about how we might tackle things better. Moreover, the Labour Government did not do so well in this area that they could rest on their laurels. When they came in, there was a great rise in all the expenditure that lay to hand, but shortly afterwards, when they had to call in the International Monetary Fund, they retreated fast and started reducing expenditure sharply. Therefore, the Labour party in government did not achieve what it aspired to achieve. It cannot rest entirely on rhetoric when it attacks the Government, as it has tried to do today.

I regret that I have not heard every speech, particularly that I did not hear what I am told was the thoughtful speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant). However, I heard thoughtful and constructive speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) and for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler). I emphasise that they both rightly stressed the destruction of jobs that comes from no doubt well-intentioned but thoroughly uncomprehending high rates. Opposition Members regret that destruction of jobs, but they do not analyse the cause.

I enjoyed very much, for its penetration, the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) and that by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). I am told that I must read with care the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen)—with some of which I suspect I shall agree—and for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle).

I shall talk first about education, which, after all, accounts for over half the spending by local government; then I shall come to the general theme of the debate. The Government's prime commitment in education is to maintain and improve standards of education. Opposition Members habitually speak as if the only thing that affects the achievement of that aim is the level of public spending, but that is not so, and I think that they know it. Parents rightly look for schools where their efforts to help their children are welcomed, where high standards of behaviour are encouraged, where teachers succeed in motivating their pupils, whatever their background, and where examination results are good.

Those things are easy to say. They are far less easy to quantify, and even less easy to achieve. However, every parent knows—as every hon. Member must know—that some schools do much better for their pupils in those respects than others, and that the difference is not just one of money. For secondary schools, comparisons are often based on examination results because they are more readily quantified than other measures of quality. I recognise their inadequacy as a measure. What we need is some means of assessing the "value added" by the school for each pupil. Examination results are, nevertheless, of great importance. If any hon. Member doubts it, I can assure the House that there are local authorities where expenditure on secondary schools is relatively modest but where the pupils—not necessarily from advantaged backgrounds—achieve relatively good results. For an example of the opposite, we need look no further than County Hall.

The difference is not just money, but money is certainly a factor. Here as elsewhere, the Government are happy to be judged on their record, and I shall set it out. First of all, however, I should like to compare the non-financial achievements of Labour and Tory Governments.

I pay tribute to the Labour Government for some of the things that they did for education. In particular, I respect their achievement in requiring that all new teachers should have at least O-level in English and mathematics. The fact that it was necessary for a Government to intervene to achieve that may make us gasp, but we should give credit to the Labour Government for doing it. The Labour Government also set up three committees—the Taylor committee, the Cockroft committee and the Rampton committee. They established the assessment of performance unit. They initiated discussion of the curriculum. They cut places in teacher training by 50 per cent.—that should be remembered before there is any criticism of the present Government. They abolished direct grant schools—shame on them for doing so. They imposed comprehensivisation, and they were wrong in doing so.

I have tried honourably to set out what the Labour party might boast of as its achievements. What, on the non-financial side, can we set against them?

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Sheer prejudice.

Sir Keith Joseph

Let the hon. Gentleman hear the catalogue. First, we restored the freedom to local education authorities which had been taken away by the 1976 Act. We made local authorities once again free to decide for their own residents what sort of education they should provide—whether it should be selective or comprehensive. We restored autonomy in education to local government.

Mr. Clinton Davis


Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman says, "Rubbish," but the first thing that we did on coming to office was to repeal the 1976 Act.

Secondly, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) introduced the 1980 Act, which provided for an increase in parental choice coupled with the first appeal system and a requirement on all schools to supply information so that parents were better equipped to choose. We also passed the 1981 Act, stemming from the Prime Minister's initiative in establishing the Warnock committee. That Act initiated the integration into ordinary schools of children who might otherwise have gone into special schools, so far as that made sense in the interests of the children concerned.

We followed up the Cockcroft committee on mathematics set up by the Labour Government. We introduced and are still spreading a pervasive scheme of microelectronic education in secondary and primary schools. We are systematically following up the criteria for examinations flowing from the Labour Government's initiative on the curriculum. We have set up the secondary examinations council. We have also introduced something that the Labour Government failed to achieve, despite the efforts of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams)—an in-service training grant to increase training for teachers in post.

I hope that Opposition Members who jeered when I said that I would give a catalogue of achievements realise that I am not yet half way. We have announced that we propose to initiate a national development centre for the training of head teachers and heads of department. In September we are introducing a 17-plus examination. We have produced a White Paper on teacher training quality—no doubt some of my hon. Friends will say, "About time too" —with proposals to improve the curriculum.

Mr. Kinnock

There is nothing in it.

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman cannot have read it. We believe that successful classroom teachers should join in the selection of teacher training candidates, that trainers of teachers should have had recent successful classroom experience, that the curriculum should be approved by the holder of my office and that qualifications for teachers in schools should be taken very seriously by local education authorities to match more nearly the needs of the curriculum. By no stretch of the imagination can that be called nothing.

We have also announced that we propose to ask the House for power to provide education support grants at a cost of one third to one half of 1 per cent. of the total education budget. That does not mean that we shall reduce the autonomy of local authorities, but for the first time the holder of my office will have a marginal influence on the way in which local authorities choose to deploy public money. This again is an aspiration on which the right hon. Member for Crosby tried to persuade the Labour Government but failed.

We have taken or are taking five further initiatives even more central to the interests of the children of this country than those that I have already outlined. It must surely be common ground that a substantial and worrying minority of young people seem to leave school after 11 years of compulsory education with far less benefit in behaviour, self-discipline, academic success and even, alas, in some cases in literacy and numeracy than Members on both sides would wish. So far, Governments have recognised this but have not tried to do something about it.

For the first time, having correctly—or perhaps not correctly—identified the cause, we have suggested that the curriculum may not be suited to those who are not especially academic. We have therefore found funds from the taxpayer to give a number of local education authorities—many bid for the opportunity—enough money to develop a curriculum more suited to children whom we describe as low attainers. I have suggested—I have not been corrected—that perhaps 40 per cent. of our school children are low attainers. I should say at once that there is some double counting as that includes the 18 per cent. who, according to the Warnock committee, at the extreme are in special schools but taper off into limited disability.

Mr. Kinnock

The Secretary of State says that the technical and vocational education initiative —[Interruption.] My misunderstanding might he more attributable to the way in which the Secretary of State is addressing the House than to my hearing. In advance then, when the Secretary of State deals with the technical and vocational initiative, will he say whether it will apply to children of all abilities?

Sir Keith Joseph

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the technical and vocational education initiative will apply specifically and explicitly to children of all abilities. The Government have identified another gap in our education provision in that regard. We all agree that some children are better suited to a technical emphasis in a curriculum but not a dominantly technical curriculum. The Prime Minister has initiated a pilot scheme, which local authorities bid in great abundance to take part in, by which 14 projects in 14 different local education authorities provide a technical element in the curriculum. It starts this September.

There are two other initiatives of which the Government are legitimately proud. First, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) was the first Minister to publish the annual report by Her Majesty's inspectorate on the provision of education by local education authorities. Some of the criticism which comes so glibly from Opposition Members would be less offensive if they had initiated that publication when Her Majesty's inspectorate first reported during a Labour Government.

The publication of the full inspection reports of HMI is an achievement which the Government can honourably record. It seems obvious now that it has been done. I believe that the country accepts that that is a positive step forward. HMI is regarded with great respect and what it writes about schools can be read by all those who are interested. The Government intend not merely to publish those reports but to follow them up systematically with local education authorities.

Mr. Cant


Sir Keith Joseph

The Government are aware that all those initiatives will be more effective the more that we can increase parental choice. That is why we make no apology for trying by one means or another, including open enrolment, to widen parental choice and parental influence on schools.

The Government are as content to be judged on our financial record as on our non-financial achievements. In 1978–79, the last full year of the Labour Government, £7.5 billion was spent on education in England and the universities of Great Britain. In 1983–84, that will have increased to more than £12 billion. I accept that that reflects some years of inflation, but it also reflects a real increase. One tenth of public spending, third only to social security and defence, goes on education.

As I shall produce a fairly large number of comparisons which show that in real terms the financial circumstances of schools are in every way better than they were under Labour, it behoves me to ask why schools are so full of teachers who feel hard done by. There is no doubt that schools, parents, teachers and local education authorities feel that, despite the figures which I shall give to show that more than ever before in real terms is being given to education spending, they are under great financial pressure. Dis-economies of scale as the school population declines present real difficulties for administrators, head teachers and teachers in managing and deploying the teaching staff to cover the curriculum, which it is widely agreed should be more extensive.

Although all those involved in education feel under pressure—I recognise their difficulties—the Government are spending more in real terms per school child than ever before. Between 1975–76, the Labour Government's peak year for spending on education and for numbers at school, and 1978–79 — the three last years of the Labour Government—spending on education fell by 2.6 per cent. in real terms, an average fall of nearly 1 per cent. a year. I draw the House's attention to that sanctimonious party's record. During the four years of this Government, spending has decreased by 2.9 per cent.—an average of 0.75 per cent. a year. In other words, the Government have slowed the rate of decline, although the school population has fallen during that period seven times as fast as it fell under the Labour Government. We are spending at least 5 per cent. more in real terms per child than did the Labour Government in 1978–79. In 1976–77 the Labour Government cut spending on education slightly in real terms while school rolls were increasing. Therefore, their case for sanctimony is small.

I hope that the House will note the reductions in spending on education by the Labour Government. Expenditure on primary schools decreased by 3 per cent., on the youth service by 3 per cent., on school milk by 16 per cent., and on school building by 40 per cent., although secondary school numbers were increasing. The Labour party cannot claim that it continued to spend. When the Labour Government were in office, expenditure on books and adult education, and capital expenditure, fell, just as it has fallen under this Government, although expenditure on maintenance decreased by less than it has under this Government. One genuine achievement that the Labour party has to its credit is that the participation rate in nursery education for the under-fives increased by 1 per cent., which is marginally more than the increase under this Government. The Government have made savings, some of which were painful — notably the rationalisation of the school meals service, which was long overdue. However, more is being spent per pupil in real terms than ever before.

A similar picture emerges from the pupil-teacher ratio, which has fallen to the record low level of 18.1 compared with 18.9 when the Labour Government left office. We have achieved a reduction in teachers which is less than the reduction in pupils, so that the pupil-teacher ratio is better than ever before. We reject as humbug any criticism of the reduction in teachers, because the Labour Government's last public expenditure White Paper declared their intention to cut teacher numbers by 4 per cent.

Access to higher education, contrary to what the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said, languished under the Labour Government, with 450,000 students at universities and polytechnics. It has risen under this Government to 500,000. Despite a record level of 18-yearolds, we have a higher age participation rate by 1 per cent. than when Labour left office. It is now at a record level of 13.5 per cent.

I turn now to the general subject of the debate.

Mr. Kinnock

What about university numbers?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that muniversity numbers have fallen, but polytechnic numbers have rocketed.

The Opposition have totally failed to show that the Government have asked for savage and unreasonable service cuts. The vast majority of local authorities are proving that the Government's targets are reasonable. Eighty per cent. of the local authorities are budgeting this year to spend below, at or within 2 per cent. above target.

I want to turn in the last minutes of this debate to something that hon. Members who were not present at the beginning of the debate may not have seen. They did not witness the extraordinary silence of the right hon. Member for Ardwick and the hon. Member for Bedwellty—not two of the least articulate hon. Members of the House—when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment disclosed to the House the report that had been made to NALGO by its public relations advisers. It appears, my right hon. Friend told us, that NALGO is spending £1 million on advertising in order to mobilise support for its own view that the Government should not seek to cut in any way the numbers of people engaged in NALGO services.

It so happens that somehow or other a copy of the advice given by its public relations firm to NALGO has become available. I will read to the House a few passages from that report: Local rates were very important in high-spending areas … particularly to those who were owner-occupiers … they felt that money was deliberately being wasted, quite apart from being inherently mismanaged, in an attempt by local councils to defy the Government … People were still able to cope with the present standard of services … several people felt that it was about time that public services were cut—because they were seen to be inefficient and mismanaged and that if cutting back involved depleting an over-manned work force and a top-heavy administration that was to be welcomed. The attitudes to public services were similar to those towards nationalised industries —i.e. they were sloppily run and operated. Consequently, therefore, it was felt that the cuts could be afforded—larger budgets were only necessary because the money was mismanaged and wasted … There was a general feeling that cuts had to be made because we were living through a recession and we could no longer afford the large public spending budgets we were used to. Finally, I quote from this publication the views reported by the public relations advisers that the advertising proposed by NALGO was dishonest and that it was hiding behind a political issue to protect its own skin.

The NALGO survey's findings show that the vast majority of people, including many who do not support this Government, recognise, in spite of all the political propaganda, that there is scope for economy and greater efficiency, that there are better ways in which at least some of the services can be provided and that in a serious world recession these economies must remain.

The message is clear. The people want an economic, efficient and effective local authority service. Those who want it should vote Conservative on 5 May. I hope that the House will reject this motion and vote for the amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 199, Noes 270.

Division No. 131] [10 pm
Abse, Leo Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Adams, Allen Eadie, Alex
Allaun, Frank Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter English, Michael
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Ennals, Rt Hon David
Ashton, Joe Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Evans, John (Newton)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Field, Frank
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Flannery, Martin
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Ford, Ben
Bennett, Andrewf(St'kp't N) Forrester, John
Bidwell, Sydney Foster, Derek
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Foulkes, George
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) George, Bruce
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Ginsburg, David
Brown, Ronald W, (H'ckn'y S) Golding, John
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Graham, Ted
Buchan, Norman Grant, John (Islington C)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Campbell, Ian Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Harman, Harriet (Peckham)
Canavan, Dennis Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cant, R. B. Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Carmichael, Neil Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Carter-Jones, Lewis Haynes, Frank
Cartwright, John Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Heffer, Eric S.
Clarke, Thomas (C'b'dge, A'rie) Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Home Robertson, John
Cohen, Stanley Homewood, William
Coleman, Donald Hooley, Frank
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hoyle, Douglas
Cook, Robin F. Huckfield, Les
Cowans, Harry Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Crowther, Stan Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Janner, Hon Greville
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) John, Brynmor
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, James (Hull West)
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Kinnock, Neil
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Lambie, David
Deakins, Eric Lamond, James
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Leadbitter, Ted
Dixon, Donald Litherland, Robert
Dormand, Jack Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Duffy, A. E. P. Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Dunnett, Jack McCartney, Hugh
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
McKelvey, William Silverman, Julius
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Skinner, Dennis
McTaggart, Robert Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Snape, Peter
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Soley, Clive
Maxton, John Spearing, Nigel
Meacher, Michael Spriggs, Leslie
Mikardo, Ian Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Stoddart, David
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Stott, Roger
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen) Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Straw, Jack
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Morton, George Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Newens, Stanley Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
O'Brien, Oswald (Darlington) Tilley, John
Ogden, Eric Tinn, James
O'Halloran, Michael Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
O'Neill, Martin Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wardell, Gareth
Park, George Watkins, David
Parker, John Weetch, Ken
Parry, Robert Wellbeloved, James
Penhaligon, David Welsh, Michael
Price, C. (Lewisham W) White, Frank R.
Race, Reg Whitehead, Phillip
Radice, Giles Whitlock, William
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Wigley, Dafydd
Richardson, Jo Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Robertson, George Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Winnick, David
Rooker, J. W. Woodall, Alec
Roper, John Wright, Sheila
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Young, David (Bolton E)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Rowlands, Ted Tellers for the Ayes:
Ryman, John Mr. Ron Leighton and
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Mr. Allen McKay.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Aitken, Jonathan Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon
Alexander, Richard Brooke, Hon Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brotherton, Michael
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)
Ancram, Michael Browne, John (Winchester)
Arnold, Tom Bruce-Gardyne, John
Aspinwall, Jack Bryan, Sir Paul
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Buck, Antony
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Budgen, Nick
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Bulmer, Esmond
Banks, Robert Burden, Sir Frederick
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Butcher, John
Bendall, Vivian Butler, Hon Adam
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Berry, Hon Anthony Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Best, Keith Chapman, Sydney
Bevan, David Gilroy Churchill, W. S.
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Blackburn, John Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Blaker, Peter Cockeram, Eric
Body, Richard Cope, John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Cormack, Patrick
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Corrie, John
Bowden, Andrew Costain, Sir Albert
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Cranborne, Viscount
Braine, Sir Bernard Crouch, David
Bright, Graham Dorrell, Stephen
Brinton, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Dover, Denshore Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lee, John
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Le Merchant, Spencer
Durant, Tony Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dykes, Hugh Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Eggar, Tim Loveridge, John
Elliott, Sir William Luce, Richard
Emery, Sir Peter Lyell, Nicholas
Eyre, Reginald McCrindle, Robert
Fairbairn, Nicholas Macfarlane, Neil
Faith, Mrs Sheila MacGregor, John
Farr, John MacKay, John (Argyll)
Fell, Sir Anthony Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Finsberg, Geoffrey McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fisher, Sir Nigel McQuarrie, Albert
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Madel, David
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Major, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Marland, Paul
Forman, Nigel Marlow, Antony
Fox, Marcus Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mawby, Ray
Fry, Peter Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gardner, Sir Edward Mayhew, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Glyn, Dr Alan Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Miscampbell, Norman
Goodhew, Sir Victor Moate, Roger
Goodlad, Alastair Monro, Sir Hector
Gorst, John Montgomery, Fergus
Gow, Ian Moore, John
Gower, Sir Raymond Morgan, Geraint
Gray, Rt Hon Hamish Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Mudd, David
Grist, Ian Murphy, Christopher
Grylls, Michael Myles, David
Gummer, John Selwyn Neale, Gerrard
Hamilton, Hon A. Needham, Richard
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Michael
Hannam, John Newton, Tony
Haselhurst, Alan Nott, Rt Hon Sir John
Hastings, Stephen Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hawksley, Warren Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hayhoe, Barney Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Parris, Matthew
Heddle, John Patten, John (Oxford)
Henderson, Barry Pawsey, James
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Percival, Sir Ian
Hicks, Robert Peyton, Rt Hon John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Pink, R. Bonner
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Pollock, Alexander
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Porter, Barry
Hordern, Peter Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Proctor, K. Harvey
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Hunt, David (Wirral) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Irvine, RtHon Bryant Godman Rees-Davies, W. R.
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Renton, Tim
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rhodes James, Robert
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Kaberry, Sir Donald Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Rossi, Hugh
Kimball, Sir Marcus St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
King, Rt Hon Tom Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Knox, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lamont, Norman Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Silvester, Fred Trippier, David
Sims, Roger van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Skeet, T. H. H. Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Viggers, Peter
Speed, Keith Waddington, David
Speller, Tony Wakeham, John
Spence, John Waldegrave, Hon William
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Sproat, Iain Walker, B. (Perth)
Squire, Robin Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Stanbrook, Ivor Walters, Dennis
Stanley, John Warren, Kenneth
Steen, Anthony Watson, John
Stevens, Martin Wells, Bowen
Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wheeler, John
Stokes, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stradling Thomas, J. Whitney, Raymond
Tapsell, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Donald Younger, Rt Hon George
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Thornton, Malcolm Tellers for the Noes:
Townend, John (Bridlington) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Mr. Carol Mather.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on Amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 262, Noes 198.

Division No. 132] [10.12 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Butcher, John
Alexander, Richard Butler, Hon Adam
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Ancram, Michael Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Arnold, Tom Chapman, Sydney
Aspinwall, Jack Churchill, W. S.
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Cockeram, Eric
Banks, Robert Cope, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cormack, Patrick
Bendall, Vivian Corrie, John
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Costain, Sir Albert
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Cranborne, Viscount
Berry, Hon Anthony Crouch, David
Best, Keith Dorrell, Stephen
Bevan, David Gilroy Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dover, Denshore
Biggs-Davison, Sir John du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Blackburn, John Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Blaker, Peter Durant, Tony
Body, Richard Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Eggar, Tim
Bowden, Andrew Elliott, Sir William
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Emery, Sir Peter
Braine, Sir Bernard Eyre, Reginald
Bright, Graham Fairbairn, Nicholas
Brinton, Tim Faith, Mrs Sheila
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Farr, John
Brooke, Hon Peter Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brotherton, Michael Finsberg, Geoffrey
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Fisher, Sir Nigel
Browne, John (Winchester) Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Bryan, Sir Paul Fookes, Miss Janet
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Forman, Nigel
Buck, Antony Fox, Marcus
Budgen, Nick Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Bulmer, Esmond Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Burden, Sir Frederick Fry, Peter
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Moate, Roger
Gardner, Sir Edward Monro, Sir Hector
Garel-Jones, Tristan Montgomery, Fergus
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Moore, John
Glyn, Dr Alan Morgan, Geraint
Goodhart, Sir Philip Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Goodhew, Sir Victor Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Goodlad, Alastair Mudd, David
Gorst, John Murphy, Christopher
Gow, Ian Myles, David
Gower, Sir Raymond Neale, Gerrard
Griffiths, E(B'y St. Edm'ds) Needham, Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Nelson, Anthony
Grist, Ian Neubert, Michael
Grylls, Michael Newton, Tony
Gummer, John Selwyn Nott, Rt Hon Sir John
Hamilton, Hon A. Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hampson, Dr Keith Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Haselhurst, Alan Parris, Matthew
Hastings, Stephen Patten, John (Oxford)
Hawksley, Warren Pawsey, James
Hayhoe, Barney Percival, Sir Ian
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Peyton, Rt Hon John
Heddle, John Pink, R. Bonner
Henderson, Barry Pollock, Alexander
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Porter, Barry
Hicks, Robert Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Proctor, K. Harvey
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hordern, Peter Rathbone, Tim
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldfd) Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Renton, Tim
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rhodes James, Robert
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Rossi, Hugh
Kimball, Sir Marcus St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
King, Rt Hon Tom Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Knox, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lamont, Norman Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Lee, John Silvester, Fred
Le Marchant, Spencer Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Skeet, T. H. H.
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland) Speed, Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Speller, Tony
Loveridge, John Spence, John
Luce, Richard Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Nicholas Sproat, Iain
McCrindle, Robert Squire, Robin
Macfarlane, Neil Stanbrook, Ivor
MacGregor, John Stanley, John
MacKay, John (Argyll) Steen, Anthony
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Stevens, Martin
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
McQuarrie, Albert Stradling Thomas, J.
Madel, David Tapsell, Peter
Major, John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Marland, Paul Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Marlow, Antony Thompson, Donald
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Thornton, Malcolm
Mawby, Ray Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Trippier, David
Mayhew, Patrick van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Meyer, Sir Anthony Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Viggers, Peter
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Waddington, David
Miscampbell, Norman Wakeham,John
Waldegrave, Hon William Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Walker, Rt Hon P.(Wcester) Whitney, Raymond
Walker, B. (Perth) Wiggin, Jerry
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D. Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Walters, Dennis Young, Sir George (Acton)
Warren, Kenneth Younger, Rt Hon George
Watson, John
Wells, Bowen Tellers for the Ayes:
Wells, John (Maidstone) Mr. Carol Mather and
Wheeler, John Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Abse, Leo Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Adams, Allen Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Allaun, Frank Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter George, Bruce
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Ginsburg, David
Ashton, Joe Golding, John
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Graham, Ted
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Grant, John (Islington C)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Harman, Harriet (Peckham)
Bidwell, Sydney Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bray, Dr Jeremy Heffer, Eric S.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Home Robertson, John
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Homewood, William
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Hooley, Frank
Buchan, Norman Hoyle, Douglas
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Huckfield, Les
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Simon (Bermondsey)
Cant, R. B. Janner, Hon Greville
Carmichael, Neil Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Carter-Jones, Lewis John, Brynmor
Cartwright, John Johnson, James (Hull West)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Clarke,Thomas (C'b'dge, A'rie) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Kinnock, Neil
Cohen, Stanley Lambie, David
Coleman, Donald Lamond, James
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Leadbitter, Ted
Cook, Robin F. Leighton, Ronald
Cowans, Harry Litherland, Robert
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Crowther, Stan Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Cunliffe, Lawrence McCartney, Hugh
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) McKelvey, William
Dalyell, Tam MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Davidson, Arthur McTaggart, Robert
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Deakins, Eric Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Maxton, John
Dixon, Donald Meacher, Michael
Dormand, Jack Mikardo, Ian
Duffy, A. E. P. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce _
Dunnett, Jack Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Eadie, Alex Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
English, Michael Morton, George
Ennals, Rt Hon David Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Newens, Stanley
Evans, John (Newton) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Field, Frank O'Brien, Oswald (Darlington)
Flannery, Martin Ogden, Eric
Foot, Rt Hon Michael O'Halloran, Michael
Ford, Ben O'Neill, Martin
Forrester, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foster, Derek Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Foulkes, George Park, George
Parker, John Strang, Gavin
Parry, Robert Straw, Jack
Penhaligon, David Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Race, Reg Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Radice, Giles Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Richardson, Jo Tilley, John
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Tinn, James
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Robertson, George Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Wardell Gareth
Rooker, J. W. Watkins, David
Roper, John Weetch, Ken
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Welsh, Michael
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) White, Frank R.
Rowlands, Ted Whitehead, Phillip
Ryman, John Whitlock, William
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Wigley, Dafydd
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Silverman, Julius Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Skinner, Dennis Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark) Winnick, David
Snape, Peter Woodall, Alec
Soley, Clive Wright, Sheila
Spearing, Nigel Young, David (Bolton E)
Spriggs, Leslie
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Tellers for the Noes:
Stoddart, David Mr. Frank Haynes and
Stott, Roger Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its efforts to promote economy and efficiency in local government; notes that the average rate increase in 1983–84 is the lowest for five years; urges Her Majesty's Government to continue to discourage excessive levels of current expenditure of local authorities to the benefit of ratepayers and taxpayers alike; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's measures for improving standards of education.