HC Deb 26 July 1983 vol 46 cc1145-9

Question again proposed.

Mr. Edwards

At the outset of the debate, the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) accused us of introducing a centralised regime and criticised us more than once for controlling public spending. That was not the kind of argument that he used to advance from the Dispatch Box when speaking as a junior Treasury Minister.

The right hon. Gentleman asked when I would announce our provisional decision on next year's local authority expenditure. As I told him in an intervention, I hope to do so next week, but when I met the local authorities a few days ago I undertook to consider their representations closely. We have not yet taken final decisions, but it would be wrong to keep them in uncertainty and to delay announcing these provisional decisions because the House has risen for the summer recess. There are plenty of precedents for making announcements of this kind at this time of year.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the complicated system with which we are involved was job creation for civil servants. However complex it may be, the Government have succeeded in reducing their manpower over the last four years—;the Welsh Office by about 15 per cent.—;whereas local authorities have reduced theirs by only about 3½ per cent. Everyone knows the absurdity of the proposition that there is no room for improved efficiency. People in the private sector and many in the public sector have shown that it is po3sible to maintain services and to reduce manpower. That point was rightly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson).

My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) spoke of the inadequate provision for sparsity and the poor treatment of rural areas, but the hon. Member for Neath took the view that there was overprovision for the rural areas and that the industrial areas had been hard done by. I suspect that this is some evidence that the formula arrived at by the local authority working party in consultation with the Welsh Office was sensible.

I forecast that we would hear complaints about savage cuts, and we heard them from the hon. Member for Newport, East. He wanted to know whether, if his local authority got within its target, it would avoid penalty. It will, but the hon. Gentleman really asked whether getting below GRE would mean that it avoided penalty. I must make it perfectly clear that that is not so. Indeed, if the local authority spends above target, it will not benefit from the close-ending provisions about which I spoke in my opening remarks. That is why a relatively small overspend on target can involve a reduction of grant, because the overspend falls on those authorities above target while those below target are exempt.

The hon. Members for Newport, East, Ceredigion and Pembroke, North and Wrexham (Dr. Marek) asked why there was no exemption from grant penalties for authorities whose expenditure was below GRE. Many authorities provide a standard of service satisfactory to their electors when spending below GRE. Indeed, before the GRE system was introduced they never questioned whether the level of spending was reasonable. It was simply what they thought right for their areas. I do not think that it would be possible, except at the expense of seeking unrealistic expenditure reductions from other authorities, to allow such authorities disproportionately to increase expenditure. Authorities spending below GRE, however, unlike the high spenders above the GRE, receive the maximum cash input and are thus in a position to allow a modest growth in expenditure.

The hon. Member for Wrexham suggested that certain alterations should be made in the target system. When I asked the local authorities about this last week, however, they made it plain that they did not wish to operate targets at all but that if targets had to be operated the existing formula should be retained and not altered. I was prepared to consider alterations, but the authorities' answer to the specific question was quite clear.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, NorthWest (Sir A. Meyer) said that we had failed to grasp the nettle of rate reform. That is fair enough, but I note that he did not suggest any alternative system. As he knows, that is the problem that has dogged successive Governments. Nevertheless, he was absolutely right in saying that the bulk of the money for local government comes from the taxpayers and that there must be some limit. We are setting a limit and seeking to ensure that it is maintained.

The hon. Member for Cerdigion and Pembroke, North asked about provision for the elderly and the young. Those decisions are for local authorities to take within the total expenditure provision for local government. It is accepted that there will be increased expenditure on the police, but that will be offset in areas such as education where pupil numbers are falling and expenditure can be reduced. Local authorities will not, however, be penalised for the recent police pay award. Future rate support grant reports will allow for that increase.

The hon. Gentleman referred to employment prospects for the young. As I have said, employment prospects depend crucially on lowering costs, keeping interest rates down and reducing the rate burden. That is one of the principal objectives of the report before the House, and that is why I ask the House to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 3) Report 1981/82 (House of Commons Paper No. 12), which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.

Question put, That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report 1983/84 (House of Commons Paper No. 11), which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.—;[Mr. Nicholas Edwards.]

The House divided: Ayes 288, Noes 171.

Division No. 42] [10.8 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Alexander, Richard Baldry, Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Batiste, Spencer
Amess, David Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Tom Bellingham, Henry
Ashby, David Bendall, Vivian
Aspinwall, Jack Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Benyon, William
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Berry, Sir Anthony
Best, Keith Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bevan, David Gilroy Hampson, Dr Keith
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hanley, Jeremy
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hargreaves, Kenneth
Blackburn, John Harris, David
Body, Richard Harvey, Robert
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Haselhurst, Alan
Boscawen, Hon Robert Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bottomley, Peter Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hawksley, Warren
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hayhoe, Barney
Braine, Sir Bernard Hayward, Robert
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Heddle, John
Bright, Graham Henderson, Barry
Brinton, Tim Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hickmet, Richard
Bruinvels, Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bryan, Sir Paul Hill, James
Budgen, Nick Hirst, Michael
Burt, Alistair Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Butterfill, John Holt, Richard
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hooson, Tom
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Howard, Michael
Carttiss, Michael Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Chapman, Sydney Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Chope, Christopher Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hunter, Andrew
Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clegg, Sir Walter Jessel, Toby
Cockeram, Eric Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Colvin, Michael Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Conway, Derek Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Coombs, Simon Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Cope, John Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Cormack, Patrick Key, Robert
Couchman, James Kilfedder, James A.
Cranborne, Viscount King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Crouch, David King, Rt Hon Tom
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Dickens, Geoffrey Knowles, Michael
Dicks, T. Knox, David
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Latham, Michael
Dover, Denshore Lawler, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lawrence, Ivan
Dunn, Robert Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Durant, Tony Lee, John (Pendle)
Dykes, Hugh Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Eggar, Tim Lester, Jim
Evennett, David Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Eyre, Reginald Lightbown, David
Fallon, Michael Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Farr, John Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Favell, Anthony Lord, Michael
Fookes, Miss Janet Lyell, Nicholas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) McCrindle, Robert
Forth, Eric McCurley, Mrs Anna
Franks, Cecil Macfarlane, Neil
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fry, Peter Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Galley, Roy McQuarrie, Albert
Goodlad, Alastair Madel, David
Gow, Ian Major, John
Gower, Sir Raymond Malins, Humfrey
Grant, Sir Anthony Malone, Gerald
Greenway, Harry Maples, John
Gregory, Conal Marland, Paul
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Marlow, Antony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grist, Ian Mates, Michael
Ground, Patrick Mather, Carol
Gummer, John Selwyn Maude, Francis
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Mayhew, Sir Patrick St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Mellor, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Merchant, Piers Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Silvester, Fred
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Sims, Roger
Moate, Roger Skeet, T. H. H.
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Spence, John
Moynihan, Hon C. Spencer, D.
Mudd, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Murphy, Christopher Squire, Robin
Neale, Gerrard Stanbrook, Ivor
Needham, Richard Stern, Michael
Neubert, Michael Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Newton, Tony Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stokes, John
Normanton, Tom Stradling Thomas, J.
Norris, Steven Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Onslow, Cranley Terlezki, Stefan
Osborn, Sir John Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, John (Harrow W) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Thornton, Malcolm
Parris, Matthew Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, John (Oxford) Tracey, Richard
Pattie, Geoffrey Trippier, David
Pawsey, James Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waddington, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Pink, R. Bonner Waldegrave, Hon William
Pollock, Alexander Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Powley, John Waller, Gary
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Ward, John
Price, Sir David Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Raffan, Keith Warren, Kenneth
Rhodes James, Robert Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wheeler, John
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wilkinson, John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Winterton, Nicholas
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs Marion Wood, Timothy
Rossi, Sir Hugh Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rowe, Andrew Younger, Rt Hon George
Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Ryder, Richard Tellers for the Ayes:
Sackville, Hon Thomas Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Mr. Douglas Hogg.
Abse, Leo Bruce, Malcolm
Alton, David Buchan, Norman
Anderson, Donald Caborn, Richard
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Callaghan, Rt Hon J.
Ashdown, Paddy Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Campbell, Ian
Ashton, Joe Carlisle, Alexander (Montg'y)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Clarke, Thomas
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clay, Robert
Barnett, Guy Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Barron, Kevin Cohen, Harry
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Coleman, Donald
Beith, A. J. Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Bell, Stuart Conlan, Bernard
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Bermingham, Gerald Corbett, Robin
Bidwell, Sydney Corbyn, Jeremy
Blair, Anthony Cowans, Harry
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Craigen, J. M.
Boyes, Roland Dalyell, Tam
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Deakins, Eric
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dewar, Donald
Dixon, Donald Madden, Max
Dobson, Frank Marek, Dr John
Dormand, Jack Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Duffy, A. E. P. Maxton, John
Eadie, Alex Maynard, Miss Joan
Eastham, Ken Meadowcroft, Michael
Evans, loan (Cynon Valley) Michie, William
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Mikardo, Ian
Ewing, Harry Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fatchett, Derek Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Faulds, Andrew Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Nellist, David
Fisher, Mark O'Brien, William
Flannery, Martin O'Neill, Matin
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Park, George
Forrester, John Parry, Robert
Foster, Derek Patchett, Terry
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Pavitt, Laurie
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Penhaligon, David
Garrett, W. E. Pike, Peter
Godman, Dr Norman Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Gould, Bryan Prescott, John
Gourlay, Harry Radice, Giles
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Redmond, M.
Hardy, Peter Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Harman, Ms Harriet Richardson, Ms Jo
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Heffer, Eric S. Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Rogers, Allan
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Rooker, J. W.
Home Robertson, John Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Howells, Geraint Rowlands, [...]ed
Hoyle, Douglas Ryman, John
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
John, Brynmor Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Soley, Clive
Kennedy, Charles Spearing, Nigel
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Straw, Jack
Lamond, James Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Leadbitter, Ted Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Leighton, Ronald Tinn, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Wainwright, R.
Litherland, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Welsh, Michael
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Wigley, Dafydd
Loyden, Edward Williams, Rt Hon A.
McCartney, Hugh Winnick, David
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Woodall, Alec
McGuire, Michael Young, David (Bolton SE)
McKelvey, William
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Tellers for the Noes:
McNamara, Kevin Dr. Roger Thomas and
McTaggart, Robert Mr. Frank Haynes.
McWilliam, John

Question accordingly agreed to.