HC Deb 18 July 1984 vol 64 cc415-38 10.15 pm
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

I beg to move, That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1982–83 (House of Commons Paper No. 519), which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.

Mr. Speaker

With this we can also consider Motion No. 5: That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report 1984–85 (House of Commons Paper No. 520), which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.

Mr. Edwards

I discussed both motions with the Welsh consultative council on local government finance yesterday.

Before signing the supplementary reports, I considered carefully all the representations that I have received from local authorities about items of expenditure which, in their view, should be disregarded when calculating liability to hold back block grant. I was not persuaded that, at this stage, I should grant any new disregards beyond those already announced, which include, of course, the additional portion of a local authority's expenditure incurred in 1984–85 as a result of policing the miners' industrial dispute. Provision for this disregard will be made in the next supplementary report for 1984–85.

In response to a number of representations about the 1984–85 disregard for certain expenditure on projects being jointly financed with health authorities, I propose to make a change to the present definition. I shall do so in the next supplementary report for 1984–85 so that in future the disregard will apply to increases in an authority's expenditure on any such scheme rather than to aggregate increases on all its schemes as at present. This change will make it easier for authorities to fulfil their obligation to absorb such schemes into their main programme.

The second supplementary report for 1982–83 is very straightforward. In January last year the House approved a supplementary report and an amending report for that year, the effect of which was to withhold grant of £4.2 million from local authorities in Wales that had exceeded their expenditure targets. Grant withholding was based on authorities' revised budgets. We now have the outturn figures which show that actual expenditure was somewhat higher than the revised budgets. As a result, grant penalties are higher as well, and the net effect is to reduce by a further £800,000 the total block grant payable for 1982–83, that is to say, block grant withholding has increased in total from £4.2 million to £5 million. The cash limit of the relevant Vote has been reduced accordingly, as I announced to the House by written answer on 13 June.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the effect of what he is saying is that there will be a cut in the capital moneys granted to Welsh authorities by central Government, and that the people of Wales can, therefore, be aware, without any complication of the language, that the provision is being cut?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. and learned Gentleman may not be familiar with these instruments and the way in which they work. We are talking about current, not capital, expenditure and about withholding on current expenditure. He has missed the point of what the motions are about.

The report demonstrates, as we saw last year for 1981–82, that when authorities which budgeted to spend above their expenditure targets subsequently reduce their spending the amount of grant withheld is reduced, or restored entirely in the case of those authorities which spend at target. Three counties and nine districts have reduced their expenditure sufficiently to meet their targets, and thus received over £1 million which had previously been withheld. Total holdback would have been reduced by a quarter had it not been for the fact that several authorities which had budgeted to exceed their target actually increased their excess still further.

There is an additional adjustment in the supplementary report which I should draw to the attention of the House. Interest rates for the year proved to be significantly lower than those assumed when the main report for the year was presented to the House. As a result, relevant expenditure, aggregate Exchequer grant and block grant are lower than originally estimated. The reduction of block grant for this reason is £5.8 million. This adjustment for variation in interest rates is part of the agreement which exists between the Government and the local authority associations.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

The Minister is giving details of the impact of interest rates on last year's settlement. Will he estimate the impact on local authorities of the rise of 2 per cent. in interest rates last week?

Mr. Edwards

I was about to say that, had interest rates gone up, block grant would have increased. It works both ways.

A copy of the report has been sent to each local authority in Wales. Adjustment of the block grant payable will be made after the report is approved by the House.

I come to the supplementary report for 1984–85. The principal purposes of this report are to effect grant withholding from those authorities whose planned budget expenditure exceeds their individual targets for the current year, and to protect the grant entitlements of the 31 authorities—which is about two thirds of all the Welsh local authorities—whose budgeted expenditure is at or below target level.

I had hoped, in this fourth year of a separate Welsh rate support grant, that it might not be necessary to apply grant withholding to any authority. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While I congratulate those 31 authorities—two counties and 29 districts—on meeting their targets. I say again to the remaining six counties and eight districts that excess spending will continue to mean grant penalties.

This is costly for authorities, costly for their ratepayers and damaging in the impact which consequential rate increases impose on industry and commerce in their areas. This year, the 14 authorities involved have in total exceeded aggregate targets by £19.7 million. That is about £20 a household in Wales and much more for each household in the local authority areas responsible. I have told the local authority associations in Wales that I cannot accept that level of overspending.

Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)

As only a part of the financial year has elapsed, how is it possible to ascertain whether an authority is likely to exceed its target? Is it not a fact that some councils spend more heavily at the beginning of the year and others at the end of the year? I find it difficult to understand how these targets can be established.

Mr. Edwards

My hon. Friend must have misheard an observation I made about an earlier order. The local authorities are budgeted to achieve their targets. As I observed earlier, if the local authorities reduce their spending, they can remove themselves from penalty. They will receive additional grant in a supplementary order. That is the answer to my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that some county authorities, although their expenditure will be below the grant-related expenditure level which has been acknowledged by the Welsh Office as the level necessary to maintain services will be penalised, even though they are not spending to the level acknowledged by the Welsh Office and are above target?

Mr. Edwards

We have debated on many occasions the relationship between grant-related expenditure and targets. For many years, many local authorities had of their own volition—before we had targets and any of these systems — levels of spending below the GREs, which are a general assessment of need. It would be an absurd proposition to force local authorities up to spending levels because they start below GREs. Our objective is to relate expenditure not just to GREs but to the patterns of previous spending by local authorities which they judge to be right or had achieved because they were practical and possible. The targets are related to both GREs and to previous patterns of spending.

I emphasise again that the decision to go above targets is costly for the households in the areas concerned. I referred to an average effect of £20 per household throughout Wales. There are local authority areas where the cost per household is as high as £53. I note that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) is about to rise. It is a fact that that is the effect of a decision taken by his local authority to go above its targets.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's gobbledegook. Table 5.4 on page 32 of the report shows that Dwyfor has overspent by £20,959. In terms of the time of under-secretaries, assistant secretaries, principals and executive and clerical officers, how much did it cost to find out whether Dwyfor or any other authority had overspent? Will the right hon. Gentleman insert another column showing the cost of the whole nonsense operation?

Mr. Edwards

Local authorities provide returns of their expenditure to the Welsh office. Dwyfor is an excellent example of a local authority which, by simply reducing its expenditure by about £21,000, avoided all penalties. A number of local authorities took that action and therefore were not penalised. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for enabling me to identify one of the many authorities that took a more sensible course than his authority. As a result, the householders in that area have not been landed with the additional burdens with which householders in his constituency have been landed by the decision of their local authority.

The very fact that 31 local authorities have budgeted in the current year so as not to exceed their targets shows that what I asked of them was by no means unreasonable or impossible. By keeping within their targets they avoid grant penalty. Those authorities avoid also the associated close ending adjustment which ensures—[Interruption.] I know that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) not surprisingly finds it difficult to understand this matter, although we debated it frequently. The local authorities regard these matters as important and have, of course, taken the trouble to ensure that they understand them. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has not done so. The case for close ending adjustment ensures that the grant paid out equals the amount of grant available.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Edwards

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Legislation enables me initially only to reduce the block grant of all authorities by a common percentage across the board if grant claims exceed the amount available. That was the case this year, and all authorities initially had their grant claims abated on that account by about 1 per cent.

It is more appropriate to the circumstances in Wales, where most authorities are meeting their targets, that they should have the close ending reduction restored to them. The report effects that restitution. I know that the authorities concerned will especially welcome this step, which will improve their cash flow.

The report shows that an important aspect of achieving targets from the local authority viewpoint is that authorities budgeting to spend at or below target will know their targets within narrow limits and will thus be able to plan their activities with a fair degree of certainty. That goes for two thirds of local authorities.

I turn now to the question of grant withholding, which is entirely a consequence of the individual decisions of the remaining authorities. For an authority whose planned expenditure exceeds its target, the grant to be withheld will be directly related, as in previous years, to the extent of the excess. It will in no way be affected by the expenditure decisions of other authorities.

Councils were notified of their provisional targets last summer, and of the final targets last December. They knew the amount of grant that would be withheld for particular levels of spending above those targets. Any authority that decided to budget for more than its target did so consciously, in the full knowledge of the grant consequences and—this is important—the consequences for its ratepayers.

The Government are responsible for overall economic management. Local government expenditure forms a large proportion of total Government expenditure. We are determined that it should be curtailed to relieve inflationary pressures and the tax burden on productive industry. It is no good for the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside saying from the Opposition Front Bench that that is untrue or unreasonable, because he used almost identical words when speaking from this Bench when he was in Government and represented the Welsh Office.

I told the House and the local authorities exactly what we meant to do. It is against that background that we have to consider the consequences of the report.

Welsh local authorities are budgeting to spend £19.7 million — 1.5 per cent. — more than the total of expenditure targets that we set of £1,280 million. As I have told the House, most authorities, including many with problems at least comparable with those of the overspending authorities, complied with their target, but, taking into account expenditure disregards, six counties and eight districts failed to do so.

Therefore, it is the Government's intention to withhold a total of £13 million. I want to make it absolutely clear that it is still open for any of those authorities to avoid grant withholding and close ending by adjusting their spending between now and the end of the financial year so as to come within their targets.

Authorities that decided to overspend had to go to their ratepayers, draw from balances previously provided by ratepayers, or use some combination of those two mechanisms to cover not only the excess of expenditure incurred, but the amount of grant that will now be withheld. The position varies from authority to authority, but in aggregate terms it means that overspending authorities have had to find from the rates or from balances or a combination of rates and balances not just the £19.7 million overspend but the £13 million grant withholding. The £32.7 million involved is equivalent to about an 11.5p rate or about 6.3 per cent. of the average general rate poundage levied this year. In short, after making an allowance for the use of balances, rates in those local authority areas where targets have been exceeded could have been lower than they are. Indeed, the high rate increases in those authorities that have not met their targets have been a major factor contributing to this year's 8 per cent. average increase in rates.

As I have made clear, local authorities have not been required to act suddenly or unexpectedly. Most of them made provision and adjusted their balances accordingly in the expectation of grant withholding. If I failed to act in the face of their response to our declared policy, not only would taxpayers and ratepayers suffer, but local authorities would in future make their plans in the expectation that the Government would not carry out their intentions.

In addition to our responsibility to contain overall spending within a level that the country can afford, I consider that the Government and the House have an obligation to protect industry, commerce and ratepayers. High spending demands high rates; high rates mean high costs; and high costs mean lost markets and lost job opportunities. We are not prepared to allow that to happen.

I believe that the lower rate increases that we have seen in recent years have taken place only as a response by local authorities to this Government's policies. I am determined to see that the improvement continues in the period ahead. The two reports before the House today reaffirm the Government's determination to act in a firm but fair way to secure that improvement.

10.36 pm
Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

We have heard an example of Ministerial sadism — the Secretary of State seemed to enjoy the punishment that he was handing out. The statement that he was not here to make this afternoon has not made it easier for our local authorities in Wales to cope with the difficulties that he is making for them through the impact of the reports.

I should like to draw to the right hon. Gentleman's attention today's edition of the Financial Times, where we learnt that the independent Audit Commission has concluded its first major investigation into local government finance. It stated that the complexities and uncertainties associated with block grant distribution could have cost the ratepayer up to £1.5 billion in the last three years. The report could prove highly embarrassing for the Government, who have made control of local authority spending a central plank in their efforts to keep overall public sector spending under control. It also suggests that the Government may have got it wrong in considering that there had been excessive spending by local authorities, and concludes that real overall local government spending last year may have been about in line with the overall target. I should like to draw to the attention of the House information supplied to me by the right hon. Gentleman about the comparison between current expenditure in 1979–80 and 1983–84. On that basis, district authorities' expenditure was about 2 per cent. lower than current expenditure in real terms in 1979–80. Even the counties of Wales were only 2 per cent. higher than in 1979–80. That is one way of putting into context the message that the right hon. Gentleman has just spelt out.

I think that a computer in the Welsh Office is running Wales's local government; the robotic approach of the right hon. Gentleman does not illuminate with any warmth or sympathy the realities behind the technicalities of the documents. My consideration of the reports is influenced by my meetings with, first, the Wales Association of District Councils at Llandrindod Wells earlier this month. Housing was its chief preoccupation. It told me that it desperately seeks to build more houses. I think of my meetings earlier this year with the leaders of the Welsh county councils. For example, I have in mind Messrs. Squire, Allison, Turnbull and Davies. They expressed their deep concern at the Rates Act and the erosion of the historic freedoms of local government in the Principality.

I think, too, of my meeting with the heads of the valleys local authorities in Merthyr yesterday. They left me in no doubt that they are desperately anxious to improve the environment of their unemployed citizens. They were critical and scornful of the fact that central Government were failing to make sufficient local government moneys available to them.

Mr. Peter Hubbard-Miles (Bridgend)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

No. The Secretary of State did not have the courtesy to give way, and, furthermore, right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House will wish to take part in the debate.

My recent meeting with Blaenau Gwent council led me to believe that that council was sincerely seeking to attract new industries to its area—for example, to the Rassau estate. When I toured the Blaenau Gwent area, I saw positive examples of superb reclamation, exciting housing renovation——

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

—road-building to a high standard, and civic initiatives in developing industrial estates in the area. However, I also saw immense problems still to be tackled. All the local authorities have expressed to me their dismay at the right hon. Gentleman's approach to local government finance and the prospect of the Rates Act coming into operation.

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

The homeless, the elderly and school-children—

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Jones

I was about to say that the West Glamorgan county authority finds itself in desperate straits. Its predicament stems from the effect of the Government's financial policies on education. School transport has been heavily hit. Free transport to school for pupils who live beyond the statutory mileage limit has been withdrawn. This measure has produced the largest single saving—it may have accounted for £1 million—but it has caused hardship for parents, particularly in areas of high unemployment.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Moms), my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) have campaigned hard for those who they know have been penalised by the policies of the right hon. Gentleman. I support their campaign.

In the county of Dyfed, the number of teaching staff in the primary schools has been reduced by 29, and in the secondary schools, by 28. In the further education sector, the number of lecturing staff has been reduced by 38. In non-vocational further education, community provision has been reduced by some £87,000.

The schools meals service has also been affected. Charges have been increased by 5p over the past two years——

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on this point?

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Jones

An increase in the free meals entitlement has resulted from unemployment and low earnings have resulted in an increase in the free school meals entitlement, but there has been a decrease in that surprising sector.

In Dyfed there is a historic commitment to literature and cultural affairs, but cultural services have been cut. Some small branch libraries have been closed and at others, opening hours have been reduced.

I have deduced from the reports that I have seen from local authorities that they are facing a financial as well as a constitutional crisis. My own county of Clwyd tells me that its unemployment is the worst in Wales, with a current rate of over 17 per cent. The population of Clwyd has grown by 9 per cent. since the 1971 census compared with only 2 per cent. throughout Wales and 5 per cent. in England and Wales. The local authority has emphasised that in 1984–85, under the regime of the Secretary of State, the expenditure target is £370 per head of population compared with the Welsh average of £379. It is not unnatural that Clwyd's county treasurer believes that Clwyd is an underspender and an under-receiver of grant and does not have an adequate target in the light of its economic plight.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

No, I wish to press on. I shall not give way, not even to the hon. Gentleman, whose county of Ynys Môn suffered a penalty well in excess of £100,000.

I shall put into context the shoddy exercise involving holdback targets.

Mr. Best

Is the hon. Gentleman afraid of me?

Mr. Jones

Not at all. The exercise is designed to shackle Welsh local authorities to the Welsh Office. It is autocratic as a Department, in that it operates the penalties and targets. I draw attention to little Dwyfor, which has had a holdback of £20,000 and to Cynon Valley, which is to suffer a holdback of £38,000 although its long-term unemployment is over 40 per cent. of total unemployment in the area. What is the financial crime of lovely Merioneth? It is to be punished by the implementation of a £60,000 holdback. In Merioneth, there is isolated Blaenau Festiniog, which has been devastated by quarry closures and has 29 per cent. long-term unemployment. However, it must face the vindictive and petty spite of the Welsh Office.

These are stupid penalties——

Mr. Nicholas Edwards


Mr. Jones

No, I shall not give way.

Mr. Edwards


Mr. Jones

I have no intention of giving way to the right hon. Gentleman. He did not have the courtesy to be in the Chamber this afternoon.

Mr. Edwards


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) has made it clear that he is not giving way, so the Secretary of State should not persist.

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Gentleman is so beside himself that he is ripping up his papers in his anger.

The Government are introducing stupid penalties. I am caused to ask how many officials work in the section of the Welsh Office which is supposed to police the errant authorities. What are the salaries of the right hon. Gentleman's civil servants? What are their departmental telephone bills and how much did the printing of the reports cost? How much computer time has the right hon. Gentleman's Department used in this petty war on local authorities, which do not deserve to receive such attacks?

I remind the Secretary of State that the Welsh district councils reduced their expenditure in real terms by 6 per cent. between 1979 and 1984.

Mr. Best


Mr. Jones

Their performance has been comparatively responsible over the past three years and they have been penalised unfairly.

I shall address my remarks to the detail of the Secretary of State's speech. The second supplementary report for 1982–83 continues the trend of taking grants away from local authorities in general, especially those in Wales. I have to emphasise to him that the single most significant fact is that block grant for 1982–83 will now be £16.4 million, or 2 per cent. less than announced in the main report in December 1981. As that relates to a year for which the accounts were closed almost a year ago, the implications for some local authorities in Wales could be very serious. I hope that in the reply to the debate the Minister will be able to say whether one Welsh county may be more than £1 million adrift in that respect.

The 1984–85 first supplementary report, in which the Secretary of State implements his grant holdback, may mean that £13 million of grant will be returned to the Treasury in respect of an estimated excess over Government spending targets of only £19 million.

I emphasise here that the grant percentage continues along its downward path, and it is at this point that I remind the right hon. Gentleman what the Welsh counties themselves are saying. They tell me that, throughout Wales, there is all-party criticism of the Government's recent Rates Act. There is criticism of the selective and general rate limitation schemes. They say that they will prove impracticable, that they are misconceived in principle, and that they will result in a growth in central bureaucracy and an increasing threat to local government freedom.

The Government should recognise the importance of proper local choice and restore to local government its ability to make proper decisions as county and district councils. That, fundamentally, is what the right hon. Gentleman should do.

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Jones

The perceptive Western Mail public affairs correspondent has said that the Government will be forced to move from a hard list of about 12 authorities to a soft list of many more councils, which is likely to include some in Wales. He even goes on to speculate that Wales's council leaders are concerned that the right hon. Gentleman will move the goalposts if the first round of rate capping on the highest spending English authorities does not bring down local government spending. Many in Wales believe that it will not. We shall watch with care, as the months go by, to see whether the right hon. Gentleman moves the goalposts.

In 1984–85 the financial facts regarding local government in Wales are that the Government reduced the percentage level of grant from 70.4 to 69.2; that the Government have shifted grant away from rate support and towards specific and supplementary grants; that they have reduced our target in real terms, increased the penalties for exceeding target, and not fully inflation-proofed pay and prices in calculating grant.

What the right hon. Gentleman omitted to say tonight was that in 1981–82 the overall rate of Exchequer grant stood at 73.4 per cent., and that it is now only 69.2 per cent. That is the record of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is a poor one. I urge him to change his policies, because local government is under threat in Wales. The advent of mass unemployment, and the cuts in public expenditure, place councillors and their officers under the severest of pressure.

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Gentleman knows that tens of thousands of Welsh people live on the borderline of poverty, frequently without work or hope or even a pleasant environment. The local government services are desperately needed to help our vulnerable fellow Welsh citizens. The reports confirm a lessening of prized Welsh local government services, and I ask my hon. Friends to vote against them tonight.

10.55 pm
Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), whom I like very much, gave us a superb view of his backside in all its glory as he ran for cover. Unfortunatel—I say this in respect—he has been guilty of gross discourtesy in the House in not giving way to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Hubbard-Miles) or myself when we sought to intervene. He either does not believe in parliamentary debate, in which case he believes that his views are not subject to challenge, or he does not understand his brief, which must have been written for him, and was therefore afraid to give way in case he was challenged and did not have the answer. I am in a charitable mood tonight, so I can only assume that he does not really understand his brief.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) followed the example of the Secretary of State for Wales, who refused to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)?

Mr. Best

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken, because my right hon. Friend gave way to those who were capable of making a valuable contribution to the debate. He was singularly discriminatory in not giving way to those who were incapable of making a valuable contribution to this or any other debate.

I do not wish to be unpleasant to the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside. As I say, I am in a charitable mood, so I shall assume that he does not understand his brief and that is why he did not give way.

At one moment I was encouraged because I thought that we would be treated to that rare delicacy in the House of an insight into Labour party policy—what it might do instead of what my right hon. Friend is doing. I became excited, but the hon. Gentleman, tantalising and tempting as he always is, excited me beyond the realms of his own ambition and could not deliver the goods and tell the House what he would do. He made no reference whatever to the view, if any, of the Opposition on this subject. He was able to quote, in extenso, from newspaper cuttings, but not a word, not a shred, of Labour party policy did we hear. One can only assume that that is because there is none.

The hon. Gentleman spent much of his time recounting a tale of woe and tragedy of local authorities which wanted to spend more on, I accept, worthwhile projects. I have considerable sympathy with what he said. We are all in the House, fortunately, subject to representations by our respective local authorities and they are all capable of bringing to our notice matters on which there is a crying need for further expenditure, particularly in the social welfare area, and, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, in trying to stimulate further prospects for employment. Of course, we would all like to see more money spent on those particular aspects, but the hon. Gentleman cannot translate himself from the Back Benches to the Front Bench, in that he cannot take a responsible view which necessarily has to be representative of Wales and the financial situation in the country as a whole instead of limiting himself to his own parochial interests.

All hon. Members are charged in the House to represent not only the area which we have the privilege to serve, but to speak on behalf of Wales and the United Kingdom. It is in that context that we should see the reports that are before the House tonight and I speak as a Member who represents one of those local authorities which will suffer holdback.

Mr. Alex Carlile

The hon. Member referred to the need to look at local government policies in the context of the financial situation of the country as a whole. Is he proud of that financial situation? Is he proud of the fact that Welsh householders who have bought council houses will have to pay 12.875 per cent. interest on their mortgages as a result of his Government's policies?

Mr. Best

The hon. and learned Member has hitherto commanded my respect. He must be careful if he is not to endanger that opinion. If he believes that the mortgage interest rate is determined entirely by Government policy, he is mistaken. On sober reflection, he will understand that world events, particularly American interest rates and the American budget deficit, command a need for British interest rates to follow others, to an extent, if we are not to suffer a run on sterling.

The hon. and learned Member may claim that that is not the story that has come from the Government, but that only enhances my view that the Conservative party believes in individual contributions, rather than sticking to a rigid line. The hon. and learned Member asked whether I was proud of the Government's achievements. I am, because the Government have put the country in a financial position that is better than it was under the Labour Government and is certainly better than it would be if we ever had the misfortune of suffering an alliance Government.

No one is happy to see local authorities being penalised in relation to expenditure in excess of target, rather than in relation to grant-related expenditure. However, I shall not rehearse that argument, because, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in answer to an intervention from the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), the subject has already been well articulated in the House.

However, I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether we should not look carefully at the rigid distinction between capital and current expenditure. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in his statement to the House earlier that district authorities are being asked to restrict their spending in the current year to their capital allocations plus a prescribed proportion—25 per cent. —of receipts accruing in the year or to the amount committed at midnight tonight.

My right hon. Friend knows that capital receipts have accrued over a number of years and have not been used. In many cases, 25 per cent. of this year's capital receipts will be negligible. For example, Ynys Môn borough council expects to receive only £300,000 of capital receipts this year—25 per cent. of that is only £75,000. However, total accrued receipts amount to about £2.5 million — 25 per cent. of that is £600,000. Local authorities are not entitled to spend that amount under the present regime on capital expenditure.

I am sorry if I am being parochial. I do not wish to follow the example of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside, though, as a Back-Bench Member, I am more entitled than the hon. Gentleman to be parochial. Ynys Môn borough council is to spend £1 million on improvements to council properties, £1 million on new building and £1.5 million on improvement grants, but those grants are committed as a result of the flood of applications already received. Effectively, there is small joy there.

I do not wish to dwell on the capital side, because the debate relates to current expenditure, but, while local authorities will welcome the fact that there is no question of a moratorium —I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on that decision— I hope that further consideration will be given to whether there can be a translation between capital and current expenditure.

I do not wish to detain the House. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside did detain us at length and we learnt nothing from him. I hope that the contrary will be true of my brief contribution.

11.5 pm

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) said that he hoped we would learn something from his contribution. That remains to be seen. We certainly will not learn anything from the report. I am not surprised that local authorities overspend. The formula on page 26 of the report reads: for R less than or equal to 1 GRP=PGRE + [PGRE x 1.53 x (1.10 x R -1)]; for R greater than 1 GRP= PGRE + [PGRE x 1.53 x (1.10 x Rto the power 1.45 -1)]". What rubbish is this? It is no wonder that my colleagues complain about gobbledegook. What nonsense it is. It is no wonder that local authorities are in difficulties when they have to deal with such tripe.

I intend to be brief, but the Secretary of State must not misunderstand. A great deal can be said about the way in which he has abused and is abusing local government in Wales. We witnessed a glaring example this afternoon when he absented himself from making a statement to the House on the capital expenditure of district councils. He answered questions on that matter on Monday. We understand that he was today involved in duties at royal command, but he should have left today's statement until tomorrow, when he could have made it himself, instead of putting his hon. Friend in the firing line.

Whenever the right hon. Gentleman does something in respect of local government in Wales, the people of Wales can expect the worst. The rate Support grant settlement is no different from the right hon. Gentleman's last effort, which has meant that the people of west Glamorgan have had to bear cuts in education expenditure. Parents have to pay to transport their young children to school. Some children have to walk along dangerous roads to school. That is the fault of the Secretary of State, not of west Glamorgan councillors. The right hon. Gentleman is guilty and he should take the blame.

Today's announcement about local government capital expenditure will have the same effect. That should be made clear to everyone. Councils are unable to meet housing needs and are unable to improve properties. That is not their fault, but the fault of the Secretary of State. We condemn him for his failings and for bringing such rubbish before the House.

11.9 pm

Mr. Peter Hubbard-Miles (Bridgend)

I shall be brief, but I cannot fail to comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), who recited his speech with little confidence and no conviction. It was clear that he came to the Dispatch Box knowing little of what happens in local government in Wales.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of his conversations with members of local authorities and their fear that they would not be able to provide for the housing needs of the people of south Wales. Earlier today I referred to the capital expenditure of one of the largest housing authorities in Wales: last year £12 million, this year £17 million. That is an increase of 40 per cent., or £5 million, but not one penny of that increase was to be spent on housing. It is the Ogwr borough authority.

In addition to its capital allocations and the expenditure of capital receipts, the authority has gone to merchant bankers to arrange an additional £6 million of expenditure. Was it to meet the housing needs of the people of south Wales? No, it was to build council offices at a cost of £4.5 million and a £5 million leisure services programme including three swimming pools and a leisure centre. That is how Labour authorities in south Wales are concerned about the housing needs of the people.

We hear a great deal about the dreadful state of affairs whereby schoolchildren are going without school meals. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside is aware that Mid Glamorgan county council has just admitted that providing school meals for the children of miners is costing £266,000 but that the dinner ladies who are preparing those meals have complained that little more than 10 per cent. have been taken up and the remainder have been thrown away. Again, a Labour authority is shown to be politically motivated and to be seeking purely to gain political popularity. This is the care that the Labour party has for the people of south Wales. It is concerned only with the power which it has held on to for so many years by confidence trickery against the people.

I invite those hon. Members who say that savings cannot be made to go to Mid Glamorgan and see the waste that there is in the extravagant system of district administration of education and social services. They should experience the wasteful system of meetings held in county hall on Saturday mornings, of meetings held every day of the week, of local authority members' expenditures running into many thousands of pounds when, on the advice of their own officers, they could save a large percentage of that expenditure. They could save all that would be needed to restore the cuts that they made in home helps, again to draw attention to a political situation rather than a social one.

These are the matters about which the people of Wales want to hear. They do not believe the Labour party any more, and that is why the Conservative party is the fastest growing political party in Wales.

11.13 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

In the second report we see the words Grant reduction arising from expenditure excess. That is one of the most pernicious fallacies to have pervaded Wales in recent years.

A few minutes ago, we heard from the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best). His speech struck me as particularly complacent coming from an hon. Member whose constituency is subject to a grant holdback of £115,576. Those of us who have the privilege of knowing Ynys Môn will have travelled round it and not seen a great deal of excess expenditure by the district council there. Those of us who live in the county of Powys, which is subject to a grant holdback of £430,825, will not have seen much evidence of excess expenditure there.

The judgment being made by the Government's, a dogmatic and subjective one. It is high time that they realised the frustration which is becoming very evident throughout Wales at this type of policy. I always understood that at least one of the purposes of having a Secretary of State for Wales—a representative of Wales — in the Cabinet was that., on behalf of Wales, the Secretary of State would meet head-on the issues affecting Wales most severely; and would meet head-on the criticism of Government policy so far as it related to Wales. Today, when we had the statement on the capital grant allocation for Wales, Cinderella in the guise of the Secretary of State was away at the ball, and we were treated to the Ugly Sisters standing in for him, except that one of them wandered in halfway through, just as he left halfway through this debate. The Secretary of State did not turn into a pumpkin, but his policies certainly have; and it is surprising that his four little mice dared to pull the coach back to the House today for him to face this debate.

If the consequences were not so bad, the method of government in Wales today would be something of a comic opera, a pantomime. 'We heard this afternoon—I see that we are hearing something of the same tonight—that local authorities can of course "voluntarily" avoid any penalties. It is entirely up to them, it is all "voluntary" —"You local authorities can avoid penalties provided that you keep within Government guidelines". What sort of voluntariness is this? The Secretary of State is the political Sergeant Bilko — asking for volunteers, but saying, "You, you and you, and, if you do not do as you are told, then the stick will be brought to you." He is a Sergeant Bilko without the sense of humour, unfortunately.

The sort of policy that we see in the reports, the policy which we heard announced this afternoon—the carrot and stick type of voluntariness which the Secretary of State is imposing upon Wales—is more appropriate to what we were hearing from the Home Secretary about prison discipline and prison regimes yesterday, and certainly entirely inappropriate to the government of Wales.

Mr. Best

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that there should be no controls on local government expenditure in terms of total identifiable public expenditure? If there should be such controls, in his party's view, what controls would he implement?

Mr. Carlile

If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I will come to that matter towards the end of my remarks.

These reports and the statement that we heard this afternoon are full of the most incredible euphemisms, phrases like "guidance-related multiplier". What on earth is a guidance-related multiplier? I will tell the House: "Either you do as you are told, or you will be clobbered by the Secretary of State." It is the use of that type of euphemistic threatening policy that is giving rise to the real frustrations that any hon. Member with his ears open to listen to his local authority hears every day from his councillors.

The Secretary of State is faced now by a scrum of Welsh local authorities clamouring for the money, and. whenever the ball is fed out to him at stand-off half, he drops it. In fact, he is probably the most standoffish Secretary of State for Wales that we have ever had. The Welsh selectors would drop him unless he was willing to go on a trip to South Africa. One of the problems about the system of government for Wales is that the selectors are not Welsh; so here we see the whole picture of Welsh government, against the will of the people, with an autocratic Secretary of State who appears not to care about the needs of local authorities. The sort of humbug contained in the documents under debate—and also in the statement this evening—has become endemic. The Government do not even know when a cut is a cut. This afternoon, for example, we heard the word "trim", which apparently was not a cut.

The letter from the Welsh Office to local authorities, placed in the Library today, states that steps will be taken to "reduce" expenditure this year. Do we assume that that is not a cut? The distinction between capital and current expenditure is being blurred by local authorities because they are having to remove items from capital expenditure and put them into the current account by such dodges as, for example, leasing fire engines. Who can blame them for doing that? That sort of officialised fiddling, for which we have sympathy, is a result of the Secretary of State's policies.

If any of us were to go to a hairdresser and ask him to trim without cutting, he would think that we were part of the lunatic fringe.

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, if capital expenditure is £12 million one year, £17 million the next and £21 million the following year, it is hard to describe that as a cut?

Mr. Carlile

The hon. Gentleman should use his eyes to see what is happening in areas such as Powys, and especially in Montgomery, where the real — [Interruption.] I know that Conservative Members find this embarrassing. I shall cite a couple of examples that might make the hon. Gentleman think. What about the parsimonious removal of lollipop ladies by the local education authority? Let him think about the inability of the Powys county council to comply fully with the requirements of the Education Act 1981 for children with special learning needs. Let him think of the cuts in teaching provision in the Carno primary school in my constituency—where rolls are not falling—that are a direct result of the Government's policies — [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) should find out how many babies are being born in Delyn, if he can find out. Let him think about what is happening to housing in Wales and about the fact that there are cuts even in refuse collection, privatised or not. Conservative Members should remember that many district councils in Wales cannot carry out what their electors regard as necessary projects because the Government are bleeding them to death and depriving them of the money they need.

If the Secretary of State must remain in his post, he should go back to the drawing board. He should think about the needs of Welsh local government. He should be prepared to resign if there is not a gradual reflation of the Welsh economy and a rolling programme of economic growth that local authorities can understand—so that on 18 July 1984 they can have an idea of what they can do on 18 July 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988.

Of course, there must be some elements of control, but let the right hon. Gentleman exercise a method of control that is consistent, comprehensible and that gives Welsh local authorities and those who live within those authorities a future in which they will be provided with their needs and in which they can meet the requirements of a society so sadly depleted of jobs because of the Government's activities.

11.25 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

The House was treated by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) to a characteristic performance, full of contrived passion and devoid of content. We heard nothing about Liberal policy —because there is no Liberal policy—except towards the end of his remarks when we heard, said meekly and in coded language, "spend, spend, spend" and "inflation". The only remark to be made about speeches from the two Benches below the Opposition Gangway is, "No power, no responsibility."

Commenting on the Welsh rate support grant settlement, Mr. Mervyn Phillips, secretary of the Welsh counties committee and chief executive of Clwyd county council, said: Local authorities in Wales have made strenuous efforts to meet Welsh Office expenditure targets which are entirely unrealistic to met our present economic and social needs. It is not the Welsh Office targets that are entirely unrealistic. As is often the case with county councils, and Clwyd in particular, it is their spending priorities that are entirely unrealistic.

Let me instance a couple of examples-and for the sake of symmetry I shall take them from Clwyd. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) knows of the purchase of Bodelwyddan castle. This fantasy vision of the county council is big enough in capital cost, but in the next two or three years this white elephant will consume £2 million simply to run. If that building has such great tourist potential, it should have been left to private enterprise to exploit, and the county council should concentrate on other spending priorities. For example, it should concentrate on Sychdyn primary school in my constituency, where badly needed extensions have twice been delayed. That should be the priority, not a golf course, museum and portrait gallery at Bodelwyddan castle.

Let me give a second example. Clwyd county council officers' travelling expenses are running at nearly £1.5 million a year. Recent budget measures in Clwyd managed to reduce that, without difficulty, by 10 per cent. It is agreed by many county councillors, not only Conservatives, that those travelling expenses could be cut tomorrow by 30 per cent. Three or four officers are going to the same part of Clwyd to perform the same function —an unnecessary and extravagant expense.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Raffan

I will, and thereby set a good example to the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench.

Dr. Marek

I look forward to the hon. Gentleman now publicly saying that he does not intend to claim his 39p per mile travelling expenses.

Mr. Raffan

As usual, the hon. Gentleman has not been listening to my argument. There is no need for four Clwyd officers going to perform the same function in the same place. Indeed, to my extreme embarrassment, when I went round Bodelwyddan I was accompanied by the assistant chief executive, the chief librarian and a member of the architects' department, when somebody was resident at the castle who could have shown me round on his own. There was no need for the other officers to be there. Not only is there waste in terms of travelling expenses, but also in terms of manpower.

We have seen what Clwyd county council has been up to. It has been pretending to cut down staff, on full-time staff, while it has increased part-time staff by 700 in the last five years, Fifteen years ago Flintshire county council employed 2,500 people, while Shotton employed 15,000. Today the statistics are reversed; Clwyd county council—the old Flintshire county council plus Denbighshire—employs 15,000 full-time and part-time staff and Shotton employs 2,500. The wealth-creating jobs have been destroyed and the wealth-consuming jobs have been created. What logic is there in that?

The only conclusions to be drawn are that essential services can be provided and economic and social needs can be met if the county council—in this case Clwyd—can get its spending priorities right. It must pare administrative expenses and reverse the growth in manpower. That is what the domestic and industrial ratepayers in Clwyd want. They want efficiency, economy and better value for money. Why should the public sector, why should local government, escape the rigours and restraints to which the private sector has been subjected? Why should local government expect private industry to subsidise its inefficiency, to subsidise its excesses moreover through the loss of manufacturing, wealth— creating jobs?

Let me finish with these words: the Chancellor spoke the truth in his Budget speech. His message on public expenditure was loud and clear. We cannot afford it. I am sorry, but the fact is that nearly everyone is in favour of cuts in public expenditure as a means of helping to solve our economic problems, but very few are prepared to accept the local implications of such a policy". — [Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee, 7 May 1975; c. 96.] Those were eminently sensible words, but not mine. The Opposition should be heckling, not me, but their own Front Bench. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) uttered those words in the Welsh Grand Committee when debating the economy in Wales. The hon. Gentleman's early works read much better than his later works sound. I hope that he soon gets his memory back. I wish him a spedy recovery from his increasingly frequent bouts of amnesia.

11.31 pm
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernafon)

I shall switch the House back from the feigned indignation of the Conservatives to the reality that the report has for local authorities, espcially county authorities, in Wales. I draw attention to rural county authorities such as mine —Gwynedd—and Dyfed. I intervened during the speech of the Secretary of State about the ridiculous circumstances applying to Gwynedd. This year, the county's grant-related expenditure — the conceptual figure of what is needed to be spent—is £92,300,000. After adjustment, its expenditure is less than £91 million —more than £ 1 million less than has been acknowledged by the Government's formula to be necessary to maintain services. Those services include social services, education, home helps, disabled persons assistance and highways. Gwynedd has been penalised by £750,000 because of its level of expenditure. That must be crazy. The same position is facing Dyfed. Its grant-related expenditure is £127,800,000—that is its acknowledged need—and it is spending £125,500,000. Gwynedd has been penalised by £700,000.

The Secretary of State may be right in saying that authorities can adjust themselves so as not to incur penalty —but that must be done by cutting back on home helps, education and grants. Some students in my constituentcy are receiving £200 a year in grant to go to technical college. They are giving up their courses to go on the dole because their parents are out of work. They are not receiving the support they should be getting from their local education authority. That authority cannot give the necessary money because of the cuts that are implicit in this report.

We have a paper formula which leads to suffering by ordinary people. We need meaningful formulae giving more weight to the needs of people over 75, to the augmentation of the population in tourist areas such as Dyfed and Gwynedd and to the problem of the sparsity of population in rural areas. Those factors are not included in the present formula. When we have a meaningful formula, the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh Office must acknowledge that it is necessary to maintain basic services in those areas. Having acknowledged that fact, they should allow the necessary grant. At the very least, when the county authorities are determined to make the formula work, the Government should not penalise them. Because the report does not acknowledge those needs and help to meet them, I hope that the House will reject it.

11.34 pm
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

Listening to the Secretary of State introducing the reports, it seemed to me that he gained some joy from imposing pain on our local authorities and on the citizens they serve. Many of our most senior and respected councillors and officials can find no rhyme or reason in the Goverment's policies. My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) referred to the petty war being waged against people merely carrying out the functions that they were elected to carry out. To me, today's statements mark the continuation of tension between central and local government— tension which will undoubtedly develop increasingly into confrontation.

Due to the diktat of the Secretary of State and the monetarist policies of the Government, local authorities in Wales will lose millions of pounds. Top of the hit list, of course, is Mid-Glamorgan, which is to lose £4.5 million. I do not know whether that is the soft or the hard assessment for a county with a massive stock of pre-1919 housing, an aging population and mortality rates soaring above the national average. A Government with any compassion would acknowledge that such an area needed every possible assistance. I bitterly resented the sordid attack by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Hubbard-Miles) on a county which has one of the most wonderful communities in Great Britain.

Newport borough is to lose nearly £1 million. Having worked with that authority for many years and knowing its officials, I can confirm that they are dedicated and responsible public representatives. The town has experienced severe blows, including thousands of redundancies, with all the problems that that brings for local authorities.

The whole of Wales is now suffering from de-industrialisation and social despair. As with current expenditure, today's moratorium and cuts in capital expenditure can only mean more unemployment and further demoralisation. We need massive expansion in the construction industry so that the men now standing in the dole queues can provide homes for our people and the other capital projects that Wales so badly needs.

Two major national disputes are now engulfing our country and helping to create a summer of turmoil and discontent. Increasingly, the local authorities will see their role as fighting to save jobs and services. I believe that there will be a revolt in local government. Our elected representatives are gaining confidence and saying that enough is enough. It is time that the Secretary of State realised that our local authorities have served Wales well and deserve better treatment than they are receiving from the Government.

11.39 pm
Mr. Nicholas Edwards


Dr. Marek

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am most confused and I wonder whether you can help me in my quandary. Contributions to the debate have been short, but only one Back Bench Member has been called from the majority party in Wales which holds more than 50 per cent. of the seats. Is there any reason for that? Is it the result of some procedure of which I am unaware?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The occupant of the Chair has many factors to take into account in determining which hon. Member shall speak in a debate. It is a difficult matter. The debate has been short and I understand the hon. Gentleman's resentment, but the House will want to hear the reply of the Secretary of State for Wales.

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) talked of the continuation of tension. Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), spoke about the pressure on social services and local government. I have been reading a speech made to the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, which refers to the financial constraints under which local authorities are working. It says that the social services capital building programme in Wales at any rate, was set at a level little more than a third of the level of seven years ago, with a virtual standstill in the growth of revenue expenditure.

The speech goes on to refer to the Government's necessary measures for containing public expenditure, apressed down firmly on local authority expenditure in global terms, which were being translated by local government into measures that some would argue would bite disproportionately on social work training.

That speech was not made today. It was made by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside in Cardiff on 31 March 1977. We hear the same hypocritical approach time and time again. The hon. Gentleman talks about pressures on local government. When he was at the Treasury Dispatch Box he had to make exactly the opposite speech from the one he gave today.

The hon. Gentleman drew attention to the problems and the overspends planned by Dwyfor and Meirionnydd. It is worth saying, particularly in the light of the speech made by the hon. Member for Caernarfon, that Dwyfor is planning to spend 9 per cent. over its GRE and Meirionnydd 13 per cent. over its GRE. Meirionnydd is a good example of how a local authority can escape penalties. It planned to spend over budget last year and reduced its budget so that it would not incur penalties. It is possible for the authority to do so again this year. As for Dwyfor, with a budget just £40,000 above target, it is hard to believe that it cannot get that within target as well, and ease the burden on its householders by an additional £17 per household.

We were told by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside that there were far too many people in the Welsh Office dealing with these matters. With a total staff of 20 employed in the divisions dealing with the local government financial provisions for all of the local authorities in Wales, I do not think that that can be regarded as excessive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) spoke of the advantage of capital expenditure over current expenditure. I have much sympathy for his point of view, but it would be a little easier to consider the position in his own constituency, if there was not such a large overspend on current spending. Local authorities must face up to that. If they want more capital spending, they must make a greater effort to contain their current expenditure.

That point was made very effectively and forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Hubbard-Miles), who spoke to the economies that are possible in local government. There is no doubt that savings can be made.

I found it very odd that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) had such difficulty in understanding what was and was not a cut. I must draw his attention to the fact that, in referring to the restraint and requested reduction on capital expenditure, we are talking not of a reduction in capital expenditure but of an effort to avoid the high excess level of expenditure over the plans spelt out by the Government, which are so necessary for the economic prosperity of this country.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the hairdresser who would be unable to understand when a cut was a cut. I tell him that one cuts hair when it is too long. What we are having to do is not reduce the thing to an absurd proportion, but cut back excessive spending so that it does not impose too great a burden on the economy, ratepayers and industry, which has to pay the taxes.

We have had from the hon. and learned Gentleman a characteristic Liberal approach, trying to get the best of all worlds and trying to believe that all could be had easily and without expense. That was the party that supported the Labour Government in power and the reckless policies of inflation that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside was again advocating tonight. The solution that he proposed was inflationary. That would be the result if we had the policies that he advocates.

I urge the House to approve the report.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 330, Noes 188.

Division No. 414] [11.46 pm
Adley, Robert Ancram, Michael
Alexander, Richard Arnold, Tom
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Ashby, David
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Aspinwall, Jack
Amess, David Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Franks, Cecil
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Freeman, Roger
Baldry, Anthony Fry, Peter
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gale, Roger
Batiste, Spencer Galley, Roy
Bendall, Vivian Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Benyon, William Garel-Jones, Tristan
Berry, Sir Anthony Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Best, Keith Glyn, Dr Alan
Biffen, Rt Hon John Goodhart, Sir Philip
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Goodlad, Alastair
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gorst, John
Body, Richard Gow, Ian
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gower, Sir Raymond
Bottomley, Peter Grant, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gregory, Conal
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Grist, Ian
Braine, Sir Bernard Ground, Patrick
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Grylls, Michael
Bright, Graham Gummer, John Selwyn
Brinton, Tim Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Han ley, Jeremy
Bruinvels, Peter Hannam, John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hargreaves, Kenneth
Buck, Sir Antony Harris, David
Budgen, Nick Harvey, Robert
Bulmer, Esmond Haselhurst, Alan
Burt, Alistair Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Butcher, John Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Butterfill, John Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayes, J.
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hayhoe, Barney
Carttiss, Michael Hayward, Robert
Cash, William Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hickmet, Richard
Chapman, Sydney Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chope, Christopher Hind, Kenneth
Churchill, W. S. Hirst, Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Holt, Richard
Clegg, Sir Walter Hooson, Tom
Cockeram, Eric Howard, Michael
Colvin, Michael Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Conway, Derek Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Cope, John Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cormack, Patrick Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Corrie, John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Couchman, James Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cranborne, Viscount Hunter, Andrew
Critchley, Julian Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jessel, Toby
Dicks, Terry Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dover, Den Kershaw, Sir Anthony
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kilfedder, James A.
Durant, Tony King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Emery, Sir Peter Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Evennett, David Knowles, Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Knox, David
Fallon, Michael Lamont, Norman
Farr, Sir John Lang, Ian
Favell, Anthony Latham, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lawler, Geoffrey
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, Ivan
Fletcher, Alexander Lee, John (Pendle)
Forman, Nigel Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Forth, Eric Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf''d)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lightbown, David
Fox, Marcus Lilley, Peter
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Roe, Mrs Marion
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lord, Michael Rost, Peter
Luce, Richard Rowe, Andrew
McCrea, Rev William Rumbold, Mrs Angela
McCrindle, Robert Ryder, Richard
McCurley, Mrs Anna Sackville, Hon Thomas
Macfarlane, Neil Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
MacGregor, John St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sayeed, Jonathan
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Scott, Nicholas
Maclean, David John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McQuarrie, Albert Shelton, William (Streatham)
Madel, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Major, John Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malins, Humfrey Shersby, Michael
Malone, Gerald Silvester, Fred
Maples, John Sims, Roger
Marland, Paul Skeet, T. H. H.
Marlow, Antony Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mates, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maude, Hon Francis Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Spencer, Derek
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mellor, David Squire, Robin
Merchant, Piers Stanbrook, Ivor
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanley, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Steen, Anthony
Mills, lain (Meriden) Stern, Michael
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Miscampbell, Norman Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Moate, Roger Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Monro, Sir Hector Stokes, John
Montgomery, Fergus Stradling Thomas, J.
Moore, John Sumberg, David
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Tapsell, Peter
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mudd, David Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Murphy, Christopher Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Neale, Gerrard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Needham, Richard Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Nelson, Anthony Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Neubert, Michael Thornton, Malcolm
Newton, Tony Thurnham, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Townend, John (Bridlington)
Norris, Steven Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Onslow, Cranley Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Philip Trippier, David
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Trotter, Neville
Ottaway, Richard Twinn, Dr Ian
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Waddington, David
Parris, Matthew Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Waldegrave, Hon William
Patten, John (Oxford) Walden, George
Pattie, Geoffrey Wall, Sir Patrick
Pawsey, James Waller, Gary
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Walters, Dennis
Porter, Barry Ward, John
Powell, William (Corby) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Powley, John Watson, John
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Watts, John
Price, Sir David Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Proctor, K. Harvey Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Raffan, Keith Wheeler, John
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Whitfield, John
Renton, Tim Whitney, Raymond
Rhodes James, Robert Wiggin, Jerry
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Winterton, Mrs Ann
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Winterton, Nicholas
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wolfson, Mark
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wood, Timothy
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Woodcock, Michael
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Yeo, Tim
Young, Sir George (Acton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Younger, Rt Hon George Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Dobson, Frank
Alton, David Dormand, Jack
Anderson, Donald Dubs, Alfred
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Ashdown, Paddy Eadie, Alex
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Eastham, Ken
Ashton, Joe Ellis, Raymond
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Barnett, Guy Ewing, Harry
Barron, Kevin Fatchett, Derek
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Faulds, Andrew
Beith, A. J. Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Bermingham, Gerald Fisher, Mark
Bidwell, Sydney Flannery, Martin
Blair, Anthony Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Forrester, John
Boyes, Roland Foster, Derek
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foulkes, George
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) George, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Buchan, Norman Godman, Dr Norman
Caborn, Richard Golding, John
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Gould, Bryan
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Gourlay, Harry
Campbell, Ian Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hancock, Mr. Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Hardy, Peter
Carter-Jones, Lewis Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cartwright, John Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Haynes, Frank
Clarke, Thomas Heffer, Eric S.
Clay, Robert Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cohen, Harry Howells, Geraint
Coleman, Donald Hoyle, Douglas
Conlan, Bernard Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cowans, Harry Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Janner, Hon Greville
Craigen, J. M. John, Brynmor
Crowther, Stan Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Kennedy, Charles
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Kirkwood, Archy
Deakins, Eric Lambie, David
Dewar, Donald Lamond, James
Leadbitter, Ted Prescott, John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Randall, Stuart
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Redmond, M.
Litherland, Robert Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Robertson, George
Loyden, Edward Rooker, J. W.
McCartney, Hugh Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Rowlands, Ted
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Sedgemore, Brian
McKelvey, William Sheerman, Barry
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Maclennan, Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McNamara, Kevin Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
McTaggart, Robert Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
McWilliam, John Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Madden, Max Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Marek, Dr John Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Soley, Clive
Maxton, John Spearing, Nigel
Maynard, Miss Joan Strang, Gavin
Meacher, Michael Straw, Jack
Meadowcroft, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Michie, William Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Mikardo, Ian Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Tinn, James
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Torney, Tom
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Nellist, David Wareing, Robert
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Welsh, Michael
O'Brien, William White, James
O'Neill, Martin Wigley, Dafydd
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Rt Hon A.
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Winnick, David
Park, George Woodall, Alec
Parry, Robert Wrigglesworth, Ian
Patchett, Terry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pavitt, Laurie
Penhaligon, David Tellers for the Noes:
Pike, Peter Mr. Don Dixon and Mr. James Hamilton.
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1982–83 (House of Commons Paper No. 519), which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.