HC Deb 11 February 1986 vol 91 cc889-908 10.52 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)

I beg to move, That the draft Local Government Act 1985 (Police and Fire and Civil Defence Authorities) Precepts Limitation Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.

The draft order, which I shall be inviting the House to approve, comes at the end of a long process of consultation between my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the police joint authorities and fire and civil defence joint authorities established by the Local Government Act 1985. It may help hon. Members to understand the very careful consideration which has been given to the question of the resources which the joint authorities will need if I set out the steps under the Rates Act 1984 which have been followed.

My right hon. Friend notified the joint authorities as soon as they were set up last September of the expenditure level that he had determined for them for 1986–87. At the same time, it was explained to the authorities how they could apply to the Home Secretary to increase the level. All six of the police joint authorities and all seven of the fire and civil defence joint authorities applied for a higher expenditure level. Having closely examined the applications, my right hon. Friend concluded that a higher level was necessary for all the authorities, although he did not feel in most cases that the full increase applied for was justified. In the case of the seven fire and civil defence authorities, he invited them to consider the scope for further economies by imposing a 1.5 per cent. efficiency saving on what would otherwise have been their redetermined expenditure levels.

On the basis of the new expenditure levels, and in the light of the rate support grant settlement for 1986–87, my right hon. Friend notified each authority just before Christmas of the maximum precept that he intended to set. Once again, the joint authorities were invited to make representations if they considered a higher maximum necessary. Three of the police joint authorities, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire, asked for small increases in the maximum precept. We considered their arguments carefully but concluded that increases were not necessary. Since those three authorities were not able to accept the maximum precept which my right hon. Friend proposed or agree another maximum with him, he must set their maximum by this order. That is why their names are accordingly in the schedule on the reverse of the order before the House. For the three police joint authorities which have agreed a maximum precept, my right hon. Friend has set the precept under the Rates Act 1984 by a notice in writing, as he is required to do.

Five of the fire and civil defence authorities, those for London, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire, requested additional money; the three latter authorities asked again for the sums specified in their original applications. All except West Yorkshire submitted a further statement in support of these applications and the reasons why a further increase was thought to be necessary. These were discussed at a series of meetings with representatives from each of the authorities. The arguments were carefully examined and my right hon. Friend decided to increase the maximum precept in each case except for West Yorkshire. It should be noted that part of these increases reflected his acceptance that these four authorities could not achieve 1.5 per cent. efficiency savings in 1986–87. The revised amounts proposed were accepted by the London and West Midlands authorities, but not by the other three. Consequently these — Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire—are listed in the schedule on the reverse of the order.

May I remind the House why we decided to provide in the Local Government Act 1985 for these joint authorities to be subject to controls on their precepts. It was not because we thought that there had been serious overspending in the services. It was, as colleagues who were in Committee on the Local Government Bill will well remember, to prevent future overspending by the establishment of extravagant and expensive bureaucracies. Certainly, in recent times, it was also to ensure that proper levels of support would be forthcoming for expenditure for the police. It follows that, while we have not ignored the possibility of efficiency savings, particularly in the fire service, we have not sought to reduce the levels of service currently provided in each area. On the contrary, during the passage of the 1985 Act I and other Ministers gave firm and explicit assurances on the future level of both the police and fire services in the metropolitan areas.

We made it quite clear that, in exercising our controls over the police joint authorities, our aim would be broadly to maintain the current level of service in these metropolitan areas. We promised that there would be no arbitrary cuts in police expenditure. We stressed that we were not assuming that there would be any more savings from the police service as a result of abolition. We have fulfilled all these undertakings. I am happy to say that the police joint authorities have taken a responsible and constructive attitude to the exercise and that there are no substantial differences between us. As I said, we have not been able to agree a maximum precept with the three authorities covered by the draft order, but the particular points of disagreement are different in each case and involve relatively small sums. In Greater Manchester it is some £800,000 out of a total budget of some £84.5 million, in Merseyside £825,000 out of £60.4 million, and in West Yorkshire £425,000 out of just under £64 million.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

The Minister will remember, as he said, that we had exchanges in Committee on the Local Government Bill. He gave certain undertakings about service, but the other undertakings that he gave were about cost. If we take the figures for Merseyside which the Minister is asking the House to agree, the total of the precept level on the ratepayers of Merseyside of the fire, police and civil defence precept, and of that in the subsequent order—the figure suggested for the passenger transport authority —will, if I have calculated correctly, be 77.69p. That is clearly higher than this year's cost as levied through the county authority. Will the Minister therefore accept that he has to come before the House admitting that the cost to the ratepayer of abolition and change of structure will be higher, as the Opposition parties suggested it would be, and not at the level predicted by himself and his colleagues when we debated it a year ago?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman is seeking to find an example to support his argument, and he has found that of the passenger transport authority. He will be aware that that is the subject of the debate that is to follow this one and that it does not relate to the precept in this order. He will be aware also that the overall savings to be attributed to the Local Government Act amount to £100 million. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made it clear that no breakdown was submitted to the Committee which considered that measure to enable the judgment to be made by which the hon. Gentleman would seek to trap me.

I shall proceed. We have fulfilled all the undertakings that I gave and I am happy to say that the police joint authorities have taken a constructive and responsible attitude to the changes. The differences between us and those who have expressed disagreement are small. I can assure the House that the sums involved will allow all the police joint authorities fully to discharge their statutory duty to maintain an adequate and efficient force for their areas.

I can offer the further vital assurance, which I am sure the House will expect, that the maximum precepts that we are setting will allow the authorities to operate at a higher level of manpower and not merely to maintain the level of police service in their areas. The three forces concerned are currently holding vacancies for police officers. There are 164 in Greater Manchester, 53 in Merseyside and 105 in West Yorkshire. In setting the maximum precepts for these joint authorities we have specifically satisfied ourselves that, if they choose to do so, the authorities will be able to recruit up to their police officer establishments. The same is true also, incidentally, of the other three police joint authorities not covered by the order.

Both the Merseyside and West Yorkshire police joint authorities have had meetings with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself to discuss their anxieties about police expenditure in their areas. As a result of these representations and of others, my right hon. Friend announced this afternoon his intention to increase the rate of police grant to police authorities in 1986–87 from 50 to 51 per cent. He is doing this in recognition of the increasing demands on the police service in England and Wales as a whole, especially the need to counter drug abuse — including the setting up of drug wings in regional crime squads — public disorder costs and terrorism. The change will be of particular benefit to the police joint authorities. Under the new arrangements, Merseyside will receive an additional £2.3 million in police grant and block grant. West Yorkshire will receive £2.1 million, and Greater Manchester £3.3 million. These levels clearly exceed the differences between the precept claimed by the authorities and the maximum precepts that are set out in the order. The other police joint authorities will also benefit.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

The Minister is famous for saying during a sitting of the Committee which considered the abolition Bill, on which we both served, that no savings would be made in respect of the police, fire and civil defence services. He is trying to justify his claim that there would be no cuts in public expenditure or savings. If we accept that, where will the savings come from on the abolition of the metropolitan authorities, including Merseyside?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman's recollection is not entirely correct. I gave an assurance that the uniformed strength of the police service and the minimum stipulated levels of fire cover would not be the subject of savings. I said that savings in administration should be obtained from the changes which were to be brought about under the joint boards. Under the settlements that are before the House, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked for a 1.5 per cent. efficiency saving to be made by the fire and civil defence joint boards. That is a contribution that will be on its way to achieving the target of a saving of £100 million.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Shaw


Mr. O'Brien

I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to make a point about West Yorkshire. Reference was made to the increase in the West Yorkshire precept. Will the Minister accept that West Yorkshire faces particular problems, to the extent that the police authority is demanding extra personnel? I hope that the Minister will consider those problems when the precept for the West Yorkshire constabulary is reviewed. Will he also consider the new police authority's request for an increase in the expenditure that is required to maintain a viable police force in West Yorkshire?

Mr. Shaw

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I should like to think that both he and I are at one in our commitment to a full, effective and efficient police service in West Yorkshire, which both of us are proud to represent. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are vacancies in West Yorkshire's police establishment. In the discussions between the joint authority and the Home Office, the authority asked for a higher contingency allowance in its budget to offset, for example the possible costs of a renewal of the kind of problem that it experienced during the miners' dispute. It sought a higher contingency allocation rather than additional funds for uniformed officers. The announcement that I have just made means that the police grant moves from the 50 to the 51 per cent. level. The effect in West Yorkshire will be to improve its position by £2.1 million. Its claim for additional precept was £425,000. Therefore, this evening's announcement will provide West Yorkshire with what it originally sought, and it should also enable it to reduce the maximum precept by up to 1p. That will be of immense benefit to the payers of the precept in West Yorkshire.

We attach great importance to the level of policing in the metropolitan areas. They are the major inner city areas in the country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary looks to the new joint authorities to budget so that forces can recruit up to their police establishment in the course of the year and maintain the balance of police and civilian manpower which he will approve in their establishment and support services schemes. Because of the change announced today, they should be able to provide this level of service, and also set a precept below the maximum levels which are proposed in this order. Because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is making available a further £22 million in block grant, there will be no loss of grant for other authorities or any other services.

As far as the fire service is concerned, I and my colleagues have consistently and clearly explained the Government's policy towards the new fire and civil defence authorities, both during the passage of what is now the 1985 Act and on other occasions. I must again assure the House that we have made every effort to ensure that the fire service can be transferred to the new authorities on 1 April with its efficiency and morale undiminished. From the very early days, undertakings have been given that all existing fire brigade staff—both uniformed and civilian—would be transfered as a group by means of an order made under section 52 of the 1985 Act. This will be fulfilled on Thursday when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment lays the Local Government reorganisation (Designation of Staff) Order 1986, the provisions of which allow for the transfer of all the brigade staff, even those recruited up to that very day. We have also said that, while we believed that the fire service could be managed in a manner that would achieve greater value for money, any savings would be compatible with the 1978 pay agreement. Our proposals in the draft order are consistent with these policies. I regret that members of the fire service have not been made sufficiently aware of the adequacy and sincerity of the Government's commitment on these issues and that they have been caused needless concern by the attitude of some fire authorities and the stance taken on abolition by the largest fire service union, the Fire Brigades Union.

As hon. Members who, like me, took part in the debates on the 1985 legislation will recall, our main undertaking was, in effect, that the new authorities would be enabled to maintain broadly the level of service at present obtaining in their areas.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Does the hon. Gentleman recall his undertakings during the debates on the abolition Bill that the fire service would remain at correct strength? I admit that South Yorkshire is not covered by the legislation, but it will be affected. Fire services overlap boundaries because they need to back each other up. Even after redetermination, South Yorkshire will only just be able to keep the present number of pumping appliances on the road. It is short of personnel. Before abolition the authority was trying to build up numbers. My information is that it will be short of 30 people, which will create difficulties in manning the appliances.

Mr. Shaw

I note that observation, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the arrangement between the Home Secretary and South Yorkshire is satisfactory. So far as I am aware, they are not in dispute about the precept that has been levelled. The hon. Gentleman is understandably concerned about how the new fire authority in South Yorkshire will distribute the resources that it is obtaining under the precept order. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be extremely concerned to ensure that the scale of appliances and the civil staff who support the fire service are at the levels required to operate efficiently. I shall look into that point and, if I find that the position in South Yorkshire is not satisfactory, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.

The 1985 Act established that all the levels of service currently obtaining should obtain in the new areas. I believe that the maximum precept already with four of the new authorities meets this end and, given the political will by the new authorities to use the resources available to them with maximum efficiency and economy, this will be the position in the other three areas. Even our most determined critics cannot disguise the fact that the differences between the Government and the three services of the fire authorities with which we are not in total agreement are small—equivalent to the product of an additional precept of 0.37p in Greater Manchester, 0.64p in Merseyside and, on its own standstill budget, 0.45p in West Yorkshire.

I recognise that many hon. Members will have been subjected to lobbying or questions by those associated with the abolition authorities or the Fire Brigades Union. As a West Yorkshire Member, I have experienced the fallout from such lobbying. In the main, the lobbying has revolved around the maintenance of the nationally recommended minimum fire cover standards to which successive Home Secretaries, including my right hon. Friend, have attached such importance. That commitment was made clear during the passage of the 1985 legislation.

In West Yorkshire the new authority has accepted proposals made by the outgoing authority for creating an additional 94 whole-time posts during 1986–87 and 1987–88. It is my right hon. Friend's policy to agree to net increases in manpower for the new authorities only if he is satisfied that no compensating economies can be found. In fact, the position is that whole-time uniformed manpower in West Yorkshire has increased since the end of 1981 by 93 persons. The precept for 1986–87 permits continuation of the manpower levels which the existing authority provides.

During that year Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Fire Services will look closely at the case for increased manning of pumping appliances in the light of the recent study of fire cover in the county and will examine with the fire authority whether compensating savings can be found. Only if they cannot be found after a genuine and determined attempt by the new authority to do so will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agree to increases in manpower. Meanwhile, I wish to assure hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), that there is no question of there having to be a deterioration in the present levels of service. The intention is that fire cover in West Yorkshire should be adequate to meet the needs of its area, and be based on a well-run and efficient fire brigade aiming for an even higher level of service.

Many hon. Members know full well the extent to which this local government reorganisation has been accompanied throughout by claims that the fire service in particular will be at risk. The GLC published reports saying that 1,400 posts were to be axed. I seem to recall that in the Committee that dealt with what is now the 1985 Act there were many occasions when claims of that order were made. There were further proposals for 10 fire stations to be closed, with 44 appliances to be withdrawn from service.

In reality, after carefully reviewing its inheritance with any eye to achieving greater effectiveness and economy, the new authority in London has submitted a fire brigade establishment incorporating a more efficient and decentralised management structure, and a reduction of 300 uniformed posts. This reduction will be achieved by natural wastage, and most significantly, in view of the scare stories which were put out at the time, not one pumping appliance will be withdrawn from service. As I mentioned earlier, the London authority has accepted the precept announced by my right hon. Friend.

Finally, let me make clear what this order will do, and what it will not do. It will set for the six joint authorities to which it applies the maximum precept which they may make for 1986–87, but it will not fix the precept which they will actually make. That is a matter for each joint authority to decide for itself within the maximum. Nor does the order limit the discretion of the joint authorities to decide how to use their resources. It only limits the contribution that they can obtain from the ratepayer to the total resources for 1986–87. I trust that the House will agree that the police, fire and civil defence services are vital.

It is right that we should look very carefully at the representations which the joint authorities have made to us about the level of precept required. I hope that I have made it clear that we have done just that. Seven of the 13 joint authorities have agreed a maximum precept with us. Six have not, but the differences are not great. In three cases the difference is less than half a penny on the precept. Only one, and that is the West Yorkshire fire authority, to which I have made particular reference, is proposing a significant increase in manpower levels, and only in that area does the difference exceed a penny on the precept.

I assured hon. Members during the passage of the Local Government Bill that we did not intend to operate these controls in a draconian or arbitrary manner. It should be clear to the House, from the extent of the agreement that has been reached with the new authorities, that we have fulfilled that assurance.

In the light of the position, and in the light of the changes made in the police grant in particular, I trust that the House will accept the precepts. In view of the assurances that I have given, I ask the House to approve the order.

Mr. Alf Dubs (Battersea)

I feel that the Minister sounded just a trifle uncomfortable and a bit on the defensive, particularly as regards the fire services. Admittedly, he has the advantage of the Home Secretary's announcement about increased money for the police, but I feel that on the question of adequate fire cover in the three particular areas covered by this order the Minister will not have convinced the whole of the House with his arguments.

What we have, after all, is a highly centralised system. We have a system under the Local Government Act and under the Rates Act, and we have a system which allows of very high control indeed through the setting of the maximum precept, or precept capping, as I think we might call it. We also have the other powers which the Government have as regards setting control over the staffing levels. This means that many decisions which should normally be made locally about essential services are now being made in Whitehall. The Government's motives have to be somewhat suspect on this.

Going back to the Committee stage of the Abolition Bill, the Minister spent a great deal of time quoting the assurances that he had given, perhaps to make up for the fact that the figures which underlie the debate tonight do not give us those assurances. The Minister said: There is no way in which the structural change of the authorities imposed by the Bill will alter the strength, costing and effectiveness of the fire services. In the case of the fire services, of course, it is largely because statutory duties are imposed, below which the expenditure, efficiency or equipment of the fire services cannot fall. That is why the Home Office is enabled to ensure a standard structure of fire support throughout the counties.

That seems all well and good, but doubts must remain. Indeed, the Minister was under great pressure in Committee. When he was asked to give an assurance about the £100 million savings which was explained in relation to this part of the legislation, he said: I doubt whether any would come from the fire services in relation to the money spent on manpower, equipment and services. There may be changes in some of the administrative support costs which will be transferred from the metropolitan counties to the joint board, as was shown in our debate earlier today on the police services." — [Official Report, Standing Committee G, 14 February 1985; c. 1416–7.] I wonder whether that assurance is adequate. In Committee the present Secretary of State for the Environment, who was at that time the Minister of State, was also pressed for assurances. He said: I repeat what my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office said to the Committee about savings from joint boards —that the estimated £100 million rationalisation savings do not include any savings from the fire service, because we cannot expect significant savings of that kind on services which remain on a countrywide basis. Let me also make it clear that we see scope for savings in the fire service, and we shall use the powers in clauses 64 and 80 to secure those savings. The Minister said that manpower controls were required to ensure that there is not a great explosion of the bureaucratic and organisation sides of the fire and police services after abolition … There may well be savings to be made as a result of the manpower controls." — [Official Report, Standing Committee G, 21 February 1985; c. 1569.] Those are many protestations about how the legislation will work, but the reality is contained in this order.

Time and time again the House has applauded the work of the fire service in many of the recent, tragic disasters which have struck. We well remember the Brighton bombing, the fire at Bradford football ground, and the Manchester airport disaster. On all those occasions every hon. Member, including Ministers, applauded the work of the fire service in having saved lives and property. Although the order deals with the police and civil defence, as well as the fire service, and given the Minister's earlier comments about the Home Secretary's announcement, we must be most concerned about fire services.

Regarding Greater Manchester, my figures show that there is a shortfall for fire and civil defence — civil defence is a small part of the total — of £634,000 between what the authority wanted and what the Government would allow. In addition, there is a freeze on the recruitment of officers to the fire service. There is one difficulty about the police, which is about rent allowances for police premises, about which there is a judicial review. The result is that the decision has been frozen since 1 April 1984, so there are two years' back allowance, totalling £1,600,000, which should have been set aside. It is uncertain what will happen to that once the judicial review process is complete, assuming that the estimated figures are roughly right. Nevertheless, our main anxiety must be about the shortfall for the fire services.

The Minister will say, as he has said, that these are all efficiency savings, but it is hard to see how new authorities, which have no reserves to cushion them, can achieve efficiency savings, much as the Minister would wish them to. A similar problem arises in Merseyside, where the shortfall for fire and civil defence — again, fire is the main item — is £700,000. That has many implications as the Merseyside authority has clearly explained.

First, to achieve the so-called efficiency savings, the existing command and control system, which cannot be maintained adequately beyond next year, must be deferred. Secondly, there will have to be manpower reductions, which must mean a reduction in the current levels of protection provided by the brigade. Thirdly, there will have to be a deferment of the replacement of appliances already retained longer than the official replacement programme. Fourthly, there will have to be some reduction in the maintenance of buildings and the replacement of equipment.

In addition, the Merseyside fire brigade's recruitment has been frozen. For every month that that freeze continues, the lower the numbers will be. I understand that the brigade is about 90 fire officers short of the Home Office figure. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that figure.

The Minister said that the Merseyside shortfall, and others, is intended to be achieved by efficiency savings. In contrast to the assurances given in Committee, that shortfall is to be achieved through unspecified means and arbitrarily. The authority has no financial reserves or spare resources, because its resources have already been cut to the bone. I say that despite the guidance note issued by the Home Office on 23 August 1985, which states: The Home Secretary pledged not to impose arbitrary spending cuts on the fire service and that such cuts had never figured in the Government's calculation of estimated rationalisation savings resulting from abolition". The assurances given, not least the one I have quoted, are at variance with some of the figures given by the Minister a few moments ago.

A further problem on Merseyside relates to how the system operates. The Department of the Environment has such a low assessment for grant related expenditure with the result that the Merseyside police authority is denied about £23 million of block grant and therefore the cost is being passed to the ratepayer. That does not affect the money that the police can spend. It affects where it comes from, unless the Minister's announcement today, when he quoted the Home Secretary, makes a difference to that figure.

My third point relates to west Yorkshire where the shortfalls for the police appear to be £480,000. That may have been overtaken by the overall increase announced today. What is more disturbing is that there is a shortfall of £2.75 million for the fire service. That includes a small element for civil defence.

The Minister said that was a shortage of about 90 fire fighters. He talked about the possibility of the Home Office considering whether some money could be made available if savings could not be made elsewhere.

There is a significant shortfall in the amount of money judged necessary by west Yorkshire to provide adequate safety standards. The Minister asserted that everything would be all right, and then half admitted that it was not because of the shortage of about 90 fire fighters. After all that has been said about the fire service, it is rather disturbing that the Minister can brush aside some of the difficulties aside and say that things will be all right in the end.

The fire service is stretched. It is working to its limit to contain serious fires. We must expect that, sadly, there will be serious, major fires in the coming year. I am worried that we may be sending some of the brigades into the coming year with inadequate resources to do their job. The Government say that they know best. Whitehall knows better than local people about what is needed to provide for the type of safety cover that the fire brigades should provide.

The Opposition are against the order in principle. We do not believe that the services should be subject to that type of centralised decision. We are worried because we believe that there is a threat to the safety standards provided by the fire service. That is why I hope that the House will vote against the order.

11.30 pm
Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

I begin by declaring an interest. Unlike most well-heeled Conservative Members, my interest is not a financial one. I served for 26 years in the fire service, for more than 20 years as a member of the Fire Brigades Union, and for much of that time as an official of the union. I am now what is called an out-of-trade member, although I am not sponsored by the union. I have had experience of discussion and negotiation at every level, right up to national joint council as a member of the union's executive.

I joined the fire service in 1957. At that time the Fire Brigades Union was campaigning for a more professional attitude from Government to the fire service generally. Part of that campaign was for jobs and part for resources. I trust, therefore, that hon. Members will accept that I know a little about the subject.

For years, we sought the professional status that firemen deserve. Indeed, "Service for the Sixties," the plan drawn up in the 1960s by the union, pointed the way that the service had to take. We battled against Government Departments, chief fire officers and people who take the soft option, some of whom seem to believe that fire fighters are fodder, smoke-eaters who can get on with the job however bad the conditions.

Over the years, the Fire Brigades Union, despite opposition from Government and chief officers, has campaigned for a more efficient fire service, and much of that campaign has been on behalf of the general public. That efficiency has largely been achieved, but it has involved lockouts, dismissals and demonstrations on the part of firemen, not only for the good of the service but out of their commitment to the communities they serve. That dedication has resulted in firemen losing life and limb.

Against that background, I warn the House to beware some of the steps that the Government are proposing. It has taken tragedy, sometimes the loss of firemen's lives as well as the loss of life among the general public, to persuade Governments of all persuasions to act in the best interests of the public.

In the modern fire service, with sophisticated equipment, it is no longer a question of a couple of guys in the back of a wagon squirting water on flames. We must have highly trained men with the right appliances and equipment. Unfortunately, the finance that the Government are making available goes nowhere to meet that need. I have been told that there are 89 vacancies in the Merseyside fire service and that, in the view of the Government, the money being made available should enable fire protection in the area to be broadly maintained. "Broadly" is a broad word to use. Originally, the Government intended to cut Merseyside's fire service budget by £1.8 million. That was reduced to £1.2 million. We in Merseyside, in the face of opposition from local Liberals and Tories, appealed for a redetermination and got the reduction lowered to £729,000.

That figure represents a loss of 80 jobs in the Merseyside fire brigade, in addition to the 89 that have already been lost, making a loss of 169 jobs among firemen in an area which is suffering great unemployment problems. About 80 per cent. of the budget for the service goes in wages. That must mean further job losses.

What will be the position following the disbandment of the metropolitan districts? The Liverpool revenue budget projection calls for £274 million. That represents an increase for local ratepayers of 16 per cent. The district's old expenditure projection amounted to £284 million. Thus, we are already £10 million down on what we really need. The district's new projected expenditure is £30 million down on what the Government are allowing for Liverpool. The figures show the difficulties that are in store.

In October last year at the Tory party conference the Prime Minister stated that the Government do not intend to economise and are not interested in doing so when life or property are involved. We do not take those weasel words at face value. The hypocrisy that the Government pursue in all their policies affects ordinary people and the services that they rely on.

We saw pictures in the paper and on television of the chairman of the Tory party with good old fireman Fred. He was saying what wonderful jobs the firemen were doing. After the Bradford disaster we heard the plaudits for the firemen. Recently, when the now deposed right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) was Home Secretary, he spoke at the chief fire officers conference. In line with Government policy, he referred to the future fire service having to become more cost-effective. He spoke of the fire service not being exempt from the rigorous financial scrutiny which has to be applied to all Local Authority services. That is the reality of what the Government are about.

In 1980, the Government sought to cut the standards of fire cover. The Fire Brigades Union, which they seek to denigrate, instituted a full inquiry into standards of fire cover. Despite that inquiry, the Government are hellbent on justifying reductions in the fire service. The previous Home Secretary's speech was made within 15 days of the dust settling at Brighton. So much for the Government's commitment to the fire services.

Tonight, at the same time as cutting the fire service, the police are getting their screw. They will receive additional money for bullets, riot shields and water cannon, but they will receive no co-operation from the fire service in the use of such apparatus.

The Fire Brigades Union estimates that about 1,800 jobs will be lost in the fire service as a direct result of the Government's financial constraints. In Merseyside in 1984, the Merseyside brigade attended 42,000 fire calls and saved 158 human beings. That is the highest rate in the country. If the Government seek efficiency, the job done by Merseyside in saving lives is the most efficient. We are now 89 men down on establishment. The chief officer has been instructed to recruit up to establishment but he cannot guarantee a lifetime career to the young men coming into the service. Those young men in Liverpool and on Merseyside are the backbone for the future. They go through stringent entry examinations and they must be intelligent to deal with sophisticated techniques, but they are given no confidence in the fact that their jobs will be there for the future.

Liverpool has lost 65,000 jobs since the Government came to power. That has provoked despair, frustration and anger, which has led to riots in the inner city areas. The firemen have been in the front line of those battles. The fire service's role has nothing to do with quelling civil disturbances. The service is there to preserve life and property. We demand from the Government the correct expenditure to carry out our function.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) mentioned the control of the fire service—the dispatch of appliances and manpower to fight fires. That control on Merseyside needs a facelift to the tune of £1.8 million. How will the budget pay for that? The appliance replacement programme has been mentioned. Eight fire engines have already gone over the time limit laid down before they should have been put out of the service as surplus to requirements.

In the 1970s we negotiated with the chief officer a stand still on establishment while, with the financial restraints of the then Labour Government, we brought up the fleet to a proper level to deal with the needs of the people of the Merseyside area. We regained our establishment only through the good offices of a Labour Government and the struggle of the Fire Brigades Union to maintain standards.

We must understand what will happen when Merseyside county council is abolished. Before the 1975 reorganisation, we had what were called ghost establishments, where things were kept quiet and posts were not filled. We had two appliances manned by ore crew. When they needed a turntable ladder, the men on the pump would jump onto the turntable ladder. That is what we inherited, and we fear that that is the prospect for the future, with the reduction in manning and in the service that the union and the men wish to provide to ordinary people.

The Fire Brigades Union understands what this is about. We agree with what the Home Secretary said recently — that we are no different from any other service. Indeed, we are no different from the cuts in the hospital service, or from the cuts in social benefit and welfare; we are no different from the cuts imposed on pensioners and one-parent families. We understand why, despite what the Secretary of State said, those cuts will be made, jobs will be lost in the fire service and the cover to ordinary people will be reduced. It will be caused by the crisis in the system which the Government control.

The Government cannot match society's needs with its resources. Recently, Parliament debated the Channel tunnel, on which millions of pounds will be spent — some of it public money. The Government can spend money on weapons of destruction, but they cannot spend money on preserving lives and property through proper investment in the fire service. Nor will they protect lives by providing finance in the Health Service for dialysis machines.

It is ludicrous to expect firemen to become involved in civil defence. It is a confidence trick and a hoax, and the Government will meet resistance from the Fire Brigades Union in this respect. I read nothing in the Estimates about the luminous paint that will be put on fire engines, and the chalk marks on firemen's backs, so that when a hostile nation sends across its nuclear weapons, firemen will be in a sanitised area. But that is what the Government are talking about in civil defence. The union is on record at last year's annual conference as reaffirming its policy of not going down that road.

The Minister was right to denigrate the Fire Brigades Union, as other Ministers have denigrated other unions prepared to fight for jobs for their industry and for the service that they provide to the community. The union has called several demonstrations; I spoke at one at Liverpool attended by 6,000 firemen, and we have had similar demonstrations at Manchester and Sheffield. Next week, we shall have a demonstration and lobby here in London. We wish only to draw attention to the problems of working people, but we give the Government a warning. At the Fire Brigades Union conference last week, the general secretary, winding up a debate calling for industrial action to defend jobs, said clearly that, at the first sign of a job lost in the fire service as a direct result of the Government's policies, conference would be recalled and the Fire Brigades Union national executive would recommend industrial action in defence of those jobs and in defence of services.

Firemen do not indulge lightly in such activities, but they will do it with the same commitment as they have to saving lives. We had to do it in 1977 on behalf of the community, to protect jobs and services and get the decent fire service to which people were entitled. We have fought hard to maintain standards in the fire service, and I believe that the young firemen who have joined recently will not easily give up their jobs and the decent standards of living for which they fought. Young firemen have gone through seven years of Tory policies; they have seen the social fabric destroyed and the economic base destroyed. People living in Merseyside have seen daily the results of the Government's policy — and they know that no one is safe under the Government, whether it be the ambulance service or anyone else. Even today, I heard reports from Liverpool that overspending by the ambulance department of Merseyside county council has meant that some ambulances are not running.

History has repeated itself for the fire service several times. The demonstrations in which the Fire Brigades Union has been involved throughout the decades have warned the public of the danger that there will be fewer fire fighters and appliances, slower attendance time, more severe fires, more property destroyed and many more deaths. This is not alarmist. This is the reality of the natural consequences of what the Government are doing. We give warning that the dedication and self-sacrificing attitudes of firemen—qualities to which the Government pay lip service—will be exercised and prominent in thwarting the Government in yet another attack on the British people and a group of workers such as those in the Fire Brigades Union. The Government had better watch out. If they are looking for an easy touch in cutting away the fire service as they have done everything else, they are in a for a big surprise. The Fire Brigades Union will not stand idly by and watch that happen.

11.45 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

The debate started with a shadow creeping in behind the Minister, in the form of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who said not many years ago—I quote again the words that were quoted to him so often when the Minister was in Committee last year— In recent years there has been an increasing direction by central government over local government. As the Minister will recall, our opposition in principle to the Local Government Act, and the rate capping that followed it, was that it was left to him and his colleagues to decide how much should be spent in the authorities created by that legislation.

We will all welcome the Minister's announcement of the additional 50 to 51 per cent. increase in grant to the police authorities in question. The additional £6 million is welcome. However, this is another example of the Government bringing in an announcement in an inappropriate way. The answer should have come in time for the debate, in a written answer form, so that hon. Members do not have to rely on hearsay or the Minister's announcement at the beginning of the debate. I ask him to take that point back to the Government. It is an inappropriate use of the power and the discretion of government to come up with a rabbit out of the hat at the last moment. We are glad of the money, but there are better ways to use Parliament and its procedures than to make announcements at midnight, when the debate is about to start.

The Minister said that this year there would be, as a result of the rate support grant settlement, an extra £22 million in block grant. It would be helpful if he could make it clear whether that applies to the three metropolitan counties that feature in the order, or the six metropolitan authorities, or the seven if the GLC is included. The figures are difficult enough in block grant terms, let alone the other problems about close ending and recycling.

As I understand it, the share of block grant, not the net figures—this applies to the funding of services such as the fire, police, the civil defence and the like — is marginally down, not up, this year. I understand that the figure for last year, is that 32.2 per cent. of what was given out to the counties of England was given to the metropolitan counties for services such as this, whereas this year the figure is down to 31.6 per cent. The second point is that the whole system is now increasingly difficult to plan for and manage in budget terms. I hope that the Minister will accept that now in February 1986, we cannot tell what moneys will go to these six authorities in the coming year, because there may be some grant recycling in the Department of the Environment, which has produced some speculative figures based on a £400 million sum. That means that there is enormous scope for adding to the figures and that treasurers cannot know how much will be made available to them in the coming year.

I understand that, when the Minister and some of his colleagues met deputations from some of the authorities including the Minister's, Ministers made it clear that it was estimated that there would be no significant charge to the ratepayer. That is not so. I understand that West Yorkshire gets £510 million of grant from the Government in 1985–86. After abolition, on 1 April, the districts and boards will get £486 million. If the districts and boards spent to the Government's guidelines, they would need £89 million more than last year, but they are getting £24 million less. There is a shortfall of £113 million. The only way in which to raise that is by going to the ratepayer. That is one of the sets of figures that the Minister has to disprove if he is to establish that abolition and the new format for the police, fire and civil defence authorities will not present a net cost and disadvantage to ratepayers.

There is also an intrinsic contradiction in the system. The Minister and his colleagues set an expenditure limit, which is their assessment of need. Down the road in Marsham street, a grant-related assessment is set. There is often a substantial difference between the two. Is it not about time that we got an agreed figure? If the police, fire and civil defence authorities had to follow the GREAs, they would overspend grossly if they followed the Minister's expenditure limit and would lose grant because of it. It cannot be right for one Department to assess need at £50 million, and for the Home Office to say that it is £63 million, for example.

The figures this year, as before, increasingly do not work. That makes it even more difficult for authorities to plan — and they already have to contend with rate capping. Will the Minister undertake to consider a system that gives an agreed Government figure so that local authorities are not penalised because one figure is less than another? One of the problems that the different figures create is that, as the figures are revised during the year, it is even more difficult, because of the paraphernalia of legislation, to make proper advance planning of services. All that would have been solved if the amendment that I moved in Committee had been accepted, and rate capping had not applied. It was not, and we live to rue the day.

Is the Minister aware that Greater Manchester's assessment for fire and civil defence is that there will be a shortfall of about £634,000 in the next 12 months? As for the police authority there, what can the Minister tell us about the resolution of the question of the outstanding rent allowances? I understand that that sum is causing the difference of view between Greater Manchester and the Home Office. It must be resolved if there is not to be a shortfall of about £2 million in the next year.

Does the Minister agree that, in Merseyside, the ratepayer will pay more in the coming year for the same services than this year under the county council? That does not accord with what the Government promised. They want law and order to be sustained, but they are charging the ratepayer more. Where, then, lies the proof that abolition is saving money? I believe that it is costing money, as we have always said.

As to the police authority in Merseyside, my information is that a grant of £22.5 million or thereabouts will be forthcoming based on expenditure at the grant-related expenditure assessment level, yet the redetermination that the Home Secretary went through, which is clearly of benefit, gave a figure of 28 per cent. over and above that, not allowing for all that to be paid in grant, which results in a grant loss because of the excess of expenditure even within the expenditure limit over and above the grant-related amount of expenditure. That is clearly a disadvantage to the policing of Merseyside. Can the Minister explain what he expects the authority to do, given that it is being penalised in this way?

Taking last the Minister's own authority of west Yorkshire, that gives the best example, I hope he will accept, of the ludicrousness of the figures. The Department of the Environment says that just over £50 million is required by the police authority in west Yorkshire. The redetermined expenditure limit according to the Home Office is £63 million. Which is it? Presumably the Minister will stand by his own figures, in which case he has to tell his colleagues down the road that £50 million is wrong, £63 million is right and there should, therefore, be no discrepancy between the two. I understand that the chief constable said that he wanted slightly more even than the higher expenditure level. That means that even now the authority will be squeezed. If that is right, and the authority had accepted the Department of the Environment figures, there would have been a substantial loss of police establishment — and we are talking of hundreds, if not thousands, of officers. Clearly that will not happen, because I think even the Home Office figures the position remains that west Yorkshire says it needs 100 extra police officers. Will it get them? If so, who will pay?

The conclusion, after considering the specifics, is that the Government rightly say that law and order and services for upholding the security of our metropolitan communities and for security from fire have to be preserved. What they are now having to tell the ratepayer is: we will set the level at which you have to keep the services, but we will ask you to pay more—our new system is going to cost you. Is that really honouring the promises that were made when the legislation was introduced?

Mr. Giles Shaw

The main points raised by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) related to the Merseyside and Greater Manchester fire authorities.

The new Merseyside fire authority applied for an expenditure level in 1986–87 of £28.5 million. The maximum precept of 7.19p described in the draft order implies an expenditure of £28.1 million. I accept that the hon. Gentleman is correct and that this represents a shortfall. The shortfall will be absorbed by a gradual reduction in the establishment of some 60 firemen posts achieved solely by natural wastage. This can be achieved with no significant change in the service provided to Merseyside, and will help to keep down the rates.

Mr. Terry Fields

The Minister is telling us that we will lose 60 posts in a brigade which has a record of the highest number of fire calls and the greatest saving of life with no lowering of standards. That is a ludicrous statement. A cut in the level of service provided to the people of Liverpool will mean greater potential danger to life and property in the Merseyside area.

Mr. Shaw

I understand the hon. Gentleman's total and laudable commitment to the fire brigades and his great experience of operating within that service, but it is essential that joint boards or shire county authorities which are seeking a given level of expenditure for police and fire services should provide evidence that they can run their services efficiently. That is what ratepayers wish to see —that the services supplied are appropriate to meet the minimum standards of fire cover laid down by the service itself and endorsed by the fire inspectorate. That is the way the services have traditionally been run and I am sure the hon. Gentleman would wish them to continue in that way.

The hon. Member for Battersea also referred to Greater Manchester. The precept level prescribed in the draft order will not present the new authority with difficulties. The limit of 9.52p implies expenditure of £41 million. which is 0.6 per cent. less than the authority applied for. In fairness, I think the hon. Gentleman said that that was the shortfall, but the prescribed limit represents an 8.5 per cent. increase on the budget of the existing authority for 1985–86 at outturn prices and a hefty 22 per cent. increase on the 1984–85 figures of actual expenditure. The fire service in Greater Manchester has continued to grow substantially.

The hon. Member for Battersea referred too to the position in West Yorkshire, as did the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). In my opening remarks, I did not go into great detail on the police service in West Yorkshire. I think that, on the whole, the House was satisfied with what I said. There are the shortfalls in the fire service in West Yorkshire that the hon. Member for Battersea suggests. Of course, I have already said that there will be a review this year by HM inspectorate in West Yorkshire to see whether efficiency savings can be made. If they can be achieved without any loss of fire cover, that is a reasonable aim. If not, my right hon. Friend will review the position at the end of the year.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) has substantial experience with the fire service and I understand how he feels about a precept which does not provide the level of expenditure which he wishes to see on Merseyside. Under the legislation, for the first three years, and for three years only, the Home Secretary has the unique power to set the maximum precept. He will discharge that duty with thoroughness and efficiency. There are many competing sources of expenditure within local government and none more so than in the metropolitan districts. The hon. Gentleman will know that it is up to Government to ensure that the services are all funded properly and efficiently but not extravagantly. [Interruption.] I hear the hon. Gentleman's remarks. He will know full well that no one in the House, and certainly not I, would resile for one minute from supporting the fire brigades in what they do. The gentlemen who man the fire brigades and the men and women who are involved in the support services have provided an astonishing level of service during the last year.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey raised some broader issues. He must not expect me to respond on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made an announcement earlier today on the block grant, because he had a direct interest in providing the House with the necessary information to debate the fire and police services tonight. That was the quickest means available to him. I have told the House what he has decided.

The £22 million to which I referred will be spread over all local authorities. The joint boards which are the subject of the precept order will not be the only beneficiaries, although they will benefit the most because they are the largest authorities responsible for police and fire services. Each county will also benefit in its own way from the block grant of £22 million being made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

London will be a major beneficiary of the changes announced today. It will benefit by about £17.8 million from the increase in the police grant which has been provided for today. I say to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that all authorities will benefit but, largely, the benefit will go to the areas we are discussing—the joint board areas for fire and police.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey contrasted the assessments made in the Home Office expenditure levels for police and the assessments under grant-related expenditure — the regime applied by the Department of the Environment. I respect and understand why he should make that point. The hon. Gentleman will equally know that, under the Act, whereby the Home Secretary has the power to set the maximum precept levels, he will operate that for three years only; whereas GRE, or the funding of local authorities, is continuing, although it has changed from time to time. The announcement today went some way towards recognising the principle of what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said.

If two policies are clearly directed for their own perfectly legitimate ends—one to encourage a rate of police expenditure, the other to determine the grant-related expenditure, which is not a specific amount of money related to police needs but an equalisation of policing needs, the two figures are not easily shown to be compatible. It is to start to close that gap that the announcement was made today, first in relation to a block grant increase and secondly in relation to a 1 per cent. increase in the police grant. Although the announcement is in respect of 1986–87, I think that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey and the House will conclude that it may be difficult to change the police grant back from 51 per cent. to 50 per cent. in subsequent years. That is a decision about which my right hon. Friend will have to consult his colleagues.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey raised the matter of the Greater Manchester rent allowance in relation to the police. I agree that there is a problem but I believe that it has now been resolved. I understand that when the authority asked for its maximum precept to be increased to allow extra expenditure on back rent allowance, we agreed after consideration that it could fund that allowance within existing precept levels. That is why we made no change.

In addition to the points that I have already made I must emphasise that under the revised precept level there should be no doubt that police recruitment in West Yorkshire should enable vacancies — currently about 130 on establishment—to be filled. I hope that it will be able to move to that in the coming year.

My right hon. Friend has invited the chief constables of the provincial forces to conduct a review of police establishment needs. Where a need for additional establishment can be proven beyond doubt, my right hon. Friend has agreed to ask the inspectorate to advise him whether the needs should be met. I expect that such assessment will take place during the current month, so it is continuing.

The debate has been pertinent to the order. It has been a matter of reviewing how the mechanism will work. I trust that what I have been able to tell the House is sufficient to persuade hon. Members to allow the precept order to pass.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 170, Noes 118.

Division No. 69] [12.10 am
Alexander, Richard Mackay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Amess, David Maclean, David John
Ancram, Michael Major, John
Arnold, Tom Malins, Humfrey
Ashby, David Malone, Gerald
Aspinwall, Jack Maples, John
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Marlow, Antony
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Mather, Carol
Baldry, Tony Maude, Hon Francis
Bellingham, Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bendall, Vivian Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Benyon, William Mellor, David
Best, Keith Merchant, Piers
Biffen, Rt Hon John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Blackburn, John Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Moate, Roger
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Montogomery, Sir Fergus
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Mudd, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Murphy, Christopher
Bright, Graham Neale, Gerrard
Brinton, Tim Nelson, Anthony
Brooke, Hon Peter Newton, Tony
Bruinvels, Peter Nicholls, Patrick
Buck, Sir Antony Norris, Steven
Budgen, Nick Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Burt, Alistair Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Butterfill, John Parris, Matthew
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Pawsey, James
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Chapman, Sydney Pollock, Alexander
Chope, Christopher Portillo, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Powell, William (Corby)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Powley, John
Coombs, Simon Raffan, Keith
Cope, John Rhodes James, Robert
Couchman, James Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Cranborne, Viscount Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Currie, Mrs Edwina Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Dickens, Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion
Dorrell, Stephen Rossi, Sir Hugh
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Rost, Peter
Dover, Den Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Durant, Tony Ryder, Richard
Dykes, Hugh Sackville, Hon Thomas
Eggar, Tim Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Emery, Sir Peter Sayeed, Jonathan
Evennett, David Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fallon, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Favell, Anthony Shelton, William (Streatham)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Sims, Roger
Garel-Jones, Tristan Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Greenway, Harry Speed, Keith
Gregory, Conal Spencer, Derek
Griffiths, Sir Eldon Stanbrook, Ivor
Ground, Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Stern, Michael
Hampson, Dr Keith Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Hanley, Jeremy Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Harvey, Robert Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Heddle, John Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Henderson, Barry Sumberg, David
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Temple-Morris, Peter
Holt, Richard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Key, Robert Thornton, Malcolm
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Lamont, Norman Tracey, Richard
Lawler, Geoffrey Trippier, David
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Trotter, Neville
Lightbown, David Twinn, Dr Ian
Lilley, Peter Waddington, David
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Waldegrave, Hon William
Lord, Michael Walden, George
Lyell, Nicholas Waller, Gary
Ward, John Winterton, Nicholas
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Wolfson, Mark
Watson, John Wood, Timothy
Watts, John Yeo, Tim
Wells, Bowen (Hertford) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Wheeler, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Whitfield, John Mr. Michael Neubert and
Winterton, Mrs Ann Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter John, Brynmor
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Barron, Kevin Kennedy, Charles
Beith, A. J. Lambie, David
Bell, Stuart Lamond, James
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Leadbitter, Ted
Bermingham, Gerald Leighton, Ronald
Blair, Anthony Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Boyes, Roland Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Litherland, Robert
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Caborn, Richard Loyden, Edward
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) McCartney, Hugh
Campbell-Savours, Dale McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Canavan, Dennis McTaggart, Robert
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) McWilliam, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Madden, Max
Clarke, Thomas Marek, Dr John
Clay, Robert Martin, Michael
Clelland, David Gordon Maxton, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Michie, William
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cohen, Harry Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Nellist, David
Corbyn, Jeremy Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cunliffe, Lawrence O'Brien, William
Dalyell, Tam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Park, George
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Parry, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Pike, Peter
Deakins, Eric Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dewar, Donald Prescott, John
Dixon, Donald Radice, Giles
Dormand, Jack Randall, Stuart
Dubs, Alfred Redmond, Martin
Duffy, A. E. P. Richardson, Ms Jo
Eadie, Alex Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Eastham, Ken Rogers, Allan
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Rowlands, Ted
Ewing, Harry Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fatchett, Derek Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Skinner, Dennis
Fisher, Mark Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Flannery, Martin Soley, Clive
Forrester, John Spearing, Nigel
Foster, Derek Stott, Roger
Foulkes, George Strang, Gavin
Freud, Clement Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
George, Bruce Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Gould, Bryan Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Wareing, Robert
Hardy, Peter Welsh, Michael
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Winnick, David
Haynes, Frank Young, David (Bolton SE)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Home Robertson, John Tellers for the Noes:
Hoyle, Douglas Mr. Sean Hughes and
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Local Government Act 1985 (Police and Fire and Civil Defence Authorities) Precepts Limitation Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.