HC Deb 06 July 1987 vol 119 cc156-67

Queen's Recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) any expenses of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of that Act;
  2. (b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment,—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]

12.42 am
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

There was a brief exchange at the beginning of the Second Reading debate which I am sure that the Minister witnessed, during which a number of points were raised about the handling of this legislation as far as it related to Scotland. It would be improper for me to rehearse those arguments now and I refer to them only in passing. However, there is undoubtedly a strong feeling in the House—as I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that this is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the different local traditions that we have in Scotland with its different local government structure.

I will not spend any time discussing the difficulties involved in our picking our way through this legislation. That will be a matter for the Committee. I hope that there will be a strong Scottish input on that Committee and I look forward to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) leading his no doubt small task force in that stage of the Bill's proceedings.

I have for the Minister one or two questions, although I realise that a number of other hon. Members wish to take part in this debate. First, the Money Resolution refers to any expenses of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of that Act". Perhaps my question reveals my inexperience in this kind of debate. However, does the "Secretary of State" referred to in the resolution include other Secretaries of State, including the Secretaries of States for Scotland and for Wales? I cannot see any definition of Secretary of State in the Bill. Such a definition may not be necessary. However, no doubt the Minister will deal with that question— I would normally have said with his courteous manner, but perhaps tonight that description is strained—when he replies.

Secondly, I want to ask about the financial implications of part I for Scotland. The Minister knows that there is a reference in the financial effects of the Bill to the fact that the Government expect some increase in costs largely because of redundancy payments. Clearly the Government will have split those between Scotland and England and will have some idea of the likely redundancy impact in Scotland and the financial impact that will flow from that. I want the Minister to say a word or two more about that especially as, in the introductory memoranda dealing with the effect on public service manpower, there is a reference to the fact that the provision of services is to be transferred leading to substantial reductions in public service manpower.

Presumably the advice of Scottish Office Ministers has been taken on how the substantial reduction that is anticipated—that is the number of people who will be sacked as a result of the Bill reaching the statute book —will be split between England and Scotland. The Government will remember that, despite the best efforts of the Government in Scotland, very little privatisation took place in the Health Service because the health boards revolted against the proposition. I suspect that there will be stern resistance in Scotland to the provisions that are set out in the Bill, but I want to know what the Government's financial calculations are in Scottish terms.

Clause 23 refers to privately let housing accommodation. I ask the Minister to tell us what that accommodation is likely to be in Scotland. It is something that will have an effect on the financial implications of the Bill. The financial memorandum states: The costs a financial support under Clause 23 are expected to be offset by a reduced call on expenditure on local authority housing. There is a different local authority housing structure in Scotland from that in England, there being a substantial public sector. I should like to know how the Minister calculates the effects of clause 23 in Scottish terms, bearing in mind that housing accommodation and leases, for example, which are defined in subsection (6) for England, are not defined in Scottish terms. It seems that the financial implications are difficult to calculate in Scotland. I hope that we shall hear something about that.

Public service manpower implications are interesting, as are the comments in part III, where there is a reference to local authorities using their power under clause 23, which may result in a small increase in their manpower. It seems that this may lead to a small increase also in the manpower of the Department of the Environment and that of the Welsh Office. There is an interesting exclusion which I presume is not an accident. The implication is that there will be no increase in Scottish Office manpower, and I take it that the Government do not expect clause 23 to have much impact in Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the fact that there is no reference to the Scottish Office in the relevant section of the financial and explanatory memorandum and explain why it has been omitted. I should like to know whether I am right in assuming that the clause will not have much impact in Scotland. This is a matter of importance.

The memorandum states that the effect of clause 27 may be to increase expenditure". Clause 27 refers to schedule 3 and only paragraphs 11 to 17 of the schedule apply to Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will say something about the implications for Scotland. Is an increase in expenditure expected in Scotland as well?

Clause 29 refers to schedule 5, and only paragraph 12 refers to Scotland. That paragraph refers in turn to schedule 3 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975. Will the Minister give an assurance that that covers the Scottish position, is parallel to the English provision and that the financial implications that are referred to in the financial memorandum can be taken to apply to Scotland as well as England? As this part of the Bill is dealing with the United Kingdom structure, presumably the Minister has considered the Scottish position in some detail and will be able to help on the issue that that I have raised.

I move on to clause 32, and in passing I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), who took her opposition to the logical extreme of joining the Opposition in the Division. She did so because of her objection to the clause. The Minister may be aware that there was a spirited debate not so long ago during the passage of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 when dog licences were debated seriously. At that stage the Government — I think that the Minister, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West was a member of the Committee — resisted strongly the abolition of dog licences and the increase of the licence fee and re-enacted the status quo. It is clear that minds have been altered as a result of the pressure that has been brought to bear by the Department of the Environment.

May I ask him about the financial savings that are expected in Scotland? I start by referring him again to the section in the explanatory and financial memorandum on the Bill's effect on public service manpower, which states: Clause 32 will yield small manpower savings for London borough, district and island councils, as they will no longer be required to keep registers of licence holders. Is it anticipated that that will apply in Scotland? It is slightly ambiguous. It might refer to London boroughs, and then to district and island councils in other parts of the country, including Scotland. But it is not clear to me, and, as it has finance implications, perhaps the Minister will clear up the ambiguity.

I think that that point is particularly important, because at the top of that page of the explanatory and financial memorandum there is another reference to the abolition of dog licences and its likely reduction of central Government expenditure. The last, triumphant sentence of that section—on the financial effects of the Bill—states: In England and Wales, London borough and district councils will cease to receive the duty on dog licences. That is a specific reference to what is happening in England and Wales, and, in particular, to London borough and district councils in England and Wales. As Scotland has been specifically excluded from that reference, presumably at the behest of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West—and presumably the exclusion is intended to have some significance— I assume that we can infer that the same financial effect will not apply in Scotland.

It is important that we clear the matter up and know exactly why Scotland has been omitted, and whether I am right in my deduction. If I am right, it is very puzzling, and needs an explanation in the terms of the Act; if I am wrong, it seems careless and—if I may say so—slighting to exclude Scotland from the calculations. I hope that the Minister will deal with my question adequately and in some detail.

There are many other points to be made. However, I am very conscious of the pressure of time. The debate can last for only 45 minutes, and many of my hon. Friends wish to speak. I am also conscious of the fact that we must give the Minister time to reply, and to deal with specific Scottish points. I hope that he will not think them nitpicking—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am glad to have the approbation and support of Conservative Members. It gives me some consolation, because I do not always receive such a service.

All I can say in my plea in mitigation is that a debate of this kind is very narrow in its terms, and that I have tried rigorously to keep within the rules of the House. That has inevitably meant picking up fairly detailed points from the explanatory and financial memorandum, and from the related manpower implication statement in the preamble to the Bill. It seems to me, however, that at least the two omissions of any reference to Scotland must have some significance. I feel that the other detailed points that I have raised about clauses 23, 27 and 29 should certainly be tidied up by the Minister, and I hope that he will do exactly that when his hon. Friend comes back with the answer.

12.52 am
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech this morning—although I did not realise that I would be making it this morning.

I understand that we are now on the money resolution debate following the Second Reading of the Local Government Bill. Forgive me if I am wrong, but the procedures are rather different from those that I am used to. It has already been mentioned in the House that many of the new Members of Parliament had an apprenticeship in local government, and I am no exception to that rule, having served 15 years as a councillor. I was a member of Cumbria county council for 13 years, and had the privilege of being its chairman for two years.

Serving in local government before coming to the House is nothing new. My predecessor Ron Lewis, to whom I should now like to pay tribute, had a very distinguished career in local government in Derbyshire before being elected as Member of Parliament for Carlisle in 1964. From the outset, Ron Lewis had one ambition: to serve the people of Carlisle well. In that, he excelled — so much so that the constituency, which had a reputation for being marginal, returned him on no fewer than seven separate occasions. On the last occasion, in 1983, there is no doubt that it was only through the personal vote for Ron Lewis that Labour held the seat. That was a personal tribute to him, and he will deservedly enter the record books as the longest-serving Member for Carlisle.

Ron Lewis was much more than a fine constituency Member of Parliament. He is always a gentleman in the finest sense of the word. His sincerity, Socialism and trade union beliefs come from his deep and sincere belief in Christianity. When he spoke in the House, he was listened to. When he took up a cause on behalf of his constituents, he did so with tremendous vigour and skill. I remember him in the early 1970s and the effort that he made to save the State Brewery in Carlisle—ironically the first of the privatisations — despite the fact that he was a strict teetotaller and a leading member of the temperance movement, a cause for which I do not seem to have met many supporters in the House. I am sure that the House will miss him and join me in wishing him a long and happy retirement.

I should like to express my appreciation of the help and advice that Ron Lewis gave me during the recent election campaign. Mine was a tough election, because Carlisle was the most marginal Labour-held seat in the country. It was the number one target Tory seat. Despite that, we came out with a 1,200 per cent. increase in our majority. I mention that to remind Conservative Members that they did worse than in 1983—in some areas they did a great deal worse.

I should like to get my constituency's geographical position correct. It is a fine city in the north of England, nine miles south of the Scottish border. I say that as there may be some confusion among hon. Members about the appointment of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), my neighbour, as a Scottish Whip. I am assured that that is to do with the Government's poor showing in Scotland and nothing to do with a plan to move the border south. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member on his appointment.

I am filled with pride at Carlisle and its people, because they are friendly, hard working and compassionate, and I am privileged to serve them. I am proud of the effort being made by councils, especially the Labour-controlled city council, to improve Carlisle. I get angry at the Bill, because there is nothing in it which will encourage and strengthen local government and local democracy. It also is designed to reduce even further the influence of local people over their own lives.

The Government should be complimenting Carlisle city council which, in the past decade, has transformed the city. It is now the most improved city in Britain. One has only to see the international award-winning Lane's shopping centre, the much acclaimed Sands centre and the many improvements in leisure facilities, of which the new running track is only the latest example, to appreciate the improvement.

Last week, the city council passed a resolution announcing plans for a major new museum complex to rival that in York. It will show the colourful heritage of Carlisle to its full advantage. We have done much else. We have improved our old council estates and still have the second lowest rents in the country. We have a peace garden and are a nuclear-free zone—and proud of it. Rates bear comparison with those found anywhere else. For six years, we held the rate in the city and reduced it by 2p last year. All this has been achieved in spite of the Government, not because of them. I am proud to pay tribute to local government as I know it.

The Bill would massively increase contracting out. Do the Government intend to do to our good refuse collection services what they have already done to domestic services in our hospitals? Staff morale there has been reduced. Cleaning standards have been lowered to such an extent that there has been a 120 per cent. labour turnover, and absence due to sickness accounts for 20 per cent. of the staff. That is what privatisation of the hospital services has done. Any fool can reduce costs by cutting wages, but it takes a clever man to improve productivity and still look after his employees.

Instead of pushing through this worthless Bill the Government should help councils such as mine to rid the cities of the despair of unemployment, which stands at 14 per cent. in Carlisle. Many of the young people of Carlisle have not worked since they left school three or four years ago, and they are unlikely ever to get work. There is despair over the decline of once great industries—for example, over Cavans and Sheldons, once the greatest crane manufacturers in the world. It was recently closed by NEI so that it could sell the land, probably for use as yet another superstore.

There is despair in my constituency over the railways. Only 10 years ago that industry employed over 4,000 in my city. Today it employs only 1,000, and there are more redundancies to come. That is without the possible closure of the Carlisle to Settle railway line. We hope that there will soon be a favourable announcement by the Minister about the Carlisle to Settle railway line, but I have my doubts.

I despair about the decline of the health and education services and about the ever-increasing levels of crime in Cumbria, including Carlisle. Recently the chief constable called Carlisle the crime capital of the county. Old people are still struggling to exist on meagre pensions. There is despair about the poll tax. A recent independent survey suggests that the people in my constituency will pay 41 per cent. more than they are paying now. Many of them will be unable to pay.

The Bill will only make matters worse. I do not plead for compassion from the Government Benches. Even after so short a time as a Member of Parliament, I realise that that is in short supply. Carlisle will survive, and even prosper, despite the Tory Government, but would it not be better if they helped councils to tackle the regeneration of our cities instead of hindering them?

1.2 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In normal circumstances the House should not be kept up until 1 o'clock, but these are not normal circumstances. We are discussing the mechanics of the poll tax. The Minister has been landed with a brief that cannot be implemented. I refer to clause 26, which relates to what local authorities can and cannot do.

On 28 June the ad hoc chairman of the Scottish finance directors, David Chynowith, was interviewed for the BBC's "World at One" programme. He was asked about the mechanics of the poll tax and he said: Well, the main difficulties at the moment are trying to analyse the various systems which we'll need to set up before 1989 … we've only got until April 1989 to get everything up and running, and the first major job of course is that the assessor has to set up the community charge register and once he's done that, we've then got to sort out the means of collection from the very many more people that we'll have to collect from as compared to the domestic charge rate. Clough then asked: Now what about this business of setting up the community charge register because…that isn't exactly the same"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can help me by pointing to that part of clause 26 to which he is addressing himself. I see nothing in clause 26 that remotely relates to what he is saying to the House.

Mr. Dalyell

I am giving an example of clause 26 that raises the question whether material that relates, or can be construed as relating, to the benefit of a political party and an opposite point of view can be put. I am asking the question in some detail about whether an interview of the kind that took place last Sunday is or is not in order. With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on this occasion I am bang in order and am giving a concrete, specific example.

Clough said: Now what about this business of setting up the community charge register because that isn't exactly the same as…the electoral register, to which the director of finance replied: No indeed it isn't and it's a running register as compared with the electoral register which is set on one day in the year. It has to be kept up-to-date continuously and must at all times record all the people who are aged over 18 who are staying in this area". Clough said: Well that's to say that it's got to be updated pretty well monthly, has it, because you have to collect in 12 monthly instalments". The director of finance replied: That's correct. It has to be updated continuously, yes and so each month it must be correct for…each of the residents in the area". Will local authorities be allowed to say precisely what the costs of collection are?

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Bill's financial and explanatory memorandum does not mention clause 26. As this is a debate on a money resolution, is the hon. Gentleman riot out of order by confining his speech to a clause that is riot in it?

Mr. Dalyell


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Let me deal with the point of order before the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) continues. In the light of the firm way in which the hon. Gentleman said that he was on good ground, I was looking carefully to see how his remarks related to the money resolution, and I found great difficulty in doing so.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have just dealt with it.

Mr. Hanley

On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not normal courtesy in the House, when following a maiden speech, to pay at least some form of tribute to the hon. Member who made it?

Mr. Dalyell

The one thing that I would not like to do is to trespass on the time of the House and fail to congratulate my hon. Friend—indeed my personal friend — the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), for whom I have spoken in Carlisle. It was a great pleasure, and I know the high regard in which he is held by his constituency party and the people who elected him.

I do not want to trespass on time, but Ministers had better take cognisance of what the directors of finance—who have the immediacy of the problem—are doing. Does the House realise that there are 90 separate issues on which there could be statutory instruments for the implementation of the poll tax? The Minister may shake his head, but that is the view of the careful accountant who has to do the work. We Scots have the immediacy of the problem.

As I discovered when speaking in marginal constituencies in England, it is a remote problem here, because it has not yet arrived, but it has come to us, and our officials know what it is all about. Already they have had to grapple with the problem. In fact, in a relatively small region, 70 or 80 people will have to be full-time canvassers. Who will pay for them?

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I followed closely what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said about the money resolution, and I clearly understood everything that he said. He explained clearly the relationship between the Bill and the financial arrangements as they affect Scotland. I thought that his questions required answering. I am having great difficulty in the context of the Bill, in understanding or following what the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is saying. I ask for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it is important, on money matters, that we get it right.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I share the anxieties of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Dalyell

I shall—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he ought not to be on his feet when I am on mine. I hope that he will either address his remarks to the financial effects of the Bill or resume his seat. Can he do so?

Mr. Dalyell

Very briefly, there is not much point taking part in the debate other than to warn the Government of the mire that they are getting into. It is easy to be frivolous about it, but we will see who is in difficulty in nine months' time—the Government or us.

1.11 am
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in congratulating my hon. Friend for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), who made an excellent maiden speech. He spoke with conviction as well as knowledge and experience of local government. I trust that those Conservative Members who, rightly, are so keen to join us in our congratulations will also join us in listening to what my hon. Friend had to say, because he spoke for local government and, like the rest of us, he is deeply worried about the trends that are indicated in the Bill, and is deeply worried, as are we who speak for Scotland. Ron Lewis would have been extremely proud to have heard my hon. Friend's maiden speech. We recall Ron Lewis's charm and commitment and sheer honesty with great affection and we wish him and my hon. Friend well in the future.

Earlier on this evening a number of us raised points of order on the importance of the Bill to Scotland and about the absurd way it has been presented to the House in the hope that it will be acceptable to Parliament. notwithstanding that there has not even been minimal consultation with local authorities in Scotland. So far as I am aware there has been none. It is an insult to the House that, as we discuss this money resolution, which has considerable implications for local government, including the regions, districts and the islands in Scotland, we have not even heard from the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), honoured us with his presence, but so far as I know he has not said a word this evening. The other Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), joined us towards the end. I do not think that anybody on the Labour side is complaining that he has not said anything, either. Nevertheless, it is a totally unsatisfactory way to conduct Scottish affairs. It is a completely unsatisfactory way to approach Scottish local government. It does not represent the wishes of the people of Scotland and it indicates that, if the Government are attempting to work with and negotiate with COSLA—for the benefit of the Minister, that is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—they will find that what they and the Secretary of State, who has disappeared, have done tonight, is to do a great deal of harm to the relationship between the House and local government, especially between the House and Scottish local authorities.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I point out to my hon. Friend that not all Government Members would appear to be hostile to what he is saying. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) had this to say the other day: It would be no bad thing, just a gesture…to ask the Procedure Committee when it is established to take a comprehensive view of how we manage Scottish affairs in the House both in terms of general business and of legislation."—[Official Report, 30 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 398.] Would my hon. Friend agree that that is a sensible statement coming from the Government side of the House?

Mr. Clarke

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend and I am glad that he made that point.

We are being asked to accept the Government's ill-thought out proposals, which, as I have said, show no evidence of consultation, which are certainly not before us at the request of the local authorities, or the electors or ratepayers that they represent and will not be in the interests of our people. The Government are telling us that their views on compulsory tendering will be helpful to local government but they have not produced the evidence. The people that I know in local government would utterly oppose any suggestion that it will be helpful in the provision of services.

The Government have prattled on about information. They use all the machinery available to them, whether it be in the Ministry of Defence or the Scottish Office, to promote their views. It is appalling that they should try to restrict elected local authorities as they attempt to explain to their own ratepayers the policies that they are attempting to pursue.

We are told in the measure about the restrictions on direct labour. In the recent elections I heard absolutely nothing from anybody about compulsory tendering or the provision of information or about the end of contract compliance. I certainly heard a great deal of criticism of direct labour authorities and in most cases that was not the fault of those departments of the councils. It arose because those departments are being starved of resources.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What does this have to do with the money resolution? I cannot see that it is in order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is just about in order.

Mr. Clarke

I would not have expected the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) to have understood anything about local government, far less Scottish issues. Therefore, I am not surprised at his bewilderment. I understand that his predecessor, Sir William van Straubenzee was banished to the Scottish Grand Committee because his name rhymed with Mackenzie. If the hon. Gentleman is not careful he might meet the same fate. However, it will not stop me from speaking for the people of Monklands, West and the people of Scotland. I had no request from electors for the sort of policies that the money resolution would allow the Government to pursue were it introduced. Because of that I am opposed to it.

I say to the Minister and the House that as the Bill is debated it will become more and more clear that it is an absolute irrelevance in terms of the services that people want to see. I have concentrated on Scotland, but I know perfectly well that my hon. Friends from other parts of the United Kingdom feel just as strongly. I worry about Scotland because already the Secretary of State and his very small band of Members are showing a disgraceful arrogance about the views of the Scottish people.

I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not going to be very helpful to us in explaining his views. He does not meet hon. Members when there are major closures in their constituencies. If he takes part in a debate he does not really address himself, as I do, to the real issues and to matters of order. Therefore, for an indication of what he really thinks I had to refer to the famous election diarist, Mr. Brian Meek who, writing in the Glasgow Herald, told us something of the Secretary of State's real thinking during those dreadful moments in the campaign when opinion polls after opinion poll showed that the Conservative party was not going to do too well in Scotland. After another opinion poll had appeared and the Secretary of State was quite distressed Mr. Meek wrote: The full implication is now sinking in"— I must point out that memories are rather short.

I try to be cheerful and mouth all the right things about how this hardly tallies with the sort of reception we have been receiving. As we reach his home he replies a little wearily You are a professional. You know there is something wrong. Of course, Mr. Meek is a professional. Those who advise local government in Scotland on financial and other matters are also professionals and not one of them would agree with the Government's approach. I hope that even this Government, dominated as they are by the arrogance of intellect and the brutality of power, will think again because this Bill is not in the interests of local government and not in the interests of the people of this country.

1.20 am
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this money resolution. I believe that it is right and proper in this United Kingdom Parliament that we should have Bills that cover England, Wales and Scotland and those Bills should be linked together because it is efficient to do so and it is best use of the resources that we have available. [Interruption.] It is, and I make no apology for that. The Opposition may well find that amusing, but the Opposition may find it difficult to man all the Committees on English business. There is no question but that when it comes to matters affecting the greater London area they may also find themselves in some difficulty.

Bills should be linked because it is a sensible and efficient use of our resources. We are setting an example to local government by showing clearly that we are making the best use of the resources and time that we have in this House. It shows that issues will be debated properly and that there will be Scots voices heard. Scots will deal with money matters as they are affected by the Bill.

It is clear that the financial aspects of the Bill will be studied carefully as will all the clauses that will be affected by the financial implications of the Bill. We shall see that we get value both in the way we run things in this House and in our use of taxpayers' funds. We shall also ensure that the funds of local authorities will be used wisely and sensibly.

There are other advantages for Scotland in the money resolution in that we shall be able to link the way we do things in Scotland more closely with the way things are done in England. That must be good for both England and for Scotland. We Scots are often happy to tell everyone how well we do things and how efficient we are. Therefore, there must be considerable value to Scotland from the money resolution. The same can be said of other Bills which have had similar money resolutions — for example, the Trade Union Bills. In the Committees discussing those Bills there has always been a statutory Scot and I have been the statutory Scot on most of them. I was present because of the way that such matters affected Scotland. It is only right that, with regard to the Local Government Bill, there should be a Scottish voice speaking on financial matters.

I listened to the voices on the Opposition Benches, some of which I could not follow very clearly because I could not see how they related to the various clauses in the Bill. Although I enjoyed the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) who spoke extremely well, and who had a lot of interesting and worthwhile things to say about his constituency, I found it difficult to relate it to the money resolution. Nevertheless, the hon. Member for Carlisle made a valuable contribution. Now, I shall sit down to give the Front Bench the opportunity to reply.

1.23 am
The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Michael Howard)

I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr Martlew) on his unusual—

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I refrained from rising in the hope that I might be able to hear a maiden speech from the Treasury Bench from my constituent, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), but if we are to hear another English Minister I am not particularly interested.

Mr. Howard

I congratulate the hon. Member for Carlisle on his unusual achievement of making his maiden speech on the money resolution of this important Bill. We listened to him with great care and interest. We remember his predecessor with affection and we wish the hon. Gentleman well in the House.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) went through the large number of detailed points that he raised in his characteristically languid fashion. Therefore, it may be that I did not quite make an adequate note of absolutely all of them as he went through them. However, I shall do my best to reply to them. in the time that is now available.

The hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members approach the matter on the basis of a fundamental misapprehension. They seem to be suggesting that the approach that we have adopted on the Bill as it affects Scotland is in some way novel, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is the most direct precedent in point—the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, which applied competition to local authority building and maintenance direct labour organisations. It is in a real sense the precursor of the Bill, and it applied to all three countries of England, Scotland and Wales. Of course, we accept now, as we did then, that the system of law differs between Scotland on the one hand and England and Wales on the other, but the principles on which the Bill is based, just as the principles on which the 1980 Act was based, apply equally in each country, so to suggest that there is anything remotely novel about the approach that we have adopted in this legislation—

It being three quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) any expenses of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of that Act;
  2. (b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment.