HC Deb 19 April 1988 vol 131 cc787-805
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

My hon. Friend is taking time.

Mr. Douglas

I know that I am taking time. I do not need my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to tell me that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will not have escaped your notice that 29 of the amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill, which applies to England and Wales, were tabled by the Secretary of State for Scotland. May I have your assurance that your office has examined these amendments and ensured that they were not in conflict with the regulations that we shall debate tonight and tomorrow night? If they are, we are wasting our time.

Mr. Speaker

I would have to look at those amendments carefully. As far as I am aware, none of them is in conflict with the regulations.

10.30 pm
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Standard and Collective Community Charges (Scotland) Regulations 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 631), dated 28th March 1988, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th March, be annulled.

Coming from Scotland, I find it interesting that Tory Members are beginning to get slightly panicky about revaluation. After all, we have been debating the poll tax only because of the panic that developed in Scottish Tory breasts as a result of revaluation. That is what the poll tax is all about. That is why we have got it, and that is why Tory Members may soon be more aware of what revaluation means. However, the poll tax is no answer to the problems of revaluation.

These regulations are not the most controversial part of the poll tax legislation. Nor are they necessarily the most obnoxious, although there are parts of them, particularly those relating to the collective community charge, which raise some important questions. However, the poll tax in all its forms is so hated and despised by the people of Scotland that it is right and essential that we, the representatives of the people of Scotland, should take every opportunity to put their views before the House and vote against any measure that helps to bring this iniquitous legislation into force.

I cannot remember when any Government proposal was so universally opposed in Scotland. The most recent opinion poll in Scotland shows that fewer than 15 per cent. of the people of Scotland support the poll tax. That is nearly 8 per cent. below the level of the Tory vote in Scotland, so 8 per cent. of Tory voters do not support the poll tax. Furthermore, many people who will benefit from the proposals still oppose them because they know that they are unfair, unworkable and undemocratic. Many of them resent strongly the imposition of this tax when they so overwhelmingly voted against it in last June's general election. Any Government who paid even lip service to the concepts of democracy would have withdrawn the tax after their humiliation in that election.

After last night's embarrassments, it is clear that many English Tories fear that they will suffer the same fate as Michael Ancram, Michael Hirst, John McKay, Gerry Malone et al if this tax becomes law in England and Wales. Et al is Albert McQuarrie. That is why we shall take every opportunity to raise the injustices and absurdities of this tax in the House. There is still time for English Tory Back Benchers to come to their political senses and defeat the English and Welsh Bill on its Third Reading, and force the repeal of the Scottish legislation.

These regulations give us the opportunity to debate two of the important but less well publicised aspects of the poll tax in Scotland. The standard charge is the tax imposed on second homes. What these regulations are proposing makes sense since they ensure that houses with no roofs on, or those in need of repair nor redevelopment, should be exempt.

The standard charge is absurd in itself. Having made all the great claims that they were abolishing property taxes and introducing a personal tax right the way down the line, the Government are reintroducing a property tax in the form of the standard charge. The charge is on the property, and no matter how many people live in it and use it the charge will be exactly the same.

It does not matter whether one has already paid a personal community charge or poll tax in a local government area; if one owns a house in that area the same tax will be paid. We who believe in the rating system see nothing wrong with that. It is right to pay rates on a second home. But this makes nonsense of the Government's argument that they are abolishing rates. The standard community charge is just rates in another form-a very unfair form. Everybody will pay exactly the same standard charge whatever the size of house and whatever the income. The Queen will pay on her holiday house at Balmoral exactly the same as someone owning a one-roomed holiday flat in the same area. One cannot get more absurd than that.

If the standard community charge is ridiculous when set against the so-called principles of the poll tax, the collective community charge proposals contain the seeds of even greater unfairness and administrative nightmares than the personal poll tax.

Once the Government settled for the asinine poll tax, someone in the Department presumably asked, "How do we deal with those who move about all the time and have no fixed abode; do we allow them to get away with paying nothing?" Of course Ministers, who are convinced that everybody should pay something, said no to that. There had to be some form of tax. They came up with this nonsensical collective community charge. It means that every boarding house and hostel and other place where the occupants are transient will be designated a collective charge property, and the collective charge multiplier will be given by the assessor. The owners will then pay the personal tax, multiplied by their multiplier, to the local authority each year. They will regain the tax by charging on a daily basis each person resident in their property.

Let me ask the Minister one or two questions about the collective charge. First, why have refuges for women facing domestic violence been left in the collective charge category in Scotland, when it seems that they are to be totally exempt in England? On 4 February 1988 the Minister of State, Department of the Environment said: women's refuges … will be exempt not merely from the requirements to show the names of resident individuals on the register, but from the collective community charge."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 4 February 1988, c. 462.] I want to know from the Minister what is happening in Scotland, because in these regulations that is the only type of property at present that would definitely be in the collective community charge category.

Secondly, what arrangements have the Government made for the repayment of the collective community charge to those who are entitled to rebates or who may have already paid their community charge elsewhere? Many people living in hostel accommodation will be entitled to rebates, but their landlord must pay a full poll tax for each of them and charge them the full amount.

In the draft rebate scheme that I have seen there does not appear to be a plan to ensure that they can reclaim this money. Even if they can, it is a reversal of a usual rebate scheme whereby one claims the rebate but pays only the minimum amount. One does not pay the full amount and then claim it back, which will apparently happen in this case.

Let us take the example of a young unemployed person resident in Castlemilk or in another housing scheme in Scotland, who is registered there for the poll tax and liable to pay 20 per cent. He goes to look for work elsewhere, stays in a hostel and has to pay the full daily rate of the community charge in that hostel. What arrangements are there for him to claim that back? Are there any?

Thirdly, what compensation do the Government intend to give to charitable bodies that run hostels and refuges if they fail to collect the full amount of poll tax from their clients, which will almost certainly be the case? They will still have to pay the local authority the sum that the local authority has agreed with them. The hostels face increased administrative costs anyway as a result of this tax, without also facing a loss of income, which would be better used carrying out their real work.

Fourthly, at the other end of the scale, how will the Government ensure that unscrupulous private landlords do not artificially keep their bed usage figures low in order to make a profit from those who stay in their properties?

Perhaps the truth is that the civil servants and the registration officers have made up their minds that there will be few collective community charge places. In fact, the only one may turn out to be the women's refuges, which are to be exempt in England and Wales.

The word from registration officers and Scottish Office officials is that they are so alarmed by the implications of this absurd tax that the registration officers are being advised not to place properties on the register but simply to put them either into the commercial rating system or to ensure that everybody is registered.

If that is true, would it not be more honest for the Government to introduce amendments into the English Bill, even at this late stage, to abolish the collective community charge altogether? It is an unfair, unworkable tax. Many poor people will pay the tax twice and may have to try to claim it back.

The regulations are part and parcel of the administrative nightmare that the Government are creating with the poll tax. We have seen examples of that already in Scotland with the registration process that has already begun. We want the Government not only to withdraw this part of the taxation but the whole tax. The Scottish people do not want it. They never have. They voted against it and the Government should withdraw and repeal the legislation.

10.41 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has used the opportunity of the debate to make a number of fairly general points. Because time is limited, I do not propose to follow several of his points. He represents at least one faction in the Labour party on this issue—those who wish the law to be obeyed. That is the position of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and it was the position of the Leader of the Opposition when he came to Scotland and made that most excellent 50-minute speech in which he did not mention devolution once. In passing, I would also add that he notably failed to congratulate the famous 50 on their victory in the last election.

However, the House will be anxious to hear from Opposition Members who take a different point of view, such as the hon. Members for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), who is in some danger of being accused of being a moderate these days, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), who may come in to make a contribution.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the latest opinion poll in Scotland showed that 20 per cent. of Conservative voters favour a campaign of non-payment? Is that a faction within the Conservative party?

Mr. Stewart

I do not want to speak for too long in answering that point. My clear impression is that there is on the ground in Scotland a massive campaign of disinformation, which, in part, is unquestionably successful, and successful in some areas of my constituency. But when I meet people in Eastwood arid explain the position in detail, people generally go away much more supportive of the community charge. However, as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman's position on the community charge, and that of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), is clear. Gordon Wilson is clearly on the record as saying that they will not pay the community charge.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that Angus district council, which is administered by the Scottish National party, has not followed the advice or the example of the SNP leadership, including those in this House, and it is urging people to comply with the community charge, which it is putting into operation?

Mr. Stewart

That shows that Angus district council, in this if not always in other matters, is following a common-sense course.

I understand the Labour party's position, as expressed by the hon. Member for Cathcart, to be that if there is to be a community charge it should not be a standard community charge. [Interruption.] I have obviously misunderstood the hon. Member; he believes that there should be a standard community charge. I hope that local authorities will implement the multiplier with flexibility and will bear in mind in particular the needs of the tourist industry. The hon. Member for Cathcart will recall that on Report I referred to the size of the multiplier and that he disagreed with my view that it should not be as high as two, but I think he agreed that local authorities should be encouraged to implement it with flexibility.

Paragraphs (b) and (c) of regulation 3 are fairly clear about the closing order and the demolition order, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will confirm that paragraph (a) deals with dangerous buildings and the making of an order by a local authority. I hope that he will explain what will happen when orders are revoked or when undertakings are given by the owners of the property that lead to suspension orders. There are three redundant words in paragraph (e). If a building is incapable of being lived in, by definition it is not being lived in.

I welcome the Government's general line in regulation 4 concerning refuges for spouses who have had to leave the marital home because of physical violence or because of the threat of such violence. Also, I welcome the fact that the names of people in that position will not be made publicly available. It is not proposed, either, that the collective community charge multiplier for such hostels should be made available to the public. These provisions should have the support of the whole House.

As for regulation 5, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will explain how paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) will work. I presume that paragraphs (b) and (c) would work through the collective community charge record that the owner of the property will be under an obligation to maintain, but that record will not show the information that is required under paragraph (a) concerning the maximum number of persons for whom the premises are capable of providing residential accommodation. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to clarify that matter.

I welcome the regulations. Despite the Opposition's programme of disinformation, they confirm that the procedures for implementing the abolition of domestic rates in Scotland are steadily on course.

10.49 pm
Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) seemed to be having difficulty in understanding the terms of regulation 5, or, alternatively, in reading the joined up writing of his brief, which clearly had been handed to him from the Government Benches in order to pad out this debate.

I should like briefly to speak about regulation 5, because it concerns a major problem, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow—the problem of houses in multiple occupation. Section 11 of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act gives the registration officer power to designate premises where the community charge will be paid. Most of those premises are in places where a large number of people, particularly young people, live. They are characterised by an itinerant population of people who are forced to move after a short time, either because of harassment by the landlord or, alternatively, because of the Government's social security regulations.

When we look at the terms of regulation 5 and the factors that the registration officer has to consider, anyone who knows anything about houses in multiple occupation will immediately realise that a formidable difficulty faces the registration officer. Under regulation 5(a), he has to discover the maximum number of persons for whom the premises are capable of providing residential accommodation". Here is an immediate difficulty, because he will probably find that the number of people living in those premises far exceeds the capacity of the building. It is not uncommon to go into a room in which one person could decently sleep and find four or five beds. Indeed, it has been found that there is a sort of Box and Cox arrangement, with different people staying at different times during the day and night. That shows the desperation of many young people who have to find accommodation. How will the registration officer find out how many people the premises are capable of providing for?

Under regulation 5(b), the registration officer has to find out the number of people who have stayed there at any time during the past three months. From my experience of canvassing houses in multiple occupation, I can tell the registration officer that no one knows exactly how many people stay there. The people who stay there do not know who is expected from night to night. The landlord is most reticent as to how many people stay there. Indeed, a number of cases—and there will be more—coming before the courts in Scotland concerning fraud turn precisely on the question of how many people are supposed to be staying in the premises at any one time. The fact is that the registration officer will not be able to find the number concerned, because the information is not readily available.

If one adds to the difficulty of determining for how long someone has stayed in those premises, to calculate the daily basis on which the community charge is payable, the difficulty of calculating rebate, one sees that this regulation alone will add to the bureaucratic nightmare and the considerable expense that will be incurred in order to operate this ridiculous Act.

Ironically some good could come to Scotland from these regulations if the Government would accept the demands of Glasgow and Edinburgh district councils for the power to police such premises and, perhaps, get rid of the exploitation and hardship being endured by some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Time and again the Government have turned their back on reasonable requests that would allow the districts to look at fire regulations, the accommodation available and decent standards of health and hygiene. The fact is that the Government are quite happy to turn a blind eye to the activities of some of the most disreputable people in Scotland. That is deregulation; that is free enterprise at its best—let these people practise their Rachmanite tendencies on the most vulnerable in society.

I believe that if the Government would give councils the powers that they so desperately need, many of the problems in city centres, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, could begin to be tackled. That is the only good thing that could come out of the regulations. If that is not done, regulation 5 will not work. The registration officer will have no more luck than the environmental health officer, the fire officer or anybody else who has tried to tackle the activities of landlords in these cities.

I hope that the Minister will pay attention to what has been said. It is not just hon. Members sitting on these Benches who have said it, but respectable people—even Government supporters in my constituency—[Interruption.] I was giving the Government a chance to salvage themselves. Many people living in the city centres of both Edinburgh and Glasgow would like the Government to take firm action to regulate these properties and to make the regulations work. Sadly, in this regulation, just as with everything else to do with the poll tax, the Government will be found wanting.

10.54 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) because, if I recollect exactly, before he got involved in a description of his hon. Friends which they found amusing, he was saying that the community charge, as referred to in these regulations—especially the collective community charge multiplier and the describing factors that appear in regulation 5—is unworkable.

However, I believe that there are positive advantages in the regulation. One is the fact that some sort of order and discipline will be brought into a situation in which, if I understood the hon. Gentleman's description correctly, there is multiple occupancy on a scale that is totally unacceptable. I accept that the hon. Gentleman knows much more about that than I do, because I do not fully understand it.

Mr. Darling

Yes, that is correct.

Mr. Walker

I think that that is a fair summing-up of what the hon. Gentleman said.

That being so, one of the ways of bringing about change is to hit people through their pockets, which is exactly what this will do.

If one accepts that the regulations are partly intended to ensure, first, that the landlord pays for the numbers, and, secondly, that those people who are occupying the premises on a transient multiple basis will be charged by the landlord, if the landlords are the Rachmans that the hon. Gentleman is claiming, the one thing that is absolutely certain is that they will make the charge. I do not think that any of us have any doubt about that. Once they have made the charge, the important thing will be how it is collected.

I do not deny that there will be some administrative difficulties and problems. However, the same is true of all taxes because people often try to avoid making their payments. That is true of value added tax. It is equally true that the community charge will involve self-declaration, as is often the case with value added tax. That tax also involves keeping records. If one does not keep records, one can find oneself in great trouble and difficulty. That will also be true in this case.

I turn to another matter that was raised earlier. 1 do not wish to make any comment on the Queen's country residence in Scotland, which is just north of my constituency. However, I remind the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) that staff in a second home, whether Balmoral or anywhere else, will pay the community charge. Many of those large homes have substantial staffs, all of whom will pay the community charge. Therefore, it is not quite true to say that people living in such homes will not be making their contribution or paying their share because they will be. Those who are living there will pay it—[Interruption.] I did not wish to make comments about the monarch. The hon. Member for Cathcart did that—I did not. I merely commented that people living in the second homes—the staff working there—will pay the community charge. Therefore, there is no question of those large homes not making their contribution to local finances.

I turn now to another matter that affects us in rural areas. Quite properly, holiday homes and second homes should make their contribution. That is what one would expect them to do. My constituency has many holiday and second homes and they should contribute to the expenses and costs, which they will be required to do under the regulations because, however one looks at it, anybody using a holiday home makes use of the police and the roads and is glad that the fire services are available. In my experience, all such people make use of the leisure arid recreation facilities. The libraries are well used, as acre water and sewerage facilities.

When hon. Members read Hansard tomorrow, they will realise that the hon. Member for Cathcart was spreading disinformation throughout his remarks. He kept making reference to a poll tax. There is no such thing. It does not exist. People are beginning to think that there are two different taxes—a community charge and, in addition, a poll tax. That is not surprising because Opposition Members have set out on a deliberate policy of disinformation. The more the community charge is investigated, and the more people refer to the fine booklet which has been distributed throughout Scotland, the moire they realise just what the community charge means. That booklet explains fully and clearly what the community charge is and how it affects second homes.

At public meetings in my constituency it has been most interesting—[Interruption.] Opposition Members seem to think that it is funny that people in Tayside, North, particularly in Pitlochry, should now accept that the community charge is a much fairer way of paying for local government. They accept that a contribution of 14p in the pound to local government expenditure is not draconian. Indeed, it is not any of the things which it had been called in the disinformation. It is a bargain when we consider the services that are provided. [Interruption.] Possibly the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has not realised what a difference there is between 14p and 25p. That is why we are finding in Scotland that the community charge is being accepted by many more people. On 5 May Opposition Members will get a shock when they see just how many people have understood what the community charge means and have showed their appreciation by their votes.

11.2 pm

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I preface my comments by supporting strongly the remarks of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling). He hit upon an important point in relation to houses in multiple occupancy which requires urgent attention. It may be difficult to make substantial improvements in the position through the poll tax legislation. In Committee on the Housing (Scotland) Bill the Under-Secretary of State suggested that the Government may consider legislation at an early stage to deal with some of the problems. If the Minister could confirm that, I think it would go a long way to alleviating the anxiety which is felt on this side of the House and, I suspect, on the Government side too.

It will be difficult for the Government to argue the case for the regulations because they cut across the underlying principle of the community charge which in essence and concept is wrapped around the principle of the individual's ability to pay. The community charge has a personal nature. The standard and collective charges have nothing to do with personal involvement. Therefore, it is an awkward and far-reaching anomaly in the principle and concept of the legislation. It exposes an important flaw.

I want to concentrate on the practicalities of some of the proposals in the regulations. There are questions which have been substantially unanswered about the scope of definitions in the body of the regulations. There is much vagueness in the legal definition of such terms as "practicable" and "short periods" which are in the main sections of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 which has spawned the regulations. The vagueness will lead to much inconsistency in the application of the regulations.

If a wide degree of discretion is left to registration officers, it will lead to a wide degree of implementation. In turn, that will lead to a wide degree of reference to the courts to appeal against the designation that has been nominated by the registration officer. That is not in anyone's interests and I invite the Minister to comment.

There are substantial unanswered questions about how the multiplier is to be implemented. The factors to be taken into account in these orders are substantially inadequate to get any degree of certainty whatever into the formula that is to be used to calculate the multiplier as it affects the collective community charge.

The extent of the collective community charge remains somewhat in question. If my briefing is right, in Committee the Minister said: there must be a strong presumption in favour of individual registration"—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 29 January 1987; c. 721.] That is, as opposed to standard or collective registration. Paragraph 7 of the consultation paper states: It is, however, envisaged that personal community charge registration should be the norm in all cases where it is practicable. I should like to know whether that remains the case and whether the standard and collective charges will be the substantial exception rather than the rule. If so, will the Minister answer one or two brief questions?

The Department must have done some investigation and research into how the collective community charge will work. How many premises in Scotland will be affected? How many individuals will be affected? What is the sum expected to be collected through the collective community charge? If it is to be the exception rather than the rule, I expect the answers to those questions to be minimal. If so, they may not be worth having. If the Minister takes into account the sum required to set up a proper appeal procedure and considers how landlords will be expected to pay the arrears of residents who abscond without paying, what proportion of the collective community charge contribution do the Government expect not to collect? Those are important questions and we need answers to them.

Some of the questions involve substantial implications for the civil liberties of a vulnerable group of people who may be subject to the collective charge, and that must be addressed. By definition, such people come from vulnerable and fragile social circumstances. As soon as they go through the front door of a residential establishment which is subject to the collective community charge they will he faced with a series of intricate, far-reaching and intrusive questions. That must be borne in mind.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) drew attention to some amendments made to the English Bill, particularly regarding the 5 per cent. maintenance fee, which have a substantial bearing on this debate. It is not right to say that the amendments being considered in another form on the Local Government Finance Bill are not impinging on our debate this evening.

These are important regulations. They do not clarify very much for me, as a lawyer. They are suffused with vagueness and raise many questions about the practicability of the collection of the charge. They are unworkable and unjust, and flow from an Act which is unfair and unwanted.

11.8 pm

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The Labour party should bear in mind that it stands massively discredited in the view of the Scottish people through its campaign of mass misinformation. The Scottish people do not like being hoodwinked and this will bounce back markedly in a few weeks' time.

I have in my hand the Scottish Local Government Information Unit bulletin, from which one notices that the editorial team comprises such people as Jean MacFadden, David Sanderson, Mark Lazarowicz, Steven Norris and other well-known Socialists. One would therefore take it that the information given in that bulletin about the community charge is hardly likely to be favourable to the Conservative party. Therefore, I quote from it with a degree of confidence, in view of the figures that it contains.

It states that in Dumfries and Galloway, for instance, the community charge would, if levied this year, be £210. Has the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) left the Chamber? No, I now see him, writing his Hansard notes. The figure for Roxburgh would be £211. Yet candidates from the Opposition party are going round quoting figures double that as being what the community charge is likely to be. They give out massive misinformation, and they also fail to indicate that rates will cease to be payable when the community charge comes into force.

Opposition Members must have pretty ghastly consciences about what they have been telling the people of Scotland concerning the practical impact of the community charge in due course. It is disgraceful that Labour candidates in Niths—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—are saying that the community charge—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. There is no vacancy here.

Sir Hector Monro

Opposition Members who support their candidates in those statements are a disgrace to politics generally in Scotland.

I believe that what is proposed by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scottish Office in the regulations before the House tonight is a move in the right direction in clarifying local government in respect of the change to the community charge system. When he has had an opportunity to speak tonight and to clarify points that have been raised on both sides of the House, he will be able to show that the Act was correct in both its policy and in its detail. I support it.

11.12 pm
Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) excelled himself with his contribution tonight. He almost achieved that for which he has been striving throughout this parliamentary Session—he almost cleared the Strangers' Gallery, with the exception of one slumbering person there.

The best that can be said of the three contributions from the Government Benches tonight is that none of them was worse than the contribution of the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday. They were slightly better, possibly because all of them were patently from the same set of notes. All we heard tonight was one comment about misinformation, and nothing whatsoever about the regulations before the House.

It was also patently obvious from those contributions that Government Members have learned nothing from three months of debate. Everyone else in this Chamber and outside it—particularly in Scotland—knows that we are here dealing with a personal poll tax, a regressive tax, and a tax that in no way relates to ability to pay. It is also a tax that presents an administrative nightmare.

If the personal poll tax is already massively unpopular in Scotland, the regulations with which we are dealing concerning the collective community charge take matters to total absurdity. Those regulations emphasise the nightmare that will face not only the Government and the bureaucrats who will have to administer the charge but the people who will have to pay it.

One provision in the regulations illustrates the poll tax taken to its ultimate absurdity. As we heard earlier, it is to apply to those who frequently have to move about and occasionally to those who have no fixed abode. The results of the regulations laid tonight will be overpayment of tax by individuals, under-entitlement to rebates to individuals, and carte blanche to landlords for overcharging in cases of multiple occupancy. It is nothing more than carte blanche for fiscal Rachmanism. We expect the Minister to tell us whether he will encourage Glasgow and Edinburgh in the policing of multiple occupancy and how he will ensure that any of the charges collected by landlords under the regulations will be fully paid. What is to stop individual landlords lowering bed usage in their declarations and withholding charges from the Exchequer?

The regulations will be an administrative nightmare. It was ironic yesterday when the Secretary of State for the Environment told us that it would not be possible to alleviate the problems of the lower paid by means of the poll tax because of the bureaucratic apparatus that would have to be set up. The Government can set up a bureaucratic apparatus to investigate DHSS fraud and social security claimants, they can set up a vast apparatus to administer the regulations that are before us, but it seems that it is not possible to produce an apparatus to encompass the scheme that was urged upon the Government by certain Conservative Members last night.

There are four brief reasons why the regulations should be rejected. First, they rely almost entirely on the discretion of registration officers, and experience suggests that they will not be successful. Secondly, we come to the multiplier and the inadequacy of the factors that are to be taken into consideration when setting it. Seasonal variations and occupancy should be taken into account. Thirdly, the collective community charge is unwieldy and shows the poll tax in its most anachronistic form. Fourthly, a host of important questions remain unanswered. Not least of those questions is that concerning women who face domestic violence, who have been left within the terms of the collective community charge in Scotland. It seems that such women have been exempted from the charge under the English legislation.

The poll tax as it stands is a burden and an injury to the Scottish people. It is an unfair tax that is being imposed on an unwilling people in an undemocratic fashion by an uncaring Government. The regulations add insult to injury and the Government would be best advised to save their face, our time and much trouble and misery in Scotland by abandoning them.

11.18 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

One of the minefields of the legislation that we are discussing is that of homes in multiple occupation, and I regret that time does not permit me to pursue it. Nor can I investigate those remarkable claims of support for the legislation. I understand that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) can in his constituency find pockets of support for the poll tax, while I assume that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) holds his public meetings in Brigadoon. But opinion poll statistics tell us that 80 per cent. of people in Scotland oppose the poll tax and will continue to do so ever more deeply and ever more strongly. I intend to deal only with the standard community charge.

I understand that there were once some Tory votes in Millport. I have some statistics about the impact of the standard community charge on that community. They reflect—even in the context of second homes—the fact that the charge takes no account of ability to pay. Once again that is the fatal flaw. There are 1,300 properties in Millport and 60 per cent. of them are occupied throughout the year. The other 40 per cent. are second homes. However, the popular second-home image is irrelevant to Millport. Second homes need not be bijou country residences. They can be tiny homes that may have no basic amenities and no inside toilets.

Under the legislation, the owners of these second homes will be liable to pay twice the community charge. In cash terms that means that, on an island with a population of 1,300 with 1,300 properties, the Government will take an extra £250,000 a year out of the island of Cum brae and the town of Millport.

Mr. Allan Stewart


Mr. Wilson

I know of the distinction offered between one and two times the personal charge hut, given everything else to do with the legislation, who would expect a local authority to set the lower charge? The Government supported by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) have not even allowed the possibility of setting it lower than one personal community charge in the Scottish legislation, unlike its English counterpart.

So, with this legislation, the Tory Government will take an extra £250,000 out of a seaside town that needs assistance, support and rehabilitation, not this penal fine. I understand the logic of what the Government are doing. It would not make sense, even by their standards, to say that people who own second homes without inside toilets or any of the amenities we would expect in our own homes should be exempted from the poll tax. How could they say that about second homes when they are not prepared to say it about first homes? Logically, how can they give relief to people who spend two weeks a year in such homes when they tell people who live for 52 weeks of the year in the most primitive conditions that they must pay the same poll tax as the people who live in the most prosperous, biggest mansions on the hill? In a perverse sort of way, I suppose, we should praise the Government for not allowing that sort of illogicality.

However, by extending the principle of ignoring ability to pay for second homes as well as first ones, the penalty that will be imposed on Millport will be £250,000, which it can ill afford.

I conclude with an anecdote from a phone-in radio programme in which I recently took part with the ex-hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, Mr. John J. MacKay, now exalted to even greater heights while he awaits the departure of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro)—

Sir Hector Monro

He will have to wait a long time.

Mr. Wilson

I hope that Hansard caught that. The hon. Member for Dumfries said that Mr. MacKay would have a long wait; on a historical note, he had a long wait in Argyll as well.

A blind man from Strachur phoned in and asked whether he would have to pay the iniquitous tax. Mr. MacKay, adopting the caring voice of Thatcherism, said that he was afraid that he would. The blind man said that he lived in a little house and had to move to another little house in winter, and asked whether he would still have to pay it. The answer again was yes. When he asked whether he would have to pay two poll taxes, the answer from caring Mr. MacKay was again yes. At that point I intervened to ask whether the blind man on the other end of the line would actually have to pay three poll taxes. Mr. MacKay had to agree that he would. That blind man has to divide his time between two tiny homes in Strachur and, despite having a minimal income, will have to pay three poll taxes so that the Duke of Argyll can save £5,000, £10,000 or £15,000 a year, like all the other Tory grandees who are the beneficiaries of this shameless handout.

Several Hon. Members


Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know of your deep concern for the protection of Back-Bench Members, and it cannot have escaped your notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who has tried to put forward the Scottish National party's view on the regulations, has once again been excluded from doing so.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I understand the frustration of the hon. Lady and her party. I only wish I could have called every hon. Member who wishes to speak in this debate.

11.19 pm
The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang)

I think we know the policy of the Scottish National party on the community charge: it is to urge the people of Scotland to break the law. We want no part of that sort of policy in the House.

This has been an interesting, useful and constructive debate. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, this is not the most controversial part of the community charge. This short set of regulations contains only three substantive provisions. I shall refer briefly to each in turn; and, in doing so, I shall try to deal with as many of the points raised during the debate as I can.

Regulation 3 prescribes certain classes of premises—briefly, uninhabitable property—that are not to be liable for the standard community charge. The standard community charge is payable in respect of dwelling houses where there is no one who is solely or mainly resident. That is, holiday homes and similar property. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) asked whether it is worth it. The answer to that is yes. Because with the abolition of domestic rates, no payment would need to be made for the local services that are provided for property of this kind if something like the standard community charge was not provided for. That would clearly not be right, since property-based services—fire services, street lighting, and so on—are provided in respect of these dwelling houses as they are provided in respect of other dwelling houses. In addition, owners and tenants of the property may use personal local services while they are actually resident in the property.

The Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 therefore provides for a simple system whereby property of this kind gives rise to liability for a standard community charge, to be set at between one and two units of the personal community charge for the area.

Mr. Maxton

It is a property tax.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Member for Cathcart says that it is a property tax and in his speech he said that it was an absurdity. The liability is on the owner of the property for the benefit that he as an individual has from the local services that are available. It is not a tax that is variable according to the circumstances of different types of property. The person liable to pay the charge is the owner or long-term tenant of the property. Local authorities will have discretion as to the level of standard community charge in each area.

We expect that it will produce a broadly similar level of revenue as domestic rates produce on these premises at present. During the passage of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill it was recognised that uninhabitable property should not be subject to the standard community charge. Regulation 3, therefore, fulfils the undertakings that were given on this point during the passage of the Bill.

Where property is clearly ruinous, we expect that it will be categorised by the assessor not as a dwelling house but under some other description—such as "premises" or "store"—and will thus remain in rating, with no question of standard community charge liability arising. Dwelling houses in respect of which closing or demolition orders have been served or which, though not subject to such an order, are incapable of being lived in because they are under reconstruction, would give rise to standard community charge liability, if they were not prescribed as being exempt. Regulation 3, therefore, provides for this prescription.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) queried Regulation 3(a). This refers to the demolition of dangerous property. He asked what would happen if the demolition order were to be revoked. In the relatively rare event of that taking place, the property owner would resume liability for the standard community charge. If it became inhabited as a sole or main residence, the resident would be liable for the personal community charge.

Regulations 4 and 5 relate to the collective community charge, which will be applied, in place of personal community charge liability, in respect of premises whose residents are so transient that it would not be practicable for registration officers to register them individually for the personal community charge, and for local authorities to collect personal community charges from them. There has been much criticism of the collective community charge mechanism, and indeed it is our firm intention that it should be used only in a very small number of cases. That answers the point made by a number of hon. Members. But no one has denied that a small number of such cases will exist, and that therefore something along the lines of the collective community charge is necessary.

Regulation 4 provides for the one use of the collective community charge that does not relate directly to the transience of the residents. It ensures that women's refuges will, in all cases, give rise to collective community charge liability.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)


I am sorry, but I shall not give way because I am on an important point.

This provision will ensure that the names of women staying in refuges will not appear on the community charges register, and the concomitant provision in regulation 15 of the Community Charges (Registration) (Scotland) Regulations 1988, which we debated on 28 March. ensures that the collective community charge multiplier, which will normally identify on the public register premises liable to the collective community charge, will not appear on the public register in the case of women's refuges. It will thus be impossible to distinguish from the public register women's refuges from any other address. These two provisions were brought forward after careful consideration, during the passage of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill, of the position of women in refuges and the need for their anonymity to be preserved. I am confident that the mechanism that we propose will achieve that on a consistent basis throughout Scotland.

The hon. Member for Cathcart asked about the English situation. I accept that it would be possible to deal with the position of women in refuges along these lines rather than through the mechanism provided in regulation 4. That procedure is indeed envisaged for England and Wales. The mechanism that I have described was formulated after careful consideration of the views put forward, including the views of Scottish Women's Aid, during the passage of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill. It provides a standard mechanism for all women's refuges throughout Scotland to which Scottish Women's Aid attaches considerable importance.

I would therefore be reluctant to replace that mechanism with a general provision for anonymous registration, which would depend on women resident in refuges making individual applications to the community charges registration officer for their names to be removed from the public form of the register.

The hon. Member for Cathcart also asked me about rebates from collective community charge contributions. We have always made it clear that those who pay collective community charge contributions, like those who pay the personal community charge, should be eligible for—

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (;Prayers against statutory instruments &c. (negative procedure)).

The House proceeded to a Division—

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) [seated and covered]

On a point of order; Madam Deputy Speaker. May I urge you to reconsider the question of locking the doors? I suggest, with respect, that they were locked two minutes too soon.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I can help the hon. Member. There is something wrong with the digital clock. I shall allow another two minutes.

The House having divided: Ayes 164, Noes 277.

Division No. 266] [11.30 Pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Faulds, Andrew
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Allen, Graham Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Alton, David Flynn, Paul
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Armstrong, Hilary Foster, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Foulkes, George
Barron, Kevin Fyfe, Maria
Battle, John Galbraith, Sam
Beggs, Roy George, Bruce
Beith, A. J. Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bell, Stuart Golding, Mrs Llin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Gordon, Mildred
Bermingham, Gerald Graham, Thomas
Bidwell, Sydney Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Blair, Tony Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boyes, Roland Harman, Ms Harriet
Bradley, Keith Henderson, Doug
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hinchliffe, David
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hogg, N. (C'nauid & Kilsyth)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Holland, Stuart
Buchan, Norman Home Robertson, John
Caborn, Richard Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Illsley, Eric
Clay, Bob Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clelland, David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kirkwood, Archy
Cohen, Harry Lambie, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Leadbitter, Ted
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Lewis, Terry
Corbyn, Jeremy Livsey, Richard
Cousins, Jim Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Crowther, Stan McAllion, John
Cryer, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Cummings, John McCartney, Ian
Cunningham, Dr John Macdonald, Calum A.
Dalyell, Tam McFall, John
Darling, Alistair McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McKelvey, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) McLeish, Henry
Dixon, Don McTaggart, Bob
Doran, Frank McWilliam, John
Douglas, Dick Madden, Max
Duffy, A. E. P. Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dunnachie, Jimmy Marek, Dr John
Eadie, Alexander Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Eastham, Ken Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Martlew, Eric
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Maxton, John
Fatchett, Derek Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'I & Bute) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Soley, Clive
Morgan, Rhodri Spearing, Nigel
Morley, Elliott Steinberg, Gerry
Mowlam, Marjorie Stott, Roger
Mullin, Chris Strang, Gavin
Murphy, Paul Straw, Jack
O'Brien, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Parry, Robert Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Patchett, Terry Turner, Dennis
Pike, Peter L. Wall, Pat
Primarolo, Dawn Wallace, James
Quin, Ms Joyce Walley, Joan
Redmond, Martin Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Reid, Dr John Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Robertson, George Wilson, Brian
Robinson, Geoffrey Winnick, David
Rogers, Allan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rooker, Jeff Worthington, Tony
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted Tellers for the Ayes:
Ruddock, Joan Mr. Frank Haynes and
Salmond, Alex Mr. Robert N. Wareing.
Short, Clare
Alexander, Richard Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Colvin, Michael
Allason, Rupert Conway, Derek
Amess, David Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Amos, Alan Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Arbuthnot, James Cope, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cran, James
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Ashby, David Curry, David
Aspinwall, Jack Davies, Q. (Stamf'd &350 Spald'g)
Atkins, Robert Davis, David (Boothferry)
Atkinson, David Day, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Devlin, Tim
Baldry, Tony Dickens, Geoffrey
Batiste, Spencer Dicks, Terry
Bellingham, Henry Dorrell, Stephen
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bevan, David Gilroy Dover, Den
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dunn, Bob
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Durant, Tony
Boswell, Tim Emery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Peter Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Evennett, David
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fallon, Michael
Bowis, John Farr, Sir John
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Favell, Tony
Brazier, Julian Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bright, Graham Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fookes, Miss Janet
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Forman, Nigel
Brown, Michael (Brigg & CI't's) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Forth, Eric
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Buck, Sir Antony Fox, Sir Marcus
Budgen, Nicholas Franks, Cecil
Burns, Simon Freeman, Roger
Burt, Alistair French, Douglas
Butcher, John Fry, Peter
Butler, Chris Gale, Roger
Butterfill, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Goodlad, Alastair
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carrington, Matthew Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carttiss, Michael Gow, Ian
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Gower, Sir Raymond
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Chapman, Sydney Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Chope, Christopher Gregory, Conal
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Clark Dr Michael (Rochford) Grist, Ian
Ground, Patrick Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Moore, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Hampson, Dr Keith Moss, Malcolm
Hanley, Jeremy Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hannam, John Neale, Gerrard
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Needham, Richard
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Nelson, Anthony
Harris, David Neubert, Michael
Hawkins, Christopher Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hayes, Jerry Nicholls, Patrick
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heddle, John Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Page, Richard
Hind, Kenneth Paice, James
Holt, Richard Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Patten, Chris (Bath)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pawsey, James
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Michael
Hunter, Andrew Powell, William (Corby)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Price, Sir David
Irvine, Michael Raffan, Keith
Irving, Charles Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Robert Redwood, John
Janman, Tim Renton, Tim
Jessel, Toby Riddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Key, Robert Rost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rowe, Andrew
Kirkhope, Timothy Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knapman, Roger Ryder, Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Sackville, Hon Tom
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sayeed, Jonathan
Knowles, Michael Shaw, David (Dover)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shelton, William (Streatham)
Latham, Michael Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lightbown, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lilley, Peter Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Speed, Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Speller, Tony
Lord, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Stanbrook, Ivor
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Stanley, Rt Hon John
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stern, Michael
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Stokes, John
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mans, Keith Summerson, Hugo
Maples, John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marland, Paul Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thorne, Neil
Mates, Michael Thurnham, Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Tracey, Richard
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tredinnick, David
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Trippier, David
Mellor, David Trotter, Neville
Miller, Hal Twinn, Dr Ian
Mills, Iain Waddington, Rt Hon David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Walden, George
Moate, Roger Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Monro, Sir Hector Waller, Gary
Ward, John Winterton, Mrs Ann
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Winterton, Nicholas
Warren, Kenneth Wolfson, Mark
Watts, John Wood, Timothy
Wells, Bowen Woodcock, Mike
Wheeler, John Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Ray Younger, Rt Hon George
Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Jerry Tellers for the Noes:
Wilkinson, John Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Wilshire, David Mr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have just been watching the Division, and I was interested to see that at least 13 Tory Members who voted against the principle of an unfair poll tax for England and Wales yesterday were cheerfully voting in favour of the same principle for Scotland. That number included the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates). Where does that leave the principle of fairness in the United Kingdom?

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order, and no breach of order has been committed, and the hon. Gentleman knows that.

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