HC Deb 19 April 1988 vol 131 cc760-81
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

I beg to move amendment No. 147, in page 11, line 8, leave out clause 16.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 150, in page 11, line 8, leave out 'This section applies' and insert 'Regulations may provide that this section shall apply'. No. 151, in page 11, line 16, at end insert— '(1 A) Regulations shall not be made under this Section until the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a report on the relationship between joint and several liability for community charge and the assessment of married people for income tax purposes planned to be in effect from 1st April 1990. (1B) Regulations shall not be made under this Section unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'. No. 148, in page 11, line 45, at end insert— '(9) For the purposes of this section the power of recovery by distress shall not be exercised against a spouse in respect of arrears accruing from any period when subsection (7) above applied where the person who incurred the initial liability is no longer residing in the matrimonial home and the spouse is residing in the matrimonial home and is entitled to a rebate under section 23 below'.

Ms. Richardson

Amendment No. 147 seeks to remove the most blatant contradiction in this Bill. Our other amendments provide safeguards that will be necessary if the proposed clause is carried.

The concept of joint and several liability in clause 16 exposes the cynical hypocrisy of the major argument put forward by the Government time and time again in support of the poll tax: that every individual must be made personally responsible and accountable both for payment of the tax and, at least in the Government's thinking, for their voting behaviour except—I repeat, except—if they happen to be married or live with someone as husband and wife. That is the plain fact of the matter.

In this instance, it is just a small matter of some millions of spouses—or millions of contradictions, really—for whom personal responsibility and accountability will be stood on its head by joint and several liability. It will enforce responsibility for each other's non-payment of tax and tax arrears, regardless of ability to pay, upon married and cohabiting men and women.

Nothing exposes the real driving force behind the Bill more clearly than that provision: one law for one, and one law for another. That is what the Government put forward. The real driving force is to continue the Government's programme of redistributing resources from the poor and near-poor to the rich and the richest. It follows the pattern of successive Budgets, culminating with this year's obscene £2 billion tax handout to top taxpayers, as well as the pattern of successive social security so-called upratings and reviews, with this month's tragic implementation of the new social security system, which has robbed the poorest in our society of a further £1 billion.

It follows also the pattern of redistributing wealth from north to south. Last but by no means least, it follows the pattern of redistributing resources from women to men.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Lady speaks of the redistribution of wealth from the north to the south. But under the Bill as a whole there will be a substantial redistribution of money from the south to the north, which is the best regional policy this country will ever see.

8.45 pm
Ms. Richardson

The hon. Lady has not done her homework. I suggest that she reads the debate, because time and again the point has been made by my hon. Friends that what she claims is entirely untrue.

Women's earnings are still less than three quarters of men's average earnings, and I am sorry to say that the gap is widening. For many women in part-time employment, the gap is even wider. Does the House have any real concept of what that means? It means that women form the majority of those in the poverty trap; 75 per cent. of women low-income earners will be only partially exempt. Anyone receiving income support will still pay 20 per cent. of the charge, but part or all of that sum may be returned—though I stress the word "may". Low earners will also have to pay a percentage of poll tax; again, there may be limited rebates.

Last week's decision to extend limited exemption will only marginally slow down the rate at which the rebate is lost as income rises; those affected will now lose only 15p of rebate for every extra £1 earned above income support level instead of 20p. Several million women fall into those categories. Women who are unemployed, single parents, caring for children or for elderly dependants and who are pushed into unemployment or low-paid, part-time work at such levels of income, will find paying another £100 or £200 a year impossible.

One may look at the case of black and ethnic minority women. Many women who are black or Asian are in jobs in the service sector and in professional services such as nursing; we have just finished a debate on student nurses. They are all jobs that are unjustifiably undervalued and underpaid. Asian women of working age are not economically active and have no paid work outside the house. Ethnic minority communities are concentrated in the inner-city areas and served by authorities that will be hardest hit by the poll tax. For example, it is estimated that the full charge in Camden will be £782.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

That is because it is a rotten authority.

Ms. Richardson

That combination of factors means that women from the ethnic minorities will be badly hit. Approximately 5 million spouses are unwaged. The vast majority on them are women, and most married women cannot register for unemployment benefit. Joint and several liability means that, where one partner is not in paid employment, they will be dependent on their spouse or partner for payment of the poll tax. In the case of non-payment, they will be responsible also for arrears accrued by a spouse or partner who has subsequently deserted, regardless of their ability to pay and up to the point of attachment of earnings, of seizure of goods, or both.

My postbag—this certainly applies to those of my hon.Friends as well, and probably to those of Conservative Members—is overflowing with the fears, insecurity, anxiety and turmoil that the measure has brought about m individual women and organisations representing women, especially women who suffer mental or physical abuse within the family. The concern that the proposal is causing should not be underestimated by Conservative Members, or by those in the other place who are interested in the issue. Despite the existence of violence against women in every society known to us, and in every time in recorded history, this is an aspect that must be drawn to the Government's attention all along the line.

I pay tribute to the work of Women's Aid—especially the Welsh branch—on the issue of the register, and the danger posed to some women if their addresses are published, as well as its work on joint and several liability. For women living in strained relationships, abuse frequently takes the form of financial deprivation. Many women have no knowledge of how much their husbands earn, and no access to, or control over, their household income. Women in such already stressful and sometimes violent relationships will be placed under further intolerable stress and danger. They will be powerless to control their partners, and may come under pressure to withhold their names from the poll tax register and the electoral roll to avoid the tax—and the aggravation, and indeed the threats, that it will cause. If and when the relationship breaks down and he walks out without trace, leaving all the debts, she will be liable.

Mr. Butterfill

Does the hon. Lady object to the principle now existing in many cases under English law whereby a husband can be responsible for his wife's debts, or is it merely the extension of that principle to put women on an equal footing for the purposes of the Bill to which she objects?

Ms. Richardson

I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman is making. If I talk mostly about women, it is because it is a plain fact of life that, in the majority of break-ups in this country, it is the man who leaves the family. I see case after case in my surgeries—I assure the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) who is shaking her head—in which the woman who comes to see me has been left because her husband is in some way not strong enough to bear the burdens, stresses and strains of the poverty in which they live. I beg the hon. Lady to believe that. If she examines some of her cases, she will find that it is true.

Let me return to the point that I was making about people leaving debts for which whoever is left behind in the home—usually the woman—is liable. In Committee, the Minister said that, by and large, it would be left to local authorities to decide how to recover the money. I raised the point in a meeting with my local authority last Friday. Until then, the authority had not appreciated it. My borough treasurer went pale at the thought of having to set up some form of policing mechanism to chase the departing spouse and find out where he, or even she, was, and to make him or her responsible—if that was the authority's decision.

Marriage guidance counsellors are warning us that financial problems are already a major source of marital stress and breakdown. The added burden of the poll tax on low-income families, and families of all kinds in which women have to bear responsibilities for full-time child care or the full-time care of disabled relatives—now one in eight women—will greatly increase that stress.

Mr. Leigh

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Richardson

If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I shall continue with my argument. We have very little time.

An estimated 5 million women are caring for disabled or elderly parents. Their ability to take up paid employment is severely limited, and for most of them it is out of the question. In fact, it is the second most common reason for women to take early retirement. The Scottish National Association of Carers is convinced that the extra burden of the poll tax will tip the balance on whether families are able to cope with the financial burden of their own tax as well as that of their elderly parents. The association says: There are already enough tensions in households caring for an old person who may be incontinent or senile. The Poll Tax is the straw which will break the camel's back. Under the Government's proposals, a woman who is married or cohabiting, and who has given up her job or taken early retirement to care for her mother, or his mother, or her father, may find herself responsible not only for her own tax but for her spouse's, if he leaves, and for her dependant's tax. She will not be able to cope with that, other than by trying to put her relative into a hospital bed that may no longer exist, or into a home, if there is a place there.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman


Ms. Richardson

No, I shall not give way again. The hon. Lady can make her own speech in a moment.

The Government have created a cruel and inhuman situation, and have added unnecessary burdens to the already overburdened carers. Moreover, if the legislation is implemented, it will pose real problems for the security—and, sadly for some, the safety—of women. I cannot put the case better than it was put by the Women's National Commission—which is, after all, sponsored and supported by the Government. In its evidence on the poll tax, the commission said: It seems likely that joint and several liability for husbands and wives and for common law partners will be repeated in the legislation for England and Wales". The commission was discussing the Scottish legislation. Presumably, the Government assumes that husbands will pay the tax bill of their non-working wives. It is difficult to see what advantage the community charge has over rates in these circumstances. I echo that. It is also difficult to see how this matches the objective of all adults paying the local tax. Women may not like the assumption, but they may have no option but to ask their husbands to pay. I hope that the House will support the amendment. Clause 16 must be deleted. It must be replaced with the only measures that can seriously tackle the discrimination and injustice at the heart of the Bill. Such measures must address the ability to pay of every individual at every level.

9 pm

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I want to speak briefly about amendment No. 147, which seeks to get rid of clause 16, concerning joint and several liability. Joint and several liability offends the most basic of liberal values, which hold that everyone should be treated as an individual and not be assessed as an appendage to someone else. As we said in Committee, joint and several liability will lead to a gross invasion of privacy.

For example, how will a registration officer assess who is living together as husband and wife? Will local authorities use the same criteria as the DHSS uses for benefit entitlement? If so, our fears are legitimate. If the registration officer uses the same criteria, he or she will have to establish that the couple in question usually lives in the same house and has a stable relationship. How can that be found out? He will also have to ascertain whether two people have a sexual relationship. That is the most intrusive and repugnant part of the information-gathering exercise. Are the people known by neighbours and friends as a married couple? In other words, is there public acknowledgement of their state, or will the information be gleaned from local gossip? This is a charter for clipes and snoopers.

Joint and several liability places women in a particularly difficult position in cases of separation or divorce, as we have already heard. After splitting up with her partner a woman may find that he had failed to pay his poll tax bill and she will therefore be liable for his bill, in arrears, for the period during which she lived with him. Gingerbread, the single parents' organisation, tells us that women are often left to sort out the finances after marital breakup—gas and electricity bills, and so on. We have no reason to suppose that the poll tax liabilities will be any different.

The consequences for women are potentially horrible, especially for those who may be in an unhappy marriage in which they stick it out for the sake of their children. Husbands and wives, and men and women living together as such, will receive individual bills, but the non-earning or low-paid wife will find herself having to go, perhaps, to a bullying and harsh husband to ask him to pay her poll tax. Not every Conservative Member may be aware of how much verbal and physical abuse goes on in domestic circumstances—in private and public. I am aware of it because of my former employment in the National Health Service, and it can be frightening and distressing for the couples involved—particularly the women.

The concept of joint and several liability undermines the Government's basic case for the poll tax. They say that by charging each individual they will increase the tax base, thus enhancing local government accountability; but by making one person responsible for two, they are, in practical terms, reducing the tax base.

We do not want only individual liability: we want individual assessment. If the Government are unwilling to remove joint and several liability from the Bill, they should at least review it. For example, rather than having complete joint liability, why not have one-way liability, whereby a local authority would be obliged to take into account the respective resources of the spouses when deciding whom to pursue for poll tax arrears? It should not be able to pursue a spouse who would have been entitled to a rebate in respect of the poll tax if she or he had been assessed on an individual basis. That would at least be a step towards individual assessment, and one of this group of amendments goes some way towards it. In any case, the Government should withdraw the clause and rethink the issue.

The Secretary of State said on the radio this morning that the Government were honouring a commitment made at the election to abolish the rate system and introduce a fair community charge, and that that had been overwhelmingly endorsed by the electorate. He was wrong on both counts. The poll tax is unfair, and to say that the commitment was endorsed by the people of this country is farcical.

Because of our crazy electoral system, the Government have a majority of over 100 seats, but they choose to ignore the reality that just over 13.5 million people voted for them while over 18 million people voted against them and against the poll tax. It has to be said again and again that the poll tax proposals are fundamentally flawed because they are unfair. They are immoral simply because they do not relate to ability to pay.

Mr. Butterfill

I hesitate to intrude in arguments being propounded by lady Members of the Opposition, but I do so because something should be said about the general principle of joint and several liability. Earlier I asked the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) whether she objected to the principle that applies in some cases, but not all, that a husband should be responsible for his wife's debts, being extended to a wife.

Many of the Opposition arguments that we have heard in other debates imply that men and women should be treated equally in all things. To some extent, lady Members of the Opposition are seeking to have their cake and eat it. I can understand why they wish to do that, but I wish that they would be rather more consistent in their arguments.

Mrs. Wise

Has the hon. Gentleman overlooked the fact that the amendment that we are discussing calls for the deletion of clause 16? That would relieve husbands just as much as wives of joint and several liability.

Mr. Butterfill

I have not overlooked that. I was looking at the principle underlying the arguments advanced by the hon. Ladies and the reasons that they are putting forward, and they seem to support the general tenor of my argument.

When one goes further and looks at the practicalities, one sees that the problem is perhaps being overstated by the Opposition. To begin with, a wife who had been abandoned by her husband would not be responsible for the poll tax liability under joint and several liability after the time at which the husband had left the matrimonial home. She would be likely to be pursued under joint and several liability only if the local government officer charged with the responsibility for collecting the tax thought that her resources were likely to be greater than those of the husband and that he would be more likely to make a poll tax collection by pursuing her than by pursuing the husband.

The whole concept of joint and several liability, which applies not just in this area but in many other areas—for example, in partnership law—is that the person seeking to collect the debt may collect it from any one of the persons who are jointly and severally liable, and the tendency is to go for the person most likely to be able to pay. I suggest to the hon. Member for Preston that in most cases the husband's financial position may well remain better than that of the wife, certainly in the circumstances that most concern the hon. Lady. Therefore, it is likely that in most cases the local government officer will still seek to recover from the husband rather than from the wife. He will be likely to seek recovery from the wife only when he knows that she has significant assets or assets that are adequate to enable her to meet the liability.

Mr. Cousins

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in the northern region at least 40,000 women are the main earners in families where the husbands are unemployed, and that, under subsequent Government amendments, very often the low earnings of those 40,000 women can be attached to meet any poll tax default by their husbands?

Mr. Butterfill

I am well aware of the situation described by the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that even he would suggest that more women than men are the principal earners in households, even in the region that he represents. I recognise the problems of that region, but, overwhelmingly, the male will be the principal earner in most households, although that situation is changing in various parts of the country. It is changing in London, where a large number of women may well he earning larger salaries than their husbands. We recognise that that is a new phenomenon in some parts of the country, although it can be explained by different reasons in the north and south of the country.

There would be no point in a local government officer pursuing for debt an abandoned wife who is in a poor economic situation, because she could not afford to meet that debt. Even if he took the matter to court, it would be unlikely that a judge would order a distraint upon the home when the home contains little more than the bare necessities of life. That problem should not, therefore, concern Opposition Members to the extent that it obviously has done. If we are talking about a general principle, it is entirely equitable and reasonable, and It should have thought acceptable to Opposition Members, that in most matters men and women should be treated equally.

Ms. Mowlam

I should like to speak briefly in support of the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), seeking to remove clause 16. and to explain why this part of the poll tax legislation is so negative and such a nightmare that many of us never dreamt that it would be implemented.

I should like to begin by responding to the two points raised by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill). First, he will be well within his rights to say that we want our cake and to eat it, when we have part of that cake. When we have equal pay for equal work and equal work for equal pay, we shall begin to entertain those arguments. When equal rights legislation is implemented, we shall entertain that kind of discussion, but not before.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman must realise that he is in the realms of fantasy. He must remember that the Bill places the local authority in a Catch 22 situation. Although he sat through 150 hours of Committee proceedings along with me, I must remind him that the Minister said then that, if the husband does a runner—it is more likely to be the husband who does that—the local authority will try to locate the husband. What about the question of cost that the local authority has to face with no extra funding? A certain level of poll tax that the local authority must obtain will be set, but, if the husband cannot be located, what does the local authority do? Does it say, "We're sorry. We're not going to collect that money?" Then it will be penalised by central Government for not collecting the money, so it will go for the person, usually the woman, who is left in the house.

The Minister did a body swerve on that point. He tried to weave and bob over the question whether the local authority would issue a distress order. If one reads the report carefully, one sees that that is up to the local authority, but, if it is put in that Catch 22 situation, and has to get the money, clearly we know what it—

Mr. Butterfill

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Mowlam

No, I shall not give way, as a number of Labour Members wish to speak. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West has already made a fair contribution tonight.

The distress order would be issued and the woman would be faced with the bill, the distress order and the loss of furniture. That is why the hon. Gentleman is not being honest to women when explaining the effects of this part of the legislation.

Mr. Butterfill

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Mowlam

No, I shall not give way.

I should like to emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) last night, that the full impact of this part of the legislation will become real to the majority of people only when they experience it, just as happened with the social security legislation. We are talking about 1 million co-habitees, not just the odd thousand, and 25 per cent. of married people. We are talking about a large percentage of the population who will feel the full impact of the legislation.

Let us look briefly at what will happen if this farce of a clause is not withdrawn tonight. A couple will sit down and begin to pay the bills—electricity, gas and telephone. When the two poll tax bills arrive, will one say, "Here's yours dear and this is mine"? I cannot believe it. This clause undermines the principle that the Government have been talking about throughout the legislation—that is local accountability, a personal poll tax and people seeing the services that they get-and makes it clear that this is not what the Bill is about. If we link it, although the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) does not have the intellectual capacity to make that link, with poll capping, we clearly see central Government attacking local authorities to the death.

9.15 pm

The Minister was economical with the truth in Committee when he talked about joint and several liability because he implied that it will come into practice only when a couple is splitting up or there is a divorce. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking made clear, it will work before that. For example, 40 per cent. of married women have no independent income. What will happen? The wage earner will pay two poll taxes. Three quarters of women earn below the average wage of men and are part-time workers and low-paid workers. They will be paying not individual bills but joint bills as a family unit. Furthermore, when there is a divorce or separation, the splitting of the poll tax will not work from day one. As a result of the Government's social security changes, women cannot register as unemployed if they are married, so they cannot claim rebate. Women are penalised by a combination of the poll tax and social security changes, and they will suffer.

Let us look briefly at how joint and several liability will work. This has already been dealt with, so I will touch on it only briefly. I would like to know, but I shall not give him a chance to explain it, the opinion of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West as to how the local authority chases the richest partner. He said earlier that all that would be on the register would be the name and address of each individual. He is now suggesting that the local registration officer will know how much everybody earns. Clearly, such information will be on the register, if not at the beginning, halfway through, when joint and several liability has to be implemented. Clearly, as in social security, neighbours will have to snoop about sexual relationships so that the officer can work out whether there should be joint or several liability.

The operation of this will be farcical. Often, when couples split up, they separate for a couple of weeks, try to patch it up again, and split up again. The local registration officer will have to say, "Well, you argued the morning of the Tuesday so we don't count the three days when you were apart, but then you got back together for four days, so those four days you are liable for if he goes again." Whose word do we believe when somebody sees them walk through the door at 10 past nine? Does that count as a day when working out joint and several liability? Goodness knows how it will be implemented. I pity the poor registration officer who will have to work out such details. The Pontius Pilate attitude that we have seen exhibited by Ministers, who wash their hands of the matter and say that local authorities will decide, is reprehensible when the Government will corner local authorities and make them get the money in.

The Secretary of State obviously does not want the title of feminist which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was after—feeble though it was, he at least introduced a move towards independent taxation for women—because clause 16 clearly penalises women. The clause shows that poll tax is part of the problem, but it is not a solution to the problems that face many people, particularly women, in this society.

The Minister for Local Government says in an article he wrote for the Local Government Chronicle: No one could have thought it possible to do this"— that is, to implement the poll tax— while pleasing absolutely everyone. It has become blatantly obvious, especially in the past couple of days, that it is not a question of the Minister pleasing everyone; it is a question of the Minister pleasing anyone. Conservative Back Benchers did not support the Front Bench on this issue. Across the board, society after society, such as the CBI, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and the Rating and Valuation Association, criticised the legislation.

If the clause is not amended or withdrawn, the majority of women in this country will suffer from an unfair and unjust measure. The Minister told us yesterday that we are looking for the holy grail. Women are looking for justice and fairness in the poll tax legislation. If clause 16 is not withdrawn, certainly we shall not see that.

Mrs. Wise

The poll tax legislation is bad enough for women in any case because they frequently have no income, and, if they are working, they are low-wage earners. Even a woman who is on her own and a low wage earner will be penalised by this legislation because she will pay a higher proportion of her income than do most men. This is bad for women.

Clause 16 makes the situation for women infinitely worse. Many couples have only one income. I assure the Minister that we are complaining about the clause because it is detrimental to both sexes. It is almost always the case that things that are detrimental to women are detrimental to both sexes in the final analysis. It is bad for a husband to be regarded as liable for his wife's debts, and to have this fresh debt put on him. It is wrong from the viewpoint of both husband and wife, because the whole ethos is that the wife is an appendage to her husband. He has a burden because he has a wife and she lacks dignity because she is a wife. That situation is equally bad for both partners and not conducive to the development of a healthy marriage.

A couple with one income is being doubly taxed. It is no consolation to the woman, who feels that she brings this debt with her by her very existence, that her husband must pay the bill. As has been pointed out, where there is stress or strain on a marriage, this is yet another complaint that a husband may make. A husband may be minded to say, "You have not brought in a penny. Why do you think you have a right to say how the household will be organised?" The poll tax will create intolerable stress in unhappy marriages. It is also demeaning for both partners to a happy marriage. The husband, at least, is that much more likely to have the wherewithal to meet the debt than the wife.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill), who has left the Chamber, said that local authorities will go after the husband because he is the richer partner. But the hon. Gentleman has not understood that local authorities will go after the accessible partner, the person left in the house, whether a man or a woman. That is the person whose whereabouts are known, and it will more often be the woman than the man. Whoever it is, it is an iniquitous situation. Of course, it will usually be the partner who also has the liability for the children. Therefore, it is the person who is on the spot and usually already carrying an unfair part of the former family's burden.

The fact that we are asking for the removal of clause 16 shows that we want a more truly equal approach for men and women in this matter. It has been said that we should be pleased that men and women are being given an equal burden; that wives will be responsible for their husbands' liability and husbands for their wives' liability. I must inform Conservative Members that when we ask for equality we mean equalling up, not down. We want everybody to be treated not only equally but well, and that is what the Bill signally fails to do.

There is the problem of those who are not formally married. Who is to decide whether people are living together as man and wife? Surely social security problems have given rise to enough experience to enable all hon. Members to understand what a minefield any discussion of cohabitation is. Will there be a repetition of those disgraceful events when widows who take lodgers are deemed thereby to have entered into a marital relationship? All hon. Members have had experiences in their constituencies of the kind of disgraceful things that happen when officialdom has to decide whether people are living together.

The wording of the clause is most odd. It has been said that responsibility for future debts extends only to members of the household—that they are not responsible once the family is broken up. That drew my attention to the wording of the clause. I did not have the good fortune, or misfortune, to serve on the Committee. I was not aware of every dot and comma in the Bill. Clause 16 provides: For the purposes of this section people are married to each other if they are a man and woman—

  1. (a) who are married to each other and are members of the same household, or
  2. (b) who are not married to each other but are living together as husband and wife."
Then it goes on to say: For the purposes of this section people are not married to each other on a particular day unless they are married to each other throughout the day. If couples say that they are living together on a certain day, how will the matter be judged by the local authority? This is even worse than the social security system, and that is bad enough. I do not know whether Conservative Members understand the social security system—I hope that it is being brought radically to their attention at the moment—but anyone who does will know that the excuse for the cohabitation rule is that women who are claimants must not be treated more favourably than married women who cannot be claimants. That at least has some basis in logic, even though I disagree with it. But in this case, the Government are deliberately laying a trap. There would be no need for a cohabitation rule if there was not already joint and several liability for married couples.

The Government are extremely ill-advised in pursuing this matter. The women of Britain will see that the Government have every reason to regret it unless they agree to delete the clause.

9.30 pm
Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

I wish to support the case so well made by Opposition Members against this clause. I endorse what the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has said about cohabitation, because the clause does not tell us who decides whether a couple are living together as man and wife. We can only assume that the registration officer's staff will have that unpleasant duty. The clause does not tell us what criteria are to be used. Like other hon. Members, I can only assume that they are going to be the sort of criteria that are now used in social security cases.

The hon. Member for Preston referred to unpleasant cases. I have had at least two cases of 70-year-old widows who have been accused of cohabiting with young men living in their homes and have lost their social security benefits as a result. But at least in cases like that there is an appeal machinery; a person who loses a social security benefit has an opportunity of going to appeal. As far as I can see, in this clause there is no appeal mechanism of any kind.

It seems to be suggested that we are going to have unpleasant snooping and peering into windows to see who is sleeping where and what is going on inside a household where there is said to be cohabitation. In some parts of the country the registration officer's staff will be extremely busy because in London and the south-east, for example, there are many cases of young people who get together in order to purchase a home. It may look as if they are cohabiting, but often what they are doing—to use the phrase that one of them once used to me—is sharing a roof but not a ceiling. It will be extremely difficult for the registration officer to establish that sort of relationship. From what I know of local authority officers, I cannot believe that they will welcome this business of being turned into a team of poll tax snoopers, which will be the result of this legislation.

I want to draw on some constituency experience to explore what this clause will mean in certain cases. Take the case of a man who moves in with a woman and her children, establishes a relationship and lives with her for a period. Perhaps it does not work out and he moves on, but he failed to register for the community charge while he was there and the local authority discovered that he was there. That may be why he moved on. The woman in that situation would find herself liable to pay his community charge. If she claimed that he was merely a lodger in her home, which he might well have been, it would be extremely difficult to prove because the fact could not be proved, so she would be stuck with that situation.

Let us take the break-up of a relationship. A number of examples have been quoted of what happens in such a break-up. Presumably the joint and several liability to community charge will cease on divorce. That is clear, straightforward and undeniable. But separation is very much more difficult to define. At what point, for the purpose of paying the community charge, does that relationship end? Is it when the man physically leaves the property? Is it when the relationship has broken down and they have ceased to live with each other as man and wife? It is almost impossible to explain that and make it work in any fair or rational way.

Mr. Dalyell

It was put to me by one distraught local government officer that we shall need a battalion of Sherlock Holmeses to sort it out.

Mr. Cartwright

We had some discussion yesterday about the relative costs of various systems of paying for local services, but I think that the cost of administering this appalling tax is something that the Government have not even begun to work out.

Coming back to the question of the break-up of a relationship, the working partner is usually, if not always, the man. It is the man who tends to depart, because it is the woman who is left to look after the children and she therefore finds it much more difficult to disappear and evade responsibility. If the working partner—in this case we will assume that it is the man—has departed, leaving his non-employed partner behind, he is not likely, the relationship having broken up, to want to pay her community charge. He may well find it possible to disappear and not be traced. He may well have told his partner that he has paid the poll tax when he has not paid all of it, and there may be a substantial part of it outstanding. In that case, we know that the woman who is left in the home will be liable to the charge. We know that that is what will happen because it happens now.

After the break-up of a relationship, the woman is left behind with the children and she is pursued by the local authority for rent arrears and for the gas, electricity and other debts that have been built up on a family basis. I am convinced that that is what will happen with the poll tax.

I cannot see that the woman would be entitled to claim a rebate because the charge would have been assessed on the basis of her partner's earnings.

There was much discussion yesterday of the anomalies that will flow from alternatives to the Government's proposals. The Bill is riddled with anomalies, and some of the worst anomalies and injustices will flow from clause 16. If the Government cannot accept this amendment, I hope that they will think through the clause again in order to prevent the injustice that will be done to women who can least afford to suffer. Lone parents in the inner cities, those who are most at risk, will be the least able to bear the burden that the poll tax will place upon them.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Some years ago I remarried. My husband, who is a Norwegian, came to England a week before our wedding to get the special licence. He used my address at the register office. A few weeks later I had a letter from the DHSS in Newcastle which said that at the register office my husband gave the same address as mine. I was asked whether I was co-habiting at the same time as I was receiving a widow's pension. I was able to explain that my husband had come to England a week before the wedding. The DHSS withdrew their allegation and apologised, but I was furious at the snooping. That was before the Government data network had appeared on the scene.

Can the extent of the snooping that this clause will create be imagined? When I related my experience to my predecessor in the House, he told me about a case that he had had in Tower Hamlets. It concerned a 75-year-old woman who had had a DHSS snooper arrive at her house. He looked through the house and found that her lodger's greatcoat was in her bedroom wardrobe. She had allowed him to keep it there during the summer because there was a shortage of wardrobe space. Her widow's pension was taken away and my predecessor had to take up her case. If that has already been happening, what on earth will happen countrywide over this poll tax clause?

Unemployed married women will be unable to claim a rebate because they cannot register for social security. There is also to be the indignity of joint and several liability. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) has left the Chamber so early in the debate because he asked a question that I shall answer. We are against joint and several liability, whether it is the husband who is liable for his wife's debts or whether it is the wife who is liable for her husband's debts. Women are not chattels. We stand on our own two feet. Nevertheless, we do not want to bear unnecessary burdens.

In my constituency there are many families from Bangladesh. On the whole, the women stay at home and do not work outside it. They have extended families and take good care of their old people. The anticipated poll tax in Tower Hamlets will be astronomical—nearly £700. When the Inner London education authority is broken up, an additional amount for education will be added to that sum. The men are often in very low-paid jobs, because that is all that is available to them. The burdens on those families will be absolutely incredible. If a husband returns to Bangladesh, his wife will be left with a crushing burden that she will be unable to meet. She may end up by being put into prison for debt. The clause is pernicious. Therefore, I support its removal.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

One of the more farcical aspects of this clause, which has not been mentioned, is that, although husbands and wives, and couples living together—male and female—will be liable for each other's poll tax, homosexual or lesbian couples will not. It could be argued that this Government, who have been so keen in pursuing clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, are promoting homosexuality. People will work out that it will be cheaper to live in a homosexual relationship than a heterosexual one. Furthermore, one will be even better off if one goes to prison because one will not pay any poll tax at all.

The farce does not stop there. Part of the Government's argument on accountability is that the present rating system undermines accountability on the grounds that, although there are 35 million voters, half are ratepayers but the other half are not. The Tory argument is that only the ratepayer pays any attention to the rates bill and to the services and the quality of services that are provided. That is obviously nonsensical, because any person who has been a councillor, or who holds surgeries, will know who the people are who complain about local authority services. At least nine times out of 10 it is the wife of a couple who comes along. By and large, community councils and tenants' associations are run by women. They are the backbone of those organisations. It is utter nonsense to say that, because a man's name appears on the tenancy agreement or on the mortgage payment, only he pays any attention to the rates and his wife does not know anything about it. In every household in the land, and particularly in Scotland where these things are to the fore because registration is going on right now, women are indignant. However, mostly they are amused at the idea that they pay no attention to how much the rates are, because it is the man who takes responsibility for paying and for complaining when things go wrong.

We have spent many hours in Committee on this subject. We know the thinking of Conservative Members. I have noticed that not too many of them have come along to argue their case. They must be aware of how weak a case it is. However, we did hear in Committee how they envisaged it. They imagine a situation where, some time in the future, when the yearly poll tax bill comes through the door, a couple are sitting down at breakfast. The wife will say something like this. "Have you seen your poll tax bill this morning, darling?". The husband will say, "Yes, love. Have you noticed that it is £20 more than last year?" His wife will say to him, "And why is that? Is it because of inflation? Is it because of redistribution of the business rate from one authority to another? Could it be because of Government cutbacks? Might it have something to do with the latest pay increase for teachers, clerks, binmen or whoever?" He will say, "No, dear, it is because we have a high-spending, loony-Left Labour council. Let us write to that nice Mr. Ridley and tell him that he should poll-cap this local authority." The wife will say, "If you say so, dear. You know so much more about these things than I do." That is the picture that the Government have painted of the future. Couples will responsibly discuss their poll tax bills together. The Government imagine that today couples never discuss their rate bills. What utter piffle. The whole country knows that it is piffle, except for Conservative Members.

Mr. Dalyell

Throughout these debates, I simply confine myself to a question. Ministers might listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) because we are a year ahead in Scotland. Therefore, the matter becomes that much more urgent.

What factual work has been done in the Department on the sheer mechanics of doing the tracing? I interrupted the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) by saying that one distraught local government officer has said that we would need a whole battalion of Sherlock Holmeses to do the tracing. If it is difficult in my constituency, it will be that much more difficult in Hackney or in any London area where there are a large number of immigrants.

The factual question is how much manpower is it estimated will necessarily have to be available to do the tracing, especially for asking the most delicate questions about relationships between people?

The whole business started with the Prime Minister, like Henry Plantagenet, saying, "Who will rid me of Becket or the rates?" The Secretary of State has said, -I will do the job", but they have not thought it through. All those things are coming home to roost. Let the Minister have time, but let him answer the question : what factual estimate is there of the amount of man or womanpower that will be required for tracing those difficult cases? He can get the answer from his civil servants in the Box if that research has been done.

9.45 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Christopher Chope)

I begin by welcoming the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) to our deliberations on this Bill. Her speech was extraordinary because it purported to put forward the interests of women, but failed to appreciate several crucial facts about our Bill, which will be very much in favour of women. I remind the House that 80 per cent. of single parents will be better off with the community charge than with the rates. I am sure that most Opposition Members will accept that the majority of single parents are women.

Those Opposition Members who are aware of the financial problems that often arise on divorce, and in cases where an earning spouse moves out of the matrimonial home, leaving the wife behind, will appreciate that under the present rating system the rates bill remains the same, regardless of the number of people who occupy the house. However, under our proposals, when one adult leaves the house and only one is left, the community charge bill will be reduced accordingly.

Mr. Rooker

What about joint and several liability?

Mr. Chope

I shall come to the issue of joint and several liability in a moment.

The second crucial issue that the hon. Member for Barking overlooked was that 80 per cent. of single pensioner households will also be better off under the Bill. Again, most single pensioner households are women. Furthermore, the hon. Lady failed to identify the benefits to women, especially to non-working wives, of joint arid several liability. If the husband has the money and refuses to pay for his wife, his wife need not worry because the enforcement action can be taken against the husband. When income support is paid to husbands and wives, it is paid to one spouse on behalf of both. To take the point made by the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), if the husband holds the purse strings, it is probably he who will accept the responsibility for paying both bills, or vice versa. The spouse who does not hold the purse strings will be protected rather than penalised by having joint and several liability.

There has been a lot of muddled thinking on this issue—[Interruption.] Yes, on the part of the Opposition. Anyone listening to the debate would be surprised to learn some of the recent history of this matter. When the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill was before the House in Committee and the issue of joint and several liability was raised, in that Bill, as originally drafted, joint and several liability applied only to spouses—in other words, to married couples. However, an amendment was tabled to extend that to unmarried couples. That amendment was put forward by none other than the Labour party. Opposition Members proposed and supported an amendment to extend joint and several liability to unmarried couples. Today they are suggesting that joint and several liability should be removed from the Bill.

The hon. Member for Preston said that surely there was enough experience for people to realise what a minefield the whole area was. Perhaps she should have said that to her Front Bench colleagues when the Scottish Bill was going through Parliament. When other Opposition Front Bench spokesmen were handling the matter in Committee on this Bill, they had the grace to be embarrassed when the Scottish experience was drawn to their attention, but there has not been any equivalent shame in this debate.

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright), among others, raised the issue of snooping. This shows that there is a misunderstanding about the stage at which joint and several liability arises. The personal community charge is in the first instance always an individual liability.

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Chope

I will not give way, because I have a number of points to make. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said that it was important that I should answer the points which had been raised in debate, and I shall do my best to do so.

The bill will be addressed to the individual and should be paid by the person concerned. The reason why that is so important is that a MORI poll carried out for the Audit Commission showed that people who do not receive rate bills are three times less likely than those who do to know whether rate bills have gone up or down, let alone by how much. That is why the concept of an individual bill addressed to each adult is so important for the principle of accountability. There will not be household bills, and couples will not be liable for the bills of any elderly relatives or grown-up children who live with them.

The fact that the community charge will be an individual liability applies also to married and unmarried couples. In the majority of cases, they will have the resources to pay their own bills, resources against which enforcement action will be taken if they fail to pay. Of married women, 60 per cent. have earnings of their own, and that figure is rising steadily. Other married women have income from other sources, such as investments.

It is not the registration officer who decides whether joint and several liability exists. As we have repeatedly made clear, joint and several liability is an enforcement and not a registration matter. It will arise only if the bill is not paid. Where that happens, the local authority will attempt to enforce against the individual concerned.

If, having obtained a liability order, the local authority establishes that the individual concerned has no income of his or her own, and no or few assets, it will become apparent that the person is being provided for by someone else. The local authority may then need to pursue that partner under the joint and several liability provisions.

Contrary to the statement of the hon. Member for Woolwich, it will be possible to appeal against joint and several liability. Before a local authority can pursue a partner, it will have to send him or her a bill and a reminder, and convince the magistrates court that if the bill has not by then been paid, joint and several liability exists. If the partner does not accept that he or she should be jointly and severally liable, there will be an opportunity to say so. If the local authority does not prove its case, the magistrate will not issue the necessary order.

For those people who are living together as man and wife and who wish to retain the privacy of their relationship, there is no need for any official or snooper to be involved. So long as each individual pays his or her own community charge bill, the problem will be resolved. Only when a bill has not been paid and a community charge is outstanding will the registration officer be involved.

The points made about amendment No. 148 raise legitimate concerns about what happens when marriages break down and past debts are taken on by the family. Often, if the wife was left behind, she might feel that she had an obligation to pay the outstanding community charges which were not paid by her husband. Certainly I take very much on board the discretion which we are giving local authorities in the matter.

Local authorities can be trusted to use sensibly the powers of enforcement set out in the schedule to the Bill. The fact that they have certain powers does not mean that they will or should use them indiscriminately, any more than if one spouse leaves and there is a large electricity bill it means that the electricity authority must use its powers of enforcement indiscriminately.

In advising local authorities on the use of these powers, I propose to recommend them to bear in mind the sort of circumstance described during this debate and to devote their energies to tracking down the husband rather than to pursuing the deserted wife.

We have had a debate based on a misapprehension by the Opposition about exactly the stage at which joint and several liability arises. Earlier, the Opposition were in favour of joint and several liability—indeed, were in favour of extending it—so I find it amazing that tonight they have changed their mind completely.

Ms. Richardson

With the leave of the House, I rise in the remaining minutes of this debate, during which the speeches from our side were excellent. [Laughter.] There was nothing to compare them with, because, apart from the Minister's speech, there was only one speech from the other side. It shows how committed Conservative Members are to the rights of women that they all left the Chamber.

The Minister talked about those who would not be affected by joint and several liability because they are one-parent families. His speech bordered on the sexist and was certainly breathtakingly unaware of the realities of life today. The truly damning aspect of all the Minister's so-called assurances is that they are assurances that the Government intend to wash their hands of every consequence of their actions.

Local authorities will be made to make these judgments of Solomon and will be open to condemnation whichever way they turn. They will be blamed for what the Government have done. If local authorities wipe off debts, they will be forced to use the extra local taxes from the rest of the community. If they set up search-and-find units, they will be accused of creating further layers of bureaucracy and of snooping and policing people's private lives. The Minister will have removed himself from all the responsibility and accountability wrapped up in the tatters of his measure which he asks us to believe is designed to protect women and rescue them from the burden of the poll tax and their partners' anger at having to pay it.

It is not paternalistic, ineffectual protection that women demand, but rights and a proper and full recognition of the value of their contribution as unpaid carers. They also demand the full recognition of the financial penalty which they suffer as a result of their caring responsibilities, whether or not in paid work. It is the Government's consistent failure to address those complexities and the realities of women's lives which render them incapable of ever producing legislation which is fair to half the population.

I remind the House of the points that I made in moving the amendment. Although women are now half the labour force, they still earn less than three-quarters of men's average pay. More than half of all full-time women workers and three quarters of part-time women workers are classified as low paid. Five and a half million adult women, representing a quarter of the work force and earning less than the European decency threshold, will be expected to pay the same flat rate of poll tax as a millionaire and to be responsible for the arrears of a defaulting partner.

The position is even more bleak for full-time unpaid carers, who will continue to face the same circumstances with no independent income. There is, of course, only one way—

Mr. Chope


Ms. Richardson

I do not have the time to give way.There is only one way for the Government to tackle the serious flaws in the Bill and that is to remove clause 16. I invite right hon. and hon. Tory Members as well as my hon. Friends to vote for the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:-

The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 325.

Division No. 265] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Beith, A. J.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Bell, Stuart
Allen, Graham Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Alton, David Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Anderson, Donald Bermingham, Gerald
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bidwell, Sydney
Armstrong, Hilary Blair, Tony
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Blunkett, David
Ashton, Joe Boateng, Paul
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Boyes, Roland
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bradley, Keith
Barnes. Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Battle, John Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Beckett, Margaret Buchan, Norman
Beggs, Roy Caborn, Richard
Callaghan, Jim Johnston, Sir Russell
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Carlile, Alex (Monfg) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cartwright, John Kirkwood, Archy
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Lambie, David
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Leighton, Ron
Clay, Bob Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Clelland, David Lewis, Terry
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Litherland, Robert
Cohen, Harry Livingstone, Ken
Coleman, Donald Livsey, Richard
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Corbett, Robin Loyden, Eddie
Corbyn, Jeremy McAllion, John
Cousins, Jim McAvoy, Thomas
Crowther, Stan McCartney, Ian
Cryer, Bob Macdonald, Calum A.
Cummings, John McFall, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cunningham, Dr John McKelvey, William
Dalyell, Tarn McLeish, Henry
Darling, Alistair McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McTaggart, Bob
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McWilliam, John
Dixon, Don Madden, Max
Dobson, Frank Mahon, Mrs Alice
Doran, Frank Marek, Dr John
Douglas, Dick Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Eadie, Alexander Martlew, Eric
Eastham, Ken Maxton, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michael, Alun
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fatchett, Derek Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Faulds, Andrew Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fearn, Ronald Moonie, Dr Lewis
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morgan, Rhodri
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Morley, Elliott
Flannery, Martin Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Flynn, Paul Mowlam, Marjorie
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mullin, Chris
Foster, Derek Murphy, Paul
Foulkes, George Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fraser, John O'Brien, William
Fyfe, Maria O'Neill, Martin
Galbraith, Sam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Parry, Robert
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Patchett, Terry
George, Bruce Pendry, Tom
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Golding, Mrs Llin Prescott, John
Gordon, Mildred Primarolo, Dawn
Gould, Bryan Quin, Ms Joyce
Graham, Thomas Radice, Giles
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Randall, Stuart
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Redmond, Martin
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Grocott, Bruce Reid, Dr John
Harman, Ms Harriet Richardson, Jo
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Heffer, Eric S. Robertson, George
Henderson, Doug Robinson, Geoffrey
Hinchliffe, David Rogers, Allan
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Rooker, Jeff
Holland, Stuart Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Home Robertson, John Rowlands, Ted
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Ruddock, Joan
Howells, Geraint Salmond, Alex
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Illsley, Eric Short, Clare
Janner, Greville Skinner, Dennis
John, Brynmor Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Wall, Pat
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Walley, Joan
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Snape, Peter Wareing, Robert N.
Soley, Clive Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Spearing, Nigel Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Steinberg, Gerry Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Stott, Roger Wilson, Brian
Strang, Gavin Winnick, David
Straw, Jack Wise, Mrs Audrey
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Turner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Vaz, Keith Mr. Frank Haynes and
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N) Mr. Frank Cook.
Aitken, Jonathan Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Alexander, Richard Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Colvin, Michael
Allason, Rupert Conway, Derek
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Amess, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Amos, Alan Cope, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Cran, James
Ashby, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Aspinwall, Jack Curry, David
Atkins, Robert Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Atkinson, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Day, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Devlin, Tim
Baldry, Tony Dickens, Geoffrey
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dicks, Terry
Batiste, Spencer Dorrell, Stephen
Bellingham, Henry Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bendall, Vivian Dover, Den
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Dunn, Bob
Bevan, David Gilroy Durant, Tony
Biffen, Rt Hon John Eggar, Tim
Blackburn, Dr John G. Emery, Sir Peter
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Body, Sir Richard Evennett, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fallon, Michael
Boswell, Tim Farr, Sir John
Bottomley, Peter Favell, Tony
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowis, John Forman, Nigel
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Forth, Eric
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brazier, Julian Fox, Sir Marcus
Bright, Graham Franks, Cecil
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Freeman, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter French, Douglas
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fry, Peter
Browne, John (Winchester) Gale, Roger
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Goodlad, Alastair
Buck, Sir Antony Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Budgen, Nicholas Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Burns, Simon Gorst, John
Burt, Alistair Gow, Ian
Butcher, John Gower, Sir Raymond
Butler, Chris Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Butterfill, John Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gregory, Conal
Carrington, Matthew Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Carttiss, Michael Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Grist, Ian
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Ground, Patrick
Chapman, Sydney Grylls, Michael
Chope, Christopher Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Churchill, Mr Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hanley, Jeremy
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, David Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hawkins, Christopher Moore, Rt Hon John
Hayes, Jerry Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hayward, Robert Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Moss, Malcolm
Heddle, John Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Neale, Gerrard
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Needham, Richard
Hill, James Nelson, Anthony
Hind, Kenneth Neubert, Michael
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Holt, Richard Nicholls, Patrick
Hordern, Sir Peter Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Oppenheim, Phillip
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Page, Richard
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Paice, James
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Patnick, Irvine
Hunter, Andrew Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Patten, John (Oxford W)
Irving, Charles Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jack, Michael Pawsey, James
Jackson, Robert Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Janman, Tim Porter, David (Waveney)
Jessel, Toby Portillo, Michael
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Price, Sir David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Raffan, Keith
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Key, Robert Rathbone, Tim
Kilfedder, James Redwood, John
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Renton, Tim
Kirkhope, Timothy Rhodes James, Robert
Knapman, Roger Riddick, Graham
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Knowles, Michael Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lang, Ian Roe, Mrs Marion
Latham, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rowe, Andrew
Lee, John (Pendle) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sackville, Hon Tom
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sayeed, Jonathan
Lightbown, David Scott, Nicholas
Lilley, Peter Shaw, David (Dover)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lord, Michael Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McCrindle, Robert Shersby, Michael
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Sims, Roger
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Maclean, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McLoughlin, Patrick Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Speed, Keith
Major, Rt Hon John Speller, Tony
Mans, Keith Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Maples, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, Paul Stanbrook, Ivor
Marlow, Tony Stanley, Rt Hon John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Steen, Anthony
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stern, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stevens, Lewis
Mates, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maude, Hon Francis Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stokes, John
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mellor, David Sumberg, David
Miller, Hal Summerson, Hugo
Mills, Iain Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Ward, John
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Warren, Kenneth
Thorne, Neil Watts, John
Thornton, Malcolm Wells, Bowen
Thurnham, Peter Wheeler, John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Whitney, Ray
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Widdecombe, Ann
Tracey, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Tredinnick, David Wilkinson, John
Trippier, David Wilshire, David
Trotter, Neville Winterton, Mrs Ann
Twinn, Dr Ian Winterton, Nicholas
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wolfson, Mark
Viggers, Peter Wood, Timothy
Waddington, Rt Hon David Woodcock, Mike
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Yeo, Tim
Waldegrave, Hon William Young, Sir George (Acton)
Walden. George Younger, Rt Hon George
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester) Tellers for the Noes:
Waller, Gary Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Walters, Dennis Mr. Richard Ryder.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Orders [22 February and 13 April] and the Resolution yesterday, to put forthwith the Question on amendments moved by a member of the Government up to the end of clause 20.

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