HC Deb 17 July 1990 vol 176 cc953-72 10.11 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Renovation etc. Grants (Reduction of Grant) Regulations 1990 (S.I., 1990, No. 1189), dated 5th June 1990, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th June, be annulled. Perhaps it will be convenient to take at the same time the motion That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Renovation etc. Grants (Prescribed Forms and Particulars) Regulations 1990 (S.I., 1990, No. 1236) dated 12th June 1990, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th June, be annulled.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The notification on the Order Paper that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has not yet completed its consideration of the instrument is not accurate. The Committee completed its consideration today and has placed in the Vote Office a copy of its report, approved by the Committee today, together with the Department's memorandum. We have reported the instrument to the House on the ground of defective drafting.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee very much for that information. I am sure that it is valuable to the House.

Mr. Soley

The information will be valuable because I want to refer to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has just raised.

The 24th report of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments made much criticism of the grant order. One should bear in mind the fact that it arises from the Local Government and Housing Act 1989—a measure which, in its own right, caused enormous problems for the House and which was badly drafted. We now have a statutory instrument arising from that Bill—now an Act of Parliament—which is itself badly drafted.

The instrument was drafted by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who was previously Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and before that Secretary of State for the Environment. I can only assume that he drafted the instrument himself because it was his habit to draft Bills and statutory instruments. When the right hon. Gentleman drafted this instrument, he must have been dwelling on the outcome of the second world war because it is the only way in which one can account for some of the absurdities to which the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has drawn attention.

Some of the defects in the drafting will cause only relatively—I emphasise that word—minor problems to the public and to local authorities. However, there are enough unusual cases to cause considerable concern. What does the claimant do who makes a claim for a grant, but who is then told that the definition—or the interpretation by the local authority—does not accord with what he understands to be the case from the order itself? Presumably he has to go to law. We know from what the Statutory Instruments Committee has said that there is sufficient imprecision about the drafting to almost welcome legal cases. That means that an individual claimant has to take out a case himself with all the time, trouble and expense that that involves.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of the drafting is the reference to "voluntary body" or "voluntary organisation". When we debated this in Committee we all thought that we knew what type of organisation we were talking about. It transpires from a Department of the Environment answer to the Select Committee that "voluntary body" or "voluntary organisation" can include commercial organisations. The answer said that it does not "exclude" commercial organisations, so they must be included. That will cause considerable confusion and difficulty when people are deciding what grant level someone is eligible for.

There will also be problems over the definition of student grants and the difference between earnings and income. That was another point made by the Statutory Instruments Committee. The definition of a deed of covenant is perhaps the most clear-cut legal case. In many instances the deeds of covenant will be legally enforceable and will, therefore, determine what the income or earnings are. In those circumstances, the Department of the Environment seems to take the view that it need simply leave the matter to the discretion of the local authority. How on earth can a local authority have discretion over something decided by a court of law? If a local authority wants to avoid paying a grant, it can use its discretion and refuse to provide it. In such a case, the claimant would have to go to court. He would probably win his case, but the time and expense involved would make it more likely that many claimants would not pursue their request for a grant.

As I said, the statutory instrument arises out of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. In the debates on that Bill the Minister gave assurances about means testing and the fact that the Government were introducing a better system for home improvement grants. I admit to the Minister that it is better as it can provide grants of up to 100 per cent. That is welcome. I was going to say that the Minister has gone badly wrong, but it would be difficult to interpret it as such. In fact, he has gone intentionally wrong by limiting the number of people who can receive such a grant much more drastically than in the past. I do not believe that it is an accident that we had Government speaker after Government speaker during the debate on the Finance Bill in order to prevent us from reaching this debate before 10 o'clock. What we are debating now will affect many hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people who would previously have received grants to repair their houses but who will no longer receive one or will receive a reduced amount. That is a matter of serious concern.

The statutory instrument is drafted in such a way that the means test will ensure that people on relatively modest incomes and low incomes will have less opportunity for repair and renovation of their housing. People on higher incomes will also have less opportunity.

The Government's own housing conditions survey of 1986 pointed out that 500,000 properties in Britain lack basic amenities, 1 million were unfit—about 5.6 per cent. of the total housing stock—and 1.1 million were in serious disrepair. I again pray in aid my old friends and supporting colleagues, the Association of District Councils. It is a Conservative-controlled body, but it is constantly pointing out that the Government's lack of a housing strategy is leading to a declining state of repair of the British housing stock. That is why it says that a minimum of £35 billion and a maximum of £50 billion must be spent by the end of the century if the problem is not to escalate. The housing conditions survey, the ADC—a Conservative-controlled body—and other Conservative-controlled organisations, as well as the Labour party and almost every housing organisation in the country, are telling the Government that they have got it wrong. If the Government do not want the housing stock in Britain to continue to decline, they should take the regulations away and draft them properly. They should ensure not only that the regulations do not contain the contradictions to which the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments drew attention but that people can obtain grants so that the state of the housing stock in Britain can be improved.

The way in which the Government have fixed the contributions means that people on low and modest incomes will have to make larger contributions than expected. That means that many people will not take up the grant. That is why I say that the number of people who obtain grants and go ahead with repairs will drop.

The Government should look again at regulation 8 and increase the figure from £20 to a minimum of £40—preferably to £60. Those figures have been calculated not just by me but by many other people. If we set the level at £60, we could prevent the housing stock from slipping into further disrepair. If the figure is below £60, the most that we shall manage to do is to mark time and to ensure that matters do not get any worse. If the figure is left at £20, the housing stock will get worse. Without going into the complicated details of the way in which the system works, I should explain that the £20 acts as a multiplier for the amount that one can obtain.

Let us take the example of a family with a net income of £8,000. Under the old regulations, which expired on 30 June this year, that family would have received a 75 per cent. grant in respect of repair costs of £8,000. From 1 July, the same family will find its grant reduced from 75 per cent. to about 53 per cent. That family will get considerably less than it would have received under the old regime which ended a few weeks ago.

Families with incomes of between £10,000 and £12,800 will receive only 1 per cent. grant in respect of a repair bill of £8,000. Are the Government seriously asking the House and the public to accept that family incomes of between £10,000 and £12,800 are sufficient to enable people to find repair costs—particularly in the south of Britain, where repairs are especially expensive—on the basis of a 1 per cent. grant? That is nonsense and the Government must know it.

The Government must also know that that will lead to a reduction in the number of repairs being done. It is not that the Government want fewer repairs to be done. They want to spend less money, but in doing that they will exacerbate the state of disrepair of the British housing stock, which will not only add to the misery of people in bad housing but will increase the bill in future. The Government's neglect of the railway and sewerage systems and the rest of the infrastructure in Britain has led to a similar decline.

A single parent would get a 100 per cent. grant on a £10,000 repair only if his or her income was below £93 a week, and no assistance whatever if he or she earned more than £191 a week. A single person without a child would receive a 100 per cent. grant only if his or her income was below £50 a week. That is a further indication that the Government are not serious about the disrepair of our housing stock. The £20 figure in regulation 8 needs to be set at £60 if we are to reverse the deterioration of our housing stock.

My next point concerns the savings disregard—the amount of savings that people may have without losing grant. The means test is a big let-down, not only on the Government's proposal in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 but on some of the commitments that they gave both to the House of Lords and to this House. During our debates on the 1989 Act, the Minister suggested that there could be a passport. In other words, if one was getting certain other state benefits and one's savings had already been taken into account, the assumption could be carried over to grants and so on; the savings disregard would be equal. But instead of sticking to that and keeping the figures the same, the Government changed them yet again. We now have a savings disregard of £8,000 for people on income support or family credit; of £16,000 for those on poll tax or housing benefit; and, now, of £5,000 for the purposes of the statutory instrument. That is despite the fact that, in Committee and in the House of Lords, the Government gave a commitment to ensure that there was passporting of a similar type to ensure that the savings disregard was kept as compatible as possible with the other benefits to make it simple.

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

I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the new disregards are more generous, because they have no upper limit and the minimum disregard is £5,000.

Mr. Soley

I know that the minimum is £5,000. But if the Minister is to be consistent with what was said in Committee, he must operate the same limit as those applying to housing and poll tax benefits.

The Minister cannot say that he is going to keep it the same for the various benefits, and then, a year or so later, change it. That is what the Government have done. We were told in Committee—on the Floor of the House—that means testing would be simple and comparable with other benefits. It is not; it is quite complex. Does the Minister argue that it is a simple system now? Perhaps he will address that question in his speech.

Additional premiums are allowed for the disabled and for those over 75. However, that will be affected by the basic means test. It should be remembered that the House of Lords passed that part of the primary legislation only on the basis of Government assurances that means testing would be simple and comparable. The Minister has a duty to both Houses to clarify the matter.

I am also disappointed that the home insulation grant is to be discretionary. The Government made an amazing commitment some time ago, and only a few weeks ago the Secretary of State for the Environment emphasised again, on the Floor of the House, that Britain would reduce its CO2 emissions. Here was an opportunity to do that, and to increase expenditure on the insulation of homes. That would save energy, reduce fuel prices and often enable people to have more disposable income, thus benefiting them, the country and the environment.

With the poll tax and Government cuts, local authorities will find it difficult to give discretionary grants. They will fulfil their commitment on the mandatory grants and then squeeze the discretionary grants as much as possible, not because it is in the interests of local authorities—whether Tory or Labour—but because they have no option. The alternative would be to allow the poll tax to go up again. That is the only way to pay for the grant. So much for the green credentials of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

When we compare British housing stock to that of many European countries on a similar latitude, we find that they spend much more and make a greater effort to insulate homes than we do. As a result, they have better energy savings returns that enable people on lower incomes to spend less on energy. That is of benefit to everyone. The Government's green credentials and their commitment to improve housing have suddenly begun to look a bit shaky.

I also want specifically to know what on earth we are to do about the weird time warp in which the Government have put local authorities and individuals. The old system will come to an end on 31 July, and this instrument will not come into effect for a while. For some months, people who have had emergency work to be done have got reports from surveyors saying that such work must be done immediately because, if it is not, the problem will get worse. I refer to problems such as dry rot and other things that spread rapidly in houses. Those people have gone to their local authorities and asked for a grant. Local authorities have then said, "We shall file your claim, but we cannot do anything about it because we do not know what the rules are, and we shall not know what the rules are for some time."

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

On 1 December last year I wrote to the Secretary of State about that matter. The Under-Secretary of State replied refusing to meet me on that point on the basis that his Department had written to my local authority giving an explanation of why changes were taking place in regard to funding for this financial year. When I saw a copy of the minutes of the discussions between the Department and my local authority it became clear that the Government had been dishonest about their intentions about the resources being provided for this financial year. He still refused to meet me to discuss the requirements of and resources for local authorities. Will my hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State why he has refused to meet Opposition Members to discuss investment in local authority contributions to the private sector and upgrading houses in the private sector while he is reducing grants to local authorities on this issue?

Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It might not have escaped his notice that we have had six or seven Ministers with responsibility for housing matters in the past five years. I am beginning to lose count of them. The present Minister, I am told, will not be with the Department much longer. One of the things that strikes me when I raise such issues and examine the answers that are given is the way in which Ministers abuse the parliamentary process by refusing not just to meet hon. Members but to give clear answers to questions. Without straying out of order, the most obvious example arose during the Housing Corporation crisis. Ministers refused to give figures for the next three years, even though they were obviously wrong in the Department of the Environment's expenditure White Paper.

The issue is serious. People are caught in a time warp. A local authority cannot give a grant, but, more important, it is doubly trapped. It might want to give a grant and might consider that a person was entitled to it, but, unless it can approve the work in accordance with the terms of the statutory instrument, it cannot give the go-ahead. Will the Minister allow some retrospection so that local authorities will be able to assess properly audited receipts and people who could not get a local authority grant because there is no legislation covering it can do emergency work, and allow local authorities to use their discretion and give grants, particularly mandatory grants, in such circumstances?

The matter is important. It will affect many people, in particular those who have work which needs to be done urgently and which a surveyor has said must be done urgently. I accept that that would have to be part of the evidence presented to a local authority.

An important matter for many people and for the housing stock generally is who pays. The Government are anxious to squeeze the grant system so that it spends less money, because the only way in which a local authority can pay for housing repairs and renovation is the poll tax. Local authorities will squeeze discretionary grants to keep down the poll tax, and they will give mandatory grants because they have no option. That means that matters such as energy conservation will be pushed aside as being marginal and of no great consequence, whereas they should be much more central to the Government's strategy.

We know that the Government are in financial difficulty, not just in terms of running the economy but in getting themselves out of the poll tax trap. There is no excuse whatsoever for putting on to local authorities the responsibility for getting the Government out of that mess.

The Government need to ensure that we have a grant system that improves the repair and renovation of British housing stock so that it does not continue to decline in the way in which many Conservative Members, as well as many local authorities, have been telling the Minister for years that it is declining. The Government need to do something about that today because the decline will continue until the Minister reverses these policies.

10.34 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

As I said in my earlier point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has reported the instrument to the House on the grounds of defective drafting. Although I propose to deal with this matter as quickly as possible, it is important that the House should recognise that the majority of the Government's vast legislative programme is being dealt with by means of subordinate legislation.

The House should also recognise that the Government, who claimed that they would take legislation off the citizens' backs, are producing more statutory instruments of one sort or another than the previous Labour Government. About 2,500 statutory instruments are being progressed through the House every year because of the way in which the Government are producing more regulations, rather than fewer. In itself, that is not a bad thing, but it shows that the Government's claim to be taking regulations away is simply not true.

It is also important that the Government should try, to the best of their ability—and they certainly have a great number of resources on which to call—to make legislation as clear as possible. It is worth recalling that this is a negative procedure instrument which would not have been debated but for the Opposition prayer. That seems a less than satisfactory way of dealing with this matter.

Mr. Chope

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the drafting of this instrument, in the areas that have been criticised by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, is absolutely identical to the drafting of the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 which went through without any such comment and criticism from the Committee?

Mr. Cryer

I do not deny the possibility that the Committee has overlooked defects in other instruments. The Committee deals with the vast majority of the 2,500 or more statutory instruments presented to Parliament every year and I have no doubt that some defects are overlooked. Departments often argue that wording which we claim is defective has been used previously, but that is no argument in justification of the existing statutory instrument. If the Minister wants to make a criticism, it is a criticism of past Committees that have overlooked defective wording.

The Committee must take its guidance from the Counsel to you, Mr. Speaker, who is also Counsel to the Committee. If the Counsel or a member of the Committee finds that an instrument is defective in one respect, and it follows another instrument, I should have thought that the Committee was to be commended, not criticised. The Committee is quite open in saying, "Yes, we need all the help that we can get." We must recognise that the Committee meets weekly at 4.15 pm. with just one Counsel and an assistant to help it. We should have more resources, not less."

Many instruments are corrected without ever having been reported to the House because Counsel to the Committee contacts Departments to point out defects. Helpful Departments frequently say, "All right, we will withdraw the instrument—we recognise the defects and we will remedy them." I shall return to that point in a moment.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

I am following my hon. Friend's argument as closely as possible. Is he saying that his Committee has before it on average between 60 and 70 statutory instruments at every meeting?

Mr. Cryer

Yes, that is absolutely correct. For example, after the recess we shall have more than 100 instruments before us. They will have accumulated during the recess. We agreed only today to meet on the first Tuesday we are back so as to avoid a backlog building up. We recognise that it is difficult for the Committee to take all the instruments into account. If it is difficult for the Committee, it is also difficult for the ordinary citizen. A copy of the statutory instrument with which we are dealing today costs £5.15. That does not exactly encourage the dissemination of information affecting citizens. It runs to some 35 pages, including three schedules and many clauses. Without any shadow of doubt it is a complicated piece of legislation equivalent to a primary Act of Parliament. All that the Committee is saying is that several matters require elucidation. That is why we have reported it to the House.

Whether the people who use the instrument will receive the guidance from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments is in doubt. Perhaps as a gesture and to help people at large the Minister will agree to publish and distribute all the Committee's comments with the instrument. I have no doubt that the Minister will be keen to make a suitable response.

The report lists seven areas in which the drafting is defective. I shall not go through them all. The report is available. It was dealt with by the Committee today. We discussed it so that we could put it in the Vote Office for Members to obtain and read. For example, in the first paragraph of our report we refer to the definition of a voluntary body and a voluntary organisation. Regulation 4(2)(f) in the instrument says: This paragraph applies to— … (f) a person who lives with the relevant person in order to care for him or a partner of his and who is engaged by a charitable or voluntary body (other than a public or local authority)". The Department says that a voluntary body includes an ordinary commercial company or, at least, does not exclude such a company. The Department also says that the expressions properly bear their ordinary meaning". We say that it is impossible to reconcile an ordinary commercial body with a voluntary body or organisation. Those are confusing matters for the people in local authorities who will have to use the instruments. They will have to decide who are qualifying persons. There is a real possibility that where the definition is cloudy it will be referred to a court. That is a defect in Parliament. If we allow shoddy legislation through, whether primary or delegated legislation, which has to be decided in the courts because it is defective, we shall hand over the power of decision-making to the courts. That is not what we were elected for.

Regulation 16(2) refers to income derived under regulations 27 and 28". As no income can be derived under a regulation of a statutory instrument, we have drawn the attention of the House to the matter. The Department has said that it will consider the wording at the first convenient opportunity. That means that it will amend the wording in a further statutory instrument—at least, one hopes that it will—when it finds a statutory instrument which can be linked with this one in the index. That means that people will have to buy another instrument and to know the indexing in order to link it up to find the new definition. That illustrates the difficulties for ordinary people and for local authorities who use the instruments that the Government produce.

How can payments under a legally enforceable deed of covenant be treated under paragraph 13 of schedule 3 as a voluntary payment? The Department has suggested that that is reconcilable, but the Committee believes that it is doubtful that a legally enforceable deed of covenant can be regarded as voluntary. Local authorities will be called upon to decide whether compulsory payments are voluntary, but that is a complete opposite in terms and it will be a difficult task for a local authority to undertake. That might also lead to a challenge in the courts, which would be a waste of everyone's time and money when we could get things right in the first place.

The Minister should consider an amending instrument to remedy the seven poor definitions, which were badly drafted in the original statutory instrument. The Committee has an obligation to report items in any instrument that it regards as badly drafted. Although the seven badly drafted definitions may make up only a small proportion of the instrument and only a small proportion of the users of the instrument will come up against them, it is worth the Department considering an amending instrument to cover those seven items. That instrument should be available free to the purchasers of the primary instrument, for which they will pay £5.15.

I have not mentioned the merits of the instrument because our Committee does not consider the merits of statutory instruments and therefore I have not gone outside the Committee's remit. Of course we want to see housing renovation carried out. That is the purpose of the housing renovation system, particularly as a large part of the stock consists of older dwellings which fall within the definition of those eligible for housing renovation grants. That is important. It is therefore also important that the legislation which defines such eligibility should be clear, succinct and transparently available to the user as well as to Ministers, hon. Members and draftsmen in the Department.

The user should see the statutory instrument not as an obstacle, but as the means of obtaining a benefit which, if it improves the housing stock, is a benefit to the nation. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to consider providing an amending instrument to clarify and improve the statutory instrument for free issue with it.

10.47 pm
Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

I am sure that we are all extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and his Committee for the detailed work they have undertaken. It is vital that the drafting of any legislation is right. I do not think that any of us would pretend that, over the years, all the drafting of housing legislation has been as good as we wanted. I am therefore grateful to the hon. Gentleman and his Committee.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Committee was not against the introduction of such statutory instruments because we need to get on with paying improvement grants, and that is why I shall join my hon. Friends in the Lobby to support the statutory instrument. It is important that the improved scheme operates so that people can see the benefits that derive from it.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) gave one of his normal Armageddon speeches. I just hope that he is more cheerful when he gets home as he is so downbeat when he is at the Dispatch Box. In fairness to the hon. Gentleman, tonight was a little different from the previous debate on housing because, unlike his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), at least he knows what he is talking about.

If, according to the hon. Member for Hammersmith, things are bad now, will he say how bad they were during the lifetime of the last Labour Government? Spending on improvement grants in the last full year of Labour rule was £76 million. In the most recent full year for which we have figures, 1989, £328 million was spent on such grants, representing a 50 per cent. increase above inflation. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair, he will not claim that we wish to reduce the amount spent on improvement grants.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

The vastly greater slum clearance and house building programmes operated by the last Labour Government meant that the priority for house renovation was not as great as it is now, when the Government are not clearing slums and building new houses.

Mr. Hughes

As the saying goes, if you believe that you will believe anything. Opposition Members constantly argue, whatever the subject, that the last Labour Government wanted to spend more but could not do so because there was another priority.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair, will he accept that the most generous system that the Conservatives operated occurred in 1982, in the run-up to the 1983 general election, when there was a grants bonanza, which was brought to an end immediately the Conservatives won that election?

Mr. Hughes

Elections come and go—[Interruption.]—and if the hon. Gentleman will contain himself, another election will happen in due course and we will see what happens in the run-up to that.

In 11 years, we have spent about £4 billion on home improvements. That is the Conservative record and we can be proud of it. The system before us is more generous than the previous one, although there will be two grants subject to a test of resources, being renovation grants and disabled facilities grants. By that means we shall be directing help to those who are least able to pay for the work to be done.

We are discussing a controversial subject. When we debated the changes to the system, when the measure was proceeding through Parliament, various arguments were adduced. Some people seem to find it hard to accept, even though we know it to be the case, that too much of the money spent by the Government in recent years on improvement grants went to people who could have afforded to pay for the work themselves. Many people with higher than average incomes received grants, renovated houses and flats and made a profit on them. I do not complain about that, because it was the system, but we want to direct help to where it is needed.

Many people cannot afford to pay for renovation work, and it is wrong for the hon. Member for Hammersmith to suggest that the grants should be available to everybody. In any event, he forgot to say how much a Labour Government would spend on improvement grants in their first year in office. The hon. Member for Hammersmith is, as usual, stuck to his seat with glue because he will not say. He wants people to believe that there would be a large budget, but he does not want to tell us what it would be because he knows that he would not get his colleagues' approval for it.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

The hon. Gentleman has overlooked the fact that we are not yet the Government, although we will be soon. Will he enlighten us: what does he think the size of the Government's budget for improvement grants will be next year?

Mr. Hughes

During the past 10 years, there has been a large increase in those budgets, and I see no sign that there will be a reduction in them. Speeches from my hon. Friends the Ministers have contained firm commitments to improving the condition of the housing stock. But we want to ensure that that money is spent where it is needed.

Mr. McCartney

My local authority has just completed a period of negotiation with the Government over such matters. There is a 20 per cent. reduction in the level of grant provided for work that the Government say it is absolutely necessary for my local authority to carry out in the next financial year. There has, in the Government's figures, been a 20 per cent. reduction. For my local authority, more than £1 million worth of grant has been lost for possible renovation in the private sector. That does not give any credence to the hon. Gentleman's argument that the Government are promoting development and putting resources into private sector housing through local authority grants.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman comes from the Paul Daniels' school of politics where, hey presto, money can be conjured out of anywhere. The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that it is too early to say. The grants of which I am speaking are mandatory. People on low incomes will be entitled to help with up to 100 per cent. of the cost of the work, not 90 per cent. of the cost as before. Therefore, it is impossible to say how much the budget will be.

If one believed the rhetoric of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, one would assume that a Labour Government would want to ensure that such discretionary grants were mandatory. When the Opposition spokesman winds up, I would be interested to know if that is Labour policy. What will its policy be towards those discretionary grants to improve homes above the basic fitness standard? Such grants should not be mandatory grants from local authorities. Is it the Labour policy that they should, and how much money is the Labour party prepared to put behind that idea to make it a reality?

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Is it not also a fact that there will now be mandatory grants to allow the disabled to have the necessary adaptations to their own homes to enable them to stay in them? Is not that a sign of a caring Government, and is it not a pity that the last Labour Government did not put that policy into practice when they had the chance?

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because, for the first time, grants to disabled people to ensure that they have the facilities that they need will be mandatory. One would have thought from the rhetoric that its Members are using this evening that 11 years ago the Labour party would have thought of that, and would have put it into effect.

When we discussed the matter in Committee and considered the various options before us, we realised that there were a number of ways in which to introduce an improved scheme for home improvements. We could say that there are some spheres in which we want improvements to be made, and that beyond that people should pay for the improvements themselves. We all know the sort of area about which we are talking. We want properties to be bought up, and we do not want any of the houses or flats to be left out. The argument leading to that conclusion suggests that, if dwellings were left out, it could lead to pepper-potting—there would be good houses, and unfit houses. It is an attractive argument, but I am glad that the Government did not pursue it.

I am glad that the Government chose the policy they did because I think that it is important that those people on poor incomes, living in unfit houses, and with no means or reasonable income, should be entitled to a grant paying for the whole cost of the work, as of right.

This is an important scheme. The Government were right to introduce it, and I certainly hope that my hon. Friends will support them in the Lobbies tonight.

10.59 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I do not possess the mastery of statutory instruments of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), but I have grave doubts about some of the principles in the regulations.

The grants fall into two categories: mandatory grants, which, as long as the statutory requirements are met, the council is obliged to pay; and discretionary grants, when the council can decide which type of work to assist and which class of applicant to help. The percentage of such grants can be altered, too.

The retrograde principle behind the new system—it represents a major change—is that all applicants for grants will be means tested. That cannot be good. Applicants will be eligible for grant if their resources, including income and capital, are below certain thresholds. The danger lies in where those thresholds are set; on that depends which people will fail to get a grant—to say nothing of the £20 top-up.

Discretionary grants will be available for works that bring properties up to target standards. Much of the debate has centred on those targets. Mandatory grants are available on top of renovation grants provided to disabled people.

The transmission of resources to where they are most needed is desirable, but the targets in this case should apply to properties, not people. That has not been sufficiently discussed so far. In Wales, where many of the houses were built before 1919, many properties are substandard and the housing stock is in extremely bad shape, although I concede that much good work has been done to bring it up to standard. There is still, however, a long way to go.

The means tests are usually excessively restrictive and degrading, and they always throw up anomalies. The forms are long and intrusive and they represent an obstacle course for people at the bottom of the pile who have to thread their way through them. Many give up at the first hurdle. The test is modelled on the housing benefit scheme, and it may exhibit similar problems.

The proposed scheme is cumbersome and labour-intensive. It is estimated that it will increase local government's workload by at least 15 per cent. due to the administration of applications and the surveying and assessment of properties.

We believe that the £20 top-up is not generous enough. It should be at least doubled. It will certainly not cover the many necessary outgoings—over and above the usual expenses—that a household may face. High interest and mortgage rates have not even been taken into account—

Mr. McCartney

It is likely that more than 300 houses in mining villages in the area of my local authority—they are part of a ribbon development there—will need renovation just to stop them being demolished. At £8,000 a house, that will cost nearly £2.5 million. Another 9,000 houses have been designated by the Government and the local authority as requiring initiatives to prevent them from being demolished. My local authority has had a 20 per cent. reduction in its grant for dealing with those issues. Having recognised the problem, the Government then decide to reduce—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman making a speech or an intervention? If it is an intervention, I hope that he will conclude it at once.

Mr. McCartney

It is an intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker, but if you wish me to make a speech I shall do so. I always abide by your rulings, Madam Deputy Speaker. Local authorities and the Government have identified the problem. However, the Government have reduced the resources needed by local authorities to deal with it.

Mr. Livsey

The hon. Gentleman makes a telling intervention, which could be described by some as a telling speech. Areas such as those represented by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have problems with housing stock. The hon. Gentleman has rightly said that considerable resources are required to tackle those problems. Councils are struggling to put right housing that is falling down around them.

The proposal to disregard £5,000 of savings is not generous enough for people such as the elderly and the disabled who may rely on their life savings to supplement their income. Some people have no prospect of replacing their savings. Perhaps people such as the elderly and the disabled should be totally exempt from the means test. I object in principle to such a test and a cogent case against it can certainly be made for the elderly and the disabled. Its removal would reduce the work load on local authorities and lift a burden from people's shoulders.

The loans test is applied across the board whether or not a person is considered to be a good risk, and many elderly, disabled and other people may find that loans are denied to them. That is unfair. In theory, the scheme has potential for good, especially for the elderly, because it holds out the prospect of a 100 per cent. grant. However, without adequate funds the system, or part of it, may grind to a halt, and I fear that that will happen to the renovation grants scheme.

The scheme will limit the number of people who are eligible for grant and its complex system of means testing will exclude people in need. It is a cynical exercise in cost saving at the expense of poor people. Apart from the problems that face people, many properties are in need of renovation in their own right. The housing stock will continue to deteriorate because assistance will be available for fewer properties. The regulations are inappropriate, mainly because of their element of means testing. The regulations are also unfair and will not tackle a serious social problem.

11.8 pm

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

I shall deal first with the questions posed by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes). We welcome the provision for discretionary grants and we shall extend it in legislation. Obviously, I am not prepared to say what a Labour Government would be able to afford in two years. Neither the hon. Gentleman nor the Government know what next year's Budget will be and would not tell us if they did. Over time, we would want the home insulation grant to become mandatory.

My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) highlighted the position of his constituents in Wigan, and of people in the north-west, as a result of the statutory instrument and the legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), through the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, made some trenchant criticisms about the sloppy drafting of the measure and its defects. It is all of a piece with this Government and the way in which they deal with housing. It is a long-standing series of incompetent measures, all of which have been compounded by the regulations and orders that have followed. It is sad, although not surprising, that again the Government have missed the opportunity to do something useful.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) cited figures from the 1986 house condition survey and its conclusions on properties lacking in basic amenities or in fitness, or which were in serious disrepair. More than 14 per cent. of the properties covered by the survey fall into one or other of those categories. That is bad enough in itself, and it gives a clear picture of the problems with the housing stock.

My hon. Friend described the effects of the statutory instrument and noted that those on a net income of between £8,000 and £12,800 would suffer a grant reduction of, in the former case, from 75 per cent. to 53 per cent. and, in the latter case, to 1 per cent. on an £8,000 repair.

If we juxtapose those figures with the figures in the 1986 house condition survey, 20 per cent. of the households that need one or other of the categories of major repair will be caught within the trap of this measure. Many households—not large-income, but low-income households—will fall outside the scope of eligibility for assistance with necessary works.

Even the capital cut-off in the measure is at odds with other areas of Government policy. In this case, it becomes operative at £5,000; it is £8,000 for income support and family credit and £6,000—we all know the background to this—for housing benefit and the poll tax. There is a series of different capital cut-off points applying to different areas of benefit. That will inevitably put many more people outside the rules within which they can apply for grant to carry out essential works.

Mr. Chope

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is no cut-off point for the new renovation grants?

Mr. Howarth

I shall check that, but it is not my understanding of the measure. Perhaps the Minister can tell me where it makes that point clear.

Mr. Chope

The £5,000 is a starting point, and it is a more generous starting point than under housing benefit. There is no cut-off point. There is a sliding scale right up the capital range.

Mr. Howarth

That is not my reading of it. I shall check and, if the hon. Gentleman is right, I shall write to him.

Schedule 1 to the reduction of grant regulations allows for an additional premium in certain circumstances. In particular, these premiums apply to the disabled, to those designated as higher premium pensioners—those over 75—and to certain other disadvantaged people. The regulations allow for an additional premium to be paid to certain categories, which, in effect, increases the home improvement grant payable to the disabled.

All these premiums relate to the basic principle of means testing. Therefore, unless those basic principles are set out fairly, the corresponding premiums will be affected by the anomaly of the basic means test. For that reason, it is important to try to overturn the two requirements identified, but there is an added argument in relation to the knock-on effect that this will have on the disabled and other disadvantaged persons.

Ministers gave particular assurances about the disabled to both Houses of Parliament, and only after assurances in the House of Lords was the primary legislation for the means-testing principle passed. I do not believe that the regulations as laid meet those assurances. For that reason, they are unsatisfactory.

The Government have been making soothing noises to local authorities, telling them that £54 million is available for supplementary bids so that extra work can be carried out. As I understand it, the local authorities in my area alone, Merseyside, would need to take up £14 million of that money. By extrapolation, we see that that money will not be adequate to cover the shortfalls. The Government should again consider the amount that they are soothingly telling local authorities to apply for.

I started by saying that this incompetence built upon inactivity is all of a piece with this Government. My hon. Friends have referred to the sloppy drafting of the regulations. The Statutory Instruments Committee pointed that out at some length and in great detail. The system must be altered soon because it does not meet the country's needs. It will be changed—by a Labour Government—and the sooner the better.

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

I commend the regulations to the House. They are the basis of a much improved system. There has been some criticism of the drafting of the regulations. As I pointed out, they are drafted in line with the housing benefit regulations. It is easy to criticise them and say that the drafting is inadequate, but I am sure that the Government would be equally criticised if they were to have detailed regulations covering a matter similar to housing benefit and were to have inconsistent language.

The Government have consistency in these regulations. That does not mean that the drafting of regulations can never be improved. The points made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) will be taken into account in further drafts of these and the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987. The criticism of the drafting of these regulations is particularly ill-placed and harsh.

Mr. Rooker

I just left the Chamber and posted the regulations, including the one with the prescribed forms, to Roger Clarke, the manager of the urban renewal section in my constituency. I told him that the Department of the Environment can be quite proud of these regulations, because they will bring any decent urban renewal scheme to a halt.

I should like the Minister to explain to the House how he expects ordinary citizens—landlords, tenants and owner-occupiers—to get round the prescribed form regulations in time for new schemes approved by his Department to start next April. If the Minister cannot give a guarantee that that will happen, it is gross deceit on the part of the Department. The Minister knows what is happening in the centre of Birmingham. If the schemes are not put in and approved by September or October this year, they will not start next year. Thousands of people will be bitterly disappointed because they will have been led up the garden path by the Minister and his colleagues.

Mr. Chope

That was a long intervention as the hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity to make a speech during the debate. His point is unnecessary scaremongering and is based on a misunderstanding of the true position. The facts are set out clearly in the circular of guidance and in the booklet, two million copies of which have been made available for ordinary people who wish to take advantage of the new and far more generous system of renovation grants.

Throughout the debate there has been a misunderstanding by the Opposition of the rules about capital disregards. Regulation 37 provides for a tariff income to be calculated in respect of capital in excess of £5,000 only. That is more generous than under the housing benefit regulations. There is no cut-off point. Reference has been made to the cut-off points of £8,000 and £16,000, but there is no cut-off point under the regulations. That is why I can say, fairly, that they are more generous.

Mr. Soley

Inasmuch as I originally used the phrase "cut-off", the Minister is correct. It is not a cut-off; it is a taper. This is important, as the Minister will know, because, first, one could use the same base as one does for other capital starting points and, secondly, and more importantly, the regulation tapers off—if the Minister prefers that phrase—the amount until the point where one gets only 1 per cent. towards the grant when one is still on a very low income. I gave the example of a person on £191 a week who would receive only 1 per cent. grant.

Mr. Chope

That would not apply to a person on a very low income or to a person who has very low capital resources. The new system will give 100 per cent. grants to people, which was not possible under the old system. That is why the new system is properly targeted to those in greatest need. Unlike the old system, under which people could receive only a 90 per cent. grant up to a maximum amount for the works, the new system has no limit on the maximum amount of works that can be carried out. Thus, for example, a person on a low income who had low capital might be able to obtain £20,000 as a 100 per cent. grant for works that were carried out. There are many worked examples that show just how generous the new system will be. It is rather odd that the Opposition should try to suggest that the system is other than generous.

Under the new system, there is also minor works assistance which will be available especially for the benefit of the elderly. That will be available to help with insulation work, about which the hon. Member for Hammersmith was concerned. The new system takes account of that. However, it does not—and I do not think it should—give every person 100 per cent. grant, as of right, for insulation work. Under the new system, people can receive grant assistance if they are in particular need, and I should have thought that that was a far fairer and more sensible way in which to distribute scarce resources belonging to the taxpayer.

The Labour party has throughout been rather against means testing. Tonight, the only outright opposition to means testing was from the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey). However, just in case there are people who still belong to the Labour party who think that the Labour party is against means testing and, by implication, against means testing for renovation grants, I should remind the House that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) told the Institute of Housing conference a few weeks ago that the Labour party still supported means testing and that all it was thinking about was "rejigging the means test". That is the expression that the hon. Gentleman used. He looks puzzled; perhaps he does not read his own speeches. That points to a further area of confusion in the Labour party's policies. It will try to make everybody believe that 100 per cent. grants will be available for everybody without any means test, but it is clear that it recognises that it is much fairer to have a system of means testing.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) made clear during his important contribution to the debate, the Government's record on improving the nation's housing stock is exemplary and stands comparison with the record of any previous Labour Government. My hon. Friend understated the position. He said that there had been a 50 per cent. increase in real terms in the resources put into home renovations last year compared with 10 years ago. In fact, there has been a 100 per cent. increase in real terms in the money put into home improvements. That is why in the legislation we have been able to extend the categories and definitions so that more properties can be defined as unfit. In that way we can further improve the quality of the housing stock.

I predict that it will not be long before Opposition Members suggest that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of unfit properties during the lifetime of the Government. Opposition Members are nodding already. The numbers will have increased because we have widened the criteria and, thereby, improved the standards. That shows the way in which—dare I say it—the Opposition are prepared to resort to a form of cheating in their selective use of statistics.

Since 1979 more than £4 billion has been spent on more than 1.2 million grants to help people improve and renovate homes in the private sector. Spending has increased significantly. One of the most important parts of the new regulations is the major new assistance they provide for the disabled. The elements of the grants for the disabled have been widely recognised and accepted as being helpful to the disabled. They fit in well with the Government's policies on care in the community and enabling people to stay in their own homes. I am sorry that during the debate no Opposition Member has praised the new system and given credit where it is due.

It is worth pointing out that a newspaper that is not normally very generous in its support for Government policies carried an article last month with the heading, "Home improvement grants better". It said: A more generous system of home improvement aid to be launched on July 1 features mandatory grants of up to 100 per cent. of repair and renovation costs for both the low-paid and the disabled. Housing experts have welcomed the new system as a distinct improvement". I do not know whether that journalist will continue in employment with The Guardian after writing that article. If The Guardian thinks that the new system is better, it is churlish of the Opposition not to be prepared to accept the major improvements that have been introduced.

I commend the regulations to the House. I hope that hon. Members of both sides of the House will support them in the Lobby. As there are a couple of minutes left, I shall tell the House of a fully worked example which shows how generous the new system is. An elderly couple aged over 60, one of whom is disabled and receives an attendance or mobility allowance and with a net weekly income of £130—totalling about £6,779 a year—would be able to obtain a grant of £18,285 for works costing £20,000. That is generous in anybody's language. I commend the regulations to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 182.

Division No. 300] [11.30 pm
Allen, Graham Gould, Bryan
Alton, David Graham, Thomas
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Armstrong, Hilary Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Ashton, Joe Hinchliffe, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Home Robertson, John
Barron, Kevin Hood, Jimmy
Beckett, Margaret Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Beggs, Roy Hoyle, Doug
Blunkett, David Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bradley, Keith Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Buckley, George J. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Caborn, Richard Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Callaghan, Jim Lamond, James
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Leadbitter, Ted
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Livsey, Richard
Canavan, Dennis Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Carr, Michael Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McAllion, John
Clay, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Clelland, David McCartney, Ian
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McFall, John
Corbett, Robin McKelvey, William
Corbyn, Jeremy McLeish, Henry
Cousins, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Crowther, Stan McWilliam, John
Cryer, Bob Madden, Max
Dalyell, Tam Maginnis, Ken
Darling, Alistair Mahon, Mrs Alice
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Marek, Dr John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dewar, Donald Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dixon, Don Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martlew, Eric
Eastham, Ken Meale, Alan
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michael, Alun
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Flynn, Paul Morgan, Rhodri
Foster, Derek Morley, Elliot
Foulkes, George Murphy, Paul
Fyfe, Maria Nellist, Dave
George, Bruce O'Brien, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O'Neill, Martin
Godman, Dr Norman A. Parry, Robert
Golding, Mrs Llin Patchett, Terry
Pike, Peter L. Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Steinberg, Gerry
Prescott, John Strang, Gavin
Primarolo, Dawn Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms Joyce Turner, Dennis
Redmond, Martin Vaz, Keith
Reid, Dr John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Rogers, Allan Wareing, Robert N.
Rooker, Jeff Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Wilson, Brian
Rowlands, Ted Winnick, David
Salmond, Alex Wise, Mrs Audrey
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Snape, Peter Mr. Frank Haynes and
Soley, Clive Mr. Allen McKay.
Spearing, Nigel
Alexander, Richard Fishburn, John Dudley
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Forman, Nigel
Amess, David Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Amos, Alan Forth, Eric
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Fox, Sir Marcus
Arnold, Sir Thomas Franks, Cecil
Atkins, Robert Freeman, Roger
Atkinson, David French, Douglas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Baldry, Tony Gill, Christopher
Batiste, Spencer Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Goodlad, Alastair
Bellingham, Henry Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Benyon, W. Gow, Ian
Bevan, David Gilroy Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gregory, Conal
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Grist, Ian
Bowis, John Ground, Patrick
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael
Bright, Graham Hague, William
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Buck, Sir Antony Hampson, Dr Keith
Burt, Alistair Hanley, Jeremy
Butcher, John Hannam, John
Butterfill, John Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Harris, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Carrington, Matthew Hawkins, Christopher
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Chapman, Sydney Hayward, Robert
Chope, Christopher Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, James Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Curry, David Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunter, Andrew
Day, Stephen Irvine, Michael
Devlin, Tim Jack, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Janman, Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jessel, Toby
Dover, Den Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dunn, Bob Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Durant, Tony Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Evennett, David King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Knapman, Roger
Fallon, Michael Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Favell, Tony Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knox, David
Lang, Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lawrence, Ivan Stern, Michael
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Stevens, Lewis
Lightbown, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lord, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Summerson, Hugo
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maclean, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
McLoughlin, Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Malins, Humfrey Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mans, Keith Thorne, Neil
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thornton, Malcolm
Maude, Hon Francis Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Tracey, Richard
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Twinn, Dr Ian
Meyer, Sir Anthony Walden, George
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Moss, Malcolm Waller, Gary
Nelson, Anthony Ward, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Warren, Kenneth
Norris, Steve Watts, John
Raffan, Keith Wells, Bowen
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wheeler, Sir John
Riddick, Graham Whitney, Ray
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Widdecombe, Ann
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rossi, Sir Hugh Winterton, Nicholas
Rowe, Andrew Wood, Timothy
Sackville, Hon Tom Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Shaw, David (Dover) Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shelton, Sir William Younger, Rt Hon George
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Mr. Irvine Patnick and
Speller, Tony Mr. Nicholas Baker.

Question accordingly negatived.

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