HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc523-44 10.16 pm
Mr. Speaker

We now come to the two community charge prayers—

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a correction slip for the regulations, SI 230, which has been made available to the House. Would it be possible to clarify the contents of that correction slip, because, at first sight, the matter to be corrected and the correction appear to be identical, unless the semi-colon at the end of the correction is integral to it rather than separating it from the other mistake in the orginal regulations. How can that obscure point be clarified so that we know what we are talking about?

Mr. Speaker

Would it be for the convenience of the House if I read out the correct version?

Mr. Beith

That would be extremely helpful.

Mr. Speaker

It says: "regulation 9(3): delete'2 x C-(W x £104)/1+ F' substitute'2 x C-(W +£104)"/1+ F' I hope that that is clear.

10.17 pm
Mr. Brian Gould (Dagenham)

I beg to move, That the Personal Community Charge (Reductions) (England) Regulations 1991 (S.I., 1991, No. 230), a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th February, be revoked. If I felt generous, I might spin my speech out long enough to allow the Minister to receive advice from his civil servants on how to respond to the point of order raised. Whether or not he can respond to that point of order and clarify this matter, it is symptomatic of yet another piece of confusion in what has become the whole long and sorry saga of the poll tax. In a few minutes, the Minister will have, not for the first time, the embarrassing task of defending one further instalment in that saga. As we know, the poll tax saga is set, unlike its main progenitor, to go on and on and on.

We are told that the Cabinet will reach a decision tomorrow—a decision that we all know is just as unlikely to put an end to the poll tax and the continuing controversy it has created as all those other decisions, reviews, sweeteners and transitional relief schemes that we have been assured at regular intervals will finally do the trick.

The Minister's embarrassment is all too well founded. Even if we limit ourselves to the narrow category of transitional relief schemes, tonight's debate deals with what, on any reckoning, must be regarded as both the third and the fourth versions of such a scheme. There are the third and fourth attempts to—

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)


Mr. Gould

I shall not give way; I have just started.

This is the third and fourth attempt to put in place a scheme that will work. Even in the limited terms that have been claimed for it and its predecessors, we have had, first, the initial transitional relief scheme which was forced upon a reluctant Government. We then had the modified version of that initial scheme produced by the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten). The whole thing then began to speed up. Then came the present Secretary of State's new scheme, announced at the beginning of this year, and, in even quicker order, the new replacement and refinement of that scheme which the right hon. Gentleman announced a week or two ago.

It is little wonder that the Minister of State has at times been so bemused by that bewildering sequence of events. He and his Secretary of State have alternated in producing figures which have bounced up and down as far and as fast as a yo-yo.

Mr. Arnold

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gould

No, I am just about to embarrass the Minister of State. When I have done so, I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

On 25 March, the Minister told us that the new version of the scheme would benefit 8 million people. Perhaps, to be fair, he is not at his best at this time of the night. Less than 48 hours later, the Secretary of State had to correct him by pointing out that he was wrong to the tune of a little matter of 100 per cent. Little wonder that Ministers have made such a mess of the poll tax if they have such difficulty in agreeing among themselves or even understanding their own figures. I expect, but I may be wrong, that the Minister will tonight adhere to the 16 million figure given by the Secretary of State, but why should we believe him on this occasion when he has proved to be so wrong before?

Mr. Arnold

What would the hon. Gentleman say to the 9,400 community charge payers in Gravesham who would lose by his abolition of the community charge reduction scheme? Furthermore, what would he say to the 71,000 community charge payers in Gravesham who would lose £12 per head under his own fair rates criteria?

Mr. Gould

I am delighted to say that, even in Gravesham, there would be substantial savings in administrative costs and collection levels, and that many poll tax payers would be relieved of that unfair burden.

Similar confusion attends other questions, such as the public spending cost of this measure and the extent to which the money set aside for the purpose will be offset by savings on the amounts spent on the rebate scheme. It has to be said that the Government have moved, albeit painfully slowly.

The present scheme's predecessors were fatally flawed, because they dealt in assumed rather than real figures and because such large categories of people were excluded from the benefits of the scheme. When we mentioned those matters and made justified criticisms, the Government denied that the schemes were flawed in those ways; but they have now conceded, at least implicitly, that the force of our criticisms was great. Such is the power of effective opposition. That is why this revised scheme has been brought forward—because we have prevailed in our insistence that its predecessors were so deficient In what they sought to do.

However, the Secretary of State remains wrong, in what is now a long and dishonourable tradition in such mattters, when he asserts in a cavalier fashion that no one will pay more under this scheme than the £1 per week above their old rates bill that it specifies.

Will the Minister of State confirm that significant categories of people remain excluded from the scheme? Will he confirm that among those excluded will be people who move during the current year since 31 March, young adults who became 18 during the year and people who live in properties on which rates were not payable before the poll tax was introduced—for example, properties built since that date? The real peculiarity of the scheme is not confusion over the numbers affected, over the costs of the scheme or indeed over the catetories which are within or outside it. The real peculiarity lies in the concept of the scheme.

What is the great and central virtue claimed for the scheme? It is instructive to try to answer that question, because the answer is that the great central virtue is the extent to which the scheme is able to reduce bills so that they approximate to the levels of the bills sent out under the much derided rates. That is what is claimed for it.

What is the benchmark by which that great virtue is to be measured? Why, it is the old rates bill itself which is said to embody that great benefit; that very Nirvana to which the scheme can do no more than approximate.

I fully accept that the old rates bill is the embodiment of that virtue. I welcome the extent to which poll tax bills will be brought to approximate to the old rates bills. But if that is the rationale of the scheme, why fiddle around with all the confusion and all the costs of maintaining the poll tax? Why bother with all the horrendous headaches of administrative costs, the register, the low collection levels, the sweeteners and the transitional relief schemes themselves? Why not show a little courage and honesty?

Why not be honest and straightforward and admit that, rather than aspire merely to approximate to rates bills, it would be better to go directly to the rates bills themselves? Why not use the money available under the scheme, as we have proposed, to institute a proper fair rates scheme? Why not end the shilly-shallying and accept the logic of the scheme—the logic which points inexorably away from the poll tax and towards an immediate return to the rates?

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

I am rather puzzled because it is within my recollection that, at the time of the last election, the hon. Gentleman and most of his colleagues subscribed to the Labour party statement in its manifesto that it would abolish the rating system. Is that fact or fiction?

Mr. Gould

I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is puzzled, because he is flatly wrong. [Interruption.] Yes, he is.

That is the point that we were trying to make earlier today—that this money should be used to abolish the poll tax. To help the Government, we have published our poll tax abolition Bill—here it is—setting out the means by which we can ensure that this year's poll tax bills will be the last. We offered our co-operation to the Government in speeding the Bill through the House.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

What about widows?

Mr. Gould

I will come to widows in a moment, if the hon. Lady will be patient.

We have taken the logic of the Minister of State's measure and applied it to the more direct and comprehensive solution of replacing the poll tax by a fair rate scheme.

The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities (Mr. Michael Portillo)

I have been trying to follow the hon. Gentleman carefully, and I think that I have understood him to say that he wants to take the money from the community charge reduction scheme and apply it to produce lower rates bills under his scheme. If I had understood him correctly, how does he square that with the document "Opportunity, Quality, Accountability", which says that Labour would introduce transitional measures right from the start? I do not understand how those two positions are consistent.

Mr. Gould

The transitional provision is included in our fair rates proposals to deal with matters such as the unified business rate. That is where we make it clear that we will provide transitional relief. No transitional relief is required under our scheme, because it produces bills which are, on average, £140 lower for each household.

Dame Peggy Fenner (Medway)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gould

In a moment.

Dame Peggy Fenner

The hon. Gentleman does not want to give way to me.

Mr. Gould

Yes, I will: the hon. Lady simply has to be patient.

I fear that, instead of the honest and straightforward measure that we have proposed, we are promised instead a consultation paper, which the Secretary of State tells us —perhaps he has changed his mind—will set out a number of preferred options.

My information is that the consultation paper will so far accommodate all that range of preferred options that a separate page is to be handed over to each member of the Cabinet. I understand that there will be a page for the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales in which they will set out their proposals for different schemes in different parts of the United Kingdom. Special pages will be embossed in honour of those members of the Cabinet—the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Health and the chairman of the Conservative party —who have made such sterling contributions to the current difficulties.

The paper will contain an honorary page which will be handed to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), in which she will say that she at last concedes that she was wrong to introduce the poll tax and now wholeheartedly supports the notion that it should go and should be replaced by a property-based tax. The right hon. Lady will say that she looks forward to being whipped on a three-line Whip through the Lobby in support of the new measure. I understand that that page will contain dissenting footnotes from the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State in which they will make clear their continuing adherence to the principle of the poll tax, a principle that they have often supported in the House in the most glowing terms.

I fear that the Secretary of State for the Environment will have not one page but several in which he will set out at length all the ideas that he has produced in such profusion over the past decade. The ideas are contradictory, but no doubt he will feel obliged to put them before us. At the culmination of the document will be the page devoted to the Prime Minister's contribution. Of course, it will remain blank.

That brings us to the cost of the scheme, and the use to which we would put that money under the fair rates scheme. We assume that sum, for the purpose of our calculation, to be about £1 billion, but I am happy to accept whatever figure the Minister of State wants to suggest. As we made clear last week, that money, together with the money saved on administrative costs and on higher collection levels, would be applied to an improvement in central Government grant so that average bills would be lower by about £140 per household. In that calculation, we have compared like with like, headline bill with headline bill.

No one has seriously or effectively challenged our arithmetic. Quite the reverse, because the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and others have confirmed that our arithmetic is impeccable. [Interruption.] Conservative Members may be interested to hear the next part of my speech, in which I shall attempt to deal with the Government's complaint. They complain that we have been unfair in our calculations, because we have taken the benefit of the cost of this scheme and applied it to reduce our headline bills but have not allowed a similar reduction in their headline bills. We have been straightforward and have made it clear that we are comparing headline bills with headline bills.

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman claims to have compared headline bill with headline bill. On "Today" on Radio 4, he said: What we're talking about is a household bill which would be £140 lower than that same household would pay under this year's poll tax provision. That is not a headline bill, and it is not a reduction of £140 in what people are paying under this year's provision. What the hon. Gentleman said on that programme was absolutely wrong, and he is now trying to cover it up by claiming that he compared headline charges. He did not.

Mr. Gould

The Minister of State will have an opportunity to develop that point. Our statement makes it clear, and I do so again, that we are comparing headline bills with headline bills. I am happy to deal with the Minister of State's point, but I rather suspect that Conservative Members will not be happy when I have done so. If the Government want to compare the bills that are payable, I am happy to join in the exercise, because the Minister of State would then be in a rather different difficulty.

If we consider the bills payable, it is not just the transitional relief that must be taken into account; the question of the rebate must be added to the reckoning. The big difference between the Government's poll tax bills and our fair rates bills is that, when the Government reduce bills under their reduction scheme, they pocket the very substantial savings they make on rebate. When we reduce the headline bill by much more than they are doing—by an average of £140 per household —we will redistribute the money saved on rebate and apply it to an extension and improvement of the rebate scheme that will benefit the very widow about whom the hon. Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner) is so concerned. That is why the bills that will actually be paid under our scheme will be substantially lower than the headline bills.

Because the Government are not sure of their figures, it is difficult to calculate the sums involved. If the Minister would like to offer us some figures, we would be delighted to confirm our calculation. It is a reasonable assumption that the £140 advantage that we have shown in the headline bill per household will at least be maintained when both transitional relief and rebates are taken into account.

Mr. Beith

Why did not the hon. Gentleman tell us in his announcement last week what rebates would be available under his proposal, how much money he thinks can be channelled from the scheme to provide rebates, and where that money will come from?

Mr. Gould

The hon. Gentleman and I have exchanged correspondence on that matter, and I continue to be puzzled about why he finds it difficult. We have been clear about our position, and I am happy to restate it now. Unlike the Government, we will not pocket the savings on rebates; we will spend exactly the same amount net as currently goes to rebates, but because of the savings and because of their redistribution we can extend the scheme substantially and improve it. That is how we can help the widow and do away with the 100 per cent. contribution.

Our challenge to the Government —who are introducing a confusing and expensive package whose only claimed merit is that it reduces some bills to an approximation of rates bills—is, why make do with the approximation? Why not have the real thing? Why not have the savings on both headline bills and bills payable, which would flow from our fair rates scheme, as soon as possible? Let us forget the nonsense of transitional relief, and apply the money to fair rates. The Government should take up the Bill that we published today and use it to get rid of the poll tax now, once and for all. The pity of it is that the Government do not have the courage or the will to take that simple step. That is why we shall vote against the regulations tonight.

10.38 pm
The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities (Mr. Michael Portillo)

This has already been a worthwhile debate. One can scarcely believe that we are debating a prayer—a subject chosen by the Opposition. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) put his foot in it two or three times during his speech. We now know that there is to be no transitional relief scheme under Labour's proposals. That is scarcely consistent with the document "Opportunity, Quality, Accountability" which talks of introducing transitional measures from the start. I find that puzzling. Possibly the hon. Gentleman has a ready-made document, or perhaps he misheard the cue from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor).

The hon. Gentleman has tried to wriggle out of something that is quite clear. He made a false comparison on the "Today" programme on Radio 4. He has been caught out. He can assert as often as he likes that he was comparing headline figures, but the record stands—he did not say that. He was quoted on Radio 4 as saying something different.

The scheme that we are discussing brings great relief to many community charge payers, who will note with interest that the Labour party is this evening voting against that relief. The community charge reduction scheme is now extremely straightforward and simple. To answer the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), there is indeed a difference between the original and the corrected versions. A multiplication sign becomes a plus sign—an important difference.

For every couple in future, the increase as between the community charge bill and the old rates bill will be limited to just £52. For every additional eligible adult another £52 threshold is added —

Mr. Gould

The Minister used the word "every". He may recall, if he was listening to what I said, that I invited him to comment on a number of categories of people who I suggested would fall outside the scheme—for example, those who become 18 during the course of this year, or people who move house this year, or people who formerly lived in houses that were not liable to rates. Will he confirm that those people are outside the scheme? If not, how are they brought within it?

Mr. Portillo

Yes, there are a number of categories of such people who are outside the scheme.

The operation of the scheme is not so difficult as some people would like to make out. In fact, some local authorities —10 at the last count, including Watford, Trafford and, I am thrilled to say, Barking and Dagenham —have already sent their bills out net of the general reduction of £140 and net of the community charge reduction scheme.

The Personal Community Charge (Reductions) (England) Regulations 1991 bring into effect the changes that we announced last January. They therefore take over where the transitional relief scheme left off, but with some important changes, including special rules created for people living in sheltered housing so that their reduction can be calculated on the basis of their share of the total rates bill. Tonight, the Labour party is voting against reductions for such people. The Personal Community Charge (Reductions) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 1991 simply correct one of the formulae used in the calculation of the reduction for people living in sheltered housing.

Although not the subject of the debate today, of critical importance is the second amending set of regulations—the Personal Community Charge (Reductions) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 1991. These regulations account for the most recent changes, which are: an even lower threshold of £52; more help for larger families and people living in groups of properties covered by one assessment only—they will not have to pay more than the 1989–90 rates bill plus £52 for the first two eligible people and a further £52 for each subsequent eligible person; people who moved in 1990–91 and who lost their entitlement to transitional relief may now enter the reduction scheme at their new address.

An example might be helpful at this point. As the hon. Member for Dagenham was fair enough to point out, following the £140 reduction those eligible for a reduction under this scheme have to pay only the 1989–90 rates, calculated as the rateable value for their property, multiplied by the average rate poundage for their areas, plus £52 for the first two people and a further £52 for every successive eligible person.

So three eligible people living in a terraced house in Pendle for which the rates were about £200 may have to pay in total only £304—that is, £200 plus £52 for the first two people and another £52 for the third person. Each individual's liability—before any community charge benefit is calculated—will be only just over £100 compared with Pendle's revised charge of £218.

About 7 million people benefited from transitional relief last year, but an estimated 16 million people will benefit from this scheme at a cost of just over £1.2 billion. This brings the average charge before the calculation of community charge benefit to £220. Let us consider how this compares with Labour's careful analysis.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

As well as giving us hypothetical examples from wonderful places north of Watford—such as Pendle—will my hon. Friend reflect on a constituency case of mine? A constituent in Surrey recently wrote to me saying that he faced a charge this year of £1,161, which he said was outrageous. I was able, however, to write this afternoon to tell him that under the proposals that the Government have produced his family of three would have to pay only £534—so my hon. Friend's proposals have saved my constituent and his family £627. Is that not better than anything that the Labour party could come up with?

Mr. Portillo

My hon. Friend has produced a remarkable example. When he next writes to his constituent he will presumably be able to write as a postscript that the Opposition voted against the giving of that relief.

Mr. Gould

Does the Minister agree that the example of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) showed how outrageously high poll tax bills became and how substantially reduced a real rates bill would have been for the same family?

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman has failed to respond, despite several interventions, to the case of those who benefited substantially from the community charge. I think especially of single widows. They have no need of the community charge reduction scheme because they are doing better under the community charge than under the rating system. When the hon. Gentleman proposes that he should take us back to rates, with no upper limits, no protection and no transitional relief, he is saying that single widows should be taken back to and beyond enormous rates bills. He has no solution to that problem. He does not care about single widows. He has explicitly ruled out any relief for them, or any reduction for single people generally. He is on poor ground.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

My hon. Friend has made an interesting but obvious comment about the unfairness of the rating system. He will recollect that a few years ago the Leader of the Opposition said categorically that that system was the unfairest tax that was ever invented and that it should be abolished forthwith. Has my hon. Friend any recollection of when the Leader of the Opposition contradicted that statement?

Mr. Portillo

The Leader of the Opposition prefers not to talk about local government finance. When he addressed his party's local government conference, he used about half a sentence to describe the so-called fair rates policy. I do not know whether that is because he does not understand it or because he is not satisfied with it. I cannot think of any occasion on which he has disowned his statement about rating policy.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

If the poll tax is so splendid, why are the Government attempting to abolish it? Why is there so much disarray within the ranks of the Tory party? Why is the poll tax not being retained as it is?

Mr. Portillo

The House was discussing disarray within the Labour party. We were discussing why the Leader of the Opposition described rates as the unfairest of all taxes and is now proposing to return to them.

I take up what the Labour party has said about "fair rates". It claims that the average bill per household will be £333, and that that will represent a saving of £140 over the average paid in community charges. It is wrong on two counts. First, the average bill should be about £360, not £333. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy has confirmed these figures. It has said that Labour's scheme would need to raise £6.7 billion of income from the domestic ratepayer and that the average bill would be £358. The CIPFA figures deduct from what is raised now £1.25 billion of grant from the community charge reduction scheme and putative savings of £400 million on the cost of collecting the tax. They do not bear out the Labour party's figures. The CIPFA figures are at variance with the Labour party's figures by £25 per household.

The Labour party has made a mistake in the first part of the calculation of £400 million, but it does not end there. The figure that describes the saving of the average household is also wrong. The Labour party has taken out the money that goes into the community charge scheme to produce lower rates bills, but it has not allowed for that money when dealing with the average bill now being paid under the community charge. It has assumed that the average household now pays £473, but households pay only £394 on average once the community charge reduction scheme has been taken into account. The £66 difference is a saving that people are already making under the Government, not an extra saving that they would make under Labour's policy. That eliminates another £79 of Labour's savings.

I heard loud and clear what the hon. Gentleman said this evening and I also heard what he said on the radio, where he misrepresented the facts. I have what he said in black and white. Is he denying the transcript of his radio broadcast or saying that it is wrong?

Mr. Gould

The document that we published at our press conference made it clear—indeed it was so clear that it was in the first paragraph—that we were comparing headline bill with headline bill. Apparently the Minister of State did not understand what I said, or chose not to understand. I made it clear that if he wants to compare bills paid with bills paid the advantage is there in similar measure. He would have to take account not only of transitional relief, but of the superiority of our rebate scheme. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say about how much is saved on the rebate scheme by virtue of the transitional relief scheme.

Mr. Portillo

I can tell that the House is in a generous mood this evening. If the hon. Gentleman cared to apologise for his mistake, the House would accept that. He could say that he was speaking on the radio and did not mean to be misleading. He said: What we're talking about is a household bill which will be £140 lower than that same household would pay under this year's poll tax provisions".

Mr. Gould

That is right.

Mr. Portillo

That is not right; it is absolutely wrong.

Mr. Gould


Mr. Portillo

What a household pays under this year's poll tax provisions must take account of the reductions being received by 16 million people under the community charge reduction scheme.

Mr. Gould

The Minister of State persists in either failing or refusing to understand the point that I made at the beginning of the debate. I said that if we are to consider bills paid, the Minister cannot stop merely at taking account of his pet transitional relief scheme in calculating the bills paid. He must also take account of the rebate scheme. As the rebate scheme is substantially reduced by the transitional relief scheme, and as we propose to recycle that money and ensure that every penny is used for rebates, when we regard both of those factors my statement stands. If that is not the case, let the Minister of State dispute the arithmetic.

Mr. Portillo

My advice to the hon. Gentleman is, "When you are in a hole, stop digging". The record of what the hon. Gentleman said on the radio is clear. The House has seen him wriggling today, but he cannot undo what he said on the radio.

The Labour party's figures are wrong by £104 per household. The remainder of its assumed savings could equally arise under any new local tax. It is claiming savings from collection costs on the assumption that all the debts from the community charge system are written off. That could be claimed for any tax system. When it comes down to it, the Labour party is offering savings that people are already receiving and which might be claimed for any new local tax. Its figures are bogus.

Let us cast such mathematical quibbles to one side. Labour party policy is, as the hon. Gentleman said, to take the money available through the community charge reduction scheme and redirect it through the grant system to all local authorities. The hon. Gentleman confirmed that.

The Labour party would take away targeted help from those who need it most—those who faced the largest increases on moving to the community charge—and spread it around. Of course, that help under Labour would be targeted on Labour councils. The money that now goes to reduce bills would be used to support even higher levels of spending by councils. We know where the highest levels of spending are —they are in Labour councils. That is Labour's way for local government.

I must again remind the hon. Member for Dagenham of the statement made in "Opportunity, Quality, Accountability" that there will be transitional measures "right from the start". He now denies that this will apply to the new scheme and says that it is meant to apply only to the business rate. I therefore have two charges against the hon. Gentleman. First, Labour policy on this issue is thoroughly confused and the hon. Gentleman gives a passable impression of not having read his own policy document. Secondly, he is unwilling to offer any protection to anyone, whether single people or widows, when he proposes to move people back to their rate bills.

What is more, if there is to be further transitional relief under the business rate—as we now understand the hon. Member for Dagenham to be saying —may we know where that money will come from? Will it be raised separately? Will it be added to VAT? Will it be raised from income tax? Will it be imposed on domestic ratepayers? Will it be raised from higher business rates for other people? [Interruption.] I am asking the hon. Member for Dagenham a question. Instead of laughing, he should think about how the scheme will be financed. If, as I understand it, there is to be transitional relief for business payers, where will the money come from?

Mr. Gould

I was laughing because I was astonished at the Minister's brass neck. He represents a Government who introduced a transitional relief scheme for their own nationalised business rate which was financed by business ratepayers.

Mr. Portillo

It is not easy to get answers tonight. I take it that this is a further impost on those who pay business rates who would otherwise gain from the move to the uniform business rate. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dagenham nods. It is a further impost on those businesses that would otherwise gain.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) has made it clear that a heavier burden will be imposed on local people through domestic rates to pay for higher council spending? As the hon. Gentleman said on BBC Radio 4 on 26 March this year, the amount will go up to 20 per cent. The hon. Gentleman fudged the issue by pretending that it is the same as the current level. That is not true.

Mr. Portillo

Indeed. The hon. Member for Dagenham claimed that the appropriate amount to raise from local taxation was 20 per cent We have reduced it to 15 per cent. My hon. Friends may remember that the Labour party was very much against the increase in VAT that enabled the reduction from 20 per cent. to 15 per cent. to be made. Labour Members want to have it both ways. They now want to claim that the new tax should be based on 15 per cent. even though they were so dismissive of the idea of putting it on VAT. If they do not want it on VAT, does that mean that we are to go back to 20 per cent. funding from local taxpayers, or will the money be raised in another way?

Mr. Gould


Mr. Portillo

I shall give way for the last time. I must let others speak in the debate.

Mr. Gould

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way so generously as he is again trying to misrepresent what I said. The Minister, the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) should get their act together. We should at least be talking about common definitions. If they care to check the statement made to the House by the Secretary of State on 21 March, they will see that he proudly claimed that the sum raised by the poll tax had been 34 per cent. but because of the switch in the Budget had been reduced to 22 per cent. Let us at least have some consistency in the use of these figures.

Mr. Portillo

I did not hear the hon. Gentleman answer the question. If he is against the VAT increase, where will the money come from?

The regulations offer real help to people who need it. It is valuable help, costing £1.25 billion. It is help to a large number—16 million people. This evening, the Labour party will compound a wretched evening for itself by voting against the regulations. I commend them to the House.

10.59 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Conservative Members talk about confusion in the Labour party. For the past year, I have seen a great deal of confusion in the Conservative party. I watched English hon. Members go into the Division Lobby without losing a wink of sleep to put the poll tax in Scotland. When they realised what they had done in England, they brought about the downfall of the then Prime Minister. Bit by bit, they are now backing off from the poll tax.

We are debating the poll tax tonight because Conservative Members are worried about the municipal elections and the effect that they will have on Conservative councillors. I hope that, for the sake of people who are suffering real hardship throughout the country, they will get rid of the poll tax. Let us forget about the £144 under discussion tonight. Conservative Members must know that elderly people and widows are coming to our surgeries and saying that, under the rating system—bad as it was —they could depend on rebates. Now they are worried and do not know whether they are coming or going.

The Minister spoke of "single widows". What can a widow be but single? He said that no one has given assurances about widows, but he must know that, if a widow resides in a house with four or five adults in the household, under the poll tax system she will be worse off than she was under the rating system. In Strathclyde the poll tax is £350. I know of no widow with sons and daughters who is in a better position under the poll tax system. Widows who live alone may be in a different position, but I should have thought that the rating system could cope with their situation under a rebate scheme.

The Minister must know that the terrible system whereby sons and daughters leave the household and refuse to register puts mothers and fathers in a distressing position. For the first time in their lives, they have debt collectors coming to their doors. People who prided themselves in never having had debts are now threatened with warrant sales. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that local authorities such as Strathclyde should have more warrant sales. Warrant sales are being implemented in Strathclyde as a result of mistakes by the local authority, when people have paid their poll tax through bankers orders and the money has been credited to other people. People have then been threatened with messenger-at-arms officers.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Incompetent Labour councils.

Mr. Martin

The hon. Gentleman must know the terrible pressures being put on councils, whether they are Conservative or Labour.

Much of the talk about and the attacks on local authorities, regardless of their political persuasion—

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Martin

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman because the Front Benches have taken up more than half the debate. The hon. Gentleman can take his chances.

Conservative Members' remarks do a disservice to councillors throughout the country. They must know that councillors do an excellent job. They take care of social work problems, look after the local authorities on a voluntary basis and, when they get home at night, are pestered with phone calls and must attend numerous meetings in their wards. When the Minister talked about local authorities, he did not mention that. A disservice has been done.

I also believe that the poll tax has brought out the charlatans, the organisations that run around collecting money under false pretences. One organisation, known as the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation, has received thousands of pounds from the poorest of the poor. It has organised demonstrations, but I do not hear a word from the Minister about investigating where that money goes.

The All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation in the west of Scotland has turned up to school meetings all over Strathclyde. It has collected money under the pretext that it will go to fighting the poll tax and no one knows where that money goes. Some of it has been directed into getting people involved in violent demonstrations in Trafalgar square. The Scottish Nationalists do not come out of the affair very well because some of them—Members of Parliament—have graced the platforms of such organisa-tions. They have turned up in my constituency, telling the poorest of the poor not to pay their poll tax when they know that the worst thing that can happen to people is to get deeper and deeper into debt.

The poll tax has brought out the worst elements in our society who are prepared to exploit people who are living in poverty—[Interruption.] Hon. Members talk about the Labour party. There are respectable men and women in the Labour party who are on record as saying that, regardless of whether or not this is a bad law, people must obey the rule of law. I shall go on record as saying that. It is wrong for hon. Members to name a few Labour Members and say that their behaviour is typical of all of them.

I do not say that Lady Porter, who sells off a graveyard to developers, is typical of Conservative councillors—far from it. Therefore, why should Conservative Members smear Opposition Members in that way when they know that they are decent men and women?

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Martin

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman —I have given my reason.

Badness comes out when a bad law is brought in. There was a by-election in Scotland where Scottish Nationalists told people on their doorsteps not to pay their poll tax. When asked by the media, the Scottish Nationalist candidate said, "If I am pushed to a warrant sale I will bring out my cheque book and pay the poll tax." Some of my constituents whom the Nationalists encouraged not to pay their poll tax do not have the luxury of bringing out a cheque book and paying their way out of the problems. When bad law is introduced, it brings the House into disrepute, and the poll tax has done that.

11.8 pm

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

I am shocked beyond measure to learn tonight from the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) that Her Majesty's Opposition will not vote in favour of the community charge reduction scheme. I believe that there is a certain sad consistency in that dreadful statement. I cannot accept that Labour party members are, in their hearts, committed to cheap, effective and accountable local government. If they were, whether the scheme benefits 8 million, 18 million or 28 million people, it will still be a scheme that gives financial help to people who have found life with the community charge tough.

It is inconsistent and hypocritical of the Labour party to say, on the one hand, that it cares about the poor and, on the other hand, to fail to support the community charge reduction scheme. I am ashamed of its Members; I think their action is disgraceful. I have spent much of my adult life working for the poor. However, hypocrisy may not be the only hallmark of the modern Labour party, Her Majesty's Opposition. I believe that there is a flaw in their acceptability as a potential Government by virtue of their financial incompetence.

The Labour party was foolish enough to go into print. When one goes line by line through its documents that state how it intends to bring about a fair rates system, one sees that beneath those bold statements lie hypocrisy, inconsistency, incompetence and inaccuracy. I make strong statements because I have a local government background. I know about local government finance. I designed systems that led to accountability to the local electorate. While carrying out that work I found that the least competent and, therefore, the most expensive councils—the ones that paid through the nose for work that ought to have been done very economically —were, alas, those that were powerfully controlled by the Labour party.

Reference has already been made to the Labour party's difficulty over understanding the difference between 27, 15 and 20 per cent. When we calculate percentages we use different bases, according to the point that we are discussing. The assumption of the hon. Member for Dagenham is fundamentally flawed. I made that point earlier.

The Labour party assumes that councils will spend the same amount as they have set in their budgets. That is such a naive statement that it hardly bears consideration. We know that Labour council figures do not reflect the long-term effects of very high spending. A more important point is that the Labour party assumes that Government grant is redistributed among councils on the fairer equalisation basis set out in 'Fair Rates'". I leave aside the obvious point that Labour failed to tell us what form its grant distribution formula would take. The Labour party says that it is consulting on its alternatives, yet it knocks the Government for consulting. It is a curious "Alice in Wonderland" state of affairs when a word means just what one wants it to mean, according to how one uses it.

A more important point is that, according to the fair rates document, the Labour party's proposals would not take effect for several years after the Labour party had taken office. It is therefore untrue to say that Government grant would be redistributed among councils on the fairer equalisation basis set out in "Fair Rates." That would provide no help for two or three years.

The Labour party proposes that first there should be a return to the old rating system. That would be very difficult. Some of the rating lists are 10 or 20 years out of date. In a few places in my constituency revaluations have not been made since 1967. How, therefore, on page 3 of "Fair Rates: Labour's Alternative to the Poll Tax" can the Labour party say that the first thing that it intends to do is to modernise the rates by using that list? It also says —this is the untruth at the heart of that paper—that it would make them fairer by relating them to ability to pay. The Labour party offers a menu that will taste very bitter if the electorate is foolish enough to want to taste it.

The Opposition say that the timing of the changes will depend on the situation that they inherit and, in particular, on the resources that are available. They go on to detail a stream of people whom they intend to help in the long run. On top of that, they go into some detail in identifying what they call a property tax linked to ability to pay. That, I believe, is meant to be their fair rates system. They say that they will modernise the rating system immediately. We are told that they will instantly make it fair by relating it to ability to pay. In fact, what they outline on page 4 of this massive, inconsistent and frightening document is the effect of major, centralised computerisation. They say: We have considered the potential of the Inland Revenue's increasingly sophisticated computerised data base as a highly efficient and responsive way of linking tax liability to ability to pay. They may have considered it; clearly, they do not know how it works. It is indeed a highly sophisticated, highly economical means of collecting the inland revenue, but it would take years to alter it to do what Her Majesty's Opposition want it to do—pick up the possibility that means-tested rebates could be replaced by an automatic calculation of liability, using information already available. We are told that the system could even preserve confidentiality and require the disclosure of no new information. Here we go: Properly designed, it could be an important step towards a much wider reform encompassing the benefit system as well as taxation, and offering the prospect of a single tax-benefit transaction between the individual and the Government. When I raised this matter just before the Easter recess I was assured by Opposition Members that they had no intention of centralising information on citizens in this way. Yet this is what they offer. This is what is supposed to preserve confidentiality and personal privacy and to keep people from worrying. This is their way of creating what they call the fair rating system. It would take a 10-year programme to bring all these things together in a recomputerised format. We would end up with a system cutting right across the principle that confidentiality and individuality should be preserved to some degree. The way to preserve confidentiality and individuality is to keep these two wings of the Government's work apart. That has always been the basis of our society's thinking. But, at a stroke—or, rather, with a few lines on a word processor —the principle is cast aside. What is on offer is not a fair rates system; it is a return to the old burdensome rating system, based on an antiquated list which is 30 years out of date.

This Labour party document is not just full of flaws; it is a fudge, a mudge and an example of utter hypocrisy. I am no longer surprised that Her Majesty's Opposition will not vote for something that will benefit the electorate. Last time, they did not press the matter to a vote, but tonight they will do so. All that they are able to offer is something that should be discarded before it can see the light of day. I wish that they would either be honest and say that their paper has no validity in our society, or sit down and shut up.

11.18 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

These regulations are before the House tonight because the poll tax was never related to ability to pay. In the case of many people on moderate incomes, large bills were not abated satisfactorily. Help was available only at the lowest income levels. High-spending Labour authorities were not the only ones to send out large bills; people in Conservative-controlled areas like Harrogate and Warwickshire had to face the same problem; and people throughout the country were getting bills that, in terms of the national average, were of medium size. They produced levels of tax which it was unreasonable to ask people of modest incomes to pay; they were often much higher than the families had faced under the rating system.

One response would be to try to relate the system wholly to ability to pay. The Government response has been other than that: it has been to change their whole policy on the balance of local and central expenditure so as to get the basic charge down. That may be only a temporary measure until they have produced the scheme which they may tell us about tomorrow, but that is the purpose of the regulations.

Intriguingly, it is also the purpose that has been pursued by the Labour party. It has concentrated considerable effort on trying to produce another and significant decrease in the overall charge for everybody. Of course, such schemes have the effect of providing a reduction for those who are big gainers from the poll tax as well as for those who are big losers. They benefit the poor less than the rich, because some of those at the bottom of the salary scale cannot gain £140 from the system. It would have been far better for the Government to go from the start for a system related to ability to pay.

What has become even more puzzling tonight is why the Opposition, in their criticism of the whole thing, have not made it clear how a proper rebate system can be. grafted on to what they are proposing. It has become the great Labour rebate mystery. The fair rates document indicated that, under Labour's proposals, rebates would be introduced as resources allowed, depending on the position that was inherited, rather than being made integral to the scheme from the start.

What has been wrong with the poll tax all along is that ability to pay has not been integral to the scheme. That is why I and my right hon. and hon. Friends so strongly favour a local income tax, which would be based from the beginning on ability to pay. That fundamental defect cannot be solved by the Government's proposals. That said, so far into the charging year, the House would be mad to throw out the £140 relief. That would be a crazy thing to do.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)


Mr. Beith

So little time has been left for me that I cannot reasonably give way.

Throwing out the £140 relief would be denying to those people who have been hardest hit by the scheme the only relief on offer. Therefore, I cannot invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the prayer and to attempt to throw out the scheme, however deficient it is in some important respects.

There is a second reason, however, why I do not want my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the prayer. The Government scheme also incorporates something that I have been pestering Environment Ministers to do ever since they dreamed up the first transitional relief scheme; that is, to make provision for people living in sheltered housing schemes. I have been to meetings and on deputations to try to persuade the present Ministers and their predecessors that it was wrong that people living in sheltered housing schemes should not have had the benefit of transitional relief. It was the main means by which the Government sought to abate poll tax bills.

Many people in sheltered housing schemes are those who most deserve that help. Thank goodness they are at last getting it. It happens that, at the time they are getting it, they will also be getting the additional benefit of the £140 relief to the extent that they are eligible for that as well. So the immediate effect will not be as noticeable, but it is putting right an injustice of the transitional relief scheme since it started.

We are in an odd position, because we are debating two sets of regulations, although three are floating around on the subject. The one which is not before us actually amends the regulations that we are considering. Indeed, things that we pass tonight will be undone in the technical sense by statutory instrument 844. It would have been more helpful if we could have considered all the regulations at one go and if a group of prayers had been tabled by the Opposition to cover all three.

Those technicalities, along with the abstruse formula which has had to be corrected, will not be most evident to the people who are desperate for some relief from the terrific burden of the poll tax. This is the only relief on offer. What a crude mechanism it is, and how crude too is the mechanism which Labour has suggested as an alternative. We should have a local tax related to ability to pay. That is what a local income tax would provide.

11.24 pm
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

If we voted for every scheme and every proposal put to the House that had a grain of good in it we would never vote against anything. It is on those grounds that we shall vote against the regulations tonight.

The proposed scheme is flawed. It does not target help according to ability to pay, but relates help to previous rate bills. On 17 January we were told that the changes would cost £1.7 billion and that 18 million people would benefit. On 24 January, however, the Prime Minister said that any scheme that involved having to give a discount or rebate to more than 50 per cent. of the population was fundamentally flawed and would not last, so we have the right hon. Gentleman's word that we should not vote for the regulations tonight.

On 19 March the Treasury admitted that the £140 reduction would cost £4.5 billion and that a clawback of £1.25 billion was necessary from the scheme that we discussed today and from rebates to fund that reduction. On 12 April, however, the Secretary of State told us that £1.25 billion was the cost of the scheme. That means that £800 million will have to be clawed back from somewhere in the rebate system.

The proposed scheme is flawed because it does not target help according to ability to pay. It is not related to the rebate system, which would perform that precise job. It does not tackle the 20 per cent. contribution, which penalises the very poor, and it is certainly not aimed at helping widows. One Conservative Member kept on crying out about widows during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). The way to help widows is to ensure that the bills which have to be paid are directly related to the income of the person. We are not into helping Jacquie Onassis pay her bill under a blanket scheme. We shall help those who need assistance.

The regulations in SI 844 extend the scheme to families with three or more individuals living in the property, even though the Conservatives will announce next week that they want to target help on individuals living alone.

The scheme is absolute nonsense. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy has confirmed time and again, including in a letter from Noel Hepworth on Monday, that it agrees entirely with our arithmetic. It issued only one qualification and The Times got it wrong. It said that, as part of its constitution, it would never endorse any national party. Our scheme stands up to scrutiny. We shall target our help on those who need it most.

If the community charge reduction scheme had been operating 20 years ago, one individual would have had great difficulty in claiming the rebate, because that individual would have had great difficulty in identifying which local authority he lived in. That individual would have been the resident of No. 10 Downing street.

11.27 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robert Key)

The saddest thing about tonight's debate is that it is not being held in prime time with a packed House so that the public could hear exactly what has been said by Opposition Members, mistake after mistake and fluffed line after fluffed line. The Opposition have denied what they said on radio and television. It has been an extraordinary event.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) talked about a grain of good, and some grain it is—about £1.2 billion worth. The hon. Gentleman dismisses 16 million people with a reference to a grain of good. Tonight 16 million people will hear that Labour has voted against their relief. As the Opposition vote against that relief scheme, CIPFA and the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation will be busy distancing themselves even further from Labour's scheme.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) on his courageous speech, which it must have been difficult to deliver. He was right to talk about the violence that has been caused by those who have refused to pay their poll tax. It is interesting to note that the Scottish National party was absent from tonight's debate and it fell to the hon. Gentleman to make that courageous speech. He talked about a disservice to councillors. I do not think that there is any such disservice in what the Government are trying to achieve. We are trying to ensure that there is a proper partnership between central and local government. That is crucial if local councillors as well as central Government are to work in proper partnership on behalf of all the people whom we represent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) made a telling speech about the fundamentally flawed Labour policy. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was his usual generous self when commenting upon the sheltered housing schemes, and rightly referred to Labour's rebate mystery.

What we have achieved in the regulations is to take into account excessive spending by authorities and we have further reduced many people's charges in our subsequent schemes to within just £52 of their old rates bills.

This has been an important measure and there are further regulations to come. The House will not have to wait long—

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to the Order [22 March.]

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 293.

Division No. 119] 11.30 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Duffy, A. E. P.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Allen, Graham Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Eadie, Alexander
Ashton, Joe Evans, John (St Helens N)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fatchett, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Barron, Kevin Fisher, Mark
Battle, John Flannery, Martin
Beckett, Margaret Flynn, Paul
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Derek
Bennett, A. F. (D'nfn & R'dish) Foulkes, George
Benton, Joseph Fraser, John
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Bidwell, Sydney Galloway, George
Blair, Tony Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Blunkett, David George, Bruce
Boateng, Paul Godman, Dr Norman A.
Boyes, Roland Golding, Mrs Llin
Bradley, Keith Gordon, Mildred
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gould, Bryan
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Graham, Thomas
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Buckley, George J. Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Callaghan, Jim Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hain, Peter
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hardy, Peter
Canavan, Dennis Harman, Ms Harriet
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Haynes, Frank
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Clelland, David Henderson, Doug
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hinchliffe, David
Cohen, Harry Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Corbett, Robin Home Robertson, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cousins, Jim Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Crowther, Stan Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cummings, John Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Dalyell, Tam Ingram, Adam
Darling, Alistair Janner, Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Lambie, David
Dewar, Donald Lamond, James
Dixon, Don Leadbitter, Ted
Dobson, Frank Leighton, Ron
Lewis, Terry Radice, Giles
Livingstone, Ken Randall, Stuart
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Redmond, Martin
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Loyden, Eddie Reid, Dr John
McAvoy, Thomas Richardson, Jo
Macdonald, Calum A. Robertson, George
McGrady, Eddie Robinson, Geoffrey
McKelvey, William Rogers, Allan
McLeish, Henry Rooker, Jeff
McMaster, Gordon Rooney, Terence
McNamara, Kevin Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McWilliam, John Ruddock, Joan
Madden, Max Sedgemore, Brian
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sheerman, Barry
Marek, Dr John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Short, Clare
Martlew, Eric Skinner, Dennis
Maxton, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Meacher, Michael Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Meale, Alan Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Michael, Alun Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Soley, Clive
Morgan, Rhodri Stott, Roger
Morley, Elliot Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Straw, Jack
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mowlam. Marjorie Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mullin, Chris Walley, Joan
Murphy, Paul Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Nellist, Dave Wareing, Robert N.
O'Brien, William Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
O'Hara, Edward Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Parry, Robert Winnick, David
Patchett, Terry Worthington, Tony
Pendry, Tom Wray, Jimmy
Pike, Peter L. Young, David (Bolton SE)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Prescott, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Primarolo, Dawn Mr. Allen McKay and
Quin, Ms Joyce Mr. Ken Eastham.
Aitken, Jonathan Brazier, Julian
Alexander, Richard Bright, Graham
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Allason, Rupert Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Amess, David Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Amos, Alan Buck, Sir Antony
Arbuthnot, James Burns, Simon
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burt, Alistair
Arnold, Sir Thomas Butler, Chris
Ashby, David Butterfill, John
Aspinwall, Jack Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baldry, Tony Carr, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Carrington, Matthew
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Carttiss, Michael
Beith, A. J. Cash, William
Bellingham, Henry Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bellotti, David Chapman, Sydney
Bendall, Vivian Chope, Christopher
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Biften, Rt Hon John Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Blackburn, Dr John G. Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Colvin, Michael
Body, Sir Richard Conway, Derek
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boswell, Tim Cope, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Peter Cormack, Patrick
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Couchman, James
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Cran, James
Bowis, John Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Davis, David (Boothferry)
Day, Stephen Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Devlin, Tim Hordern, Sir Peter
Dickens, Geoffrey Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Dicks, Terry Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Dover, Den Howells, Geraint
Dunn, Bob Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Durant, Sir Anthony Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Eggar, Tim Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Hunter, Andrew
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Irvine, Michael
Fallon, Michael Jack, Michael
Fearn, Ronald Janman, Tim
Fenner, Dame Peggy Jessel, Toby
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Fishburn, John Dudley Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Fookes, Dame Janet Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Forman, Nigel Kennedy, Charles
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Key, Robert
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Fox, Sir Marcus King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Franks, Cecil Kirkhope, Timothy
Freeman, Roger Knapman, Roger
French, Douglas Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Fry, Peter Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Gale, Roger Knox, David
Gill, Christopher Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Goodhart, Sir Philip Latham, Michael
Goodlad, Alastair Lawrence, Ivan
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Gorst, John Livsey, Richard
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Lord, Michael
Gregory, Conal Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Grist, Ian Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Ground, Patrick MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Grylls, Michael Maclean, David
Hague, William Maclennan, Robert
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Malins, Humfrey
Hampson, Dr Keith Mans, Keith
Hanley, Jeremy Maples, John
Hannam, John Marland, Paul
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Harris, David Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Haselhurst, Alan Mates, Michael
Hawkins, Christopher Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hayes, Jerry Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Miller, Sir Hal
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Mills, Iain
Hill, James Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hind, Kenneth Mitchell, Sir David
Moate, Roger Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Monro, Sir Hector Steen, Anthony
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stern, Michael
Moore, Rt Hon John Stevens, Lewis
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morrison, Sir Charles Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Moss, Malcolm Stokes, Sir John
Neale, Sir Gerrard Sumberg, David
Nelson, Anthony Summerson, Hugo
Neubert, Sir Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Norris, Steve Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thorne, Neil
Page, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Paice, James Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patnick, Irvine Tracey, Richard
Patten, Rt Hon John Tredinnick, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Trippier, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Twinn, Dr Ian
Porter, David (Waveney) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Portillo, Michael Viggers, Peter
Powell, William (Corby) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Price, Sir David Walden, George
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rhodes James, Robert Walker, Rt Hon P. (Wcester)
Riddick, Graham Wallace, James
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Walters, Sir Dennis
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Ward, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Warren, Kenneth
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Watts, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wells, Bowen
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Wheeler, Sir John
Sayeed, Jonathan Whitney, Ray
Shaw, David (Dover) Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wiggin, Jerry
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wilkinson, John
Shelton, Sir William Wilshire, David
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Nicholas
Shersby, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Skeet, Sir Trevor Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Yeo, Tim
Speed, Keith Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speller, Tony Younger, Rt Hon George
Spicer, Sir James (Dorset W)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Robin Mr. David Lightbown and
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Mr. John M. Taylor.

Question accordingly negatived.