HC Deb 16 December 1991 vol 201 cc30-69

'(1) Before 9th July 1992 the Secretary of State shall cause to be published a report, to be called the Community Charge Report, on the effects of the Abolition of Domestic Rates etc. (Scotland) Act 1987.

(2) The Community Charge Report shall assess the effects of the Act on—

  1. (a) the cost, economy, efficiency and effectiveness of financial administration in local government;
  2. (b) the public acceptability of local taxation;
  3. (c) the levels of services provided by local authorities;
  4. (d) the state of local democracy;
  5. (e) the incidence of local taxation.

(3) Before publishing the Community Charge Report the Secretary of State shall consult the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, representatives of consumers and such bodies with an interest in the impact of taxes on persons with low incomes as appear to him to be concerned.'.—[Mr.Dewar.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this it will be convenient to take the following:

New clause 5—Scottish annual report—

'( )—(1) The Secretary of State shall prepare an annual report to Parliament on the workings of the council tax.

(2) In preparing his report under subsection 1 above, the Secretary of State shall have particular regard to effect of the tax on:

  1. (a) people who live on their own;
  2. (b) people who occupy property provided solely through their employment; and
  3. (c) people who rent their property.'.

New clause 7—Cost of the council tax in Scotland

'.—(1) The Secretary of State shall within six months of the introduction of the Council tax, publish a report detailing the cost of introducing the tax.

(2) The report prepared under subsection 1 shall contain the costs accrued by local authorities, whether met out of central funds or not and the cost of valuing the properties.'.

New clause 8—Effects of the Community Charge

'.—(1) Before 9th July 1992 the Secretary of State shall cause to be published a report, to be called the Community Charge Report, on the effects of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (the Act).

(2) The Report shall assess the effects of the Act on—

  1. (a) the cost, economy, efficiency and effectiveness of financial administration in local government;
  2. (b) the public acceptability of local taxation;
  3. (c) the levels of services provided by local authorities;
  4. (d) the state of local democracy;
  5. (e) the incidence of local taxation.

(3) Before publishing the Report the Secretary of State shall consult the local authority associations, representatives of consumers and such bodies with an interest in the impact of taxes on persons with low incomes as appear to him to be concerned.'.

New clause 10—Discounts

'.—Sections 11 and 12 below shall not come into effect until such time as the Secretary of State has produced a report on:

  1. (a) the incidence of discounts,
  2. (b) the cost of administering discounts,
  3. (c) the use of council tax benefit as a means of reducing council tax liability for those on low incomes, and
  4. (d) the steps which billing authorities are to take for the purposes of ascertaining whether the chargeable amount of council tax is subject to any discount.'.

New clause 12—Annual report

'(1) The Secretary of State shall prepare an annual report to Parliament on the workings of the Council tax.

(2) In preparing his Report under subsection 1 above, the Secretary of State shall have particular regard to effect of the tax on:

  1. (a) people who live on their own;
  2. (b) people who occupy property provided solely through their employment; and
  3. (c) people who rent their property.'.

New clause 13—Cost of the council tax

'(1) The Secretary of State shall within six months of the introduction of the council tax, publish a report detailing the cost of introducing the tax.

(2) The Report prepared under subsection 1 shall contain the costs accrued by local authorities, whether met out of central funds or not and the cost of valuing the properties.'.

New clause 27—Non-payment (inquiry)

'.—(1) The Secretary of State shall publish a report detailing the level of non-payment of the community charge for 1989–90, 1990–91 and 1991–92.

(2) Any report under subsection (1) above shall include details of the amounts outstanding from charge-payers liable to the 20 per cent. contribution.'.

Amendment No. 15, in clause 117, in page 78, line 29, at end insert—

'(1A) Section 11 shall not come into force until the Secretary of State has produced the report required by section (Discounts) above.'.

Mr. Dewar

The new clause raises a matter of considerable substance which will delay the House for a significant time. I understand that Ministers are not too keen to remember that once proud flagship, the poll tax. I do not intend to spend time rubbing salt in wounds, although I recognise the temptation and have been encouraged by my hon. Friends to do that. We want to look forward, although I cannot help remembering the speeches made in 1987 on the subject of the poll tax and the extent to which the predictions made then, not only by the Opposition but by many others, have turned out to be justified.

I remember the derision which met the Tory Reform group when it said that the popularity of the poll tax was dropping as fast as a stone over a cliff. I remember with some amusement the Minister of State, Scottish Office saying that the opposition by the Tory Reform group to the poll tax legislation was the first and most pressing reason why that tax should be supported. It has always struck me as an intellectually interesting but not very substantial point.

The clock has moved on and, understandably, Ministers now want to walk by on the other side. I warn them that I see no great advantage in concentrating on the new form of the rating system which they are now introducing. The more people look at the small print, the less they will be convinced.

New clause 1 seeks to place on the Government the duty of producing a report that will deal with the record of the poll tax and the current situation which it has created, both for those who have to pay it and for local government which has to maintain services on it. It would point to the lessons which should have been learnt by central Government but which we fear may not have been.

It is important to stress that there is a genuine reason for a report, and that is our apprehension that as a result of the very tight timetable which has been ruthlessly enforced on the debate many of the details of the new system will not be properly considered. There is a real fear that many of the disadvantages which linger administratively with the poll tax and which still plague us may be imported into the new system. The report and examination proposed in the new clause would do something to guard against that danger. That point is given added weight by the fact that Ministers are always anxious to deny that the new system is a form of rating system based on capital valuation, which it evidently is.

I do not have the advantage—I use the word tentatively—of having much experience of the style of the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities. I am not familiar with it, but I have already noticed that it is deadpan and perhaps funereal. The hon. Gentleman argued that it was a great step forward for the student community to leave it virtually without any means of support for large parts of the year—particularly during the long vacation. I found that a very individual approach to the problem and would venture gently to suggest that it will not command universal support among students in my constituency or, I suspect, any other constituency.

My own view is that the present system may appear tolerable to students and their parents if those parents are in a position to make a substantial parental contribution without financial embarrassment; but I must tell the Minister—and this goes to the heart of some of his arguments—that, in all my years in Parliament. I cannot remember a time when students have been more bitter and more genuinely distressed by their economic situation than they are at present. I use the word "bitter" having given the matter considerable thought. There has been a series of demonstrations and I have had a series of approaches from individual students—particularly the heads of one-parent families going late into higher education—who feel that they have been betrayed and who, frankly, would be appalled by the way in which the Minister has just dealt with the subject.

The preparation of the report that we seek would enable us to examine the impact of the poll tax on a whole series of aspects of local authority finance and life, which is set out in the new clause. The report would consider the economy and efficiency of local government finance. It is a cliché hardly challenged these days that local government, at least, has had to live through a nightmare in which confusion has shaded into chaos as the poll tax has continued on its most unfortunate course. It has cost two or even three times as much to collect as the rates, and we have had a network of incomprehensible adjustments, transitional allowances and reduction schemes, all moving into each other to produce a system which I certainly—and I make no bones about this—have the greatest difficulty in understanding and in explaining to people who come to me with questions that are beyond the reasonable compass of people not professionally involved in dealing with such systems.

It is also important that we consider the justice—or, rather, injustice—of what has happened and try to learn lessons from that. I do not want to repeat the familiar arguments about a flat-rate tax unrelated to ability to pay. To be fair, the Secretary of State has accepted for some years that the poll tax was essentially unjust and indefensible and said so at quite an early stage. It appears that the Government now accept that and, presumably—although I do not say this with very much confidence—the right hon. Gentleman has managed to persuade the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and the phalanx of no-turning back Members who surround him in his departmental fastness of that fact. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to convince his colleagues that the poll tax 'was an inhumane system which is rightly being abandoned on that ground if no other.

It is important that the lessons to which I referred are learnt, and that would, I hope, be one of the consequences of the report for which the new clause would provide. There are others, and I shall briefly sketch them in. First, there is the impact on local government services, which has undoubtedly been considerable. Secondly, there are the problems of non-payment. Thirdly, there is the reduction to dangerous levels of the percentage of revenue controlled by local government itself—now down to 12 or 13 per cent. in Scotland and even lower, I think, in Wales.

Although that phenomenon has been politically convenient for the Government, it has been condemned by local authorities and professionals across the whole range because, in the longer term, it will undoubtedly undermine and weaken local democracy in a way that, whatever our political persuasion, we may come to regret. It has preserved and built into the system a gearing factor which I find repugnant and which undoubtedly puts local authorities in a consistently difficult position, not least in dealing with burdens and statutory duties placed upon them by central government.

Another aspect with which I hope the report will deal is the damaging undermining of confidence in local government as a system, and in local government finance in particular. I take that point very seriously from a non-partisan point of view. Many of my Conservative friends share that view. That undermining is partly the result of the past 10 years of Government policy—the "pay as you use" approach to local government services, the privatisation and competitive tendering. It was also, however, partly the result of the non-payment campaign run by other people in other parts of the political spectrum. The proposition that local government taxation is a voluntary imposition which people may take or leave as they wish has insidiously gained currency. That view may cause acute problems for any local government system in future.

4.15 pm

Those are all areas of genuine importance about which real points can be made and where an impartial survey that would bring together the facts would be a considerable service for debate and the future planning of local government financial systems. There is a tendency for Conservative Members not to face up to what has happened, but to talk in vague and general terms about a lack of consensus and support for the poll tax. Well, that is a self-evident truth. The reasons for that lack of support and the imperative of trying to avoid the mistakes which created that situation are matters of pressing concern that fully justify the proposition in new clause 1.

I want to refer now to my particular interest, and that, of course, is the situation north of the border. There is no doubt that Scottish local government is in crisis. The poll tax has been a disaster, the full extent of which is only now becoming evident. The shortfall in income for the first two years of the tax is about £350 million. My regional authority of Strathclyde has lost £190 million between 1989–90 and 1990–91. The figure for Lothian is £76.5 million, and for Tayside it is £21.9 million. The position in 1991–92 is as bad if not worse. After five months of this financial year, £584.7 million was unpaid, representing more than 70 per cent. of the expected income for this financial year.

I recognise that Ministers accuse councils of not doing enough to collect the tax. That is an easy way for them to escape their responsibilities and to avoid facing up to what has been happening. As the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), will know, there have been advertising campaigns in the press and on television. Non-payment has been condemned by local authorities in the strongest terms. No fewer than 3 million summary warrants have been taken in the courts. There have been 100,000 arrestments and 550,000 voluntary agreements to cover payments of arrears. No one is proud of the fact that we have been driven to that. No one is proud of the present position. The figures are evidence of the misery and confusion created by the Government's blunders.

Ministers bear the first and greatest burden of guilt, but others must take their share of the blame. Nationalists who have argued for non-payment must also answer a heavy charge. The non-payment campaign was never more than political opportunism dressed up as principle. Among the nationalists there must be some at least who have been unwilling travellers on a dishonourable road. I remember the nationalists' former leader, Gordon Wilson, advising against a rash and selfish adventure, but he could not hold the line against the heady populism advocated by those who ultimately replaced him. The party joined forces with Militant Tendency openly and, on that issue, without reservation.

It was extraordinary to find the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) publicly defending the Anti-Poll Tax Federation—an organisation that advocates and practises the tactics of violence. He was defending a demonstration during which cars were damaged, 29 people were arrested, and a police station was besieged. Many nationalists must be uncomfortable about the company that they keep on that question.

Labour, too, was under pressure over non-payment, but a responsible party does not advocate irresponsibility. There were a number of good reasons for not advocating non-payment. It has carried weight with Labour, but apparently not with the nationalists. Politicians who hope to make law cannot pick and choose which laws to obey. It is a luxury which they cannot afford and which sets a dangerous precedent. Predictably—I speak with some feeling about my experience in my own constituency—many people living in modest circumstances were tempted by non-payment. They now face the problems of debt and debt collection. The nationalists, the authors of that misfortune, can offer no help. How can the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) or any of his colleagues look in the eye of a pensioner who is threatened by a sheriff officer? All that the nationalists can do—they certainly do it—is to complain about the inevitable consequences of their own actions, blaming everyone but themselves.

Non-payment was bound to affect local government services—it was designed to do so. Marginal reductions in funding hit many of the most vulnerable in the community. The SNP, in its search for party advantage, has made a significant contribution to that disaster. This year, Strathclyde region has been forced to cut £34 million from its budget. When a library closes or education services suffer, people are entitled to ask, "Is this the price that we are now paying for the SNP non-payment campaign?" Its actions have pushed up bills for everyone else. In Lothian this year the poll tax was £48 higher than it would have been if it had not been for non-payment. The SNP must take direct responsibility for that increase. The addition is, in a real sense, the Sillars surcharge or the Salmond tax.

We are entitled to hear the SNP's current position. It ended the non-payment campaign, but not because it was satisfied with the Government's alternative to the poll tax—it did not even wait to see the details. The one decisive factor was the growing unpopularity of non-payment itself. SNP Members are not satisfied with the proposals in the current Bill—after all, they opposed it on Second Reading but they are not sufficiently dissatisfied to risk continuing non-payment or indeed to seek a place on the Committee considering the Bill. Nationalist Members apparently take the view that those whom they represent do not need a voice on a wide range of issues debated in the House. That is a deliberate decision, but it is not one on which their constituents have been consulted.

A year ago—I remember it very well—the nationalist candidate in the Paisley, South by-election, a member of the party's national executive committee and, indeed, a member of the new-fangled shadow Cabinet, was asked what he would do if the sheriff officers were at his door. The answer that he gave was clear and practical in personal terms—he would reach for his chequebook and end the embarrassment. Every hon. Member knows that that solution is not open to many of my constituents or to many of those who listen to the nationalist soft-sell on non-payment. There was no pretence in the housing schemes, and in the battered inner cities non-payment was only for those with a chequebook and who could take the strain. Thousands and thousands of ordinary Scots are now paying the price for that.

It is no surprise that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities reports that 70 per cent. of those in debt were originally entitled to a poll tax rebate at some level. Rebates of course—I regret this—can be backdated for only 56 days. Many who would have been entitled to rebates now face huge bills which they have no hope of meeting. I advise the hon. Member for Eastwood that the Government should act now to abolish the 20 per cent. rule—there is no excuse for not doing so—and allow those in debt to claim the rebates which should have been available to them all along. The Government must bear the main responsibility for all the pain and suffering, but the SNP is also guilty. The role that it has played has been irresponsible and contemptible.

Throughout this debate, and throughout all the years of argument and discussion, the Government have sought to avoid the clear implications of what they were doing and have been guided by blinkered ideology. A report of the kind for which we argue in the new clause would highlight lessons to be learnt and perhaps bring some good from the fiasco that the poll tax has been. I hope that it would concentrate Ministers' minds on the need to give practical help to those who have suffered. It might also reinforce the view, which badly needs buttressing, that local democracy must be a foundation for freedom in this country. Providing an independent voice so that local communities can run their own affairs is an important part of our democratic structure. All those things have been damaged by the poll tax experience and they must now all be rebuilt.

I said earlier—I do not retreat from this view—that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was one of the early converts to the obvious. He was one of the first Conservative Members to be converted. I can still remember the speech that he made on 16 December 1987 because I was struck forcibly by it. He said that the poll tax will build on a platform of crude regression which seeks to make equal in the eyes of the tax collector the rich and the poor, the slum dweller and the landed aristocrat, the elderly pensioners living on their limited savings and the most successful of today's entrepreneurs."—[Official Report, 16 December 1987: Vol. 124, c. 114.] The right hon. Gentleman meant that and, to be fair to him, he acted upon it when he had the opportunity. The tragedy is that, although the right hon. Gentleman has had to capitulate on the principle in many ways and has forced many of his hon. Friends to do so rather less willingly, he has got many of the practical details wrong. Many of the practicalities will lead us back into trouble. The report that we seek would throw light on that possibility.

We must also remember that many of those who surround the Minister—many Conservative Members—have learned nothing and wish to learn nothing from the poll tax experience. I note that only a year ago, on 5 December 1990, the Secretary of State for Scotland said: we must not lose sight of the strength of the underlying principles that are already embodied in the community charge. In a particularly spirited passage, the right hon. Gentleman continued——

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

The Scottish people need to be reminded again and again that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) willingly and eagerly voted for the Scottish poll tax Bill.

Mr. Dewar

Indeed, he did. We had an exchange on that point in a recent debate when, by chance, the right hon. Gentleman was present. That just shows that the laws of chance work in wondrous ways. Although I do not want to make much of it, I explained to the House then that there was a good defence and an alibi and that the right hon. Gentleman offered us the explanation that he had asked the Secretary of State for Scotland about it and had done what he was told. That might be close to a Nuremberg defence, but it is at least something that can be advanced for the right hon. Gentleman.

The Secretary of State for Scotland showed absolutely no doubt about the rightness of what he was doing when he defended the poll tax. I was particularly touched by the right hon. Gentleman's thought in that debate a year ago when he continued: Is it sophisticated"— that was supposed to be dramatic irony— to have a method of payment for local services based solely on the bricks and mortar in which one happens to live?"—[Official Report, 5 December 1990; Vol. 182, c. 397–400.] The right hon. Gentleman then went on to describe at some length something that sounded very much like the council tax that he will now no doubt defend. On that occasion——

Mr. McKelvey

The Secretary of State would embrace it.

Mr. Dewar

My hon. Friend is probably right because I will say this for the Secretary of State for Scotland: he is not a man to see the fine tuning in any argument; something is always absolutely black or absolutely white for him.

Many strata of opinion remain in the Government and in the Conservative party. The Government may well be swept away to the Opposition Benches shortly and I very much hope that that will be the case. However, I advise whoever is in government that there is genuine virtue in looking dispassionately, professionally and with an expert view at the record of the poll tax, and especially at the administrative details, to try to ensure that we do not import into the new system the seeds of self-destruction that Ministers so foolhardily built in to the flawed and totally unjust poll tax a few short years ago. I believe that what we have suggested is worth doing. This is a good new clause. It would set in train what might be a useful antidote to some of the dangers about which we are so well aware and for which many of our constituents are still paying the price.

4.30 pm
Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

It will surprise several hon. Members that: early on in the debate we are able to talk a little about Scotland. While I am grateful for the new clause, which I support, I wonder whether it will help the disappointment at the endeavours of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to stop an amendment tabled in Committee by the Liberal Democrats to abolish the poll tax in Scotland a year early. Of course, it was guillotined.

It is right that we should examine the impact of the poll tax in Scotland as well as the rest of Britain, for no consideration was ever given to what its impact would be in Scotland. In the Scottish context, it is particularly ironic that the poll tax should be replaced by a property tax, because it was the unfairness and hardship caused by the rates in Scotland which led to the hurried and disastrous introduction of the poll tax.

As we have heard so often, the Conservatives had no mandate to introduce the poll tax in Scotland. They were warned of the consequences at the time, but they paid no heed. Indeed, they failed to listen to the Scottish people in the 1987 general election, when the disintegration of the Conservative party in Scotland started. They failed to pay any attention to the results of introducing that tax. Of course, we see the consequences for the Conservatives now.

It must not be forgotten that the hardship caused by the poll tax, the difficulties in collecting it and the overwhelming public opposition to it—the factors cited as the reasons for abolishing the tax—not only existed for a year longer than in England and Wales but were ignored when only Scotland suffered. The crisis in local government caused by the poll tax is more acute in Scotland because of that extra year of cost and chaos.

The Prime Minister has led in giving the general impression that the poll tax has been abolished. Non-payment is already at critical levels, as we heard from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). Next year, non-payment will increase as people think that the bills do not apply to them. That is the case at present. Hundreds of thousands of people think that the poll tax has been abolished, so they think that the bills which come in are simply the result of a mistake by the computer.

The high level of non-payment is the reason why we are committed to abolishing the poll tax a year early in Scotland and, for one year only, putting the cost on national income tax. It would be a practical means of ensuring that local government services are provided, that the excessive waste and cost of collecting the poll tax is avoided and that the hardship of the 20 per cent. charge is ended. It would also be a symbolic gesture. It would mean that the Government acknowledged at last that they were mistaken in forcing the tax on to the Scots.

Of course, the lack of a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers means that English and Welsh taxpayers would have to contribute to the abolition of the poll tax in Scotland. That is regrettable but unavoidable, but, as it was English Members of Parliament who voted for the tax in Scotland, it has a certain justice. Unless the poll tax is abolished in Scotland, the cost to local authorities will be insupportable.

I make a particular plea to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), about the position in the Western Isles. I do so following an invitation from the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) to meet council members of Western Isles council who came to the House to brief Members of Parliament.

I welcome the fact that the Scottish Office has said that it will meet those councillors, but unless Ministers are prepared to help the people, it could be the end of the Western Isles and the people in them. They have struggled for hundreds of years and suffered a great deal. They should not be called upon to suffer further. After all, the Government have a responsibility and they must share culpability for what happened, because the council was not warned about the collapse of Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The Government cannot leave that council to sink. This country owes the Western Isles and its people a great deal. I hope that the Minister will give them the greatest consideration and say, "Yes, we will help you, the people of the Western Isles."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

I am listening closely to what the hon. Lady is saying. I hope that she will recognise that the Secretary of State has authorised the Western Isles to borrow £24 million this financial year to meet its requirements. I am sure that she will also acknowledge that the community charge paid by those on the Western Isles is between £26 and £28 per annum. That charge is a fraction of the average paid by other community charge payers in Scotland.

Mrs. Michie

I am aware that the Secretary of State has allowed the council borrowing powers, but it requires £3.5 million to service its borrowing requirement.

The poll tax on the Western Isles may be high or low, but the fact is that jobs will be lost, schools will be closed and we will witness a further emigration of people from the region. That will mean an end to that people's culture, Ianguage and way of life, as they will be unable to survive in the Outer Hebrides.

Taxpayers in Scotland, England and Wales should be told the cost of introducing another local tax. The administrative costs of valuing properties, introducing new software and establishing new billing methods will fall on the taxpayer—local and national. In the interests of accountable government, the electorate must know the true cost of collecting the new tax and correcting the Government's mistakes. That is the purpose of new clauses 7 and 13.

New clauses 5 and 12, in common with new clause 1, intend to force the Government to report to Parliament on the workings of the council tax". The Government must not be allowed to ignore the consequences of their actions as they sought to do with the poll tax. I assure the Government that the new council tax will throw up many anomalies and unfairnesses. They must be noted and corrected. If the will is there, the Government will acknowledge and correct their mistakes.

We welcome the discount system for single people. Tomorrow, my party hopes to persuade the Government to increase it to 40 per cent. Whether we succeed or fail will not alter the fact that the impact of the council tax on single people must be carefully monitored by reports to Parliament.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

The local tax system proposed by the hon. Lady is based upon an ability to pay. I find it rather surprising that she now says that she accepts the discount system, which covers everyone, whatever his income. The hon. Lady is now proposing a 40 per cent. discount, which would mean that the better-off would get even more.

Mrs. Michie

That is not what I am saying. I do not like the council tax; nor do I like the Labour party fair tax or whatever it is called. We would like the introduction of a local income tax, based on the ability to pay.

In Scotland, a higher proportion of people rent rather than own their homes. Therefore, they obtain no benefit from the capital benefit of the property in which they live, unlike homeowners.

The council tax, especially in areas such as Edinburgh, will penalise renters. People who rent privately lost when the poll tax was abolished becaue many private landlords did not pass on their savings to their tenants. Now they will lose again because their bills will depend on the landlords' circumstances, not theirs. How that will be conducted should be reported to Parliament.

The council tax will also cause many problems to people in tied housing or similar property provided for and through employment. Many examples of occupations that cause concern should be reported on. An obvious example is Church property. It has often been in Church hands since the days when the status and income of Churchmen were higher than they are today. Manses, especially in Scotland, used to be given a 50 per cent. derating, but that no longer seems to be the case.

I am particularly concerned about farm workers in owner-occupied or tenanted farm houses. They must often live in large, old and rambling farm houses. We all know the crisis that agriculture is in at present. Farm properties provide no income, and the principle that the value of a house can be calculated by its size and potential price on the property market must not be extended to agriculture. Farm houses have been traditionally low rated and, on Second Reading, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that they would be placed in a lower band because of the present state of agriculture and the lack of demand for such houses. At least he recognises the problem, and I hope that the Minister who replies will say that agricultural houses will be placed in a lower band.

Others in tied housing, such as schoolteachers, school caretakers and policemen, will also be adversely affected. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood, will recall that, in 1989–90, the rates portion of the rent allowance for police officers was abolished without compensation. That meant a reduction in earnings of between £45 and £57 a month, and it affected more than 2,000 police officers in Scotland. Rural areas like my constituency of Argyll and Bute were even more affected, because 80 per cent. of police accommodation there is of necessity tied housing.

The rent allowance that included the rates portion was long regarded as part of a police officer's take-home pay. The Government refused to implement the award of the police arbitration tribunal, which included that rates element. The allowance used to be linked to property, and I hope that it will be restored and police tied houses will also be put in a special band.

Those problems will have to be carefully monitored if we are to avoid the chaos of past years. The reports are for the future. They are designed to ensure that the Government accept their responsibility for the cost and workings of the council tax and that they do not seek to blame any failure of the tax on local authorities. The priority for Scotland is the immediate abolition of the poll tax to rescue the people and Scottish local government from a complete shambles and near-disaster.

4.45 pm
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

It is interesting to note that no Tory Members now rise to defend the poll tax, despite the fact that it was introduced in Scotland against the will of the people.

Mr. Maxton

They are coming in now.

Mrs. Fyfe

If they speak in the debate, it is unlikely to be in defence of the poll tax. However, the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) may be in a state of mind to do so, but that remains to be seen.

The new clause is worth while because accountability is good for the soul. It occurs to me, however, that for that to work one must have a soul. When the poll tax was pushed through against the democratic will of the Scottish people, it was obvious that the last thing that the Government cared about was the needs of other people. They had no consideration for those who were too poor to pay it, and compassion was distinctly lacking on the Conservative Benches. They were determined to push that medicine down everyone's throats and it was not surprising that people spat it out so vehemently.

Today, no one is left to defend the poll tax, except perhaps one or two isolated individuals who may speak in favour of it—who knows? However, there was a time when the Tory Benches were packed with hon. Members who knew better than the people of Scotland what was best for the rest of us.

If the report were drawn up, it would be a useful task. It would remind us of certain facts regarding the introduction of the poll tax. For example, when the poll tax was being drafted, the Government were warned by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Rating and Valuation Association, as well as local government accountants and town clerks throughout the land, that it would be utterly chaotic. CIPFA published a chart for the benefit of its members on how the poll tax would operate. It was not being contentious or using it for publicity purposes but wanted to aid its colleagues in local government who had to contend with operating the tax. The report caused much amusement to those of us who served on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill for England and Wales. We thought that, if that was supposed to be simplicity, heaven knows what complexity would be like. But the Government went ahead and ignored all the warnings. Likewise, they ignored public opinion, which was expressed vehemently at the time of the general election and which has been repeated at every possible opportunity since.

There is an amazing contradiction between the Government's attitude to last week's discussions at Maastricht and their attitude to democracy within the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister poses as the defender of Britain's right to do as it pleases and not have nasty foreigners telling us what to do, but within the United Kingdom the Conservative party was willing and determined to impose a poll tax on the people of the United Kingdom, whether they wanted it or not. I shall be interested to hear whether they can straighten out that contradiction.

The poll tax has had an enormous impact on services and jobs. Strathclyde region alone expects to lose some 750 jobs if lost moneys cannot be restored quickly. That will have an enormous impact on Strathclyde region, not only for those 750 jobs but for the community at large through the loss to the local economy. I do not know how the Government can regard that with equanimity. They know about the unemployment in the west of Scotland, particularly in Glasgow. They are faced with a serious loss of jobs on top of all the job losses in the past, yet they are determined not to respond in an obvious and sensible way. If they extend the measures under the council tax to the poll tax and allow those who will pay 20 per cent. to pay nothing, that would at once resolve the problem of lack of Government money. It would still not resolve the problem entirely, however, because the main problem is a sheer lack of Government support for local government.

The Government have always claimed that the poll tax was about enhancing local democracy. It has been noticeable how many people, especially young people, have removed themselves from the electoral register. Because they simply could not afford to pay the poll tax, they have deprived themselves of the right to vote. The Government know that thousands of people have done that and that the electoral roll has gone down considerably in many areas, especially in impoverished urban areas.

The Government are assiduously trying to build up the electoral register by seeking Tory voters in every country in the world, but they are not prepared to encourage people to come back and become entitled to vote here. It is necessary for the victims of Government decisions who are living here to assert their democratic rights, or for others to assert those rights.

The Minister has told us that he considers the Bill to he without serious defects of any kind. The Government had introduced a few paltry amendments of their own, but had accepted no amendments from Labour—because, apparently, we had said nothing that they did not know already. That remark will stick in all our minds. Once again, the Government are saying that they know exactly what they are doing: they know what they are doing to students, student nurses and people suffering from Alzheimer's disease whose partners do not pay poll tax and who are billed in their stead, regardless of their own mental condition.

People will be dumbfounded to learn of the big change in the legislation—the duke will no longer pay the same as the dustman. He will now pay three times as much. All over the country, people will be saying, "That is a big democratic advance." There will be enormous anger over the continuing injustice of the Government"s notion of how local administration should be financed, and a good deal of disquiet about the fact that all single individuals will receive discounts, regardless of their personal circumstances.

That is nonsensical, and it contradicts the Government's own stated policies. They have consistently refused social security benefits to the very needy, on the ground that they are targeting the neediest. Is it "targeting the neediest" to hand out discounts to people who are already extremely well off? The Government's entire policy is a shambles, and they will soon be slung out because of it. We shall ensure that the country knows what they are doing. It is they who will have to pay, and they will do so, whether it is in February, March, April, May, June or July.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

It is difficult not to think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) did not want a new clause to enable the issues that he mentioned to be investigated, but, rather, wanted a new clause to "involve" the complicity of the Scottish National party in opposing the poll tax by persuading certain people not to pay at a certain time. I worry about the state of the law when a lawyer starts using the technique of "guilt by association".

Mr. Dewar

I did not.

Mr. Douglas

I shall make every effort not to misquote the hon. Gentleman. None the less, he gave the House the clear impression that he was associating the Scottish National party with Militant Tendency in regard to violence. The hon. Gentleman nods his assent. If that is not a McCarthyite technique, I do not know what is.

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)

That is a very serious accusation.

Mr. Douglas

It is. People have been expelled from the Labour party because of such association. It is serious to accuse someone of a McCarthyite smear.

I am pleased to be speaking after the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). I note that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) is also in his place. Not so long ago we all sat together in Glasgow, in a committee of 100: I shall not refer to the other hon. Members who were with us, as they are not present today. We suggested then that we should protect those who could not afford to pay, and who would be confronted by all the rigours of the law so beloved of the hon. Member for Garscadden.

Mrs. Fyfe

I clearly remember a time when the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars)—who, I am sorry to say, is not here today—was so anti-Trot that he threw people out of the party that he had drawn together in the mid-1970s, whether they were Trots or not. Now he finds himself associating with them. That is very strange.

Mr. Douglas

I do not know who the hon. Lady means. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) is not here, however, and I am courteous not to refer to any hon. Member who is not present and whom I have not given notice of my intention to do so. Hon. Members generally try not to do that, as far as is humanly possible. Nevertheless, I can tell the hon. Member for Maryhill that I am quite willing to answer for my part in the episode that I mentioned—with a degree of pride, but not vaingloriously.

The hon. Lady does not deny that, along with other hon. Members who are present today, she advocated non-payment.

Dr. Godman

I thought that the hon. Gentleman pointed at me then.

Mr. Douglas

No, indeed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have considerable respect, does not think that any of my remarks concern him.

Other matters would require investigation in a report. The hon. Members for Maryhill and for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) mentioned a mandate, but the hon. Member for Garscadden did not refer to the fact that the Tories have no mandate in Scotland. That is because he is a Unionist. He is quite capable of standing up and blaming everyone except himself for the imposition of the poll tax.

I remember, in January 1988, pleading with the hon. Gentleman to tell the Leader of the Opposition that we should show some guts, and that, when the Leader of the Opposition went to Edinburgh, he should not suggest that we go cap in hand to pay the poll tax. The hon. Member for Garscadden cannot gainsay that—and that is not guilt by association. The hon. Gentleman should stop acting like a big wean, and behave like a man.

Although he did not mention it in his speech, the hon. Member for Garscadden takes some responsibility for a matter that should be examined in any report: the imposition of poinding and warrant sales. He and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) thought nothing of parading through Glasgow behind banners proclaiming, "No warrant sales here". Examination would reveal that Labour authorities had used the threat of poinding to coerce the people referred to by the hon. Member for Maryhill who cannot pay and thus have no choice. What has the Labour party done to defend them?

The hon. Member for Garscadden has used the Nuremberg defence—"I had to obey the law". It was like a pantomime to see the hon. Member for Garscadden running past Knightswood Cross with his pamphlet, "Garscadden News No. I", saying, "Rejoice, rejoice" and telling people that, in effect, Labour had killed the poll tax.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman took part in the "don't register" campaign and ran about trying to persuade people not to register. Then he caved in. However, I am talking about the hon. Member for Garscadden, who, as I say, was running around distributing "Garscadden News No. 1"—we await issue No. 2.

Mr. Dewar

At least I am not running away from the constituents who elected me.

Mr. Douglas

Neither am I, and I never have. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) is not here today. I would not be a member of a party from which the Leader of the Opposition could expel me. It is a measure of the gutlessness of the Labour party that someone like the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East can get thrown out of it for taking a stand rooted deep in the traditions of the Labour party.

5 pm

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) wanted me to give way to him earlier. I have attacked his posture on non-registration. New clause 27 is after something not dissimilar from what the hon. Member for Garscadden wants: an examination of non-payment and why people cannot pay. Strathclyde has done a survey showing that 70 per cent. of those who did not pay could not pay. These people do not need persuading; their economic circumstances rule out their ability to pay. That is why most people did not pay.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of a mandate. Having been elected under one party label by his constituents, having reneged on that party label, having then stood under his new party label in a local government election and having been defeated, and having declared his intention to stand under another party label in a different constituency, does the hon. Gentleman think that he should perhaps return to the people of Dunfermline for a mandate?

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman is not correct. I never stood with another party label in a local government election in my time in the Scottish National party. I have fought many elections and I know that a losing candidate gets the blame. I have taken the blame when I have lost, but, oddly enough, when one wins, it is the party that has gained the victory, never the individual.

We got the poll tax because people were thirled to the party banner. This is not a House of free-standing men and women; they are dragooned through the Lobbies by the Whips. The hon. Member for Garscadden would have to take the same medicine if he came to power because he believes that he is entitled to govern here if he gets a mandate in the United Kingdom, regardless of what happens in Scotland.

The United Kingdom mandate is spurious. How can the Labour party say that it has a mandate for the United Kingdom when it does not even put up candidates in Northern Ireland? People who, like me, opposed the poll tax rightly argued that the Government never had a mandate in Scotland. I challenge the hon. Member for Garscadden to face me in debate on this issue. He will be asking the electorate to give him and the Labour party their votes to pursue particular policies. Thereafter there will be little discussion and the hon. Gentleman will not be arguing about the sovereignty of the Scottish people from then on.

The hon. Member for Garscadden had the temerity to sign the claim of right in the Scottish convention. It concerns the exercise of the rights of the Scottish people. I shall give way to him on this if he has the guts to stand up. It seems that he does not like what I am saying much—perhaps my language is a little too industrial for him—but I would be willing to engage in this sort of argument with him in Garscadden.

Mr. Wilson

What about Dunfermline?

Mr. Douglas

Yes, there too. [Interruption.] Why is not the Labour party asking for a by-election in Coventry? I have fought more elections than some Labour Front Benchers have had hot breakfasts and I have already said that losing candidates always take the responsibility.

Mr. Wilson

What about the Co-op?

Mr. Douglas

I did not hear that, but if the hon. Gentleman will get off his backside he can repeat it.

Mr. Wilson

The Co-op has been a good meal ticket for the hon. Gentleman and it is odd that at this stage in his career he should depart from anything and everybody who put him where he is today—and three times throw away a Labour seat. That is a matter between him and his conscience; but if he has any conscience left, why does he continue to draw his salary under the label of a party he was not elected to serve as a member of?

Mr. Douglas

That is not really worth answering. Any obligations that I have to the Co-operative movement have been honourably discharged, and there are hon. Members here who know that. I have more than repaid my obligations to the Co-op. In any case, that is not part of this discussion.

If we are to have a report, let it examine every aspect, including ability to pay. The council tax does not take that into consideration; nor do Labour's proposals. My party makes it plain that a tax related to ability to pay must be related to income. The tax in Scotland will raise about £800 million and cost about £80 million to collect—£l for every £10. There will be no relationship to ability to pay and there will be a register of sorts, although it will not be called that. The tax will involve a costly benefit system for the 100 per cent. discount scheme and there will be searching tests for those who are eligible for 25 per cent. and 50 per cent. discounts.

My party has produced figures to show how a local income tax could be put in place in Scotland. I do not have the figures for every region or district with me, but in general terms the proportion of revenue raised by local government is about 14 per cent. in Scotland—to be raised from the equivalent of non-domestic rates either under the poll tax or the council tax. If that is the average over the length and breadth of Scotland, it is reasonable to assume that for some local authorities it will be under 5 per cent. That means that this paraphernalia is necessary to collect £1 in £20. There has been no indication from Labour that it will abandon the Government subvention on that. Labour has not said whether it would try to collect more or less than the Government are trying to collect through local revenues in the non-business sector.

Why has Scotland had to impose so much administration at such great cost? It is because the Government will not face the fact that Scotland could have a local income tax that would be easily and cheaply administered and would avoid all the bureaucracy and cost. I am not arguing the case for England and Wales. Part of our new clause relates to the 20 per cent. rule which the Government have partly abandoned. I plead with them to abandon it completely from I April 1992 and to make it retrospective in Scotland.

About 3 million warrants are out and another of our amendments, which I hope will be reached tomorrow, deals with poinding and warrant sales. Such methods for the recovery of small amounts are acts of terror. The hon. Member for Garscadden or the hon. Member for Cathcart should make it clear when winding up that Labour is utterly opposed to Scottish local authorities using this barbaric device. They should dissociate themselves wholly and entirely from it.

Mr. Maxton

I understand that the hon. Gentleman's party chose not to seek membership of the Committee that examined the Bill. It certainly asked us to boycott the Committe. In Committee, I moved an amendment to take the warrant sales procedure out of the Bill. I was supported by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) and by my hon. Friends. If the hon. Gentleman had sought a seat on that Committee, I think that he would have got one and would have been able to vote against warrant sales.

Mr. Douglas

It is not the same thing. I apologise if I have not made myself clear. I have asked the hon. Gentleman to make it plain that Labour is opposed to the imposition of warrant sales.

Dr. Godman

In the short time that I have been in the House, many of my hon. Friends have established an honourable record for seeking to introduce a more humane form of debt collection. I refer in particular to my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey), for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). Some of us seek a more humane form of debt collection.

Mr. Douglas

I accept that. It is no accident that two of the hon. Members that the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) mentioned were, in the early days, among the leading proponents of a non-payment campaign—I apologise, I have got that wrong. Certainly the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, who is in his place, will accept what I have said in relation to him.

The SNP and Members from other parties introduced a Bill to abolish warrant sales. If the poll tax is dead and, like the hon. Member for Garscadden we should be saying, "Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice", the hon. Member for,Garscadden or the hon. Member for Cathcart should use their position as Front-Bench spokesmen to make it clear that Labour is opposed to the use of poinding and the threat of warrant sales to impose a tax that is dead. If they cannot do that, they should not use their Front-Bench offices slanderously to attack other parties and accuse them of supporting organisations that seem to promote violence. I do not think that it is worth while asking the hon. Member for Garscadden for an apology, but he should, as a lawyer, reflect clearly and cautiously on what he has said.

Mr. Maxton

Has the hon. Gentleman ever shared a platform at a rally with Tommy Sheridan and members of Militant Tendency?

Mr. Douglas

Wait a minute, this is really getting in. The answer is, yes, of course. I have shared platforms with many individuals, but I have made my position clear on those platforms. That is exactly what I said at the beginning of my speech. This is a clear case of trying to get guilt by association. The hon. Member for Maryhill has shared a platform with Tommy Sheridan.

5.15 pm
Mrs. Fyfe

I want to put it on the record that I have never done any such thing.

Mr. Douglas

I withdraw any hint or any tendency that I may have had to smear anybody. My memory may be failing me, but I have clear memories of the hon. Member for Maryhill being at rallies at which Mr. Sheridan was at least present. I have clear memories of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray), who is in his place, being at similar rallies. I have no hesitation in saying——

Mrs. Fyfe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I really must put this on the record because of its effect on my credibility. I have gone out of my way to tell people that I refuse to share a platform with that particular gentleman and that if other people cared to do so, that was their affair. I always said that I would not, I think for fairly obvious reasons.

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate is very wide already. It would be much better to concentrate on the new clauses.

Mr. Douglas

I withdraw any implication and apologise to the hon. Member for Maryhill. That is the least that I can do. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Provan is in his place and he can interject if he wishes to do so.

We would welcome any report that examines the process of the poll tax since its imposition in Scotland in 1989, and any report that directed itself especially to the plight of those who could not pay, substantial numbers of whom found themselves in conflict with the law because of their poverty. I have no hesitation in saying that the Scottish National party and I, before I was a member of that party, in standing beside those who could not pay made a major contribution to the downfall of the poll tax in Britain. I would not suggest for a minute that we were entirely responsible for its demise, but we made a significant contribution by showing that people could take a local initiative and say, "Enough is enough." If the people of Scotland had taken the advice of the hon. Member for Garscadden and that of the Leader of the Opposition and paid up and obeyed the law and supinely touched the forelock, the poll tax would have had a credibility that no one in the House thought that it ought to have had. That is a credit to the people of Scotland who opposed the tax from its inception by overwhelmingly voting against it, especially in the election of 1987.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

As someone who has spent his life as a conciliator—someone who hates disputes and who cannot bear to see the children falling out—I feel that I should intervene with some quiet words that will enable the prodigal sons of Garscadden—the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar)—and Garscadden elect to come together in harmony and peace. I am a humble lawyer who has done his best to settle cases rather than fight them to ensure that it was understood that dispute was not a proper way to resolve disputes.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) left the Labour party on a policy of leaving also his country. He has deserted and left those who elected him. I remind him that guilt by association is a doctrine that is central to the law of Scotland. If he imagines that he will stand for the Scottish National party, having deserted Great Britain, Dunfermline, the Labour party and the platforms on which whoever the fellow that he mentioned stood, and on which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) never stood, I remind him that the doctrine of concert is alive in Scotland and is central to its Scottish specialty and authority. If he is to direct accusations at the hon. Member for Garscadden, who is a distinguished laywer, when he is intent on departing in the direction of the SNP, he might learn one minor principle of the law of Scotland. He should bear it in mind before he starts accusing others of guilt by association.

The marvellous fall-out that we have seen this afternoon is a typical example of Scotland in Europe. We love each other so much that we cannot bear not to express our hatred. We have been given a useful example of the nationalists' position.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West talked about the warfare of those who would not pay what is called the poll tax—in other words, the community charge. It has always seemed to me sensible that people should pay a standard charge as a licence fee to enjoy local authority services. After all, no one objects to a standard licence fee for a car, whether he has an Austin Seven of 1935 vintage and drives two miles a year, or an even older car of the sort that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) drives because he bought them when he was 18, or a Rolls-Royce in which he travels round and round the world every day and night. Equally, no one objects that we all pay the same television fee, whether the individual watches it or never watches it, whether the screen is a mile wide or an inch wide.

I have always said that it would have been much more sensible to introduce a tax to which there was added a licence fee for a television to join the licence fee and insurance for a motor car. Such a tax would amount to about £250 a year.

I have never heard anyone argue that those who cannot afford to pay their poll tax cannot afford to pay their television licence fee or for their car licensing. If we assume that they are honest, I have not heard it argued that such people cannot afford to insure their motor cars. Let us be very careful about the "Can't pay, won't pay" approach. Before the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West deserted his electorate, how many people did I speak to in Murray's bar who, when swallowing another beer or another whisky, were asking, "Are you going on the 'Can't pay, won't pay'?" The veracity and philosophy of the hon. Member are extremely suspect, as are those of the members of his party who say that they are standing for what are called the people of Scotland.

The people of Scotland? Let us talk about the people in Scotland. We know that 80 per cent. of the people of Scotland live in England and that 80 per cent. of the people in Scotland are not Scots, including most of the leaders of the SNP, who are second generation Irish. I am unimpressed by the wonderful plea that is put forward. My family has been in Scotland for only 1,000 years or more, and I can trace it back. I am not particularly impressed when those who desert their constituents, their parties and their principles argue to me and others about what should happen to the people of Scotland when they are talking about those who happen to live in Scotland.

I fought the 1974, 1979 and 1983 elections in the knowledge that the Labour party had said that it would bring in a tax of this sort. All of my colleagues fought those elections on the basis that we believed that such a tax would be wrong. I am in the greatest difficulty in understanding why suddenly a tax of this sort should become utterly right.

Let us not forget the argument of the hon. Member for Nowhere—I suppose that that is the right way to describe him now, but I talk about the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West—on ability to pay. The tax that we are discussing will be levied on someone who, perhaps, married in 1920 and is now widowed. The house in which she lives was bought for £500, for example, and it is now worth £200,000. On the basis of a later clause, which I shall try to remove from the Bill, a snooper, on his own say-so, will be allowed to enter properties and look round them without a warrant. Surely that is an extraordinary proposition.

If we are to argue about inability to pay, I hope that the hon. Member for Nowhere will support my amendments in the light of the unfortunate widow, who for no reason of hers——

Mr. Douglas

I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will use their eyes and will note that if anyone is in suspended animation, it is the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I am sorry. I did not understand the intervention, partly because it included such long words. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain it to me afterwards in a moment of suspension and animation.

The system will be based on an assumed income from a capital asset over whose value the original buyer has no control and which he cannot sell, any more than a tortoise can sell his shell, because it is his home. The business of "can't pay" is important.

Complications are introduced when we consider a person who is a district nurse for three hours a day, two days a week. A man may have to return to his temporary residence because of the presumption that, for the purposes of the Bill, a "day" remains the same day as when it started. I did not know that we needed a Bill to say that a day is presumed to be the same day as when it started—I always took the view that that was a decent assumption. I assume that even Scotland in Europe will take that line. It may, however, be contrary to the common law of Liechtenstein.

The amendments all complicate what is an already absurdly complicated Bill. I remember when I was a child. I loathed rice pudding and, when given too much of it, I would say, "That is not fair." Nanny would say, "Life is not fair, laddie." The system would be fair if we charged everyone on the basis that we charge for a pint of beer, a loaf of bread or a television licence—whether the Duke of Plaza Toro or the Member for Nowhere. I wish that we would do that, and I am sorry that the Bill is doing the opposite.

5.30 pm
Dr. Godman

We have just listened to the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), who is something of an institution in Scotland. It is not for me to criticise him, because I seek his support on other matters, particularly to preserve a famous historic building which is tottering. I do not say that the hon. and learned Gentleman totters; he has kindly agreed to support my campaign to preserve that fine building.

I shall not join the attacks on the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas)—or the hon. Member for Nowhere, as he was described by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross. To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, when I faced the crisis of the collapse of the Scott Lithgow shipyard, he gave me much help.

I wish to ask the Under-Secretary about the position of Scottish and English merchant seamen. Under the poll tax, Scottish merchant seamen have been discriminated against compared with their English colleagues. The evidence demonstrates that English merchant seamen have been able to argue more easily before tribunals the case for removing them from poll tax registers than have their Scottish counterparts. Even when Scottish and English merchant seamen have served on the same ship, Scottish seamen have had to pay the poll tax, whereas English seamen have been given discounts. Will that discrimination continue with the council tax?

My sympathy lies with Scottish merchant seamen who have been discriminated against, but I also have much sympathy for the people on abysmally low incomes who cannot afford to pay the poll tax and who face the indignity of warrant sales. As has been said, poinding is an humiliating experience. The Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 reduced the harshness of warrant sales, but they are still a squalid form of debt collection. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) served on the Standing Committee on the Bill which lessened the hardship caused, but poinding remains a humiliating experience.

People close to me have gone through poinding and tell me that it is distressing when sheriff officers come into their homes. Even with the Debtors (Scotland) Act, it is a miserable affair for those in Scotland who are pursued for debt. Many of my constituents on low incomes listened too eagerly, perhaps naively and certainly unwisely, to the non-payment campaigners and now find themselves in deep trouble because they followed those sleekit hypocrites. Those campaigners cannot help them now. In that regard, my constituents are lost and will have to face the intrusion into their homes of sheriff officers. Where do we find the non-payment campaigners? They are not opening their cheque books to help constituents who supported their campaign.

The poll tax and the attendant problems caused for ordinary people feature largely at my surgeries, and I believe that the same happens at the surgeries of most of my hon. Friends and other Scottish Members of Parliament. Constituents raise the subject of the poll tax much more than their problems with the Department of Social Security, and that is important, given that about one third of the people I represent are in direct or indirect receipt of social security payments—a dreadful statistic.

To a considerable extent, the Government's handling of the poll tax in Scotland—which was introduced with the enthusiastic support of the present Secretary of State—has brought about the demise of the Conservative party in Scotland. We are facing the likelihood of a major constitutional crisis in Scotland, chiefly because of the Conservative party's insensitive and uncaring governance of the nation. Scottish Conservative representation in the House of Commons is down to single figures; following the next election, it will be even lower, no matter what happens to the overall position of the two major parties in the next election.

Even during the Prime Minister's so-called honeymoon period, I have been convinced that the number of Conservative seats will fall below 326. I genuinely believe that the Government will lose the next election. They certainly deserve to do so in Scotland because of their actions. Although the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross and the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) have just survived, they too may become Members for Nowhere after the next election.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn


Dr. Godman

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman want to intervene? It appears not—perhaps he is in a state of suspended animation.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn


Dr. Godman

The hon. and learned Gentleman can now wait for a minute or two.

The new clause calls for an assessment of the levels of services provided by local authorities, and that is very important. In my constituency, services have been reduced—reluctantly—by Strathclyde regional council, and those reductions harm the most fragile and vulnerable groups in our communities. I refer mainly to the elderly and others who will suffer because the provision of the home help service is being reduced instead of increased. What will happen to those who are discharged into the community from psychiatric units and from long-stay mental hospitals when an authority such as Strathclyde, which has a fine social work department, cannot provide the help that such people need? The reductions in services have largely been caused by the failure—an honourable failure—of Strathclyde regional council to collect the poll tax.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was confused by my reluctance to allow him to give way to me. I thought that he was confused, but that is another matter.

I am one of the most vulnerable in society, but I did not have central water, I had no dustbin collection or sewage provision, no one mends my roads, I do not use the local library and I have no children to educate, so I get nothing. However, thanks to the Government, now I at least have sewage collection, rubbish collection and central water. As one of the more vulnerable members of society, I am very grateful.

Dr. Godman

I am not sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is one of the most vulnerable in our society, but I suspect that he is one of the most confused in his part of Scotland. His reference to his vulnerability plainly reveals his confused thinking at the moment, but it is not always so confused. The hon. and learned Gentleman has a fine forensic approach to these issues, and I look forward to hearing his speeches later.

The level of services provided by local authorities is a very worrying issue in my constituency because Strathclyde regional council is now so badly placed with regard to finance because of its inability to collect the poll tax from people who sometimes can pay but will not pay, but, much more often, simply cannot pay.

I genuinely believe that we are facing a political and constitutional crisis in Scotland, which has been brought about by the insensitive and uncaring Government. If their representatives in this House are reduced to, at best, two or three, that is merely what the Government and their representatives deserve.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I did not want to intervene in the socialist split between the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party and the Labour party, all of which are confused about how to proceed with the collection of a form of local government tax. The people of Scotland will begin to wonder where the Opposition stand when they hear speeches such as those that we have heard today.

We tend to forget that the reason why we are introducing a simplified form of rate collection is that the old rating system was unpopular not only in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom. The reason why it was so unpopular is exactly the same reason why the community charge and now the council tax are unpopular—local authorities spend far too much money. Only when we get on top of that issue and make local authorities understand that they are meant to be good housekeepers and not to spend money rashly and unrealistically will we get local government expenditure down to the equivalent levels of 10, 20 or 30 years ago when all elected councillors—many of whom were independent—made a point of thinking about those whom they represented. Their first priority was to keep expenditure down and to provide the best services possible within their budgets.

Budgets are now set at extortionate levels and when, naturally enough, the Government or the local population say, "Steady", local authorities say that there must be dramatic cuts. However, the cuts are in the budget, not in expenditure, and that is what we have difficulty in bringing home to the people of Scotland. All over Scotland we see in local and national newspapers talk of cuts in this and cuts in that, but the cuts are in proposed budget expenditure, not in real expenditure which has, of course, increased year in, year out as has the revenue support grant under the present Government.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it has.

5.45 pm

It is time that the people of Scotland realised that it is-elected councillors suggesting budgets that are quite unacceptable which is the cause of the trouble in Scotland today, especially when we bear in mind the substantial progress made with the uniform business rate which, in the long run, will be of tremendous benefit to businesses and in which there can be only an increase related to inflation, as opposed to the substantial increases of a few years ago.

The Minister rightly introduced capping for some local authorities, but I hope that he will bear in mind the low base from which some authorities began in recent years. One can perhaps understand the capping of authorities that are spending £400, £500 or £600 while others are spending £150 but are capped because they started from a fraction of a base level of the higher spending authorities. For small rural district councils it has been difficult even to maintain expenditure at inflation levels, let alone to try to keep within the capping level of about 4.5 per cent.

I hope that when the Minister replies he will take the chance to highlight some of the singularly unpopular proposals from the socialist parties, such as the rating of farm buildings, local income tax and other suggestions which are quite unacceptable in Scotland. The new clause asks for another layer of bureaucracy and for officials to spend months preparing reports and papers when they should be preparing their work for the introduction of the new council tax. Time is not on our side in terms of preparation for April 1993. Any diversion of effort by local authority officials to provide the information required by the Opposition—much of which they could probably research in the Library in an hour if they tried—is quite unnecessary. For those reasons, and because the Opposition have made such a miserable case, I hope that the Minister will reject the new clause.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

I will try not to stray too far from the new clause, although you, Mr. Deputy Speaker" have said that this is a wide debate. The main point of the new clause is that we want the Government to carry out a proper survey of the effects of the community charge and to study the cost, economy, efficiency and effectiveness of financial administration in local government". The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has already told Ministers that local administration throughout Scotland is in a desperate position. If Ministers do not address the problem of non-collection of the poll tax, the poll tax for next year and the following year will rise astronomically. Resistance to the payment of the poll tax will probably rise accordingly. The Government must address the problem of the total debt, which is about £357 million of unpaid tax for the previous two years.

Local authorities must be given back some power so that they can decide the practicalities of collecting certain debts and whether the cost involved in trying to collect them is worth while. Despite the figures that the Minister gave, I am convinced, as are many local government finance officers, that it is costing more in some cases to attempt to collect the back payments than it is to forget about them.

I am not saying that we should simply have an amnesty. The Government would find an amnesty for all those who have not paid unacceptable and I understand the reasons for that. However unfair a tax is and however it discriminates against the poor, we must realise that it is a tax under the law. In any campaign, there is a problem if those with ability to pay pull others into the campaign, especially those who are too poor to pay.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) said that I, among others, was involved in a campaign of non-payment. That is correct. I stand here without shame to say that I believed then that those who could afford to pay but who would not pay bore the responsibility at least to put up some resistance to a tax that had heen imposed on us. However, I qualify that comment and the local paper can be produced to show that I did not invite those who would be in difficulties over the payment of the tax to become involved. I did not see it as a form of elitism to say that I put forward the argument that people like me should resist payment for the moment. I stated publicly that I fully understood that I would have to pay not only the tax, but eventually the surcharge. I did not want those who could not afford to pay the tax to be put into the embarrassing situation of having debt collected, not only for the tax that they had not paid, but for the 10 per cent. surcharge. I ultimately paid what I owed and the 10 per cent., although I did so reluctantly because it was a lousy tax. Time has shown us that it is a bad tax.

Conservative Members who waxed eloquent about the virtues of the poll tax are disappearing like snow off a dyke. However, they did not disappear when it came to marching through the Lobby, probably asking each other, "What is this tax all about?" The answer was, "It is going to Scotland, old boy, so just go through as the Whips have told you." No one gave any real consideration to that abomination or to the difficulties that it would cause for the poor people in Scotland.

The Opposition and some Conservative Members doubted the wisdom of the tax. Those to whom I am not allowed to refer—they sit in the jury box over there—told the Government that the tax was ill thought out, that it would be difficult to collect and that it would create difficulties for the Government. However, Scottish Ministers embraced the tax eagerly because they saw it as the best thing for Scotland since sliced bread. Even now, some of them argue that the poll tax was fair and good, and they say that they do not understand why its collection went so wrong.

The Government cannot blame those who are not paying for the downfall of the tax because that would defeat the dogma attached to it. I believe that those in Scotland who did not pay played some part in the demise of the tax. When Conservative Members who had trotted so gleefully through the Lobby discovered what the effect of the tax would be on England and on their constituencies, they studied it and understood that any tax that is written down on the back of a fag packet cannot he acceptable to the people.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I hope that my hon. Friend will not be annoyed if I give a marginally different point of view. It is passing into mythology that the Tories introduced the poll tax in Scotland to punish the Scots. The opposite is the case. The former Prime Minister introduced the poll tax because she honestly thought that it would be the saviour of Scottish seats in the 1987 election. It was meant to be beneficial to the Scots. That shows how bad the Government's judgment was and why, when the difficulties were discovered, the English said that they did not want to touch the poll tax with a bargepole.

Mr. McKelvey

My hon. Friend is right. To be fair, the former Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister, Ministers and Conservative Members failed to understand the background of Scotland's history and heritage. They failed to understand that Scots will simply not accept a tax being forced on them—I believe unconstitutionally. We are a Union and I can see no reason why there should be a different form of tax in one part of the Union from that in the others. Ministers would not accept that view and what has become of the community charge is almost history.

The matter will not be allowed to rest. The poll tax has not been abolished, although many people in Scotland imagine that it has. The collection of the poll tax and the pursuit of people who are too poor to pay still goes ahead. I have never accepted the collection of debt by warrant sales, especially for domestic debt. Many of us fought hard and long to abolish poinding altogether. It may be acceptable for a council that is done by a big business man, because the only way in which it can get back its money may be to get its hands on his business. What is obnoxious to me and to many other Labour Members is a form of debt collection that aims to humiliate the person from whom the debt is being collected. Such a form of debt collection is inhuman and should be resisted. As soon as possible, especially for Scotland, we should consider closely the matter of poinding and we should dispose of it as a means of collecting domestic debt. It is a disgrace and should never be pursued.

I do not agree with members of councils, whether SNP or Labour-led, which with relish set officers on to the collection of the poll tax. They are misled. However, once the debt is handed over to the sheriff officers for collection, they will use warrant sales to collect the debt. They will then be resisted, as has been shown.

Mr. Douglas

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that such a course of events is acceptable? There is some control over the sheriff officers and the messengers at arms. It is not a perfect control, because they are not properly controlled through the court system, but there is control. The creditor has a responsibility to acknowledge that the debt that is being pursued will not be gathered under the poinding schedule. We are in a queer trait, indeed, if local authorities—Labour controlled or otherwise—do not say, "This is nonsense. Halt the process there."

6 pm

Mr. McKelvey

Local authorities cannot take that decision. Once the matter is in the hands of the sheriff officer, the officer determines how the debt is collected. Local councils can say to sheriff officers, "We do not want you to pursue the matter through warrant sales," but the sheriff officers are contracted to do a job and can say, "If we can collect the debt only by means of a warrant sale, that is what we will do." The authorities cannot control the means by which sheriff officers collect the debt as long as it is collected legally. I do not like the practice—we must fight against it and change it—but, unfortunately, for the time being at least, sheriff officers have the legal right to use poinding.

We must examine that difficulty ourselves. It is no good shoving the blame on to a local authority and saying that debt collection should not be pursued through warrant sales because, ultimately, they are forced to undertake poindings. Such proceedings ought to be resisted locally and they are resisted locally.

What about those who have the ability to pay but who are still not paying? They are responsible for a large part of the £537 million worth of debt that directly affects local authorities' ability to provide services. When we realised that there was a threat of that happening, I and many others to whom I spoke who had previously resisted payment said, "There is one thing that we will not do: we will not jeopardise services or jobs in our community by our campaign of resistance and non-payment." When we realised that that threat existed, we withdrew.

The Scottish National party, on the other hand, pursued the issue and encouraged people not to pay, saying that it was leading a campaign of universal non-payment. When members of the SNP realised that the difficulties in which local authorities were placed would reflect badly on them, they washed their hands of the matter.

As I said at the time, I have some local experience of resistance to paying rent, which I gleaned during rent campaigns. I vividly recall carrying a banner saying, "We will not pay the increase in rent in the Dundee district." At the other end of the banner was someone who I knew had paid his rent. I asked, "Why did you pay your rent, Jimmy?" He replied, "It was not me, Willy, it was my wife." The domestic pressure on many households is such that some womenfolk who knew that, ultimately, they would be left to pay the rent said, "It is all right having a non-payment campaign but when it fails, as it will fail"—and it did fail—"who will pay the rent? Who will be lumbered with the debt?"

Hundreds of people in Scotland who were either too poor to pay or who were duped into taking part in the non-payment campaign as a way of destroying the tax now find themselves having to pay not only the debt but the surcharge. That is grossly unfair.

I have two constituency cases about which I shall happily tell the Minister—indeed, I have probably written to him about them already. The first concerns an old lady in a private nursing home who does not even receive her pocket money because it is taken from her as part of her rent. She has no visible means of support, except that she is being looked after by that private nursing home. Yet that old lady is still being pursued by sheriff officers for non-payment of the 20 per cent. that she should have paid last year. Does it make economic sense, and is it humane, to pursue elderly and frail people to collect the 20 per cent? What is it costing? I do not believe that the cost of pursuing those too poor to pay is less than the sums in respect of which they are being pursued.

My second constituency case concerns someone in receipt of benefit from the Department of Social Security. The sheriff officers have asked the DSS to stop part of the payment and pay his poll tax. The Department has replied that, because that person is paying so much in loan repayments, he is now under subsistence level and cannot pay the poll tax.

Why must we pursue poor people such as those for non-payment of the 20 per cent? Would it not be better to return to local authorities the discretion that they enjoy in other areas and say to them, "By all means, pursue those who can pay and will not pay. Home in on them. But, in cases of genuine poverty and difficulty, involving the elderly, the frail and the poor, you can write off the debt as uncollectable."

The trouble is that political dogma is being allowed to overrule economic sense, and that that dogma says that everyone must pay the tax. That was the basis on which the tax was introduced: everyone had to be accountable. It is arrant nonsense to say that pensions and benefits have been uprated to allow for the payment of the poll tax; people simply do not believe it. Is it not nonsense to say to someone, will give you £1.50 so that you can pay the £1.50 that I propose to tax you"? Why could not the sum have been paid directly? Because that would have defeated the object and negated the dogma, which said, "We want you not merely to pay the tax but to know why you are paying it."

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

I have some sympathy with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's argument, which concerns the pursuit of those who cannot pay. Equally, I sympathise with the argument that people who can pay ought to pay. But I have been trying to follow his argument that every tax should be related to people's ability to pay it. Is the hon. Gentleman arguing, on behalf of the Labour party, that VAT and Customs and Excise duties should be abolished and replaced by a tax related to income, wealth or something of that nature? I have worked out on the back of a cigarette packet—and this bears no relation to my ability to pay, which is nil at the moment—that, if we followed that argument, we should have a standard rate of income tax of between 45p and 50p in the pound. That would be nonsense. We have indirect taxation—as we should have indirect taxation—and there should be taxes on spending as well as on income.

Mr. McKelvey

I am sure that the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) would not disagree that, in collecting taxes, we must take into account people's ability to pay. Whisky is extremely heavily taxed. The Government get a heavy whack for every bottle consumed. It is one thing for a person to decide whether he wants to consume a bottle of whisky. It is quite another when every person is taxed simply because he happens to be a body. The head tax was done away with centuries ago and should not be acceptable. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that he continues to find the poll tax acceptable and would still vote for it, he is at least being honest enough to say so, but other Conservative Members have put their heads down and said, "We never believed that it was a decent tax in the first place."

The matter has yet to be resolved. The Government are in difficulties because local authorities have enormous debts. In England, those debts are only now beginning to accumulate, but in Scotland they are all too familiar. We must give local government some respite and enable it to deal with this growing and extremely difficult problem. It is no good arguing that, year after year, the Government have dished out money to local authorities. Nobody will believe that that is the case. Housing revenue, for example, has virtually disappeared and, in Scotland, the result has been that we have thousands more homeless people than we have ever had. Many young people were turfed out of their houses by their parents, who said, "We are not going to pay your poll tax for you. You are not earning, so out you go." Some 24 per cent. of homeless people wandering the streets of London come from Scottish backgrounds and Scottish homes—a fact which we find totally unacceptable.

I found it obnoxious to listen to the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday referring to the wonderful uplift that has been given to London. I accept that it is nice to see the House of Commons in its new coat. However, perhaps we should have spent the money that we have spent on this building providing clothes for those hapless souls who sleep in cardboard boxes. Perhaps we should have some form of taxation so that we can clothe all our people adequately.

There is no point in trying to defend this immoral tax. Elderly people in Scotland, England and Wales will die in their thousands because they do not have the money to heat their homes. We should not rely on the instant cold weather payments that are triggered after seven days of below freezing temperatures. Had local authorities not been in so much debt as a result of the non-collected poll tax, they might have been able to concentrate on services and ensure that homes are adequately insulated. If they were adequately insulated, the cold weather might not have such drastic effects and cause the deaths of elderly and frail people.

Ministers are reluctant to feel ashamed about the application of the poll tax. They must consider the fact that the tax was applied in Scotland one year in advance and that was against the constitution. We should consider the plight of Scottish authorities and try to solve their problems, because those problems will be mirrored in English authorities in the next few years. The problem will not go away. It is growing and we should consider all the effects as outlined in the new clause.

Mr. Bowis

We were all moved when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) told us about his life under socialism in Scotland, with no hot and cold running water, having to deal with his own sewage—or whatever it was that he did—begging for a crust of bread at the door of his little rural cottage and being forced by his nanny to eat his rice pudding. He was trying to pour some oil on the Opposition's troubled waters in Scotland. In so doing, his learned advice came down slightly in favour of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) rather than the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas). I want to redress that balance slightly, because I believe that the hon. Member for Garscadden has an honourable record in terms of his policy on the issue. I believe that he is wrong, but he is sincere and consistent.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Bennett)

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who is the prospective Scottish National party candiate for Glasgow, Garscadden. I can understand his confusion.

Mr. Bowis

My hon. Friend is right.

In his erstwhile guise, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West and I debated the community charge at Cambridge university in the days when we all believed that the community charge was the greatest thing since neeps and tatties. I must tell Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe), who raised the matter earlier, that many of us believe that the community charge is a good system. My borough of Wandsworth has shown that the system could have worked.

Wandsworth has a zero charge this year, and we have just announced a zero charge for the coming year. Before Opposition Members point it out, that is on the basis of Government grant that is one third less than in neighbouring inner-London Labour boroughs which are charging £400, £500 or £600. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West is right to question the sincerity of some Labour party representatives who have challenged him today.

6.15 pm

I am with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West when he stands up for the people who cannot pay. However, he should recall that we have a rebate system designed to look after those who cannot pay. That system works only if we have a system of local government in which responsible local authorities set responsible levels of community charge. That has always been the case. If local authorities do not set such levels of community charge, the benefit and rebate system is inadequate to look after the people about whom the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West is concerned.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West also referred to other members of the public who refused to pay the tax when they were capable of paying it. Among those people were Labour Members, Labour councillors and Labour party officials who campaigned around the country for non-payment. They could pay, but they would not.

The hon. Member for Garscadden referred to the guilt by association of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West in respect of his meetings with Militant representatives. However, if I can believe my own ears, it seems, from the expulsions from the Labour party as a result of Militant connections, that everyone in the Labour party who has appeared on a platform with Militant representatives is at risk.

Guilt by association works two ways. It may work with regard to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West being on a platform with a Militant spokesman. However, it also works with the Labour party failing to discipline its own members who campaigned against payment of the tax. It is their surcharge that people throughout England, Scotland and Wales are having to pay.

Mrs. Ray Michie

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my party has never been in favour of a "can pay, won't pay" campaign. However, he should be careful about whom he is accusing of not paying when they could pay. There are Conservative councillors who have not paid, but who could pay.

Mr. Bowis

I was referring to hon. Members. I know of no Conservative Member who has not paid. If there is one, the hon. Lady should name him or her now. If Conservative councillors have refused to pay, I condemn them as utterly as I condemn the Labour councillors who have not paid.

As the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) has raised her party's head above the parapet, she should be careful about the cost that she is seeking to impose on the people of this country. Her leader estimated during the Ribble Valley by-election that the average local income tax would be £600.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

I hope that the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) will not be offended when I say that life in Bargeddie and Bellshill must be very different from life in Battersea. I can find no support for the Government's proposals, although I can see much logic in new clause I and much support for the principles that it enshrines.

New clause 1(2)(c) refers to the levels of services provided by local authorities". Given that we have a very confused system of local government finance, with central Government's contribution, a much smaller amount raised from local revenue and enormous difficulties because of the previous form of taxation that the Government attempted to introduce and the new one that they introduce in this Bill, local authorities far too often, in department after department, instead of dealing with the big issues of education, leisure and recreation and the quality of life in their districts, have to devote a great deal of time to collection problems and cannot give priority to essential services.

I greatly regret the unacceptable problems that have been imposed on social work departments in Scotland, especially when poverty is on the increase, when the national health service is under attack, and when local authorities are expected to deal with community care problems to which they simply do not have the resources to enable them to respond. To its credit, in recent weeks, the Glasgow Evening Times has been exposing the scandal of mentally ill and mentally handicapped people being sent to prison. Every social work department in Scotland wants to address those problems but they cannot do so because resources are not available.

I welcome new clause 1, with its reference to genuine consultation not only with COSLA but with organisations such as citizens advice bureaux. If we have genuine consultation, such scandals and the failure to respond to people's needs will be addressed. Local authorities can see poverty before their very eyes. With genuine consultation, they will be able to cope. If we involve the consumer in the widest possible sense and restore the democratic role of local government in Scotland to its rightful place, we will do a great service to democracy. For that reason, I am delighted to support new clause 1.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Bennett)

This has been an interesting debate, but it has had little to do with the council tax.

Mr. Maxton

Why is not the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replying?

Mr. Bennett

I am replying to the debate because this is a United Kingdom Parliament and, as the new clauses are about England, Scotland and Wales, a Welsh Office Minister is perfectly entitled to reply.

It has been an interesting debate, but there has been little talk by Opposition Members about the council tax. The debate has been about the community charge. It has been a negative debate on the part of the Opposition. They have looked backward rather than forward. I have no hesitation in advising the House to reject the amendment and the new clauses.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) spent most of his time having a debate with the Scottish National party about who was responsible for what in Scotland in terms of advising people not to pay the community charge. I shall refer to that matter in a minute. I shall deal with the two or three points of substance that arose in respect of the parts of the Bill that we are discussing.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) argued that, in Scotland, England and Wales next year, the Liberal party would like to see the abolition of all local taxation and the imposition of a national income lax for one year only. I find that very strange, because Liberal Democrat Members spent the whole time in Committee arguing that local councils should raise more of their own resources from local taxpayers rather than from national taxpayers. Seeing that there might be a little bit of an electoral advantage with a general election coming, the Liberal party is prepared to stand principle upon its head and argue the exactly opposite case on the Floor of the House.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute spoke also about the cost of implementation of the new council tax. The Government have accepted the estimates made by the CSL Group Ltd. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales provided an extra £6 million over the total for aggregate external finance for 1992–93, which was announced in July, to meet the estimated revenue costs of local authorities of bringing in the new council tax. The same has been done in England, where my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), the Secretary of State for the Environment, has put aside £86 million. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has provided a further £10 million to enhance allocations in 1992–93. I do not think that the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute can argue that local authorities have not received generous extra financial support in the coming financial year for their implementation of the council tax.

The hon. Lady spoke also about the local income tax. We had a long debate in Standing Committee on that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) will speak on that matter in a later debate when we discuss Liberal amendments on the local income tax.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) spoke about Labour's amendments. She said that the Labour party had not had an opportunity in Standing Committee to debate its point of view in full. It is worth pointing out just what happened in Standing Committee. On clause 6, for instance, we had seven and a half hours of debate. The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) admitted that he spoke only because the Labour Whip asked him to speak in order to prolong the debate. We had another seven and a half hours of debate on clause 11. On clause 22, we had a two-hour debate, in which the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) spoke at great length. On clause 32, we had three and three quarter hours of debate, and on clause 53 we had a four-hour debate.

In Committee, Labour Members did not allocate time between the amendments that they wanted to debate. They time-wasted and they spoke at great length. If Labour Members have any cause for complaint, they should look at their own behaviour in Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) spent 12 minutes saying good morning to the Committee and telling us that it was his wife's birthday and that he had not been able to buy her a present. That was the level of debate time and again. We all felt sinking hearts when the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said, "I shall speak briefly," because we knew that that meant that a 40-minute speech was on its way.

I do not believe for a minute that the hon. Member for Maryhill can complain that the Labour party did not get its views across in Committee. Labour Members had nearly 90 hours to do so. If they failed to get their points across, it was because of their own disorganisation.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who I understand is to stand at the next election as the SNP candidate for Glasgow, Garscadden, spoke at great length, but not one of his words was on the SNP amendment to new clause 27. It seemed strange that the hon. Gentleman did not have the confidence in his own amendment to speak to it at all.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) spoke in conciliatory and dulcet tones—unlike mine tonight—about this complicated legislation. Any local government finance legislation is bound to be complicated. Someone once said—I think that it was Palmerston—on the Schleswig-Holstein question, that there were three people who understood Schleswig-Holstein: one was dead, one had gone mad, and he had forgotten. That is very true of local government finance as well. Although we have had to bring in a complicated piece of legislation, when we look at the rebate system, the discounts and the banding that we have put forward, it will be seen to be fair legislation which attempts to help all those who will be faced with local council tax.

Mr. Maxton

I wonder into which of those three categories the Minister puts himself in terms of the council tax. Is he dead, has he forgotten, or has he gone mad?

Mr. Bennett

That is a very witty intervention.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) spoke at great length on the community charge, but he did not address the council tax. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) spoke about the Labour party wasting Scottish local authorities' time in asking them to work out alternatives to the legislation. I agree that it would be better if local authorities ignored the Labour party's political posturing on the matter and got on with the job in hand, which is to prepare for the implementation of the council tax on 1 April 1993.

Dr. Godman

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Bennett

I am sorry, I cannot give way. I have sat here since four minutes past four, waiting to reply. There is agreement between the Front Benches that there will be short replies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) made some interesting points. However, I wish to conclude my remarks by referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Garscadden.

The hon. Member for Garscadden became involved in a family squabble with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West. It was a real family squabble between two sorts of pink socialists, arguing about who was right over the community charge. I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Garscadden expressing his great moral outrage about the SNP, waiting to hear him condemn those Labour Members who had said that they would not pay the community charge, but I heard not a word of condemnation from the hon. Gentleman about his colleagues.

6.30 pm

The hon. Members for Maryhill and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) did not say, when they launched their Committee of 100 campaign in Scotland, that they would not pay the community charge themselves. Although they have spoken today about local government finance, they did not admit that they encouraged people not to pay the community charge. I wonder why there is so much hand-wringing among Opposition Members about that matter——

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

This is terrible.

Mr. Bennett

What is terrible is the fact that Labour Members, who want to be law makers and to pass legislation in this House, break the law themselves. We should place that important fact on the record. I am appalled that Labour Members have said today that their constituents are suffering when they argued in public that people should not pay the community charge——

Mr. McKelvey

That is not true.

Mr. Bennett

If the hon. Gentleman believes that that is not true, I would welcome an intervention from him.

Mr. McKelvey

I thought that I had already explained the position, but perhaps the Minister was not present. I can show clearly and publicly—it is on the front page of my local newspaper—that I said that I was taking a political stance, but I did not suggest that others did what I did because I knew that I would have to pay the surcharge and that others might not be able to do so. I regret the fact that those who brought people into the non-payment campaign are now simply washing their hands of the other people who are lumbered with the debt.

Mr. Bennett

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he is taking a moral stance by saying that he will not pay his tax when other people will have to pay a surcharge to make up for the income that was lost because he would not pay, I can only say that that is a strange form of morality.

It is clear from our debate during the past two and a half hours that Labour Members do not want to discuss the council tax. They would rather go back to discussing the community charge. We are committed to abolishing the community charge and shall do so. The Bill will be passed. I ask the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Gould

We have had a good and useful debate, but it was clearly not much enjoyed by Conservative Members. There are a number of signs of that. First, the Secretary of State for the Environment graced us with his presence for 10 minutes during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). The right hon. Gentleman then reached the limits of his patience, thus doubling the amount of time that he spent in Standing Committee. However, it was on the basis of that 10 minutes' observation that he apparently found it possible to criticise the Labour party for filibustering. His remarks on that subject were as ill-founded and unconvincing as those of the Under-Secretary of State for Wales a moment ago.

The second sign that the Conservative party has not relished the debate was the presence on the Treasury Bench of that Under-Secretary. I mean no disrespect to him—that is, no more disrespect than is normally his due—when I say that the fact that he was asked to reply to the debate was intended by the Government to signify that they did not much like the debate or attach much importance to it. That view is confirmed by the fact that not a single Conservative Back-Bencher was present at the beginning of the debate.

I am not surprised that Conservative Members wanted to slink away from the debate. They have guilty consciences—not just about the disastrous consequences of the poll tax, but also about their shameful record during that whole episode, when they allowed themselves to be dragooned through the Division Lobbies in support of the legislation and then, when the whistle was blown and they were told that they had to reverse direction, they all slunk off in that reverse direction.

The new clause and the report that it seeks to introduce are not only important but essential. We seek first to establish what went wrong, because what went wrong did enormous damage to local government, to individual and family budgets, to respect for the law and to civil rights. The poll tax was undoubtedly the worst mistake made by any Government in modern times.

The second purpose of the report is to establish who was responsible for making that mistake. Of course, Conservative Members now want to distance themselves from the whole catastrophe and to say that it was all the fault of their former leader, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), but half the present Cabinet were deeply implicated in the introduction of the poll tax. The Chairman of the Tory party, the current Secretary of State for Health, the current Home Secretary and even the Prime Minister himself were the guilty men. No wonder they do not want to be brought to the dock and made to face the charges.

Thirdly, and perhaps most constructively, we need a report to learn the lessons and to ensure that the mistakes are not repeated. The first of those lessons is that the poll tax was unacceptable because it was unfair. We no longer have to say that, because the Government's own excuse for abandoning the poll tax is that people could not be persuaded that it was fair. However, the same principle of unfairness is enshrined in the new council tax. The best-off will not pay their fair share. The scale of liability is to be compressed or dampened, so others will have to pick up the bill.

Another lesson is that the poll tax turned out to be too complicated and too costly, although its great virtue was supposed, to be its simplicity. It was hugely complicated and expensive because it took enormous time and resources to trace all the people who moved. During the year, about 40 per cent. of those on one register moved off it and on to another when they changed address. In some parts of London, 60 per cent. of the register had to be changed during the year. The council tax is similarly complex. It will have all the problems of the poll tax, coupled with the new problem of being a totally untried property tax.

Another lesson is that the poll tax was utterly uncollectable. Again, it is not only the Opposition who say that. The Prime Minister himself has described the poll tax as "virtually uncollectable". That is why local authorities have had to issue 7.5 million summonses. No one should point the finger at individual local authorities as though all that was their fault, because it is a problem that faces the whole of local government. Local government is £1.5 billion short of the amount that it would have collected if the poll tax had been as collectable as the rates. The same mistakes are being repeated with the council tax.

As I have said, another problem with the poll tax was the damage that it did to civil rights. About 1 million votes have gone missing. We must assume that 1 million people decided to trade in their vote to escape paying the poll tax. However, we are told yet again that local authorities will be encouraged to turn to the electoral register to establish liability for the new tax. What an incentive, yet again, for people to trade in their vote to escape their tax liability. That is not the right thing to do, and nobody would advise people to do it, but the Government have not learnt the lesson: that that is what people did under the poll tax and that that is what they will do under the council tax also.

The poll tax was a nightmare for local government. It was supposed to improve accountability. Indeed, in its dying days, accountability was said to be its one remaining saving grace. But we now have universal capping, which is again being enshrined in the council tax legislation. That is another lesson that has not been learnt, and a mistake that will be repeated.

Finally, and perhaps in the long term the most harmful, there is the damage that the poll tax has done to the acceptability of the concept of one's legal obligation to pay local government taxation. Bad lessons have been learnt by so many people who have found it possible not to pay the poll tax. If we are not careful, those lessons will be carried over to the new council tax and to all other tax-paying obligations.

This has certainly been an uncomfortable debate for the Conservative party, and that discomfort has been more than justified. If they had any sense of shame, the Government would have shown it this evening and expressed remorse. Indeed, if the Conservative party in Parliament had been local councillors in local government, they would have been surcharged, bankrupted and driven from office. We cannot bankrupt them or surcharge them, but we shall drive them from office, and that is what the British people will want.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 218, Noes 350.

Division No. 26] [6.39 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Benton, Joseph
Allen, Graham Bermingham, Gerald
Alton, David Blair, Tony
Anderson, Donald Blunkett, David
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boateng, Paul
Armstrong, Hilary Bradley, Keith
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, Joe Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Barron, Kevin Caborn, Richard
Battle, John Callaghan, Jim
Beckett, Margaret Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Beith, A. J. Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Bellotti, David Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Canavan, Dennis
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Cartwright, John Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clelland, David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kennedy, Charles
Cohen, Harry Kilfoyle, Peter
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kirkwood, Archy
Corbett, Robin Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Corbyn, Jeremy Lambie, David
Cousins, Jim Lamond, James
Cox, Tom Leighton, Ron
Crowther, Stan Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cryer, Bob Lewis, Terry
Cummings, John Litherland, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dalyell, Tam Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Darling, Alistair McAllion, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McAvoy, Thomas
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Macdonald, Calum A.
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McFall, John
Dewar, Donald McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dixon, Don McKelvey, William
Dobson, Frank McLeish, Henry
Doran, Frank Maclennan, Robert
Douglas, Dick McMaster, Gordon
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. McWilliam, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy Madden, Max
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Mahon, Mrs Alice
Eadie, Alexander Marek, Dr John
Edwards, Huw Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Enright, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Martlew, Eric
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Maxton, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Meacher, Michael
Fatchett, Derek Meale, Alan
Fearn, Ronald Michael, Alun
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fisher, Mark Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Flannery, Martin Moonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, Paul Morgan, Rhodri
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fraser, John Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fyfe, Maria Mowlam, Marjorie
Galbraith, Sam Mullin, Chris
Galloway, George Murphy, Paul
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
George, Bruce O'Brien, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O'Hara, Edward
Godman, Dr Norman A. Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Golding, Mrs Llin Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Gordon, Mildred Parry, Robert
Gould, Bryan Patchett, Terry
Graham, Thomas Pendry, Tom
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Pike, Peter L.
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Grocott, Bruce Prescott, John
Hardy, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
Harman, Ms Harriet Quin, Ms Joyce
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Radice, Giles
Haynes, Frank Randall, Stuart
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Redmond, Martin
Henderson, Doug Reid, Dr John
Hinchliffe, David Richardson, Jo
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Robertson, George
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Robinson, Geoffrey
Home Robertson, John Rogers, Allan
Hood, Jimmy Rooney, Terence
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howells, Geraint Rowlands, Ted
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Ruddock, Joan
Hoyle, Doug Salmond, Alex
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Illsley, Eric Short, Clare
Ingram, Adam Skinner, Dennis
Janner, Greville Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Johnston, Sir Russell Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Soley, Clive Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Spearing, Nigel Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Steinberg, Gerry Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Stephen, Nicol Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Strang, Gavin Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Straw, Jack Wilson, Brian
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Winnick, David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Worthington, Tony
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis Wray, Jimmy
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Turner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, James Mr. Ken Eastham and Mr. Robert N. Wareing.
Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Adley, Robert Cran, James
Aitken, Jonathan Currie, Mrs Edwina
Alexander, Richard Curry, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Allason, Rupert Davis, David (Boothferry)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Day, Stephen
Amess, David Devlin, Tim
Amos, Alan Dickens, Geoffrey
Arbuthnot, James Dicks, Terry
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dorrell, Stephen
Arnold, Sir Thomas Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Ashby, David Dover, Den
Aspinwall, Jack Dunn, Bob
Atkins, Robert Durant, Sir Anthony
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Dykes, Hugh
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Emery, Sir Peter
Baldry, Tony Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Evennett, David
Batiste, Spencer Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fallon, Michael
Bendall, Vivian Farr, Sir John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Favell, Tony
Benyon, W. Fenner, Dame Peggy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fishburn, John Dudley
Body, Sir Richard Fookes, Dame Janet
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forth, Eric
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fox, Sir Marcus
Boswell, Tim Franks, Cecil
Bottomley, Peter Freeman, Roger
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia French, Douglas
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Fry, Peter
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gale, Roger
Bowis, John Gardiner, Sir George
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gill, Christopher
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Brazier, Julian Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bright, Graham Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Goodlad, Alastair
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Buck, Sir Antony Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Budgen, Nicholas Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Chris Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butterfill, John Gregory, Conal
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carrington, Matthew Grist, Ian
Cash, William Ground, Patrick
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Grylls, Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Chapman, Sydney Hague, William
Chope, Christopher Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Churchill, Mr Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hanley, Jeremy
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hannam, John
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Colvin, Michael Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Harris, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Haselhurst, Alan
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hayes, Jerry
Couchman, James Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mudd, David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Neale, Sir Gerrard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Needham, Richard
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Nelson, Anthony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Neubert, Sir Michael
Hill, James Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hind, Kenneth Nicholls, Patrick
Hordern, Sir Peter Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Norris, Steve
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Paice, James
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Patnick, Irvine
Hunt, Rt Hon David Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hunter, Andrew Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Irvine, Michael Pawsey, James
Irving, Sir Charles Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jack, Michael Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Janman, Tim Porter, David (Waveney)
Jessel, Toby Portillo, Michael
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Price, Sir David
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rathbone, Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Key, Robert Rhodes James, Sir Robert
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Kirkhope, Timothy Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Knapman, Roger Roe, Mrs Marion
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knowles, Michael Rost, Peter
Knox, David Rowe, Andrew
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Latham, Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Sackville, Hon Tom
Lee, John (Pendle) Sayeed, Jonathan
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shaw, David (Dover)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shelton, Sir William
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lord, Michael Shersby, Michael
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Sims, Roger
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Skeet, Sir Trevor
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maclean, David Soames, Hon Nicholas
McLoughlin, Patrick Speed, Keith
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Madel, David Squire, Robin
Malins, Humfrey Stanbrook, Ivor
Mans, Keith Stern, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stevens, Lewis
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Mates, Michael Stokes, Sir John
Maude, Hon Francis Sumberg, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Summerson, Hugo
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Taylor, Sir Teddy
Meyer, Sir Anthony Temple-Morris, Peter
Mills, Iain Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Miscampbell, Norman Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thorne, Neil
Mitchell, Sir David Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, Roger Thurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Townend, John (Bridlington)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Moore, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Tredinnick, David
Morrison, Sir Charles Trippier, David
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Trotter, Neville
Moss, Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wiggin, Jerry
Viggers, Peter Wilkinson, John
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Wilshire, David
Walden, George Winterton, Mrs Ann
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Winterton, Nicholas
Waller, Gary Wolfson, Mark
Walters, Sir Dennis Wood, Timothy
Ward, John Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Yeo, Tim
Watts, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wells, Bowen
Wheeler, Sir John Tellers for the Noes:
Whitney, Ray Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. John M. Taylor.
Widdecombe, Ann

Question accordingly negatived.

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