Amendments made: No. 140, in page 97, line 6, leave out from `have' to 'in' in line 7 and insert
', or subsequently ceases to have, the debtor'.
No. 141, in page 97, line 44, at end insert—
`(7) The provisions of this paragraph (except subparagraphs (3) and (4)(b) above) shall apply to elected members of billing authorities or relevant precepting authorities as they apply to persons in employment; and for the purposes of the application of those provisions in relation to any such members—
- (a) any reference to a person having the debtor in his employment shall be construed as a reference to such an authority having the debtor as an elected member; and
- (b) any reference to the debtor's earnings shall be construed as a reference to allowances payable to the debtor by such an authority.
(8) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (7) above—
- (a) a relevant precepting authority is a major precepting authority other than the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District; and
- (b) a person is an elected member of a relevant precepting authority other than a county council if he is appointed to the authority by a constituent council of which he is an elected member.'.
No. 142, in page 101, line 23, at end insert—
'(2) Any reference in this paragraph to attachment of earnings includes a reference to attachment of allowances.'.—[ Mr. Portillo.]
§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent signified].217 8.12 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Heseltine)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I wish to say at once how much I have enjoyed the deliberations on the Bill. I have many reasons for saying that. First, the Bill has enabled the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities—my hon. friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo)—to establish a formidable parliamentary reputation because of the way in which he led the Government side in Committee, aided and abetted by Under-Secretaries from virtually every part of the United Kingdom. They deployed the case as admirably as we all knew they would. I thank them and all my hon. Friends who helped them in Committee.
Secondly, I pay tribute to the Opposition for the way in which they conducted themselves. They started with one general speech and they recycled it hour after hour, day after day. As I listened a few minutes ago to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), I remembered all too well the speech in which he first addressed this subject about a year ago. His speech today was identical to that one and was certainly no better.
There have been lengthy deliberations on the Bill. Despite the opportunities provided by the guillotine arrangement for a full and lengthy analysis of the Bill, the Labour party filibustered to use up the almost over-generous time—as it appears—which the House made available to it. It is something of a disappointment——
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I served on the Standing Committee. On several occasions, we said that we felt that Tory Members were deliberately wasting the Committee's time. It was firmly pointed out to us that such a complaint was a criticism of the Chair and not of the conduct of hon. Members. Does that apply here as well?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
I am sure that the Committee Chairman would have reproached any hon. Member who did not follow the procedures of the House.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Because, like me, you were not in attendance for every moment of the Committee's deliberations, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it may be extremely helpful to remind you that the Committee Chairman had to reprove hon. Members at one stage——
§ Mr. Heseltine
I must update my information. The Committee Chairman had to reprove Opposition Members twice for filibustering. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) is correct—that has proved beyond peradventure our worst suspicions about the conduct of those affairs.
Another curious aspect of the conduct of the debate will not have escaped the attention of the House. It is a year since we were told that the Labour party would conduct a tooth-and-nail opposition to the Bill. The Labour party was, we were told, totally opposed to it. Labour Members thought that it was wholly unacceptable, ill-considered, ill-prepared and beyond anything that local government was prepared to accept.
218 One would have thought that today, with this last chance, we would find Labour Members gathered on the Opposition Benches to cheer on their leading spokesmen as they tore into this piece of Tory legislation. I must confess that I have kept a note as the hours have gone wearily past to see whether the first three or the next five would add to the number of Labour Members present as the tension mounted. It is now the dinner hour, and we are within nearly an hour and an a half of the solemnity of the Bill passing from this place, and there are the Labour Members—just seven of them—to deploy their case. That says all there is to be said.
There is no fight left in Her Majesty's Opposition. The reason is not just that my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities destroyed their arguments day after day; they have failed in another respect to match up to the enormity of the opportunity we gave them. I should have thought that the Opposition would come forward with their own measured proposals tabled in amendment after amendment so that their argument could be weighed against ours.
I do not for one minute suggest that the Opposition did not think of that idea for themselves. Just a few weeks ago, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) was leaping about all over the place, waving a Bill which he had carefuly drafted to get rid of the poll tax. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware that the Opposition can draft Bills and amendments and have them debated. The moment that he failed to succeed in that particular—and wholly irrelevant—gesture, the idea of putting in amendment form the proposals in "Fair Rates" had no appeal for the Opposition. We know why—they do not have the first idea how they would grapple with the complexities of local government finance, how they would draft the legislation and what instructions they would give. That has been manifestly proved by the way in which they have conducted their opposition to the Bill today.
There is a third reason why I have so enjoyed the passage of the legislation. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) yesterday entertained the House with a historical re-run. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) here—he is a former member of the Labour party, who is now found somewhere else, in the Scottish nationalist movement, I think. He yesterday took what I thought was a wholly justified onslaught.
I thought that the Labour party was less than fair to the Scottish National party yesterday when it tried to suggest that it was that party which had somehow incited the nation not to pay the poll tax. I am not saying that the Scottish National party was not part of that process—I am sure that it was, because there are few bizarre extremities in which it is not playing its role. However, the idea that it was the Scottish National party which incited the nation not to pay the poll tax is not historically accurate.
When I read Hansard, I could hardly believe it. I shall read three quotations which are jewels of parliamentary history. In the first, the hon. Member for Garscadden said: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.What were certain Labour Members of Parliament doing without let or hindrance from their leaders or Front-Bench spokesmen who have no complaints, who campaigned for them, who sought to get them elected to the House, who sat with them, who issued the Whip and allowed them to 219 take part in Committees, no matter what protests they made to stop people paying the poll tax? Now an Opposition spokesman is suggesting that that is a dangerous precedent.
However, it did not stop there. The hon. Gentleman went on to say: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.We have been saying that for days, weeks and months. The Opposition have been bringing about those marginal reductions in revenue which, according to their own spokesman, hit the least privileged members of society, the very people whom the Labour party claims to represent.
The third quotation is very much along the same lines. The hon. Gentleman said: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?'"—[Official Report, 16 December 1991: Vol. 201, c.35.]No, it was the price we were paying for the Labour party's non-payment campaign. A new scale of hypocrisy was yesterday introduced into the debate by the parliamentary Labour Party.
The fourth and final reason for supporting Third Reading is simple. The legislation, despite all the delaying tactics of the parliamentary Labour party, brings the poll tax to an end at the earliest possible practical opportunity. While the Labour party has tried to ensure that the poll tax remains on the statute book, we have been determined that it should go, and a Third Reading will bring that about.
The Bill provides for the poll tax's replacement, also at the earliest possible opportunity, by a new fair council tax which will be in place by April 1993. It also preserves the arrangements made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the levels of the community charge by £140 per payer, and we are determined to maintain those lower levels of payment in the new system. That, of course, contrasts starkly with the aim of the Labour party, which is determined that there will be an unfettered ability for local authorities—too often controlled by Labour—to spend without regard under any system of local government finance that it would introduce.
As my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities eloquently said, there is now a very sensible and clear distinction. We shall have a fair system in place by 1993. There will be rebates for those who cannot afford to pay, there will be discounts for single people and a broad spread to reflect the ability of people in homes to pay a reasonable amount in accordance with the circumstances of the household. Against that, the parliamentary Labour party is determined—if it won power—not only to increase income tax to 59p in the pound, but to allow local taxes to rise without let or hindrance. The more Labour can tax people, the more it will be pleased. One fact from which the country can take satisfaction is that the Bill on which we are voting tonight will be on the statute book next year, when this party has won the election to ensure that that happens.
§ Mr. Gould
I suppose that we should be flattered that the Secretary of State graced us not only with his presence but with a contribution to the debate. Clearly, that was a 220 late change of plan as Government business managers had provided us with a piece of paper which assured us that "Mr. Michael Portillo" would open for the Government. Who knows which of our taunts or what embarrassment the Secretary of State felt at our jibes that he did not have the courage to speak about the measure and knew nothing about it finally forced him to his feet? Was it worth waiting for? I fear not.
The Secretary of State confirmed all that we had said—that he knew nothing about the measure. It was no wonder that he dared not come to Committee to suffer the assault on the details of the provisions because he did not understand them. Consequently, even under pressure, he waited for the moment when he could indulge in his favourite tactic of airily using a broad brush. It struck me that he was in the mode in which he is most comfortable—a mode which has no relation to the detail of the Bill, to the facts of life or to the realities of local government. He could make a few broad points of doubtful validity and then sit down with the sycophantic cheers of a handful of his supporters ringing in his ears.
The one interesting thing that the Secretary of State said was that he enjoyed the passage of the Bill through the Committee. I bet he did. I bet that he enjoyed it enormously from his dinner table, from his opera seat, from the theatre or from his bed, for heaven's sake, while the rest of us were doing our duty and considering the Bill that he had introduced as a supposed solution to the problem of the poll tax.
The Secretary of State said that the great virtue of the Bill was that it abolished the poll tax. There is cause for celebration in the fact that clause 100 proclaims the end of the poll tax, but would that it were so. If the Bill did abolish the poll tax, we could at least say that, whatever its other failings and shortcomings, it had at least achieved that. However, I am afraid that even that limited purpose is inadequately served by the legislation. We have heard hints to that effect from the speeches made even today by some Conservative hon. Members, very few of whom—indeed none of whom, as I understand it—are willing to stand up for the principle of the poll tax. As I understand it, none of them will vote against the Bill because of clause 100. All those brave soldiers in the cause of the poll tax who were going to surrender their honour and virtue at high cost and die in the last ditch will all troop through the Lobbies to vote for that clause. The only exception of whom I know among Conservative Members who is likely to vote against the Bill will do so on different grounds.
§ Mr. Gould
Even to abstain is an achievement. As I understand it, no one else among all those poll tax warriors will vote against the Bill. How they must choke on it. Every word that the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), for example, uttered throughout the Committee dripped with regret for the fact that the poll tax is to go, and dripped with support and enthusiasm for the whole principle of the poll tax.
Is the poll tax unfair, as the Secretary of State and the Government say? The people could not be persuaded that it was fair. Is it unfair according to the hon. Members for Battersea and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), and according to all the others who think like them? Not a bit of it. The poll tax is a wonderful tax and is not at all unfair. They choke on it, but they will vote for its abolition.
221 Was the poll tax virtually uncollectable, as the Prime Minister said? Of course not, says the hon. Member for Battersea: if only everyone was as virtuous as Wandsworth council, there would be no problem. The poll tax may be abolished by clause 100 in language——
§ Mr. Gould
The hon. Gentleman has only just asked. I will complete the point first. To give the hon. Member for Tayside, North credit, he was looking at me rather than at his hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. I watched the hon. Member for Battersea closely because I expected him to want to intervene earlier. He took an awfully long time to summon his thoughts, to get his wits together and to decide that he wanted to intervene. I am sure that he will establish once and for all his undying allegiance to the poll tax. If he cannot quite do that, I have no doubt that he will explain why, despite that undying allegiance, he proposes to vote for the abolition of the poll tax. Once he has explained that, I have no doubt that his hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North will explain likewise. I give way to the hon. Member for Battersea.
§ Mr. Bowis
It took a long time coming. We were and are content with the community charge in Wandsworth for this year and next year—zero and zero—but, alas, that has not been the case in many areas in which our nation is ruled by Labour councils which have imposed such high charges that it has been impossible for people to put up with them. In the interests of my fellow man, I am prepared to sacrifice my own personal interest and comfort.
What does the hon. Gentleman mean about collectability? If there is a zero charge, it is not too difficult to collect. Has the hon. Gentleman not yet worked out the mathematics of that?
§ Mr. Gould
I am not sure that anyone will be persuaded by that bit of sophistry. I was not aware of the point on which the hon. Gentleman seems to rely, which is that no Conservative-controlled authorities or Conservative voters are unhappy about the poll tax. That comes as something of a surprise and it is a good instance of history being rewritten. Let us see whether the hon. Member for Tayside, North can be any more persuasive. Let us give him his chance now.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
We had some enjoyable exchanges in Committee. The hon. Gentleman will know that I do not apologise to him or to anyone else for the fact that I believe that the poll tax in principle was right. I believe that the level at which it was brought in and the level that it achieved latterly were the reasons why it had problems. If the Government had accepted earlier the proposals suggested by me and by others—which they did latterly—about transferring some of the local charge to value added tax, there would have been no difficulty in sustaining the position on the community charge.
§ Mr. Gould
No doubt each Conservative Member will make peace with his or her conscience. Each will have his or her own little excuse, unconvincing though it may be, for abandoning the principle to which he or she so strongly adhered. We must conclude that no Conservative Member has the courage of his convictions. No Conservative 222 Member will vote against the abolition of the poll tax on the ground that he adheres to the principle that he has so bravely espoused.
What was most significant about the brief intervention by the hon. Member for Tayside, North and the one point that I found convincing was his assertion that he would offer no apology to me or to anyone else. That is regarded in the country as the most unforgivable arrogance by the Conservative party. Having created such havoc, such misery and such disrespect for the law, having undermined local government, having obstructed civil rights and having spent £14 billion of taxpayers' money, the Conservatives have the arrogance to say that they will offer no apology.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to apologise to electors in Labour areas for their levels of spending? Whether under rates, poll tax or council tax, they have imposed and will impose a great burden. Will the hon. Gentleman apologise for the failure of Labour authorities to collect rates or community charge, which has imposed a further burden, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out? Finally, will he apologise for the Labour party's failure to put in place any proposals for capping authorities that exceed those burdens?
§ Mr. Gould
I agree that it was the size of the poll tax bills which brought people on to the streets and which caused law-abiding citizens to be prepared to defy the law. The size of the bills meant that Conservative voters threatened to revolt and that Conservative councillors refused the whip. That was all true in Conservative-controlled areas. That was the reality of the poll tax, and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) deludes himself if he prefers to forget that piece of inconvenient history.
§ Mr. Gould
I am in the very comfortable position of being able to give the hon. Gentleman exactly that assurance—[Interruption.] Oh yes. My position in principle is well known and I adhere to it.
Let us establish why some Conservative Members can reconcile with their consciences the fact that they will vote for the abolition of the poll tax. There are several reasons. They know that, despite the brave words of clause 100, the poll tax will live on. The bills will arrive again at the end of March next year. Just imagine the outrage and the anger of the millions of people who have been persuaded by the bravura performances of the Secretary of State and by the assurances given by the Prime Minister, including his statement that the poll tax had been abolished. They were inclined, silly people, to believe Ministers' statements. Imagine their anger and outrage when the bills arrive again at the end of March next year.
223 Imagine the despair of local government, although it was under no illusions. Local government will be faced yet again with the problem of collecting what the Prime Minister glibly announced some months ago was a virtually uncollectable tax of whose fairness the people could not be persuaded. Imagine the problems that local government now faces. How is local government to grapple with the problem?
I suspect that Conservative Members take comfort from the fact that the poll tax lives on, and they may take further comfort from the expert advice from so many quarters that the Government's timetable for abolishing the poll tax by 1 April 1993 will be extremely difficult to achieve. Conservative Members have the giddy prospect—how it must warm the cockles of their hearts—that the poll tax will survive for yet another year and perhaps even until 1994. They can salve their consciences by saying, "Yes, we are voting for a clause tonight, but of course nothing will really happen for at least a year or two."
Even if Conservative Members were compelled to face the reality that one way or another their beloved poll tax is due to go sooner or later—sooner if we have a Labour Government and later if we have a Tory Government—at least they can again delude themselves with the idea that, if only they can win a general election and implement the Bill, the poll tax will live on.
The 50 per cent. personal or head tax element of the council tax preserves the poll tax with all its mean features intact. The unfairness of the poll tax—the very problem that did for the poll tax, or so we are told by the Government—survives with the council tax. The complexity of the poll tax is also preserved. I would argue, as would many others, that the complexity of the council tax is likely to outstrip even that of the poll tax. As a direct consequence of the complexity of the council tax, the cost of administering it is fearful to imagine. Yet undoubtedly Conservative Members will gladly support the council tax because it will prove to be yet another burden for hated local government.
Another feature that the council tax will have in common with the poll tax is the register. We are told—although with less assurance tonight—that technically and lawfully there can be no register. But it is equally accepted that it might be necessary to have a list, and that if there is not a list local authorities might have to rely on the electoral register. So all the objections to the poll tax on civil rights grounds will survive.
Then there is the question of uncollectability—the other shot below the water that holed the poll tax. The council tax will also be uncollectable. Surely no one disputes that 7 million inquiries will have to be made to find out which are the single-person households. Indeed, more than 7 million inquiries will have to be made. Some 33 million inquiries will have to be made to find out which of those 33 million households are the 7 million single-person households. The information will have to be kept on record and updated day by day as people move from one address to another, change their status and so on. Uncollectability—my heavens, we have seen nothing yet. The council tax will be a monument to uncollectability. Undoubtedly, that too pleases the diehard supporters of the poll tax.
224 All the problems of the poll tax will remain and will be compounded by a set of new problems connected with an entirely new and untried property tax. The council tax will use an entirely new valuation basis—capital values. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) rightly described the mechanism for carrying out valuations as a Mickey-Mouse process which will cost about £2 per valuation. I always tell my friends to remember the next time that they are charged a large sum for a valuation to remember that it could be done for £2.
The valuation process will provoke a huge number of appeals just as all the other administrative problems of introducing the council tax come to fruition. The valuation process will depend on a banding system. It will do great damage to fairness between one region and another and one council tax payer and another. It is rightly feared and regretted by many Conservative Members who, unfortunately, did not have the courage to express their opinions in these debates.
When we put together the elements of the council tax, we find that the poll tax not merely lives on but lives on with even more horrific problems attached to it. I genuinely think—this is not an attempt at a debating point—that we face a disaster of even greater than poll tax proportions. We have evidence that that is the case. Conservative Members could scarcely bear to contemplate what was being done in their name. At one point during Report yesterday there was literally not one Back-Bench Member on the Conservative Benches. For a period this afternoon just two Conservative Back-Bench Members were present.
The Conservative party is introducing the legislation and Conservative Members had some obligation, however rudimentary, to Parliament and their constituents to understand a measure which their votes would force through the House. The truth is that Conservative Members chose to block their ears and close their eyes. They sleepwalked through the Bill. They refused to try to understand the disaster that was in preparation.
Conservative Members were culpable on the poll tax. Their mistake and their blind support produced that disaster. Even the Prime Minister sought refuge in the excuse that the measure had been bounced through. That was a pretty pathetic excuse from a member of the Cabinet. But it is now a pathetic excuse for all those Conservative Members who chose not to listen to the arguments and to pretend that this time, unlike last time, they could accept ministerial assurances that everything would be all right on the night. Their excuses ring hollow in the ears of millions of people who have been damaged by the poll tax.
Those excuses will not be listened to a second time. In all seriousness, Conservative Members have failed the House. They have failed in their duty and they have failed their constituents. It will be only justice if their constituents take their revenge.
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)
I congratulate my hon. Friends on the Front Bench on taking the Bill through Third Reading. There is a clear cleavage tonight, irrespective of where we stood on the community charge, to which I shall refer later. On one side we are offered a council tax which is a mixture of a property tax and a head tax. On the other side we are offered a return to a system 225 called fair rates. We do not know what is offered to us under the fair rates system. I have no doubt how the majority of the electorate in my constituency would vote, if they were given that choice. They do not want to return to a property system whereby large families who need larger houses and older people who want to keep their houses so that their children and grandchildren can visit them are penalised.
Some form of local government Bill has been introduced almost every year. For eight months I was a Minister in the Department of the Environment. This is yet another Bill. I am concerned that we should get it right in the long run, or put on the record where improvements can still be made either before or after a general election. But the last thing that we want is a rating system, which is what the Labour party wants.
In my view, the community charge was right in principle but was too high. I said that in February 1988. Three years later value added tax was increased and the community charge was reduced by £140. If we had left it at that, the community charge would have remained. But that is history and we must take up from where we are now.
I am still worried about the unfairness of the council tax to people in London and the south-east and areas where property prices are high. The Government have accepted the principle that there should be separate sets of bands for Wales and for Scotland, presumably because the prices of property are different there. However, the greatest variation in property prices is between the south of England and the north of England. People may say that it is difficult to know where to draw the line, but a line has been drawn down the Welsh marshes somewhere and along Hadrian's wall or some other such boundary.
The difference between property prices in the north and the south-east of England is not small. In London and the south-east property prices are 45 per cent. above the average. In the north property prices are 25 per cent. below the average. That is not a small difference. There is a great gulf between one and the other. Only 1 per cent. of properties in London and the south-east will be in the bottom band. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), 83 per cent. of properties will be in the top three bands. In the north few properties—only 4 per cent.—will be in the top three bands. In Greater London as a whole 31 per cent. of properties will be in the top three bands. It is a pity that the Government did not take on board then—I trust that they will do so at some time in the future—the fact that the Conservative-controlled London Boroughs Association has drawn up its own set of bands, which has made the situation clearer.
If the Department of the Environment contacts the Department of Health, it will find that four bands of property apply to doctors buying their surgeries, so the Government do not even need to use the London Boroughs Association scheme. It says here, "Department of Health"; is that not correct?
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson
The Department of Health lists four regions of the country. I believe that it would make that list available to the Department of the Environment. The list starts with a factor of 97 for Cleveland, 106 for Avon, 116 for Buckingham and 130 for Harrow and Brent. 226 The Department of Health has already worked out the differences, so we need not send people around the country; we merely need to bicycle from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Health. I sometimes wonder whether one Department knows what another is doing, but I must not raise such questions tonight.
Many people will be shocked that we have not increased the single person's discount from 25 to 331 per cent. or to 50 per cent. I read in the newspapers that that was being negotiated. Presumably the Treasury put a stop to it. I only hope that when the recession ends and taxes pour in we shall be able to table an amendment to do that. In Brent it means that, according to my figures, 92 per cent. of single people will lose out an average of £131 each, which is quite a lot of money. In Brent, 18 per cent. of doubles will lose out and the remaining 82 per cent. will gain an average of £44.
In Brent, North, according to my figures, after the 25 per cent. discount 94 per cent. of single people will lose out and 24 per cent. of doubles. I wished to put that on record because, with all taxes or changes in taxation, those people who are better off as a result will say "Thank you very much" and forget about it and the others who do not benefit will remember and will look to the ballot box, although I trust that that will not happen in this case.
The present recession in London and the south-east is different from any recession since 1929. From 1979 to 1981 the recession affected the north and the midlands, but now it is affecting service industries here. Sainsbury recently revealed that London is the only area where sales of food have decreased.
It is not merely a question of the price of property, because we must take travel into account. Repairs to cars cost twice as much in London as outside. If one drives a long way to have one's car serviced one can save money, but it costs money to drive it there.
House repossessions must also be considered. Figures published yesterday show that the two greatest increases in unemployment were in London and the south-east—this year it has increased by 43.6 per cent. in Greater London and by 56.4 per cent. in the south-east.
§ Sir Rhodes Boyson
My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who spoke on this subject last night, says that unemployment has increased by 100 per cent. in his constituency.
The Government must bear in mind the fact that we are debating Third Reading and that Conservative Members of Parliament would much prefer the Bill to anything that will be offered by the Labour party at any time. There is no doubt about that. It is not a case of salving our consciences; it is a plain fact.
However, at some stage, in another place or later on—whatever we say now, there will be another local government Bill next year—when the recession ends and more money is available, for goodness sake will the Government do something for London and the south-east and other high-priced property areas and do something about banding and single persons' discounts? Let them not wait three years this time. Let it be done then.
Tonight I shall vote with the Government, because I do not want the return of a total rating system. I should have 227 preferred the community charge to remain, but it has gone and I accept that. We have got the Bill to Third Reading and hon. Members who served in Committee have done quite well, but we must remember regional banding and an increase in the personal discount if the measure is to become popular rather than merely being a palliative.
§ Mr. Bellotti
When the Secretary of State introduced the debate on Third Reading, we were entertained to a speech commensurate with an after-dinner speech, which is where the Secretary of State spent most of the time while the Committee was considering details of the Bill. That gave the Minister of State a difficult task. A little more than 12 months ago he said:Taxes on people's homes are unfair. Property values bear little relation to people's ability to pay.From that standpoint it was a difficult task for the Secretary of State to pilot the Bill through Committee and on to Report and Third Reading. On occasions, scrutiny of the Bill was almost non-existent.
The right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) has demonstrated two key areas which the Committee did not consider in the necessary detail: banding and discounts. If the Committee and the House, on Report, had had the opportunity to explore those in detail, there would have been a great deal of support for his point of view.
Perhaps the Government do not believe that council tax bills will ever be brought into being in this form in 1993. Perhaps that is why they did not deem it necessary to go into detail in Committee. However, we must seriously consider the possibility that the Bill will be brought into being. At this late hour I want to join those hon. Members who would appeal for some rethinking.
The misery, chaos and cost caused by the poll tax, which so many hon. Members from both sides of the House have shared during these debates, will continue with the council tax, unless we are careful. The council tax is not fair and will not be efficient.
First, it is not fair. Surely it is wrong that the richest people, living in mansions, will pay only three times what the poorest people in the smallest flats will be asked to pay. That differential is not enough. Surely there are not enough bands.
That will put the burden on to the least well-off and protect the rich. If there were more bands, the burden would be spread more fairly.
The bands will mean that those on low and average incomes in high property value areas will face the largest bills. Those are the very people in London and the south-east to whom many hon. Members have referred in Committee and during this debate.
People living in tied property will face bills quite out of proportion to their incomes, especially if the property is in the inner city. That will affect ministers of religion, tenant farmers in rural areas, and people who rent and gain no benefit from the capital value of the property that they occupy. Private tenants lost heavily when the poll tax was introduced and stand to lose heavily again under the council tax.
The tax will also create a great deal of resentment. The Government propose to exempt students, but not all students will pay nothing. As we demonstrated in 228 Committee and on Third Reading, many students who live in multi-occupancy properties will be forced by landlords to contribute directly or indirectly to the cost of the property tax. The landlord will not just pay the council tax without passing it on to those occupying the property.
We have received professional advice from many quarters to the effect that the council tax will not be in place. I am pleased to say that, since I have had responsibility for local government finance for my party, the professionals whom I have encouraged to help me in my task have been extremely helpful. For example, the Magistrates Association says:The deep concern felt by the magistracy in respect of their involvement in the liability order stage of enforcement of the community charge…is…now regretfully repeated in respect of the proposed council tax.That organisation's views have been made well known to Ministers:We have put forward our views to Ministers on many occasions and our concerns that the procedure brings the magistracy into disrepute.
Other professional bodies say that the council tax is wrong and gives them cause for concern. Surveyors who have been asked to value property have said that. For example, Mr. James Allen of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland says:We greatly fear that the Bill as it now stands will result in an unworkable tax. This will be clearly against the public interest.He goes on:The RICS is particularly concerned at the failure to legislate for a credible system of appeals.The Government ignore all the professional advice at their peril.
The valuation process is imprecise. On Monday morning of this week the first radio programme I heard, at 7.30, was on Radio Sussex. The interviewer went out with a Mr. Dixon of Enever, estate agents in Brighton, which has been awarded a contract to value 30,000 homes in Brighton. While we are still debating the valuation process and trying to influence the Minister, the Government might have shown a little courtesy by not awarding contracts until after Third Reading.
In that radio programme, the interviewer went round with the estate agent and asked, in effect, "How would you value this property?" The agent replied, "This is a block of flats. I am not able to enter any of the flats. I shall assume that they are all roughly the same size and put them all in band B." They proceeded down the road and the interviewer said, "We are now outside a large detached house. How would you value that?" Mr. Dixon replied, "I would say that this property is in the top band or the one next to it. I shall put it into the band next to the top because that will help to reduce the number of appeals that might come forward."
The programme continued in that vein and it was fascinating. I thought for a moment that I was listening to a BBC comedy, but it was, in reality, a serious attempt to explain to listeners how the valuation process would work. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said that it was possible for valuations to be done for £2 per property. In the radio programme, it was suggested that an agent who knew the area well would not even need to leave his office to value property. Could there be a more ludicrous proposition for valuing property?
Clause 5 gives power to the Secretary of State to continue to cap local authorities and alter their budgets. That capping aspect received little attention in Committee 229 and on Report, although it is an extremely serious matter. Those powers relate to a local authority's SSA. Hon. Members have demonstrated many times that the whole SSA system has brought local government finance into disrepute.
Eastbourne borough council sent a letter to the Department of the Environment referring to its SSA and asking for details of additional costs. Before the powers in clause 5 are implemented. the Government should be honest and answer such questions. The letter simply asked for details of the costs of implementing the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Food Safety Act 1990, short-term leases and the code and guidance on homelessness. The Government must demonstrate that questions such as those will be answered before the capping powers are implemented.
In Committee, the Government were unable to give answers. At this stage of the Bill, it is possible for me to give the answers that the Government gave to Eastbourne borough council. The Department of the Environment responded as follows:It is the Department's practice to make an estimate of the cost to local authorities of new policy initiatives which are introduced. That estimate is one of the factors which Ministers take into account when deciding what provisions to make each year for total local authority spending".Thus far in the letter there would be no objection to the powers taken, but it continues:However, that level of provision is not determined simply by adding up a list of estimated costs for existing services and new initiatives. Ministers take into account a number of broad factors such as the scope for efficiency savings and the removal of wasteful expenditure, and what the country can afford generally. The annual settlement represents Ministers' overall judgment, taken in the light of these various factors; it is not constructed by making separate provision for specific items.So the Government are taking powers to cap local authorities and restrict their budgets, but not taking into account the additional responsibilities which they intend to give local authorities. It is ludicrous that the Bill will place powers on local authorities without the Government estimating the costs involved.
I am grateful to the Minister of State for agreeing, an hour or so ago, to meet my colleagues in Eastbourne. I hope that he will be prepared to meet colleagues throughout the country to discuss how those powers may affect local people.
I wish to discuss a matter that arose on Report, which we were unable to consider properly in Committee—the effect of discounts. I invited the Minister of State to explain, when he wound up on Report, why the 25 per cent. discount should not be increased to 40 per cent. I gave a series of statistics, one of which was Government based, from three authorities, illustrating why the discount should be 40 per cent. It is because the average income for a single-person household is 60 per cent. of the average income for a two-person household. Although I asked the Minister of State to deal with that issue in his response on Report, he singularly failed to do so. Will the Minister who replies to Third Reading reply to that important point? Opposition Members are aware of the fact that, given an opportunity to support an amendment that we tabled on Report to increase the discount from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent., a reasonable number of Conservative Back Benchers would do so. If the Government want to argue for a 25 per cent. discount, they must be prepared to give justifiable reasons for doing so. Not to deal with the issue simply 230 because they are aware that several Conservative Back Benchers and Opposition Members hold a different view is irresponsible.
The Government do not intend to implement the council tax proposals in their entirety. I predict that they will be substantially amended first. At Committee stage the Government took every opportunity to dodge key issues such as banding and discounts and they do the House a disservice by continuing in that vein.
§ 9.9 pm
§ Sir Michael Neubert (Romford)
After the engaging and entertaining clash of Titans at the outset of the debate and two contributions by veteran protagonists, I rise more modestly to regret that the Bill should receive a Third Reading with clauses 17 and 83 unamended and intact. My interest in the Bill arises from my role as parliamentary adviser to the Federation of Master Builders. As the clauses deal with the completion of new dwellings, the connection is obvious and topical.
The housing market is currently grappling with the effects of recession, the latest development of which is the growing number of repossessions and repossessed houses being sold at auction at knock-down prices. That, in turn, creates surplus capacity in the market, reduces the need for new building and puts many smaller firms represented in the federation up against the wall. Although the prospects are much brighter, particularly as a result of yesterday's announcement of £7.5 billion next year for housing, some dark winter months lie ahead. That £7.5 billion is exactly the amount raised by tobacco tax, a curious illustration of the principle of quid pro quo.
I shall talk on one point of principle. The principle asserted is that no new housing should attract a charge until it is occupied. The relief of six months that has been granted may seem generous, but it certainly is not in today's circumstances, where we have a sluggish market with houses regrettably remaining unsold for perhaps years rather than months. A builder cannot even let a property that he has built for sale without forfeiting his rights to reclaim VAT, so he is called on to pay tax on a property from which he derives no personal income or residential benefit. The property may receive some services such as street lighting or police protection, but it is a small proportion of the full benefits that a council tax payer can expect to enjoy once he occupies the property.
In the present desperate state of the market it is most unwelcome and unreasonable for the builder, especially the small builder, to have to meet that extra cost. Therefore, I am astonished at the attitude of the Labour party as expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) on clause 83, when he said in Committee that the provision wouldfulfil an important function by stopping builders leaving small parts of buildings unfinished in order to avoid local taxation."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 27 November 1991; c. 501.]
The idea that builders are deliberately trying to prevent houses from being sold is simply absurd. The average small builder has to provide money up front, purchase the land, order materials and pay the wages, so needs to have a regular turnover of build and sell to survive. Where else can he get his money? He has to borrow from banks which, with today's high interest rates, obviously puts him under tremendous pressure.
§ Mr. Maxton
That same argument could be advanced for people who, as a result of their jobs, have had to move house, cannot sell their existing house, on which they have a mortgage, and also have a bridging loan to buy their new property. After six months they will have to pay 50 per cent. of the tax on the house that is left empty. Why should a builder be exempt from paying that tax when someone else in the same position is not?
§ Sir Michael Neubert
As I shall explain, we are dealing with one of the nation's most vital industries, the construction industry. An individual has his own responsibilities and can make his own judgment; a builder has to build and sell houses to make his livelihood and to survive. He must be there ready to build houses when there is an economic upturn and a demand for more houses. That is the difference between the individual and the small builder who is in business.
The provision's origin goes back to the bad old days of the Wilson years and the notorious scandal of Centre Point. There is all the difference in the world between a wealthy property speculator who leaves a London landmark empty for years, confident in the knowledge that in a rising market he will eventually recover his extended costs, and today's depressed housing market in which small builders literally have to fight to survive. I am astonished that the Labour party does not recognise the plight of the small business man.
It is unfair to penalise small businesses when they are already hard pressed. I ask the Minister to introduce a provision temporarily to waive the application of this clause in the circumstances. That would enable the Minister by statutory instrument and at his discretion to alter the position if he felt that that was genuinely needed. This small but significant impost on builders gravely irks them.
A further question not discussed in Committee concerns sheltered housing complexes where traditionally and typically there are a number of units with common facilities such as a communal dining room and the all-important presence of a warden. Until that warden is in place and the communal facilities become available, no one takes up occupation of the units, but they might be in different stages of construction and would probably be charged under the council tax proposals.
So much for the principle; the practice I will leave for another occasion when there is more time. I acknowledge that this is a small matter, but what I have said represents a cry from the heart of one of the most important industries in this country—the construction industry, which feels the first effects of a recession, bears the brunt of it and needs to recover to encourage an upturn throughout the economy. My right hon. Friends are planning a package of proposals which we are told will be announced tomorrow. When doing so they might consider this as one of a small number of measures which might help to stimulate and sustain the housing market at this difficult time.
The British sense of fair play dictates that we do not hit a man when he is down. Builders feel that they deserve special consideration at this time. I intend to emulate them by sitting down myself—and hoping to rise again.
§ Mrs. Fyfe
I was amazed to hear the Secretary of State complain about the lack of Opposition Members in the Chamber. The sheer brass neck of people like him never ceases to surprise me. He did not bother to defend the council tax in Committee. Tonight, after offering us the sort of speech which is the delight of Tory party conferences—it was the sort aimed at impressing them but which makes no impact here—he was off again. His contribution struck me as about as substantial as the petals on a poppy—one brief shake by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and the petals fell off, and the right hon. Gentleman had departed again.
Conservative Members have a nerve saying that we hit the vulnerable members of the community and attack the least privileged. They are the people who brought in the poll tax in the first place, and who brought in the heartless social security laws and much else besides. They should examine their own record of the past 13 years.
Now the Conservatives want us to congratulate them on ending the poll tax. Not a word of apology or repentance have they uttered, not an expression of regret to the people of Scotland who had the poll tax foisted on them a year before England and Wales.
I do not blame individuals for changing their minds about Government policy; we are all entitled to change our views in the light of experience. But when someone changes his mind he can reasonably be expected to explain what caused that change of mind and to apologise for any harm that he may have done. An enormous amount of harm was done by the poll tax, yet not a word of apology or explanation have we heard from the Secretary of State or any of his colleagues.
It may not be suspicious when one person changes his mind, but the virtual unanimity throughout the Tory party is certainly suspect. It is as if its members had a collective mind—with one or two exceptions who have consistently stuck to their point of view. There is no sincerity in that change of mind or repentance for the harm done.
In his time, the Secretary of State attacked the poll tax, pointing out correctly that it was wrong that a duke and a dustman should pay the same. Astonishingly, we heard not a word tonight in defence of the main point of the council tax—band H will pay only three times what band A pays. If the Secretary of State were here now, I would ask him whether he was not embarrassed to send himself, a wealthy man, a bill for a mere three times what the occupants of modest dwellings will pay anywhere in England.
Government Members talk about rising unemployment in the south-east. As a Member for a constituency with a continuing high level of unemployment, I sympathise with the plight of people thrown into unemployment in London and the south-east. In Scotland, we have seen the effects on our own constituents. We know from our own history what it is like, and we sympathise with the plight of these people. But I will never forget how uninterested those Tory Members were in our plight or how they created unemployment as a weapon in their struggle against inflation and told us that it was a price worth paying. I shall never forget that as long as I live.
The council tax will not be welcomed in the country. At best it will get a grudging acceptance, in the way that people prefer a decayed tooth to one with an abscess. The Government are not bringing in a just and fair tax to 233 replace the poll tax: they are merely bringing in one that they hope will allay the fears of Tory Members in marginal seats. They have refused to listen to the people, particularly the people in Scotland. They have changed their mind only because they feared the people's verdict if they stuck to the poll tax. Now they are hoping that the people have very short memories. I think that they will find that the people have not.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Barking, which I think is a very suitable seat for him to hold, and I thought that it was one of the greatest pieces of hypocrisy that I had ever heard. [HON. MEMBERS: "Dagenham."] Dagenham? Well, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) was barking anyway. The contribution of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) was even more barking.
I find it extraordinary that the Labour party stood in the 1974 election, the 1979 election and the 1983 election on a platform to introduce this tax, and now Labour Members are against it. I find it amazingly hypocritical that they should be expressing its difficulties and complications when it was merely got out by the civil servants from the red file and handed to the Secretary of State for the Environment as a replacement for what I think was a sensible tax—a standard tax for each citizen for a licence to use local authority services—which came to be known as the poll tax.
I say again that nobody objected. Nobody objects to a standard price for a television set, or a motor car, or house insurance, or a loaf of bread or anything else. So what is wrong with a standard price to be paid by each citizen for local authority services? We should remember too that many people do not enjoy or use these services.
I come back to the hypocrisy of the Opposition. If inability to pay is the basis of their complaints about the community charge, why are they so interested in the concept that, if the value of one's home, which one may have owned for two years, or 10 years, or 70 years, and which may be in Dagenham, or Barking, or London, or Scotland, or Stornoway, or anywhere else, happens to alter, one should be charged on the assumption that one is rich thereby, because one's home is worth more? One cannot get rid of one's home. One can no more get rid of one's home than one can take off one's clothes in the Chamber of the House of Commons. [Interruption.] It is the modesty of Opposition Members and their ugliness that prevents them from doing this. It is important that people should not be taxed for beloved local authority services on the basis of a capital asset which they cannot realise, the value of which is assessed by some accountant and over which they have no control.
Unfortunately. on Report, we did not reach part II, which applies to Scotland. One of the characteristics of the Bill is that it uses algebraic formulae. I am sure that Opposition Members have studied algebra. That is demonstrated by their grasp and illustration of the benefits of comprehensive education—that is, those who did not go to public school. But I have never met anyone who uses algebra, and the Bill is algebraic.
I want to ask my hon. Friend the Minister one or two simple questions. Clause 72(2) says:In this Part, 'dwelling'…means any lands and heritages".234 Clause 73(4) refers to "any lands and heritages". The Scottish National Farmers Union will be interested to know whether that means that land and farm buildings will be taxed. I should like my hon. Friend to ensure that the absurd Labour party proposals to do so are not part of the Bill's intention.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn
There is plenty of algebra. Clause 78 has the formula A/D. Hon. Members should try it. D equals the number of days in the year. There is also the leap year. It is important that my hon. Friend the Minister should deal with that point.
There is another matter which I do not understand and with which I should like my hon. Friend to deal. This is a most complicated piece of legislation to introduce a simple concept. It talks about "resident owners". A resident owner is an owner in residence. This is a day-by-day Bill. For three and a half days in the week, I am resident in a house in London of which I am an owner, and for three and a half days in the week I am resident in my house in Scotland of which I am an owner. When I am not there, it is a single-person residence, and when I am here, I am in a single-person residence.
I want the Minister to study that carefully, because the Bill is subject to all sorts of orders and preparations. The Secretary of State can make the day longer or shorter and houses and residences different. I want to know what that means. I want to know whether it means that, if I am not resident in the house that I own, that day, even if it continues as the day that it started as—[Interruption.] The Bill says that the day shall be presumed to continue as it started. Very well. I want to know whether, if on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I am not resident in my Scottish house and it becomes a single-person dwelling, account will be taken of that fact for the purpose of calculating what I have to pay.
I have never seen legislation drafted worse than this, more complicated, or more open to doubt. However, one thing about it is certain: it is the legislation on which Labour Members fought the last three elections, and is what they wanted—but now they are against it. That shows that Labour Members are hypocrites.
I want the Minister to explain to me simply, because I am a simple person—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and cannot understand this, what is meant by references to resident occupation and day-by-day occupation, and to the other matters that I raised. Although many concepts are capable of variation by Secretaries of State—perhaps including, God help us, but many centuries after I am dead, Labour Secretaries of State—it is important that my hon. Friend the Minister should spell it out that farm land is not included in the description "lands and heritages" and the meaning of the references to residence and daily residence.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
The Bill seeks to abolish the poll tax in 15 months' time and to introduce a deeply flawed property-based replacement. As was predicted, the poll tax perished under the weight of those who did not pay it. Even the Prime Minister admitted to Tory Back Benchers shortly after his election as party leader that the tax was unenforceable.
235 Even since then, the problem has grown much worse. On 4 December, the Government admitted that, although by 30 September last year 47 per cent. of the poll tax due in shire counties was collected, by the same date this year the figure was down to 40 per cent. In metropolitan districts, it fell from 44 per cent. to 38 per cent.; in outer-London boroughs, from 44 per cent. to 36 per cent.; and in inner-London boroughs, from 34 per cent. to 28 per cent. I understand that collection in Scotland has fallen from 31 per cent. to 26 per cent. Clearly the poll tax has become more difficult to implement and to enforce as time has gone by.
The Audit Commission acknowledged that in its evidence to the Government earlier this year, when it advised them not to pursue small amounts—such as the 20 per cent. payments on which there was substantial debate earlier. In its further evidence of a fortnight ago, the commission said that district auditors throughout the country recognised thatCollection seems more difficult in relatively deprived areas and areas with a large number of charge payers on benefit.Strathclyde estimates that 70 per cent. of all defaulters are those who are liable for 20 per cent. payments. The tragedy is—as I told the House last Thursday—that, according to the Glasgow Evening Times, civil war broke out over poindings in the Springburn district of Glasgow, which is one of the poorest boroughs in western Europe. The Bill promotes and extends for another 15 months the mayhem of trying to impose on poor people throughout the country those same enforcement procedures.
I tried to exorcise from the Bill poindings, the use of bailiffs, distraint in England and Wales, and imprisonment. Unfortunately, the relevant clauses of the Bill were not reached on Report.
Clause 100 abolishes the poll tax, but not for 15 months, so it is not dead and buried. It will stay to haunt the Government right up to the general election. They think that the poll tax has gone away, but I have statistics from the Home Office showing that, to 3 September, 8,023,621 had been summonsed over the poll tax. When I ask Ministers how that compares with the last five years of rate collection, they tell me that the statistics were never collected. I know why they were not collected. A total of 23,500 hours of court time were involved; 195,845 people turned up in court to explain why they could not afford to pay their poll tax.
Under the poll tax legislation—and for a further year under the provisions of this Bill—the vast majority are being forced to choose between paying for food, fuel and clothing for their children, and going into debt to pay their poll tax. Millions have chosen not to go into debt.
Matters will get worse. Enforcement will be impossible, and all the options will drift away like sand. We have heard about attachment of earnings and attachment of benefits. In its advice to district auditors, the Audit Commission said that only 15 per cent. of those who had been sent requests for information with liability orders gave local authorities that information. Tens of thousands are suffering deductions from their benefits, but, when it comes to committal proceedings, the Audit Commission notes:There have been examples where the police are reluctant to act.236 That will not improve the Government's position in the weeks and the months ahead.
I tabled an amendment to delete schedules 4, 7 and 8. It was selected, but, unfortunately, we did not reach it on Report. I wanted to get rid of the enforcement procedures that seek to imprison people who cannot pay the poll tax—the mediaeval barbarity of imprisonment for civil debt.
I have often given the House individual examples. I have often asked Ministers—including the one who will wind up today's debate—why the Bill perpetuates the difference between the law in Scotland and that in England and Wales. In the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987, the Government abolished imprisonment for civil debt; in England and Wales, 55 local authorities have sought to imprison some 4,000 people, of whom 156 have been sentenced and 115 have served time.
We were told that that would never happen to people who could not afford to pay the poll tax, but, under the Bill, it will continue to happen for at least another 15 months. In Bristol, 69-year-old pensioner Tony Whitfield was given a 60-day sentence. In Stroud, Maria Jones—who was eight months pregnant—offered to pay £5 a week out of her £42-a-week benefit; she was given a two-month sentence. In Basildon, a 54-year-old grandmother of eight, Sylvia McGilvray, was given a 90-day sentence. In Thanet, Ruby Haddow, a mother of three with no income, was sentenced to 14 days.
Last week, 70-year-old Iris Robbins, whose only income was a state pension, was sentenced to 14 days in Holloway prison. In Tunbridge Wells, Dora Coull, a pensioner and grandmother, was sentenced to a term in Holloway. In Portsmouth, David Shute—a father of five who had been made redundant—received a 28-day sentence. In Caerphilly, 79-year-old Tommy Hopkins, an ex-miner, and County Councillor Ray Davies received sentences. In Bradford, Steve Kershaw received a 14-day sentence, although he was receiving invalidity benefit; and, in Knowsley, 73-year-old Bill Jones—a diabetic with one leg, confined to a wheelchair—was sentenced to a term in Walton prison, along with my hon. Friend and comrade the Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields).
Ron Cassidy, from Northumberland, was put in Durham maximum security prison for 90 days, although he owed only £62: he was given a day's sentence for every 69p that he owed. The Bill will ensure that those enforcement procedures are continued for another 15 months.
§ Mr. Nellist
The hon. Gentleman may say, "Good"; but already 31 unemployed people, three people in receipt of invalidity benefit and 15 pensioners have been put away because they could not pay the poll tax. The council tax legislation will continue those enforcement procedures.
This Bill should be defeated tonight. The Government ought to have introduced 100 per cent. rebates immediately, and restored the level of rate support grant that existed in 1979, when the Conservative Government were first elected after a period of Labour rule. They ought to have reduced the level of local taxation, whatever version they chose to apply.
The Bill's immediate task, however, should be to halt the prosecution of millions of people—many of them pensioners, many receiving invalidity benefit and many with no income of any kind. I know that the Minister will 237 refuse to do it, but an amnesty should have been declared. I warn the House that an amnesty will have to be declared. As somebody once said,'twere well
It were done quickly.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
It is always interesting to speak after the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). The only trouble is that there will be few more opportunities to do so. When he calls for an amnesty for law breakers, it is a condemnation of what he and other hon. Members have done. It is wrong that law makers should ever become law breakers. The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East is part of a campaign that could be summarised as follows: can pay, won't pay. Both the hon. Gentleman and his friends could easily have paid the community charge. They chose not to do so. They chose to rob their local authorities of much-needed cash.
This has been an interesting debate. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) claimed that he is a model of consistency. I remind him that in 1983 and 1987 the Labour party campaigned for one-sided nuclear disarmament. I remind him, too, that as late as 1989 the Labour leader of the European Parliament was an opponent of British membership of the Community. The Labour party never has been consistent and never will be.
Last night the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) spoke about the impact of the council tax upon Barnet. When he was asked what the impact of his proposals would be upon Barnet, he offered this memorable sentence:One simply cannot pluck figures out of the air."—[Official Report, 16 December 1991: Vol. 33, c. 95.]He was willing to shed crocodile tears but he was unwilling to tell the people of Barnet what his proposals would mean for them. The reason is that the Labour party has never cared a tinker's cuss for the ratepayers, council tax payers or community charge payers of Barnet. It regards the people of Barnet and of other London boroughs as people to be exploited by very high taxes and very high charges. The people about whom he spoke yesterday are those upon whom he would seek to impose a 59 per cent. tax in the first Labour Budget.
My point regarding the impact of the council tax on London and Barnet is that 85 per cent. of future expenditure by local authorities will be financed by Government grant. It is essential that the level of Government grant should reflect the needs of London and London's commitments rather than the number of houses in London in the top two bands.
On Second Reading I asked the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities to look at the London Regional Transport anomaly in so far as it affected the outer London boroughs. I told him that it would be a touchstone of his sincerity, in that it would show whether he was committed to the needs of Barnet and, indeed, of Enfield. My hon. Friend showed that he had dealt with that anomaly when he said that the rate support grant would cover 1992–93. He was fair to the people of Barnet. As my hon. Friend has stood by the people of outer London, it would be wrong of me if I did not stand by him tonight. He stood by us; it would be churlish of us not to support him this evening.
A choice faces the people of Barnet and outer London. Do they support the Liberal party's scheme, whose figures 238 are so suspect that the boffin behind it decided to resign? Do they support the Labour party's scheme, where the figures are so horrific that the hon. Member for Brightside said that he could not pluck them out of the air and publicise them? He knew that they were so horrible that they would lose the Labour party votes at the next election. Or should the people of Barnet and outer London support the scheme of my right hon. and hon. Friends? I do not claim that the council tax is perfect, but it is preferable to the alternatives that have been put forward by the Opposition parties.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
I shall deal not with the comments of the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), but with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist)—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East is an honourable friend. I have great respect for someone who has the courage of his convictions. The House owes him a debt for standing up for them.
I am a reluctant law breaker—[Interruption.] Goldilocks on the Government Front Bench should listen; it is not really pantomime time. The poindings and warrant sales in Scotland will continue, although we sought to remove that provision from the Bill. Three million warrants have been issued. It has been alleged that people in the Scottish National party and others precipitated a great wave of law breaking in Scotland, but the figures show that the momentum will continue as long as the poll tax legislation remains on the statute book.
I wish to tell the House what happens under poinding. My local authority had several options. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and others to suggest that local authorities do not have options. A local authority has various means available to it to get people to pay under diligence. My local authority tried to arrest bank accounts and to have poinding. Having lost cases in the sheriff courts, and because it had the resources to do so, it appealed. That probably cost £30,000, such was the tenacity of that Labour council.
I have pleaded here with Labour Members, and some honourable exceptions have stood up and been counted on this issue. Let us not kid ourselves that resentment about the poll tax does not continue, even though clause 100 abolishes it. If this situation continues, people will not respect the law.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister and others to say that if one is a law maker, one cannot be a law breaker, but what did the Prime Minister do at Maastricht? He opted out. The difference here is that these folk cannot opt out of the strictures of the poll tax. They cannot use the big battalion. They have to defend themselves from the actions of sheriff officers and so on. People in Scotland will continue to oppose the poll tax as long as the Government try, through local authorities, to raise local revenue by such an unfair means.
§ Mr. Blunkett
I congratulate and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and those of my hon. Friends who served night after night, on clause after clause, in Committee—not, like Banquo's ghost, viewing it from the gallery occasionally just after 10 o'clock, but every night looking at the detail of the Bill, understanding 239 it in a way that we would have been delighted to explain to the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) had we had the opportunity.
I apologise to the Disney Corporation for having called this tax a Mickey-Mouse valuation system. The difference between Mickey Mouse and this system is that Mickey Mouse brings pleasure to millions of children and great benefit to the world as a whole, whereas the Bill brings misery and unfairness to millions of people.
I apologise to the makers of KitKat for the comparison which I made in terms of the cheapest valuation. At least KitKats are nourishing and provide value for money—which 20p valuations on properties certainly do not.
We have a banding system which is nonsense. We have a valuation process which is cheap and nasty. We also have a regional banding disparity. The right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) would have done better to contribute to the debate on that matter last night than on Third Reading, when it is all past and gone.
The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) asked what our proposals would mean in the borough of Barnet. Instead of an average of £617—the Government's figure for properties in Barnet—our proposals would mean an average of £456. That would be a clear saving, even in a borough where nearly 50 per cent. of households will be in the highest bands. I hope that he will return to his borough and tell the people exactly what the Government's proposals will mean. They will not mean fairness for those in inner or outer London or for those living elsewhere in the south-east—they will mean deliberate discrimination and a refusal to protect people whose properties are falling in price although their property valuation will be based on the figures for last April. In other words, their properties will he in a higher band than the price of their property warrants 12 months after the given date for the valuation process.
The process is nonsense. It means valuations based on last April's figures, although property prices in London and the south-east are judged to have dropped by 10 per cent. this year alone. It is an absolute outrage and if Conservative hon. Members with constituencies in London and the south-east were representing their constituents properly, they would have said so. The people who cost us as a nation £14 billion in implementing the poll tax are also pushing through this legislation on a guillotine motion. They are the people who refused to listen to the argument about the unfairness of a discount which rewards a millionaire and which can reduce the amount that someone pays merely because he lives alone to an amount below that to be paid by a couple who happen to live in a much cheaper house and in the band below.
The system will cause disquiet and unfairness. People outside the House would learn that if the Conservatives were to win the general election, but they will not win because people will hear of the way in which their properties will be valued and learn about the in-flight valuation. They will see a hot air balloon floating over their gardens and taking photographs. They will ring the local police and ask, "Is this the new head of MI5, or am I being supervised by Big Brother?" The answer will be, "Of course you are. We are checking to see whether there is an extension on the back of your house. Please put the 240 number of your house in big letters on your back lawn or on your roof so we can be sure we don't get the wrong house." There will be in-flight, Mickey-Mouse valuations and discounts which will cost £780 million to implement.
Only one amendment was accepted in Committee and it attached to the allowance of councillors any tax due under the new council tax proposals. We proposed it and it will wipe out the whole of the Secretary of State's speeech at this year's party conference. His spech predicated that after 1993 councillors would not be able to vote unless they paid their tax. Our amendment ensures that they will have paid their tax and will have a right to vote, so we have wiped out his vitriolic nonsense—the great Tarzan speech which brought the conference to its feet and which was the restoration of the prodigal son. That was what it was all about. It was nonsense and we knew it, but the BBC dutifully reported it, although it has not reported the passage of the Bill.
The final throw is fairness. Is the tax fair? In one of his three contributions to the debate, the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross summed it up yesterday when he recalled his childhood. He said:Nanny would say, 'Life is not fair, laddie.'"—[Official Report, 16 December 1991; Vol. 201, c. 50]Some of us believed that we got rid of nanny last November, but no, here she is again. Nanny is watching us all and nanny said that the Britain of the 1990s would be unfair and the Secretary of State—whether he likes it or not—is carrying out nanny's wishes.
The tax is unfair and unworkable and it will be rejected by the British people because it will never be implemented. It will be rejected as the Government will be rejected at the general election. Our fair rates proposals will bring equity and justice and will be implemented as soon as possible after the general election.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) was his usual good-humoured self, as he was throughout the Committee, although I thought that at one point he was in danger of being carried away by the heat of his own rhetoric, just like a hot air balloon.
We heard an excellent speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), who rightly condemned Labour's proposals for a rating system. I assure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) that the council tax will not apply to farm land. I will study his other points with great care and interest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert) made some detailed points. I will try to get to them, but I hope that he will excuse me if I do not manage to reach them in the time available. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), in a splendid speech, reminded the House that law makers cannot be law breakers.
I had heard before much of the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), although not always in the same order. He was supported by the massed and serried ranks of the Labour party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Did you count them?"] Yes, I can count up to that number. I refer to two of them—the hon. Members for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) and for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). I must record that the hon. Lady was a most assiduous member of the Committee. I do not wish to be 241 churlish, but I read in the Scottish edition of The Sunday Times that she does not yet have an office. I am sure that that had nothing to do with her attendance and I hope that the Labour Whips have noted the point.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) reminded us of the fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition. He rightly referred to the whole question of the control of local authority expenditure. The hon. Member for Dagenham said in Committee:we…propose to double the tax base under the control of local authorities by restoring to their control the setting of the business rate".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19 November 1991: c. 9.]There has never been an announcement that means so much bad news for Scottish business rate payers and for Scottish companies. By the next financial year, the Government will have provided £330 million for Scottish business to move towards a level playing field on business rates. In one move, the Labour party will take away that advantage to Scottish business.
In Committee, the Labour party confirmed that it will have no controls over local authority expenditure. That is without precedent, at least in Scotland. No Government in Scotland since 1929 have taken that view. It was not the view taken by the Labour Government of 1945–50 or by the previous Labour Government.
The message that has come through is absolutely clear. It is the message that the policies of the Lambeths, the Liverpools and the Lothians of the land can be applied everywhere with no controls on behalf of the taxpayer, of the business rate payer or of the council tax payer. That was Labour's message throughout the Committee stage. Its message to local government is, "Spend comrades, spend comrades. spend comrades."
The Labour party proposes a "fair rates" system. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said that the fair rates tax system would be introduced on 1 April 1993, and that in the first instance it would be——
§ Mr. Stewart
No, because I do not have time.
The hon. Gentleman said that the system would be the old rating system, but that it would be amended thereafter, and he also said that that was the only way in which the system could be introduced. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is no way in which the hon. Member for Dagenham can introduce the system south of the border.
§ Mr. Stewart
I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. His system will be on the basis of a revaluation in 1985. It cannot be done in England.
I commend the Bill to the House. It is a reasonable and practical Bill based on pragmatism and fairness. The Labour party wants to retreat to the rates. In its eagerness for an envy tax, it has abdicated its responsibility for responsible local government.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 335, Noes 237.245
|Division No. 31]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Alexander, Richard|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Alison, Rt Hon Michael|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Evennett, David|
|Amess, David||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Amos, Alan||Fallon, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, James||Farr, Sir John|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||Favell, Tony|
|Ashby, David||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Field. Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Atkins, Robert||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Atkinson, David||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Forman, Nigel|
|Baldry, Tony||Forsyth. Michael (Stirling)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Forth, Eric|
|Batiste, Spencer||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Bellingham, Henry||Franks, Cecil|
|Bendall, Vivian||Freeman, Roger|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||French, Douglas|
|Benyon, W.||Fry, Peter|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Gale, Roger|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Gill, Christopher|
|Body. Sir Richard||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Glyn. Dr Sir Alan|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Boswell, Tim||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bottom ley. Peter||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n)||Gorst, John|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Bowis. John||Greenway, Harry (Eating N)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gregory. Conal|
|Brazier, Julian||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E)|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Grist. Ian|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Ground, Patrick|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Grylls, Michael|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hague, William|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Burns, Simon||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Burt, Alistair||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Butterfill. John||Hannam, John|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hargreaves. Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Harris, David|
|Cash, William||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hayes, Jerry|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hay ward, Robert|
|Chope, Christopher||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Churchill, Mr||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark. Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Sir William||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hill. James|
|Colvin, Michael||Hind, Kenneth|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cormack, Patrick||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Couchman, James||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Cran, James||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Davis. David (Boothferry)||Hunt, Rt Hon David|
|Day, Stephen||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Devlin, Tim||Irvine, Michael|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Dicks, Terry||Jack, Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jackson, Robert|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Janman, Tim|
|Dover, Den||Jessel, Toby|
|Dunn, Bob||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dykes. Hugh||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Key, Robert|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Kilfedder, James|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Portillo, Michael|
|Knapman, Roger||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Price, Sir David|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy|
|Knowles, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Knox, David||Redwood, John|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Rhodes James, Sir Robert|
|Latham, Michael||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Rost, Peter|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Rowe, Andrew|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Lord, Michael||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Maclean, David||Shelton, Sir William|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Shersby, Michael|
|Madel, David||Sims, Roger|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Malins, Humfrey||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Mans, Keith||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Maples, John||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Marland, Paul||Speed, Keith|
|Marlow, Tony||Speller, Tony|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Squire, Robin|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mates, Michael||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Steen, Anthony|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stern, Michael|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stevens, Lewis|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Stokes, Sir John|
|Mills, Iain||Sumberg, David|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mitchell, Sir David||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Moate, Roger||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Thorne, Neil|
|Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moss, Malcolm||Thurnham, Peter|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Mudd, David||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Neale, Sir Gerrard||Tracey, Richard|
|Needham, Richard||Tredinnick, David|
|Nelson, Anthony||Trippier, David|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Trotter, Neville|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Viggers, Peter|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Norris, Steve||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Walden, George|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Page, Richard||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Paice, James||Waller, Gary|
|Patnick, Irvine||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)||Ward, John|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Warren, Kenneth|
|Pawsey, James||Watts, John|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Wells, Bowen|
|Wheeler, Sir John||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Whitney, Ray||Yeo, Tim|
|Widdecombe, Ann||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wiggin, Jerry||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wolfson, Mark||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Wood, Timothy||Mr. John M. Taylor.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)||Edwards, Huw|
|Allen, Graham||Enright, Derek|
|Alton, David||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Anderson, Donald||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Fatchett, Derek|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Faulds, Andrew|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Ashton, Joe||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Fisher, Mark|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Flannery, Martin|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Flynn, Paul|
|Barron, Kevin||Foster, Derek|
|Battle, John||Foulkes, George|
|Beckett, Margaret||Fraser, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Fyfe, Maria|
|Bell, Stuart||Galbraith, Sam|
|Bellotti, David||Galloway, George|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Benton, Joseph||George, Bruce|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Blair, Tony||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Blunkett, David||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Boateng, Paul||Gordon, Mildred|
|Boyes, Roland||Gould, Bryan|
|Bradley, Keith||Graham, Thomas|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Hardy, Peter|
|Caborn, Richard||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Callaghan, Jim||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Henderson, Doug|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Home Robertson, John|
|Carr, Michael||Hood, Jimmy|
|Cartwright, John||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Howells, Geraint|
|Clelland, David||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cohen, Harry||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Corbett, Robin||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Ingram, Adam|
|Cousins, Jim||Janner, Greville|
|Cox, Tom||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Crowther, Stan||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Kennedy, Charles|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Darling, Alistair||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kumar, Dr. Ashok|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Lambie, David|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Lamond, James|
|Dewar, Donald||Leighton, Ron|
|Dixon, Don||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dobson, Frank||Lewis, Terry|
|Douglas, Dick||Litherland, Robert|
|Duffy, Sir A. E. P.||Livingstone, Ken|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Livsey, Richard|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Eadie, Alexander||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Eastham, Ken||McAllion, John|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|McFall, John||Rogers, Allan|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Rooker, Jeff|
|McKelvey, William||Rooney, Terence|
|McLeish, Henry||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rowlands, Ted|
|McMaster, Gordon||Ruddock, Joan|
|McNamara, Kevin||Salmond, Alex|
|McWilliam, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Madden, Max||Sheerman. Barry|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Marek, Dr John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Short, Clare|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Sillars, Jim|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Maxton, John||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Meacher, Michael||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Meale, Alan||Snape, Peter|
|Michael, Alun||Soley, Clive|
|Michie. Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Steel. Rt Hon Sir David|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Stott, Roger|
|Morley, Elliot||Strang, Gavin|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Straw, Jack|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Mullin, Chris||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Murphy, Paul||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Nellist, Dave||Turner, Dennis|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Vaz, Keith|
|O'Brien, William||Wallace, James|
|O'Hara. Edward||Walley, Joan|
|O'Neill, Martin||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Parry, Robert||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Patchett, Terry||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Pendry, Tom||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Pike, Peter L.||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Prescott, John||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Wilson, Brian|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Winnick, David|
|Radice, Giles||Worthington, Tony|
|Randall. Stuart||Wray, Jimmy|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Reid, Dr John||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Richardson, Jo||Mr. Eric Illsley.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.