HC Deb 17 December 1991 vol 201 cc191-214 6.30 pm
Mr. Gould

I beg to move amendment No. 110, in page 2, line 2, leave out from 'dwelling' to end of line 4.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 113, in page 7, line 10, to leave out clause 11.

No. 64, in clause 11, page 7, line 10, leave out 'amount of council tax payable' and insert 'billing authority shall calculate'.

No. 65, in clause 11, page 7, line 11, leave out 'shall be subject to'.

No. 70, in clause 11, page 7, line 11, leave out 'discount' and insert 'personal surcharge'.

No. 71, in clause 11, page 7, line 14, leave out 'discount' and insert 'personal surcharge'.

No. 17, in clause 11, page 7, line 16, at end insert 'or;

  1. (c) there are two or more residents of the dwelling one of whom is a disabled person and one is his live-in carer who does not fall to be disregarded for the purposes of discount.'.

No. 114, in clause 11, page 7, line 16, at end insert 'or;

  1. (c) there are two residents who are married to each other or living together as husband and wife and they live with one or more residents each of whom falls to be disregarded under paragraph (2) or paragraph (9) of Schedule 1.'.

No. 66, in clause 11, page 7, line 17, leave out 'amount of council tax payable' and insert 'billing authority shall calculate'.

No. 67, in clause 11, page 7, line 18, leave out 'shall be subject to'.

No. 72, in clause 11, page 7, line 19, leave out 'discount' and insert 'personal surcharge'.

No. 73, in clause 11, page 7, leave out lines 21 to 23 and insert 'there are at least two residents of the dwelling who do not fall to be disregarded for the purpose of the surcharge.'.

No. 7, in clause 11, page 7, line 25, leave out '25' and insert '40'.

No. 9, in clause 11, page 7, line 25, leave out '25 per cent', and insert '50 per cent.'.

No. 74, in clause 11, page 7, line 25, leave out '25' and insert '50'.

No. 8, in clause 11, page 7, line 25, leave out from '25 per cent.' to end of line 27.

No. 75, in clause 11, page 7, line 32, leave out 'discount' and insert 'personal surcharge'.

No. 81, in clause 33, page 23, leave out lines 10 and 11 and insert—


No. 82, in clause 33, page 23, line 18, at end insert— 'PT is the aggregate of the amounts the authority estimates will be payable for the year in respect of the personal surcharge as determined under sections 11 and 12;'.

No. 83, in clause 44, page 31, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—

'R - P - PT/T.

No. 84, in clause 44, page 31, line 8, at end insert— 'PT is the aggregate of the amounts the authority estimates will be payable for the year in respect of the personal surcharge as determined under sections 11 and 12;'.

No. 18, in clause 79, page 51, line 45, at end insert '; or

  1. (c) there are two or more residents of the dwelling one of whom is a disabled person and one is his live-in carer who does not fall to be disregarded for the purposes of discount.'.

No. 14, in clause 79, page 52, line 1, leave out '25' and insert '40'.

Mr. Gould

In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), constantly assured us that the council tax was a combined tax. He preferred to describe it as a combined property and personal tax. He was not quite so keen when it was described as a combined head and roof tax, although I think that he eventually accepted that that is a perfectly accurate way to describe it. He certainly conceded that the council tax combined those two very different elements in such a way as to combine the difficulties which attend both.

In Committee and on Report I think that we have established that there are real problems with the property tax element. There are problems with regional banding, with the compression of the band and consequent unfairness and with the mechanisms for carrying out valuations—what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) described as a "Mickey-Mouse valuation". That could just about have been tolerated if Ministers had been prepared to acknowledge that it was necessary to move to a straightforward property tax to get rid of the poll tax. Unfortunately, they were not prepared to do so. As a consequence we are saddled with this hybrid monster—part personal tax, part property tax, or part roof tax, part head tax, as I prefer to describe it.

Clause 11 introduces the notion of personal discount, which is the means by which the personal element is given effect. That element or discount has rightly attracted a great deal of criticism and attention from organisations outside the House. When and if the Government implement the tax, they can certainly not claim that they were never warned. They have been warned by me and my hon. Friends, but in case they were inclined to set those warnings aside, they have also been warned by all the local authority associations, by the Audit Commission, by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and by many journals of opinion in the world of local government. In the estimates of most objective observers the Government are running real risks in the implementation of the new tax by adding an uncomfortable and difficult-to-operate element of personal tax.

The oddity is that we have yet to hear a convincing argument from Ministers as to why that element is there. Ministers are clear about one thing—although other people are less clear—that the discount system is not there to deal with the problem of people who cannot afford to pay the council tax.

I give the hon. Member for Eastwood credit for the fact that he is clear that the discount has nothing to do with the ability to pay. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) is looking as blank and astonished as he did in Committee, when I made the same argument. He is going to rise to step into exactly the same trap.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I am not looking blank. If we are worried about a person's ability to pay, that is where the rebates come in.

Mr. Gould

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has at least gleaned that from his long hours spent in Committee, because that is not true of all his hon. Friends. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis)—although I concede he was an assiduous attender in Committee—is not present. He seemed a good deal less clear than the hon. Member for Nottingham, South has revealed himself to be.

I absolve the Minister from all confusion. He always said that the basis for the discount was nothing to do with ability to pay. I agree that it certainly cannot be justified on that basis because, as the hon. Member for Nottingham, South said, the only way in which we can deal with ability to pay is through the rebate scheme. That is what it is intended to do.

The discount scheme has nothing to do with benefits. As we have frequently pointed out, a millionaire—that figure of our demonology, as the Minister would have it—who lives alone will get a substantial discount whereas a low-income family with four children will not. It is clear that the hon. Member for Nottingham, South is right—discounts have nothing to do with the ability to pay. I hope that when the hon. Member for Battersea eventually arrives he will point that out to him, because he will recall that in Committee the hon. Member for Battersea insisted that a single mother with children should have her ability to pay taken into account and concluded: The discount system does that."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 26 November 1991; c. 355.] It is perfectly true that he subsequently denied that he said any such thing, but the Hansard record is against him.

So whatever else may be said for the discount system, it has nothing to do with fairness or ability to pay. Indeed, it has that familiar characteristic of so much Government legislation in this sphere, that the better off one is the more benefit one derives from the discount. Someone living alone in a £29,000 house in Wales, for example, would get a discount worth £27.25 a year, or 52p a week. Someone living in a £330,000 house in London would receive a discount of nearly eight times that amount, £200 or £3.85 a week. It is all too characteristic of the poll tax and everything that has flowed from it.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office, then attempted to make the argument that the basis of the discount was that a single-person household made fewer demands on local government services than a two-person household. As soon as we examined that argument—my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) was particularly severe on it—it became clear that no such inviolate rule could be established. There were many instances of single people making substantial demands—perhaps a single parent with a large number of children—whereas a pensioner couple might make few demands. So there was no basis on that score to be identified for supporting the discount scheme.

Even if there were something to be said for the argument, why stop at the distinction between one and two-person households? Why not carry the argument through to three, four, five and six-person households? The Minister was alert to the problems into which that line of argument might draw him. His basis for the argument was clearly his touching, but rather primitive, view that, somehow, all relationships must be based on contracts—that there was a sort of market element to all tax relationships between the community and the individual and that unless the individual had somehow bargained for a given level of services, the tax could not be valid.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

The hon. Gentleman referred to three, four and five-person households. I have been trying to work out the implications of amendment No. 70, by which he would impose a personal surcharge. Is that his plan and does the Labour party now propose a personal surcharge on the third, fourth and fifth person in a household?

Mr. Gould

I am delighted to learn that the hon. Gentleman attaches such literal importance to all amendments that appear on the paper. As an experienced parliamentarian, he must know that the purpose of amendments is often to reveal inconsistencies in proposals and the inconsistency in that case is well revealed.

The next argument to be advanced was that the council tax remained to some degree a personal tax—that it was a combination, as we heard earlier, of a property and personal tax—so it was right that that element of head tax should differentiate between a one and two-person household. Again, that left unanswered the question why that logic was not carried through; that if the old principle of the poll tax was retained in the new tax, why was not that element of personal tax also paid by the third, fourth, fifth and sixth member of the household? When confronted by that argument, the Minister rapidly abandoned that line of reasoning.

6.45 pm

The real, convincing explanation for this monster dare not be articulated by Ministers. It is that whereas the Secretary of State—I pay tribute to him in that he was one of the few clear-eyed Members prepared to say, "We must drive through legislation to abolish the hated poll tax"—finally persuaded his reluctant, or seemingly reluctant, hon. Friends that that step was necessary, even his courage failed him at that point. He was assured, no doubt not least by his Minister of State, that it would be virtually impossible to get such legislation through without making major concessions to those battalions who had fought so long and hard in the cause of the poll tax. They would not depart the field without a battle, he was told. They had to have their victory and trophies to take home. He was also told that while it was clear that all those supporters who would die in the last ditch for the poll tax would certainly fight for it—even if they were forced to abandon the poll tax—the last thing they would do would be to vote for a property tax, or something which looked astonishingly like the much reviled rates.

How was the trick to be achieved? It was achieved by incorporating into the sensible proposition and basic idea of a property tax the notion of a head tax. The discount idea came from that. But the oddity is that having screwed up their courage—and screwed up their proposal as a consequence of doing so—the Government discovered that the sacrifice had been made in vain. After all, where were those great battalions of supporters for the poll tax? Did they stay to fight the battle? No, not even the Minister of State stayed to fight. He now tries to escape the problem by saying that he supports the poll tax as he supports its abolition. As a grammatical construction, it may be a good sentence, but as a logical proposition it has deficiencies.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

The hon. Gentleman talks about a logical proposition. Will he explain why amendment No. 110 would do away totally with the discount, whereas amendment No. 74 would have a discount or rebate of 50 per cent.? Is Labour policy to have no discount or one of 50 per cent.?

Mr. Gould

The hon. Gentleman labours under the difficulty of not having heard any of the arguments in Committee and probably of not having heard any of the other arguments on the subject, so his state of ignorance is understandable. There is no question but that we are opposed to discounts and that we believe this to be an unacceptable element of head tax. I appreciate why the hon. Gentleman tried a time-honoured diversionary tactic when things were getting uncomfortable.

The importation of this remnant of the poll tax is unnecessary because virtually no Conservative Member will vote against the Bill. Government supporters will troop into the Lobby in support of a measure to abolish the poll tax—[Interruptionl] Perhaps one or two will not. I pay tribute to their sense of principle. Those who swore undying allegiance to the poll tax and to their right hon. Friend who forced it through have all melted away. That may be a kind expression for what they have done. They have skulked or slunk away, so the whole sacrifice was unnecessary. It may have been unnecessary, but it has left the council tax in a hopeless mess of confusion and it is worth considering some of the consequences of that confusion.

The single person discount will apply not to a handful of properties, but, potentially at any rate, to 7 million households—33 per cent. of the total. In some London boroughs as many as 50 per cent. of households are single-person households. That is what the Audit Commission discovered and why it is worried sick about the proposal. Not only must the 50 per cent. of households in some London boroughs that are single-person households be identified and sent separate bills and so on, but those are the very people found by the Audit Commission to move frequently; 50 to 60 per cent. of some registers in inner London change over the course of a year.

So the problem of first identifying and then tracking, tracing and billing all those people on a differential basis is already horrific. That is why the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has issued a grave warning—I apologise for using again the example which that body provided, but it is so striking that it bears repeating—saying: A CAB in Greater Manchester reports a client who had six changes of income status and three moves of address (all in different local authorities) in ten months. For three months the client was a full time student living in local authority A paying 20 per cent. of the community charge. Then the client moved to local authority B, had a part-time job and claimed community charge benefit (CCB). Then she claimed income support and was once again paying 20 per cent. of the community charge. Following this she had two months on a fluctuating income…and in receipt of CCB. This was followed by a return to her parental home in local authority C where she claimed income support and was responsible for 20 per cent. community charge…She then returned to local authority A to become a full time post-graduate student and became liable to 20 per cent. of community charge". That is not a particularly unusual case, but it illustrates the enormous problems with which local authorities will be faced in trying to decide the appropriate bill to be applied to a given person on a given date.

In addition to the 7 million households, bills must be sent to the owners of empty properties, who will be charged 50 per cent. of the total bill, so that two discounts will be available. Status discounts will also affect the picture. Those will apply to households in which one of the inhabitants is a student or someone who suffers from an illness such as Alzheimer's disease and is therefore exempt under schedule 1. Notwithstanding that huge number of households and all the changes in address, we must also bear in mind the fact that people's status might change from day to day. A person who lives in a flat with a student and pays only 75 per cent. of the bill will be liable for 100 per cent. of the bill if the student gives up the course for any reason. Liability is to be determined day by day, which is a horrific prospect. Little wonder that most local authorities are already quailing at the task that lies ahead.

Mr. Allen McKay

It is interesting to note that, except for the Secretary of State, all the hon. Members on the Government Front Bench are members of the No Turning Back group.

Mr. Gould

That is a good illustration of what an unsuccessful battle the Secretary of State has had to carry his Front Bench team with him. That was well spotted by my hon. Friend. The Secretary of State is in an awkward position. He does not get to his feet to defend the measure—far from it. He occasionally graces us with his presence—I imagine that he derives a certain schadenfreude from the situation—but he leaves it to his No Turning Back group colleagues to defend the measure. At least they have the comfort of trying to defend it on the basis that they have salvaged something from the poll tax.

I pay tribute to the Minister of State's understanding of the measure. I think that he virtually drafted it, which is why he handled it throughout the Committee stage. The Secretary of State did not dare to come into the Committee Room because he did not understand the Bill and knew that he would be cut to ribbons if he dared to offer a view on it. Although the Minister of State understands the matter, even he was led into a tangle by the discounts structure. Knowing the Minister of State as I do, I can think of no more wounding charge to make against him than that he was caught in illogicality in his own Bill. The discount system led him to assert that somebody who, on grounds of Alzheimer's disease, for example, was to be exempted from a personal contribution of 25 per cent. could nevertheless become responsible for somebody else's personal contribution under the principle of joint and several liability. What a heartless position and what nonsense.

How are local authorities to fight their way through the maze which the Government have created? How are they to track the millions of single householders who change address or status day by day, so that they can send out the appropriate bills? The Bill offers little guidance. Schedule 2 provides a few vaguely drawn powers for local authorities and Ministers have occasionally pontificated on how local authorities may grapple with that problem. But when a local authority treasurer, such as the treasurer in Birmingham city council, says that the only possible chance of dealing with the problem is by setting up a database and keeping a register, the Minister—far from saying that that may be the best way to proceed—says that it would be unlawful.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

No, he does not.

Mr. Gould

If the hon. Gentleman would care to invite the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box, he will hear confirmation from the Minister's own lips. I asked the Minister about that just a couple of days ago and he confirmed that his advice was that keeping a register is not only not necessary but unlawful. It seems that the Minister will not stir himself to dispute that—[Interruption.] I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply because it will be interesting to see whether he has departed from that position.

With little help or guidance, local authorities are faced with an enormous problem, but are told that it would be unlawful to keep a register.

Mr. Douglas

Will the hon. Gentleman probe the Minister a little further about which legislation makes that list or register unlawful? Would it be unlawful under the data protection legislation? I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need such a list.

Mr. Gould

The Minister will no doubt speak for himself when the time comes, but he may take refuge in the data protection legislation and in the wider principle that a local authority is entitled to do nothing without specific statutory authority. The Minister will probably say that the Bill gives no such authority for the keeping of a register and will probably dismiss provisions such as the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. That is the advice that he currently gives to local authorities.

There is a puzzle in all that, however, because the handbook, "Guidance for Party Workers on the Council Tax", issued by Conservative party central office, says that the head tax element is not extended to three, four and five-person households, because it would require the keeping of a register. Such households constitute 13 per cent. of the total and Conservative party central office says that 13 per cent. could not be traced without keeping a register. Yet, in respect of the 33 per cent. of one-person households, we are told not only that a register is not needed, but that if a local authority tried to keep a register it would be acting unlawfully. I hope that the Minister will try to sort out that conundrum because it is a real, practical problem for local government.

The only advice that local government has had on that question is that it can resort to what the Minister calls "canvassing", but which most people would understand as snooping, and that they can refer to the electoral register. One of the great objections to the poll tax was the obstacle that it placed in the way of civil liberties. We know that 1 million people, wrongly and misguidedly, disappeared from the electoral register because they hoped that that would absolve them from having to pay the poll tax. We are now told under the new proposal that Ministers will encourage local authorities—indeed, they will leave them with little option—to refer to the electoral register. Therefore, the incentive for people to stay off the register will be greatly increased.

The pity of it all is that, even when local authorities resort to the electoral register, it will help them little because the electoral register is a snapshot of who lives in a particular building at a given moment in time. It will not help local authorities to track day by day, as they are required to do under the Bill, people who change address and status. The Government are asking local authorities to undertake a hopeless task.

Ministers are really saying that local authorities should simply forget about who should receive what sort of bill and just send out a standard bill to every household and wait for the cries of pain. Once they have been told that there is only one person in the household, they have to re-bill, or send another piece of paper with a different bill. It is all very simple. However, when I asked the Minister what calculation he had made of the number of communications needed to establish those facts—how many times bits of paper would flow backwards and forwards between a local authority and a household in one year to establish who was where on specific dates—he said that no estimate had been made. When I asked him about the cost, he said that no estimate had been made. But Ministers know that re-billing costs money.

When the Government changed the basis of billing for the current year by a last-minute change in the Budget, they made provision—I cannot remember the sum, but it was a substantial amount, perhaps £18 million—to cover the cost of local authorities having to re-bill. Therefore, they know that the procedure costs money, but blithely they say that that is what local authorities must do. Local councils have to shuttle bits of paper backwards and forwards to try to establish the correct bill.

7 pm

There are other costs involved in addition to those of the local authorities. When we take account of all those who will receive a single person's discount—7 million in principle—all those who will receive a double discount because their properties are empty and those who will receive status discounts, we find that the fair estimate, derived from Government figures, is that the discount scheme will cost £780 million. I used that figure in Committee and was not challenged, so I feel emboldened to do it again as I think that it is probably right.

Ministers are inclined to say that it is wonderful that £780 million is to be saved on account of poor people living alone, irrespective of whether or not they are well off. In truth, the £780 million is not simply saved—it does not disappear, but has to be paid by somebody. Who pays for it? The ordinary family, which is why, under the Government's proposals, bills for such families will be so much higher than they would be normally. All the concessions made to well-off people who do not need help on financial grounds will have to be paid by someone.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I want to test the hon. Gentleman's definition of an ordinary, average family, as opposed to the well off. Let us suppose that a widow who, according to the hon. Gentleman's condescending phrase, is an "ordinary, average" widow, married in 1910 and now, aged 100, lives in the same house that she originally bought and mortgaged for £500. That house, for reasons quite beyond her control, is now worth £500,000. The widow produces absolutely no money and lives on a widow's pension. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that she is a well-off person, not an ordinary, average, rather poor widow?

Mr. Gould

The hon. and learned Gentleman has, characteristically, completely misunderstood the point. The widow he described would benefit from the Government's new generous provision introduced in the Bill and no doubt qualify for a 100 per cent. rebate. As the hon. Member for Nottingham, South rightly said. that is the right way to deal with people whose ability to pay is called into question. Nothing that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross said removes the fact that the discount system is entirely misplaced and will cause enormous practical problems.

We have established on many occasions, and have done so again this evening, that the proposals for the discount system, the genesis of which is so disreputable. are unworkable and unfair. They will make it impossible for local authorities to implement the tax. They were included in the legislation for a political purpose, which is no longer necessary.

I conclude as I did in Committee by adopting the language of the Local Government Chronicle which, on 1 November, in a leading article, stated that the discount system would have to go sooner or later because it was unworkable and unfair. It stated that it would be better to do away with it now than allow it to cause a similar disaster to the one that we all suffered under the poll tax.

I wish that I could have some confidence that Conservative Members were alert to that danger, but unfortunately most of them have decided to sleep-walk their way through the Bill and we are now confronted with another poll tax disaster.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

I support amendment No. 9.

The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) spoke of the genesis of discounts. I thought that it would be worth while to cast my mind back to the rating system. The great, central inequality of that system is highlighted by the classic example of two identical houses in one of which lived a widow while in the neighbouring one lived a household with two or three wage earners. It was that central inequity that made the rating system so terribly unpopular and resulted in the Leader of the Opposition rightly condemning it as grossly unfair.

During the 1979 election campaign I received much support because of my criticism of the rating system. I was embarrassed when I fought the 1983 election and nothing had been done about the rating system. It was a further embarrassment to me that when I stood for the third time in 1987 the Government had still not acted on the rating system, when we had consistently given a pledge to eliminate the inequity of that system.

I was initially enthusiastic about the principle of the community charge which, when it was introduced, was going to benefit my constituency of Torbay through the grant-related expenditure assessment. However, GREA did not last long, and by November of the same year the standard spending assessment was introduced, to the tremendous disadvantage of my constituency, which ended up with the highest community charge in the south-west. From the moment that the details of the SSA became available, I consistently voted against the community charge. and that has remained my position to date.

I am now in a curious position. Amendment No. 9 recommends an increase in the discount from 25 to 50 per cent. I believe that that eliminates the inequality which was at the heart of the original rating system. My difficulty is that the Opposition oppose all discounts. I fear that in the Division I shall have to support the Government, which I had never intended to do, on the basis that it is much better to have a 25 per cent. discount than no discount at all. I urge the Government to accept amendment No. 9. The 50 per cent. discount would help those 7 million homes in this country housing single people who do not use the same level of services as those in neighbouring houses.

The Opposition may well dislike the idea of discounts, but it will be helpful to Government canvassers during the next election when it is stated that the Opposition opposed all discounts. Even if single people living alone receive only 25 per cent. discounts, they will be much better off than they would be under the Labour party's proposals.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

As the Opposition believe that taxes, particularly local taxes, should be based on ability to pay, is it not absolutely scandalous that they suggest that the elderly and the single, whatever house they live in, should have to pay more than those with the ability to pay and are not willing to grant a discount?

Mr. Allason

My hon. and learned Friend is entirely correct; I endorse his remarks.

My constituency contains many single pensioners. There are probably more people over the age of 70 living in my constituency than in the constituencies of any other right hon. or hon. Member. I am concerned about those people because they do not use local authority services much but are penalised by high charges. South West Water, for instance, has the highest standing charges in the country.

My amendment would result in a reduction in the burden on these people to the tune of 50 per cent. I recommend that to the House because it will offer great relief to people who live alone. The elderly people in my constituency worry about their financial predicament. Generally, people become more worried about these matters as they get older. Amendment No. 9 would give many people tremendous relief—not just the elderly living alone but many other people at the lower end of the income scale, such as single-parent families. All would benefit from this generosity.

The principle of discounts has already been accepted—the Government accept the 25 per cent. I am merely asking for an extension of the logic which is already so well known to Marsham street. We should increase the 25 per cent. discount to 50 per cent. I would even accept an increase to 35 per cent. There is a certain logic in claiming that single people living alone should be allowed to pay half the charge paid by their neighbours. I commend the amendment to the House.

Mr. David Bellotti (Eastbourne)

In Committee, my hon. Friends and I tabled an amendment to increase the discount from 25 to 50 per cent. Unfortunately, it was not well debated, due first to filibustering by Labour Members——

Mr. Maxton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure you would agree that, when an hon. Member uses the term filibuster to describe our proceedings, that is a slur not on Labour Members but on the Chairman of the Committee in question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I do not think that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) meant it that way.

Mr. Bellotti

The two Chairmen of that Committee gave distinguished service, and I am sure that no one took my remarks to mean what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) says they meant.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)


Mr. Bellotti

I want to finish my introduction before I give way.

There were some amazing interventions by Ministers in Committee as well. I remember one of 384 words during the discussion immediately before the debate on discounts. That resulted in my proposal to increase the discount to 50 per cent. not being taken until one and a half minutes before the guillotine fell. Despite that, I managed to speak 322 words in the time left to me by Labour Members and Ministers. At least tonight I have about 45 minutes in which to speak, and whether I take that much time will depend on how we get on. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) wants to intervene now I will give way to him—but I see that he has changed his mind.

I commend amendment No. 7 to the House. It would increase the discount from 25 to 40 per cent. It is true, as the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said, that single-person households face difficulties with meeting some of their costs of living from their income. One need only think of water, gas, electricity and telephone charges, which fall disproportionately on single person households. The council tax, too, will fall disproportionately on them because the 25 per cent. discount is not enough, given the average income of single person households compared with that of households containing two or more people.

7.15 pm

As the hon. Member for Torbay said, the Government have conceded the principle that some extra benefit should accrue to households containing only one person. The 25 per cent. discount represents the Government's attempt to meet that need, but have they really considered whether the figure relates precisely to people's incomes?

Mr. Maxton

I find the hon. Gentleman's arguments astonishing. He and his party advanced the idea of a local income tax based on ability to pay. Now he suggests a 40 per cent. discount for every single householder, whatever his income. His system would mean that single householders on good incomes would pay much more than houses containing two or more people who, together, had poor incomes. What is the logic in that?

Mr. Bellotti

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said, because it enables me to explain that proposals for a local income tax relating it to ability to pay have been rejected in Committee and on Report, so we are now in the business of trying to improve this unfair tax which is based on property. To do that, it is right to examine people's incomes and to see whether they can afford the tax.

The argument usually deployed is that the millionaire will benefit enormously, but there are very few millionaires. On the other hand, there are millions of elderly pensioners on low incomes in single households, all of whom will be hit by the council tax. We should pay more attention to those millions of elderly pensioners than to the much smaller number of millionaires.

This problem was known under the rates as the widow factor. The plight of widows was recognised by all parties; we all agreed that the rates were unfair to them. Indeed, that was one of the main reasons why the Government brought in the poll tax, which failed abysmally, just like the rates.

Even the Government have recognised the problem of widows. The Secretary of State for Wales, for instance, has said: How much more abominable than a tax on widows? But that is what the rating system is. The council tax will treat widows unfairly in the same way, because it does not give them the discount that they deserve.

The proposed discount will go only a certain way towards doing what is needful. We believe that a single-person home should receive a discount proportionate to the income of its occupant. Twenty-seven per cent. of people aged between 65 and 74 and 50 per cent. of those over the age of 75 live alone. Millions of people in our country live alone——

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Is the hon. Gentleman talking about England, Wales, Scotland or Britain?

Mr. Bellotti

In every constituency represented by every hon. Member there are many elderly people living alone. Even with a 25 per cent discount, single adults living alone in a property banded above D will pay more under the council tax than under the poll tax. Is this fair? I do not believe that it is, and we ought to look at it again.

It is interesting to note that there is some all-party support for the idea of raising the discount above 25 per cent. Some members of the Committee would have liked to support such an amendment in Committee and we have had a speech already tonight from the Government Back Benches in support of it.

I will quote some specific figures that give credibility to amendment No. 7. Taking first the retirement pension of a single person at £52 and of a couple at £83.25, the single person's pension as a percentage of the couple's pension is 62 per cent. Then, looking at average pensioner income—this is from written answers in Hansard, 25 July 1990, c. 305–6, based on 1987 net income figures—the single person figure is £75.10 and the couple's figure is £145.67. The single person's income is 53 per cent. of the couple's income.

The next example, gross household income, is taken from the 1989 family expenditure survey. The pension of a single retired person mainly dependent on state benefits is £58.88 and that of a couple is £101.50. The single person's pension is 58 per cent. of the couple's.

Taking the average of those three quite different sets of figures, we draw the conclusion, as does Age Concern, which has advised the Committee and hon. Members in general on this, that the average single person's income is 60 per cent. of that of a household consisting of two people.

On the basis of those figures, and with the advice which Age Concern and other sources have given, we believe that the figure of 40 per cent. is the right one if one wishes to take into account the ability to pay and the income of the people whom we are taxing. Those are good principles for any taxation system. I challenge the Minister to deny that 40 per cent. is the right figure. If there are any sources available to the Government that disprove that figure, it is right that the Minister should put those sources to the House. He could not put them to the Committee and I look forward to seeing whether they can be put forward tonight. If they cannot, the Government must surely recognise that the 25 per cent. is 15 per cent. below what it should be and that we are asking single-person households, on average, to subsidise households of two or more persons in the payment of the council tax.

It is people on lowish incomes in that sort of situation who will suffer far more than those on higher incomes. I do not make any apology for accepting that single millionaires will be at an advantage in that situation, but the millions of people on lowish incomes, particularly the retired, will be penalised most. It is on behalf of the latter that we should have had an opportunity of voting in Committee, which we were denied, and that we should have an opportunity tonight to vote in the House. We know that there are hon. Members on the Government Back Benches who would have supported the proposal that the discount be increased from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. Not to have a vote, because of the guillotine and for other reasons, is to fail the very people for whom we should be speaking.

I hope that when the Minister replies he will treat this matter seriously. We could not have a debate in Committee and the House deserves serious answers on this extremely important issue. If we do not get them, when this tax is put into place many single elderly people, in particular, will feel not only hard done by but that they have not been properly considered.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I am absolutely delighted that in this Bill the Government have provided the discount for a single-person household and that that discount is automatic and mandatory. I am delighted, too, that my constituents can be told in the coming months that the Labour party does not want the single-person household to have a discount.

As the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said earlier—I apologise for referring to him when he is not in his place—there are 7 million single-person households in this country. He also pointed out in Committee, when we had no figures to put to him, that there are a very large number of second homes whose owners will effectively receive a 50 per cent. discount through only paying the property element of the tax. It is that 50 per cent. for the empty, unoccupied homes that makes it very difficult for me to go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who wanted the 50 per cent. to apply to a single-person household.

The hon. Member for Dagenham quite rightly used the Government figure of £780 million as the amount by which the discount system will be beneficial to single-person households. I objected in Committee and in the House tonight to his implication—it was not stated in so many words—that the £780 million would be paid locally by the other people in the area picking up the bill for the single-person households. That is a gross distortion of the truth.

The reality is that the number of single-person households in a particular district is part of the profile that is drawn in order to establish the standard spending assessment, and therefore the grant that goes to the local authority. So that £780 million is being paid by all of us from the generality of taxation.

Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)

Just to underline what my hon. Friend is saying, it is also the case that the profile takes into account second homes, so that the same principle applies there too.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

That is absolutely right. That £780 million is part of the 85 per cent., give or take a couple of percentage points, that central taxation and the unified business rate provide in financial support to our local authorities.

Perhaps I can draw a little further on the hard work and research of the hon. Member for Dagenham. He pointed out in Committee that, according to the Audit Commission, the proportion in inner city areas is probably around 40 per cent. and in some London boroughs is as high as 50 per cent. Yet the Labour party still opposes these single-person discounts. I represent an inner city seat. If 40 per cent. of my households are single-person households—I do not think that it is quite that high—I shall make absolutely certain that every one knows the Labour party's policy for them.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

I do not think that my hon. Friend will be able to do quite that. He will be able to tell them about the Labour party's opposition to discounts, but he will not be able to tell them how much they would pay under the Labour party system, because the Labour party will not say.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

That is fair comment. I do believe that it is a case of think of a number and double it.

The Labour party says that we cannot argue that a single person should pay less than a family next door with several working adults. We have all made mistakes politically.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

The poll tax.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Yes. We made many mistakes, but there was one piece of common ground for hon. Members on both sides of the House, which apparently no longer exists. It was that it was unfair for the single-person household to pay the same as the household with two, three, four or five members. That was said year after year.

Mr. O'Brien

The hon. Gentleman voted for the community charge.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Yes, I plead guilty. I voted for it. It seemed a damn good principle at the time.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Does my hon. Friend think that that is an entirely happy precedent when he is discussing discounts which are fraught with anomaly, difficulty and contradiction? He has been wrong once; can he be sure that he will not be wrong again?

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

What do people say about needing enemies? Of course we all make mistakes. My hon. Friend may be that perfect example of a person who never has——

Mr. Wilkinson

No. I made the same mistake.

7.30 pm
Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Yes, I made a mistake. No. I do not think that I shall make the same mistake again.

The Labour party now shuts its eyes to the two, three or four-person household, and it ignores the single pensioner living alone. Day after day, Labour Members love to quote the case of the single millionaire. Unhappily, I am not a member of the exclusive club of millionaires. I can think of only one or two in my acquaintance, but in order to find an answer to the perennial argument of the single millionaire, I asked someone whom I believe is a millionaire. The House will forgive me stealing someone else's comment. He said, "Martin, don't be silly. There is no such thing as a single millionaire. We would at least have a butler." That quietly disposes of the argument. Never mind, it seemed a good story at the time.

The Labour party said that it wanted some mechanism other than discounts; that it would deal with pensioners with what it called a single pensioner premium. But, as Conservative Members pointed out in Committee, to talk about a single pensioner premium is to concede the principle behind discounts. It was also pointed out in Committee that, if single pensioners received such a premium, so would a millionaire. Conservative Members asked, why just a pensioner—what about a single widow? There seemed to be no answer to that question. The Labour party is not consistent, but it never is.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) is not in her place. In Committee, she was keen to defend the rights of the single working mother with a 20-year-old daughter who came home from college. She was determined to defend the discount to that mother, although that did not seem to fit the rest of her contributions in Committee.

When my hon. Friend the Minister made it clear that such a student would be invisible, that a student returning for the summer holidays would not affect that household, I was not sure whether the hon. Lady was pleased or angry. She should not accept my hon. Friend's assurances. But having 22,000 students milling around my city. I am delighted about the Government's attitude to student discounts and particularly to the student gap, as it is called—the three months which often used to cause problems under the old community charge arrangements.

In Committee, we had long discussions about that, and were genuinely sympathetic to the worries expressed by the citizens advice bureaux. However, they seemed to be arguing that, somehow or other, the single person's discount would deter people from renting out rooms in their homes. That argument is almost impossible to accept. It is a completely unfounded fear, but even if there were the odd few cases of people refusing to rent out a room in their home because, in their ignorance, they felt that, as landlords, they would be penalised, are we seriously to argue that we should deny the discount to the other 7 million people? That is an extraordinary situation.

As we are running short of time, let me end with one area where there is a clear divide. I have said that the most unpopular aspect of the old rating system was the fact that the single person household paid the same as the multi-occupied household next door. That was common ground between Labour and Conservative Members, but it is no longer. The hon. Member for Dagenham has said time and again that the Labour party objects in principle to the discount system, and perhaps we should emphasise that. That is something that we should proclaim loud and clear. That is the biggest criticism that we can lay at the Labour party's door.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I shall not detain the House long, but I want to refer to two aspects of discounts. The debate and the Bill are not just about local government finance but about the acceptability of local government finance. The point has been made clearly that the rating system was completely unpopular, particularly to people living on their own. That is accepted by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti), just as it is accepted on the Conservative Benches. It is incredible that the Labour party, which has reformed itself and brought itself up to date in so many other policies, is going back to an old policy on local government finance.

But what made the community charge so unpopular was its size and certain iniquities. The great advantage—let us talk about the advantages—to many single people was that the community charge was fairer than the rating system. In this short debate, we have to address ourselves to the question whether the discount of 25 per cent. being suggested for the single householder is sufficient. I would venture to suggest that it is not.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), because common sense dictates that to run a household on one's own is considerably more expensive than for two people with two incomes. We must recognise that. I appreciate that the legislation, as drawn, enables my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to draw up regulations which could redefine the 25 per cent. Therefore, I join those who say that that 25 per cent. should be altered, perhaps to 33⅓ per cent.

Discounts for empty properties will be assessed at 50 per cent. My hon. Friend the Minister knows full well that, under the rating system, local authorities had a great deal of discretion about whether to charge on empty properties. Under the community charge, they retained that discretion. In fact, they had even greater discretion, because they were allowed to charge from nothing up to twice the standard community charge. But, as I understand it, the present legislation insists that all empty properties will be assessed at 50 per cent.

Some of the people who complain most bitterly about the community charge are those who discover after their homes have been repossessed that they must pay the charge not only on their new property—because it is imposed on the individual—but on the property which they lost, and which they thought was now the responsibility of the building society. They discover to their horror that they are still legally liable.

Some local authorities, such as Torbay, that have within them a large number of second homes, from which they must derive some income because of the cost incurred in administering that situation, might like greater flexibility—such as that available under the rating and community charge systems. East Northants district council wrote asking me to make that specific point.

Despite the two question marks that I put over the Bill, I believe that the Government are right to proceed with the reforms that it contains. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities on the way that he has piloted the Bill through the House so far.

Mr. Portillo

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) for his kind remarks. I am not surprised that he ventured into the fray this evening, because he has already won an outstanding victory for his constituents and I well understand his desire to enjoy another. Before the Bill came before the House, we decided to make a change so that an authority with very enlightened policies—such as East Northants—which was able to reduce both its community charge and that which the county imposed should be permitted to continue doing so under the council tax. Therefore, the tax imposed by any county can be reduced by a district. That is an important reform for my hon. Friend's constituents and I congratulate him again on that victory.

It is satisfying when a Minister is attacked from opposite directions—by both one's own right hon. and hon. Friends and Opposition Members. That is quite something. I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). It was full of fantasy, was entertaining and purported to represent conversations in the Department of the Environment. The hon. Gentleman produced a more entertaining account than life itself—and given that life has been fairly entertaining over the past year, that is quite an achievement.

The hon. Member for Dagenham said that the Government are not prepared to move to a property tax and he is absolutely right—we are not. I do not believe that the British public are prepared to move to a property tax. They got fed up when there was one and only a party that has been out of power and living in blinkers for the past 12 years could possibly propose returning to a naked property tax.

The hon. Member for Dagenham said also that the proposed discounts have nothing to do with ability to pay. It is certainly the case that they are not crafted against people's incomes. However, the hon. Gentleman is well aware that large numbers of people—such as widows, single pensioners and young people starting out in life—live on their own as single occupants of households. They are not touched by the rebate system, because—generous and expensive though it is—it does not reach them.

Although Labour promises more generous rebates, no one believes it, because the proposal has not been costed, no details of it are available and no money would be made available. The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) would be shocked if she knew the extent to which the hon. Member for Dagenham attempts to lead the public into believing that Labour would operate a more generous rebate system.

That leaves groups of people who are above income support and rebate levels, but who none the less have quite modest incomes. We believe that a single person discount is suitable. The hon. Member for Dagenham—greatly to his political peril—refuses to acknowledge the resentment that was felt by those living alone because their liability under the rating system was the same as the family living in a similar property next door. That shows an extraordinary lack of understanding by Labour and I am delighted by it.

7.45 pm

The fact that Labour is committed to giving no discounts is—as was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) and for Torbay (Mr. Allason)—marvellous news from our point of view. It is extraordinary that Labour should be so out of touch with public feeling.

It is rich for the hon. Member for Dagenham to claim that he is worried about the complexity of our proposal; that from the hon. Gentleman who suggests that there should be property valuations on four different bases and annual rolling revaluations on a banded basis—although he keeps rather quiet about it. It is extraordinary for the hon. Gentleman to say that he is worried also about the administrative complexity of our proposal. We could propose a simpler system. A naked property tax would be simpler, but it would not be as fair. We are prepared to adopt a system that is a little more complicated, provided that it is fairer and responds more to the wishes of the British public.

No register is needed. The onus is on the individual claiming the single-person discount to inform the local authority and there is no reason why it should not conduct a canvass to establish who will be claiming that discount. That is quite different from asking single persons entitled to the discount to inform the local authority of that fact and to record their names. It is absolutely different from keeping a register of every adult in the community. Labour has not made headway with that point.

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 is not designed for that purpose and it is dubious whether it could be used in that way. It could run foul of data protection legislation. The Data Protection Registrar is quoted as warning local councils that they could break the law if they maintain a register of all adults for the council tax. The Municipal Journal also quoted David Smith, the assistant registrar, as saying that "excessive" or "irrelevant" information held on computer would fall foul of the Data Protection Act 1984. For households that did not qualify for council tax discount, data on adults other than the liable person did not appear to be necessary. The 1976 Act, which does not apply to Scotland, is not suitable for that purpose and I am considering whether it should be disapplied for that purpose. I propose to consult local authority associations on that very point.

Mr. Douglas

Has the Minister clarified with the Data Protection Registrar the question of local authorities compiling a list? What would be the difference in data protection terms between a list and a register? They would seem to have the same purpose. Can the Minister give any assurances on that point?

Mr. Portillo

A local authority will record those people who step forward as being entitled to single-person discounts. It may record also those who are liable persons. There is no problem with that; it is quite different from a register.

Mr. Gould

That matter is of great practical importance to local authorities. Does the Minister agree that his own remarks today and those of the Data Protection Registrar are a good deal less categorical than the Minister's earlier assertion that the keeping of a register would be unlawful? When does the Minister propose to resolve that issue? Does he understand and accept that it is important that local authorities should receive reliable guidance as soon as possible?

Mr. Portillo

Yes, and when the hon. Gentleman reads my remarks, he will see that I said that I am considering disapplying the 1976 Act and that I want to talk to local authority associations about that, so we will be in consultation with them.

I voted for my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay in 1983 in Battersea. I did so with great enthusiasm—not least because of his stand against rates. I commiserate with my hon. Friend on his misfortune this evening, in finding himself inadvertently supporting us in the Lobby. My hon. Friend will realise that I do not wish to mislead him and that the setting of discounts for single people is a matter of judgment. Given that we wish to raise a given sum by means of the tax, a more generous discount will involve a higher headline figure for double-adult and larger households.

Let us take the example of a band D property containing two adults, whose council tax for standard spending is £400. If we allowed single people a 50 per cent. discount, that amount would have to rise to about £440. Let me add that the council tax is partly personal and partly property-based. If we regard the proportions as "half and half', it is logical to assume that households containing two or more people should pay 100 per cent., that the occupants of a house that is empty or not their principal residence should pay 50 per cent., and that a single occupant—being, as it were, in the middle—should pay 75 per cent.

Mr. Wilkinson

In my constituency which is in outer London, someone living alone and receiving a 25 per cent. discount will pay less than the current poll tax charge—£215—only if he or she lives in a property in the lowest two or three bands. In my constituency, such properties simply do not exist.

Mr. Portillo

My hon. Friend has chosen his example carefully. He will probably find that such a person will pay much less than he or she paid in rates and the Government have just reduced the community charge by £140. When the aim is to raise the same amount by means of a different tax, the burden is redistributed: some people pay more, while others pay less.

As we know, the Opposition are committed to an arrangement that would involve no transitional relief for people such as my hon. Friend's constituents, who may pay more under the council tax. We are committed to the provision of such relief. The Opposition are committed to an arrangement whereby there would be no limit to the amounts charged; under a Labour Government who returned to the old rating system, my hon. Friend's constituent would have to pay vast sums. Labour's would be an envy tax, which would squeeze the last penny out of everyone who happened to live in an expensive property.

Under Labour, there would be no capping of councils. Whatever those in the extremist town halls run by Labour decided to spend, the impost would be levied on the poor people living in the areas concerned. They would have to pay through the nose, as they did when Labour was last in power and as they did under the rating system.

Here is my warning to anyone who is considering voting for Labour and a return to the rates: do not be young, do not be single and do not be a widow, for Labour says that there should be no discounts. For that reason, I know that my hon. Friends will join me enthusiastically in defeating the amendment.

Mr. O'Brien

My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) described the Bill's flaws and weaknesses in detail. Understandably, the Minister did not address my hon. Friend's points: after all, the Government have been unable to reply to many of the points that have been raised by Opposition Members over the past two days.

The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) and others referred to the old rating system. The Minister has made great play of the fact that that system had to be abolished; it took 14 years for it to happen and, after a few months, a new scheme that had received the full support of the Minister and his hon. Friends had to be scrapped because it was not working. The poll tax created much hurt and hardship for many people, but not once did Conservative Members express any regret.

Conservative Members who supported the poll tax now say that it does not work and that it must go. Having admitted that he was wrong then, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) was asked how he knew that he was not wrong now. Time will tell. I am sure that the elderly, the young and the single will perceive that the new system will inflict as much hurt and hardship as did the poll tax, if not more.

According to Conservative Members, those who do not benefit from services should not contribute to the cost of those services. What will they tell Ministers about what should be paid for social services, the police, the fire brigade, street cleaning and highway maintenance? They are talking poppycock; it is impossible to assess the amounts involved. Instead of going around his constituency explaining what Labour policy is, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South should explain what Tory policy is. Clearly, he wants to explain Labour policy because he is afraid to tell his constituents about Tory policy.

We want to hear a proper response to the points made by Opposition Members. We have merely heard bids from Conservative Members: a 50 per cent. discount here, 40 per cent. there and 35 per cent. somewhere else—and 25 per cent. from Ministers. It is a dutch auction. What has not been explained is who will pay for the discounts.

Clearly, those who pay will be the people who do not receive such discounts—the pensioner couple and the single earner in a family household. We have been told that the Bill is self-financing. Someone must pay for the discounts, but it will not be the Government; it will be members of the community who are not entitled to discounts. That is what people in constituencies such as Nottingham, South and Torbay should be told.

As the Opposition pointed out in Committee, we need a fair and proper rebate system, based on ability to pay. That is what the Government are shying away from. Such a system would be far better than a system that paid discounts to people who were not entitled to them. How will local authorities set their budgets if they have to calculate so many discounts? The Minister said that it was for the people entitled to discounts to apply for them, but how can a local authority set a budget if it will then have to disburse millions of pounds for discount purposes? The whole concept is misleading. The Minister should discuss the matter with the local authority associations. If the discount proposals outlined in the Bill stand, local authorities will have great difficulty in setting and administering their budgets.

When I questioned the Minister in Committee about the discount for disabled people who are in band A, he said that unfortunately no provision would be made for disabled people in band A who need to make adjustments to their property. No Conservative Member has referred to a discount—not even the hon. Member for Torbay—

It being Eight o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Order [12 November], to put the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 207, Noes 343.

Division No. 30] [8.00 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Dixon, Don
Allen, Graham Dobson, Frank
Anderson, Donald Duffy, Sir A. E. P.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dunnachie, Jimmy
Armstrong, Hilary Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Eadie, Alexander
Ashton, Joe Eastham, Ken
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Edwards, Huw
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Enright, Derek
Barron, Kevin Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Beckett, Margaret Faulds, Andrew
Bell, Stuart Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Flannery, Martin
Benton, Joseph Flynn, Paul
Blair, Tony Foster, Derek
Blunkett, David Foulkes, George
Boateng, Paul Fraser, John
Boyes, Roland Fyfe, Maria
Bradley, Keith Galbraith, Sam
Bray, Dr Jeremy Galloway, George
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) George, Bruce
Caborn, Richard Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Callaghan, Jim Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Gordon, Mildred
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gould, Bryan
Canavan, Dennis Graham, Thomas
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clelland, David Grocott, Bruce
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hardy, Peter
Cohen, Harry Harman, Ms Harriet
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Corbett, Robin Haynes, Frank
Corbyn, Jeremy Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Cousins, Jim Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cox, Tom Henderson, Doug
Crowther, Stan Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Cryer, Bob Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cummings, John Home Robertson, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hood, Jimmy
Dalyell, Tam Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Darling, Alistair Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hoyle, Doug
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Dewar, Donald Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Pendry, Tom
Illsley, Eric Pike, Peter L.
Ingram, Adam Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Janner, Greville Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Radice, Giles
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Randall, Stuart
Kilfoyle, Peter Redmond, Martin
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Reid, Dr John
Lambie, David Richardson, Jo
Lamond, James Robertson, George
Leighton, Ron Robinson, Geoffrey
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lewis, Terry Rogers, Allan
Litherland, Robert Rooker, Jeff
Livingstone, Ken Rooney, Terence
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rowlands, Ted
McAllion, John Ruddock, Joan
McAvoy, Thomas Sedgemore, Brian
Macdonald, Calum A. Sheerman, Barry
McFall, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McKelvey, William Short, Clare
McLeish, Henry Skinner, Dennis
McMaster, Gordon Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McWilliam, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Madden, Max Snape, Peter
Mahon, Mrs Alice Soley, Clive
Marek, Dr John Spearing, Nigel
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Strang, Gavin
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Straw, Jack
Martlew, Eric Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Maxton, John Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Meacher, Michael Turner, Dennis
Meale, Alan Vaz, Keith
Michael, Alun Walley, Joan
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wareing, Robert N.
Morgan, Rhodri Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Morley, Elliot Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Wigley, Dafydd
Mowlam, Marjorie Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Mullin, Chris Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Murphy, Paul Wilson, Brian
Nellist, Dave Winnick, David
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Worthington, Tony
O'Brien, William Wray, Jimmy
O'Hara, Edward
O'Neill, Martin Tellers for the Ayes:
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mrs. Llin Golding and
Parry, Robert Mr. Jack Thompson.
Patchett, Terry
Adley, Robert Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Aitken, Jonathan Beith, A. J.
Alexander, Richard Bellingham, Henry
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bellotti, David
Allason, Rupert Bendall, Vivian
Alton, David Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Benyon, W.
Amess, David Bevan, David Gilroy
Amos, Alan Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arbuthnot, James Blackburn, Dr John G.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arnold, Sir Thomas Body, Sir Richard
Ashby, David Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aspinwall, Jack Boscawen, Hon Robert
Atkins, Robert Boswell, Tim
Atkinson, David Bottomley, Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n)
Baldry, Tony Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bowis, John
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Batiste, Spencer Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Brazier, Julian Gregory, Conal
Bright, Graham Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Grist, Ian
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Ground, Patrick
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Grylls, Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burt, Alistair Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Chris Hanley, Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hannam, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Harris, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Carr, Michael Hawkins, Christopher
Carrington, Matthew Hayes, Jerry
Cartwright, John Hayward, Robert
Cash, William Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Chapman, Sydney Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chope, Christopher Hill, James
Churchill, Mr Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Colvin, Michael Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Howells, Geraint
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Rt Hon David
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Couchman, James Hunter, Andrew
Cran, James Irvine, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Irving, Sir Charles
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jack, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jackson, Robert
Day, Stephen Janman, Tim
Devlin, Tim Jessel, Toby
Dicks, Terry Johnson Smith, Sir Geofirey
Dorrell, Stephen Johnston, Sir Russell
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Kennedy, Charles
Dykes, Hugh Key, Robert
Eggar, Tim Kilfedder, James
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Evennett, David King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Kirkhope, Timothy
Fallon, Michael Kirkwood, Archy
Farr, Sir John Knapman, Roger
Favell, Tony Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Knowles, Michael
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Knox, David
Fishburn, John Dudley Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Fookes, Dame Janet Latham, Michael
Forman, Nigel Lawrence, Ivan
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lee, John (Pendle)
Forth, Eric Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Franks, Cecil Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Freeman, Roger Livsey, Richard
French, Douglas Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fry, Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Gale, Roger Lord, Michael
Gardiner, Sir George Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Gill, Christopher Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Goodhart, Sir Philip MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Goodlad, Alastair Maclean, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles McLoughlin, Patrick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gorst, John McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Madel, David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Malins, Humfrey
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mans, Keith
Maples, John Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Marland, Paul Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marlow, Tony Shersby, Michael
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sims, Roger
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mates, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maude, Hon Francis Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Speed, Keith
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Speller, Tony
Mellor, Rt Hon David Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Squire, Robin
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Stanbrook, Ivor
Miller, Sir Hal Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mills, Iain Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Miscampbell, Norman Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stern, Michael
Mitchell, Sir David Stevens, Lewis
Moate, Roger Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Monro, Sir Hector Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Moore, Rt Hon John Stokes, Sir John
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Sumberg, David
Morrison, Sir Charles Tapsell, Sir Peter
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Taylor, Sir Teddy
Mudd, David Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Neale, Sir Gerrard Temple-Morris, Peter
Needham, Richard Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thorne, Neil
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thornton, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick Thurnham, Peter
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Norris, Steve Tracey, Richard
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Tredinnick, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Trippier, David
Page, Richard Trotter, Neville
Paice, James Twinn, Dr Ian
Patnick, Irvine Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Viggers, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Pawsey, James Walden, George
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wallace, James
Porter, David (Waveney) Waller, Gary
Portillo, Michael Walters, Sir Dennis
Powell, William (Corby) Ward, John
Price, Sir David Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Warren, Kenneth
Rathbone, Tim Watts, John
Redwood, John Wells, Bowen
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wheeler, Sir John
Rhodes James, Sir Robert Whitney, Ray
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Widdecombe, Ann
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wiggin, Jerry
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wilshire, David
Roe, Mrs Marion Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wolfson, Mark
Rost, Peter Wood, Timothy
Rowe, Andrew Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Yeo, Tim
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Young, Sir George (Acton)
Sackville, Hon Tom Younger, Rt Hon George
Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Sayeed, Jonathan Tellers for the Noes:
Shaw, David (Dover) Mr. David Lightbown and
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Mr. John M. Taylor.
Shelton, Sir William

Question accordingly negatived.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER then, pursuant to Order [12 November], proceeded to put the Questions on the remaining amendments, moved by a member of the Government.

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