HC Deb 13 February 1991 vol 185 cc949-72
Mr. Speaker

I understand that there will be four Front-Bench spokesmen. May I ask them to be brief so that more Back Benchers may have an opportunity to participate in the debate? May I also ask Back Benchers to limit their speeches to five minutes so that as many as possible may be called?

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

I beg to move, That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1991, dated 28th January 1991, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th January, be approved. I had hoped that it would be possible to deal also with the second revenue support grant order to distribute an extra £16.5 million grant to certain authorities which suffered a shortfall of non-domestic rate income in 1989–90. However, because of complications that have been discussed with the hon. Members for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) and Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), in the light of representations from that district council, it will not be possible to lay and debate that order until next month. I hope that the arrangements which we propose, including the details of that order, will have the consent of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, with which we are consulting.

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

On behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) and myself, may I thank the Minister for his statement and for listening to the representations which we made to him? I am sure that the poll tax payers in Cunninghame will be happy with the announcement.

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his generous comments. No doubt the mood of amity that he has set will continue throughout the debate.

The order before the House marks the final stage of the local government settlement for 1991–92, details of which were first announced to the House by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) on 25 July. My right hon. and learned Friend indicated at that stage that aggregate external finance for 1991–92 had been set at £4,338 million, an increase of £410 million, or 10.4 per cent. over the corresponding figure for 1990–91. He also confirmed, as hon. Members will recall, that an additional £15 million would be provided to those local authorities which, since 1989–90, had benefited from the RSG safety net, thus making the total of Government-determined support for local authorities for next year £4,353 million.

It may be helpful to the House if I explain that the figure of £4,353 million has three components. The first is non-domestic rate income. On the basis of the rate poundages which my right hon. Friend announced on 23 January, and which are prescribed in the Non-Domestic Rate (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations 1991, we estimate that the total level of non-domestic rate income in 1991–92 will be £1,347 million. This figure takes into account the reduction of £100 million which my right hon. Friend announced on 17 January as the second stage of our policy of harmonising rate poundages north and south of the border.

The second component of aggregate external finance is the provision for specific grants which will be paid in 1991–92. This is estimated at £313 million. The third component is revenue support grant which, for 1991–92, totals £2,692.6 million, including the £15 million for safety netting.

The purpose of the order is to specify how that total amount of revenue support grant is allocated among local authorities. A full explanation of how those resources have been distributed to authorities is contained in the report to the order, the details of which are fairly complex. However, broadly, there are two stages in the process. First, an amount is distributed among authorities in order to equalise differences in their grant-aided expenditure, which is determined by the client group assessment methodology which, as hon. Members know, is kept under constant review, in consultation with COSLA. The rest of the available support, with the exception of the £15 million safety netting, is distributed on a per capita basis. The safety netting has been distributed to—

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

The Minister said that the allocations were agreed in consultation with COSLA. I do not wish to detract from the good services that COSLA produces, but is it not correct to say that the Government have a direct relationship with each local authority in Scotland and not exclusively with COSLA? Will the Minister acknowledge that the Government sometimes seem prepared to hide behind agreements with COSLA, rather than enter into negotiations with individual authorities, that are not always as happy as COSLA is with the allocations? That is true not least of Grampian regional council, which feels victimised because much late debt has recently been calculated and the COSLA formula does not meet its requirements.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman is, in a sense, right. It is always possible that individual authorities will take a different view of a particular formula. However, successive Governments have accepted that it is right to consult COSLA collectively, through the distribution committee, which is the basis of the system. That is not to say that the Government will not take heed of individual representations made to them by hon. Members on behalf of specific authorities. However, the technical formulas are discussed between the professional advisers of COSLA and the Department.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Stewart

In the light of what Mr. Speaker said, I do not want to give way too often However, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), as he is a past president of COSLA.

Mr. Clarke

Will the Minister clarify a doubt in my mind? Did he say that consultations are being held with COSLA that have not yet been completed or has COSLA agreed to the formula that he is presenting?

Mr. Stewart

There have been technical consultations between the distribution committee, which involves COSLA, and my Department. Those are on-going and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, there are constant representations from individual authorities which are taken into account in the continuing work of the distribution committee. With regard to the other order to which I referred, consultations are continuing with COSLA and have not yet been completed. The main beneficiaries of the safety net remain Strathclyde region and Glasgow district, which will receive an additional £8.5 million and £5.2 million respectively.

The one component for which the settlement specifically does not provide is to cover any shortfall of income that local authorities may face because of non-collection of the community charge.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Stewart

I have already given way three times. I shall give way for the last time to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Darling

When dealing with the allocation of grant, the Minister said that a complicated formula was involved. Why does Lothian, which spends less than the Scottish average per head, receive £799 per head in grant, whereas Strathclyde receives £919 and Tayside £915? Is it not the case that, in terms of the grant it receives per head, Lothian was discriminated against under the old rates system and is now being discriminated against under the poll tax system? Are not the Government hiding behind a formula and discriminating against Edinburgh and Lothian to manipulate matters for their own political advantage?

Mr. Stewart

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the figures. He will see that the aggregate external finance for Lothian for the forthcoming year is increased by 12.88 per cent. That is substantially more than the Scottish average.

Last summer, and again in its briefing notes for this debate, COSLA argued that the settlement should take account of the non-collection factor. I emphasise that, when my right hon.and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) met the convention in July, he wholly rejected its argument. He made it clear that, as a matter of principle, the Government were not prepared to take non-collection into account in establishing the level of Government support for local authorities. To do so would mean that national taxpayers would be asked to subsidise those who were refusing to pay their community charge. That would be resented, and rightly so, by taxpayers and would simply encourage non-collection.

I emphasise that collection is the responsibility of the authorities. It is clear that they could and should have made more effective and speedier use of the recovery procedures available to them. That is not simply the Government's opinion. Another recent report on the first year of the operation of the community charge in Scotland, that of the Accounts Commission—which is a wholly independent body—supports that view. In its report the commission referred to The apparent unwillingness on the part of certain collecting authorities to make full and timeous use of the recovery procedures available to them under statute. The commission also stated: Some authorities have inhibited the effectiveness of sheriff officers' procedures through the manner in which community charge payers were informed of the possibility or imminence of recovery action. It is disconcerting that certain authorities have seemed reluctant to provide the authority for sheriff officers to conduct their normal recovery procedures in appropriate cases.

Let the House be clear that much more can and should be done by authorities to reduce non-collection levels. To give credit where it is due, I welcome the decisions by Grampian region to proceed with warrant sales. No doubt the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will welcome the U-turn by certain Labour councillors in Grampian which has enabled that to happen, as reported in today's press.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Stewart

I have already given way four times.

Mr. Dewar

There is a great deal of interest in attitudes towards dealing with non-payment. The Minister was a vehement advocate of the removal of all services from those in arrears. Is that still his position?

Mr. Stewart

That was never my position.

I welcome the decision by Strathclyde regional council to arrest the wages and salaries of its staff who are non-payers. Those steps are long overdue, but nevertheless welcome.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister is misleading the House. He may not be doing so deliberately, but he was the very person who advocated that all services and the right to vote should be withdrawn from those who either could not or would not pay their poll tax. Yet he has just denied that. He is misleading the House and should correct that statement.

Mr. Stewart

If the hon. Gentleman checks the press on that specific point, he will discover that Mr. Phil Gallie made the suggestion.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

The Minister made the suggestion. Mr. Gallie is a disciple.

Mr. Stewart

It was made clear that neither I nor the Scottish Office generally agreed with that at all.

Law-abiding charge payers rightly resent those who on the one hand are only to happy to accept employment, wages and salaries from local authorities, while on the other they are not prepared too contribute to the cost of local services. It certainly does not help the non-collection problems to have the president of COSLA call for the speedy abolition of the community charge. Such a statement is the height of irresponsibility. COSLA knows full well that, whatever the outcome of the community charge review, authorities will have a statutory duty to continue to collect the charge. Those remarks will simply encourage non-payment. I must make it clear that, whatever happens, there will be no amnesty for non-payers. The Government certainly will not bail out local authorities because of their failure to collect the community charge.

When we announced the settlement last July, my right hon. and learned Friend described it as fair. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said, it was very close to the bid made by COSLA. In view of the reduction in the rate of inflation during recent months, and the likelihood of the rate falling significantly this year, I think that it is not unreasonable now to describe the settlement as extremely fair. I certainly reject any suggestion by local authorities that the quite outrageous community charge increases—which represent a high degree of political cynicism—many of them made are due to underfunding by the Government. That is not the case.

I commend the order to the House.

10.31 pm
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

There is no doubt that we are facing a crisis of credibility in local government finance. The poll tax for 1991–92 will be seen by many people as a crushing burden and it will be resented. A couple living on an ordinary working wage, but who are outwith the rebate net, will be between £800 and £1,100 worse off, depending on geography. That is a substantial imposition.

This year the average increase in poll tax bills was 9 per cent.; in the coming year it is likely to be a thumping 28 or 29 per cent. on average across Scotland. I know that many people will ask, fairly, what has gone wrong and what is to be done about it. I have to say to the Minister that I believe that the fault lies with the system itself and that I have little sympathy with his expressions of outrage. He was well warned by COSLA and everyone in the local authority world, months and months ago, that settlements would be of that order. I know that the immediate reaction of Conservative Ministers is to talk about profligate councillors, overspending and fiscal irresponsibility. That does not stand up as an explanation of what has happened.

I recommend to the Minister the results of a survey published in the current issue of the Municipal Journal. It shows that the average increase in budgets in cash terms for local authorities in Scotland for the coming year is 8.4 per cent. So the budgets are being cut in real terms, yet there is a substantial increase in the poll tax. It is not the result of wildly escalating budgets; in fact, local authorities have often painfully done their bit. The trouble is the inheritance from the past mismanagement of the local government finance system and the present settlement. The Minister's indignation simply does not carry conviction.

The hopes expressed by Ministers for this year's settlement have always been optimistic. The aggregate external finance has risen by about 10 per cent., but that was never likely to stabilise the position, and Ministers knew that. Indeed, on the settlement figures that the Government have used, the difference between expenditure as anticipated by Government and loan charges, less the aggregate external finance, leaves a gap to be filled by the poll tax of £1.094 billion. That is a substantial increase of 16.3 per cent. on the gap that had to be filled in the previous year. To put it another way, even on the Government's own figures, leaving aside all the difficulties that they nodded through and did not comment on or take into account, the hard-pressed poll tax payer has to find another £154 million, or £45 per individual payer.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The hon. Gentleman is quoting from the COSLA brief, but COSLA has simply got it wrong. The 16.3 per cent. is based on the assumption that levels of the community charge in 1991 were based on grant-aided expenditure, but they were not. They were based on budgeted expenditure which, on average, was 7 per cent. below the GAE for 1991–92. To spend to the 1991–92 figure, an increase of 7 per cent. in support would have been required. If that had been all that had been given by the Government and no other influences had played a part, community charge increases would simply have been at the level of inflation.

Mr. Dewar

I would want to study that arithmetical sleight of hand. All that I have done is to take the current expenditure—I make no apology for the fact that I have relied on COSLA's figures here; that is perfectly legitimate —and the loan charges, totalled them and removed the aggregate external finance. That leaves us with the gap to which I referred of £1.094 billion. That is a perfectly fair representation.

I return to the general point, which the Minister has not answered. Why, if average budgets have risen by less than the rate of inflation, has the poll tax risen by such an enormous sum? Does that not have a great deal to do with the unsatisfactory nature of the system, where the gearing effect means that any increased expenditure will be put on a narrow tax base, with the result that the poll tax payer will be victimised again and again?

For example, if one takes a legitimate increase, such as the almost £1 million that a large region has spent on school boards, or the £1 million that it has managed to gather together to do something to maintain the momentum of community care—presumably the Minister does not contend that all expenditure is wicked—that, put on the narrow base of the poll tax, is contributing to quite unreasonable increases.

It is a side effect of the fact that councils control only 20 per cent. of their income and 80 per cent. of it is now controlled by the Government, which is built into the system, that, every time the Government lay a new duty, whether it be the litter laws or some educational provision, or every time there is a drift in wage settlements, which may be outwith the control of local government, the poll tax will inevitably be forced up unreasonably, because it will increase the gap between the non-domestic rate income and the revenue support grant income, which is entirely controlled by Government. That is one reason why we are in such trouble.

Of course, there are other complications. There are the interest charges that were underestimated this year and the rises that could not be anticipated. There are such matters as the use of surpluses last year, which I understand were about £105 million, but those have now been exhausted. The Minister looks as though that was the fault of local government, but it did its best to protect the poll tax payer, and what is wrong with that? If he showed the same wish to protect the poll tax payer and maintain a decent level of services, we would all be in a much better position.

But there is also the problem that we cannot duck, of non-payment and the cost of collection. I take an example which, from my point of view, is a difficult one because of the size of the poll tax that has been levied. Lothian region's poll tax this year is £420, plus £26 for water rates —an increase of almost 35 per cent. It sounds like a case study which the Government should welcome, because it would illustrate, presumably, the particular and peculiar irresponsibility of that local authority.

In fact, as we all know, it has cut £20 million from its budget by increasing charges for home helps and school meals and by making staff reductions, which are painful and difficult. We know also that much of the net expenditure, the new expenditure, that has been included is for things such as school boards and care in the community. At the end of the day, it is faced with a budget increase that is just about the rate of inflation, but with an overall increase of 35 per cent.

One reason is the cost of collecting the poll tax, which will be £18 million next year. Even allowing for inflation, that is three times as much as the cost of collection under the rating system. In 1989–90, there was 13 per cent. non-payment, and in 1990–91 that figure will increase to 38 per cent. I have no doubt that that percentage will sharply decrease, but it is one problem with which the authority has to wrestle. That has led to the Lothian authority taking some unpopular decisions, but I have no doubt that they have been taken with the approval of the Secretary of State. Even now, £48 of the £109 increase is the result of non-payment.

Every authority, irrespective of political complexion, is faced with the problem of non-payment. The regions that are not under the control of the Labour party are confronted by it because of the difficulties that are built into the system. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) said, Lothian spends less per head on services than the average in Scotland, but despite that it levies a high poll tax. That is because its grant per head is so much less than the Scottish average. Indeed, it is less than that of every other region. Lothian has a shortfall by inheritance, and that is the main reason for its problems. It is shamelessly ducking the issue to talk about 12.55 per cent. this year, given what has happened in previous years. I believe that the Minister knows that. He did himself no credit by avoiding the issue when challenged in an intervention.

I am sure that none of my hon. Friends is unaware of or doubts the difficulties of local authorities, including that of non-collection. There has been feverish speculation about non-collection, and it is my clear recollection—if I am wrong about this, I shall apologise—that, only a few months ago, the Minister, as a Conservative Back-Bencher, was reported in the Glasgow Herald as calling with vehemence for acceptance of the principle that those who did not pay should have services withdrawn. I have no doubt that I am right about that. I shall check and then write to the Minister. I think that he knows that I am right, and I think that he owes the House an apology.

I recognise, of course, the difficulties that the hon. Gentleman faces. He is a Minister now, and he must forswear many of his personal opinions. Given what he has said in the recent past as a Conservative Back-Bench Member, however, he should make it clear that he is putting his irresponsible views behind him in recognition of the discipline of office. That would be some help. It would be useful also if he were to repudiate the views of the demonstrators on the Mound—perhaps it was more of a photo-opportunity than a demonstration—who suggested that Conservatives should not pay the full poll tax but should reduce their payments by what they understood to be the so-called surcharge for non-payment.

I note that a gentleman called the Rev. Roderick D. M. Campbell—

Mr. Allan Stewart

If the hon. Gentleman undertakes a perusal of a front-page article in the Glasgow Herald, he will find that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I made it clear at a Conservative party conference —a public occasion—that in no circumstances would we condone or encourage any person to break the law of the land.

Mr. Dewar

I accept that. I am glad to have the assurance that the Rev. Roderick Campbell is being repudiated. I hope that he will not bring the same irresponsibility to his newly confirmed appointment as a member of the Greater Glasgow health board. I can think only that that is some sort of reward for his honest efforts on behalf of the Conservative party. It is important that we are clear where the Minister stands, and I hope that we shall have some correspondence on the matter.

Perhaps we shall also have an opportunity, when the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) speaks, to clear up the position of the Scottish National party. I see in the Glasgow Herald today that its immediate ex-leader, Mr. Gordon Wilson, is saying that the party should restrict its non-payment campaign to year one of the tax.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

It was in yesterday's Glasgow Herald.

Mr. Dewar

Yesterday—I am grateful to the hon. Member. There have been a series of ambiguous statements from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), but there is no doubt that the public are very fed up with the policy of the Scottish National party, and I look forward to finding out what the exact position is today, in the hope that it may still be the same tomorrow, and then we may learn exactly where they stand.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has been reduced to a position of great dignity, if he can hope only that the Secretary of State for the Environment will do just about enough to get him off the hook on which he has been impaled.

I shall finish by saying that of course we are all victims of the system. Councils are certainly the victims of the system, as are the people whom they represent. Above all, so are the public, in the form of the poll tax payers. We are in the unfortunate position that, if the Government's attitude does not change, the cry remains, "Not a penny more", and if the non-payment campaign is rashly and irresponsibly maintained, despite the effects on jobs and services, people will be in the impossible position of seeing their poll tax rise out of control, or facing the most vicious and fundamental attack on the level of services that we have ever witnessed. That is a dilemma which I do not wish any elected Member of Parliament to have to face, and from which I do not wish the public to suffer.

I am sure that the Minister recognises that, even in Eastwood, there are people who depend on services. There are people who depend entirely on home helps and on a whole range of education and social work services provided by local government who will suffer greatly if the sort of cuts implied by Government rhetoric are made. The system has been discredited and the harsh realism of the figures—a very substantial increase, well above the local authority budgets this year—underlines that point.

The Secretary of State, who has chosen to sit out this debate, has proclaimed that the poll tax system is working well and is a remarkable success story. He is the Minister who has talked of minor changes and of a tax which, in essence, is here to stay. I find that deeply depressing, when I consider the damage that has been done. I have no doubt that Ministers will say little enough today, and probably for quite some time, about their plans for the future. What about the suggestions that expenditure on education should be moved to the Treasury, or that there should be a return to some sort of property-based system? They may find favour with the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). We shall have to wait and see where his intellectual journey will end, but I repeat my warning to Ministers that Scotland will not accept an ingenious but dishonest compromise that merely repackages the unacceptable in a vain effort to save political face.

10.48 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) probably spoke for the whole House when he asked, "What has gone wrong?" There is no question that something has gone desperately wrong. However, he seemed to ignore the contribution that has been made by his party and by the Scottish National party in Scotland to non-collection of the tax. Anyone who believes that any taxation, or local authority charges, that Members of Parliament and councillors have told people not to pay, will not run into administrative difficulties, is not living in the real world.

The hon. Member for Garscadden has to bear in mind that his party and people sitting beside him on the Front Bench, campaigned not to pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who? Point to them". Memories appear to be very short. They campaigned not to register and not to pay—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If the memory of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) is really so short, let me remind him that he was the leader of the campaign. It seems that his memory is indeed short: he does not want to remember.

Mr. Wilson


Mr. Walker

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I will happily give way to him in a moment.

The hon. Member for Garscadden chastised my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, suggesting that, because he now sat on the Front Bench, he was somehow dissociating himself from views that he had expressed earlier. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that his hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North, who is sitting beside him on the Opposition Front Bench, has made some fascinating comments both as a Back Bencher and as a Front Bencher. Now I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wilson

There is always the danger of dignifying the hon. Gentleman's remarks by responding to them, but, as he has mentioned me, let me put the record straight.

I have consistently opposed non-payment for political reasons, and I certainly did not urge people not to register: I urged them, while registering, to make plain their opposition to the poll tax. I have urged people to register, to claim their rebates and to pay at every level. If the hon. Gentleman has an argument, let him put it, but why he has to base it on mendacity is beyond me.

Mr. Walker

I shall resort to the tactics and methods of the hon. Member for Garscadden—

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Walker

If I am wrong, I shall apologise.

Mr. Wilson

Is that the end of it?

Mr. Walker

I am giving as much evidence as the hon. Member for Garscadden gave. In such a short debate, I cannot be expected to do other than emulate the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] Opposition Front Benchers do not like it. They want to retain the delightful amnesia that enables them to forget not only their own position, but that of their hon. Friends who still sit on the Benches behind them. They paid up only recently, because they were told they must; until that time, they had campaigned consistently against doing so. Even now, some claim that they have somehow destroyed the system.

I agree with the Accounts Commission, which says that recovery procedures have not been adopted either properly or effectively. I do not find that surprising. In Angus district, in my constituency, the Scottish National party is the collector on behalf of Tayside region. Councillors there are telling people that they should not pay. In the circumstances, it would be astonishing if some did not listen to and act on that advice—and, of course, the advice given by parliamentary members of the same party.

These are the people who claim that they want to be the voice of Scotland, and, at some future date, the Government of Scotland. How can they possibly aspire to govern when they are not prepared to accept the taxes and charges levied as a result of statutes passed by a democratically elected Parliament?

When we consider the average increase represented by the community charge, and the 10.4 per cent. increase mentioned in the order, we see only too well that something is very wrong. The hon. Member for Garscadden may be right in one respect: I believe that whatever levy local authorities place on individuals should be one that those individuals consider reasonable. I have written my paper and stand by it and I believe that much more should be collected by central Government. There will be arguments and debates about what methods should be used and how it is done, but more should be collected centrally and less collected locally.

The local collection should be pitched at a level at which people recognise that they are making a contribution, but not so large that it becomes a penal burden. That is why we have to look at the matter in depth, and I welcome the review taking place now.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

If those additional burdens were taken by central Government, what would be the effect on national taxation?

Mr. Walker

I hope that I was making, clear that, if the burden is transferred from local level to national level, it still has to be paid for. If the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) has read any of the papers that I have produced, he will realise that I wish to transfer that to value added tax, which is a central tax.

Whatever comes out of this debate, I hope that it will be one of the last such debates, if not the last, that we shall have.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the poll tax will be gone?

Mr. Walker

No. I believe in the community charge, but local authorities should be able to fix it at a level necessary to meet the needs of the services in their area. The hon. Member for Garscadden put his finger on an important point when he said that, if one has to add figures to a small percentage, it must increase the cost substantially in a small area.

Mr. Maxton

Some of us pointed that out to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues during the Committee stage of the 1987 Bill. He did not learn the lesson then. I am grateful for the fact that he seems to have learnt the lesson now, but it would have been better if he had voted against it then.

Mr. Walker

Like that of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North, the memory of the hon. Member for Glasgow,. Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is very selective. I have always taken the view that local collection must be at a level that makes people recognise and accept that they are making their contribution to local government expenditure, but it must be a realistic level that people will accept. Bills approaching £450 or £500 are far too high and something must be done.

Mr. Jimmy Wray (Glasgow, Provan)


Mr. Walker

I have given way enough.

The problem faced by Opposition Members is that they are living with the results of two separate campaigns. One campaign was the legal campaign by the Scottish nationalists. At one end of my constituency, even the Perth and Kinross district SNP provost did not support that, whereas it was supported at the other end of my constituency. [Interruption.] The Labour party has to answer to the people of Scotland for the 29 per cent. increase in the community charge.

Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you use the powers of the Chair to stop these electrifying speeches?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

We had better get on with the debate.

10.59 pm
Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

The speech of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) came to a suitably abrupt end, and not before time.

Many of us have been through these debates before. It is sometimes difficult to find something new to say, but the hon. Member for Tayside, North gave us a brilliant idea to which we can perhaps look forward. He said that he hoped that this was the last debate of this kind that we should ever have in the House. It seemed to imply that there should be no revenue support grant at all in the future. Perhaps that was a revelation of the way in which Tory party thinking is moving.

The Minister said that this was a reasonably generous settlement and that there was no reason for a dramatic increase in the poll tax, because local authorities were getting a settlement broadly in line with inflation. If I am not mistaken, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) did not fundamentally dispute that; the point that he disputed concerned the way in which the burden falls on the poll tax payer; because of its fixed element, it is the only area of taxation that is flexible for local authorities. It does not need much intellectual power to understand that, when an authority has a shortfall in expenditure or faces unexpected extra costs, it has a disproportionate effect on poll tax payers because all the money must be recovered from that one component of revenue, although it accounts for only one quarter of the total tax base of local authorities.

I ask the Minister to consider the pleas that I have received from local authorities about the timing of this settlement. Timing is a problem every year, but it seems to have become more acute. It is extremely difficult for local authorities to fix budgets in which a major component is not determined until—if they are lucky—the day before the budget must be presented, and often not until a day or two after the budget has been fixed.

I can confirm that I received a fax this morning from Gordon district council pointing out that it determined its budget on the basis of information about what it expected the revenue support grant to be; but the information was wrong to the tune of £21,000, which the council had to draw from surpluses. The Minister seems to deplore the idea of maintaining balances, but this is a good example of why they are a necessary and perfectly legitimate component of local authorities' budgets—to ensure that they have the flexibility to cope with unexpected fluctuations in the demands made on them.

Am I right in deducing that this is a case of the tail, in the shape of the Department of the Environment, wagging the Scottish Office dog? The settlement in England comes two months later than that in Scotland. The new leadership of the Tory party gave a clear sign that more money would be available, so local authorities in Scotland had to determine their poll taxes against that background, and they had much less time to play with.

I understand that the Secretary of State had to consider whether re-billing would have been necessary for Scottish authorities in circumstances in which it would not have been necessary for English authorities. I ask the Minister to bring forward the timing of the allocation of the grants, so as to enable local authorities to plan their budgets in good time.

Earlier, the Minister outlined his concerns about the relationship between the Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. I am not attacking COSLA; it does an essential job well. I appreciate its value, but it often has to adopt a consensus position in which the interests of all local authority members are not necessarily represented. Authorities in COSLA that are in a minority, politically or geographically, tend to lose out to the majority view. They have a right, however, to expect to make direct approaches to the Scottish Office and to have their anxieties dealt with, and not to expect that the COSLA formula is the be-all and end-all of the settlement.

This is not the first time that I have made this plea. I have had to point out several times to the House how local authorities in my area and in other parts of Scotland have been adversely affected. The Scottish Office has not been willing to find a solution to accommodate those authorities. It should try harder to do so in the future.

We are moving into an era of change. The Government know my view that the poll tax is not reformable and that the sooner it is abolished the better. I hope that they will take to heart my belief that the sooner they are able to say categorically that the poll tax will go and that a new, fairer system will be introduced, the quicker we will be able to resolve the outstanding anomalies faced by local authorities under the present regime.

The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) castigated members of the Labour and Scottish National parties for their militant non-payment stance. I am getting letters from my constituents telling me that they wholly endorse the position of the Scottish Conservative party in encouraging them to withhold payment of the part of this year's increased poll tax that is caused by non-payment. I represent the only party that has not encouraged people not to pay the poll tax. Ministers should be a little careful.

Mr. Allan Stewart

I made the position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Government crystal clear—in no circumstances do the Government condone or encourage anyone in Scotland to break the law.

Mr. Bruce

I accept that point, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not deny that active members of his party do that. They do not appear to be disciplined or to be called to account in any way—

Mr. Wilson

They are appointed to Greater Glasgow health board.

Mr. Bruce

They are promoted by the junior Scottish Office Minister.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

I agree with the hon. Member. A properly endorsed, prospective parliamentary candidate in Edinburgh, South, Councillor Struan Stevenson, is one of the leaders of the campaign to encourage people not to pay the additional part of the poll tax. Surely Ministers should renounced him and he should be deselected.

Mr. Bruce

The Minister heard that comment and can respond later.

This tax is proving to be an extremely difficult constraint on local authorities, preventing them from providing the services that they are required to provide and, in most cases, are striving honourably to provide. It is administratively difficult to collect the tax. It is difficult to budget when the Government continually impose extra responsibilities on local authorities without always providing the necessary money and when the settlement on which local authority budgets must be based is sometimes made after those budgets have been set. We are legitimately entitled to ask the Government to address those issues.

The Government must recognise that Scottish local authorities need an annual settlement that is reasonably predictable and accept that local authorities have a job that they are elected to do and statutorily required to do and that no other organisation could do. There should not be constant attacks implying that local authorities are irresponsible but central Government are responsible. The opposite is also true. Democratically elected local authorities with clearly defined powers, financed by a properly accountable system, should be allowed to get on with the job. They should be allowed to budget properly, collect the tax because it is administratively simple to collect and deliver the services that people expect them to provide.

11.8 pm

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

The House can be in no doubt about the importance of these issues to our constituents. In my constituency, poll tax payers will be expected to pay £584 next year, which, as has been pointed out, is a high amount. A substantial number of my constituents cannot afford to pay it. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who knows that that figure was arrived at with great difficulty and was the result of hard decisions by the Labour Administration to hold the increase down. That is a measure of how unworkable the tax is.

We should not lose sight of some of the fundamental flaws of the tax. In Edinburgh, and no doubt in other large cities, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have disappeared from the electoral register and the poll tax register. The most fundamental case against the poll tax is that it is a disincentive to people to vote. No one approves of that, but surely we should judge our democracy by the degree of the participation of communities in the system. It is wholly unsatisfactory that we should have a system of local government taxation that has resulted in the disappearance of thousands of people from the electoral process.

Secondly, I repeat that we have seen a most massive transfer of the burden from the better-off areas of Edinburgh to the less well-off areas of the city. The same applies elsewhere. The amount of money being extracted from working people in my constituency is an absolute disgrace. At every constituency surgery, I come across the tragic cases of people who simply cannot afford to pay and, as a result, are in arrears and have actually had additional charges imposed on them. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends have had the same experience. The people to whom I refer are willing to pay, but they are simply unable to do so.

The third, and final, point that I want to make in relation to the poll tax is perhaps demonstrated more clearly in Lothian than anywhere else. It is that the system is totally unworkable. For the third year of the poll tax —1991–92—the Lothian regional council is budgeting for a 10 per cent. loss on yield. What a state of affairs that is. Whatever controversy surrounds the Lothian collection procedures, no one—certainly not any Minister—can reasonably say that Lothian regional council has not taken steps to secure the poll tax. In fact, the case of every person whose poll tax for 1989–90 is due is in the hands of the sheriff officers, and every effort is being made to collect the amounts due for 1990–91. Not £1 of debt has yet been written off. The reality is that the authorities there have had to face up to the fact that the tax is unworkable. They have had to budget for a 10 per cent. loss on yield. What sort of tax is this if only 90 per cent. of potential yield can be collected? And that takes no account of the people who have disappeared altogether and are not on the register.

Next year, the cost of collecting the tax will be £18.2 million, compared with the £7.4 million that it took to collect the rates in 1988–89—the last year of the rates. These figures are based on prices at September 1990. Surely, a tax that is unworkable, imposes a huge burden on our people and costs the Lothian regional council so much to collect is the ultimate folly.

11.13 pm
Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

It is appropriate, though tragic, that we should be debating this order on the eve of the day when we shall see figures that show a massive increase in unemployment throughout the United Kingdom—and Scotland will bear its full share of that massive increase. It is almost as though Ministers ignore the fact that flowing from that massive increase in unemployment is the responsibility on local authorities to care for the families who are the victims of Government economic policy which has resulted in breadwinners losing their jobs.

I regret to say—for I have never before seen it in politics—that the present Government's attitude is that they could not care less what happens to family life. The poll tax, the revenue support grant and the services that are provided by local authorities are all aspects of family life. If the Government turn their back on what is happening to families—I am thinking of people's ability or inability to pay the poll tax, of the suffering that is caused by unemployment and of the effect of almost every other aspect of the Government's economic policy—they will sow the seeds of serious discontent.

As the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said, the Government, and in particular the Minister who opened the debate, are generating a feeling that local government should be shunned or despised. The Minister's former colleague, Michael Ancram, even built a career on living off the back of local government. Since the Government came to office in 1979, the people of Scotland have every reason to be thankful to local government for the protection that councillors have provided the people whom they represent.

The Minister took pleasure in deriding local authorities in Scotland. However, he should think carefully about his constituents and the protection afforded to them by the councillors and the local authority in his constituency. They offer greater protection than does the Minister. The councillors offer protection that his constituents will welcome, cherish and appreciate because of the impact of the Government's policies on the people of Scotland.

I noticed that, when I rose to speak, the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), left the Chamber. I would not hold that against anyone and I do not blame him for doing that. However, it is noticeable that the Under-Secretary of State took every opportunity to criticise local authorities that increase their poll taxes. He did not take the opportunity tonight to praise Stirling district council for holding its poll tax level.

Local authorities cannot win even when they hold the poll tax at last year's level. The Stirling Observer is full of letters from supporters of the Minister of State criticising Labour councillors in Stirling for opportunism because they have held the poll tax at last year's level. If they had raised it, the paper would have been full of letters from the Minister of State's supporters criticising councillors for increasing the poll tax. Councillors in Scotland are doing an excellent job and they deserve the Government's support, not their criticism.

A new phenomenon is developing on the industrial scene in Scotland, involving large industrial conurbations comprising petrochemical industries that are highly capital-intensive, but low in terms of labour involvement. Indeed, BP has just announced that it is about to pay off another 100 people. The rate income to Central region, from those industries is high, but the job content is low. That has a social impact particularly on Central region and I hope that the Minister will consider the problem.

The Minister's main problem tonight is that he has been here before. He was a Minister, then he was a Back Bencher—

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

A never-ending story.

Mr. Ewing

The Minister is a retread. The Government seem to have more retreads than Kwik-fit.

The Minister has a past to live down. In this debate he has been unable to defend that past, and he has no future. In less than a year, we look forward to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and his colleagues occupying the Government Front Bench.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether you or your colleagues have any control over the annunciators, but it was rather surprising, while working in the Library about 10 minutes ago, to see that I was speaking in the Chamber. Is there some form of misrepresentation in this place? I had to rush in to find out what I was saying. Can that matter be reported to the authorities?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not feel too embarrassed about being in two places at once.

11.19 pm
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)


Mr. Foulkes

If the hon. and learned Gentleman rushes out, he will see his name on the annunciator.

Sir Nicholas Fairbain

I hope that I do not see the name of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) on the annunciator because I should not wish to be confused with him.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) made the important point that the Minister has a past to live down. It is important that the House should know that the hon. Member for Falkirk, East has no past to live down, nor has he a future. It is remarkable, as the hon. Member for Falkirk, East demonstrated, that there is great praise for central Government. All government is bad and should be small. The great benefit of Scotland and the reason why the Scots are so popular worldwide is that we are the only recognisable race on earth that has the benefit of not having a Government. That is why the Scottish assembly and all that nonsense shall never come to pass.

It is extraordinary that the proposed tax to be raised by local government, which Opposition Members so greatly praise, should rise by a third. I should have thought that it was a considerable criticism of their capability and their efforts that local authorities should be increasing taxes on pensioners, on the retired, on the sick, and on everybody else by one third. I do not know whether Opposition Members think that that is a good idea—they never stop whingeing about hardship. That tax is a formidable hardship for every person in Scotland, and let us not forget it. Who is praising those who are increasing the burden by a third? Opposition Members are praising them. There are those who say that local authorities are wonderful. Nevertheless, whatever services they give, local authorities are a burden on the back of every citizen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I notice that those who said "nonsense" have all been members of local authorities—

Mr. Graham

And proud of it.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

—and proud of it, and no doubt proud that they are increasing the burden on the backs of the citizens this year by a third.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that, for the past 10 or 11 years, the clawback from his Government has meant that Scotland has lost in excess of £10 billion of taxpayers' money which should have gone back to local authorities. It was our money. There is an element of dishonesty in the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, because most of the funding comes from central Government. Local authorities—Tory, Labour or whatever—have a job to do as subcontractors to central Government, but they have to be paid. If they are not paid, who is at fault? It is central Government, his Government. It is not a question of the poll tax. He is being dishonest by trying to kid people that it has something to do with the poll tax. It is about reality. The hon. and learned Gentleman should face up to that.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Once or twice in my life, I have faced up to reality—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—and I will do so now. When I was defending people against the death penalty perhaps I faced up to reality, so let it not be mocked.

Let us be clear about this. I do not know where the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) gets his fantasies from about what he cares to call "clawback". In Scotland, we enjoy 30 per cent. per head more of all services than anybody in the rest of the kingdom. If he is looking for clawback, that will be the first thing to be affected if there is a Scottish assembly, whatever form it may take. There will never be another Labour Government, but if the hon. Gentleman cares to fantasise, he will lose 30 per cent. of what is spent on everybody who lives in Scotland. That will make whatever he fantasises about clawback look like major destruction. So let us have no nonsense about that.

The Government have obtained for the people of Scotland a level of life—

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok)

Poverty, unemployment, bad housing.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

No. Who said poverty? Let us be clear: when the Government came to office, Scotland had the lowest industrial wage in Europe; now it has the highest. We have obtained a quality of life for the people of Scotland which is denied to the rest of the people of the United Kingdom. It is perhaps something about which we should keep quiet lest we lose it. If we had an assembly, we would lose it.

Let us understand that there is nothing good about government, central or local, spending the money of those from whom they have to obtain it. I do not take pride in the concept that the people of Scotland may have to pay a third more next year because the people who will benefit from that are not those who pay it but those who spend it. I regard that as a Caledonian shame.

11.29 pm
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Time is short, but I shall try to respond courteously to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who asked a particular question. I can do no better than respond in a similar manner to that of his hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) who, the other day, when introducing his 10-minute Bill, said, as I would, that as soon as it is indelibly clear that the poll tax is abolished, he would pay all that he owed since that tax was introduced. That is as fair as we can put it.

The hon. Member for Garscadden knows, as does the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton)—representing the districts they do—that the majority of people who are not paying the poll tax, cannot pay it. It is not sufficient to ask people who are in such a desperate plight to wait until there is a Labour Government. We must analyse the cruelties of the tax by asking the Government whether they are going to persist with their view that the tax is collectable, when every authority gives signs that it is not.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland paraded the support grant order as though it were Government money that was being dispensed. We know well, as it has often been repeated to us, that Governments do not have any money— merely taxpayers' money in one form or another, that is redistributed. A balance has to be struck, and we are discussing the centralising forces of Government, depicted by the revenue support grant, versus local autonomy.

If we have any doubt about the nature of services asked for by central Government and called into being by the House, we should refer to appendix B of the report, which states: The following table shows the breakdown of current expenditure for 1991–92 as proposed by the Secretary of State". The total valuation in terms of grant-aided expenditure is about £4.79 billion, which is what the Secretary of State decrees should be provided locally. Those are services that we in the House demand, and we ask that they be provided locally.

One service that I call, in shorthand, education, although its correct title is education, libraries and museums, receives £2.5 billion. We have the audacity to say that local authorities are profligate, when we know full well that they have to provide such services. We are discussing how to finance them.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary spoke of the three elements of finance: the revenue support grant, the non-domestic rates and the specific grant. The balance is provided by the poll tax. How can it be right to gather tax from virtually all the population on the basis of taxes that are related to income and ability to pay, but when it comes to squeezing local authorities and trying to make them an example, the tax is totally unrelated to ability to pay?

According to the COSLA figures, 80 per cent. of expenditure by local authorities is determined by and comes from central Government. Local authorities are responsible for only 20 per cent., which now has to be collected by the most draconian measures, and the Government choose to ignore that percentage. They do so at their peril.

The law is being brought into disrepute. Civil liberties are being threatened. Labour Front-Bench Members paraded with me behind banners which declared, "No warrant sales". No doubt they will do so again in a month's time while simultaneously, to avoid breaching the Data Protection Act 1984, going through the list of local authority employees at great cost to embarrass those employees. Some of them may be making a political protest, but others may be lowly paid and cannot pay. I believe Jean McFadden, the leader of COSLA and an honoured member of Glasgow district council, who says that local government finance is in a state of crisis. The Government should make it plain that they will abolish the poll tax.

Yesterday we met the two Secretaries of State. There may well be deficiencies in our proposals for a local income tax, but they do not involve a tax which is unrelated to the ability to pay; they relate strictly to the ability to pay. We may disagree about the particular poundage, but what is not in dispute is that the poll tax is wholly unrelated to the ability to pay and should be opposed and brought to an end as soon as possible, in the interests of social cohesion and justice.

11.36 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart

We have had a wide-ranging debate and several detailed points have been raised, particularly by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). I shall try to deal with them, but if I cannot, perhaps we can meet or exchange correspondence about them.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) made some personal remarks about me. I speak as someone who has been a local government councillor.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Down here.

Mr. Stewart

Indeed, in London.

Mr. Ewing

In Westminster.

Mr. Stewart

Not in Westminster.

I am happy to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Eastwood district council, which serves the people extremely well, and to the Labour district councillors and the regional councillor who represent the Barrhead and Neilston wards in my constituency. I may disagree with their policies, but they try to do their best for the communities which they represent.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) referred to the crucial point about the total level of public expenditure by local authorities. A fact which is not in dispute is that Scottish local authorities spend 30 per cent. more per adult than do local authorities in England or Wales. That figure needs more explanation than it has ever had. There is no obvious explanation for such a major disparity.

Both the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) and my hon. and learned Friend referred to the level of Government support to local government north and south of the border. In 1990–91, aggregate external finance in England represents 64.5 per cent. of the total. This year, the community charge payer in England pays 35.5 per cent. The comparable figures for Scotland—they may be of interest to some of my colleagues from south of the border who are listening to this debate—are that the aggregate external finance, the Government's contribution—

Mr. Douglas

Not the Government's.

Mr. Stewart

I stand corrected. I should have referred to the taxpayers' contribution—

Mr. Wray


Mr. Stewart

I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman is a constituent of mine, but in view of the time I cannot give way to him.

Mr. Wray


Mr. Stewart

In case the hon. Gentleman threatens not to vote for me, I shall give way to him.

Mr. Wray

The Minister has mentioned many facts and figures, but he did not mention the magnitude of the uncollected poll tax. Does he realise that he has left untold the 14.9 per cent. uncollected poll tax in 1989–90 in Scotland, 17.4 per cent. of which was in Strathclyde region? That meant a shortfall of £47 million. The latest figures provided by the statistical authorities in the House show that in late December 59.2 per cent. of the poll tax had not been collected. Some 63 per cent. of that was in Strathclyde. That makes a total of £623 million, with £289 still uncollected. How many warrant sales will that mean in Strathclyde?

Mr. Stewart

I am not sure that I shall always give way to my constituent, but I am happy to deal with his point about non-payment. The point was also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North and by other hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Hon. Members should look at the precise figures. If it is so difficult to collect the poll tax, why has Borders collected 99 per cent. of its budgeted income for 1989, and is still receiving payments? It expects to collect in excess of its budgeted income this year. That shows that the system is adequate. It is an important fact that community charge income makes up only a little more than 20 per cent. of Scottish local authorities' total income.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) made a number of points, but he failed to recall his forecast of what would happen this year. I shall remind him of that. He asked my right hon. and learned Friend whether he accepted that on a standstill budget with no expansion of service, the average payment is likely to rise by about £30 a year?"—[Official Report, 25 July 1990; Vol. 177, c. 490.] If the hon. Gentleman's forecast had been proved correct, community charge payers in Scotland would be a great deal better off and much happier.

The hon. Gentleman referred to balances. The authorities have run down their balances in this financial year—

Mr. Harry Ewing

Which year?

Mr. Stewart

The current financial year, 1990–91, not the year to which the debate refers. Their reason for doing so is not unconnected with the fact that that was the year of the regional elections. First, the authorities have increased expenditure; secondly, they have run down their balances; and, thirdly, they have piled two years of non-payment on to the community charge payer for the next financial year. That is undoubtedly an exercise in political cynicism.

We have heard a lot from hon. Members about local authorities cutting their expenditure. We heard that particularly from the hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) in relation to Lothian. But, as I understand it, Lothian is proposing to increase its expenditure by some 11.4 per cent. It has cut planned increases in expenditure, but that is not a cut in expenditure.

This is a perfectly fair settlement, and I commend it to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 193.

Division No. 65] [11.45 pm
Adley, Robert Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Aitken, Jonathan Arnold, Sir Thomas
Alexander, Richard Ashby, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Aspinwall, Jack
Allason, Rupert Atkins, Robert
Amess, David Atkinson, David
Arbuthnot, James Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Baldry. Tony Gill, Christopher
Batiste, Spencer Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bellingham, Henry Goodlad, Alastair
Bendall, Vivian Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Gorst, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gregory, Conal
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Boscawen, Hon Robert Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Boswell, Tim Grist, Ian
Bottomley, Peter Hague, William
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bowis, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Hanley, Jeremy
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hannam, John
Brazier, Julian Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Bright, Graham Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Harris, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Haselhurst, Alan
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hawkins, Christopher
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Hayes, Jerry
Burns, Simon Hayward, Robert
Butler, Chris Heathcoat-Amory, David
Butterfill, John Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hill, James
Carrington, Matthew Hind, Kenneth
Cash, William Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Chapman, Sydney Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Chope, Christopher Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Ftushcliffe) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Colvin, Michael Hunter, Andrew
Conway, Derek Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Irvine, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jack, Michael
Cope, Rt Hon John Jackson, Robert
Couchman, James Janman, Tim
Cran, James Jessel, Toby
Critchley, Julian Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Curry, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Davis, David (Boothferry) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Day, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Devlin, Tim Knapman, Roger
Dicks, Terry Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Dorrell, Stephen Knowles, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knox, David
Dover, Den Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dunn, Bob Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Durant, Sir Anthony Latham, Michael
Dykes, Hugh Lawrence, Ivan
Eggar, Tim Leigh, Edward (Galnsbor'gh)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Evennett, David Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lilley, Peter
Fallon, Michael Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lord, Michael
Fishburn, John Dudley Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Fookes, Dame Janet Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forman, Nigel MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Forth, Eric Maclean, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman McLoughlin, Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Franks, Cecil Madel, David
Freeman, Roger Major, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas Malins, Humfrey
Fry, Peter Mans, Keith
Gale, Roger Maples, John
Gardiner, Sir George Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mates, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Maude, Hon Francis Speed, Keith
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Speller, Tony
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Miller, Sir Hal Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Miscampbell, Norman Squire, Robin
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stanbrook, Ivor
Mitchell, Sir David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Moate, Roger Steen, Anthony
Monro, Sir Hector Stevens, Lewis
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morrison, Sir Charles Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Moss, Malcolm Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Stokes, Sir John
Neale, Sir Gerrard Sumberg, David
Needham, Richard Summerson, Hugo
Nelson, Anthony Tapsell, Sir Peter
Neubert, Sir Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Nicholls, Patrick Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Temple-Morris, Peter
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Norris, Steve Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Thorne, Neil
Oppenheim, Phillip Thornton, Malcolm
Page, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Paice, James Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patnick, Irvine Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Tracey, Richard
Patten, Rt Hon John Tredinnick, David
Pawsey, James Twinn, Dr Ian
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Viggers, Peter
Porter, David (Waveney) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Portillo, Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Powell, William (Corby) Walden, George
Price, Sir David Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rathbone, Tim Waller, Gary
Redwood, John Ward, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Riddick, Graham Warren, Kenneth
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Watts, John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wells, Bowen
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wheeler, Sir John
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Whitney, Ray
Roe, Mrs Marion Widdecombe, Ann
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wilkinson, John
Rowe, Andrew Wilshire, David
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Winterton, Mrs Ann
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Winterton, Nicholas
Sayeed, Jonathan Wolfson, Mark
Shaw, David (Dover) Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Yeo, Tim
Shelton, Sir William Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Younger, Rt Hon George
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Tellers for the Ayes:
Sims, Roger Mr. John M. Taylor and
Skeet, Sir Trevor Mr. Tom Sackville.
Abbott, Ms Diane Blair, Tony
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Blunkett, David
Alton, David Boateng, Paul
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boyes, Roland
Armstrong, Hilary Bradley, Keith
Ashton, Joe Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Battle, John Caborn, Richard
Beckett, Margaret Callaghan, Jim
Beith, A. J. Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Bell, Stuart Canavan, Dennis
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benton, Joseph Clelland, David
Bermingham, Gerald Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bidwell, Sydney Cohen, Harry
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Corbett, Robin Henderson, Doug
Corbyn, Jeremy Hinchliffe, David
Cousins, Jim Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Cox, Tom Home Robertson, John
Cryer, Bob Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Ho wells, Geraint
Darling, Alistair Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hoyle, Doug
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Dewar, Donald Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dixon, Don Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Dobson, Frank Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Doran, Frank Illsley, Eric
Douglas, Dick Ingram, Adam
Dunnachie, Jimmy Janner, Greville
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Johnston, Sir Russell
Eastham, Ken Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Kennedy, Charles
Fatchett, Derek Lambie, David
Faulds, Andrew Leadbitter, Ted
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Lewis, Terry
Flynn, Paul Litherland, Robert
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Livingstone, Ken
Foster, Derek Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Foulkes, George Loyden, Eddie
Fraser, John McAllion, John
Fyfe, Maria McCartney, Ian
Galloway, George Macdonald, Calum A.
Garrett, John (Norwich South) McFall, John
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Golding, Mrs Llin McKelvey, William
Gordon, Mildred McLeish, Henry
Gould, Bryan Maclennan, Robert
Graham, Thomas McMaster, Gordon
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) McNamara, Kevin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McWilliam, John
Grocott, Bruce Madden, Max
Hardy, Peter Mahon, Mrs Alice
Harman, Ms Harriet Marek, Dr John
Haynes, Frank Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Rooney, Terence
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Martlew, Eric Rowlands, Ted
Maxton, John Salmond, Alex
Meacher, Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Meale, Alan Short, Clare
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Sillars, Jim
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Skinner, Dennis
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grtmsby) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Morgan, Rhodri Snape, Peter
Morley, Elliot Soley, Clive
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Spearing, Nigel
Mowlam, Marjorie Steinberg, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Stott, Roger
Murphy, Paul Strang, Gavin
Nellist, Dave Straw, Jack
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Brien, William Turner, Dennis
O'Hara, Edward Vaz, Keith
O'Neill, Martin Wallace, James
Parry, Robert Walley, Joan
Patchett, Terry Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Pendry, Tom Wareing, Robert N.
Pike, Peter L. Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Quin, Ms Joyce Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Radice, Giles Wilson, Brian
Randall, Stuart Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Worthington, Tony
Reid, Dr John Wray, Jimmy
Richardson, Jo Young, David (Bolton SE)
Robertson, George
Robinson, Geoffrey Tellers for the Noes:
Rogers, Allan Mr. Thomas McAvoy and
Rooker, Jeff Mr. Jack Thompson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1991, dated 28th January 1991, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.