HC Deb 23 January 1991 vol 184 cc361-84

'()(1) Sections 1 to 5 below shall have effect subject to the making of an Order under section 6(1), and no such Order shall be made in respect of the first year before the fulfilment of the requirements of this section.

(2) Before making any Order in respect of the first year under section 6(1) below, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall for the purposes of subsection (3) below lay before Parliament a report specifying

  1. (a) the principal statutory duties on each class of relevant authority as specified in section 35(2) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988; and
  2. (b) the likely impact on any such statutory duties of any authority which he expects to be required to set a substitute precept or amount in accordance with section 35(1) or 35(4) of the principal Act of the restriction of information on which such a determination may be based arising as a result of this Act.

(3) The Secretary of State shall, before making any Order to which the above subsections refer, certify that in his opinion no statutory duty of any authority which he expects to be required to set a substitute amount or precept in accordance with sections 35(1) or 35(4) of the principal Act is likely to be breached as a result of the operation of this Act.

(4) Where in making any determination under subsection (3) above the Secretary of State considers that any statutory duty of an authority concerned is likely to be breached by virtue of the setting of a substitute amount or precept irrespective of the operation of this Act, he shall make reference to this matter in any report laid before Parliament under subsection (2) above.'.—[Mr. Murphy.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss also amendment No. 2, in clause 6, page 5, line 28, after 'applies', insert `subject to the making of an Order in accordance with section (Certification of Statutory Duties) above'.

Mr. Murphy

The purpose of the new clause and the amendment is to focus debate on the possible impact of the Bill on authorities that may be in danger of breaching their statutory duties. The amendments propose an order-making, certification and reporting process designed to give Parliament early warning of authorities that may be forced into a breach of their statutory duties and responsibilities. Before the Bill was applied in the first year Secretaries of State would be required under subsection (3) to certify that no authority affected would be forced to breach its statutory duties as a result of the operation of this unwelcome Bill.

The Bill essentially requires authorities to set substitute amounts in response to a formula and it prevents them from taking into account the latest view of information available to them at the time when the original amount was set. The difference likely to be made in the level of poll tax which may be set may be small but it could, in a critical case, push an authority into a choice between incurring losses and breaching the duties that this House has imposed on them.

More broadly, the effect of subsections (2) and (4) together is that a report must be laid when capping orders are produced, setting out the main statutory duties of authorities and showing where breaches of such duties may occur as a result of the Act or as a result of capping generally. In other words, when the Secretary of State is made aware that a council's statutory duties and obligations cannot be carried out by an authority, he must tell Parliament. As the Secretary of State must ask Parliament's permission for a whole range of actions to do with local government finance, it would be but a small matter for him, or them—since the Secretary of State for Wales would also be involved—to lay the details before the House of Commons.

When local authorities recently took the Secretary of State for the Environment to court, the effects of poll tax capping on their statutory responsibilities and duties were not seen as clearly as they are today. There was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) said in Committee, some reference to education budgets, but statutory duties were seen in a very general light. Given our experience since then, we now know that sudden changes in council's budgets imposed by Government can have the most disastrous effects on the mandatory and statutory services that they must carry out.

I should like to mention some of the statutory duties that the Government have imposed on local authorities by means of legislation. The Food Safety Act 1990 lays a general duty on food authorities to enforce legislation and to appoint public analysts. Last year, the Government sponsored and the House approved the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which imposes a host of duties and responsibilities on our councils. Local authorities become the enforcement and licensing authorities for air pollution. They have a duty to keep public registers of all pollution licences and to create arm's-length waste disposal companies under the direction of the Secretary of State. They have a duty in respect of waste regulation authorities to licence waste management premises, and so on. Local authorities have many duties to do with waste collection, litter disposal, pollution of the air and of the soil—all of them laid on them by Parliament as a direct result of the legislation.

6.15 pm

Last year, Parliament passed the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990, and even though the Government have postponed financing that Act, it will eventually mean that local authorities will have various duties in respect of community care.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) referred in the previous debate to the problem that his and other local authorities are having with education. Over the past few years, the Government have passed several education Acts. The curiously named Education Reform Act 1988 introduced the national curriculum and local management of schools. The Education Act 1986 had to do with special education. The Education Act 1981 concerned governing bodies, and the Education Act 1962 dealt with student awards. All these Acts, approved by Parliament, laid mandatory duties on local authorities which cost them considerable sums of money.

Most capped authorities will have made cuts in their education service at a time when the Government are implementing a variety of measures to improve, they say, standards in schools. During the legal action taken by capped authorities against the Secretary of State, various local authorities' officers served affidavits against the Secretary of State highlighting their worries about meeting their statutory duties. One officer said: the council, if called upon to make education cuts, would simply be unable to carry out its statutory functions with respect to education. Only yesterday, the Prime Minister saw fit to refer to homelessness and to how he believed that it should be tackled. All of us who have been involved in local authority housing matters are aware that the plight of the homeless is receiving increasing attention from local authorities and the Government; yet the statutory responsibilities that the Government place on local authorities can be met only if they are matched by the necessary money. Limits on expenditure caused by capping will inevitably result in fewer resources to deal with the problem. On top of capping, the Government have exacerbated the problem of homelessness by changing the subsidy arrangements for people housed in short-lease accommodation. That means that authorities must rely on expensive bed-and-breakfast accommodation. So district councils face increasing difficulty in coping with the problem of homelessness.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), with her considerable experience in these matters, mentioned earlier the Children Act 1989. That Act and other social services legislation, such as the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, mean that a reduction in social services expenditure caused by capping will affect the most vulnerable sectors of our society.

Although the main provisions of the National Health Service and Community Care Act have been postponed, authorities are having to provide services for clients released from institutional care. In addition, limitations on finance make it more difficult for authorities to respond to the requirements of the Children Act. Recent media reports on child abuse have highlighted the importance of valuable resources being devoted to such services, the responsibility for which has been placed on the shoulders of local authorities by this House.

Local authorities have no choice about carrying out these functions. It has been a common complaint against all Governments, Labour or Conservative, that they under-resource our councils when they impose new duties on them. But this is worse: even when local authorities set a poll tax to cover their legal responsibilities, the scene can, because of this Bill, be changed dramatically, and they will simply run out of money or be forced to reduce vital services which are required by law.

It is crucial for Parliament to be give such a picture at the time of the setting of the poll tax so that we know that services that we have said must be carried out cannot be carried out because of a Minister's actions. The new clause and amendments would allow Parliament to debate such a critical situation. Even our consideration this evening of the possibility of such an occurrence highlights how dangerous and mischievous this seemingly technical Bill is. The Government would be well advised to accept these changes, if only as a prelude to dropping the whole Bill altogether, for its very existence makes a mockery of the Government's self-confessed claim to want local government accountability, and it certainly flies in the face of the even more ludicrous claim that the Government genuinely want to review or even abolish the poll tax.

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

The whole o the Bill makes nonsense of the Government's claim to be trying to introduce greater accountability at local level, and these amendments are brought to bear at a point where local government is being made answerable to Parliament, which is a negation of the entire concept of local government. I understand why they have been introduced in their present form: the Government are trying to widen the accountability so that it is not just a matter of the level of poll tax but also refers to the kind of services to be provided. I understand the argument that is being put.

It would, however, also be appropriate in making any such statement to refer to the extent to which the difficulties in providing services had been exacerbated by non-payment of the tax. First, it would be relevant for people to know at that point how much the authority's ability to provide services had been impaired by campaigns to persuade people not to pay the tax at all.

It is an increasing source of considerable resentment that there are still campaigns, supported in some cases by Labour Members, to encourage people who can afford to pay not to do so. It would therefore be interesting to see—although in practice one could not have this sort of detail—how much of the non-payment related to people who were liable for the full rate of tax, people who were entitled to no rebate and who might have considerably higher incomes, and how much of it related to that section of the population which have been forced to pay 20 per cent. of the tax even though it had very little or no income.

We are talking about two rather different categories of people: those who could pay but refuse to do so and those who are in genuine and serious difficulty. It would be appropriate for us to know, in considering whether the statutory services could be paid for, if an authority had collected much less of the tax than other authorities. The non-payment element should be considered at this point.

Secondly, the tax is very difficult to collect in practice. It is particularly difficult to collect in urban areas where there is great mobility of population and from those people who just do not have the money to pay it. That is not a particular partisan observation—it was made by the Audit Commission in a recently published report on the tax. It led the commission to point to the futility of trying to collect the compulsory 20 per cent. from people who simply did not have the money to pay it.

It is an absurdity in the whole social security-benefit-taxing system that, because of the political requirement that everyone should pay a significant part of the tax, we seek to exact from people money that we know they cannot afford. We know it because we have a social security system which assesses that they cannot, yet we still insist on trying to get that 20 per cent. out of them. In some cases they will be the people who are the targets of the very statutory services threatened by the authority's inability to find enough money.

Those are two reasons why the statement should be much wider than proposed in the amendment and should refer to the non-payment element, both the deliberate and wilful element and that which arises from the absurdity of the tax. It is one of the many reasons why I believe that the tax should be scrapped and replaced by something that can reasonably be collected because it is both fair and effectively run. I refer to a local income tax.

This part of the Bill is being regarded with concern, not just by authorities which have already been capped but by those threatened with capping. Earlier today I met city councillors and officers from Newcastle upon Tyne who are watching their budget very anxiously because of the possibility of capping. The people whom I saw were from the social services committee, they were worried about providing one of the statutory services referred to in the amendment. There is a threat to the very important basic services that they provide.

One, in particular, is of concern to me because it affects my constituency. The authority is having to consider closing the County hotel in Rothbury, which for a long time has provided respite care for hundreds of elderly people and their carers in Newcastle upon Tyne. In large part it is self-financing, but there is a significant element of subsidy, essential because of the character of the care provided and the low incomes of the families to whom it is provided. The accommodation service, which provides employment in my constituency, has brought into the village of Rothbury for many years elderly people from the Tyneside conurbation who clearly benefit from this break in their normal routine, and there is an even greater benefit to the carers who would normally look after them. The service is a potential victim of capping, along with other important services in the city.

Newcastle spends more on its social services than do many other authorities, including my county of Northumberland, and questions must be asked about the costing and management of services in many of the authorities where the levels of charge are so high. It is difficult to ask those questions—and it is particularly difficult for the general public to ask them—when the system of Government grant to local authorities is as confused and confusing as it now is. It is another illustration that no one really knows who is responsible.

The Government have managed to bring about a situation in which the general public are confused about whether their authority is a high spender or whether it is the Government's fault because the grant system is all wrong. On the whole, they are inclined to blame the Government, so the Government must get themselves out of the situation by carrying out the sort of fundamental reform about which the Secretary of State is beginning to talk about. I am glad to hear that he is beginning to talk about it, but it still seems a long way away and, unless he pulls a rabbit from a hat, people will carry on blaming the Government and being confused and puzzled by it all.

My area, Castle Morpeth, has a poll tax which is £100 higher than that of neighbouring authorities. People ask why our authority is not going to be capped. There are two reasons. One is that the borough council spends too little to qualify for capping. The other is that 80 per cent. of the money goes to Northumberland county council. The reason for the £100 difference, however, lies deep in the interstices of the Government grant system and the safety net system. It all relates to the complicated arrangements by which the Government assessed average rateable values; it has absolutely nothing to do with the relative spending levels of the Castle Morpeth authority compared with other authorities. Its spending levels are broadly similar to those of its neighbours.

The public, however, has no way of understanding these complexities; they are difficult enough for professionals to make sense of, and they further show that the whole debate about capping takes place in an atmosphere and against a background where no one knows or can say with authority who is to blame—certainly no one whom the public is likely to believe. People listen to assertions and counter-assertions from those who have an axe to grind.

It is depressing that all Conservative Members seem fervently to believe that all Conservative authorities are terribly responsible and that only Labour authorities overspend. A contrary view appears to obtain on the Opposition side. The general public are not much inclined to believe that sort of thing, and it further underlines the case for fundamental reform. Even if the statement envisaged in the new clause is produced and the House had the benefit of the Government's statement along with the capping statement of how statutory services would be affected, I do not think that people would believe that either. The sooner we get rid of this nonsense the better.

6.30 pm
Mr. Key

The hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) spoke about the statutory duties that the House places on local authorities and listed a long catalogue of woes. Under our intended criteria, no authority would be capped if its budget were at or below its standard spending assessment. Those assessments take account of the new burdens and duties on authorities, and also take account of scope for greater efficiency and the amount that the country can afford.

The hon. Member for Torfaen spoke about affidavits submitted by certain local authority officers. It is important to get the matter straight. In their judgment their Lordships said: Capping does not in any way impinge on the rights of members of the authority either as citizens or as councillors, nor does it impugn their collective conduct as either unlawful or discreditable. A difference of opinion between the Secretary of State and the designated authority as to what is the appropriate level at which their community charge and their expenditure should be set is purely a political difference. It is important to place that on record.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is not puzzled or confused, as became clear when he came to talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities and me. We were grateful to him for coming and for his constructive approach. We welcome his participation. Plainly, we must have a fundamental review of local government. Perhaps it should have been done many years ago. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is taking these matters forward and I am glad that it is being done with the participation of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The new clause and the related amendment seek to delay the operation of the Bill's provisions for any particular year and to place a series of requirements on the Secretary of State. They say that he must make an order and before doing so he must lay a report before Parliament. Before doing that, he must make or issue a certificate in some unspecified way.

That bizarre and convoluted procedure suggested by the Opposition appears to have as its rationale—such a description is charitable to say the least—the idea that in some way the Bill affects the fulfilment by a capped authority of its statutory duties. Plainly, the Bill affects the duty of a charging authority to reset its charges after capping. That is the whole point. It is to guarantee that charge payers are not denied the full benefits of capping. The behaviour of Lambeth council this year shows that such protection is needed.

Leaving aside that self-evident point and the complete confusion over the proposed changes between precepting and charging authorities, I have to tell the House that the suggestion that the Bill otherwise affects the capped authorities' fulfilment of their statutory duties is completely unfounded and misconceived. It has no bearing on the matter. The provision of services by capped authorities is not affected by the Bill, which is about the translation of budget cuts, following capping, into commensurate reductions in charges. The Bill is not about capping in general or about the size or implications of budget cuts resulting from the capping of excessive and overblown budgets. Legislation on that is contained in part VII of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

Mr. Murphy

Does the Minister accept that, essentially, it is the capping of a budget that is derived from the 1988 Act and that ultimately the budget is related to services? Surely if the revenue that can be raised by the community charge or poll tax is limited by an Act of Parliament, that is bound to have an effect upon the statutory duties placed on local authorities.

Mr. Key

My argument all along and in Committee is that that is not the case. The amount of money in the collection fund is but one factor that an authority will have to consider when setting its budget for the following year. That shows one of the fundamental errors in many of the Opposition's amendments. In terms of the effect of budget reductions required by capping, any cap set would represent the Secretary of State's view of what is reasonable, achievable and appropriate in all the circumstances of each capped authority. There are procedures by which authorities can make representations about proposed caps, and they are fully taken into account by the Secretary of State when he makes his decisions about final capping levels. The first year of capping in which the proposed caps of three authorities were increased shows that those procedures are no mere charade.

No authority can be free of the need for expenditure restraint and for seeking greater value for money which, as I said earlier, in the end means greater value for people. For next year we have made known for the information of authorities our firm intentions for capping criteria. A t their express request we did that much earlier than in the past. I do not accept any suggestion that capping necessarily leads to disruption of essential services. There is considerable scope for authorities to look carefully at the administration and management of their services to ensure that waste is eliminated and efficiency improved. I suspect that many Opposition Members would be the first to appreciate and recognise that and that many of their authorities would try to achieve it. The new clause is not merely misconceived but completely irrelevant to the Bill's purpose. I urge the House to reject it.

Mr. Murphy

The purpose of the new clause is that it is only when a local authority's statutory duties and responsibilities are affected adversely by the operation of the Act that a report has to be made to the House. If, as the Minister suggests, the local authority is not affected by the poll tax cap, no report would be made to the House. Therefore, the Government have nothing to lose by accepting the new clause.

Question put and negatived.

Order for Third Reading read.

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

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I apologise to the House for my absence during part of our earlier proceedings, but I gather that in my absence hon. Members continued to debate the Bill with all the good humour that characterised our proceedings in Committee. I pay tribute to the Opposition and to my colleagues for the very good spirit in which our debates were conducted.

I suspect that the House would like me to be brief because this is a short Bill. It has been exhaustively debated and at this stage it would be challenging to make a long speech about it. I remind the House that the Bill's intentions are limited. As the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), said, the Bill is not about capping in general. However, on several occasions it has given us the opportunity to confirm that the Government stand ready to use their capping powers in the coming year in line with criteria announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 31 October when he was Secretary of State for the Environment and which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment confirmed in his statement to the House on 17 January.

The Bill seeks to close a loophole which could have had serious consequences, and which in any case represented an injustice because it would have allowed local authorities to avoid passing on to community charge payers the benefit that was intended for them by the act of capping. I was considerably surprised to find that the Labour party did not wish to support us at least on the narrow point that, once an authority had been capped and had gone to the length of setting its new budget and making the necessary reductions in spending, the benefit should be made available to community charge payers.

Mr. Illsley

Again the hon. Gentleman has referred to the idea of the benefit of charge capping being passed on. There are certainly no benefits in my authority from charge capping. It has affected jobs, the music centre, has brought about redundancies and so on.

Mr. Portillo

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. If he looks at the reduced community charge bills which people have to pay, he will find I think that the largest reduction in any one authority was £99—and I speak from memory—in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. If the hon. Gentleman speaks to my hon. Friend who represents that borough, he will find that my hon. Friend will speak eloquently about the difference that £99 makes to a community charge payer in Fulham. It makes a very big difference indeed. The hon. Gentleman should not simply be concerned with levels of spending which in themselves tell us nothing about levels of service. He must also be concerned about levels of cost and what people can afford. Local authorities should take that into account, but the Government stand ready to help them to take it into account by means of capping but must, after the operation of this Bill, put it into effect by benefiting charge payers.

Mr. Illsley

Is the Minister aware that when capping was announced there was considerable public debate? There was even more public debate when it was found that, as a consequence of charge capping, children in my authority cannot now go swimming from school. Schools have stopped all swimming. Furthermore, children cannot learn music at a centre of excellence which had to be closed and teachers made redundant.

Those are the so-called benefits from charge capping. The charge payers in my area had their bills reduced by £59. If the level of public debate, in the local press and in the media in general, including a petition delivered to 10 Downing street containing tens of thousands of signatures, was anything to go by, people would have accepted the original legislation. They would have liked to have the opportunity to retain the benefits of swimming facilities under the education system, the music centre and all the rest of it. Once again, I point out that in Barnsley there are no benefits from charge capping.

Mr. Portillo

In a way, the hon. Gentleman makes my point for me, although he does not mean to do so. I do not accept that the consequences that he describes necessarily flow from charge capping. Let us for a moment suppose that they did. All the changes in spending having been made, and also the reductions in service, would the hon. Gentleman then wish to see the reduced charges denied to the community charge payer? I know the hon. Gentleman to be a rational and reasonable person and I should have thought that he would say that, at the very least, if all that pain has been suffered, there should be some offsetting benefit, which is that people pay £59 less in community charge.

In the borough of Lambeth, the process having been gone through and reductions having been made, the borough sought to deny in full the benefit in reduced community charging. That is the limited point in this Bill. We thought that what happened in Lambeth was unacceptable.

We also thought that there was another important point of principle: that all boroughs, whether capped or not, should be put on all fours with each other. No other council, once it has set its charge for the year, can go back in mid year and alter its estimate of the number of people who will be paying community charge. No other council will have the luxury of going back in mid year and changing its idea about what the community charge should be. We do not believe that, just because an authority has been capped, it should be put in a different position. We thought that what happened in the Lambeth case was quite wrong and thought it essential to put the position right. We are determined that there should be no repetition of that.

We have been surprised that the Labour party, on this narrow point, has still sought to affirm the right of local authorities, having made the necessary reductions, still to deny to their community charge payers the benefit of those reductions. We are determined that that should not be repeated. That is why I commend this short Bill to the House, and urge that it should go to another place.

6.45 pm
Mr. Blunkett

I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), is departing as I was about to ask him to have a word with the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) about his earlier remarks—not least the inappropriateness of his words about dyslexia, never mind his astonishing remarks, in view of the circumstances, about breweries. Perhaps hon. Members on the Treasury Bench will pass those thoughts on to the Secretary of State.

We have already stated in Committee and this evening that this Bill was ill-timed and is an irrelevence. We believed that it was ill-conceived when it was first brought forward, but circumstances have overtaken it. It is now superfluous as well as an inconvenience and an irrelevance. Therefore, we shall be voting against it.

The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities suggests that it is a surprise to him that the Labour party is against this Bill as it is merely a tidying-up exercise, consequent on ill drafting—he did not say that, but it clearly is such an exercise. It is a consequence of the ill drafting that flowed from the 1988 Act. That is astonishing, given that we trawled through the legislation for three months often late into the night and the early hours of the morning. I remember it well. It resulted in my ending up in hospital with pneumonia, which was a great relief after sitting through that Bill. Nevertheless, here we are with a sort of afterthought—a little pimple on the original Bill. But the pimple is a bit more than that. It is more like a boil. That is why we have chosen to lance it if we can. We think that that would be in the best interests of the overall health of the patient. In this case the patient is what remains of local democracy.

The poll tax capping legislation and the way in which it has been imposed allow the Government to set the figure for spending. Of course, the Government assumed that there was a simple equation between the setting of the figure for spending and the subsequent poll tax. This Bill reflects the belief that there is a simple equation to be imposed which, inevitably, will result in a particular poundage. We do not accept that. We believe that the information on which the Government need to work should take fully into account the local circumstances about which the officials and councillors at local level are in the best position to make a judgment. The Government are not in such a position. Those changed circumstances arise directly from the consequences of capping.

When an authority is capped, there is an inevitable delay in the imposition of the poll tax at local level. There is a change in the likely collection level, as there is in terms of the equated and relevant population levels. Therefore, there is a danger that the collection of the poll tax will result in a shortfall to the collection fund. If that happens, there will be consequences which, apart from protecting the poll tax payer, will have an adverse result.

The Minister in charge of the Bill and Committee members constantly referred to hapless poll tax payers. We thought it an appropriate phrase. In fact, the hapless poll tax payer would not get the benefits that he believes this Bill will bring to him. Poll tax capping has a detrimental effect on services and the provision of services is what local authorities are all about, rather than low taxation. They are about value for money and the relationship between the tax raised and the level of services provided.

The whole intention of a local authority is not to levy no tax and provide no services. I know that new recruits today on the Conservative Benches believe that. The new recruits are people like the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) who has just joined the Minister of State in the No Turning Back group. She said this afternoon that she believed in compulsory tendering rather than compulsory competitive tendering, which was in the document recently published by the No Turning Back group. It must come as a revelation to the Minister to have recruits to the group, just at the moment when we all believed that it was about to be disbanded. That is life after death indeed. It suggests that there may be movements and murmurings, which we suspected existed, to show that the lady who departed No. 10 just a few weeks before Christmas lies in the shadows after all, waiting, watching and encouraging. That is a sign that things are on the move.

Of course, what is not on the move is the poll tax—[Interruption.] I must correct myself. The poll tax is on the move—it is in reverse gear and going backwards, and tonight poll tax capping and the Community Charges (Substitute Setting) Bill are going with it. Why did the Government continue with the Bill? Even if it was relevant before last week, it is certainly not relevant now.

As I said earlier, if the Government introduce so-called relief in the form of a new community charge relief scheme, and if that brings into equilibrium the present year's bills—with the promise of a £104 maximum payment compared with the old rates—the logic is that capping will be abandoned to allow people to make a clear judgment between different local authorities, and between different parties within local authorities, as from this year to next. That is the logic, so capping becomes an irrelevance unless any vestige of accountability has been abandoned and the Government do not want a clearer indication between different parties and different local authorities upon which the electorate can make a judgment. Capping would interfere with that judgment.

Not only does the Secretary of State now have the ability to fix the relationship between the current bills and the previous rate bills, which we shall be debating next week, but under capping he has the ability to determine next year's bills, and therefore their relationship with this year's bills. That takes away any vestige of decision-making by a local authority and any judgment by the local electorate about the responsibility of those elected local councillors for their decisions. It is a mess.

It is important to spell out exactly what the Government's responsibilities are, so that if people are worried about the cuts in services and the dangers to their education, social services, leisure and protection services, they will understand that it is the Government who are at fault. The Government have the power to determine the exact level of poll tax being levied—and, under the Bill, can determine the exact poundage—so the electorate should be aware that it is the Government who are at fault. If people do not like the unholy mess of the Government setting the poll tax and determining the cuts, the Government are at fault again. Whether it is cuts in services, poll tax levels, administrative chaos, or an unholy mess at local level, only one set of people is to blame—Conservative Ministers. They have brought it upon themselves because they have bound, gagged and generally put aside any vestiges of local democracy.

There is universal capping, universal suffering and universal centralisation. Ministers are responsible for the whole mess. That is the logic and the outturn of the Bill. However, we have revealed some grave misunderstandings among Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West did not even understand the difference between equalisation and standard spending assessments. She revealed that she is now wholly committed to the SSAs, which only a few weeks ago she declared herself to be against.

The formula has not changed and the implementation has not changed—only minds have changed. Of course, everybody is open to persuasion, arm twisting and pressure, but the SSAs have not altered and nor has the amount put into revenue support. All that has altered is a commitment from Conservative Back Benchers, on a wing and a prayer, in the hope that the new Secretary of State will bring them some promise and relief to get them through the general election. The Bill shows that there is no hope of that.

Whatever happens, there will be capping. Whatever happens, there will be greater centralisation. With that greater centralisation will come more determination of the services provided at local level. In other words, we will continue to get what we have now, but with a slight change of formula. Perhaps there will be a property tax together with the poll tax. Perhaps there will be centralised delivery of major services together with the poll tax. Perhaps there will be a property tax, greater centralisation and the poll tax. We could end up with all three. Whatever happens, there will be the same mess as we are in tonight because the same ideology and values will be imposed upon the same people.

The electorate will not be fooled by what is happening today or by what we debate next Tuesday. That is why we are asking that the Bill be set aside. It has wasted a great deal of time. We have endeavoured to get the Minister to go back to the Department to fight his corner for poll tax as best he can. We have tried to concentrate on the key issues rather than becoming bogged down in the algebraic formulae. We hope that from today's debate and from our debates in Committee people will have learnt a little more about local government and about the importance of allowing decisions to be taken at local level.

Hon. Members might not be aware that in advocating that the Secretary of State should have the right, under the Bill, to determine the exact contribution from the poll tax payer to the collection fund, they have missed a provision that already exists in the Local Government Finance Act 1988. Section 99(4) of that Act already gives the Secretary of State the power to do what one Conservative Member proclaimed should have been necessary in authorities which managed, through creativity or by drawing on reserves, to avoid capping. That section allows the Secretary of State to demand adjustments in the amount placed in the collection fund if he believes that that fund exceeds the figure necessary to provide the agreed services voted through a council. Of course, that would apply whether or not that council was capped because it would be the same formula.

However, that has not been included in the Bill. The only reason for that, and the only reason for the Bill, is simply that the Government lost their court case against Lambeth. It is a piece of spite. The Government simply could not be defeated by Lambeth, of all boroughs. They could not face the fact that the High Court had proclaimed that, on this occasion, Lambeth had it right. After all that had happened over the years with court cases and with obiter dicta, when judges said that they sympathised with local government and understood why it had taken certain actions, but that nevertheless the Secretary of State had the drafting right in legislation and all power rested in Marsham street, suddenly all power did not rest there. The last tiny vestige of power to determine the poll tax level and to ensure that the collection fund was adequate to meet a given level of services was taken out of the hands of the Secretary of State. Lambeth won. As a consequence, we have wasted our time on this Bill. That is what it is all about.

The Government had the power under section 99(4) and through recent decisions to fix next year's bills through universal capping, and to compare next year's bills through the new charge relief scheme. All those things exist and all the powers are there; but Lambeth had won. We believe that capping is unnecessary; we believe that poll tax is unworkable and we think that the Government should come clean and admit defeat. They should withdraw the Bill, withdraw the poll tax and adopt our alternative. Let us go back to a common-sense scheme which will give cheaper bills, more equality and equity and greater fairness. Let us have a modern property tax, adjusted according to the ability to pay, to provide decent services for the people who vote for local authorities.

7 pm

Mr. Beith

Why have we been asked to give a Third Reading to this Bill? The Bill is before us because the courts found that there was a small gap in the Government's ability to dictate what should be the level of poll tax paid in certain local authorities. The gap was that the local authority could still charge a higher poll tax than its reduced expenditure, as a result of capping, would allow. Why is it necessary for us to give a Third Reading to the Bill in order to fill that gap? The Government have pointed out how ludicrous it would be for a local authority, having been forced to cut its services drastically by capping, not then to reduce the poll tax paid by its poll tax payers. They would be suffering a double pain and the Minister has pointed out that this would be an extraordinary consequence—so extraordinary that it would seem sufficient to remind the people of that state of affairs and invite them to the react accordingly when next given the opportunity to elect their local authority. It might well lead them to throw out the people who were in charge and replace them with others. Indeed, the whole capping mechanism seems to beg the question why the behaviour of local authorities, which the Government criticise so strongly, is not so repugnant that they get thrown out by the electorate which put them there in the first place.

There are a number of reasons why the Government have felt obliged to press ahead with this Bill rather than relying on the good sense of the local electorate. One reason is that the local electorate does not have the means to exercise its good sense because the electoral system distorts the choice that it can make. The Government know that. They are reluctant to change it because of the wider implications. It might increase the pressure for electoral reform at national level. The Government must know that; otherwise they would be ready to abandon this Bill and rely on the local electorate to throw out a local authority that visits upon the people an excessively high poll tax, even when the services have been cut because of capping. The Government are well aware that there are fiefdoms of one-party rule which arise from not having a fair electoral system. There are local authorities in which opposition voices cannot be adequately heard.

There is a second reason why the Government have felt obliged to press ahead to the Third Reading. They brought before us and enacted a tax which, in their view, should have made this Bill unnecessary. They brought forward a tax which was supposed to be so simple and so clear that everybody would understand that if they were being asked to pay too much they would react accordingly at the polls. But the people do not understand and the system is extremely complicated because it is such a bad tax. It is a flat-rate tax which does not take proper account of the ability to pay. Therefore, it has had to be cushioned and modified in more and more ways. Last week we had details of the next way in which it has to be cushioned. That cushioning is necessary because it is such a bad tax. In our view, it needs to be abolished and replaced with a local income tax. Until we have a tax that is related to ability to pay and can be collected by a competent system—we suggest the use of the existing PAYE system—all the cushioning will continue to be necessary. Therefore, local electors will not know precisely who is responsible for their high charges and, again, that will be a justification for capping. The Government will feel that they must cap the charges of the local authorities and the local electorate cannot know whose fault it is that their charges are so high.

Some of the charges that are the subject of capping are grotesquely high. The Lambeth poll tax level is ludicrously high. It should be self-evident that there is something wrong. The Government have only themselves to blame that they have produced a system that is so confusing that even under a reformed electoral system it is conceivable that the electorate of Lambeth would visit upon itself such an appallingly high tax.

The Government are pressing ahead with the Third Reading of the Bill because they do not have a proper electorate system for local authorities and they do not have a proper tax base for local government. The very fact that they are prepared to proceed to Third Reading shows clearly that they are not so handicapped as they pretend in their ability to do something about the situation. They are proceeding here with primary legislation, but in the discussions that have been referred to which I and my hon. Friends have had with Ministers the Government have been very shy about having primary legislation. They did not want to face the problems involved in bringing legislation before the House which might abolish the poll tax and replace it or modify it radically. That legislation might have been more welcome to this side of the House than the Bill we are now discussing.

Why are the Government so shy about primary legislation when they are prepared to undertake it in this respect? It is intriguing that they did not follow the line of primary legislation on capping which the Secretary of State had previously advocated. He put forward proposals which would have required a modification of this Bill. Under the proposals that he advanced capping would have continued, but there would then have been an election. A new election would have taken place—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech which is much wider than a conventional Third Reading speech. He has referred to electoral reform, local income tax and the general faults of the community charge. I wish that he would address himself specifically to the contents of the Bill.

Mr. Beith

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am drawing to a conclusion and pointing out why hon. Members should not vote for the Third Reading. I refer to the absence from it of the provision previously advocated by the Secretary of State under which, when all these procedures had been gone through and when the Government's intention of capping had been announced, it would then have been possible for an election to take place in which the local electors could have said, "Never mind, we will put up with this level of charge." That has not been put into the Bill. The Government have taken the opportunity of primary legislation and wasted it on fiddling around with the capping system which would not be necessary if the tax and the election system were both fair. There I rest my case. The Bill should not be given a Third Reading.

7.8 pm

Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

I shall be brief because many of the points raised tonight have been discussed in Committee. As one of the Members who represent Lambeth, the borough which has featured most in this Bill in terms of the number of references made to it by other speakers, I wish to make one or two relevant points.

The Minister talked about closing loopholes. We are all very clear about this, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) put it better than If could possibly do. He pointed out that the Bill is a vindictive measure which has been introduced to try to prevent Lambeth from doing what it has proved it was legally right to do. The House needs to be reminded that what we are talking about is not Lambeth behaving irresponsibly or in a way that was outside the law. We have to remind the Minister of this repeatedly because he does not seem to take account of it. I remind him of what the judge said in court. Mr. Justice Otton said that Lambeth council had behaved reasonably and that the councillors had approached their task with care. That is important, because I am getting rather fed up with hearing people continually lambasting Lambeth council.

We all know that there is room for improvement in any local authority. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) continually make that point to the leaders of the council and to others. But for Ministers continually to attack Lambeth when Mr. Justice Otton has found that it had not acted illegally does not help to establish a good working relationship between them.

The people of Lambeth are not stupid; they are intelligent. The Labour majority in Lambeth and the percentage of people who voted Labour at the council elections increased, despite the fact that it was known that the poll tax was likely to be £548. The electorate knew that: it wanted a Labour council because they were able to look across the border and see the effect of Tory councils in boroughs such as Wandsworth. People in Lambeth would obviously like a lower poll tax, but more important is what services are being delivered and how that is done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood and I realise, that there have to be improvements, and those are being worked out. The district auditor has said clearly that Lambeth council faces considerable problems but that he, is encouraged by recent initiatives to address the underlying weaknesses. That work is a major undertaking for the council, and I hope that the initial progress can be maintained. Lambeth council needs some support from the Government: it does not want to be attacked at every possible level and at every opportunity.

We are about to give a Third Reading to a Bill which prevents reasonable circumstances from being taken into consideration when a council is capped. We have not been able today to debate amendment No. 1 which would have taken into account the fact that no business or Government Department would expect to have to take new decisions on the basis of old and outdated information, and local authorities should be no different. They should be able to look at the changed circumstances, many of which have been outlined by other hon. Members.

For example, local authorities should be able to take into account such things as changes in population, how many people are paying their poll tax and, as the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, the way in which inner-city areas experience influxes of population. Even the most efficient authority, in an area where there is a willingness to pay the poll tax—which is often not the case because many simply find it difficult to do so—should still have such discretion. We have not been able to discuss today the amendment which sought to achieve that. A borough with high unemployment such as Lambeth cannot be treated in the same way as local authorities elsewhere which have not been capped.

The Opposition are opposed to the poll tax, the essential characteristic of which was meant to be accountability. Lambeth people voted for a Labour council on the basis of a high poll tax. The high poll tax remains, but services have had to be cut drastically and Lambeth people now face the possibility of an even higher poll tax next year because of the Government's policy and the changes which have in no way helped our borough.

The Government may think that the more vindictive they are towards the people of Lambeth, the more that they attack Lambeth council, the more that they try to publicise some of the rather silly things that any local authority might do, using that as a political weapon, the more the ordinary average decent person of Lambeth will be convinced that the only way to effect the changes that they want in their borough with a tax that they can afford will be to kick out the Government by solidly voting Labour at the next election.

7.14 pm
Mr. Illsley

I want to make only a few brief comments, because most of the arguments have already been gone through. This is a narrow Bill. The reasons for closing the Lambeth loophole are debatable and could have been motivated by political spite. It is clear that the Bill and the recently published regulations setting out the criteria for charge capping simply remove any last vestige of accountability for the poll tax. Charge capping destroyed the accountability so revered by the Government and the basis on which they put forward the poll tax as their flagship.

This year, as we have seen, not only has charge capping been retained, but so has the percentage limit on each authority's budget. As we have progressed, further restrictions have been imposed on local authorities, preventing the electorate from voting for the level of poll tax that they would like. The electorate does not have the luxury of going to the polls to vote against a poll tax which they believe is too high, because the Government have already taken the action for them, reducing it through charge capping and ensuring that charge capping passes on the full benefit, as the Minister calls it, although I would disagree.

The Bill is unnecessary. The poll tax as it stands cannot survive much longer. I was amused when the Secretary of State said last year that there would be a two-year review, which obviously puts it after the next general election. I am sure that many Conservative Members were as dismayed as I was when they heard that.

The revenue support grant levels that have been recently announced also show that the Secretary of State is rather more committed to the poll tax than he would have had us believe last year during the election campaign for the Conservative party leadership. I recall statements made at that time by all three of the main protagonists that the poll tax would be amended.

The Bill is absurd. Its main purpose is to attack a Labour-controlled authority. When an authority is being capped, it makes no sense not to take account of the information relevant at that time. The Minister said earlier that authorities should not be allowed to change their poll tax in mid-year. He said that authorities are all in the same boat. But with this Bill, they are clearly not all in the same boat because if the Bill is applied an authority has been singled out for charge capping, so it is not in the same position as the other local authorities. Therefore, it could be argued that, when such capping is applied, authorities should be able to take into account the shortfall in their collection to avoid passing that on to charge payers in the following year.

Standard spending assessments are the root of all evil when it comes to the poll tax. They are the basis of the charge and of charge capping and, when they are unfairly set, there are bound to be instances when charge capping is implemented. When an authority's standard spending assessments are held at a low level it will be forced to make cuts.

It is not simply a matter of SSA differences between areas; it is a matter of gross unfairness or, even worse, gross incompetence in setting the SSA. We have heard repeatedly today about the incompetence of local government, but perhaps it is the incompetence of the Government in setting the SSA so low that has caused all the problems relating to charge capping.

There can be no justification for the SSA differences that we highlighted in Committee. There is no justification for capping authorities when the standard spending assessment is determined on the basis of cost cutting. Obviously there is no justification for the Bill, and we shall vote against it.

7.21 pm
Mr. O'Brien

This is the fifty-second or fifty-third Bill to have been targeted by the Conservatives at local government over the past 11 years. It has been unnecessary from the very beginning. The explanatory and financial memorandum says: Section 35 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 imposes on charging authorities duties to set substitute amounts for their personal community charges in certain circumstances. The circumstances referred to will arise when the Secretary of State decides that certain authorities should be capped because of the level of the charges levied to provide the services demanded by the electorate.

However, Lambeth took on and beat the Government and, as a result, we have this Bill, which I consider to be misleading in many respects and unnecessary in others. I quote again from the explanatory and financial memorandum: The Bill has no implications for central government finance. And it has no significant cost implications for local authorities. That, in my opinion, is totally misleading. There is solid evidence that the Bill has, and will continue to have, financial implications for local authorities. Indeed, some of those implications will be significant.

The Audit Commission has warned the Government that in many districts more than 10 per cent. of this year's community charge proceeds may prove to be irrecoverable. According to the commission, that may result in community charge payers having to pay an additional amount of as much as £42 in 1991. The commission is issuing to local authorities guidelines for the purpose of assessing the likely extent of non-payment. That is not a Labour-controlled body—it is a Government body—yet it is warning that people will be unable to pay the poll tax and that chasing those people will be very expensive. Thus, the Bill does have financial implications. The commission says: The Government, in its £381.41 target charge, has made no allowance for the non-collection facility. I can tell the Minister that numerous local authorities are finding it difficult to collect the community charge from all the registered payers in their areas. It is recorded that more than 100,000 people who are registered in Leeds will not be residing at their permanent addresses. The Leeds city council will receive no community charge payment from those people, and it will be impossible to trace many of them as they will have left the area. Yet the Secretary of State says that the community charge level takes no account of that circumstance. It is a situation that will afflict all local authorities, particularly those in cities, which will find it most difficult to keep registers up to date. The cost of maintaining registers will have to be taken into consideration, but the Secretary of State ignores the fact that that will result in an additional burden on poll tax payers.

The Bill is targeted at local government. There is no justification for it and the Opposition will divide the House on Third Reading. We have requested that no order to cap an authority be made until the Secretary of State reports to the House the likely impact on the services that the local authority has a responsibility to deliver.

It has been pointed out that over the past 11 years the Government have repeatedly introduced legislation imposing additional responsibilities on local authorities. I refer, for instance to laws affecting children, the environment, fire services and civil defence. Housing benefit is another matter which local authorities have been required to attend to. Then there are such matters as environmental health. I put it to the House that without proper funding there will have to be cuts in services. As a result of the levels set by the Secretary of State, many of the authorities that are required to discharge these statutory responsibilities face tremendous problems in securing a collection fund capable of ensuring the provision of services. The Bill is grossly unfair and undemocratic. There is substantial evidence that it will adversely affect the ability of local authorities to discharge their statutory responsibilities. The local authority in Leeds has more statutory responsibilities than many others—responsibilities, indeed, equal to those of authorities to which the Secretary of State has given an additional allocation under the RSG formula.

Leeds has a large ethnic population, for which it has a statutory responsibility to cater. Leeds must also provide facilities for visitors. It is a regional centre, it excels in the provision of professional services and many people visit the city. That leads to greater pressure on the local authority's highway network, and traffic management facilities must also be improved. There is also a greater demand for more leisure facilities. Although a charge is made for all that, there has to be a public subsidy. The costs facing the local authority in Leeds are such that if the Secretary of State insists on expenditure being curtailed, the authority will face capping.

Because Leeds is a regional centre, the rents of commercial properties are higher than they are in many other areas and that affects the city's budget. Tourism in the area is also a growing industry. However,—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. We cannot, on Third Reading, have a review of the services provided by any of the authorities that have been charge capped.

Mr. O'Brien

I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was just making the point that the Local Government Finance Act 1988 includes the provisions that Ministers are now seeking in this Bill. There is no justification for this Bill.

If the 1988 Act contains the necessary provisions, why are we debating this Bill tonight? The 1988 Act includes the necessary provisions because they were intended to cover the kind of things that we have discussed today. We tabled amendments today to allow local authorities to take account of any changes in circumstances or of new information becoming available to them between the setting of their original poll taxes and the setting of the capping level. At no time in Committee or in the House tonight have the Government justified the need for the Bill. It is not necessary and it does nothing to enhance the services or the financing of local government. It is not justified and we will oppose its Third Reading.

7.32 pm
Mr. Portillo

With the leave of the House, I will reply. I sense that the House wants to vote, and the arguments have been debated fully already. I want simply to address one point that was made by several hon. Members, and in particular by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey), and that is the idea that there is anything vindictive about the Bill.

The Bill is not vindictive. We do not claim that Lambeth acted illegally and the matter was tested in the courts. However, following the Lambeth case, there was a loophole which we had to fill. The hon. Member for Vauxhall wrestled with a good deal of embarrassment. She knows that her council does several daft things which she had to admit she is forced to attack from time to time. However, she is bound to that council because it is run by her party.

Vindictiveness may have occurred in Lambeth's decision to try to deny to its community charge payers the benefit of having reduced its budget. The Bill corrects that vindictiveness, and for that reason I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:

The House divided: Ayes 302, Noes 225.

Division No. 45] [7.33 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Body, Sir Richard
Alexander, Richard Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Boscawen, Hon Robert
Allason, Rupert Bottomley, Peter
Amess, David Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Arbuthnot, James Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Aspinwall, Jack Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Baldry, Tony Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brazier, Julian
Batiste, Spencer Bright, Graham
Bellingham, Henry Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Bendall, Vivian Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Bevan, David Gilroy Buck, Sir Antony
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Budgen, Nicholas
Burns, Simon Haselhurst, Alan
Burt, Alistair Hawkins, Christopher
Butler, Chris Hayes, Jerry
Butterfill, John Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hayward, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carrington, Matthew Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Carttiss, Michael Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Cash, William Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hill, James
Chapman, Sydney Hind, Kenneth
Chope, Christopher Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Churchill, Mr Holt, Richard
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Colvin, Michael Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Conway, Derek Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunter, Andrew
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Irvine, Michael
Couchman, James Irving, Sir Charles
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Critchley, Julian Janman, Tim
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jessel, Toby
Curry, David Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Day, Stephen Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dover, Den King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dunn, Bob Kirkhope, Timothy
Durant, Sir Anthony Knapman, Roger
Eggar, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Emery, Sir Peter Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Knowles, Michael
Evennett, David Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lang, Ian
Fallon, Michael Latham, Michael
Favell, Tony Lawrence, Ivan
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lee, John (Pendle)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fishburn, John Dudley Lilley, Peter
Fookes, Dame Janet Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Forman, Nigel Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lord, Michael
Forth, Eric Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Franks, Cecil McCrindle, Sir Robert
Freeman, Roger Macfarlane, Sir Neil
French, Douglas MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fry, Peter MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gale, Roger Maclean, David
Gardiner, Sir George McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gill, Christopher Madel, David
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Malins, Humfrey
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Mans, Keith
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maples, John
Goodlad, Alastair Marland, Paul
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marlow, Tony
Gorst, John Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mates, Michael
Gregory, Conal Maude, Hon Francis
Grist, Ian Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Ground, Patrick Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Grylls, Michael Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hague, William Miller, Sir Hal
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Sir David
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Monro, Sir Hector
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Harris, David Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Morrison, Sir Charles Squire, Robin
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Stanbrook, Ivor
Moss, Malcolm Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mudd, David Steen, Anthony
Neale, Sir Gerrard Stern, Michael
Needham, Richard Stevens, Lewis
Neubert, Sir Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stokes, Sir John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Sumberg, David
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Summerson, Hugo
Norris, Steve Tapsell, Sir Peter
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Page, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Paice, James Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Patnick, Irvine Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thorne, Neil
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Thornton, Malcolm
Porter, David (Waveney) Thurnham, Peter
Portillo, Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Powell, William (Corby) Tracey, Richard
Price, Sir David Tredinnick, David
Raffan, Keith Trippier, David
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Trotter, Neville
Rathbone, Tim Twinn, Dr Ian
Rhodes James, Robert Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Riddick, Graham Viggers, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Walden, George
Roe, Mrs Marion Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Waller, Gary
Rost, Peter Walters, Sir Dennis
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Ward, John
Ryder, Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Warren, Kenneth
Sayeed, Jonathan Watts, John
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wheeler, Sir John
Shelton, Sir William Whitney, Ray
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Widdecombe, Ann
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wilkinson, John
Shersby, Michael Wilshire, David
Sims, Roger Winterton, Mrs Ann
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Soames, Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speed, Keith
Speller, Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Mr. Tom Sackville and
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. Tim Boswell.
Abbott, Ms Diane Bidwell, Sydney
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Blunkett, David
Allen, Graham Boateng, Paul
Alton, David Boyes, Roland
Anderson, Donald Bradley, Keith
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bray, Dr Jeremy
Armstrong, Hilary Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Buckley, George J.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Caborn, Richard
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Barron, Kevin Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Battle, John Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Beckett, Margaret Canavan, Dennis
Beggs, Roy Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Beith, A. J. Cartwright, John
Bell, Stuart Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bellotti, David Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clay, Bob
Bennett, A. F. (D'nfn & R'dish) Clelland, David
Benton, Joseph Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cohen, Harry Grocott, Bruce
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hardy, Peter
Corbett, Robin Harman, Ms Harriet
Corbyn, Jeremy Haynes, Frank
Cousins, Jim Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Cryer, Bob Henderson, Doug
Cummings, John Hinchliffe, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Cunningham, Dr John Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Darling, Alistair Home Robertson, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hood, Jimmy
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Howells, Geraint
Dewar, Donald Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Dixon, Don Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Dobson, Frank Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Doran, Frank Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Douglas, Dick Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Illsley, Eric
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Ingram, Adam
Eadie, Alexander Janner, Greville
Eastham, Ken Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Kennedy, Charles
Fatchett, Derek Kilfedder, James
Fearn, Ronald Kirkwood, Archy
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lambie, David
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Lamond, James
Fisher, Mark Leighton, Ron
Flynn, Paul Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lewis, Terry
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Litherland, Robert
Foster, Derek Livingstone, Ken
Foulkes, George Livsey, Richard
Fraser, John Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Fyfe, Maria Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Loyden, Eddie
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) McAllion, John
George, Bruce McCartney, Ian
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Macdonald, Calum A.
Godman, Dr Norman A. McFall, John
Golding, Mrs Llin McKelvey, William
Gordon, Mildred McLeish, Henry
Gould, Bryan McMaster, Gordon
Graham, Thomas McWilliam, John
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Madden, Max
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Maginnis, Ken
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John Ruddock, Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Salmond, Alex
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Sedgemore, Brian
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Sheerman, Barry
Martlew, Eric Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maxton, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Meacher, Michael Short, Clare
Meale, Alan Sillars, Jim
Michael, Alun Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Morgan, Rhodri Soley, Clive
Morley, Elliot Spearing, Nigel
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Steinberg, Gerry
Mowlam, Marjorie Stott, Roger
Mullin, Chris Strang, Gavin
Murphy, Paul Straw, Jack
Nellist, Dave Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Brien, William Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Hara, Edward Turner, Dennis
O'Neill, Martin Vaz, Keith
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wallace, James
Parry, Robert Walley, Joan
Patchett, Terry Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Pendry, Tom Wareing, Robert N.
Pike, Peter L. Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Primarolo, Dawn Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Quin, Ms Joyce Wigley, Dafydd
Radice, Giles Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Randall, Stuart Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Redmond, Martin Wilson, Brian
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Winnick, David
Reid, Dr John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Robertson, George Worthington, Tony
Rogers, Allan Wray, Jimmy
Rooker, Jeff Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rooney, Terence
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Tellers for the Noes:
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Mr. Thomas McAvoy and
Rowlands, Ted Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.