HC Deb 11 June 1991 vol 192 cc845-80
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I beg to move amendment No. 41, in page 2, line 4, at end insert: 'The Secretary of State shall not treat the total estimated expenses of an authority as excessive when the budget set by the authority results in an increase in expenditure less than the rate of inflation prevailing at the time budget is set.'.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

With this it will be convenient to take the following Amendments: No. 3, in page 2, leave out lines 7 to 26 and insert—for paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 to the 1987 Act there shall be substituted—

  1. "(1) In determining whether an increase in expenses by a local authority is excessive, the Secretary of State shall have regard to:
    1. (a) the level of unemployment in the area in the preceding three years;
    2. (b) the age structure of the population and the reports on the general levels of health as measured by heart disease;
    3. (c) the condition of the housing stock and the numbers on the housing waiting lists;
    4. (d) the numbers in receipt of income support;
    5. (e) the number of one-parent families; and
    6. (f) the number of disabled.".'.

No. 42, in page 2, leave out lines 7 to 11.

No. 43, in page 2, leave out lines 12 to 19.

No. 44, in page 2, line 13, leave out 'the end' and insert "'enactment'".

No. 45, in page 2, line 18, leave out from 'to' to end of line 19 and insert 'new burdens placed on local authorities as a result. of legislation from central government'.

No. 46, in page 2, line 19, at end insert 'and (c) shall have regard for the impact on the services available to, and the welfare of, the relevant population resulting from any action under this Act.'.

No. 47, in page 2, line 19, at end insert— 'The Secretary of State shall not have regard to grant aided expenditure assessments when deciding if an authority's planned expenses are excessive as indicated in paragraph 4 of Finance Circular 16/1990 issued by the Scottish Office.'.

Mr. Maxton

Clause 2 has been designed to bring Scotland into line with England and Wales in terms of capping powers. It extends dramatically the powers that the Secretary of State for Scotland will have to decide levels of spending in local authorities.

Amendment No. 41 and those linked with it, including those tabled by the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, are designed to limit that power, so that it will not be quite as sweeping as it otherwise would have been.

All of us on the Opposition Benches—there are riot many on the Conservative Benches—would have wished to see clause 2 deleted completely, but as the clause was passed on Second Reading, we have no option but to keep it as it is.

However, the powers that the Secretary of State is taking under the clause will, if enacted and used, so limit local democracy in Scotland that it will become almost meaningless. Under the clause, he will have almost complete power to decide what he believes is an excessive increase in expenses of a local authority.

When the Secretary of State looks at the planned expenditure of any local authority, he will be able to say that the increase that it is proposing is excessive, even though it may be below the rate of inflation. It may be, as has often been the case in the past few years, that the increase in local government costs is higher than the increase in the retail prices index.

The Secretary of State may still deem that the increase—which may be designed to do no more than to maintain services at existing levels—is excessive, and force the authority to reduce its poll tax—or, if by some freak, the Government win the next general election, its council tax—and bring cuts in its services.

The people whose services are cut at the whim of the Secretary of State are the same people who elected the local authority on the basis that it would provide certain services—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the quorum?"] My hon. Friends rightly ask about a quorum. If this were a Standing Committee, the Government would not have a quorum and would be unable to continue with their business. Perhaps the rules of this Chamber should be brought into line with those that apply upstairs.

8 pm

The Government may, in certain circumstances, impose new duties on local authorities that lead to increased expenditure. Even then, the Secretary of State may decide that such expenditure is excessive. For example, in the past few years, school boards, primary school tests, and community care have meant increased expenditure for local authorities on behalf of central Government, often against their better judgment—but they have not necessarily been exempted by the Secretary of State's capping powers.

The Secretary of State already controls the level of central Government grant to each local authority, and the level of non-domestic rates. Under the new powers in clause 2, he will have almost complete control over local authority expenditure and income.

The likely future for local authorities has been clearly illustrated by the Government's treatment of Lothian region this financial year. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends from Lothian will want to add to my comments. Under the threat of capping, Lothian regional authority reluctantly agreed to reduce its poll tax rather than be subjected to capping. The Secretary of State deemed that Lothian's increased expenditure was excessive and unreasonable. I emphasise the word "unreasonable" because, under the proposed new clause, that criterion will disappear.

Lothian's increase was 11.2 per cent.—a higher percentage increase than Strathclyde, Grampian or Highland. However, it was the same percentage increase as Tayside, and lower than that of the Borders, Central, Dumfries, Galloway and Fife.

Lothian's revenue support grant per poll tax payer is the lowest in Scotland. At £453 per head, it is well below that for the Borders, at £798, and for Dumfries and Galloway, at £781. Lothian's expenditure per poll tax payer is, at £1,222, well below the Scottish average, and the third lowest in Scotland.

If Lothian had received the average Scottish revenue support grant, its poll tax would have been only £133 per person after the Government's £144 reduction. Why did the Secretary of State decide that Lothian's expenditure increase was excessive and unreasonable? I will be happy to give way to the Minister if he will tell the House why Lothian's figures warranted the description of an excessive and unreasonable increase. As the Minister is nodding, I can only assume that it was because Lothian's expenditure was set to increase grant-aided expenditure by 12.18 per cent.

Last October, the Scottish Office issued finance circular 16/1990, which stated, in paragraph 4: It is important to emphasise that the authorities grant-aided expenditure has been arrived at principally for the purpose of determining and distributing grant. It is for each local authority to decide the level of services reasonably required in its area, having regard to the interests of the local community both as users of those services and as poll tax payers. The grant-aided expenditure is not an expenditure guideline and should not be regarded as such. Why is it right for the Government to decide that grant-aided expenditure shall not be an expenditure guideline, but then to use it in deciding that a local authority's expenditure is excessive?

Under the present regulations and law, the Secretary of State's only threat has nothing to do with fact or logic, or with levels of expenditure, and everything to do with levels of poll tax and political prejudice. There was a blatant attempt to discredit the Lothian region Labour administration for political ends, in the slim hope that Labour in both Lothian and Scotland would suffer and that the Tories might win back some of the seats that they lost in 1987—or, more likely, might manage to hang on to some of the seats that they still hold in Scotland. That is very unlikely, but that is why the Secretary of State used the powers that he did. His use of them had nothing to do with local government expenditure or protecting poll tax levels. It had to do with trying to protect the Tory party's last slender hopes of keeping any seats in Scotland.

If, under the existing law, the Secretary of State can use his powers in such an arbitrary and biased manner, how much more frightening are the powers that he is now attempting to take? The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities estimates that, if one applied the same accounting criteria in England and Wales, 31 district councils and five regional councils would have faced capping this year. The Minister may disagree, but that is a good, sound estimate, made by people who are very experienced in local government finance.

We have tabled the amendments to put some blocks on the Secretary of State's excessive powers. It will be for the other parties to explain their amendments, but ours are designed to restore the status quo and to retain the criterion of unreasonableness. That is a weak criterion—as the Secretary of State proved this year, it does not stand up—but at least he is obliged to make some effort to explain his actions, whereas under the new powers he seeks, he would not have to do so.

Our amendments also try to ensure that, if a local authority keeps its expenditure below the rate of inflation, it will not be capped. At present, there is no guarantee of that. An authority could increase its expenditure by less than the rate of inflation and still be capped, because the Secretary of State deems its increased expenditure excessive.

Our amendments also require the Secretary of State to take account of new burdens placed on local authorities by central Government legislation. Finally, they say that the Secretary of State cannot use grant-aided expenditure as his guide.

The truth is that the Government dislike the very concept of local democracy. They have been in power for so long that they are now abusing power.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

It is corrupt.

Mr. Maxton

I would not necessarily have used that particular word, but I accept the implication. As Lord Acton says, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Nowadays, if any authority wants to do things differently from the Government and has different ideas —even if it has been elected by the people—the Government wish to curtail its power, thus reducing its ability to perform its proper functions. The Government's arrogance is breathtaking: they believe that they are better able to decide what the people of Scotland want, although the people of Scotland have rejected them time and again. They cannot accept that local authorities elected by local people know what is best for those people, and should be free to make decisions without excessive interference on the part of central Government.

Neither clause 2—even if it is amended—nor the Bill in its entirety can end the desperate crisis that faces local government and many poll tax payers. The Government frantically abandoned the poll tax as they realised what a disaster it had become—a disaster which, incidentally, Opposition Members had predicted from the outset. Having abandoned it, however, they were not prepared to face the consequences of their own crass stupidity.

I now hear that the Secretary of State never supported the poll tax. I have heard through various grapevines that he does not believe in it. Perhaps, after the next general election, he will be free to write his memoirs and tell us whether that is true.

Instead of introducing clause 2 and the dictatorial powers contained in the Bill as a whole, the Government should have abolished the 20 per cent. minimum payment, backdated rebates for those who did not claim in time and restored local authorities' discretion to waive payment in cases where collection would cause hardship. If the 20 per cent. payment is wrong in 1993, it is wrong now, and should go now.

Above all, the Government should get rid of the poll tax as soon as possible. If they swallowed their pigheaded pride and recognised publicly that their so-called council tax was an inferior version of the old rating system, they could, even now, withdraw the Bill and present another to reintroduce the rating system on 1 April 1992.

We have said repeatedly that if the Government did that we would give their Bill every assistance. If they wanted to reform it later—as they suggest in the council tax legislation—there would be nothing to stop them doing so, in the unlikely event of their winning the next general election. Clause 2 of this Bill, however, does nothing to solve the problems that they have created for local authorities.

The amendment may improve the situation only partially, but any measure to reduce the extraordinary powers that the Secretary of State is trying to take must surely be tried. I ask my hon. Friends to support it in the Lobby.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) for his extensive references to Lothian region. I hope that people throughout Scotland will have the opportunity to see a still from a television shot of the Chamber, revealing that, during the first part of his speech, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), sat on the Front Bench in almost solitary splendour—accompanied by the Whip, his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). Leeds, North-East is, of course, a well-known Scottish constituency.

The Secretary of State for Scotland—the leader of the minority administration at the Scottish Office—has now arrived to double the Scottish Tory representation. Yet again, the Secretary of State—in this case, the right hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang) —has taken it on himself to set the budget for Lothian regional council.

I have probably been involved in setting local taxes in Scotland, nominally at least, more often as a Member of Parliament than as a Scottish district councillor, which I was for five years. That says a good deal about the march of centralisation under the present Government. Nowadays, instead of taxes and budgets being set by people who are accountable to the local electorate, they are set by people from Cornwall to Muckle Flugga—including people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are answerable not to the Scottish electorate but to the whim of Government Whips such as the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East. So much for local accountability and local democracy.

8.15 pm

This is not an obscure debate about local government finance; nor, indeed, is the Bill an honest measure to protect local taxpayers. That is the fig leaf behind which the Government try to hide in their attempt to justify poll tax capping—or rate capping, as it used to be called. We hear from Ministers, again and again, that the aim is to protect local taxpayers from profligate local authorities. The Bill, however, represents yet another part of the Government's discriminatory and vindictive campaign against local services in selected parts of Scotland.

My constituency suffered more than most from central interference in local affairs during the Thatcher years. Here we are again, under the new, supposedly squeaky clean Prime Minister, suffering exactly the same treatment. The image makers are working overtime nowadays. It seems to me that the only difference between this crocodile and the last is the fact that this one seems to smile a little more often.

Ministers have taken powers to intervene in local government budgeting where they see fit to judge, purely subjectively, that the plans of elected local representatives are excessive and unreasonable. It beats me how on earth the perpetrators of the poll tax can be deemed fit judges of what is excessive or unreasonable. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart said that the Secretary of State for Scotland had tried to distance himself from the poll tax; I find that amazing.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)


Mr. Home Robertson

I am glad to hear it, because remember vividly—as will my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart—the long, weary hours in the Standing Committee on the so-called Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, when the right hon. Gentleman was one of the Members who supported the legislation through thick and thin. We tried to warn them then: we told them it would be a disaster, that it would be unfair and that it would lose the party elections. Virtually all the Tory Members on the Committee lost their seats, but still they would not learn. Now, finally, the penny seems to have dropped; but we cannot trust such people to be objective judges of what is unreasonable in local government budgeting.

The Secretary of State considers it excessive and unreasonable for pensioners in Lothian region—including the far-flung parts of my constituency—to have the free bus passes for which people in Lothian voted, as they have done repeatedly in local elections. He also thinks that a range of other local services are unreasonable and excessive—for instance, the Abbey residential home for old people in North Berwick, which is to be closed because of the package of cuts he has imposed on the region. The right hon. Gentleman wants to take credit for taking £18.5 million out of Lothian's budget and cutting the poll tax, but he must also face the consequences of the painful cuts that our constituents are having to suffer.

The services to which I refer are not luxuries; they are vital to the well being of the elderly, the disabled and others who rely on them. The minority regime at St. Andrew's house, however, considers them excessive and unreasonable.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has given himself the power—and now he seeks more power—to set the budgets of Scottish local authorities. But he has left the responsibility for providing local services and responsibility to the local electorate with local councillors. It was Rudyard Kipling, was it not, who referred to power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages"? Kipling knew a thing or two about the law of the jungle, and one wonders with what reptiles he would have compared Scottish Ministers, given their conduct over the years. Their judgment has been shown once again to be excessively and unreasonably harsh and arbitrary.

Let us look in detail at the situation in Lothian region, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart has already referred. Lothian has been capped again by the Government. As my hon. Friend said, for a start, Lothian regional council gets less Government subsidy per head than any other region in Scotland. It receives £88 per head less in subsidy than the Scottish average, and £117 a head less than the constituents of the Secretary of State, in Dumfries and Galloway region.

Grant discrimination makes it inevitable that Lothian has to set a higher local tax than anywhere else in Scotland. The inefficiency and cost of the poll tax system makes the position even worse. My hon. Friend said that the Government were abolishing the poll tax system. Would to God they were. If their plans are carried through, that system will last not only throughout the current year but for another two or three years, under the programme that they have in mind, complete with the surcharge which people on very low incomes still have to pay. The poll tax is still very much with the people of Scotland. The inefficient and costly system dreamed up by the Government is still hurting people in our country.

The Secretary of State has seen to it that Lothian starts with a built-in disadvantage because of the discriminatory distribution of central Government grant. Lothian regional council has tried to make the best of a difficult job by setting a modest budget—£10 per head lower than the average for Scottish regions, and £19 a head less than Dumfries and Galloway regional council, which covers the area represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland —[Interruption.] I do not know why the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) is pulling such faces at me; I am only citing figures that were provided in reply to parliamentary questions. I can refer to them more closely if he likes.

Despite Lothian's prudent budgeting, Government manipulation has left us with the highest poll tax in Britain outside Lambeth. That would be bad enough, but to add insult to injury, the Secretary of State now seeks to cut £18.5 million out of the Budget. He tries to take the credit for cutting the poll tax, while leaving councillors to face the music for the loss of pensioners' bus passes, and the other cuts for which the Secretary of State is personally responsible. He will not get away with it—at least, the Secretary of State himself may survive because he has given an extra subsidy to people in his part of the world, but the previous Secretary of State, now Secretary of State for Transport, and the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) will have a job explaining to their constituents why they have to put up with worse services and such a high poll tax because of the financial gerrymandering of the Scottish Office. They cannot be allowed to get away with it, and they will not.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

After a fairly long Committee sitting we have come to the clause which applies to Scotland. Although we are discussing amendment No. 41, moved by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) I should like to allude to amendment No. 3, tabled by my hon. Friends and myself, which has not been given pride of place. It has the same thrust as the other amendments in the group, and would have the same impact on a situation that causes great concern.

With great respect, I have to say that the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) has been looking backwards and considering the Secretary of State's current powers, but we are concerned about the powers that the right hon. Gentleman intends to take, the thrust of which would be to relate the Scottish position to that in England and Wales. That should cause us all great concern, because the basis of local authority finance in Scotland, as we all know, is significantly different.

The main burden of my remarks may not seem to relate strictly to our amendment, because that would affect schedule 3 to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, but I want to relate it to the Scottish experience. I want to ask the Secretary of State about grant-aided expenditure, to which the hon. Member for Cathcart alluded. Will the Minister tell me whether we are to move away from the criteria in the substantial document, "Grant-Aided Expenditure"? That document bears some examination, because its case rests not on prejudice but on some degree of objectivity—although not perfect objectivity, of course.

If the Committee will forgive me, I shall quote the introductory paragraph of that document for 1991–92: The tables presented in the main part of this report show the calculation of Grant Aided Expenditure…for 1991–92 for regional, district and island authority services. These calculations are prepared using the client group approach which is a systematic means of allocating a predetermined level of expenditure equitably among local authorities. It should he noted that the client group approach does not determine the level of provision in absolute terms nor its distribution between services. The total relative GAE for a local authority is the sum of the separate assessments for individual services. The total estimates of GAE for each authority are used by the Scottish Office as the basis for the distribution of the Revenue Support Grant. That is the basis for the distribution of a grant. It is not to be used to determine whether expenditure is excessive. I ask the Minister whether it will be used as such. I shall happily give way if I am wrong, and we can save a lot of time, but, if I am correct in my assumption, in order to allocate the distribution of the rate support grant we shall use a device which sub-groups of local authorities have worked out with the Scottish Office over a period of years. I do not say that it is perfect; we may have disagreements about it—I am sure that Lothian would, and other authorities might, disagree with it—but there is a certain sense in which it can be regarded as a touchstone. We are moving away from that.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has sent me an appendix which says: In England the capping criteria has been in place for some time and is normally centred around both the movement on a year to year basis in an authority's budget and what excess, if any, that budget generates in respect of that authority's standard spending assessment as set by the Government. The likelihood is that in Scotland instead of measuring excesses against SSA, the equivalent will be an authority's grant-aided expenditure assessment. COSLA, the local authorities in Scotland and the Committee deserve an answer, not in the sweet by and by, but now. COSLA's appendix continues: This is a matter of particular concern as it has never been accepted either by the Convention or its member councils that GAE assessments are in any way a true and accurate assessment of what each authority should be spending. That is the gravamen of my criticism of what the Government are trying to do. On later clauses we shall discuss the intentions on valuation.

The hon. Member for East Lothian spoke about the effect of previous legislation on Lothian and other regions. As the hon. Member for Cathcart said, by giving the Government the powers that they seek in the clause, we would bring many local authorities that are excluded from capping powers within the ambit of those powers. Restrictions imposed by the words "excessive" and "unreasonable" will be removed.

Those are enormous powers to give any Secretary of State, but they are enormous powers to give a Secretary of State in a Government who have rested their case for the reform of local authority finance on the basis of local autonomy and accountability.

8.30 pm

We are giving the Government enormous powers to interfere with local autonomy and accountability because they have moved into the local authority sphere. The Minister, no doubt, will tell us what percentage of local authority revenue will come from the so-called council tax, but it must be about £1 in £10. The Government say that Scottish local authorities will collect council tax revenue of about £800 million, but that if they try to raise extra revenue to meet need caused, for example, by higher unemployment, the United Kingdom's macro-economic structure will disintegrate. I do not believe that. It may happen if local authorities that are responsible for 50 million people decided to do it, but not when authorities are responsible for 5 million people.

The hon. Member for Cathcart rightly said that we are concerned about having the poll tax for longer than is desirable. Anyone who is aware of the exigencies of the poll tax would not want it to continue longer. The Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats have devised systems of local income tax. I have alluded to that before, so will not go into it.

Mr. Maxton

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but at a conference that I attended recently, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) suggested the replacement of the poll tax not by a local income tax but by 100 per cent. Government grant to local government. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would clarify that.

Mr. Douglas

I am not avoiding the question, but things have moved on. The Government raised VAT to 17.5 per cent. and are now responsible for 90 per cent. of local authority revenue. But should they so desire, they could become responsible for 100 per cent. Collection of the poll tax is down to 50 per cent. As a short-term expedient to save local government the embarrassment of trying to collect an uncollectable tax, the Government should have offered 100 per cent. support and the poll tax would have been abolished at a stroke.

A Labour Government would have to consider that, because they would be unable expeditiously to introduce the so-called fair rates. Capital value assessments and valuations will not be introduced until 1993 at the earliest, and that will impose enormous burdens on Scottish local authorities. We agree with the hon. Member for Cathcart and were ahead of the Labour party in suggesting that the 20 per cent. rule should be abolished.

Mr. Maxton

indicated dissent.

Mr. Douglas

We may cavil about that, so let me put it gently: there is no disagreement that the 20 per cent. rule should be abolished and that students and others should be exempt from the poll tax.

The Government have a responsibility to bridge the gap in revenue. Perhaps VAT should be increased further, but the most efficient measure is the standard rate of tax. In the long term, we propose a local income tax, which could be introduced by 1 April 1992 if we began now.

The powers that are being sought by the Government cannot be justified. They cannot speak of the autonomy or accountability of local authorities when they determine what an authority will do, when they are responsible for 90 per cent. of its revenue and when they are saying, "No matter what the electors of the area want, we will determine what is excessive."

Earlier, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment said that he was horrified when he spoke to unelected people who said that they were speaking for areas. If we diminish the role of local authorities, non-elected people will speak for areas, because it will be difficult to attract councillors of a sufficient calibre and local authorities will not be accountable to their electorates.

The Government must make up their mind about whether they want to give local authorities real power, and that means accountability for revenue. They cannot drive a wedge between authorities' accountability for the services that they offer yet at the same time determine what revenue they can raise.

The Government are moving not only from the criteria that have been established to determine what is excessive but from grant-aided expenditure. They are trying to make Scotland follow the English model of the standard spending assessment by using a device that was not designed for that purpose. The tenuous trust that has been established between Scottish local authorities and the Scottish Office will be eroded and the Government will pay a heavy price.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

The Liberal Democrats' amendment No. 46 has the same general thrust as that moved by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). He sought to ensure that capping powers should not be imposed if local authority spending was contained within the rate of inflation. We seek to ensure that the Government would not impose capping without taking account of the impact on the local community and on the welfare provisions. In all honesty, the amendments are merely devices within the framework of the Bill to try to constrain the application of capping powers. As all the speeches have shown, it is the principle that we fundamentally oppose.

It will be interesting to hear the Minister defend and justify the Government's position, but no doubt he has a brief that will eat all the words ever delivered and spouted by his predecessors when they gave us what it would be fair to call lectures on the need to introduce a system of local financing which would ensure accountability to the electorate. That is now a dead duck. Accountability to the local electorate is no longer one of the Government's objectives.

However, there is a more worrying issue. I am not sure whether it would be appropriate, so I shall not identify the person involved, but I spoke to a member of the Government when the Government announced the abolition of the poll tax. He passionately supported the poll tax, but said that, once people realised that the Government were setting up a separate system of tax collection to produce precisely 14 per cent. of local government expenditure, they would start to wonder, "What kind of crazy system is that?" The Government are trying to impose capping powers on local authorities which, in any case, will have the right to raise only about 14 per cent. of their total expenditure from that source. How can that be?

The argument that used to be deployed was the minginess of the Government's support grant. That was the weapon that the Government used before, and it was pretty effective. When local authority ability to raise revenue is squeezed to such an extent, it is extraordinary that the Government should now introduce comprehensive capping powers.

I remember the number of occasions when the Secretary of State for Scotland boasted to the House about how he was able to administer local government in Scotland without recourse to capping. Throughout the period of the crisis with the rates, throughout the revaluation, throughout the introduction of the poll tax and its entire administration, the Scottish Office stood alone, proud that it did not have to introduce capping. Now that the poll tax has been swept away, to the Government's eternal humiliation, capping is suddenly not only necessary, but necessary as a permanent and absolute power to be available for use against all authorities on every occasion. That seems an extraordinary development.

There are several questions that we must ask the Minister. How does he believe that it is appropriate to have a system of local government finance which requires a separate tax collection system that yields only 14 per cent. of local authority expenditure? How can we trust him and his colleagues in the Scottish Office to determine what is excessive and extravagant and to determine what criteria to use to judge authorities' performance?

I echo the words of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) about the breakdown of trust that will follow between the Scottish Office and local authorities. There has been a basic understanding that the Government have a certain degree of right, and that there was a client relationship. Reference has been made to the confusion about how the rate support grant was calculated. In spite of the client group approach, there was some mystery about how each local authority's revenue and support grant was determined. However, it was accepted that there was a rough and ready justice and that the approach was broadly fair.

However, when the only determinant is the arbitrary judgment of Ministers who are beleaguered, whose backs are against the wall and who are facing political annihilation, one cannot believe that there is an objective analysis. There will be a simple, blatant political fix designed to try to secure the preservation of the species. The record and the experience of the past few years should tell the Government that it will not work, but that does not stop them trying.

8.45 pm

The people of Scotland are pretty fed up with the Government and with the contempt with which local government has been treated. They are also pretty fed up with the way in which they are encouraged to vote for local councillors whom they duly elect, but are then treated with contempt on the ground that the councillors whom they have elected cannot be trusted to fulfil their obligations. The Government cannot say that not enough people vote. People have the right to vote; if they do not turn out to vote, it is not the Government's job to determine at what level to intervene and decide whether a vote is invalid. There are parliamentary constituencies in which the turnout to vote is not what it should be, but I accept that this is not the appropriate moment to discuss exactly how the House is elected and the relationship between the votes cast and the seats won.

I say merely that either elected democratic local government has a place in the future or it does not. The clause appears to mark the end of real democratic, accountable local government. The Minister and his party will be held accountable for that. He is making it extremely difficult to ensure that in future we have local authorities that can be trusted not only by the people but in their working relationship with central Government. If he destroys that trust and the working relationship between the Government and local authorities, which works pretty well in Scotland, despite the conflicts that have emerged, he will have destroyed a vital mechanism for delivering local services tailored to local needs and priorities. That is what the Government are abolishing and they will be held to account for it.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

So far, this has been a rather odd debate because it has taken place entirely between members of the Opposition. No Scottish Tory Back-Bencher is present to listen to this debate which affects Scotland and no Conservative Members are even rising to speak.

I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who earlier repeated the famous quotation about the prerogative of the harlot being power without responsibility. At least it can be said of the harlot that she is prepared to play an active role.

During last week's debate, I interrupted the Secretary of State to ask him to name the Scottish councils that he thought were extravagant and wasteful. He said that he could happily leave that to the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), and that he would do so eloquently. The hon. Member for Eastwood did not name one such council, because he could not. All he did was to reply in a nit-picking way to some points that had been made in the debate and merely mentioned various resources that had been allocated. Once again, he made a speech of the type that leads people to be deceived because they believe that the resources are hard cash instead of merely the ability to borrow money or to raise money through the sale of assets. Once again, an attempt was made to mislead.

Strathclyde especially is facing massive cuts on top of its previous round of cuts. That leaves it with extremely serious decisions to make. The earlier round of cuts has caused the axing of many worth while voluntary bodies which were doing a great job in their communities but which have been forced to either give up their work entirely or to curtail it considerably.

I mention specifically one function of Strathclyde region, which is not a statutory duty but is nevertheless a welcome and respected function—the provision of nurseries for the under-fives. In my constituency, the local regional councillor, Neelam Bakshi, myself and local parents had to put up quite a struggle to preserve a nursery. The region accepted our views, but it has to be said that the need for a nursery in that one small part of one constituency in Glasgow is at least double the places provided in the area. Only yesterday, the Government said that they would provide 160 creche places for customers of Glasgow development agency, which would be funded partly by the private sector and partly by the public sector. They have at least recognised that the need is there. If they recognise that, why cannot they ensure that the resources are there when local authorities are providing that service instead of forcing the authority to consider cuts?

It is obvious that the Government are simply using their powers, which stem from their majority in the House, to force cuts that they cannot justify. It is interesting that they want to remove the word "unreasonable" from local government legislation, which says that if spending is "excessive and unreasonable", the Government will take powers to cut it. They have never been able to show that Scottish local authorities acted unreasonably. They simply change the goalposts and remove that word. If they were able to provide evidence, they would have done so and they have had ample opportunity to do so over the past 12 years. They have never been able to talk about any Scottish local authority in those terms.

We have made the point before and we will make it over and over again until this lot are shifted out of power. When the Division Bell rings tonight, the majority will come trooping through the Lobbies with no idea what they are voting on and what the effect will be on Scotland. They know nothing and they could not care less. They will then wonder why they are so unpopular in Scotland. I do not know what it takes to tell them—except the next general election.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

I had not intended to make a contribution to the debate, but the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) has goaded me into making a contribution from the Conservative Benches. I promise that it will not be a lengthy contribution and I do not usually disappoint the Opposition when I make such a pledge.

In my early days in public life, I served as a member and chairman of a parish council, as a member, chairman and leader of a district council, as a member of a county council and as a committee chairman of a county council committee. In those days, as today, parish councils had to precept the big brother council—the district, city or borough council—for the money that they had to spend. They do not collect their own money; they precept the district councils for the money. However, parish councillors still work out their spending plans and their priorities. It does not make any difference who collects the tax.

What really matters to the councillors who are elected is to ensure that the money is spent wisely for the sake of the people who have elected them on to the parish council. The system works well and I do not see why the Opposition should make such a fuss about who collects the tax as long as the elected councillors have the opportunity to fix their own priorities and their own spending plans.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)


The Temporary Chairman

I call Mr. Thomas Graham.

Mr. McAllion

This must be the first occasion on which I have been mistaken for my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). I am sure that any comparison would withstand an objective analysis.

The group of amendments relates to the Government's attempts to strengthen the capping powers available to the Secretary of State for Scotland. To understand fully the significance of the amendments with which we are trying to change clause 2, it will be helpful to look back at some of the recent history of capping.

I remember well the 1986 Green Paper review of local government finance. At that time, we were assured that capping would be a transitional measure which would be phased out as the poll tax was phased in and that the poll tax would ultimately prove to be the system of accountability in local government which would render unnecessary capping powers for the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for Wales and for the Environment. We were told that everyone would pay the poll tax, that everyone would have a stake and that everyone would therefore hold to account the local authorities whose spending was deemed to be excessive and unreasonable. We were told that with the advent of the poll tax, capping would be rendered completely redundant.

Looking back to 1986, I am struck by the fact that the review paper was quite touchingly innocent in its belief about what would come to pass. Things did not quite work out as the authors of the Green Paper intended. The poll tax ran into inevitable political trouble and as the poll tax receded, so did the early confidence that the Government had shown in it.

Capping began to make a comeback. We were first told that the poll tax would take a number of years to work and that we had to have capping powers as a weapon of last resort. We were then told that capping powers were not a weapon of last resort, but a reserve power that might have to be used from time to time. From a reserve power, capping became a selective action power. In clause 2, we are told that capping is a necessary power without which the Secretary of State cannot perform his function as the head of the Scottish arm of the Government.

Ministers will seek to assure us that clause 2 simply brings Scottish capping powers into line with those available to the Secretaries of State for Wales and for the Environment. They will also tell us that we need stronger capping powers in Scotland because the current powers available to the Secretary of State are limited and prevent him from fulfilling the role that the Government intend for him. However, that means that the Secretary of State for Scotland will now be able to determine not only the level of local tax in a local authority area, but the level of local services in the area.

I come from Dundee. The only time the citizens of Dundee see the Secretary of State for Scotland is when he sweeps into the city in a big car cavalcade and poses briefly in front of the television cameras for an opening or a launch. He then sweeps out of the city before most people in Dundee are aware that he has been there. Usually the first inkling that the people in Dundee have that he has been in the city is when they turn on their televisions at night and realise that he was there earlier in the day.

I understand why the Secretary of State may prefer that. He knows that he is neither popular nor charismatic, especially with Dundonians. It is always better to be safe than sorry, so why tell people in Dundee that he is coming to the city? It is best for him to get in and out of the city before people realise that he has been there. That is the safest way in which the Secretary of State can visit Dundee.

The man who is almost frightened to show his face in the city is the same person who will ultimately decide the level of local taxes in Dundee. He is the same person who will ultimately decide the level of local services in Dundee. He is the same person who has never stood for election at any level in Dundee and never will. The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) stood for election in Dundee a long time ago. He registered a respectable 19,000 votes in the constituency of Dundee, East. May I remind him that the Tory candidate at the last election in Dundee registered an unhealthy 5,000 votes? That is not to say that the hon. Member for Eastwood was a much better candidate than those who have stood in the years since. It simply reflects the fact that the Tory party is that much more unpopular than in the 1970s when he stood in the city.

9 pm

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

On my hon. Friend's point about the Secretary of State sweeping into Dundee and sweeping out, perhaps the Secretary of State can do that with such alacrity because there are roads in and out of Dundee. The Secretary of State never comes to Kilmarnock because if he ever gets there, he will not get back up the A77 safely.

Mr. McAllion

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. I remind him that we have roads in and out of Dundee because we have a Labour administration in Tayside regional council which has made sure that we have roads.

We are expected to approve the powers given to the Secretary of State for Scotland in clause 2, knowing that that would give him the authority to cap local expenditure, not in accordance with criteria generally agreed in the House, agreed between the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Scottish Office Ministers or agreed in any other way, but in accordance with criteria on which the Secretary of State for Scotland alone decides and on the basis of judgments which he alone makes.

Whatever happened to democracy, accountability and direct elections in Scotland? In this alleged Mother of Parliaments we are expected to pass a clause which effectively will be a licence to the Secretary of State for Scotland to exercise what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) described on Second Reading as arbitrary authority. Unless we approve the limitations which the amendments propose on the powers available to the Secretary of State for Scotland, we shall give him unparalleled power at local government level and make a reality of what was once merely a political slogan —that the Secretary of State for Scotland was merely a colonial governor. If the Secretary of State is given the powers in the clause, he will be a colonial governor in Scotland.

The limitations in the amendments are moderate—perhaps in keeping with my party these days. The amendments deal with moderate issues such as expenditure. If local government expenditure rises at less than the rate of inflation there should be no capping. I cannot understand why the Secretary of State for Scotland assumes that he would need to cap local government expenditure if it was rising at less than the rate of inflation.

The amendments also say that capping should be applied only where it is reasonable to do so. If the Secretary of State cannot accept that, he is telling the Committee that capping should be applied where it is unreasonable to do so and that he wishes to retain the power for the Secretary of State for Scotland unreasonably to cap local authorities throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. If that is what he is saying, I am sure that he will not say it very loudly when the general election comes.

Our limitations would also require that decisions on capping should not be made solely on the basis of the Secretary of State's judgment but that others should be involved in deciding what criteria should be applied where capping is thought to be the obvious route to take. The amendments also suggest that account should be taken of the new burdens placed on local authorities by central Government legislation. Surely that is a reasonable thing to ask.

The demands in the amendments are not excessive. By any standard they are sweet reason itself. If the Minister and the Government find it impossible to accept them, we must conclude that they are the people who are excessive, extreme and not fit to be in government. In the Government's arguments about the clause, especially on Second Reading, we heard a strange and novel doctrine being spun. It is the idea that local voters cannot be trusted to think for themselves and that they are not fit to decide who should be elected to their councils and who should make decisions about raising local revenue to pay for local services. We have been told that the Secretary of State for Scotland must decide for them, although he would describe it otherwise.

The Secretary of State once said—I think that it was in a statement to the House—that we were dealing with greater accountability to the national taxpayer rather than to the local taxpayer. But the problem with that argument is that the national taxpayers did not vote for the Secretary for Scotland either. So he does not have that democratic figleaf. Ministers are exercising power and making decisions at national and local level without ever having been elected either at local or national level in Scotland. That is the system which was described by Tory Members as unacceptable when it operated in eastern Europe, but which they use to mask their electoral weakness in Scotland and excuse their right to run Scotland without any democratic mandate.

Some Conservative Members referred to what they described as a breakdown of trust. The way in which the Government have operated in the past 11 to 12 years in Scotland is leading to a breakdown in trust in not only this Government but the entire system of government in Scotland. That is why the Tories are the only party in Scotland opposed to constitutional change and reform. For many reasons there must be constitutional reform in Scotland and a Scottish Parliament. One of the main reasons for the establishment of such a Scottish Parliament is the behaviour of the Government over the past 12 years and the way in which they have treated local government.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

I support amendment No. 41. I spent a great deal of time in local government and I clearly remember meeting local people who put into the system their thoughts about the types of buildings and services that they wanted. We based our programmes and policies on such an input, and when we fought elections the people voted for us. Throughout Scotland, local people argued their case and supported the political party of their choice.

Since 1979, the Government have committed the serial murder of local government. They have undermined the role not just of local government but of councillors. In the eyes of the public, they have made "councillor" a dirty word. The Government have accused them of not trying to deliver services and have used Parliament to mount a constant political attack on democratically elected councillors. That has caused a great loss of confidence in local government. The Government are beginning to rue the day that they started such an attack; that is evident from the way in which they were decimated at the last local government elections in England.

I am extremely worried about the proposal to cap local government expenditure. In my constituency surgery at the weekend, I spoke to people from Houston who wish to see the construction of a local library. People in Kilbarchan would like to see the opening of a community centre, and people in Lochwinnoch would like a play area for their children. In almost every village in my constituency, people want amenities that will improve their quality of life. That is admirable. Hon. Members like to see local people taking an active interest in their surroundings and speaking to the appropriate people, such as local councillors and Members of Parliament.

The Minister knows that I am disturbed that services in my area are being hammered, not because of capping, but because of the Government's systematic underfunding of local government. That has meant that there are not enough places for the elderly in day care centres, and not enough home helps. The savage increase in concessionary fares is the result of the Government's deliberate underfunding of local government.

The Government have now produced a capping plan which, they say, will protect people and prevent them from paying too much. No one has ever come to my surgery complaining that he is paying too much for local services, but many people complain about the Government and about the savage attacks on local government funding. The Government seem to have a tremendous hatred for local government, which provides many essential services to our elderly, our disabled, our mentally handicapped and children living in bad conditions created by the Government's mad economic policies.

People face high interest charges, and mortgage rates are going through the roof; families are made homeless and have to go to local authorities begging them to provide homes; yet the Government are denuding local authorities of the finance to build houses for rent, and to provide the services that help children who come from families that are broken up because of high mortgage rates and unemployment. These factors put stresses and strains on family life as they do on local government. People want local government to act as Santa Claus, because the Government have failed them.

Capping is an import from the far east—as far east as Russia. The Russians have been asking the Government to help in their economic policies, but it looks as though, instead, the Government are importing a totalitarian system and imposing controls on local government. Local government has become as misnomer. The struggle to keep local government is nearly over. The central control that George Orwell portrayed in "Nineteen-Eighty Four" is here, and has been approaching for a long time. Capping is just another step along that line.

The day of reckoning is around the corner. People want decent local government, with involvement by the local people. In my constituency, people are crying out for services to be provided. That will come about only if central Government allocate more funds to local government and allow local government to get its act together and to have the power to borrow and to build. If local government cannot do that, how will we have local government services? Such services need money. Instead of capping, the Government should be supporting those services.

This week, I saw one of the most successful films ever made, "The Silence of the Lambs". It has some analogies with what is going on. We have a cannibal Government who want to gobble up more and more power for themselves. However, we know that power corrupts. The Government's attitude towards local government is corrupt. It threatens the democratic process because it permeates to those who vote for local government. The Government want to impose the totalitarian system that is so beloved by all of them.

I am disgusted that we are capping rather than increasing local government expenditure. Increases would ensure that the services for the elderly and handicapped that local government has provided for many years would continue. The Minister has an opportunity, by supporting the amendment, to support common sense and decency, and to ensure that local government continues in its rightful place.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

Tonight, those who have spoken have thrown what, if we were not in Parliament, would be called abuse at the Minister. Instead, we should perhaps compliment him on his forbearance and fortitude. I have never before known a human being who has managed to go through such a difficult time over local government finance, with so many twists and turns and U-turns, and remain smiling. There have been no tears of regret, and the Minister is smiling again. He reminds me of the words of an old song made famous by a constituent of mine, Sydney Devine, from Cleland, just down the road from Mr. MacGregor of Shotts. The words could be applied to the Minister: If they gave gold statuettes For smiles of regret He'd be a legend in his time. The Minister has gone through the whole of this sorry story about local government finance smiling. The horror of the poll tax stands in contrast to that, and I need not enumerate it because all of us—presumably even the people of Eastwood—well know the problems caused by the poll tax. We meet those people in our surgeries. At times, we see grown men reduced to tears by frustration and despair.

9.15 pm

I will not go over those issues, because I wish to concentrate on one fundamental question as we consider the mechanics of poll tax capping. In the last year, we have seen not simply a change of tactics in capping, not an instrumental change in local government finance or even a change in the manner in which we deal with local government finance. The issue of capping gives rise to a fundamental change of principle by the Government.

A good start would be for the Minister to say whether he agrees with the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who said in recent days that she believed that the poll tax was correct in principle. If he agrees with that, we are in a peculiar position, for the fundamental principle of the poll tax was accountability. It was sold—or, rather, was not sold—by means of that propaganda or marketing too. All the suffering, impoverishment, indignity and frustration has been due to that one principle of accountability, to which, at least in her honesty, the right hon. Member for Finchley still sticks.

We were told that, for too long, local authorities had spent too much money, and that accountability was the only democratic way—through the ballot box—to stop it. For three years, the point was hammered home. A relationship was to be built in between electors, local councillors and local authorities and local spending. If, at the end of the day, a local authority spent too much of the money for which it was accountable to its electors, the electorate would exercise their judgment through the ballot box.

That fundamental principle was supported by the Minister, and for that principle the right hon. Member for Finchley was prepared to give her political life. I suspect that, although they now wish to renege on it, it is the principle on which the Government will founder, because of the way in which they implemented it.

Mr. Maxton

My hon. Friend rightly says that the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was prepared to see her political career founder on the principle of the poll tax. But the author of the poll tax, the man who devised it and based his whole political career on it—the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), the Minister of State—has not been prepared to sacrifice his political life for it.

Dr. Reid

The Minister of State has not graced us with his presence, despite his early role in developing the poll tax. No doubt he has other business elsewhere. I shall not make the same mistake as the Prime Minister and attack him when I do not know where he is. For all I know, he is dining with Her Majesty. Whatever his excuse for being absent tonight, we must ask the hon. Gentleman that fundamental question on this issue.

If the Government were committed to the principle—to which the right hon. Member for Finchley and apparently, because I think I see him nodding in assent, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary are still committed—how does that equate with the capping of local taxation? The matter is fundamentally incompatible. It is not possible to hold to the principle of the local accountability of the electorate on the one hand while saying, on the other, that central Government will dictate the level of local expenditure.

Mr. Dickens

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) saying that his council needed community centres, recreation grounds and libraries? Opposition Members blame the Government but why did not Labour councillors provide those facilities when there was a Labour Government? Why have they sat back for so many years and not provided those facilities? Why do Opposition Members suddenly decide that they want them and that the fact that they have not been provided is the Government's fault because we introduced legislation?

Dr. Reid

I was trying to deal with the strategic principles involved, but it is sometimes good to be dragged down to the local town halls to consider the important details. I shall discuss that principle in a moment. I do not suggest that local authorities should have carte blanche to spend Government money. The hon. Gentleman should question my remarks rather than those of other hon. Members. As always, I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) —indeed, I hang on his words. He brought great intelligence and detail to our debate, and none of his comments was incompatible with my arguments.

For the past five years, the Government have been saying that local accountability is the way to solve the problem. Either they believe that that is true, or they believe that the problem will be solved by central Government diktat. There is a fundamental contradiction. It is not a matter of balance or compromise, or of the Government saying that they recognise the dual negotiating roles of local and central Government. If so, although we might not agree entirely with their policy, we might approach it within the same philosophical and practical framework.

No Opposition Member would suggest that an individual, far less whole groups of individuals who constitute local authorities, could possibly be islands unto themselves. That is the difference between Conservative and Opposition Members. We are collectivists and understand that we live in society. We must sometimes cope with an ex-Prime Minister who, 6,000 years after the first settlements in the Mesopotamian valley, still believes that there is no such thing as society. Perhaps that is the view of Conservative Members. We do not believe that individuals are free to have absolute rights, irrespective of the consequences.

We have been asked to accept not a balance between local and central Government but a diktat. It is not in opposition to local government spending willy-nilly: rather, the Government assert that the legislation should pass dictatorial fiscal powers, so that the Secretary of State can decide local authority spending without paying attention to local needs, opinion or democracy. That is not only unjust but also inefficient, because such decisions cannot be made sensibly and efficiently by people with no experience of areas such as mine and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde and for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin).

I mean no personal criticism of the Minister. Let us suppose that the Ministers at the Scottish Office were not malevolent, that they were kind and just men. Even ascribing to them the most gentle, considerate and humane of approaches—if I can hold them in that fantasy world for a second—I do not believe that they could understand the needs of Springburn, Bellshill or Linwood as they ponder them while walking through the leafy groves of Edinburgh, West or Eastwood.

Perhaps Ministers are flanked by permanent secretaries and civil servants who spend all their time running in and out of Bellshill, Dundee, Springburn or Clelland in the hope of seeing Sydney Devine. I doubt it. I suspect that, cocooned in the Scottish Office, we have Ministers from some of the most affluent areas of Scotland, surrounded by their social superiors, the civil servants, from even more affluent areas of Scotland. They make dictatorial decisions on matters that are vital to some of the most deprived and impoverished areas of Scotland. With the best will in the world, I do not believe that those Ministers, advised by those civil servants, can make decisions that are efficient or fair for local communities such as my own.

Even if a Labour Government were in power, and given our programmes and intentions, which are far better placed to assist constituents in areas such as mine, in all sincerity, we would be handicapped with the same civil servants. We can all learn lessons with the passage of time, and perhaps we could learn from some of the things that the right hon. Member for Finchley did. I am sure that we would not undertake a round of sackings and that we would not be dictatorial, but, in common with any other Government, we would expect to be surrounded by people who are committed to the general framework of our programme.

Even a Labour Government, with a committed programme that would be of far greater assistance to local authorities than that of the Government, would be handicapped if we took to ourselves the type of dictatorial power that the Minister is trying to take tonight. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that, even at this 59th minute of the 11th hour. I hope that, despite the U-turns he has already committed—no doubt it would embarrass him to do any more—he will think about withdrawing the Bill.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

In common with my hon. Friends, I feel that a disservice has been done to local government in recent years by the type of debate that the Government have initiated. We have had much talk about rate capping and local authority overspending, but such talk tends to highlight those authorities with a bad reputation. The Government have tried to give the impression that every authority is like that.

The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) asked where Labour local authorities were when the Labour Government were in power. It is a matter of public record that when Labour authorities were in power councillors were never out of St. Andrew's house and Whitehall arguing the corner for their cities.

Every stranger who comes to my native city of Glasgow, including hon. Members, says that a fantastic transformation has taken place.

Mr. McKelvey

Not in Easterhouse.

Mr. Martin

A lot of positive things are happening in Easterhouse—tenant co-operatives have been established and it has a swimming pool, which the people of Springburn have wanted for years. Hon. Members who do not come from Glasgow have commented on how fantastic its transformation has been, due to the sandblasting, the garden festival, the waterfront development and the co-operation of the private sector. I hope that Conservative Members will give credit to local authorities that act positively. If they are prepared to hand out criticism, they should be prepared to give credit where it is due.

9.30 pm

Like my hon. Friends, I am worried that if we keep turning the screw on local authorities we will not get in the House the talented men and women from local government that we have had in previous years. If they cannot serve their apprenticeship in local authorities, where will they come from? Many of those who have served the House well have had a good training in local government. I think that I am right in saying that our Prime Minister had experience as a councillor.

Mr. Home Robertson

Not a very good example.

Mr. Martin

Perhaps not, but the point was worth making.

I served as a councillor in the constituency that I represent. Because of the nature of our activities here I cannot point to anything tangible that I have achieved as a Member of Parliament, but in the old ward that. I represented I can point to a housing association which is thriving and with whose fights to obtain grants I was involved as a founder member. I can point to play areas and even to simple things such as fences or walls to give elderly people with disabilities more privacy. Over the years almost all councillors were able to point to such achievements—that is, until the Government began their attack on local authorities. The Government are undoing the good work that dedicated men and women did many years ago.

I want to highlight the cases of three councillors who did an excellent job in the city of Glasgow. The first was John Main, who became provost of Glasgow in the late 1960s but who unfortunately died in office. He left school at 14 because his parents could not afford to keep him at school and as a result he was obsessed with seeing that every child in the local authority area had a good education. He worked night and day to see that excellent schools were built in Glasgow.

Councillor Gibb, my second example, was so appalled by the housing in Glasgow that he insisted that we build houses on every gap site. It is said that on a visit to a Glasgow art gallery when he was asked his opinion of a landscape painting he said, "That landscape is fantastic; just think how many houses we could put on it." That shows how obsessed he was with seeing that people were given a decent chance in life.

A colleague of mine named Patrick Trainer, a senior councillor in Strathclyde who recently retired, had the foresight to recognise that since we were becoming more closely involved with the EEC the abattoirs in the city of Glasgow would have to be brought up to a certain standard. He fought tooth and nail to see that that was done and because of his work we have a good market that will be able to cope with 1992.

I mention these people because they and others will not have a chance to leave their mark on local authorities because the Government are stifling them. It is unfair for the Government to put such a restriction on local authorities when the Minister knows that they have statutory obligations and cannot just not spend money.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) has referred time and again in the House to the care of children. Local authorities have a statutory obligation to look after children. Regardless of councils' budgets, if children are in need they must find a home for them and give them food and shelter.

The Government have turned their back on the homeless in our society and that has put more and more pressure on Strathclyde regional social work department and Glasgow district housing department. The Minister also knows that police officers' wages are not negotiated by councillors; they are subject to national negotiation. The city treasurer must keep his or her fingers crossed on the outcome of negotiations in London with the Police Federation.

The matter does not end there, because every local authority worker has a basic wage which has to be negotiated nationally. I know that the Government want to destroy national negotiations, but if they do so the people who will suffer will be the workers in the constituency of the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) where there will be high unemployment. Local negotiations will mean a cut in the wages and conditions of hard-working men and women who do not have a good wage to begin with.

I have heard members of the Scottish National party talking about the difficulties of local authorities. They say that the Government should give local autonomy a chance. I do not dispute the view that those who are elected by the community should have a say, but the weakness of the SNP case is demonstrated by the fact that men and women outside Strathclyde came into Strathclyde and told the electorate not to pay the poll tax when the elected councillors were saying, "We do not agree with the poll tax, but if you do not pay it where will the money for the services come from?" That weakens the case of people such as the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) who was elected by the people of Dunfermline as a Labour Member of Parliament and has not gone before them to say that, whereas he was elected as a Labour Member, he is no longer a member of that party.

Two things are worrying local councillors, as anyone who speaks to them will know. The first is what the Government are doing at the moment, and the second is that because the poll tax is not coming in they are having to consider shedding labour. Those who knew the consequences of not paying the poll tax, despite their dislike of it—we all disliked it—and call themselves trade unionists should hang their heads in shame. The consequences of their actions will be that men and women in my constituency where unemployment is rife will be forced out of a job.

At one time we had a railway industry which was a big employer, but, because of Government policy which led to the closure of that industry, the only thing the workers had to turn to was local government. Those who were lucky enough to find a job in India street or down in the city chambers were grateful for it. Those who supported the anti-poll tax campaign have not assisted those workers who are out of a job.

The Minister must obviously consider his Department's overall expenditure, because, whatever may be his view of the way in which local authorities handle their affairs, if the councillors give up and—God forbid that this should ever happen—tell the Minister, "Take your services and run them from St. Andrew's house," he will be confronted with even more problems than local authorities have now. He would not do a better job, and the bottom line would be a greater cost to the taxpayer and ratepayer.

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

We have just listened to a characteristically powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). I thank him for his kind reference to some of the work that I have been doing.

I support amendments Nos. 41, 3, and 46. Unlike other hon. Members who spoke about diminishing local autonomy and democracy, I want to explain why I believe that the amendments will improve clause 2, to the benefit of the more vulnerable people in my constituency.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 46 emphasise the need to protect vulnerable citizens in our communities. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) spoke of the importance of ensuring the welfare of local communities. Amendment No. 3, moved by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), emphasises the importance of providing protection for certain groups. Paragraph (1) states: In determining whether an increase in expenses by a local authority is excessive, the Secretary of State shall have regard to:

  1. (a) The level of unemployment in the area in the preceding three years".
According to Government statistics, unemployment in my constituency is running at 13 per cent., and I see no sign that that dreadful statistic will be alleviated in the near future.

Amendment No. 3 refers also to the condition of the housing stock and the numbers on the housing waiting lists". The condition of many houses on the lower Clyde is nothing short of disgraceful in terms of damp—let alone the poor quality of materials that were used in the construction of those properties 40, 50 or even 60 years ago. However, Inverclyde district council has been denied assistance by the odd job lot at the Scottish Office and their officials. People come to my surgery to complain about the dampness, which, among other things, presents a very real health hazard—especially to young children and elderly.

Amendment No. 3 refers also to the need to protect those in receipt of income support, one-parent families, and the disabled and handicapped. Strathclyde's social work department seeks to protect the vulnerable in our communities, but its fine, decent work has been severely constrained by Government cuts in the past, and it will be even more damaged in the future. Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 allows social workers to provide financial assistance for families in need. Area teams are involved and the district manager of the social work department is given a budget each year to tide people over for a few days.

Recently, a young woman came to see me with her two young children. She had suffered appalling domestic violence, and was anxious to escape from a psychopathic husband. She needed money to get out of the area and go to close relatives who would protect her. The social work manager, or one of his team, was able to help, and she and her children escaped.

The present Government have cut that budget and will cut it again. Children will be affected. It is important to draw attention to the diminution of local autonomy and democracy that Scottish Office Ministers have inflicted on our communities. We must remember, however, that the serious damage that they have done to the more vulnerable members of society will go against them come the election: they will be driven out of office, which is what they deserve.

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

We shall, of course, follow up the specific points raised by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) and others. First, however, let me address some remarks to the hon. Members for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) and for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). I pay genuine tribute to many Scottish councils and councillors, whose work for the community is often not appreciated sufficiently. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde, who is not in the Chamber now, will know—as will the hon. Members for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) and for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster)—that I have never personally attacked councillors of any political persuasion in either Eastwood district or Renfrew district; and the two districts differ politically.

The question of resources is not the key issue in today's debate; I must point out, however, that aggregate external finance has risen this year by 10.4 per cent.

I confirm that clause 2 would strengthen and widen the Secretary of State's capping powers in Scotland. I believe that that is essential to protect local taxpayers from the excessive spending of local authorities which—or so experience suggests—occurs during a changeover from one local authority finance system to another. This year, many Scottish authorities have set community charges in flagrant disregard of the true interests of their charge payers. That is not true of all local authorities, but it is true of a number.

It must be Government's duty to ensure that the fundamental shift in the balance of taxation brought about by the Community Charges (General Reduction) Act 1991 has the intended effect of keeping local taxes down to a reasonable level, and is not used to fund higher spending. The new local level of charges made possible by this measure must be passed on to local people. That is why, in the last year of the community charge system, we are moving to increase central Government's powers to control total expenditure. That is entirely reasonable, although, as the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) pointed out, the new system will involve less accountability.

The hon. Members for Gordon, for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) and for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion)—I gather that I am always welcome in Dundee—mentioned trust. Let me confirm that the Secretary of State will make a declaratory statement in the autumn about capping criteria, well ahead of local authorities' setting their budgets. One criticism has been made—[Interruption.] I can give hon. Members an absolute assurance that the criteria will be published by the end of November at the latest, and our intention—

Mr. Maxton

Too late.

Mr. Stewart

The authorities do not set their budgets until next January. We will give the information by the end of November, and we hope to do so by the end of October or the middle of November. That is a perfectly reasonable timetable.

Mr. Douglas

We are in a transitional period. A timetable that may have been appopriate in relation to setting budgets in the past is not appropriate given the dislocation that local authorities are suffering. Cannot the Minister reconsider his dates and give the information—in consultation with COSLA, of course—well before the time that he mentioned?

Mr. Stewart

Of course we shall consult COSLA, but we are talking about budgets for 1992–93. We aim to announce and publicise the criteria by the end of October or early November, long before the budgetary process of authorities really gets under way.

Dr. Reid

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Stewart

I shall give way, but the House will appreciate that we are pushed for time.

Dr. Reid

The Minister must know that when he talks about October and November, there is a suspicion that he may be putting the decision off further and further because the Government are 6 per cent. behind in the opinion polls. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ten per cent."] Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that, when he reads tomorrow morning in The Guardian that they are 10 per cent. behind, we shall not find that his timetable has been postponed until March or even June? Will he confirm that the timetable is final?

Mr. Stewart

That was a risible intervention. I thought that I was being helpful to the House in setting out a reasonable timetable.

I recognise the point that amendment No. 41, the lead Opposition amendment, was intended to draw to the attention of the House, but the yardstick suggested—apart from the fact that it would not take account of any authority already budgeting well in excess of the grant-aided expenditure figure—would not cover the possibility that, as in the current year, inflation could sharply between the time that the budgets were set and the start of the year in question. I—and all other local taxpayers—have the right to expect authorities setting their budgets to take into account forecasts of a fall in inflation for the year ahead.

Mr. Maxton

One of the factors built in to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 from the word go was the use of the retail prices index when setting the business rate—the non-domestic rate—in Scotland. What the Minister describes could have happened then. If the principle of using the retail prices index as a guide was right then, why is it wrong now?

Mr. Stewart

The reason for the inflation limit on increases in the business rate was to protect the business community. The limit was, of course, determined by the retail prices index for the year to the previous September. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting a limit based on the current RPI figure in March or April. That figure could move sharply one way of the other in the subsequent year.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) made an extremely well-informed speech. Most of what he said about the client group approach as a basis for determining grant-aided expenditure was right.

Mr. Maxton

An unholy alliance.

Mr. Stewart

There is no unholy alliance. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West was the only person here who took the relevant documents out of the Library for the debate. I can assure him that in taking into account the client group mechanism as the basis for determining GAE, we arrrive at the figures using—as he knows—a large number of indicators. Indeed, all the indicators outlined in the amendment, except those on housing, are taken into account. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow also mentioned housing, but housing expenditure is not strictly relevant because it is determined separately. That applies to amendment No. 46, which is similar but more general. GAE is used as a basis for grant distribution.

I was astonished by some of the attacks that the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) made on the grant distribution system. It is agreed through the distribution committee of the local government finance working party—

Mr. O'Brien

What about the level?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Member for East Lothian criticised the distribution, not the level. Distribution is agreed by the distribution committee. That technical matter is agreed between COSLA and Scottish Office officials in the light of advice, and the criteria and formulae are constantly re-evaluated. The hon. Member for East Lothian attacked COSLA as much as he attacked the Government.

Lothian's grant-aided expenditure is lower per head than that of regions such as Strathclyde, but it has a lower proportion of school pupils in education authority schools. Compared to Strathclyde, Lothian is relatively prosperous; it is a relatively small, compact region. It does not have sparsely populated areas such as those in Dumfries and Galloway.

The formulae that have been criticised by Opposition Members are agreed by COSLA. They are not imposed and there are clear social differences between Lothian and Strathclyde, which suggest that it is sensible to have higher grant per head for regions such as Strathclyde. Opposition Members have not advanced a formula that could be used by COSLA and Scottish Office officials to change the distribution formulae.

Opposition Members discussed the general policy issues raised by clause 2 but did not offer any clear policy. On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said that the previous Labour Government passed section 5 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966 to introduce a form of rate capping for excessive and unreasonable expenditure. That is being changed in the Bill, but does the hon. Member for Cathcart support what the previous Labour Government did in Scotland or what the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), whom I am glad to see present, said—that there should not be any such powers?

The Opposition are unclear on that central point. In contrast, the Government's position is absolutely clear. Experience shows that local authorities can use the transitional year sharply to increase spending. That must not happen in 1992–93, and under clause 2 it will not happen. The criteria will be clear and will be published well in advance so that local authorities can take them fully into account when setting budgets. The purpose of clause 2 is to give community charge payers in Scotland the same safeguards against excessive spending as people in England and Wales. Those safeguards are necessary. On that basis, I ask hon. Members to resist the amendments and to support clause 2.

Mr. Maxton

We might have expected such a speech from the Minister. Throughout the poll tax fiasco, the cry of the Minister, of the Secretary of State and of Michael Ancram when he was a Minister was that accountability was the purpose of the poll tax. They said that it would make local authorities accountable. I remember raising in debates on schedule 3 to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 exactly the issue that we are debating tonight: why, if the aim of the poll tax was accountability, does the Secretary of State require this power? We were told that it was a reserve power which would never be used. Tonight, the Minister is turning the whole issue on its head and is twisting and turning all his principles to try to get out of a very difficult situation.

It has been an interesting debate. Until the Minister made his contribution, almost the whole debate took place among members of the Opposition parties. Until the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) came to the Chamber, not one—

It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee reported Progress.

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Local Government Finance and Valuation Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Boswell.]

Again considered in Commitee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Maxton

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] As I was saying before I was interrupted, until the hon. Member for Dumfries walked in at about 9.50 pm not one Scottish Back-Bench Tory debated the issues involved—[Interruption.] If the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) had been here instead of going to have his dinner, he would have realised how many members of the Opposition had spoken. It is clear that the Scottish Tory party is not interested in local democracy or in what happens in the local councils. It is concerned only about its own power and its position in Scotland. I should have thought that some Scottish Tories might have been prepared to make a speech in defence of local government in Scotland, because it might be one way to save their seats.

Mr. Home Robertson

Geoffrey Dickens did.

Mr. Maxton

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) is quite right. The one Back-Bench Tory who spoke during the whole debate was the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens). He was not aware that we do not have parish councils in Scotland, but it was interesting that the one short speech made by a Tory Back Bencher was in favour of the amendments. He rightly said that local authorities should decide what they spend, and what services they provide. Why did not other Scottish Tory Members of Parliament also say that?

I am delighted to hear that the Secretary of State will make a declaratory statement—although I have never heard that phrase—about the criteria that are to be used. I assume that such a statement is a statement to the House—or is it something about which I know nothing?

Mr. Allan Stewart

Wait and see.

Mr. Maxton

I am being told to wait and see. The Minister used the term "declaratory statement" in his speech. Will he tell me what it meant? Will it be a statement to the House? It is most interesting that the Secretary of State can make whatever statements he likes to the House about the criteria, but he is under no statutory obligation to stick to them. The distrust in local Government in Scotland of the Secretary of State and of the Minister is such that, whatever they say in the House, those in local government are unlikely to believe them. They know that, when the time comes and when the chips are down, the Ministers will, if necessary change the criteria. We do not want declaratory statements: we want a schedule to the Bill specifying the criteria in statute, so that we can debate them and vote on them, and so that, if necessary, they can be changed. If the criteria were passed in legislation, the Minister would have to stick to them. That will not be the case.

Yet again, the Secretary of State is setting the criteria and saying what is to be considered excessive. The Secretary of State has the power. Nobody else is to be involved in the whole decision-making process. The Secretary of State is now taking power into his own hands, which makes a mockery of local democracy, and of the rights of people in Scotland to decide what they want and how they take decisions. The debate is about local democracy and about accountability. That is why l want to force the amendment to a vote, and I ask my hon. Friends to join me in doing so.

Mr. Douglas


Hon. Members


Mr. Douglas

Many hon. Members have not come in to listen to the debate and they have not heard the inadequate reply by the Minister. I asked a specific question about grant-aided expenditure, and about the criteria. It is evident from the Minister's inadequate reply that the Secretary of State intends to use a device that is for the purposes of capping. The Minister's reply suggests that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is right and that we are moving in the direction that it has described. That move should be deplored.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 213, Noes 286.

Division No. 165] [10.7 am
Abbott, Ms Diane Benton, Joseph
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Bermingham, Gerald
Allen, Graham Blair, Tony
Alton, David Blunkett, David
Anderson, Donald Boateng, Paul
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boyes, Roland
Armstrong, Hilary Bradley, Keith
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, Joe Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Barron, Kevin Buckley, George J.
Battle, John Caborn, Richard
Beckett, Margaret Callaghan, Jim
Beith, A. J. Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Bell, Stuart Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Bellotti, David Canavan, Dennis
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Carr, Michael
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McAvoy, Thomas
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) McCartney, Ian
Clelland, David Macdonald, Calum A.
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McFall, John
Cohen, Harry McKelvey, William
Cryer, Bob McLeish, Henry
Cummings, John Maclennan, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence McMaster, Gordon
Cunningham, Dr John McWilliam, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Madden, Max
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Marek, Dr John
Dewar, Donald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dixon, Don Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Doran, Frank Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Douglas, Dick Martlew, Eric
Duffy, A. E. P. Maxton, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy Meacher, Michael
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Meale, Alan
Eastham, Ken Michael, Alun
Edwards, Huw Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fatchett, Derek Moonie, Dr Lewis
Faulds, Andrew Morgan, Rhodri
Fearn, Ronald Morley, Elliot
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mowlam, Marjorie
Flynn, Paul Mullin, Chris
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Murphy, Paul
Foster, Derek Nellist, Dave
Foulkes, George Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fraser, John O'Brien, William
Fyfe, Maria O'Hara, Edward
Garrett, John (Norwich South) O'Neill, Martin
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Godman, Dr Norman A. Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Golding, Mrs Llin Parry, Robert
Gordon, Mildred Patchett, Terry
Gould, Bryan Pendry, Tom
Graham, Thomas Pike, Peter L.
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Prescott, John
Grocott, Bruce Primarolo, Dawn
Hain, Peter Quin, Ms Joyce
Hardy, Peter Radice, Giles
Harman, Ms Harriet Randall, Stuart
Haynes, Frank Redmond, Martin
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Reid, Dr John
Hinchliffe, David Richardson, Jo
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Rooker, Jeff
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Rooney, Terence
Home Robertson, John Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Rowlands, Ted
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Ruddock, Joan
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Salmond, Alex
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Illsley, Eric Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Ingram, Adam Short, Clare
Janner, Greville Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Kennedy, Charles Soley, Clive
Kirkwood, Archy Spearing, Nigel
Lambie, David Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Lamond, James Steinberg, Gerry
Leadbitter, Ted Stott, Roger
Leighton, Ron Straw, Jack
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Lewis, Terry Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Litherland, Robert Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Livingstone, Ken Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Livsey, Richard Turner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Vaz, Keith
Loyden, Eddie Wallace, James
McAllion, John Walley, Joan
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Winnick, David
Wareing, Robert N. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C) Worthington, Tony
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Wigley, Dafydd Tellers for the Ayes:
Williams, Rt Hon Alan Mr. Martyn Jones, and
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then) Mr. Allen McKay.
Wilson, Brian
Adley, Robert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Alexander, Richard Dover, Den
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Dunn, Bob
Allason, Rupert Durant, Sir Anthony
Amess, David Dykes, Hugh
Amos, Alan Eggar, Tim
Arbuthnot, James Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Arnold, Sir Thomas Evennett, David
Ashby, David Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Aspinwall, Jack Fallon, Michael
Atkins, Robert Fenner, Dame Peggy
Atkinson, David Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Baldry, Tony Fishburn, John Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Fookes, Dame Janet
Bellingham, Henry Forman, Nigel
Bendall, Vivian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Forth, Eric
Benyon, W. Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Biffen, Rt Hon John Franks, Cecil
Blackburn, Dr John G. Freeman, Roger
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter French, Douglas
Body, Sir Richard Fry, Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gale, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gardiner, Sir George
Boswell, Tim Gill, Christopher
Bottomley, Peter Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Goodlad, Alastair
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowis, John Gorst, John
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brazier, Julian Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bright, Graham Gregory, Conal
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Grist, Ian
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Ground, Patrick
Buck, Sir Antony Grylls, Michael
Burns, Simon Hague, William
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Butler, Chris Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hannam, John
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Carttiss, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Christopher
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hayes, Jerry
Chapman, Sydney Hayward, Robert
Chope, Christopher Heathcoat-Amory, David
Churchill, Mr Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Colvin, Michael Hill, James
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Holt, Richard
Cope, Rt Hon John Hordern, Sir Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, James Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Curry, David Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Day, Stephen Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Devlin, Tim Hunter, Andrew
Dickens, Geoffrey Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dicks, Terry Irvine, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Irving, Sir Charles
Jack, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Jackson, Robert Rathbone, Tim
Janman, Tim Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roe, Mrs Marion
Key, Robert Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kilfedder, James Rost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rowe, Andrew
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Kirkhope, Timothy Sackville, Hon Tom
Knapman, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knowles, Michael Shelton, Sir William
Knox, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Latham, Michael Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Lee, John (Pendle) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Squire, Robin
Lord, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McCrindle, Sir Robert Steen, Anthony
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stern, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stevens, Lewis
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maclean, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sumberg, David
Madel, David Summerson, Hugo
Malins, Humfrey Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mans, Keith Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Maples, John Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Tony Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Thorne, Neil
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thornton, Malcolm
Mates, Michael Thurnham, Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tracey, Richard
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tredinnick, David
Mills, Iain Trippier, David
Miscampbell, Norman Trotter, Neville
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Twinn, Dr Ian
Mitchell, Sir David Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Moate, Roger Viggers, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Moore, Rt Hon John Walden, George
Morrison, Sir Charles Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Ward, John
Moss, Malcolm Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Watts, John
Neale, Sir Gerrard Wells, Bowen
Nelson, Anthony Wheeler, Sir John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Widdecombe, Ann
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wilkinson, John
Oppenheim, Phillip Wilshire, David
Page, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann
Paice, James Wolfson, Mark
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Wood, Timothy
Patnick, Irvine Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Patten, Rt Hon John Yeo, Tim
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Young, Sir George (Acton)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Porter, David (Waveney) Tellers for the Noes:
Portillo, Michael Mr. David Lightbown and
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. John M. Taylor.
Price, Sir David

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 284, Noes 212.

Division No. 166] [10.19 pm
Adley, Robert Durant, Sir Anthony
Alexander, Richard Dykes, Hugh
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Eggar, Tim
Allason, Rupert Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Amess, David Evennett, David
Amos, Alan Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Arbuthnot, James Fallon, Michael
Arnold, Sir Thomas Fenner, Dame Peggy
Ashby, David Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Aspinwall, Jack Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Atkins, Robert Fishburn, John Dudley
Atkinson, David Fookes, Dame Janet
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Forman, Nigel
Baldry, Tony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Batiste, Spencer Forth, Eric
Bellingham, Henry Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bendall, Vivian Franks, Cecil
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Freeman, Roger
Benyon, W. French, Douglas
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fry, Peter
Blackburn, Dr John G. Gale, Roger
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gardiner, Sir George
Body, Sir Richard Gill, Christopher
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Boscawen, Hon Robert Goodlad, Alastair
Boswell, Tim Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bottomley, Peter Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gorst, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bowis, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gregory, Conal
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brazier, Julian Grist, Ian
Bright, Graham Ground, Patrick
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Grylls, Michael
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hague, William
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Buck, Sir Antony Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burns, Simon Hannam, John
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Butler, Chris Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Butterfill, John Harris, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Christopher
Carrington, Matthew Hayes, Jerry
Carttiss, Michael Hayward, Robert
Cash, William Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Chapman, Sydney Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Chope, Christopher Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Churchill, Mr Hill, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Holt, Richard
Colvin, Michael Hordern, Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cope, Rt Hon John Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Couchman, James Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cran, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Curry, David Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hunter, Andrew
Davis, David (Boothferry) Irvine, Michael
Day, Stephen Irving, Sir Charles
Devlin, Tim Jack, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Jackson, Robert
Dicks, Terry Janman, Tim
Dorrell, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Dunn, Bob Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rhodes James, Robert
Key, Robert Riddick, Graham
Kilfedder, James Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Roe, Mrs Marion
Kirkhope, Timothy Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knapman, Roger Rost, Peter
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Rowe, Andrew
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knowles, Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Knox, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, David (Dover)
Latham, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lawrence, Ivan Shelton, Sir William
Lee, John (Pendle) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shersby, Michael
Lightbown, David Sims, Roger
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lord, Michael Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Squire, Robin
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stanbrook, Ivor
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, David Steen, Anthony
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stern, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mans, Keith Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Maples, John Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Marland, Paul Sumberg, David
Marlow, Tony Summerson, Hugo
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thorne, Neil
Mills, Iain Thornton, Malcolm
Miscampbell, Norman Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchell, Sir David Tracey, Richard
Moate, Roger Tredinnick, David
Monro, Sir Hector Trippier, David
Moore, Rt Hon John Trotter, Neville
Morrison, Sir Charles Twinn, Dr Ian
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Moss, Malcolm Viggers, Peter
Moynihan, Hon Colin Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Neale, Sir Gerrard Walden, George
Nelson, Anthony Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Ward, John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Watts, John
Oppenheim, Phillip Wells, Bowen
Page, Richard Wheeler, Sir John
Paice, James Whitney, Ray
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Widdecombe, Ann
Patnick, Irvine Wilkinson, John
Patten, Rt Hon John Wilshire, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Winterton, Mrs Ann
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wolfson, Mark
Porter, David (Waveney) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Portillo, Michael Yeo, Tim
Powell, William (Corby) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Price, Sir David
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Rathbone, Tim Mr. John M. Taylor and
Redwood, John Mr. Timothy Wood.
Abbott, Ms Diane Armstrong, Hilary
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Allen, Graham Ashton, Joe
Alton, David Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Anderson, Donald Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Barron, Kevin Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Battle, John Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Beckett, Margaret Flynn, Paul
Beith, A. J. Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bell, Stuart Foster, Derek
Bellotti, David Foulkes, George
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fraser, John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Fyfe, Maria
Benton, Joseph Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bermingham, Gerald Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Blair, Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Blunkett, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Boateng, Paul Gordon, Mildred
Boyes, Roland Gould, Bryan
Bradley, Keith Graham, Thomas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Grocott, Bruce
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Hain, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hardy, Peter
Buckley, George J. Harman, Ms Harriet
Caborn, Richard Haynes, Frank
Callaghan, Jim Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hinchliffe, David
Canavan, Dennis Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Carr, Michael Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clelland, David Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cummings, John Illsley, Eric
Cunliffe, Lawrence Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Dr John Janner, Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Don Kennedy, Charles
Doran, Frank Kirkwood, Archy
Douglas, Dick Lambie, David
Duffy, A. E. P. Lamond, James
Dunnachie, Jimmy Leadbitter, Ted
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Leighton, Ron
Edwards, Huw Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Lewis, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Litherland, Robert
Fatchett, Derek Livingstone, Ken
Faulds, Andrew Livsey, Richard
Fearn, Ronald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Loyden, Eddie Redmond, Martin
McAllion, John Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
McAvoy, Thomas Reid, Dr John
McCartney, Ian Richardson, Jo
Macdonald, Calum A. Rooker, Jeff
McFall, John Rooney, Terence
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Rowlands, Ted
McLeish, Henry Ruddock, Joan
Maclennan, Robert Salmond, Alex
McMaster, Gordon Sedgemore, Brian
McWilliam, John Sheerman, Barry
Madden, Max Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Mrs Alice Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Marek, Dr John Short, Clare
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Martlew, Eric Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Meacher, Michael Spearing, Nigel
Meale, Alan Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Michael, Alun Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Stott, Roger
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Straw, Jack
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morley, Elliot Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Turner, Dennis
Mowlam, Marjorie Vaz, Keith
Mullin, Chris Wallace, James
Murphy, Paul Walley, Joan
Nellist, Dave Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wareing, Robert N.
O'Brien, William Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
O'Hara, Edward Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
O'Neill, Martin Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wigley, Dafydd
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Parry, Robert Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Patchett, Terry Wilson, Brian
Pendry, Tom Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Worthington, Tony
Prescott, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Primarolo, Dawn
Quin, Ms Joyce Tellers for the Noes:
Radice, Giles Mr. Jack Thompson and
Randall, Stuart Mr. Ken Eastham.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.

Back to