HC Deb 17 February 1992 vol 204 cc79-123

13. In this Order— allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day; the Bill" means the Local Government Bill [Lords]. This is an important Bill, which implements parts of the citizens charter. The measures in part I will result in substantial improvements in the quality of local government. Part II initiates a review of the structure of local government in England that has been enthusiastically and widely welcomed. In many parts of the country—certainly in many parts that I have visited—local authorities and others are gearing themselves up for their hearings in front of the Local Government Commission and are anxious to get on with that.

The Government have no wish to curtail reasonable debate in Committees, but there is a clear difference between reasonable debate and filibustering. I have no doubt whatever that the Opposition by their tactics in Committee, have made a deliberate attempt to frustrate proper consideration of the Bill.

The Bill received thorough consideration in the other place—more than 40 hours in total, including almost 20 hours in Committee. The detailed record of the Committee stage so far in this House provides the clearest possible evidence of a blatant attempt by the Labour party to drag out Committee proceedings. [Interruption.]

The House will want to hear the facts. First, the Bill is a relatively short one of only 30 clauses. So far, the Committee has sat for 38 hours in nine sittings, and 30 hours have been spent on just four clauses. It is important to set the Opposition tactics in the context of the originally agreed pattern for Committee proceedings. Originally, six days were agreed for consideration in Committee, and that included five full days. The Government accepted that members of the Committee would want to have the opportunity to attend the debate on the revenue support grant settlement. For this reason, because that debate was postponed, two afternoon sessions were lost, but we readily agreed to add a seventh day to the Committee proceedings to make up for that lost time.

It is self-evident that a single day was adequate for the four clauses on competition. On any reasonable basis of parliamentary scrutiny, that was surely so—and any reasonable Opposition would have accepted that. But clauses 8 and 9 have taken eighteen and a half hours. It is clear that the Opposition embarked on a filibuster in full knowledge of the time allowed for the Committee stage.

The first 7 clauses deal with performance standards of local authorities. The Committee spent more than four hours on clause 1 and more than seven hours on clause 2, using up four morning sittings. Clauses 8 to 11 deal with the extension of compulsory competitive tendering to local authority professional services. The Committee finally reached clause 8 just after 7 pm during the fifth sitting on the afternoon of 6 February. The Committee then spent the next two full days on clauses 8 and 9. That included Tuesday 11 February, when the Committee continued until nearly 5 o'clock on Wednesday morning.

In total, clause 8 took ten and a half hours. Even this very limited progress during the marathon sitting on clause 8 was possible only because my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities moved the closure on two groups of amendments. One group of amendments on clause 8 took over seven hours. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) who is not present in the Chamber, led for the Opposition in the Committee. He opened with a one-hour speech, and had to be brought to order twice.

The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) spoke for 50 minutes. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) spoke for a second time and had to brought to order for repetition. The closure was clearly accepted by the Committee Chairman on the basis of lengthy consideration of one group of amendments.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

Why does not the Minister tell the whole story about that debate? At the end of it, the Under-Secretary congratulated me on the quality of my submission and my knowledge of the subject under discussion.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is well known for his generosity.

The lengthy debate did not stop with that group of amendments. Still on clause 8, the hon. Member for Brightside spoke for a further 55 minutes, and the hon. Member for Makerfield spoke for a further 1 hour 40 minutes and had to be brought to order.

The performance of Opposition Members was a parody of that well-loved radio programme, "Just a Minute". They used every form of deviation and repetition and plenty of hesitation to waste time. They many times broke the rule about continued use of the same word.

As the House knows, I believe in the sensible management of the legislative programme in the interests of the whole House. Under the timetable motion, there will still be a full day available to consider part II of the Bill. That will provide the same number of hours in Committee on those clauses as was spent on them in another place —that is, eight hours. The timetable motion does not prohibit further debate, but enables the original commitment to be completed.

The House will not be at all surprised to know that we are not prepared to prolong consideration of the Bill indefinitely to accommodate the Opposition's tactics. It is significant that the Committee accelerated its consideration of the Bill as soon as it was known that the timetable motion was being tabled. That shows what was going on. The Opposition's filibuster makes the motion inevitable, and I cannot believe that it comes as any surprise to any Opposition Member. I commend it to the House.

7.17 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

The Leader of the House is usually a courteous man, but he forgot to open his speech with a welcome. He should have said, "Welcome to the weekly guillotine debate," as such debates are a weekly occurrence on timetables enforced by the Government. He spoke about repetition and wasting the House's time. He might have acknowledged that the most repetitive business nowadays in the House is discussion of timetable motions imposed by himself.

This is the 36th such timetable motion, but repetition does not make them any more valid. We have noticed that the right hon. Gentleman's speeches of justification get shorter and shorter, to the point where they are almost an apology for what the Government are doing. I assume that before long he will be asking us to take guillotine motions on the nod as though they were matters of no controversy. That would be absolutely wrong, and it could not be more wrong in respect of local government legislation.

In the 13 wasted years of legislation from this Government, the area in which they have made the most horrendous errors in the largest number of Bills has been local government. In almost 60 Acts of Parliament during that time, an average of about five a year, the Government have made the most appalling errors, often steamrollering legislation through the House and coming to regret it bitterly afterwards. Perhaps the most outstanding example of all was the poll tax, but it was only one of many such pieces of legislation. The Government not only guillotined the poll tax in—they guillotined it out as well, thus creating parliamentary political history. Most parties can be forgiven at some stage in their period of office for wanting to guillotine their manifesto commitments in, but this Government made history by guillotining their manifesto commitment out.

Here we are again, with yet another guillotine debate. As the Leader of the House knows perfectly well, this is not so much about the Government wanting to get their business through, for which the right hon. Gentleman erroneously claimed widespread support, as about the Government's hidden timetable for an election on 9 April. That is what these successive timetable motions are all about. We read about Prime Ministerial jets and contracts ending on 10 April, and we know that the Government are in trouble with their timetable both here and in another place. This motion is all about a general election. It would do the right hon. Gentleman far more credit if he was candid with the House and the country and admitted as much.

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly, I do not know when the general election will be, but I know that we have a substantial programme of legislation in a shortened Parliament. That is the point that I have to take into account.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the number of timetable motions that I have introduced. As he well knows, I am in favour of timetable motions for all legislation.

Dr. Cunningham

The right hon. Gentleman is not alone in that view, but that view has been put to the Select Committee on Sittings of the House on the basis of agreed procedures agreed within the Standing Orders of the House—not on the basis of the arbitrary and unilateral imposition of the timetables with which the right hon. Gentleman is obliged to proceed.

I suppose that we should exonerate the right hon. Gentleman to some extent as apparently he is an innocent. He knows that something important is happening on 9 April, but it seems that no one has told him what it is. All that he has been told is that he must get the business out of the House in time to accommodate what is to happen on 9 April. If the right hon. Gentleman does not realise that the Opposition and the public can see through that, he is deluding himself.

The right hon. Gentleman should be called not the Lord President but, in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan, the Lord High Executioner as he chops off one debate after another by means of these timetable motions.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the time taken discussing clause 8 in part I. We do not apologise for giving detailed scrutiny to clause 8, which is about competition and goes to the heart of our opposition to what is being proposed.

Talking of wasting time, I remind the Leader of the House that, thanks to the Government continually changing their mind on the timetabling of business in the Chamber, three potential half-days of Committee sittings were lost simply because of changes to the business in this place, which were entirely the fault of the Government's mismanagement and chopping and changing of business.

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

Two, actually.

Dr. Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman is right. The third half-day was lost because the Chairman of the Committee unfortunately got stuck in a traffic jam. We do not hold the Chairman responsible for that, but if the Government had done something over the years about the traffic in London, that half-day might not have been lost. Whichever way we look at the problem, it comes down to the fault of Ministers in the end.

We make no apologies for taking time to scrutinise this legislation, especially in view of the Government's awful record of ineffectual—nay, highly damaging—local government, legislation over the past 13 years. As for the right hon. Gentleman's claim that one more day will be adequate to consider part II, I believe that that includes 18 clauses and four schedules. The House is being asked to agree to allocating one day to that. People outside this place who take an interest in proper scrutiny of legislation and the proper holding to account of the Executive—and even, I dare say, some fair-minded Tories—would say that it was asking for trouble to shove legislation through the House in that way without enough time for proper consideration. We do not accept that one further day is anything like reasonable to deal with part II.

While we object to the way in which business is being pushed through here, outside this House hundreds of thousands of people who have to work in local government and millions of people who depend in one way or another on local government services are very angry about what the Government have done through all this legislation. They have disabled many effective and efficient local authorities the length and breadth of the country, Conservatives as well as Labour. They have damaged the efficient provision of high-quality services by their dogmatic approach to compulsory competitive tendering, and they have prevented the millions of people who rely on local government services from receiving quality and regularity in the services that they require. We shall therefore make sure, so far as it is within our power to do so, that this Bill is given proper consideration.

The Leader of the House talked about the amount of time taken to consider the Bill in another place. That is a matter for their Lordships, but I have never heard any previous Leader of the House recommend that what had happened to legislation in another place should be the determining factor in what happens here. Government always have the right to introduce Bills in another place, but that is no guarantee of an easy passage in the House of Commons—nor should anyone assume that it ever would be.

The Government have made serious errors yet again in these proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who has been speaking for us on these matters, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) have made that fact clear time and again. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham does not serve on the Committee, but he was involved on Second Reading and elsewhere—[interruption.]

The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities mutters from a sedentary position about filibustering. The penultimate time we discussed one of these timetable motions, it was his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science who made the longest speech, as we discovered by checking. The Minister should therefore not be too anxious to mention the length of speeches—[Interruption.]—and he should certainly not persist in haranguing me from a sedentary position. If he wishes to intervene, I shall be happy to give way to him.

I am merely pointing out that there is plenty of evidence that, when necessary, Ministers are willing to take up more than enough of the time of the House to make their somewhat inadvertent and irrelevant points. As the Leader of the House referred to what is and is not relevant, he should pay a little more attention to the stream of spurious points of order made by his hon. Friends if he is concerned about expediting the business of the House.

Since the Leader of the House made his brief speech without providing any justification for this draconian timetable, and since he sought in no way to convince the House that 18 clauses and four schedules can be adequately scrutinised in one more day of Committee debate, I assume that he thinks, as has happened throughout this Parliament, that the Government can come along with their inbuilt majority and their rubber stamp and authenticate any decision that the Government take, however arbitrary, however unfair and however ill-advised it may be in terms of the proper scrutiny of legislation.

The day is quickly coming when the electors of our country will hold the Leader of the House and his right hon. Friends to account not only for all their local government legislation, the poll tax included, but for their mismanagement of the affairs of this country in general. When people have the chance to vote, this will be yet another nail in the Government's coffin.

7.30 pm
Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)

I deeply regret the need for a guillotine on this Bill—indeed, I deeply regret the need for a guillotine on any Bill. It is not the way to achieve high-quality legislation that has been well considered and that has had all the imperfections ironed out of it. I regret in particular the imposition of a guillotine part way through a Bill. In this case, it means that a disproportionate amount of time has been spent on considering the first part of the Bill and that the later stages, in particular part II, which is of great importance, will not now get the attention that they ought to have had and that they clearly merit.

I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, however, that a guillotine is necessary. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House pointed out, if we had proceeded at the pace at which we were proceeding, and if, in particular, there had been any additional enormously long sittings devoted to one clause, we should have been here until, probably, midsummer before we completed our deliberations. The Committee proceedings on clause 8 represent a classic example of the abuse—if I can put it that way—of the procedures of this House.

I consider that it would be a much more efficient and economical use of the resources of the House if the amount of time to be allocated to a particular Bill were to be decided in advance. The time could then be allocated sensibly. If that is what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House means by having a timetable for each Bill, I very much support his proposal.

I believe, too, that the method of debate employed in some Committees is not very well suited to ensuring that detailed revisions of legislation are made so that one ends up with good and well-considered legislation. The confrontational approach that is adopted in Committee does not produce the high-quality legislation that the House ought to be capable of producing. In addition to the context in which we are holding the debate, very much broader issues are at stake as to how Committee debates are conducted. When these matters come, as they do from time to time, before the Select Committee on Procedure, I hope that a clear look will be taken at the way that Committee debates are conducted.

It seems to be abundantly obvious from the proceedings in Committee that the Labour party is against the Bill and that it wants to prevent it from making progress. It clearly tried to ensure that the maximum amount of time was devoted to considering part I in order to prevent us from—

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

I do not know whether my hon. Friend has had the same experience in his constituency as I have had in mine, but the image has been created in my constituency that the Labour party wants the Bill, yet down here the Labour party is doing everything possible to delay it. Has my hon. Friend had that experience?

Mr. French

My hon. Friend takes the exact words out of my mouth. I am coming to precisely that point and, if I am allowed to do so, I intend to enlarge upon it when I reach it.

First, however, let me say that part II, which establishes the local government commission, ought, in my judgment, to be given very careful consideration. However, it is precisely that part of the Bill that has not been given proper consideration, due to the overlong deliberations on part I.

I recall that, during the Second Reading debate on 20 January, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) opposed the Bill. He said that he was against part I and described part II as "an even greater disappointment". However, it needs to be placed firmly on record that Labour party councillors throughout the country support the Bill, and particularly part II. Many of them are extremely keen to see the establishment of a Local Government Commission. They are also extremely keen to see the establishment of the unitary authorities that will result from the commission's deliberations.

The Labour party will have to make up its mind. Labour party councillors throughout the country want the Local Government Commission, as well as unitary status, where appropriate. Do those councillors therefore support the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen here, and the members of the Committee, who have been instrumental in blocking the Bill?

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

On the point that the hon. Gentleman makes regarding parts I and II. It has always been clear that the controversial part of the Bill relates to competitive tendering when it is compulsory competitive tendering. The lukewarm part of the Bill concerns the Local Government Commission. Would it not have been better, therefore, to introduce two Bills? The first would have provided for the creation of the Local Government Commission and would have gone through virtually on the nod. The second could have been debated for much longer in Committee, due to the controversial issues that it contained. This is only a bare bones of a Bill. It contains no affirmative procedure. That is why it has taken some time to explore the issues involved.

Mr. French

That is an ingenious solution which, were it to be applied, would get the Labour party off the hook, but that is not what happened. On account of the delays imposed upon the Committee in respect of part I, part II will not receive the consideration that it deserves. To me, that implies that the Labour party is not interested in part II being properly considered. It is not interested in obtaining a good part II. I have already referred to the fact that the hon. Member for Dagenham described part II as "an even greater disappointment" than part I. That does not suggest to me that he is pleased with part II; it implies that he has criticisms to make of it.

Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

indicated assent.

Mr. French

One of the difficulties is that, because we are being denied the opportunity to debate part II, Members of Parliament in all parts of the House will be unable to make those criticisms of part II that they might have felt to be appropriate.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

The hon. Gentleman makes it appear that the Labour party has denied the Committee time to discuss the next stage of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman feels that we ought to have more time to discuss part II, he ought to come over here and vote with us against the guillotine motion. If he wants more time for the Bill, he ought to try to persuade his right hon. Friend that the Committee needs more time to discuss part II.

Mr. French

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not been following my argument. Of course we want this part of the Bill to be debated, but so far the debate has done nothing but obstruct its consideration. We cannot continue in the same vein. There comes a point at which, if the Bill is to become law, as it clearly should, we have to make progress. That is why we are debating the guillotine motion. We should not be debating it now if so much time in Committee had not been consumed particularly on clause 8. Important though clause 8 is, it has thrown the Committee's deliberations and what ought to have been the normal timetable for the Committee out of all reasonable proportion. That is why we are in this position.

Labour councillors have expressed sympathy and support for part II of the Bill. Do they support Labour Front-Bench spokesmen in blocking the Bill, which would suggest that they are insincere in their declared support for the Local Government Commission and the prospect of unitary status, or do they genuinely believe in unitary status, as the Bill proposes? If so, will they disown the conduct of the parliamentary Labour party? Which is the genuine and true voice of the Labour party? It is speaking with two voiceson this part of the Bill—

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Only two?

Mr. French

There may be more, but I am perfectly content with those two, because they completely contradict each other.

It is incumbent on the Labour party to explain its attitude to the Local Government Commission and the prospect of unitary status. I hope that that question will be put to Labour councillors. Do they support the attitude adopted by their own party in Parliament to part II of the Bill? If not, will they distance themselves from the conduct of Labour Members?

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

I am a member of the Committee considering the Bill, but as far as I am aware, the hon. Gentleman has not made any comment on part I. He has no opinion on whether his constituents' pensions are taken away, or on compulsory competitive tendering.

Mr. French

I have views to express about part II. The speeches of Labour Members, including those of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), have been so lengthy that, in the interests of progress, Conservative Members have not made long speeches. That underlines the defect in the approach to Committee work.

I believe that part II is at the heart of the Bill. I wish to debate the terms of reference of the Local Government Commission and its composition, which interests Labour Members, but, as matters are proceeding, I shall not have a chance to do so.

The hon. Member for Carlisle will know that I have tabled amendments on the terms of reference for the Local Government Commission as he has signed them. I am grateful for his support and for that of my hon. Friends, but it appears that we shall not have an opportunity to debate them.

Mr. Martlew

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is more vocal tomorrow than he has been at previous- sittings; otherwise, the debate on the amendment that we move together will be very brief.

Mr. French

I have much to say about the amendment, but it would be out of order for me to put tonight the arguments that I intend to put tomorrow. I want the Local Government Commission to consider the position of historic cities, in which the hon. Member for Carlisle has an interest.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

The hon. Gentleman said that he has a lot to say on part II but criticised my hon. Friends for having a lot to say on part I. Why does he think that he has a right to say a lot on part II but that my hon. Friends should be excluded from saying a lot on part I?

Mr. French

It is a matter of relativity. What I describe as "a lot to say" is tiny compared with the interpretation of Labour Members. My interpretation would be a concise and relevant speech of about 10 minutes and no more. I think that I can put my arguments on historic cities in no more than 10 minutes. If I have an opportunity tomorrow, I shall do so.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) has not had the same opportunity as we have to listen to all these interesting speeches. He plainly does not understand that the difference between a long speech and a speech full of content is quite stark. If he takes the opportunity to read the long speeches, he will not find any content.

Mr. French

I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. Committee Chairmen are long-suffering and do their best in a difficult job, but I believe that they should be more robust in ruling material out of order.

Mr. Martlew

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to criticise the Chairmen of a Committee in that way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) should not do so. I hope that he will withdraw those comments.

Mr. French

I withdraw that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

If members of Committees ensured that their comments were relevant, it would solve much of the problem, because their speeches would not be unduly long, and we could debate more of the Bill.

Mr. Clelland

I thought that I heard the Leader of the House criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), yet, as my hon. Friend pointed out, the Minister congratulated him on the content of his speech.

Mr. French

That is because the Minister is courteous. It would be natural for him to express congratulations, but that does not mean that every part of the speech that the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) made was strictly relevant to the clause that he was addressing.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Labour Members may have missed the point that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was making in congratulating the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). I think that my hon. Friend was congratulating the hon. Gentleman on making a boring speech lasting only 50 minutes, rather than his usual boring speech of one hour and 40 minutes.

Mr. French

I am inclined to agree with the sentiments that my hon. Friend expresses.

Mr. Portillo

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) had spoken with his customary force and conviction. If the hon. Member for Makerfield was pleased with that comment, he must lack a sense of irony.

Mr. French

The Minister makes the point very well indeed.

I wish to conclude my remarks, because I should not wish to be open to the same criticism as I am making of Labour Members. I have made my point about the conduct of Committees and about the Labour party's deliberate attempts to prevent us from reaching part II of the Bill, which is so important.

7.48 pm
Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

The motion is against the best interests of local government. If we are to have meaningful local government legislation, Bills such as this should be allowed to proceed with the fullest possible discussion of their clauses.

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) may think that part I is not important, but Conservative and Labour councillors are concerned about the extension of compulsory competitive tendering under clause 8. In fact, we were told that PA Consultants advised the Government that not all the proposals for the further extension of compulsory competitive tendering were in the best interests of the people who depend on the services. We dwelt on housing at some length, and questions were raised as to how consultation and compulsory competitive tendering would apply to it.

Primary legislation gives tenants' associations and co-operatives the right to consultation before any changes are made in the management or administration of their housing estates. When we asked for clarification and for the issues to be explained and qualified, we were told that the Minister for Housing and Planning would issue a consultation document in due course. That document should have been published in January, but it has not yet appeared. Therefore, the Committee had to discuss an issue without the evidence necessary for Members to make a decision on the very important issue of changing the management of local authority housing and how that will affect the tenants who depend on such housing for their welfare and quality of life.

Conservative Members such as the hon. Member for Gloucester had no comment to make on the important issue of local authority housing departments. I and many of my colleagues considered it to be a significant matter which should have been discussed in detail in Committee, but we were told that our questions could not be answered because the necessary information was not available. How can Conservative hon. Members expect the Opposition to accept such a situation when discussing clause 8?

If the Leader of the House had any respect for local government, he would join me and my colleagues in saying that the information required for us to make a judgment on clause 8 should have been put before the Committee. I want to register our deepest concern about the fact that the Government are steamrolling through legislation that is against the best interest of the people who depend on local government services.

I again put to the Leader of the House and to Ministers this question: will the tenants' associations and co-operatives have a say in the way in which compulsory competitive tendering will apply to the management of local authority housing services as laid down in primary legislation? Will they be given the opportunity to say whether they are satisfied with the present arrangements?

We have been told that, before the tenants were subject to a change of housing management, a vote should be taken among the tenants and the people who depend on local authority housing services and that, if a majority were against the change, it should not be implemented. Will that apply in the case of compulsory competitive tendering? If the majority of tenants do not want the current arrangements for housing management changed —those arrangements include letting and the reporting and repairs service—will their views be taken into consideration and accepted as laid down under current legislation?

The Leader of the House, who moved the guillotine motion, should be able to answer the simple questions being put by councillors—Labour and Tory—about how the extension of compulsory competitive tendering will apply to managerial services. The hon. Member for Gloucester is fully aware that similar questions were asked about police services but they were not answered. The same was true of questions on architectural services and on the provision and future of library services, so we had to keep pressing Minsters on those important matters under clause 8.

I remind members of the Committee that, when we were requesting information, some Conservative hon. Members intervened on me and my colleagues because of the importance of the points raised. We had no objection to the interventions. There was an exchange of views across the Committee. That is no reason for the Leader of the House to say that such exchanges should not take place on part II, which is what will happen if the guillotine motion is passed in its present form. There were lengthy discussions on clause 8, because it deals with compulsory competitive tendering and we wanted to ensure that there was clarification so that members of local authorities could read the report of the deliberations and be aware that we had not received information about the extension of compulsory competitive tendering.

When will we receive the response from the Minister for Housing and Planning about the provision of future housing management services for local authority housing departments. When may we have that report? It is clearly important, but we are being denied the information that is necessary to make a balanced judgment on the extension of compulsory competitive tendering.

Another issue which was raised by Labour members of the Committee should be taken into consideration. Consultative documents were issued to local authorities and other interested organisations for them to comment on, but the closing date of the consultation was 31 January 1992 and the Bill was in Committee before that date. As the hon. Member for Gloucester said, members of local authorities have commented on the White Papers and their comments have been submitted to the Department of the Environment, but the Committee has not had the opportunity to consider the results of the consultation. In the interests of democracy, how can Conservative Members say that there should be no time to discuss the Bill further when we are waiting to know exactly what people think about the proposed legislation?

We also mentioned voluntary organisations, which have expressed concern about clauses 8 and 9. Members of the Committee know the views of those organisations and their concern about how compulsory competitive tendering will apply to the services in which they are involved. Will provision be made in the contracts for the extension of compulsory competitive tendering to ensure that the support that voluntary organisations get from local authority departments will continue if private contractors take over the services?

We have raised the issue of the concern expressed by parish and town councils. Although it was promised in the White Paper that there would be provision for discussion on the involvement of parish and town councils, we have been denied that opportunity. Everyone has received letters from organisations, including parish and town councils, expressing disappointment about the fact that the Government have not fulfilled the promise made in the White Paper. We have reasons to question Ministers arid to keep pressing for those questions to be answered.

We also asked why quality and cost should be separate and why there should be double enveloping. There has been no response to the points raised by Labour members of the Committee on those important issues. We are told tonight that, because we pressed those issues so vehemently in the debate on part I and because we took time to ensure that all those matters were put on record, we shall not have the opportunity to do so on part II. That shows the disgraceful way in which the Government are handling the Bill.

I accept that all parts of the Bill, not just part II, are important to local government, and we must have the opportunity to discuss the Bill in full. Democracy as it should operate in this country is being denied to hon. Members tonight. All parties have an interest in local government, but it seems that the interest of Conservative Members is based on the guillotine motion. I do not want such a discussion of local government. The sooner that we allow more involvement for local government and more discussion on the provision of local government services, the better. That will come about on 9 April when there is a general election and a change of Government. We shall then allow people to discuss the important issues which affect the destinies and standard of living of many people. I ask the House to reject the motion.

8.2 pm

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

It is difficult not to believe that the opposition by Labour and Liberal Democrat Members to the timetable motion is synthetic. As hon. Members who were present at the start of the debate will know, the comments of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) seemed wholly sympathetic to the views of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The hon. Gentleman seemed to feel that the House should increasingly consider the sensible timetabling of Bills such as the Local Government Bill. The Labour party claims, although its claim may be synthetic, that it wants most of the Bill to be on the statute book. Given the agendas of both main Opposition parties, their opposition to the Bill's twin sister, the Local Government Finance Bill which dealt with the abolition of the poll tax, was just about understandable. However, the substance of their objections—especially Labour's—to that Bill and its twin sister, the Local Government Bill, has never been truly clear.

What Labour wants to replace the poll tax with, other than the catchy but wholly meaningless phrase "fair rates", has never been clear or spelt out. After four or five years of internal wrangling within the Labour party, it is not clear what "fair rates" would mean. It has never been understood inside the House and it is certainly not understood outside the House. On the Local Government Bill, we have had opposition for its own sake. The time taken so far to examine the clauses makes it clear that Labour and the Liberal Democrats have wished to ensure that, given the time left to this Parliament, the Bill will fall.

We are addressing two main issues: first, the citizens charter with its related competitive tender and, secondly, the structural and boundary reforms which, it is said, we all want.

Mr. Gould

Did you write this?

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.

Mr. Gould

It is very good.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

That is most kind.

Mr. Irvine Patnick (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

Give him a signed copy.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I will.

The Labour party has argued, for outside consumption, that it is against not competitive tendering, but compulsory competitive tendering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I am grateful for the sedentary confirmation of that. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment said on Second Reading, replying to the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay), if it is just competitive tendering, the Labour party will not do it, but if it is compulsory competitive tendering, it will have to do it. That is the substance of the debate.

Mr. Clelland

The hon. Gentleman must know that, throughout the years, local government, under the control of whichever political party, has been involved in competitive tendering. It is the compulsory element to which we object. The hon. Gentleman refers to part I. Does he agree that it is part I that is contentious? Does he also agree that we should spend time debating the contentious issue? The Government are not immune to making mistakes on local government legislation, so it should be debated in depth. Does the hon. Gentleman not find it curious that the Government want to rush through the contentious issues to get to the provisions which are not contentious—and on which the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) wants to spend a lot of time?

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

It is perfectly true that competitive tendering has been available to local authorities for many years—that is not in dispute—but the Bill seeks to ensure that all people, under whichever local authority they live, have the benefit of competitive tendering. The only way to ensure that is to make it the law that such tendering is compulsory. There are exceptions—the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone has always defended his local authority, perhaps rightly—but the vast majority of Labour authorities simply will not carry out competitive tendering.

To give an example, in the run-up to one of our recent local elections, the Labour party in Nottingham feared that it would lose. In a panic, it quickly did a deal with the cleansing department which saved our local authority no less than £400,000. The only reason why it made the effort to save that money was that it feared that the Conservatives would win the local election and that we might go out to some form of tendering. I submit that that is proof positive that Labour councils do the right thing only when we force them to do so. Compulsory competitive tendering is one of the mechanisms that we must have on the statute book to ensure that everyone gets a fair deal from their local authority.

Mr. Martlew

The hon. Gentleman must have been resting during our long debate in Committee. Did not my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) point out that more than 3,000 tenders had gone out and that there were only 30 at most—1 per cent.—to which the Government had any objection? The legislation is already in place for CCT. The Bill merely tightens the screw, and it is nonsense to pretend otherwise.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am not sure quite what point he is making.

The Bill provides that, no matter where they live, local ratepayers or local taxpayers—whatever the means by which the finance is raised—have the benefit of compulsory competitive tendering arrangements, which will ensure that they get a fair deal. It must surely be the duty of the House to ensure that.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

My hon. Friend will no doubt wish to take the opportunity to welcome one of the part-time members of the Committee, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) to the debate.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is returning to his place.

Mr. McCartney

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Not for the first time, the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) has made outrageous remarks about the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti). The hon. Gentleman is not a member of my party, but I feel that it is vital that remarks made in the House should not denigrate or give a false impression of an hon. Member's conduct in this place. Only a moment ago, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) accused the hon. Member for Eastbourne of being involved in a filibuster. Now the hon. Member for Harrow, East accuses him of being a part-time member of the Committee. Yet he was neither. Conservative Members are simply engaging in party political activities—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am not aware of any matter arising from that that is a matter for the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

You will see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from the length of that so-called point of order, precisely why Conservative Members have complained about filibustering in Committee. I confess to an admiration for the way in which the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) can pour out a torrent of words for hours on end—for what purpose, I know not. If a medal were to be awarded, it would certainly go to the hon. Member for Makerfield, who has taken over the mantle of an hon. Member who retired from the House a few years ago and who was a genius when it came to filibustering. That accolade now passes to the hon. Member for Makerfield. I merely add that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) is perfectly capable of defending himself, and will no doubt do so when he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

There ought not to be any argument about the fact that the public are entitled to have, and be seen to have, value for their money—and that means compulsory competitive tendering. The long-winded case against CCT has been nothing more than rearguard action to ensure that many —though not all—local authorities can go on in their own sweet way, measuring need and the delivery of service by the old Labour party yardstick of the amount of money that they spend. That seems to be the only yardstick that the Opposition have ever had: if one spends more, it must be a better service—if one spends less, one is cost-cutting. They have never understood value for money.

Let me give an example to which I have referred previously. Our own Labour authority in Nottinghamshire, working from desktops on unchecked and untendered for building work needed in our old people's homes, would rather announce their closure—as it disgracefully did—than obtain outside quotations and find out what it would cost to do the work required. [Interruption.] I will gladly give way to the hon. Member for Makerfield if he wishes me to—he has spent an entire paragraph of my speech rabbiting from the Back Bench.

Mr. McCartney

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not accuse me of filibustering. He rarely speaks in the House and even when he does, he never speaks up for Nottingham. He always denigrates it and finds excuses to attack Labour councillors. Come 9 April, the people of Nottinghamshire will sort him out.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I do not know whether to laugh or cry. If there is one hon. Member who speaks up for his city, I am he. My one criticism and my one sadness is that the queen of the midlands is oppressed by Labour-controlled city and county councils, and I cannot wait for the day when we get rid of both of them.

A few Labour Members at county hall—there are some honourable men among our Labour councillors, although not the Labour county councillor who is the prospective parliamentary candidate for my constituency—

Mr. Clelland

We did not think that you would like him.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I do not.

Some members at county hall had their consciences pricked over the possible closure of our old people's homes and joined my Conservative colleagues on the county council to vote that outrageous proposal down. Had there been compulsory competitive tendering, that situation might never have arisen. It will certainly not arise in future, because I know from the outside quotations that we have had for the work on the old people's homes that it would come comfortably within the budget that the authority already has available to it. Even the Labour councillors are beginning to feel ashamed at the dreadful pressures that they put on all the residents of those 12 homes while the matter was being debated at county hall in Nottinghamshire.

The Bill began in the other place and was considered in considerable detail there. The Opposition can hardly say, therefore, that they have not had a chance to examine its substance and properly to air their grievances and table amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) said, with the time that they have taken so far, they have denied us the opportunity properly to consider part II.

My hon. Friend might well have referred in his excellent speech to the fact that part II refers to the Audit Commission which, strangely, the Labour party wishes to abolish the Audit Commission, although it is one of the greatest protections that the public have. I cannot for the life of me understand the logic of that, but that is another good reason why the Bill must not be allowed to fall through lack of time left in this Parliament.

The main purpose of part II of the Bill is to give us the means by which we can restore or create single-tier unitary authorities wherever it is found appropriate. That is a process that we cannot afford to delay. My constituents, living in one of the finest cities in the country—I say that again for the benefit of the hon. Member for Makerfield—and in the urban areas around our city, which constitutes the real capital of the east midlands, want to throw off the shackles of county hall. They simply do not understand or want councillors from Worksop, Mansfield and Retford making decisions that are rightly for the people of Nottingham—or south Nottinghamshire— whatever the ultimate decision may be.

Of course those northern councillors want to do the best that they can for their towns—that is right and proper —but I submit that they should no longer have the power to make those decisions at the expense of my constituents living within the city of Nottingham. The sooner the Bill reaches the statute book, the happier my constituents will be, and I believe that that view is held throughout south Nottinghamshire.

Blocking the Bill will cost the Labour party dear. Labour will not get away with the publicity in my locality and bogus amendments to put teeth into the citizens charter. We all know that Labour opposes the charter.

Labour Members will not get away with claiming that they support single-tier authorities. The controlling Labour group at county hall provided funds for county hall to produce self-congratulatory pamphlets with the express purpose of trying to preserve the county's existence. Labour cannot have it both ways. A Labour authority cannot spend public money to maintain its existence while Labour Members of Parliament state in the House that they want single-tier authorities.

Mr. Martlew

The hon. Gentleman must recall that it was a Conservative Government who, in 1972 and 1973, proposed the local government reorganisation that is now being altered. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept any responsibility for that?

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Yes, we got it wrong. Many Conservative Members and Conservatives around the country believed that local government should be reorganised in the early 1970s, but we did not believe that there should be the same solution throughout the country. That is exactly what the present Government have recognised. We cannot claim that everywhere must have precisely the same solution. That is precisely what part II of the Bill addresses. Some areas may continue to have two-tier authorities, if that is right and proper for them and if that is what the local people want, but there is no doubt that a two-tier structure is not the answer in Nottinghamshire. It was wrongly imposed in the early 1970s. The Conservative party has at least had the courage to say that it was wrong, we must put it right and we must not delay further.

Mr. Clelland

If the hon. Gentleman is big enough to admit that the Conservative Government were wrong in 1972 and that they were wrong in respect of the poll tax —another piece of infamous local government legislation —is it not a little unwise of the Government to rush through yet another measure which is also wrong?

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

No, there is no logic in that view. One of the great tragedies in this House is that so few of us have run businesses. When one runs a business, one is aware that one makes mistakes, but one does not dwell on them. If one makes a wrong decision, one simply says, "Stop—cut your losses and move on to something new." I wish that we in politics were more able to admit that something we did a few years ago was wrong and that we should put it right as quickly as we can. There is no shame in that.

One of the problems in politics is that it takes so long for us to admit that we got something wrong. We were wrong to impose a similar structure throughout the country in the 1970s. The Government recognise that, and we are establishing a system which will ensure that we get it right this time.

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

Is not one of the attractions of the Bill the fact that, by creating the Local Government Commission, we provide an opportunity for freedom of choice in local areas so that people in different parts of the country can choose different solutions? It is a question not of rushing through a single prescription, but of creating a framework in which choice can be exercised.

While I have the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo)—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mr. Coombs

Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I wish to raise a point which arises from our discussions. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South has referred to a mistake which he alleges that the Conservative party made in 1972. We have learnt from our mistakes, but the Labour party refuses to learn from its mistakes. Labour is still determined to have regional government and to impose another tier upon it, which will be—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Interventions should be brief. Let us return to the motion before the House.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs). His intervention stands freely and requires no comment from me. I do not disagree with him at all.

The Bill must make progress. I therefore support the timetable motion without reservation.

8.24 pm
Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

There seems to be a sense of deja vu on the Conservative Benches. This must be about the 60th motion to curtail debate on a Bill in the past five years, and most of those motions have related to local government matters. On each occasion, the motion has been dictated by political considerations on the Government Benches.

The Government's arrogance in Committee is clear. When hon. Members attempt to debate issues, they are met with silence or with occasional sedentary interventions in the form of caustic remarks from Conservative Members. If, in Committee, Opposition Members did not participate in a debate, the Minister tried to curtail the debate, causing the Committee to progress to the next clause. Opposition Members could not win no matter what happened. If Opposition Members did not wish to participate in a debate, the Government would not initiate one.

That is precisely what happened on 11 February. Without consultation, and of their own volition, the Government decided that the debate would continue not till 10 pm—as had previously been agreed—or to 11 pm, midnight or I am, but until 5 am. However, there was a tacit and clear policy, in that Back-Bench Conservative Members did not participate in the discussions. Therefore, Back-Bench Opposition Members had to shoulder the responsibility of examining the Bill.

When it comes to considering amendments in Committee, Conservative Members are gutless. They have failed to scrutinise the Bill. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) has admitted that mistakes were made. That was big of him, but such mistakes would not have been made if amendments had been considered properly in Committee and if Conservative Members had shown any desire to participate in the debates to scrutinise the Bill.

From the Government's point of view, we have an elected dictatorship. Whatever the Secretary of State says goes. If the Government cannot get their legislation through quickly, they can always introduce a guillotine. That is why Conservative Members cannot make a case tonight. So far, we have simply heard a litany of personal attacks on Opposition Members. My hon. Friends and I take it as a badge of pride when Conservative Members try to denigrate our contributions in this place and in Committee. I believe that that shows that we are on the right course.

I do not intend to apologise for referring to safety in the fire service. Why should I apologise for referring to men and women who daily try to save lives? They save the lives of about 700 people a year, and they save another 10,000 people from serious injury. I have been personally attacked in this House for trying to ensure that, when compulsory competitive tendering is introduced in the fire service, it protects equipment and the maintenance of equipment which saves the lives of firefighters and those who are unfortunately involved in fires. If it is being boring to attack the principle by which the Committee operates, then I plead guilty.

We must also consider CCT in the police service and the fact that that service believes that the Government are wrong to force the police service into areas of CCT which will affect security. If it were not for Opposition Members, the professional advice that the Government have received from the fire service and the police service would never have seen the light of day. Conservative Members object to Opposition Members being able to place on the public record the advice that the Government have received from their professional advisers who say that the Government are wrong. If it were not for Opposition Members, that advice would not have come to light.

Why have the Government failed in Committee to give any public commitment to publish consultants' reports in respect of the legislation? The reason is that the consultants have made it clear to the Government that the way in which they are proceeding with the Bill is a mistake and a serious error in administrative, financial and political terms.

Their arrogance is such, after 13 years in power, that the Government will listen to no one. They will take advice from no one—they will certainly not take advice from Opposition Members. When advice becomes politically embarrassing, they close the debate. That has happened in Committee.

As the debate unfolds, the Government become more and more embarrassed. We are able to produce evidence of the disasters of compulsory competitive tendering in councils, irrespective of political control or region, or whether they are county councils, non-metropolitan councils or metropolitan councils. There have been disasters in terms of the quality of service, the wages and conditions of those who are trapped in compulsory competitive tendering and the pressures being placed on local authorities even when they win a tender. Tenders are won at the cost of the delivery of service. The Government hate the fact that public scrutiny is taking place and they want to close the debate.

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) made an interesting assertion. He believes that there is a need for Committee procedures to be changed, that this is an intellectual debate and that he is very sorry that it had to take place. The Government have had 13 years to change procedures and to come up with proposals to ensure the proper consideration of legislation and to protect the rights of Back-Bench Members, of minority groups and of the official Opposition, but they have failed to do so—because it is not in their interests to do so.

The Government are not prepared to have open government or open debate in Committee. They want to protect the system as long as it protects their position. The hon. Member for Gloucester cannot have it both ways. He cannot complain to hon. Members that he will not have sufficient time to take part in the debate on part II of the Bill when he himself has connived, and will connive tonight, at ensuring that there is no proper consideration of it.

What is at stake in the first part of the Bill are two major clauses—clauses 8 and 9—which are at the heart of the proposals. That is why Opposition Members are insisting on a proper debate on those clauses. Unlike the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo), I have read the legislation. I am surprised that, as a Conservative Member, he did not realise that this is an extension of a piece of legislation that has been in operation since 1988.

Compulsory competitive tendering has been in operation since 1988. The legislation is about extending the scope of services and the way in which the Government through the Secretary of State control tendering procedures. That is what we objected to in Committee. Much of clause 8 is enabling legislation. Let us have more information in it. Each time we have asked questions, the relevant Minister has said, "We are still in consultation; we will bring forward statutory instruments on that."

By that sleight of hand—that casual brushing aside of the political debate—in one week the Government protect themselves from proper scrutiny of the legislation. As we saw with the poll tax, with statutory instruments they forced through, without any debate, fundamental changes in the structure of local government. That leads to complete disaster—not only political disaster, but, more important, disaster in the fair operation of local government as an institution and a deliverer of services.

Mr. Clelland

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for enlightening the House on what has been going on in Committee as opposed to the filibustering that we now hear from Conservative Members. Does my hon. Friend agree that it may be a good policy on our part to send copies of the Committee's proceedings to fire authorities, police authorities and local councils in areas represented by Conservative Members who serve on the Committee? Those authorities and perhaps the local press in those areas will see the contributions that have been made by my hon. Friends and compare them with those by Conservative Members, which I suspect would not fill one sheet of A4 paper.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend has a good idea, but I can put his mind at rest: that is already happening. In my postbag, I have received contributions from people in the Strangers Gallery stating that, if it were not for Opposition Members, their views about the legislation would never have been put.

Professional associations representing architects wrote the Government a detailed paper about the way in which the Government were seriously undermining architects' departments in local authorities. Did the Minister publish that document? Did the Minister refer to it either on Second Reading or in our debate on clause 8 in Committee? Not a bit of it. It was left to Opposition Members to set out the position of architects and professional advice to the Government.

The same applies to the fire service, the police and local authority associations. On every occasion, the Government failed to take account in proper debate of the views of people outside. That is despite the fact that the Government are introducing legislation which changes large sectors of local authority delivery of services, and the consultation procedure has not been completed.

The Government are passing legislation without asking local authority associations, fire services, police services, voluntary organisations, local authorities, parish councils, or town councils their view on the legislation. The Bill will be law before their views have had an opportunity to be expressed properly unless Opposition Members are given that opportunity during the passage of the Bill.

Have hon. Members ever heard of such a situation? The offer of open government through the citizens charter and the procedure for public comment has ended after the Bill becomes law. That is a sham. The Government have already decided the principles of the Bill. They have no intention of allowing a proper debate on the consequences of it. This is only a bit of window dressing in the run-up to the election. That is what this pernicious guillotine motion is about: the Government are desperately clearing the decks for a general election.

The Government have no advantage in containing the debate upstairs, because each day more and more embarrassing information comes out about their proposals. For example, last Thursday, the Government sought to change clause 9 to allow a calumny about local authorities which, to some extent, was continued by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South: that, over the past three years, local authorities had been cheating in some way in their operation of compulsory competitive tendering and we therefore need a change in the law. They said that they had to do something to get rid of those local authorities' anti-competitive practices, yet in the debate that Conservative Members did not want, the truth was that of more than 3,000 tendering procedures that were investigated, only 30—about 1 per cent.—required any action or proposed action by the Government.

That was the excuse for dramatically changing, without consultation, major sectors of local government services such as housing, architectural services and a host of legal and administrative services—a change of the law based on an outright misrepresentation of the facts. That is why Conservative Members do not like the debate: because we find out the truth. We find out that the Government have nothing more than blind ideology when it comes to the continuation of this piece of legislation.

I now refer to what will happen from tomorrow onwards. Much has been said about the way in which we shall proceed. It would take much to convince me and other hon. Members that the Government are serious about a fundamental review of local goverment other than for political reasons, in the light of the way in which 13 years of Tory attacks on local government have undermined the concept of public service in the United Kingdom.

The Tories' record is not good. When they lost control of metropolitan authorities, they abolished them. When they lost control of Greater London local authorities, they abolished them. The legislation is not about a commission to improve local government services. For Conservative Members, it is a short-term, ideological set-up whereby they will examine county councils in non-metropolitan areas that are controlled by Labour. They are already fingering some local authorities not because they do not provide proper services but because they are controlled by Labour. If the Government cannot win in the ballot box, they abandon the ballot box.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McCartney

I give way to the hon. Member for MI5.

Mr. Allason

How does the hon. Gentleman square that slightly paranoid view of the reconstruction of local government with the position in counties such as Devon, where a substantial proportion of the local authorities are Conservative-controlled at both district and county level? In Devon, we feel that there is great duplication, especially in the control and supply of services. All we are after is one sensible unitary authority. Surely that is nothing to do with politics but is the desire to provide our constituents and people in individual wards with a sensible, proper service, combined with a sensible, proper system of accountability.

Mr. McCartney

In the light of some of the hon. Gentleman's writings, he is the last one to accuse anyone in the House of being paranoid.

Mr. Allason

I have read the hon. Gentleman's file, and it is all right.

Mr. McCartney

If one were to believe what the Minister, the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) and other Conservative Members on the Committee believe, it would be a pretty boring file.

Mr. Allason

There was an interesting telephone conversation two years ago.

Mr. McCartney

I had an even more interesting one last night, but we will deal with that in a moment.

I would go along with the hon. Gentleman if his record and that of his hon. Friend was one that we could trust. I am sure that, in his time, the hon. Gentleman has deliberately voted with the Government for the abolition of many local authorities. The Opposition want to get rid of the Government's political inclination to tamper only with Labour-controlled local authorities.

I believe in a root-and-branch review of local government services. I believe in unitary authorities. I believe in bringing services down to as local a level as possible to take account of the need to have a financial base and a land base on which to implement strategic policy decisions. So I have no argument with the hon. Gentleman about the concept in principle, but I worry about the political ideology behind the Government's position.

For example, at present the Bill makes no provision for local communities to appeal against decisions by the commission. That is fundamental if one is serious about local decision-making. The commission will be able to make fundamental changes to a council, abolish it or amend it. Local people will have no procedure by which to appeal against that decision. At least with the present Local Government Boundary Commission there is a procedure for appealing against its decisions. If the Government are serious about local government and consideration by local people, why have not they provided a proper procedure to appeal against a decision to abolish an authority?

Mr. Clelland

Does my hon. Friend also agree that we are right to be worried about the impartiality of the commission because the Secretary of State for the Environment has already pre-empted the commission's decisions by expressing the view that Cleveland and Humberside will be abolished under its recommendations? He said that even before the commission was set up.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is right. Irrespective of one's position and whether a decision is right, it is no job of the Secretary of State, in advance of setting up the commission, to set down as its first term of reference the political abolition of certain local authorities. That is why Opposition Members want to ensure proper scrutiny and create safeguards.

We want to prevent the Government—this Government or any future Government, and whatever their political complexion—from interfering in any way for political considerations in decisions to amend local government boundaries and the local communities served by local units of administration. That is vital. Otherwise, we are going into the business of gerrymandering of local authority communities. Let us be frank: that is what happened to the metropolitan counties, and in my area, we had to live with the consequences.

I represented a metropolitan council area. Our democratic authority was abolished forthwith. Out of it, a series of quangos has been set up. They are unelected, but they have the resources and powers to determine basic services—whether fire, police, transport or waste disposal services. Not a single vote is cast in respect of the decisions of those bodies. They spend millions and millions of pounds. That is the Government's record in reorganisation of local government. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gloucester does not want to say that that record will continue with the local government commission.

One of the Government's serious proposals is that, in making wholesale amendments to unitary authorities, it will be necessary to have many former county facilities controlled by the districts. I want to ensure that, when several district councils are involved in delivering a countywide service, there is some democratic accountability in the provision of services and the development of policy, and that the local community has some say in the way in which money is spent on that service.

So Opposition Members need make no apology for the way in which we have scrutinised the Bill so far.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Is he aware that one of the strongest wills in my area to see the abolition of the county authority and the establishment of a unitary authority is that of the Labour-controlled South Derbyshire district council? It has had enough of decisions being taken on its behalf by idiots a long way away, be they of its party or not.

Mr. McCartney

I have no objection to that. I do not know what the hon. Lady is complaining about. All we are saying is that we want the structure of the commission, its membership and democratic control, the style of membership, and its knowledge of local government to be correct. More important, when the commission comes to decisions, we want local Conservative associations, Liberal and Labour parties, community groups, tenants' groups and so on to have an opportunity to challenge the commission's views or to put alternative views to it.

With all due respect, the 35 wisest men and women in Britain will be on that commission, but they do not know everything about every local community in Britain. Why should they? If South Derbyshire want a unitary authority, I am happy with that. All I am saying is that, when the commission makes its proposals for the area, the people of South Derbyshire should have an opportunity to say whether the proposals are right and fair.

I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) will come into the Lobby with us tonight against the guillotine motion. If it is accepted, the consideration of the Bill that she and I want will never take place. I hope that she will take that into account, and I am sure she will. I am sure that she is not just a hackette for the Government.

I wish to give an example of the value of debate—this is not only my view but that of the Minister. He and I took part in a debate for perhaps 30 minutes at about 3 o'clock in the morning on the de minimis rule, which excludes services up to a value of £100,000 from compulsory competitive tendering. That rule was introduced by the Government in 1988 to protect small district councils. At the end of the debate, the Minister of State said that the only reason that we had been able to sort out a serious problem was the debate that we had had. That is what Opposition Members are about. We want to engage the Government in an appropriate debate about the major issues before the Committee.

Compulsory competitive tendering is not only a contentious issue: it goes to the heart of the principle of delivery of public services in Britain. Unless the delivery of services is subject to proper public scrutiny, even if the Government force the Bill through, the Bill will not be worth a row of beans if in practice it undermines the ability of local authorities to provide services. Is not that the fundamental test when it comes down to it? Irrespective of political ideology, when legislation leaves the House, the test is whether in practice it is better than the legislation that preceded it—whether it will ensure better services, better scrutiny of services and better value for money. The way in which the Government are proceeding means that the Bill will fail on all three counts.

The Government will lose politically, but more importantly, local government will lose. The public who believe in and require the services will be the biggest losers, because the scrutiny in the House does not do justice to the major changes that the Government seek to force on the British public.

8.49 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Conservative Members have come to recognise the regular hollow protests by the Opposition at the use of the guillotine. What we have seen in this debate, what we saw last week, and what we may see again—I do not know, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will know better than I—is the recognition by the Labour party of what will happen on 9 April, 7 May, or whenever. If there were to be a Labour Government after the general election, they would wish to use guillotines. Their fervent opposition to guillotine motions shows their recognition that they will not, in a few short weeks, be on the Government Benches and able to demand their own guillotines.

Mr. Martlew

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Paice

Not for a minute—I have only just started.

What also proves the hollowness of arguments against guillotine motions is that often the debate on the motion takes time from the debate on amendments. Although that is not the case with this debate, it has often happened with other timetable motions.

Like those of my hon. Friends who have spoken today, I welcome this timetable motion. I believe that every Bill should be timetabled from day 1. That would be far better than introducing a timetable halfway through a Bill. However, the motion had to be introduced tonight, for all the reasons that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House outlined when he detailed the waste of time that we have already had.

The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) urged the Government to come clean and say that this is all part of a campaign to clear the decks before a general election. We are led to believe that the Labour party is looking forward to the general election. The Leader of the Opposition keeps encouraging the Prime Minister to call a general election. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. If they want a general election and believe that the Bill should become law—they are in favour of the part that the Committee has not reached—they should acknowledge that there is no option other than to timetable the remaining stages. The agreement made through the usual channels has come asunder, but what the timetable motion proposes is in line with that agreement—with the one exception that the original agreement did not envisage the Committee sitting until 5 o'clock one morning.

Mr. McCartney

That was the Government's decision.

Mr. Paice

That may be so, but it was still extra time on top of the original agreement about the proceedings of the Bill.

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

What agreement?

Mr. Paice

If the timetable that was agreed through the usual channels—the two Whips Offices—was wrong, why was it agreed in the first place?

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Paice

The hon. Gentleman is on record as saying that he is no longer a Whip but only a Back Bencher, so there is no point in giving way to him while I am speaking about the usual channels.

Only on Thursday last did we finish the part of the Bill dealing with competitive tendering, and we have not yet reached the part dealing with the Local Government Commission. Many people would gain if they could stand the boredom of the tedious and long-winded speeches to which the Committee has listened and which are recorded in Hansard. The Opposition have spent vast amounts of time detailing local government services and experiences of contracts that have gone wrong. They have detailed the odd examples where the service has been below standard or the contract has broke down, and have blamed that on compulsory competitive tendering, but that is not the truth of the matter. The fault lies with the contract that is up for tender. If the documents are properly drawn up, one is able to enforce higher standards and to deal with the problems that may arise.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the motion before the House. I hope that he will quickly get back to it.

Mr. Paice

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I take your remonstrations.

The Committee has spent a considerable amount of time-wasting on matters not directly related to the Bill.

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Gentleman is wasting time.

Mr. Paice

I am sure that if I am wasting time you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will call me to order. If we cannot talk about what has gone on in relation to the Bill so far as justification for a timetable motion, I wonder—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that many speeches in the Committee did not deal with matters arising from the Bill and then hope to be able to reiterate those debates when the House is considering the guillotine motion.

Mr. Paice

I am not suggesting that they did not arise from the Bill. I am saying that they are examples of the way in which, while debating amendments, Labour Members spent far too long on minor details rather than addressing the issues. They could have said what they wanted in a much shorter time.

We have not yet reached the part of the Bill dealing with the Local Government Commission. Labour Members such as the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) have expressed support in principle for this, and he expressed concern about certain aspects of its structure and accountability. I do not think that there will be much dissent across the Floor of the Committee when we get to this tomorrow because most hon. Members welcome that part of the Bill.

Already, the chief executive of my local authority has phoned me saying, "For goodness sake, you have to get this Bill through before the general election. The Local Government Commission must be set up to look at unitary authorities." I believe that unitary authorities will be the primary means of providing local services, although they will not necessarily be the perfect solution for every part of the country.

Mrs. Currie

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not just the Local Government Commission that is important and urgent, but the compulsory competitive tendering provisions in the first part of the Bill? A small unitary authority will in the future be able to succeed because of CCT. It will not have to be a provider of services because it will be able to use CCT to ensure that it gets high-quality services and good value for money simply by buying in whatever appears to it to be necessary.

Mr. Paice

My hon. Friend is right. There is no need for any local authority to have any service provision within its systems. It should simply be an agency buying in provision from whatever source it thinks best. I see no need for a local authority to have vast, wasted bureaucracies sorting out the provision of services when it should be ensuring that it obtains for the people whom it is elected to serve the most cost-effective way to deliver services and the best value for money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) says, if that means a small authority with only a small nucleus of officials buying in and doing the job, so be it.

Mr. Allason

How does my hon. Friend think that the enabling authorities would be able to cope with providing a service the importance of which was highlighted on last night's Independent Television News? In Birmingham, a local authority is providing a phone-in service enabling people who cannot remember a tune and are annoyed by it to telephone from all over the world. A team of nine NALGO members is permanently available to find out what the tune is.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that we have got the point.

Mr. Paice

No doubt my hon. Friend is asking me a rhetorical question. As he well knows, it should not be the function of any publicly elected body to provide such a service. He has put his finger on another critical aspect of the Bill. He referred to nine NALGO members—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Not enough."] It may not be enough—perhaps the demand for the service is so great that 10 or 12 should have been provided. In the event of a return to the trade union laws of the 1970s, however, those nine members could themselves demand another half-dozen, or even 20.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have made it clear that hon. Members must speak about the motion. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now address himself to it.

Mr. Paice

I will return to the subject of the Local Government Commission and unitary authorities.

Hon. Members should not fool themselves. They should not assume that the House has been misled into believing that the Local Government Commission legislation could be pushed through in no time. Much of the debate has already taken place in the other place, whose primary function is to act as a scrutinising body. We know that it could not reject the principle—[HoN. MEMBERS: "It is unelected."] It may be unelected, but it contains a cross-section of people of considerable ability, experience and knowledge. Members of the other place possessing those attributes have already been through the Bill, and have examined many of the concerns that have been expressed about the structure of the Local Government Commission.

The timetable motion was inevitable. It probably became inevitable on the occasion of the Committee's second sitting, when it was clear that we would make very slow progress. If the Bill—and, in particular, the part which involves the Local Government Commission—is to become law before the general election, whenever that takes place, it is essential that the motion be passed today.

9.1 pm

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, although I am very sad that we shall not be given an opportunity to scrutinise the Bill properly.

I do not believe that Conservative Members are carrying out the job that they were elected to do. If doing the job properly means having to stay up throughout the night to scrutinise legislation, I am prepared to do that, but Conservative Members appear to tire very easily. Perhaps they are worried about getting back to their constituencies.

If I have to stay up for a long time to debate the living standards of working people—for instance, when the Government are trying to introduce compulsory competitive tendering—I am prepared to do that. I am prepared to argue for as long as it takes that people's wages and holidays should not be cut, and that sick pay and pensions should not be taken away from them. That is what much of our earlier debate was about. There was no filibuster as such; we had a lengthy debate, in which great concern was expressed for working people.

Such concern seems to be expressed only by Opposition Members. Conservative Members do not seem to give a tinker's cuss. They are not bothered about whether their constituents have to take a cut in wages, as long as they can be seen to be going out to the private sector. I could reel off numerous examples, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but you would rule me out of order if I did, because a number of other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall content myself with saying that to suggest that debate should be curtailed because Opposition Members have not taken the Bill seriously is to present a travesty of the truth: we were debating the subjects that matter.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) seems happy to leave matters to the other place, as long as he can get to bed early enough. I am not sure that that is what democracy is about. I was elected to debate, even if the hon. Gentleman was not, and I feel sorry for his constituents. He has never made any comment that suggested that he cared very much, and I fear that those constituents have a part-time Member.

Mr. David Bellotti (Eastbourne)

There are several.

Mr. Martlew

That may be true, but I should be ruled out of order if I said anything else about that.

I was surprised at the way in which the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) admitted that the Government were wrong in 1974 when they reorganised local government. On Second Reading, I tackled the Secretary of State for the Environment about that and I asked him to apologise to the House for the mistakes made as a result of that reorganisation. The right hon. Gentleman merely attacked the Labour party and said that the Conservatives had nothing for which to apologise. However, three Conservative Back Benchers have got up today to admit that mistakes were made.

We want to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated with the next local government reorganisation, which represents an important change. I happen to believe that local government is as important to our democracy as the Chamber. We have a dual role, and the way in which hon. Members denigrate the work of county councils in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire is hard to take.

The local authorities were established by the Conservative Government and they have had to struggle with the system as best they can. I served on a county council, after its reorganisation, for 18 years and I have nothing but praise for its Conservative and Labour members for the way in which they struggled to tackle the problems with which they were faced. It was not their fault that the structure was wrong, and it does not become Members of this Chamber to criticise people who have merely attempted to do their best with a flawed system —a system introduced by a Conservative Government.

I am worried about the timetable motion because I understand that tomorrow will mark the end of the Committee stage. There are many important matters that still need to be discussed. I had hoped to move an amendment on annual elections—the Government seem to run away from elections. I had hoped that the Minister would say that the Government were in favour of annual elections to the new authorities.

Mr. Portillo

indicated dissent.

Mr. Martlew

I must assume that the Government are not in favour of annual elections to local authorities.

I am not talking about a unitary authority. The district council in Carlisle has annual elections and on the fourth year the county council holds elections. Therefore within any four years of office there are annual elections as well as European elections and, perhaps, a general election. I am a great believer in democracy and I believe that annual elections keep local authorities on their toes. They ensure that the promises made at election time are kept. I have no doubt that the better authorities are those that are prepared to face their electorate every year.

When the Government introduced the poll tax, they argued that it would make local councils more accountable to their electorate. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Government will not give the electors of certain local authorities the opportunity to go to the polls annually.

I know that such elections are expensive for the political parties and I know that the Conservative party has money problems now because the captains of industry are not making a lot of money.

Mr. McCartney

It is true that the Conservative party is having problems with its fund-raising activities and that is why it has switched its attention to the far east and places such as Hong Kong for donations.

Mr. Martlew

My hon. Friend is right, but I should be ruled out of Order were I to take up that issue. Unlike the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East, I would not seek to disagree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I accept that financial problems may be caused by having annual elections. I should like to discuss them with the Minister tomorrow, but I fear that that will not be possible. However, we have already had the Minister's answer to my proposal, so perhaps we shall not need to debate the matter tomorrow.

I am also worried that we may not have an opportunity to discuss historic cities. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French), who is no longer in his place, referred briefly to that subject. The problem is that we may not have time to debate the matter fully and I am looking for a positive response from the Minister. If we are to have unitary authorities—I do not advocate that—special attention must be paid to areas that have had a tradition for centuries of ruling themselves. They have often ruled themselves, having been cut off from central Government. Often, historic cities such as Carlisle were in a state of siege with no possibility of knowing what was being said in Westminster. On one famous occasion, Parliamentarians surrounded the city of Carlisle for many months and there was no option but for the city to govern itself. It even created its own coinage at that time. Carlisle is not unique, and those traditions were followed well before 1974. Many cities have proud traditions as county boroughs.

I hope that there will be time tomorrow to debate that subject. Indeed, I hope that it will not be necessary to debate the matter tomorrow. The Minister must be aware that time will be limited because of the Government's motion. If he is prepared tonight to say that the special place for historic cities should be recognised, it may not be necessary to debate the matter tomorrow. We shall then have an opportunity to debate other important parts of the Bill.

I understand that the Government are making a concession to continue the debate until midnight. Perhaps the Minister will turn into a pumpkin if we continue after midnight. Such a timetable is unsatisfactory. The Government want more but are not listening to elected representatives. As a Member of Parliament, I was sent here to scrutinise legislation and, as an Opposition Member, I am meant to oppose it. That is what democracy is about. It is my job to represent my constituents and scrutinise Government legislation. Because Opposition Members have been doing their job well, the Government can take it no longer. My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) has obviously got under their skin and they are curtailing the debate, not because there is a problem with time but because they are not prepared to put up constructive arguments against our opposition to the Bill.

I hope that the motion will be defeated tonight, but I fear that it will not be. In that case, will the Minister responsible enter the debate tomorrow with a genuine desire to listen and accept the pertinent amendments? So far, the Minister has not accepted a single Opposition amendment—or even an amendment tabled by a Conservative Member. If we are to have a curtailed debate, I hope that it will be genuine on the Government's part and that they will accept the practical amendments. I hope that they will make some concessions on annual elections and historic cities.

9.13 pm
Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) has spoken bravely about his relish for sitting through the night, but his speech reminded me of the first part of those Shredded Wheat advertisements. He spoke bravely and beat his chest, saying that he wanted to stay to debate the matter, but when it was suggested that we might sit through the night, I have never heard such whingeing. As I said in an earlier intervention, some hon. Members did not even want to stay through the night—

Mr. Martlew

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Official Report, he will see that at no time was I whingeing.

Mr. Hughes

I did not say that the hon. Gentleman was stupid. He did his whingeing outside the Committee, but we all heard it.

I shall be brief because other hon. Members wish to speak and I do not wish to exclude them from the debate. As I listened to the debate and sat through hour upon of repetitious Opposition speeches in Committee, it became clear that Labour had singled out the Bill as the one that they wanted to force the Government to drop if the Government opted for an early election.

Labour did not concentrate on the Bill for several reasons. First, it did not do so because of the Bill's effect on local government. Labour Members say that they welcome the opportunity of allowing local government to opt for a unitary structure. However, that does not fit their stated policy. The debate on clause 8 revealed everything. A raft of almost identical amendments was tabled and it was clear that Labour, which is primarily producer-driven, sought to reward its paymasters. That is what the amendments were all about.

Labour sees the prospect of forming a Government retreating with every day. But if a Labour Government were elected, they would stop compulsory competitive tendering and the producers, the people who demand money from the Labour party and who rely on it for their jobs, the unions, would simply carry on in their old way. There would be no improvements in services.

Mr. Allen McKay

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I shall finish the point and then give way just once more.

Compulsory competitive tendering applies to the national health service as well as to local government, and in the NHS it saves £50 million a year. That is the cost of two local hospitals, but Labour would sweep that aside.

Mr. McKay

It appears that the hon. Gentleman is either misinformed, unintelligent or naive. I shall choose naive rather than either of the other two. In all the time that I have been here, I have known only one Bill that the Government wanted that failed to go through. That was a transport Bill. Any Government who want a Bill to become law can use the timetable. Therefore, there is no question of us filibustering to kill the Bill.

Mr. Hughes

In his last few weeks in Parliament, the hon. Gentleman has learnt a lot. I am grateful to him for accepting the logic of my argument. The Opposition could have talked the Bill out but we shall not give them the opportunity.

The second reason for Labour's opposition to the Bill is that it encompasses part of the citizens charter. Labour does not want its rotten local government record exposed in league tables. Labour is at the bottom of the tables for empty properties and for uncollected rents and rates, and the latest figures show that Labour authorities have failed to collect much of the community charge.

The third reason is that a Labour Government would want to emasculate the Audit Commission. The Labour party has made that clear. It does not want information to be published because it knows that that information will embarrass them. Without the Audit Commission, how would we have known that in seven months the direct service organisation in Liverpool has had 8,930 default notices for ground maintenance? Who would have discovered that seven Labour councils had not closed their books by the statutory deadline three years in a row, that Hackney's legal department had lamentable failures and that that council was owed £67 million in rent, rates and other debts? How would we have known that Lambeth operates in an ethos of crisis management rather than one of forward planning? That is what the Labour party wants to cover up; that is why it wants the Bill to fail. But the Bill will not fail; we will get it through with proper debate tomorrow and then on to the statute book, ready for it to help us to win the general election.

9.19 pm
Mr. David Bellotti (Eastbourne)

I am sorry that I could not be here to hear the opening speeches, but I was sitting outside Balham station in a train with a broken rail in front of it. I apologise for that, and I will refrain from commenting on the lack of investment in the railways, because that subject is not on the agenda tonight.

What is on the agenda is the proper consideration of this Bill. The Hansard report of our Committee makes interesting reading. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) spoke in tonight's debate, but in nine Committee sittings he managed to amass only one intervention. The Government want to guillotine this Bill, saying that there is not enough time to consider it in Committee, yet the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) made seven interventions in 20 minutes during the first 65 minutes of consideration of the Bill in Committee. It is contributions such as those which have led us to this.

The record shows that, on behalf of my party, I tabled a small number of amendments and spoke reasonably briefly to each of them. Those amendments dealt with important matters, yet now, as we move towards part II, we are to be denied the opportunity of sensibly advancing alternatives to the clauses in part II.

Three of the major issues in part I with which my amendments dealt were: facilities for local government to provide annual reports and tendering information in braille and on tape so that people with disabilities can read the record of their local authority; measures to allow local people to give their views on the standard of services delivered by companies that tender for services, before those companies are given a further contract; and a measure to turn compulsory competitive tendering into the more constructive voluntary approach which has worked well in many local authorities. All these and others were constructive ways of trying to improve the Bill in Committee. There was no hint on my part of trying to delay the Committee's proceedings.

I am worried because, as we approach part II, really the most important part of the Bill, we will not have the chance to look at it in the detail that is required. Why did the Government need to bring in the items in part I in the same Bill? Why were not the two matters kept separate, given that the second part of the Bill was so important? Part II commands some support in all parts of the House; it could have proceeded well and been improved in Committee. Part I seems to have been necessary only to implement the Government's policy of making everything compulsory.

We also need to provide our local communities with reassurance. Those of us who support unitary authorities —I include myself in this—do not intend to steamroller people into accepting structures with which they do not feel happy. Mistakes were made in the 1974 reorganisation, and we must not repeat them. People throughout the country need reassuring that they will not be reassigned to other local authority areas by someone sitting in Whitehall, and that they will not have someone arriving from London telling them what their natural community is.

It is important that from the work of the Local Government Commission should come a consensus with which people feel happy and under which they can enjoy their local services. The people in Polegate and Willingdon in my constituency are worried that they may be plonked in Eastbourne. They certainly should not be. People in such communities throughout the country want to remain with the authority with which they have been happy and which they feel is their natural community. The work of the Local Government Commission should enable them to stay where they feel happy, and I for one will do all I can to help them to do so.

Many people claim that providing an education service demands a particular size of authority, but that is just not true. Gillian Peele, fellow in politics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Andrew Adonis, fellow in modern British government at Nuffield college, Oxford, have concluded after much research that few existing districts would finish up with fewer than 35 primary and five secondary schools. That would constitute a set-up that was viable to run education. The canard about size needs to be laid to rest.

Some services provided by county councils would give cause for concern if the authorities ended up small. I refer, for instance, to local archive services, which deserve a great deal of attention and which could be destroyed if very small authorities were made responsible for them. As for structure planning, in my county of East Sussex the basis of all planning has been that the strategic policy should divert growth to the south and east of our county, which in effect would protect the Sussex downs and the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty. We must take on board the protection of those areas in any reorganisation of Sussex, as well as diverting economic planning for the future towards the areas where we want it to be. It is difficult to do that with single-tier local structures, yet that ought to be the way forward.

During our deliberations on part I, various local authorities and national bodies, including the Royal Institute of British Architects, drew to our attention what could be the result of not examining carefully what we are doing. The RIBA said: If cost, not quality, becomes the criterion for choosing an architect, all that will happen is that we shall have a generation of slum buildings being built. Many examples of that were drawn to our attention in Committee, to which we were able to give sufficient time.

The time spent so far has been adequate for part I. The time that we have now been given to consider part II is nowhere near adequate. It detracts enormously from the importance of part II. Therefore, I intend to oppose the guillotine motion, which is totally inappropriate and does nothing to serve our local communities.

9.25 pm
Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

I am opposed in principle to all guillotine motions, but I feel very strongly about this Bill because many of my constituents are anxious to have a single-tier local authority. The reason is obvious. Few people understand the difference between the roles and responsibilities of district authorities and county councils. If the Bill were to die before the general election, the day of the return to unitary authorities would be delayed for several years. That would be a disaster.

Torbay used to have the status of a county borough. That was regarded as highly successful. The reality is that the county councils have done themselves out of a job. Following the Griffiths report, there is to be much greater provision of care in the community at a much lower level; responsibility for it is to be devolved downwards. County councils will therefore be out of a job. The same applies to education: to local management of schools and to schools that opt for grant-maintained status. That will reduce the burden on the county council.

As the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) said, there may be an argument for having a strategic authority for planning, perhaps for education and certainly for transport. That might be to the advantage of a county area, but there is no need to elect a strategic authority. If power is devolved down to the districts, I see no reason why, if the districts wish to have a strategic authority, they should not delegate members from the district to the county.

I am concerned about boundaries. My constituency does not cover the whole of the borough of Torbay. One particular ward does not form part of my parliamentary constituency; it forms part of the South Hams constituency. As an example of wasteful local government, this week the local authority conducted an absurdly expensive poll of the residents of Blatchcombe ward to determine whether they wished to remain in South Hams parliamentary constituency or to come within Torbay parliamentary constituency.

That was a fruitless exercise, when one considers that the Torbay parliamentary constituency is already too large. The chance of there being a change will not be increased by the poll. In my view, it was an absurd waste of public money. Curiously enough, though, if the people who live in that ward felt strongly enough about the issue, they would have every right to make representations to the Boundary Commission.

I am also concerned about some of the literature that was distributed in an apparently unbiased way to the people who live in that ward.

Mr. McCartney

This is parliamentary stuff.

Mr. Allason

It applies also to the local authority.

The literature that was sent to this particular group of voters, who are all members of a particular ward within the borough, relates specifically to the local authority. My worry is that we shall lose the opportunity to introduce a single tier of local government. In my experience, competitive tendering has been extremely useful and has saved much money. If the Bill were lost because of the general election, I fear that our constituents would be much worse off.

Unitary authorities are attractive to our constituents. I see no reason why any obstacles should be placed in the way of the Bill; it is important that it gets on to the statute book. I understand that there is some contention about competitive tendering, but the crucial issue is in part II, which is why I urge the House to pass the timetable motion.

9.30 pm
Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) has asked me to apologise for his absence as he has an unavoidable commitment in his constituency. His absence does not, however, deflect me from congratulating him and my other hon. Friends who have served on the Committee on the excellent and constructive way in which they have approached the Bill.

For once, I think that there is a certain coherence about the Government's guillotine motion. The Government's lack of concern for the democratic process at Westminster in terms of proper debate of important legislation is matched by, and, indeed, entirely consistent with, their constant efforts to undermine democracy in local government. There is, in other words, a nice harmony—perhaps "nasty" is more accurate—between procedure and substance.

The Government, who have introduced a record number of guillotine motions, have shown fewer and fewer scruples about doing so as the number has mounted. We heard a truly pathetic speech from the Leader of the House, who made only the most perfunctory attempt to defend what he was doing. He made no real case for proposing the motion on the basis of delay and of proceeding with the Bill. Indeed, how could he, since the arguments were so weak? How could it be argued that 12 clauses of a Bill should not have been debated for 30 hours in Committee, when clause 8 is a clause of the greatest contention which caused so much upheavel in another place as to warrant the Government's tabling an amendment to restore the position?

It was scarcely possible for the Leader of the House to make that case, and he hardly tried. Instead, we have a shameless attempt to clear the decks for a possible general election. The Government's legislative programme is being prostituted to their election timetable. The irony is that the timetable now driving the Government is one that they dare not declare and probably will not even have t he guts to adopt. The chances are that we shall have forfeited the prospects of a properly debated Bill for the sake of a general election date which the Government simply duck when faced with the challenge.

The truth is that the Government are still trembling in their tent, unwilling to take to the field of battle. The fact that they are now prepared to guillotine anything that moves shows only how far they now give absolute priority to saving their own skins rather than providing even a pretence of good government.

That instinctive lack of sympathy for and understanding of democracy in local government is matched by the substance of the Bill. It is called—ironically, one cannot help but think—the Local Government Bill, but it is more accurately described as the anti-local-government Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) pointed out, it comes at the end of a long catalogue of legislation in the past 13 years—perhaps nearly 60 Bills—designed to undermine the morale, constrain the competence, restrict the resources and destroy the independence of local government.

There is at least a certain "fearful symmetry"—to use Blake's phrase in a different context—in the fact that this bleak decade or more for local government was ushered in by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) who, perhaps wisely, cannot be present this evening—even he, perhaps, has a sense of shame—and is being brought to its overdue close by that self-same long-standing opponent of everything for which local government stands. The Bill reflects the same animus against local government which has marked both the right hon. Gentleman's stints at Marsham street and most of what has happened in between.

It is a period which saw the centralisation of power in Whitehall, the imposition of rate capping—first as a limited brake on so-called irresponsibility, but now as a universal assertion by Whitehall of its control over every local authority budget. It is a decade or more which saw the privatisation of local government services, the unfair rigging of the grant system and, above all, the imposition not only on local government but on the whole country of the great blight of the poll tax—a blight which continues still and will eventually prove the undoing of the Government.

The guillotining of the Bill in this undemocratic way takes its dishonourable place in a long history of crimes against local democracy. The whole thrust of the Bill is accusatory of local government. Local authorities are put, figuratively speaking, in the dock. Instead of trying to help local government to raise standards, as we propose through a quality commission which will establish and monitor proper standards, spread and encourage best practice and offer management help when needed, the Government are intent on publishing misleading league tables laying emphasis exclusively on cost, irrespective of the context and the level of service delivered.

If the Government are really interested in performance league tables, why do they not consider the issues that really matter—home helps, meals on wheels, library services and nursery provision? We know why they do not want to consider those aspects of local government: because those league tables would show the best performers to be Labour local authorities.

We are left with the inevitable suspicion that the Government consider the problems that they have created for local government merely as grist to their electoral mill. They have a vested interest in the difficulties that some local councils have faced. Rather than help with resources and management support, they prefer to leave those authorities to struggle with their problems so that they can be placed in the stocks and pelted with Heseltinian insults. Fortunately, the electorate are unimpressed by this pantomime.

The same approach can be seen in the Bill's treatment of compulsory competitive tendering. We have always suspected the motives behind CCT. We have always seen it not only as an attempt to undermine local government and to make way for profit-taking by the private sector, but as an attempt to drive down wages and working conditions in one of the least favoured parts of the labour market—all in the hope that by doing so they would drag down the wage structure throughout the economy.

The success of direct service organisations and direct labour organisations in winning perhaps more than 80 per cent. of the contracts put out to tender has been bought at a heavy price in terms of wages and working conditions —and all for very little gain. The only partial studies which have so far been done suggest that the small improvement in costs which can be attributed to CCT has been outweighed by the increased administrative costs which have attended the process of tendering. In other words, there is literally no basis for concluding that CCT has been such a success that it should now be extended, as the Bill proposes, to a whole new range of services—to the white collar services, the professional, technical and financial services.

The Bill is an expression of ideological prejudice which is unsupported by any evidence. Indeed, the evidence is very much to the contrary. The evidence shows that there is so little prospect of the private sector in those areas being able to match the efficiency of in-house services that the Government have had to introduce a quality threshold which they have always maintained was simply inappropriate elsewhere. The motivation here is so obvious that it is blatant. The double envelope procedure that the Minister described in Committee will apply, as he concedes, only if one of the competitors is a DSO or a DLO.

The whole exercise came unstuck in another place, and it was not helped by the constitutional monstrosity of the Henry VIII clause in which the provision was drafted. True to form, the Government have refused to listen to local government, to independent experts and to their Lordships. The Bill is still disfigured by the same objectionable provisions, in terms both of substance and of constitutional propriety.

Part II, an important part containing 18 clauses and three schedules, potentially affects the whole structure of local government. Part 11 is of tremendous importance to the way in which we govern ourselves. Yet the Leader of the House has the cheek to tell us from the Dispatch Box that a day's debate is sufficient for it. The right hon. Gentleman is simply not serious and cannot be taken seriously.

It is welcome that the Government have recognised that the Tory reorganisation of 1974 simply has not worked. Local government is not accountable enough and it is far too complicated, so that people simply do not understand the system. We have never made any bones of the fact —indeed, we got there before the Tory party—that we want a unitary system, a simpler and more accountable system. We also agree that the right way to bring about that system is not to impose it from on high from Whitehall but to set up a Local Government Commission to undertake the task.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gould

I do not have time, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman understands.

We made it clear in advance of the Bill that we would support the Local Government Commission, not least because it will greatly simplify our task by enabling us to pick up its work in government and therefore to shorten the timetable for reform. However, we have also made it clear that our support was conditional on the Local Government Commission being set up properly, on its not being gerrymandered and on its having the right terms of reference, objectives and timetable. The Secretary of State has thrown away the chance of all-party consensus because he could not resist playing party politics—it is the predictable triumph of the party politician at the expense of the health of local government.

In part II, the Secretary of State has provided himself with what is in effect an instrument of party political warfare. He has created a commission which will trundle around the country under his direction, and which will line up its sights Labour-controlled county authorities so that they can be blasted to smithereens while leaving many Tory-controlled authorities intact. The whole process will lumber on for many years with partial reforms being instituted piecemeal and with dire consequences in terms of chaos and confusion for already hard-pressed local authorities, which will never know whether at any time they are meant to be unitary authorities or dual authorities and whether they are still threatened with or are now exempt from the prospect of reform.

The measure, and the guillotine needed to support it, are a fitting conclusion to a 13-year assault on local government by the Tory Government. We oppose the motion, as we have opposed every similar damaging attack on local democracy in the past 13 years. We may not have enough votes to ward off the assault today, but I am glad to say that the day is not far distant when we shall have the parliamentary votes to restore local government to its proper place in the government of this country.

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

I genuinely regret the unavoidable absence this evening of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), because the guillotine motion and what lies behind it add up to a story of personal tragedy for the hon. Gentleman. Having played second fiddle, poor fellow, to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) on the Local Government Finance Bill Committee and having had to listen—as we all did—to very long speeches from the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Brightside was at last given his own show —his own Bill to take through the House and through Committee. He wanted to address the issues seriously and, on the first two clauses, he did just that. We were having good debates and there was every prospect of our concluding our proceedings on the Bill in an orderly way and by agreement between the two sides.

Then something extraordinary happened. One morning progress ground to a halt. There had clearly been an intervention from on high—from a deus ex Dagenham. The hon. Member for Dagenham had clearly issued instructions that the Bill's progress was to be slowed down. We then saw a really very unhappy sight: the hon. Member for Brightside, wanting to do his job seriously and to address the issues, sat disconsolately on the Front Bench while one filibusterer after another on his Back Benches took the Floor and held forth at great length—presumably on the instructions of the hon. Member for Dagenham. What a collection they were—Rolls-Royce filibusterers filibustering at the very top of their pitch. My hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) and for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) did well to pay tribute to filibustering of a very high order.

First into the field was the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), dogged in his filibustering, never letting a point go but pursuing it to the nth degree. Then came the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). I give him top prize; the real trophy goes to him. A man who can speak effortlessly—certainly with repetition but almost without hesitation—for one hour 40 minutes is a grandee—top of his class.

The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) was scarcely less able but could not quite produce that sort of filibuster all in one go. Having run out of steam in his first speech, he came back and made a second speech on the same amendment.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) is very good indeed—so long as one does not give him anything to read, because he finds reading a little tricky and stumbles over words. As long as he is extemporising, he is okay too.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) is not in the top flight of filibusterers but, given that he is the Whip, the fact that he intervened at all was proof indeed that a serious operation of delay was under way.

To be fair, that operation was balanced to some extent by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti), who compensated as we went along. There was one amendment that he was simply too miffed to move because he had not been told about the dinner break, and, on another occasion, because we went on rather late, he was not there to hear the winding-up speeches on one group of amendments or to move the next amendment. Fortunately, we saved a little on occasions when the hon. Member for Eastbourne might otherwise have intervened.

Imagine the frustration of the hon. Member for Brightside, particularly when—I plead guilty to this—I proposed that the Question be put on one amendment. After all the rubbish that we had heard, the hon. Member for Brightside, who had intended to give the serious reply from the Labour party, was cut off. The look of frustration on that man's face was deeply moving—in particular because his frustration and anger were not, I think, with the person who moved the closure but with someone else. I fully believe that the hon. Member for Brightside is unavoidably detained tonight. I do not believe for a moment that he simply will not share the Opposition Front Bench with the hon. Member for Dagenham.

The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that we should avoid ineffectual legislation, but one does not avoid such legislation with ineffectual filibustering. If Labour had been serious, the speeches of the hon. Member for Makerfield would have been trimmed, the hon. Member for Carlisle would have been restricted to a single speech and the hon. Member for Brightside would have been allowed to have his say—but no, he was squeezed out of the debate.

Concern has been expressed that there will not be time under the terms of the timetable motion to consider the remaining clauses. We have 10 hours in Committee to consider part II. That is the same amount of time that the other place spent on those matters. The hon. Member for Copeland said that what happened in the other place should not influence what we should do here. I do not know about that. Their Lordships usually take a very responsible and minute interest in constitutional issues. If part II, which is about a constitutional matter—the reform of the structure of local government—could be considered in another place in 10 hours, I see no reason why we should not consider it here in 10 hours, provided that we can agree between us a sensible allocation of time for the various amendments.

There are no amendments to most of the clauses that we have to discuss. Most of the clauses will be discussed, if at all, only in clause stand part debates. The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) put his foot in it when he said that part I was the contentious part. He said that part II was not contentious; therefore, it can be considered quite happily in the 10 hours allocated under the timetable motion.

Mr. Allen McKay

The Minister referred to 10 hours of debate. There will not be 10 hours; there will be eight and a half hours of debate. The rest of the time will be taken up with dinner breaks and the like—unless we cut that out.

I believe that part I is the contentious part. The contentious aspects of part II are who will comprise the commission and what will be its terms of reference. It would have been better to introduce two Bills—one in which we could debate competitive tendering and one in which we could debate the commission.

Mr. Portillo

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Brightside, who has already had to deal with two Bills, would agree that we should have had three Bills on local government. However, I take the point made by the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone.

Why was part I contentious? Why was it filibustered? Why was it necessary to talk that part of the Bill out? The answer is that is contained the citizens charter, which sets out to measure local authority performance objectively. The Labour party has told us that the citizens charter is ineffective and that Labour is not bothered about it. Why should the National Association of Local Government Officers spend £2 million of union money opposing the citizens charter? Why does its advertising show a lady burning a copy of the citizens charter in her grate if the charter is not something that bothers the Labour party intensely? It was necessary for Labour to talk out the part of the Bill that related to the citizens charter because Labour is aware that it spells electoral peril for that party.

Part I also contained provisions enabling the Audit Commission to measure local authority output. The hon. Member for Brightside once fell foul of the Audit Commission when he was the leader of the Sheffield council. Since then, he has made a series of macho statements that he would sweep away the Audit Commission and that its days were numbered. In the fulness of time, those phrases had to be modified and it is now said only that the Audit Commission will be subsumed. "Subsumed" is a sinister socialist verb which means, broadly speaking, that its days are numbered and that it will be swept away. In its place there will be something less rigorous upon local authorities; their measurements will be self-determined.

Mr. Gould

The Minister and some of his colleagues have repeated that canard so frequently that it is time at least to educate them if they are too ignorant to do their work properly. What we propose for the Audit Commission is that not a single part of its functions should be lost. Those functions should be incorporated in the wider functions of the quality commission which will carry out all the current functions of the Audit Commission but will also add to its range of responsibilities a responsibility to raise the quality of services delivered by local government.

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman, who has shown what an iron fist he has, will doubtless discipline the hon. Member for Brightside for using phrases such as "sweeping away the Audit Commission" or "its days are numbered", which the hon. Gentleman must agree are at the very least bound to give a misleading impression of the Labour party's apparently benign intentions towards the Audit Commission.

Why else has the Bill had to be filibustered? It has had to be filibustered because Opposition Members have a tremendous dislike of compulsory competitive tendering and must do all in their power to oppose it. Mr. Jack Dromey of the Transport and General Workers Union said: The Council must include as many hurdles as it can in the tender specifications it sends to private contractors. It must try every possible way to prevent services being taken over by private firms. We know from the advertising campaign that is presently going on that the National Association of Local Government Officers is against compulsory competitive tendering. That is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) made.

The union brothers' support now for the Labour party is conditional upon the brothers' policies being put into effect if the Labour party is elected to Government. That is why, with a click of the fingers, what the unions want in compulsory competitive tendering becomes the Labour party's policy on compulsory competitive tendering. That is why some of the slowest debates that we had in Committee were on the subject of compulsory competitive tendering.

The Labour party's main hope in filibustering the Bill was that we should not get on to part II, which so concerns my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucester (Mr. French) and for Nottingham, South, who are keen to get on with debating the issues. Part II places tremendous emphasis on local communities, whereas the Labour party wishes a prescription from Whitehall to be introduced overnight so that there is no local discretion about the form of local government—it will all be decided by the Government in Whitehall.

Of course, the Labour party wants to establish regions with tax-raising powers. I say that it wants to establish regions with tax-raising powers—tax is certainly what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) said. He was quoted in the Municipal Journal of 21 February. The hon. Member for Dagenham, recently on the Brian Walden programme, said: no one is talking about tax-raising powers…for these regional assemblies. "No one" may be the description that the hon. Gentleman wishes to give the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, but I am bound to remind him that "no one" is unfortunately somebody in today's Labour party.

The hon. Member for Dagenham appears to be very confused about whether we will have one tier or two tiers under Labour. On the Brian Walden programme, he said: local government needs to be simplified so that it is simply one tier. So our regional proposals while they don't depend on that, I think that is nevertheless the answer to your question about yet another tier, there won't be another tier. So there are to be regions, but there is apparently not to be another tier.

The Labour party is against the citizens charter. Its acolytes in NALGO and in the National Union of Public Employees have determined that there should be no compulsory competitive tendering, and that is now the policy of the Labour party, so the Bill has been filibustered. The Labour part is against compulsory competitive tendering because the brothers want to be sure that their members can have the jobs no matter what the cost to the customer. Therefore, the Bill has been filibustered.

The Labour party is against reform of local government structure because it wishes to impose new regions on the people of Britain, who do not want them. We will not allow the Bill to be lost for those reasons. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 203.

Division No. 84] [9.59 pm
Adley, Robert Curry, David
Aitken, Jonathan Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Alexander, Richard Davis, David (Boothferry)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Day, Stephen
Allason, Rupert Dorrell, Stephen
Amess, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amos, Alan Dover, Den
Arbuthnot, James Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Durant, Sir Anthony
Arnold, Sir Thomas Dykes, Hugh
Aspinwall, Jack Eggar, Tim
Atkinson, David Emery, Sir Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Evennett, David
Baldry, Tony Fallon, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Farr, Sir John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Favell, Tony
Bellingham, Henry Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bendall, Vivian Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Benyon, W. Fishburn, John Dudley
Bevan, David Gilroy Forman, Nigel
Biffen, Rt Hon John Forth, Eric
Blackburn, Dr John G. Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fox, Sir Marcus
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Franks, Cecil
Boscawen, Hon Robert Freeman, Roger
Boswell, Tim French, Douglas
Bottomley, Peter Fry, Peter
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gardiner, Sir George
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gill, Christopher
Bowis, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brazier, Julian Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bright, Graham Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gorst, John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Buck, Sir Antony Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Burns, Simon Gregory, Conal
Butler, Chris Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Buttertill, John Grist, Ian
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Ground, Patrick
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chapman, Sydney Hampson, Dr Keith
Chope, Christopher Hannam, Sir John
Churchill, Mr Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Harris, David
Colvin, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hawkins, Christopher
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hayes, Jerry
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hayward, Robert
Couchman, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cran, James Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Page, Richard
Hill, James Paice, James
Hind, Kenneth Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hordern, Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pawsey, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Rt Hon David Portillo, Michael
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunter, Andrew Price, Sir David
Irvine, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Janman, Tim Rathbone, Tim
Jessel, Toby Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Sir Robert
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Riddick, Graham
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Key, Robert Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roe, Mrs Marion
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kirkhope, Timothy Rost, Peter
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sackville, Hon Tom
Knox, David Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Latham, Michael Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lawrence, Ivan Shaw, David (Dover)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shelton, Sir William
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shersby, Michael
Lord, Michael Sims, Roger
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Skeet, Sir Trevor
McCrindle, Sir Robert Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Soames, Hon Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Speed, Keith
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Speller, Tony
McLoughlin, Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Squire, Robin
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stanbrook, Ivor
Madel, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Malins, Humfrey Stern, Michael
Mans, Keith Stevens, Lewis
Maples, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marland, Paul Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stokes, Sir John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Summerson, Hugo
Mates, Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Mellor, Rt Hon David Temple-Morris, Peter
Miller, Sir Hal Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Vly)
Mills, lain Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thorne, Neil
Mitchell, Sir David Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, Roger Thurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Townend, John (Bridlington)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Moore, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Morrison, Sir Charles Tredinnick, David
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Trippier, David
Moss, Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Mudd, David Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Neale, Sir Gerrard Viggers, Peter
Needham, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Nelson, Anthony Walden, George
Neubert, Sir Michael Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Nicholls, Patrick Waller, Gary
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walters, Sir Dennis
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Norris, Steve Warren, Kenneth
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Watts, John
Wells, Bowen Wood, Timothy
Whitney, Ray Yeo, Tim
Widdecombe, Ann Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wiggin, Jerry Younger, Rt Hon George
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann Tellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Nicholas Mr. David Lightbown and
Wolfson, Mark Mr. John M. Taylor.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Fraser, John
Anderson, Donald Fyfe, Maria
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Galloway, George
Armstrong, Hilary Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack George, Bruce
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Golding, Mrs Llin
Barron, Kevin Gordon, Mildred
Battle, John Gould, Bryan
Beckett, Margaret Graham, Thomas
Beith, A. J. Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bell, Stuart Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bellotti, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Grocott, Bruce
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hain, Peter
Benton, Joseph Hardy, Peter
Bermingham, Gerald Harman, Ms Harriet
Boateng, Paul Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boyes, Roland Haynes, Frank
Bradley, Keith Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Bray, Dr Jeremy Henderson, Doug
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hinchliffe, David
Caborn, Richard Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Callaghan, Jim Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hood, Jimmy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Canavan, Dennis Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Carl Me, Alex (Mont' g) Howells, Geraint
Cartwright, John Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hoyle, Doug
Clelland, David Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Illsley, Eric
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Ingram, Adam
Corbett, Robin Janner, Greville
Cox, Tom Johnston, Sir Russell
Crowther, Stan Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cryer, Bob Jones, leuan (Ynys Mön)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kennedy, Charles
Cunningham, Dr John Kilfoyle, Peter
Dalyell, Tam Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Darling, Alistair Lambie, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lamond, James
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Leadbitter, Ted
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Leighton, Ron
Dixon, Don Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Doran, Frank Litherland, Robert
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. Livingstone, Ken
Dunnachie, Jimmy Livsey, Richard
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)
Edwards, Huw Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Enright, Derek Loyden, Eddie
Evans, John (St Helens N) McAllion, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McAvoy, Thomas
Fatchett, Derek McCartney, Ian
Faulds, Andrew McFall, John
Fearn, Ronald McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McKelvey, William
Fisher, Mark McLeish, Henry
Flannery, Martin McMaster, Gordon
Flynn, Paul McNamara, Kevin
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McWilliam, John
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Madden, Max
Foster, Derek Mahon, Mrs Alice
Foulkes, George Marek, Dr John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Rowlands, Ted
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Ruddock, Joan
Martlew, Eric Sedgemore, Brian
Maxton, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Meacher, Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Meale, Alan Short, Clare
Michael, Alun Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Snape, Peter
Morgan, Rhodri Soley, Clive
Morley, Elliot Spearing, Nigel
Mowlam, Marjorie Steinberg, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Stephen, Nicol
Murphy, Paul Strang, Gavin
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Brien, William Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Hara, Edward Turner, Dennis
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Vaz, Keith
Patchett, Terry Wallace, James
Pendry, Tom Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Prescott, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Quin, Ms Joyce Winnick, David
Redmond, Martin Worthington, Tony
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wray, Jimmy
Reid, Dr John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Robertson, George
Rogers, Allan Tellers for the Noes:
Rooker, Jeff Mr. Ken Eastham and
Rooney, Terence Mr. Robert N. Wareing.
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Local Government Bill [Lords]:—

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