HC Deb 17 January 1994 vol 235 cc651-83

Motion made, and Question proposed, That for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill ("the Act"), it is expedient—

  1. (a) to authorise the Secretary of State to direct a water and sewerage authority established by the Act to pay him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required for them for the exercise of their functions, nor otherwise payable by them under or by virtue of any provision of the Act;
  2. (b) to authorise the payment into the Consolidated Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State, otherwise than in repayment of any loans made by him, in consequence of any provision of the Act; and
  3. (c) to authorise the payment into the National Loans Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State in repayment of loans made by him to any water and sewerage authority established by the Act.—[Mr. Michael Brown.]

11.40 pm
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I have not spoken in the debate so far, and certainly I shall not serve on the Standing Committee. That gives me the opportunity to say a few words about the parts of the Bill that deal with water and sewerage, to which the motion refers.

Paragraph (a) authorises the Secretary of State to direct a water and sewerage authority"— hon. Members should remember that there will be only three in the whole of Scotland— established by the Act to pay him such sums as he may direct"—

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I object to the hubbub being created by English Tory Members at the Bar of the House. Will you warn them that if they do not leave the Chamber they will be asked to serve on the Standing Committee?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

The hon. Gentleman is right: there is quite a noise going on, not only at the Bar of the House but in the rest of the Chamber. I hope that hon. Members will note what has been said.

Mr. Maxton

As I was saying, the Secretary of State is authorised to direct one of those three authorities to pay him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions". The Bill will take all water and sewerage powers away from local authorities, many of which have had such powers for a very long time. Glasgow, for instance, has had the water supply to Loch Katrine for well over 100 years. Now the Government are removing all that from Strathclyde region and putting it into the hands of a quango whose members will, presumably, be placemen of the Secretary of State—his Tory friends. Presumably they will be paid substantial salaries. The Government are taking away from the local authorities many assets that are not necessarily directly related to the supply of water or the disposal of sewage.

Much of the land owned by local authorities that will be affected by the water provisions comprises some of the most beautiful countryside in Scotland—certainly in Strathclyde region. Loch Katrine, for example, is a very beautiful part of the country, as anyone who has sailed up it will confirm. I do not know whether the boat still travels up the loch, but it certainly used to.

According to clauses 93 to 95 of the Bill, the boards will have the right to sell off any land that they consider to be surplus, or do not require for their functioning. If that is the case, the Secretary of State can instruct those boards to hand all the money over to him. He is then obliged to add it to the Consolidated Fund, which means that it becomes part of the general money that the Government spend on various items.

The people who will not receive any benefit from any sale are those who have paid their local rates and taxes over the years to purchase and develop the land for the water and sewerage services. If the boards sell off parts of the beautiful Scottish countryside to developers for tourist purposes—perhaps cheap, shoddy hotels will be shoved up, offering all sorts of leisure activities, which the local people do not particularly want—the local authorities will be unable to do anything about it. Even if they tried to refuse planning permission, the developers could appeal to the Secretary of State, who presumably would overrule those local authorities.

Some of the most beautiful countryside in Scotland will be under threat as a result of the Bill. The money gained from any sale of such countryside will not be—

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Here comes an experienced salesman.

Mr. Maxton

Yes. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) is an expert on selling things.

The land will be sold off, but the people to whom it rightfully belongs, the Scottish people, will not get any benefit, because the money will eventually be added to the Consolidated Fund. That money will then pay for the services of the constituents of those hon. Members who voted for a Bill that will gerrymander local government in Scotland. Because of the terms of the Ways and Means resolution, it will be possible for the Secretary of State to take money from the new boards, arising from the sale of land, and not to use it for the benefit of those who originally paid for that land.

The resolution also states that boards should pay the Secretary of State sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions". I presume that the "exercise of their functions" includes the salaries of board members. Can the Minister tell us what sort of salaries will be paid to the chairmen of the new boards? What will each board member receive?

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

Perhaps £80,000.

Mr. Maxton

That is a large amount. Presumably the chairmanship of a board will be a part-time job. It will go to some business man or lawyer friend of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. The Bill should be known as the Stewart Memorial Bill, as it was designed to save his seat. He will appoint his friends as chairmen of the new boards and their salaries will have to come out of the money put aside for the "exercise of their functions". A local authority committee on water and sewerage would not pay itself the sort of salaries that the new boards will command.

What is most dangerous about the resolution is the way in which it gives the Secretary of State power to push public opinion towards accepting, or at least being prepared to consider the eventual privatisation of water. It gives him the power to take such sums "as he may direct". He may therefore say to the boards, "You are to pay me X amount." That will mean that the charges set by a board just to maintain its services to its customers and to pay off its debt will be forced up. The Government are hoping that, as the boards have to undertake investment to bring water and sewage up to EC standards, and as the Government have the power to force charges up as high as they want, Scottish people will see their water charges rise and, with a little propaganda, will eventually say, "Well, we don't like it, but if water were in private hands it might be cheaper because the companies could sell things off and operate differently from the boards."

The most dangerous part of this Ways and Means resolution is the power that it gives the Secretary of State to take whatever money he wants from the new boards, forcing the boards to put up prices and, as a result, pushing people into accepting privatisation. I do not believe that the Scottish people will ever want water and sewerage to be privatised, as they made clear when the Government issued their consultation document on the matter. They made it so clear that the Government had to back down. Whatever some people may say, I believe that the Government were intent on privatising water and sewerage until they felt the weight of opinion not just of the Labour, Scottish National and Liberal Democrat parties but of their own supporters in Scotland. They then had to back down.

Instead, the Government decided on a halfway house. This Ways and Means resolution is part of that halfway house and I shall vote against it when the time comes tonight.

11.51 pm
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

This resolution is yet another increase in central Government powers and contradicts yet again the Government's claims that it is a decentralisation measure. Through the resolution, the Secretary of State is taking more control to himself.

The resolution authorises the Secretary of State to direct a water and sewerage authority established by the Act to pay him such sums as he may direct". That is compulsion. The water board will have no control or say over its finances, which proves yet again that those quangos are simply the creatures of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The resolution also provides for the authorisation of payment into the Consolidated Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State … in consequence of any provision of the Act". Once again, the Treasury grabs the cash and the only cash that it can grab comes from consumers of water services in Scotland. Everyone must use those monopoly services on a daily basis.

In future, the benefit of any payments for water services will be snaffled by the Treasury and surpluses from water services will benefit not the consumer but the Government. That is neither just nor sensible, but it is now being built into the Bill. It fits in well with the pattern which the Government have introduced into Scotland. For example, billions of pounds of North sea oil revenue have bypassed Scotland and gone straight to the Treasury, and Scotland has had little benefit.

It adds insult to injury if the Treasury now wants any surpluses produced by water services to bypass Scotland. They will be swallowed up by the Treasury instead of being ploughed back into improvements for consumers who created that money in the first place. Water and sewerage services are essential, monopoly services. People have no option but to use water services and therefore no option but to contribute to any surpluses which the Treasury would take to itself.

England and Wales received billions of pounds in the form of a green dowry but, apparently, that will not happen in Scotland. The Government would rather use Scottish public money to further their ideological objectives than to clean up Scottish water. National Audit Office figures show that when the Government privatised water services south of the border all the national loans fund debt incurred by the water industry, which totalled about £5,028 million, was written off.

In addition, with great munificence, the Government authorised an additional cash injection in English and Welsh water of £1,499 million in December 1989. Overall, the green dowry that the Government quickly gave for the privatisation of water services in England and Wales amounted to some £6,527 million. I notice that the Secretary of State has been quick to avoid answering the question whether there will be any such debt write-off in Scotland.

In England and Wales, additional water privatisation costs of £131 million were incurred by the Department of the Environment. They included the costs of underwriting, customer share incentives and consultancy fees, and they were paid by the Government without a second thought. An additional £240 million was incurred in financing water privatisation, but it was excluded from the Department of the Environment's costs. It involved the flotation and privatisation costs of the Water Services Association and the water authorities, which came to £166 million, and—

Sir Anthony Durant (Reading, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am following closely what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but is it relevant to the ways and means resolution? He is talking about water privatisation in England. We are debating a narrow resolution. Surely the hon. Gentleman's speech should relate to Scotland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I was listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman was saying. If I thought that he was out of order, I would have ruled accordingly.

Mr. Welsh

I welcome the hon. Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant), who represents an English constituency. This is the first time he has shown his face in the Chamber throughout the debate. He has voted against Scottish wishes and interests without having heard the debate, which is ludicrous. His presence enables me to make a point: hon. Members who, like him, have not received one vote or any mandate in Scotland will serve on the Committee and force through a measure against the wishes of the Scottish people. I welcome the hon. Gentleman if he wants merely to listen to the debate.

The fact that the Government paid the sums that I have described as a green dowry in England and Wales but are not considering the debt burden on the Scottish water boards is relevant to the resolution. I remind the hon. Gentleman of more, although smaller, amounts: £166 million was paid to the Water Services Association; £10 million was spent on preparing legislation and establishing the new regulatory system in England and Wales; and restructuring costs amounted to £64 million.

About £7,000 million of public money was used by the Government to sweeten water privatisation in England, but what is happening in Scotland? Silence. Are we to have a similar debt write-off? Will all, some or none of the debt in Scotland to be written off? I remind the Minister that £700 million of Scottish taxpayers' money was used by the Government to sweeten privatisation in England. Similar amounts should be made available to write off the water boards' debts in Scotland. It would make a difference by helping service provision and freeing cash to improve water quality, which is essential.

To judge from the silence of Ministers, however, it appears that there will be no green dowry for the Scottish water boards and no capital debt write-off. I would that it were otherwise, and I should be happy to let the Minister intervene to tell me that it is otherwise. I have put the same question to the Secretary of State time after time but I met only silence. The Government were happy to hand out public money for private purposes in England, but the Secretary of State will not say whether they will give a similar deal for the publicly controlled Scottish water boards. Is it Government policy to use public money for private profit and private purposes only in England and Wales?

Greater powers and more centralisation to the Secretary of State are contained in the resolution, as well as much unfairness to those who will have to contribute to any surplus that is produced by the water boards because water is a monopoly service. Any surplus made by the boards should be used for service improvement—for improving the infrastructure, for investment and for lowering prices to Scottish water consumers. That is what I want. What customers in Scotland pay in, because they have no option, should be returned to them in the form of services or improved infrastructure. I do not see that in the resolution. I see greater centralisation and the Government taking even greater powers, instead of a fairer deal for Scottish water consumers and water services.

11.59 pm
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

First, I must admit to having a deep suspicion of the Government and would like to enquire of them the purpose of paragraph (b), which does not mention water and sewerage authorities but says "any sums" and any provision of the Act". To me, as I have a suspicious mind, that might read like a catch-all asset-stripping provision. The fact that it does not refer to water and sewerage means that any money realised from anything that is sold off can be put in to the Consolidated Fund and, in fact, returned to the Treasury.

If that is the case and paragraph (b) does not refer only to the water and sewerage authorities, as the Government see it—they do not believe in the sort of authorities that the Labour party and other parties would support, but in what they call minimalist authorities—there are so many assets to strip among everything that local authorities hold. Local authorities' buildings, which they have said will become surplus, could be sold off and the proceeds returned not to the local authority but to the Consolidated Fund, via this part of the resolution.

If the Government wish to put up for sale profit-making services, they could put that revenue into the Consolidated Fund. Even the houses held by housing authorities could be sold because the Government have a stated ambition to increase the number of private houses in Scotland. If paragraph (b) does not refer only to water and sewerage, they could also force the sale of authorities' housing assets and give that money back to the Treasury.

Hon. Members may say that that is ridiculous and that the Government would not do that. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, will remember Hamilton college of education, which was sold cheap to form a private school. That is what the Conservatives want—they want the country to be run by the private sector, regardless of how much it costs the individual in additional charges. They are chasing an ideology that could lead to tremendous asset stripping.

We heard of the minimalist council of south Ayrshire and I know of the ambitions of the Conservative Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), the Minister of State, Department of Employment, for his authority. He wants a minimalist council that will sell off its assets. If they have only a few meetings a year to hand out contracts, they will not require buildings or be responsible for running any services and they can get rid of all the assets.

I warn the Government that, if that is the case, unless clause 23 merely pays lip service to devolution of power and to decentralisation of delivery of service, it will require a fantastic input of assets. I know that the clause is written in such a way that the Secretary of State can decide what is and what is not devolution. It may mean that there would be a token gesture. If paragraph (b) can be interpreted as an asset-stripping provision—I hope that it would not be—they will have nothing left to have their devolved services delivered from.

I should like the Minister to make it clear whether paragraph (b) refers only to water and sewerage authorities or whether it is a catch-all provision which would allow sums for any sale of any assets from any of the new local authorities to be returned to the Secretary of State and through him to the Consolidated Fund.

If it concerns only water and sewerage authorities, it is important to re-read the words of paragraph (a), which states that those authorities will pay the Secretary of State any such sums as he may direct". I ask hon. Members to think of a parallel to what may be happening with the water and sewerage authorities, which was so eruditely described by other hon. Members. For example, the Post Office is controlled by very much the same sort of provision. The Treasury can instruct that any sums can be returned to it, as it desires. Although the Post Office is a profit-making organisation—I think that it donated £60 million to the Treasury last year—it has been instructed under the new financial controls to return £160 million to the Treasury next year. The result was a penny on the postage stamp rate—to pay for a direction by the Treasury to return moneys to the Treasury.

This clause appears to be similar—a clause whereby the Government could instruct that the water charges would he increased, not for the purpose of investment in improved water, nor for the purpose of investment in water infrastructure, nor for the purpose of better sewerage, cleansing and dealing with effluent from industry or the domestic user, but merely to give money back to the Consolidated Fund to aid the Treasury's attempt to gather in moneys to keep the deficit down.

One might say that it might not make that much money, but £160 million is all that the Government are demanding from the Post Office. If they think that it is worth putting a penny on the postage stamp to obtain money for the Treasury, it would not be beyond the bounds of imagination for the Government to force up water charges by simply telling the water boards that they want more money to be returned to the Consolidated Fund and to the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State said earlier that if people faced the prospect of doubled charges for their water to pay for investment in the infrastructure required in Scotland they would not be so happy with water charges. That is not the case. If people knew that the doubled charges would go to the democratically controlled local authority to improve water and sewerage services, they would be happy to pay a doubled charge.

Under the Bill, however, they could be forced to pay doubled charges merely for the purpose of returning money to the Scottish Office—money which would then, presumably, go into the Consolidated Fund or be taken as part of the income to the Scottish Office so that the direct grant from the Treasury for Scottish services would be reduced. The clause is laden with dangers for water consumers, because it can mean a burden of increased cost that is not reflected in the improvements that we know to be necessary in the water and sewerage infrastructure of Scotland.

I wish the Secretary of State to give us some assurances that he will not use the clause for that purpose. His silence will be taken as an admission that he is already thinking along those lines—that it will be a money cow which can be milked because when he has the boards they can be made to pay him sums of money and the cost will then be passed on the consumers with no real benefit to them. We need an explanation of what seems to be a tiny piece of the legislation but is laden with dangers for the consumer and for democracy in Scotland.

12.7 am

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

There is always a bit of mystery surrounding Ways and Means resolutions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) has extended the mystery surrounding this one by giving us his interpretation of paragraph (b), which takes us beyond the duty being imposed concerning the application of funds from water and sewerage authorities. He has read that paragraph by itself and he may be right to do so. He may well be right in suggesting that it creates scope for the application of funds from a range of different functions and services provided by local authorities and gives the Secretary of State even more power to direct local authorities to dispose of assets or to make profits and to syphon off money by those means into the Treasury.

It appears that the main purpose of the resolution is to make provision for the Secretary of State to direct the new water and sewerage authorities to pay to him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said earlier, the new water and sewerage authorities will be straightforward creatures of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Clause 64 tells us that the water and sewerage authorities will be composed of between seven and 11 persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have knowledge or experience relevant to the discharge of that authority.

One might like to think that that would mean that a load of plumbers would be nominated by the Secretary of State to be members of the water and sewerage authority. However, let us consider one example of a body appointed by the secretary of State for Scotland, which is chaired by someone whom the Government regard as having the requisite knowledge and experience to discharge that function. The Historic Buildings Council for Scotland is chaired by no less a person than the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), who is well known for his interest in water and things liquid in Scotland.

I fear that such authorities will not be accountable to people in Scotland; they will not be primarily interested in providing a quality service to people in Scotland. They will be there, like every other quango nominated by the Scottish Office nowadays, to exercise the political will of the Scottish Office.

That development raises one or two alarming prospects. Under the resolution, the Secretary of State will have the power to direct the bodies that he has nominated to apply their moneys in certain ways. That could, as already suggested, be a softening-up exercise leading in the direction of the privatisation of water and sewerage services.

In that case, if would be perfectly consistent with that ethos for the Secretary of State to direct the nominated bodies to start making a profit, rather than just breaking even, providing a service and balancing the books, and in doing so, providing a quality service to water consumers all over Scotland. He could direct them to start making a profit so that he could take the money out of their trading account and apply it back to the Treasury—another form of indirect taxation on people in Scotland. The Secretary of State should come clean about that and tell us whether that is what he had in mind when he tabled the resolution.

Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether this is a matter for you. I have been carefully studying the monitors which some of us, even with our failing eyesight, can read in the Chamber. I noticed that when my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) was speaking, his name was written in large letters. I have been watching carefully for the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and I cannot read it. It is impossible to read because it is in very small letters. Fortunately, I am in the Chamber so I know who is speaking, but those who may not be able to read the monitors outside because of the small letters may not know that my hon. Friend is speaking. Does the matter fall within your remit, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to refer the matter to the Broadcasting Committee.

Mr. Home Robertson

My hon. Friend's point of order—

Mr. McAllion

That is why the Chamber is so empty.

Mr. Home Robertson

As my hon. Friend says, that may be why the Chamber is so empty; people do not know that I am speaking. I am tempted to give my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) a long and boring explanation of my long and boring name. The length of my name is the reason why it appears in such small print on the monitors. I must not be diverted from the narrow terms of the resolution.

I have expressed my concern that the Secretary of State may take advantage of the terms of the resolution to direct water and sewerage authorities to seek to make a profit so that he can use them as a vehicle for taxation. I am all the more worried when I look at clause 100, which provides for water metering. Water metering has been experienced in the Isle of Wight and in parts of England. Many water consumers have found themselves in terrible difficulties because of spiralling charges for water and sewerage. it may not be just a break-even exercise. First, the Secretary of State may direct the authorities to make a profit so that they can pay money into the Treasury, which is a matter of great concern.

The second point that worries me, almost as much as the first, is that, as well as trading profits, the water and sewerage authorities will have capital assets in abundance in Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart said, assets build up over many years as a result of the enterprise, public concern and investment of local authorities. My hon. Friend referred to Loch Katrine. One could list a whole range of lochs and reservoirs and the land surrounding them all over Scotland.

We must consider not only the land surrounding those lochs and reservoirs, but the sporting and recreational rights that go with them. In my constituency, Lothian regional council water and drainage department has a number of reservoirs and lochs for which there are quite good fishing rights and on which people enjoy sailing. It is straightforward for any citizen to pay a reasonable charge for a day's fishing on those reservoirs or to go sailing on them, which makes all kinds of sense as part of the public service and the public assets to which the public have access.

I fear that Ministers may say, "Ah, those lochs and reservoirs have a capital value. We could direct our new nominees on the quangos"—in this case the new East of Scotland water authorities—"to sell off the public assets and to reduce public access to fishing on those lochs and reservoirs." Already, I have had experience of what happens when certain types of developers and private operators become involved in land holdings in different parts of my constituency.

Traditionally, on the boundary of my constituency, people have walked up to the highest point in the Lammermuir hills on open moorland, not bothering anybody. A couple of years ago, somebody from Hampshire I think bought the estate and has instructed the estate staff to begin turning people off the land. I fear that that will also happen on and around the lochs and reservoirs which are currently operated by our local authorities, where people have access to fish, sail or do anything that they want in and around those beautiful areas in the hills and uplands of Scotland.

We can see the fences going up, the gates being closed with signs saying, "keep out, private property", the higher charges for access and sporting rights in those areas and people being denied the right of access to the hills and uplands of Scotland. That would be a scandal, but it would be possible under the terms of the Ways and Means resolution. Clause 95 makes it clear enough: a new water and sewerage authority may dispose of land held by them in any manner, to whomoever and for whatever purpose they wish. Except with the consent of the Secretary of State, a new water and sewerage authority shall not dispose of land under subsection (1) above for a consideration of less than the best that could reasonably be expected to be obtained on the open market. The Secretary of State will direct the authority to go for as much as it can whenever it sells assets. It is all about privatisation and benefits to the highest bidder.

Mr. Maxton

If the local authority wished to purchase some land to put it into a country park or for the enjoyment of the people who live in that area, it would have great difficulty in finding the price to pay for land. However, if a private builder wished to build bungalows on the site of Loch Katrine, presumably because he would be able to pay the market price, he would be able to do it.

Mr. Home Robertson

That would be the ultimate irony—public assets in the hills created as a direct result of the foresight, planning and investment of local authorities and their ratepayers, poll tax payers and council tax payers over the years, being taken out of the local authority sector and handed to central Government quangos as laid out in the Bill and then sold to the highest bidder.

Local authorities may well find themselves trying to buy back their own property to protect the rights of their citizens to have access to the hills and to go fishing on their lochs and reservoirs.

This is far from a technical resolution. What is being provided for is part and parcel of the thrust of the legislation, and it stinks to high heaven. That is why it is right for us to debate it and to vote against it.

12.19 am
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

This must be an important debate. At 12.20 am, it has attracted more Conservative Members representing English constituencies than any other stage of the Bill. I am delighted to see them in the Chamber and I look forward to the informed contributions that they are likely to make to a debate which I hope will be prolonged because we are dealing with issues that are central to the people of Scotland. I should not want Parliament to skate over the motion without giving it due consideration.

As a number of Members are present from English constituencies who do not have wide experience of Scottish local government issues, especially of the way in which water and sewerage services are delivered in Scotland, it may be as well to help them by explaining the process to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) does not have much knowledge of these matters either, so for his benefit and that of Tory Members perhaps I should explain that water and sewerage services are delivered by elected local authorities and that the Scottish people want them to continue to be so.

When the Government put out for consultation the proposal that they should take water and sewerage services from local authorities and give them to quangos, area water boards or privatise them, they received a massive response. I understand that no fewer than 4,733 submissions were received from individuals and organisations in Scotland.

Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

My hon. Friend is offering an excellent explanation to English Members. He said that the Scottish people want water to continue to be provided by local water authorities, but it is not good enough to say that the Scottish people want it. He should explain what percentage of the Scottish people want it, because opinion polls showed that more than 90 per cent. of Scottish people opposed the Government's proposals.

Mr. McAllion

I was about to point out to Conservative Members the seriousness of supporting a proposal that is overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Scotland, including Conservative supporters who have no time whatsoever for the changes that are being pushed through the House.

Of those 4,733 submissions, 4,057 came from private individuals and only 676 from organisations. Of all those responses, only five supported the change from local authorities to privatised water boards, of which four were from companies interested in taking over water and sewerage services in Scotland. Another submission came from the economic affairs committee of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association. That can hardly be said to have democratic support in Scotland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) is right. The most recent opinion poll showed that 95 per cent. of the Scottish people oppose the Bill's proposals for water and sewerage services. Indeed, so unpopular is the Bill making the Conservative party in Scotland that it is beginning to become less popular among Scottish people than Michael and Kevin Kelly are among Celtic supporters.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is beginning to stray a little wide. He must stick to the subject that is before us.

Mr. McAllion

Michael and Kevin Kelly can be blamed for many things, but not for the privatisation of water and sewerage services in Scotland.

Under paragraph (a) of the Ways and Means motion, the Secretary of State will be given the power to direct a water and sewerage authority…to pay him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions". I should be interested to hear from the Minister what sums will accrue to the new water and sewerage authorities which they do not require for the exercise of their functions.

The new water authorities are to be area water boards and public boards appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland. It will be their function to deliver water and sewerage services. However, they will not carry out those functions themselves. In the main, they will appoint private sector agents to deliver the services. Those agents will design, build and operate the water treatment plants that are necessary to provide those services.

As I understand it, there will be a contract between the area water board and the private sector agent which will pay the private sector agents for carrying out the work on behalf of the area board. The cost of that contract will be met by the levy of a water rate that will be paid by the consumers of water and sewerage services in Scotland.

The consumers—the Scottish people—will be asked to pay for a service delivered to them by private sector organisations over which they have absolutely no democratic control. They will not control the appointment of the private sector bodies that will deliver the services. Similarly, they will not control the appointments to the water boards that will appoint the private sector companies to deliver the services.

It is clear that paragraph (a) is deeply undemocratic in the way in which it delivers water and sewerage services in Scotland. Those who vote for the motion had better keep that in mind.

The water rate that will be levied to pay for the contracts and to pay for the services will not be collected by the private sector agents. It will not even be collected by the area water boards. The rate will be collected by the new single-tier councils. I assume that the area boards will authorise the councils to collect only as much money as is required to pay for the contracts that have been agreed with the private sector agents.

I do not assume that the area boards will be allowed to instruct the single-tier councils to collect more than is required to pay for the water and sewerage services. If they could be instructed to collect more, the area boards could create a surplus for themselves by charging people too much for those services. That would be a form of taxation.

If the Secretary of State is saying that, if he came across an area board collecting more than the sum required to pay for the services being delivered, he would instruct the area board to return that surplus to the consumers who had paid for the services, that would be one thing, but that is not what the Secretary of State is saying in paragraph (a). He is saying that, if he comes across an area board that is charging too much for the services that it is delivering, he will simply require that board to return the surplus money to him. As I understand it, that money will go into the Consolidated Fund.

In other words, according to the motion, the Secretary of State has the opportunity to impose a further form of taxation on the Scottish people by allowing his appointees on area boards to charge more than they need for the services and to hand the surplus to the Secretary of State for his own purposes.

The other possibility is that the contracts agreed between the area boards and their private sector agents might be too generous. That might allow the private sector agents to make too generous profits from the operation of the contract by charging too much for the services provided. If the Secretary of State came across private sector agents making too much profit from the contracts agreed with the area boards, I would expect him in all decency and morality to instruct the area boards and private sector agents to return the surplus to the people who are paying the water rate. Of course, that is not what he says. He says that he wants any surplus for himself. He wants it to go back into the Consolidated Fund—yet another form of taxation.

More likely, the Secretary of State will ignore the fact that private sector companies and area boards are ripping off water consumers in Scotland and will let them get on with it. The only people who support the Tory party in Scotland are the type of people who would rip off the Scottish people and charge them too much for services.

Another problem arises. Ever since the poll tax was introduced in Scotland, a tradition of non-payment has arisen. Even the council tax, which has met much less resistance in Scotland than the poll tax did, still suffers from the problem that people are getting out of the habit of paying their bills. There is resistance to paying bills.

What will happen when an area board employs a private sector deliverer to provide water services in its area, when there is a levy to pay for that service, when the single-tier local council is collecting that water rate, when there is non-payment and a consequent shortfall in the money going to that responsible area board and it does not receive the money to pay to the private sector agent to deliver services? Is that why we have paragraph (b)? It states: to authorise the payment into the Consolidated Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State, otherwise than in repayment of any loans made by him, in consequence of any provision of the Act; and Is the purpose of the Consolidated Fund to make up the shortfall to the area boards so that they can pay the private sector agents, as agreed in their contracts? If that is the case, it is a convoluted and unnecessary way of organising the delivery of water and sewerage services in Scotland. Surely it would be much easier to let local authorities carry on delivering those services in the efficient and economical way that they have done throughout the existence of regional councils since 1975.

Nobody has complained that water and sewerage services were not good enough, that they were not being delivered properly, or that they cost too much—quite the opposite. People in Scotland understand that water and sewerage costs in our country are far cheaper than they are in England and Wales because they have not been privatised. If they were privatised, the immediate effect would be to push up the cost of water and sewerage services.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am following my hon. Friend's argument very carefully, but I am rather worried. He has said that some people have difficulty paying their bills. He says that the motion could bring about a situation in which we could have artificially high charges for water. Does my hon. Friend foresee the possibility that the government might introduce consequential legislation which would provide for the cutting of domestic water supplies in Scotland, which would be a horrifying prospect?

Mr. McAllion

My hon. Friend raises an important issue which, at least to my knowledge, has not been touched upon this evening. There have been repeated statements by the Secretary of State for Scotland that he does not intend to change the law in Scotland on the illegality of disconnecting domestic users from water and sewerage supplies. I am sure that he does not propose to do that.

However, if the situation that I am describing arises in Scotland and if the cost of water and sewerage services is so high that some consumers cannot afford to pay and, as a result, do not pay, and the single-tier authority collecting the rates cannot collect the rates from those individuals and a shortfall then accrues to the water board and it cannot pay for the contract that it has taken out with the private sector, someone has to pay. Either the general taxpayer will pay out of the Consolidated Fund, as outlined in the motion, or the Secretary of State will change the law in Scotland and allow the disconnection of domestic consumers from the water and sewerage supply, as is allowed in England and Wales.

The Government continually tell us that this is a unitary Parliament which presides over a unitary state and that what happens in one part of the country happens in any other part of the country. They do not like to carry that argument too far when it comes to water disconnections because it is too embarrassing for them. However, it will come to that if they are faced with a level of resistance which damages the ability of water boards and private sector agents to deliver the sewerage service.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I offer the hon. Gentleman a third option and that is to do what is becoming increasingly prevalent in England and Wales—self-disconnection through the introduction of water metering. That seems to be the road down which the Government are moving. In England and Wales, the Government are allowing people to disconnect their own water and sewerage service. That is why it is important to strengthen the provisions in the Bill so that self-disconnection will not be allowed in Scotland.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Before the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) pursues that point, I must point out that the terms of the Ways and Means motion are fairly narrow. Although passing reference may be made to other matters, this must not develop into a full-blown debate about disconnections.

Mr. McAllion

That is a fair point to make, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was talking about the reference to the Consolidated Fund in paragraph (b) and asking the Minister to clarify whether any shortfalls that may accrue from non-payment will be met by the Consolidated Fund or, as the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has suggested, by the introduction of metering. Effectively, that would be the introduction of self-disconnections for Scottish domestic consumers.

Perhaps that is not a matter of grave concern to Tory Members because their constituents are already subjected to such deprivations, but it is a matter of concern for Labour Members because our constituents are protected by Scottish law at present. We want to ensure that that position remains and no move is made by the Government to change the law in that respect.

Mr. Maxton

I come back to the phrase "exercise of their functions" in paragraph (a), to which my hon. Friend referred. I wonder whether that covers the cost to local authorities of collecting water charges. Presumably the collector of the money will have to carry out any disconnections, not the water authority. Labour-controlled local authorities could be forced to disconnect people from their water supply, although they have no control over that supply at all.

Mr. McAllion

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. As I understand the motion and the substance of the Bill, collection of water rates will not be one of the functions of the water and sewerage authorities. That function is being allocated to the new single-tier councils, which will have nothing whatever to do with the provision of water and sewerage services.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—there may well be a level of resistance to paying water rates to the new area boards. But that will not be a problem for area boards because the responsibility for collecting water rates will lie with local authorities. Local authorities will get the blame if they have to pursue non-payers through diligence and through the courts, the sheriff, warrants and so on.

One of the Government's great arguments about the measures contained in the Bill is that they make things clearer and more accountable. We cannot imagine another situation in which it is not clear where accountability lies other than the one referred to by my hon. Friend.

My final point relates to paragraph (c): to authorise the payment into the National Loans Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State in repayment of loans made by him to any water and sewerage authority". I should like the Minister to explain what those loans are likely to be. We know that, once the water companies in England and Wales were privatised, they quickly moved away from solely providing water and sewerage services and diversified into other areas of economic activity. They became involved in waste companies and leisure activities.

As my hon. Friends have said, there is a great danger that the land, rivers and lakes associated with water and sewerage authorities will be quickly divested by the new water boards and sold to private sector companies, which can then exploit them for profit by putting up fences and gates, denying access to the public, and increasing charges for fishing, walking and sailing on the lochs. That is a serious issue which the Minister must explain to the House before the resolution is passed.

The measure has met almost complete opposition from the people of Scotland. It will have a deleterious effect on the way in which people pay for their water and sewerage services. Indeed, costs will spiral upwards until they match those in England and Wales. Disconnections will occur and metering will be imposed on people against their will.

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

My hon. Friend has not mentioned the cost of collection. At the moment, collection is carried out by regional councils, whereas presumably under the new arrangements there will have to be a separate department to deal with the collection of those water and sewerage charges. That will mean that a separate finance department and separate arrangements wil be needed for collection and billing. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will mean a substantial increase in administrative costs?

Mr. McAllion

Very much so. We are not simply dealing with the taking away of water and sewerage services from regional councils where regional councils are left in place. Those regional councils have finance departments and have the means of collecting council tax at the moment. Another part of the Bill relates to the abolition of regional councils and the break-up of finance departments and of the systems for collecting taxes and water rates. Those systems will not be in place in 1995 or in 1996.

The water rates will have to be collected by the new local authorities, many of which may not be in a position even to collect their own council taxes. Those authorities will then be expected to collect water rates on behalf of the area water boards as well. I had a meeting this morning with some officials of Tayside regional council. They said that they cannot see for a number of years any system coming into operation which effectively would collect the council taxes or water rates that are due as a result of the changes proposed in the Bill.

The Government are inflicting upon the Scottish people an exercise in political gerrymandering. The proposals will also bring absolute chaos to the provision of local government services and to the collection of the costs of those services. The Government had better understand that, before they progress with the Bill. Irrespective of the political implications of the Bill, the sheer practical chaos which will be caused by the attempt to make the Bill work will make the poll tax look simple indeed. The lesson has not been learnt.

The Government got themselves badly burned over the poll tax and I thought that, having done that, they would never return to any madcap scheme such as is tied up in the Bill. There are few Tories left representing Scottish seats in the House. I predict that, once the measure begins to bite in Scotland, there will be even fewer in the future.

12.43 am
Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)

We are not seeing tonight the Government's concern to provide water services in Scotland. Instead, this is a fit of pique by the Government because of the response to the proposal to privatise water in Scotland. The Minister himself received an horrific reply from his constituents, with some 15,000 of them saying that they wanted nothing to do with water privatisation. Ninety-five per cent. of the people of Scotland have said that they want nothing to do with it.

The Government now, in a fit of pique, have decided that they will have privatisation by one means or another. The phrase in the resolution which concerns me is pay him such sums as he may direct". That one phrase covers all tonight's debates on the matter. The boards which the Secretary of State will appoint, or the lackeys whom he will appoint to the boards, will then be directed to pay him such sums as he may direct". When will the Secretary of State decide what those sums are to be? Will the decision be taken first, or will he see what the board has left at the end of the financial year and then take that sum? What will come first—the chicken or the egg? Will he tell the boards what amount they must have left over? Will the boards then have to decide how they are to raise that sum and how will they come to that decision?

Will the boards be asked to sell off the very asset that the people in Scotland have warned them not to sell off—the water itself? Will we see the sale of Loch Katrine? Will the boards then be instructed to rent it back to supply water to the people who have paid for it in the first place? Who will make that decision?

The Tories have never provided water out of the goodness of their hearts. One of the first water companies in my consitituency was set up to provide water not for the common people but for bleaching the cloth in Paisley, a textile town. While the company was providing water for bleaching the cloth, people were dying in typhus epidemics because of the dirty water supply. That is a position to which we could well return under the provision that the water boards must pay the Secretary of State such sums as he may direct. Where will that stop? What will be the ceiling of the sum that he may direct and how will it be collected?

Mr. Foulkes

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative Government are doing the same thing to the Post Office? It is required to pay such sums to the Secretary of State as he may direct. That is crippling the service and making it more difficult for the Post Office to improve its services. It is perhaps paving the way for the privatisation of the Post Office. In the same way—[Interruption.]

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you have rightly said, this is a narrow motion. Has not the hon. Gentleman deviated into an irrelevant matter?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I think that I can manage without the assistance of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was about to come to a conclusion. I was about to say that the Government were paving the way for privatisation of the Post Office. That may well be what they have in mind for water and sewerage in Scotland.

Mrs. Adams

If the Bill does not open the door to privatisation, it is certainly providing the key to that door. It is providing a means whereby the boards will have to raise such moneys. The boards appointed by the Secretary of State will have no choice but to sell off their assets and will force prices up so much that they will price themselves right out of the business of providing water. All that they will then do is set themselves up as an intermediate body which buys back the water that they have sold off and then provides it to the people who have paid for it in the first place.

We see yet another hidden tax in the Bill—yet another means of the Secretary of State raising funds by the back door. Those funds will go back into the Consolidated Fund so that once more he does not have to give money from that fund to provide services in Scotland. It is a double measure. First, it gives him the key to the back door to water privatisation, which was so overwhelmingly rejected by people in Scotland. Secondly, it allows him to raise yet further funds to go back into his own coffers.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

When my hon. Friend looks at paragraph (c) of the Ways and Means motion, does she find it remarkable that there should be provision in Scotland to repay over a period certain loans, at the whim of the Secretary of State for Scotland, when, at the time of the privatisation of the water industry in England, the majority of the water authorities' outstanding loans were wiped out?

Mrs. Adams

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The loans were wiped out in the main when the water industry was privatised in England. But no provision is made to wipe out loans when the water is provided by boards in Scotland. I presume that we shall see such a provision when we get the back-door water privatisation.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Bill is a fit of pique. The Secretary of State has determined that he will privatise water in Scotland by one means or another. As he cannot do it directly because of the reaction in Scotland when privatisation was first proposed, he now intends to do it indirectly. He will put such a price on water that the boards will price themselves out and will be forced to sell all their assets. The people to whom they sell the assets will set the price at which the water is sold back.

Mr. Connarty

The Secretary of State said earlier that people would not take kindly to having their water charges doubled if that was to pay for the increase in water and sewerage quality that is required in Scotland. Paragraph (c) requires a responsibility for the repayment of loans; paragraph (a) provides for a completely new charge of any sum that the Secretary of State wishes to charge. It is as if local authorities had taken a power not just to borrow the money to pay for improvements, but to start giving profits to pay for other services. This is an additional water charge for local authorities.

Mrs. Adams

I entirely agree.

The Government refused to accept that people in Scotland did not want to be privatised. They have tried by every means possible to make that come about. I think that they will receive the same response as last time: people will not be fooled. People in Scotland are very concerned about the lack of democracy that we are seeing again here. Not only is the Secretary of State appointing yet another quango; he is deciding that he will milk this quango dry—that he will set the charges. We have no means of knowing what he means by "to pay him such sums"; what sums are we talking about? Will he set them at the beginning of the financial year, or will he wait until the end and see what sums the board has? If the Secretary of State sets the goal first, the price of water services in Scotland may well double.

People in Scotland might not object to that if they received those services—if they were assured of a clean water supply and the renewal of sewerage systems that are currently failing desperately. They would not mind if they knew that all the money was being ploughed back into such services. But, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, metering may result in self-rationing: people will simply turn off their water supplies, because they will know that at the end of the week they will not be able to afford the bill. Where will that stop? Where will the price increases stop, as a means of bringing money back into the coffers—such sums as the Secretary of State may determine?

The Secretary of State must tell us exactly how he will go about this and when he will determine what sums will be involved. Will this happen at the beginning of the boards' financial year? Will the boards be expected to sell off assets to pay such sums as he may direct"? Does that simply mean assets such as the land around the water, or does it mean the lochs themselves? Before the Secretary of State goes any further, he must answer all those questions.

12.54 am
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

According to the well-known saying, "if it isn't broke, don't fix it". Where is the demand for this measure? The truth is that people in Scotland are delighted with water and sewerage services.

I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is present. I listened with interest to his remarks on the money resolution, when he paid tribute to the excellent way in which he had been treated by some of his Scottish Front-Bench colleagues.

According to an opinion poll in tomorrow's Glasgow Herald, 15 per cent. of the Scottish people now support the Conservative party. That figure is higher than it should be. The hon. Member for Southend, East may have felt nostalgic about his time as a Conservative Member for Scotland, but I am sure that he cannot remember any other time when Conservative support was as low as 15 per cent. People must ask why.

Mr. McAllion

Was my hon. Friend present when the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) said that he was extremely sad that he no longer represented a Scottish constituency? My hon. Friend should tell him that the people of Cathcart are not at all sad that he is not their Member.

Mr. Hood

I was present, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Southend, East had his tongue in his cheek when he said that. These days, there is not much future in being a Conservative in Scotland.

Mr. Maxton

My hon. Friend may not be aware that, before the hon. Member for Southend, East became the Member for Cathcart, he was a member of the old Glasgow corporation. One of the great prides of that corporation was its water supply and waterworks, including Loch Katrine. When the hon. Gentleman was a councillor, I am sure that he took pleasure in sailing across Loch Katrine, because councillors had the right to do so. That privilege will no longer be available to the elected members who represent the new future Glasgow authority.

Mr. Hood

If the hon. Member for Southend, East lived in Glasgow, I doubt that he would support the motion. I am sure that the same could be said of a great many other Conservative Members.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I certainly did not take advantage of all the perks on offer to councillors, which were scandalous: that was a thing for Labour councillors to do.[Interruption.] May I offer a little advice to the hon. Gentleman? I must tell him and his colleagues, who are moaning and shouting, that if they had a good argument and put it nicely and constructively to the Secretary of State, he would accept their case. I did just that to save King's Park from the indignity of being part of Lanarkshire. Why not try that? Opposition Members should ask the Government nicely, reasonably and sensibly to consider their case. They might be amazed at the results.

Hon. Members

Just like Maastricht.

Mr. Hood

I would be flabbergasted, absolutely amazed or any other adjective that the hon. Gentleman might like to use. Will the Government withdraw this nonsense of the Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Please."] After all, 95 per cent. of the Scottish people do not want it. Will they please withdraw it? That suggestion does not seem to work.

The hon. Member for Southend, East made an unfortunate remark about councillors' perks. These days, there are not many of them. In 1974—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not think that the motion will bear the interpretation of councillors' expenses that is put upon it.

Mr. Hood

I thank you for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker.

May I just say that, when a councillor attended a meeting of a water board in 1975, he received a £10 attendance allowance. In 1993, nearly 10 years later, councillors who attended such meetings barely received £10. To suggest that councillors still receive great perks is nonsense. One of the great disasters of local government is the fact that proper remuneration is not offered to those who are supposed to be accountable to the electorate for a council's work.

Mr. Wray

The Secretary of State got it wrong when he said that he would get half the required £52 million from the private sector. To date, he has received £2.5 million. The boards that will be established will do the same as the health boards: they will sell off all their assets and make the ratepayers pay for anything to do with water.

Mr. Hood

We have heard much from the Government about how the private sector will be funded. One has only to think of Crossrail, the channel tunnel and all the other wonderful projects to see that they have not come up with the goods.

Since I came to the House in 1987, a short time ago—it sometimes seems a wee bit longer—these motions have always confused me. They are always ambiguous. We have been asked to pass a measure that gives the Secretary of State a range of powers with which we do not necessarily agree. The measure is open-ended and allows him to do as he likes, without real accountability to the House.

Paragraph (a) says: to authorise the Secretary of State to direct a water and sewerage authority established by the Act to pay him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions". What are "such sums", how are they worked out, and who will decide? Will there be an equation for working out that sum? Should we not be told what those sums are before we pass this measure? A few weeks ago, a money resolution mentioned "something like £4.6 million" but we did not know what the "something like" was. What does the term "such sums" mean?

This resolution will create a water tax that will provide revenue for the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) said, it will go into the Treasury's Consolidation Fund, not into investment to provide better services. Almost two years ago, the Government promised us all that they would not increase taxes. They told us that they were about cutting taxes but, as soon as they were re-elected, their policies were all about tax.

I need not remind the House that the Chancellor has admitted that the measures introduced by him and his predecessors were equivalent to a 7p increase in income tax. The Government used to say that the Labour party would spend, spend, spend. This Government tax, tax, tax, but they do not necessarily spend.

Mr. Pike

Does paragraph (a) mean that, if the motion is carried, water authorities in Scotland will be asked to produce not only income for investment and for their revenue expenditure but additional income for the Government's Consolidated Fund? As my hon. Friend says, it is a new source of indirect taxation.

Mr. Hood

That is exactly what I was trying to say.

Mr. Connarty

I wonder whether my hon. Friend is aware that the laws that govern the raising of funds for local authorities contain a clause that says that a local authority shall raise sufficient funds for the provision of its services. In the High Court judgment against Stirling district council when I was leader, the High Court judges said that that should be interpreted to read "only" sufficient funds as are required for the provision of its services.

Does my hon. Friend not find it rather strange that the Bill says that this will have the boards raising more than sufficient funds—it states this clearly— required by them for the exercise of their functions"? Is it not an oddity that this Bill provides for the raising of additional sums other than those required for water and sewerage delivery? It should be explained by the Secretary of State, and possibly even withdrawn, so that they raise only sufficient funds for the purposes for which they are set up.

Mr. Hood

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, which was the second point that I was going to come to.

I am pleased to see the Secretary of State now sitting in his place. The hon. Member for Southend, east said that, if I asked you nicely, you would respond much better to our representations. The hon. Member for Southend, East even suggested that, if I asked you nicely to withdraw this ridiculous proposal, you might do so.

Madam Deputy Speaker

There is no point in the hon. Gentleman talking to me nicely—I can do nothing about it.

Mr. Hood

I am sure that if I asked you nicely, Madam Deputy Speaker, you might consider it.

Will the Secretary of State consider withdrawing this ridiculous measure which 95 per cent. of the people of Scotland do not support? [Interruption.] That is as nice as I can be. If hon. Members do not think that that is nice, they have not seen me being nasty. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) mentioned English Members, and I am thankful that one or two have arrived since I began to speak.

Much has already been said about Strathclyde. As a Member of Parliament, I have had my moments with many departments within Strathclyde regional council, but one of the most satisfactory departments with which to deal is the water and sewerage department. If one rings it about a problem, one gets an almost instant response. In addition, it provides a considerably cheaper service than any in England and Wales. It provides an excellent service at almost half the cost of that elsewhere, but we are discussing a measure that will destroy it all.

I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmon), but he made a valid point. He said that, at this stage, the Secretary of State was not talking about introducing legislation to cut water supplies, but I am sure that metering will lead to it. It has happened with electricity, so it will undoubtedly happen with water.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the taxation on water and sewerage authorities is set too high by the Government, it is likely that many more people will be disconnected? Such a method of taxation is likely to result in far more disconnections than would conceivably be the case otherwise, and is it not regrettable?

Mr. Hood

It is certainly regrettable and we should be taking action to impress on Ministers, preferably before they have gone too far, the true results of what they are proposing.

The resolution also deals with the area boards. I have already mentioned Strathclyde, and the excellent brief states that a west of Scotland water authority will have between six and 10 members. We are told that taxes or levies, whatever one wishes to call them, will be placed on the boards, and I wondered who would take part in the negotiations.

There must be two sides in a negotiation; one represents one interest and someone else represents the other. If a member of a quango involved in the negotiation is also to decide whether one has a job, it makes the job of negotiating much easier. If the local authority represents the community, one expects it to resist the Secretary of State and argue its corner, but the result would not be the same if the area board was a quango appointed by the Secretary of State. If there is any disagreement, the Secretary of State will do what he did with the health boards—someone else will be appointed.

We have also heard about the consumer's interest, so let us consider the customers council. One would think that the customers council would look after the interests of the consumer and I am pleased to see that our expert on consumer affairs is here to listen to the debate. Who appoints the customers council?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have to remind the hon. Member that that does not relate to the motion.

Mr. Hood

I was explaining the contradictions in the negotiations between area boards and section (a) of the ways and means resolution.

Mr. Davidson

May I draw to my hon. Friend's attention the words in paragraph (a): being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions"? The Secretary of State could decide not only who to appoint to the board, but how much they should be paid. Presumably he would also be able to amend that payment during their time on the board.

By using that part of paragraph (a), presumably he could point out that the amount of money received by members of the board was not really required, and could therefore threaten them with a drastic reduction. That would give him another power: to compel them to agree with his evaluation of how much they should be paying in tax.

Mr. Hood

I think that we are hearing the analogy of the carrot and the stick—patronage or the sack. In fairness, I must come to the Secretary of State's defence for a moment. His history is not one of the stick. It is quite an enjoyable experience being sacked by the Secretary of State or the Scottish Office, because one is well looked after. When I was a miner in the pits, if anyone got sacked they were down the road with a part of the pay that they had earned on that day. If someone is sacked by the Secretary of State, they can get £80,000, a pat on the back and a wee mention in the new year's honours list, so he has a good track record of looking after his cronies.

To return to the resolution, because I have been tempted away, Madam Deputy Speaker, the truth of the matter is that patronage is a worrying feature. The vagueness of the resolution and the powers it seeks are also worrying.

Mr. Connarty

Is there not a more worrying dichotomy in paragraph (a)? If one of the functions that they have to exercise is investing in water and sewerage infrastructure and if the Secretary of State has an instruction, as is the case with other departments—the Post Office, for example—to find funds and such sums as he decides, he will be tempted not to place on the authorities the type of functions that we would wish, such as improvement of and investment in the infrastructure and in sewerage and water systems. That would lead not to more money to pay for those investments but to spare money, which would be returned to the Secretary of State. Those are the sort of grand pressures involved—the choice between investment and paying back money on investments and giving back free money to the Secretary of State for some other purpose set by the Treasury.

Mr. Hood

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. May I refer to the earlier debate about the cost of the reform? Perhaps some people in the Scottish Office think that they will understate the cost of the reform and make up for the deficit and additional costs by putting less hidden tax on the water consumer.

I am trying to come to the close of my remarks—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] My hon. Friends are so kind.

We are being asked to pass a resolution that gives powers to the Secretary of State—or whoever holds that office—and to faceless people in the area boards, and we are told that the customers council will look after consumers' interests. No Conservative Member has suggested that we will provide a better and cheaper service to the consumer. I hope that the Minister will try to answer those questions, among others, when he has an opportunity to respond to the debate.

Where will the real negotiation take place? Will it take place in Scotland, with the area boards with the Secretary of State? Will it take place in representations from the customers council, appointed by the same people—the same cronies who probably go to the same meetings at night and the same parties? Even worse, will all the decisions be taken in the Treasury, just across the road?

Mr. Davidson

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a danger that many of the decisions will be taken at social functions of the Conservative party? Is he aware that there have been many occasions on which appointees to health boards and the like have been with Ministers at party political functions on behalf of the Conservative party? Does he believe that it is a grave danger to the system of the water industry that might be established, that the appointments would not be above board; that they would be conducted solely within the ranks of a fund-raising event for the Conservative party?

Mr. Hood

That concern is not limited to the Bill. It has been expressed about much legislation that has passed through the House since I have been here. I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you have sat doing your excellent duty and listened to many concerns about that in special ways and means motions.

It is a bit of a cheek, is it not? I heard the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) speaking about 22 members of a council that employs 2,000 people as if it was a large number. The we consider what happens in appointments to boards—to health boards and to that enterprise board, to that local enterprise company—all patronage, all placepeople. When we talk about "back to basics", is it not back to common values, decency, things that one can trust? Is that what "back to basics" means? How can one trust the judgment of a person who is there to so-called represent one on a customers council or a health board, if that person is there by the patronage of a political appointment?

Surely, if we talk about decentralisation, whether it be in the case of health boards or whatever, we should have democratic elections—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—communities represented by people who are accountable to the community. Surely that is the way forward.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is beginning to take off again and is leaving the order far behind.

Mr. McAllion

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hood

Of course I will.

Mr. McAllion

Perhaps I can bring my hon. Friend back to the motion before the House, and direct him back to schedule 7 to the Bill, which deals with appointments to the new area water boards. We find in schedule 7 that the Secretary of State has been empowered not only to appoint up to 11 members to those area boards, but to pay them such remuneration, such reasonable allowances, such compensation, such pensions, allowance and gratuities, as he and the Treasury think fit. In other words, among the sums which are required to carry out their functions in terms of the order is the function of the Secretary of State paying off his political friends by appointing them to the boards with big fat salaries, big fat remuneration and big fat allowances in return for political loyalty to him and his party.

Mr. Hood

Again my hon. Friend emphasises the vagueness of the measures. We could be talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds. We could be talking about millions of pounds. I could mention the recent fiasco—I do not want to dwell on it—of the Glasgow health board, and talk about the amounts that it has cost there. That was with one person only. There will be 12 people per board, and we do not know how much they will be paid.

I do not think that it is unreasonable for Members of the House who come here to pass legislation to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whatever Secretary of State it is in a measure such as this, what sum is involved. What will he pay the people who will be on those boards? What is wrong with asking that?

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does that hon. Gentleman accept that, if we privatised water in Scotland, as we have done in England, we should do away with all the political patronage, which I think is quite shocking? Why do we not go the same way as England and go for water privatisation? We should then get rid of all the political patronage.

Mr. Hood

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that one is better burnt than scalded. Are we being asked not to be scalded, but to be burnt? I pay twice as much in water rates for my one-bedroom flat in London as I do for my house in Scotland, where I get better, cleaner water. Yet the hon. Member for Southend, East recommends that we should go down the road of privatisation, despite all the troubles that is has brought to England and Wales. If the people of England and Wales were given the choice of going back to public ownership—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is broadening the debate. Some of the interventions are helping the hon. Gentleman in that respect, but they are not helping the Chair.

Mr. Hood

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Pike

The resolution refers to other money. Could that reference be based on the assumption that the water authorities in Scotland will take action similar to that taken by North West Water? It does more to improve the water quality and to make profits in Kuala Lumpur than it does in the north-west.

Mr. Hood

That is obviously a great concern.

Conservative Members have accepted that the resolution is important. There are more hon. Members discussing the resolution at 1.21 am than there have been since 3.30 pm.

Mr. Home Robertson

English Members may be flocking into the Chamber because of the implications of the resolution in connection with clause 102. It provides for the supply for use outwith Scotland. It provides for the export of publicly owned water from Scotland for sale south of the border in England. Under the resolution, discriminatory charges could be applied on water that is exported south of the border. It could be subject to directions by the Secretary of State. More money could be raised from the exported water, which would be a tax on the people of England. I might think that that was a good idea, but I am not sure that Conservative Members would agree.

Mr. Hood

I am sure that my hon. Friend heard the excellent speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and others. They made the point that English and Welsh Members should beware. They will not escape the consequences of their party in England and Wales if the Government are allowed to get away with their proposals.

Mr. Davidson

Does my hon. Friend accept that there could be yet another Conservative fund-raising event? There was discussion between officials of Scottish Enterprise and officers of the Conservative party about the possibility of piping Scottish water to England and Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) mentioned Kuala Lumpur. Given that the channel tunnel is about to be completed, the scope for the export of Scottish water to the continent is considerable. Levies could be put on that water by the Secretary of State, which could price Scottish water out of the French and German markets. 'That would be a decision by the Secretary of State which would affect Scottish exports, which all of us would deprecate.

In my constituency, the Scotch whisky bottling industry is an important part of the local community's economy. If the whisky was to be marketed jointly with Scottish water—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is given to overlong interventions.

Mr. Hood

I think that my hon. Friend made a good point.

Mr. Ingram

Would my hon. Friend accept some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson) and relate them to the gas pipes that currently run all over Europe? If gas were not flowing through those pipes, water could flow in a reverse action. That could take water from Scotland as far as Siberia with some of the extensions that have been made in the gas distribution network, so we could easily find ourselves exporting water to Kuala Lumpur.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I suggest that he does not follow that path but returns more closely to the resolution.

Mr. Hood

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for rescuing me. I was trying to work out gas and water going different ways, and gave up.

Genuine concerns have been expressed about the power that the resolution vests in the Secretary of State. Even as hon. Members have expressed those concerns, the Secretary of State has been either studying the problem or he has nodded off. He is obviously studying the problem. I hope that, before the House rises, we may get a response. I do not think that that is unreasonable. The point that I made earlier about the appointments to the area boards and its ability to seek the power to pay remuneration, pensions and so on should be addressed. We should be given an idea of what those salaries would be.

I can remember, as I said earlier, the Tory members of Parliament who were defeated at the last election. I used to be represented by a Tory Member of Parliament when I lived in Nottingham for a few years. He was the Member for Sherwood, Andy Stewart, a farmer from Strathavon. I bumped into my former Member of Parliament, a congenial chap with whom I have quite a fair relationship. I said, "Hello, Andy, how are you doing?" And Andy said: "I'm busy. I'm the chairman of the agricultural board." I said, "Very good, Andy, well done."

One can bet a pound to a penny that the chairman of the agricultural board is paid a lot more after being kicked out by his constituents in Sherwood than he was when he was their Member of Parliament. In 1987—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. This is not the time to engage in extensive reminiscences. The purpose of the resolution is much narrower than that.

Mr. Hood

I apologise if I transgressed from what I originally wanted to say. However, there is an inference of the powers being sought by the Secretary of State in the resolution, of which I gave an example.

Mr. Gallie

Which was irrelevant.

Mr. Hood

It was not irrelevant. Such information should certainly be supplied to the Standing Committee.

Mr. Davidson

Will my hon. Friend comment on the amounts that may be payable to the officers of the water board in those circumstances and tell us his view on how that compares with the amounts presently paid to elected councillors who presently sit on the boards of water boards?

Mr. Hood


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I must tell him that, again, this is going wide of the resolution.

Mr. Hood

Much to your disappointment, I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am coming to a close.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Does not the hon. Member think, even as a socialist, that, if we sold our water with the same success as we sell our whisky, it would be of great benefit to his constituents and to all the people of Scotland?

Mr. Hood

I was in Athens a few weeks ago with my Select Committee, and was pleased to learn that Greece imports more Scotch whisky than any other country in Europe. I am sure that it would import Scottish water if it was available. Water privatisation and area boards are not necessary for that, when local democracy controls services.

I hope that the power sought in the resolution is given to the Standing Committee, because when the Government are proposing measures that do not have the support of 5 or 6 per cent. of people in Scotland, it is important that they give the facts and figures to back up their argument. We have already shown that the Government's assessment of the costs of the Bill is much lower than its true cost. We suspect from our discussions tonight that they may use a water tax to meet the deficit. If the Secretary of State and his Ministers disagree, they should come up with the facts.

Mr. Home Robertson

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to clause 73(7), which deals with charges schemes? It says: A new water and sewerage authority, in making a charges scheme and the Customers Council and the Secretary of State in considering whether to give approval to such a scheme, shall endeavour to ensure that no undue preference is shown, and that there is no undue discrimination. The charges scheme will include a surcharge—a tax—that is supposedly subject to the consent of the customers council and the Secretary of State for Scotland. Is it not incestuous for the Secretary of State for Scotland to tell the new water authorities to impose a surcharge on water so that he can put money back into the consolidated fund while posing as the safeguard of the public interest in preventing water charges from going too high? Is it not odd that he is trying to have it both ways?

Mr. Hood

My hon. Friend makes his point in his usual excellent way. We have heard similar concern tonight, but if the Secretary of State knows the sums that he is seeking to spend, he should let the House know. If he does not know, he is incompetent and should not hold his position. I have my own views and disagreements with the Secretary of State, but I believe that he has the figures, and we should know what they are. If he cannot give them tonight, I am sure that my hon. Friends in the Standing Committee will pursue the matter.

1.33 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

As you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have reminded the House, this is a—

Mr. Foulkes

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have been waiting since 3.30 pm to make a contribution. Would it be appropriate for me and my hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) and for Falkirk, East (Mr. Canavan) to be called before the Minister replies? Is not that the normal procedure in debates of this kind?

Madam Deputy Speaker

It is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. The Minister has been asked a number of questions and he will now have the opportunity to reply.

Mr. Ingram

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not want to come into conflict with you in any way, but I have sat through the whole of this debate. I left the Chamber briefly to get something from the Library as a result of what was said during the debate and I wanted to make a contribution in relation to that. Although I recognise your powers, I feel that there are matters that remain to be raised which the Minister should be required to answer. I would welcome your ruling on that point.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I have ruled that it is within the discretion of the Chair. Many hon. Members have intervened and have had an opportunity—

Mr. Canavan

Further to that point of order—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. There is no further point of order on that matter. I have made the point.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot hear all points of order at once.

Mr. Canavan

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can the debate continue after the Minister has spoken?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Yes, it can.

Mr. McAllion

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If the debate is allowed to continue after the Minister has made his contribution, will he be allowed to answer the points made subsequently and to re-enter the debate at that stage?

Madam Deputy Speaker

That can be done only with the leave of the House.

Mr. Foulkes

On a different point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If the Minister is not allowed to reply, would it be possible for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in whose name the motion is tabled, to reply to the debate? My hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride, for Falkirk, West and I have points to make. It would be unacceptable if those points could not be dealt with. It looks as though the Government are trying to railroad through this rather important measure.

Madam Deputy Speaker

It is not for the Chair to decide who will speak on behalf of the Government.

Mr. Stewart

As you have rightly reminded the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is a very limited motion. May I consider first the key criticism of the motion, namely the surrender of surpluses by the water boards to the Treasury. That is a standard form provision to ensure that, where genuine surpluses are generated, they are properly available to the public sector as a whole.

In all cases, of course, the needs of the industry will have the first call on revenue.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Stewart

No, I want to explain the motion.

The hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) asked about the meaning of such sums as he may direct and whether the normal financial regime would include such sums. I assure her that that is not the case. They will not be a key element of a normal financial regime. The provision will deal with a wholly exceptional situation should that arise.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) asked about the possibility of the motion allowing assets owned by local authorities to be taken from them. I assure him that that is not the case. The motion contains no provision that would enable the Secretary of State to require authorities to dispose of assets.

Hon. Members have raised many other points related to the motion to which we will no doubt return as the Bill progresses through the House.

This is a standard motion, there is nothing particularly controversial about it, and I therefore commend it to the House.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Qustion put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 233, Noes 49.

Division No. 72] [1.39 am
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Alexander, Richard Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Amess, David Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Arbuthnot, James Faber, David
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Fabricant, Michael
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Ashby, David Fenner, Dame Peggy
Aspinwall, Jack Forman, Nigel
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Forth, Eric
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) French, Douglas
Baldry, Tony Gale, Roger
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Gallie, Phil
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gardiner, Sir George
Bates, Michael Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Batiste, Spencer Garnier, Edward
Bellingham, Henry Gillan, Cheryl
Bendall, Vivian Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Beresford, Sir Paul Gorst, John
Blackburn, Dr John G. Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Booth, Hartley Grylls, Sir Michael
Boswell, Tim Hague, William
Bowden, Andrew Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Bowis, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brandreth, Gyles Hampson, Dr Keith
Brazier, Julian Hannam, Sir John
Bright, Graham Hargreaves, Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Harris, David
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Haselhurst, Alan
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hawkins, Nick
Budgen, Nicholas Hawksley, Warren
Burns, Simon Heald, Oliver
Burt, Alistair Heathcoat-Amory, David
Butler, Peter Hendry, Charles
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hicks, Robert
Carrington, Matthew Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Cash, William Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Horam, John
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Clappison, James Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Coe, Sebastian Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Colvin, Michael Hunter, Andrew
Congdon, David Jack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jenkin, Bernard
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Jessel, Toby
Cran, James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Day, Stephen Key, Robert
Devlin, Tim Kirkhope, Timothy
Dicks, Terry Knapman, Roger
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dover, Den Knox, Sir David
Duncan, Alan Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Dunn, Bob Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Durant, Sir Anthony Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Elletson, Harold Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lidington, David
Lightbown, David Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Luff, Peter Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spencer, Sir Derek
Maclean, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McLoughlin, Patrick Spink, Dr Robert
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spring, Richard
Maitland, Lady Olga Sproat, Iain
Malone, Gerald Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Marland, Paul Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Marlow, Tony Steen, Anthony
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stephen, Michael
Mates, Michael Stern, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Stewart, Allan
Merchant, Piers Streeter, Gary
Milligan, Stephen Sweeney, Walter
Mills, Iain Sykes, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Moss, Malcolm Thomason, Roy
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thurnham, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Tredinnick, David
Norris, Steve Trend, Michael
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Trotter, Neville
Oppenheim, Phillip Twinn, Dr Ian
Ottaway, Richard Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Page, Richard Viggers, Peter
Paice, James Walden, George
Patnick, Irvine Waller, Gary
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Ward, John
Pickles, Eric Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Porter, David (Waveney) Watts, John
Powell, William (Corby) Wells, Bowen
Rathbone, Tim Whitney, Ray
Redwood, Rt Hon John Whittingdale, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Richards, Rod Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Riddick, Graham Wilkinson, John
Robathan, Andrew Willetts, David
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wilshire, David
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Wolfson, Mark
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wood, Timothy
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Sackville, Tom Tellers for the Ayes:
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Mr. Andrew Mackay and
Shaw, David (Dover) Mr. Derek Conway.
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Adams, Mrs Irene Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ingram, Adam
Barnes, Harry Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Canavan, Dennis Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Kilfoyle, Peter
Connarty, Michael McAllion, John
Cryer, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Cunliffe, Lawrence McFall, John
Dalyell, Tam McLeish, Henry
Davidson, Ian McMaster, Gordon
Dewar, Donald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dixon, Don Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Donohoe, Brian H. Maxton, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy Michael, Alun
Foulkes, George Olner, William
Fyfe, Maria Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Graham, Thomas Salmond, Alex
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Skinner, Dennis
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Spearing, Nigel
Home Robertson, John Wallace, James
Hood, Jimmy Watson, Mike
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Welsh, Andrew
Wilson, Brian Tellers for the Noes:
Worthington, Tony Mr. Terry Lewis and Mr. Jim Cunningham.
Wray, Jimmy

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly.

The House divided: Ayes 231, Noes 49.

Division No. 73] [1.50 am
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Alexander, Richard Faber, David
Amess, David Fabricant, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Forman, Nigel
Ashby, David Forth, Eric
Aspinwall, Jack Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Atkinson, David (Bout'mouth E) Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) French, Douglas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Gale, Roger
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Gallie, Phil
Baldry, Tony Gardiner, Sir George
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Garnier, Edward
Bates, Michael Gillan, Cheryl
Batiste, Spencer Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bellingham, Henry Gorst, John
Bendall, Vivian Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Beresford, Sir Paul Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Grylls, Sir Michael
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hague, William
Booth, Hartley Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Boswell, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bowden, Andrew Hampson, Dr Keith
Bowis, John Hannam, Sir John
Brandreth, Gyles Hargreaves, Andrew
Brazier, Julian Harris, David
Bright, Graham Haselhurst, Alan
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hawkins, Nick
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hawksley, Warren
Budgen, Nicholas Heald, Oliver
Burns, Simon Heathcoat-Amory, David
Burt, Alistair Hendry, Charles
Butler, Peter Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Carrington, Matthew Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cash, William Horam, John
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Chapman, Sydney Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Clappison, James Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hunter, Andrew
Coe, Sebastian Jack, Michael
Colvin, Michael Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Congdon, David Jenkin, Bernard
Conway, Derek Jessel, Toby
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, James Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Key, Robert
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Kirkhope, Timothy
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knapman, Roger
Day, Stephen Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Devlin, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dicks, Terry Knox, Sir David
Dorrell, Stephen Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Dover, Den Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Duncan, Alan Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Dunn, Bob Lidington, David
Durant, Sir Anthony Lightbown, David
Elletson, Harold Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Luff, Peter
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) MacKay, Andrew
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Maclean, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Spencer, Sir Derek
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maitland, Lady Olga Spink, Dr Robert
Malone, Gerald Spring, Richard
Marland, Paul Sproat, Iain
Marlow, Tony Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mates, Michael Steen, Anthony
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Stephen, Michael
Merchant, Piers Stern, Michael
Milligan, Stephen Stewart, Allan
Mills, Iain Streeter, Gary
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sweeney, Walter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Sykes, John
Monro, Sir Hector Tapsell, Sir Peter
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Nelson, Anthony Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thomason, Roy
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Nicholls, Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Thurnham, Peter
Norris, Steve Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Tredinnick, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Trend, Michael
Ottaway, Richard Trotter, Neville
Page, Richard Twinn, Dr Ian
Paice, James Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Patnick, Irvine Viggers, Peter
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Walden, George
Pickles, Eric Waller, Gary
Porter, David (Waveney) Ward, John
Powell, William (Corby) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rathbone, Tim Watts, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Wells, Bowen
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Whitney, Ray
Richards, Rod Whittingdale, John
Riddick, Graham Widdecombe, Ann
Robathan, Andrew Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wilkinson, John
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Willetts, David
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wilshire, David
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Wolfson, Mark
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wood, Timothy
Sackville, Tom Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Shaw, David (Dover) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Robert G. Hughes and Mr. Michael Brown.
Sims, Roger
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Adams, Mrs Irene Kilfoyle, Peter
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) McAllion, John
Barnes, Harry McAvoy, Thomas
Canavan, Dennis McFall, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) McLeish, Henry
Connarty, Michael McMaster, Gordon
Cryer, Bob Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dalyell, Tam Maxton, John
Davidson, Ian Michael, Alun
Dewar, Donald Olner, William
Dixon, Don Pike, Peter L.
Dononoe, Brian H. Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Salmond, Alex
Foulkes, George Skinner, Dennis
Fyfe, Maria Spearing, Nigel
Godman, Dr Norman A. Wallace, James
Graham, Thomas Watson, Mike
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Welsh, Andrew
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Wilson, Brian
Home Robertson, John Worthington, Tony
Hood, Jimmy Wray, Jimmy
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Tellers for the Noes:
Ingram, Adam Mr. Terry Lewis and Mr. Jim Cunningham.
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill ("the Act"), it is expedient—

  1. (a) to authorise the Secretary of State to direct a water and sewerage authority established by the Act to pay him such sums as he may direct, being sums not required by them for the exercise of their functions, nor otherwise payable by them under or by virtue of any provision of the Act;
  2. (b) to authorise the payment into the Consolidated Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State, otherwise than in repayment of any loans made by him, in consequence of any provision of the Act; and
  3. (c) to authorise the payment into the National Loans Fund of any sums paid to the Secretary of State in repayment of loans made by him to any water and sewerage authority established by the Act.