The original orders, which were laid on 30 November, had to be withdrawn as it was not found possible to debate them before the Christmas Recess, and in the new orders 1980 is substituted for 1979 where appropriate.
This is the second year during which the House has had the opportunity to discuss the provision of support through housing support grant for local authority housing in Scotland. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities was consulted before the orders were laid and, while we could not be expected to reach complete agreement with the convention on the terms of the orders, the consultations were generally agreed by all parties to be most useful. I pay tribute to the efforts of the convention's representatives, who gave unstintingly of their time and expertise in what has been a difficult year.
I shall deal first with the variation order. The variation order for 1979–80 deals only with the effects of increases in prices; it does not deal with any volume changes. For example, the same base data were used in the calculations as were used for the main order debated in January last year, and no change has been made to the growth in general expenditure built into that order. I should point out also that the estimate of relevant income remains unchanged.
Having taken account of the level of interest rates, remuneration, costs and prices, I have decided to increase the estimate of eligible expenditure by £47 million, and, since the estimate of relevant income has not changed, the aggregate of housing support grant has increased by the same sum of £47 million. This is a very considerable sum, which demonstrates the Government's commitment and anxiety to play absolutely fairly with local authorities in what are very difficult conditions.
The estimate of expenditure takes full account of estimated increases in interest rates and of price increases throughout the year on management and maintenance costs, except that, as indicated in the report, we have abated the wages and salaries components of the indices used to update that head of expenditure.
I said earlier that the estimate of relevant income had not been changed. The estimate produced by the last Government assumed that earnings would increase by only 7 per cent. from 1978–79 to 1979–80. In the event—it will be no surprise to the House—