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I beg to move,
That the Rate Reduction (Glasgow District) 1983–84 Report, which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.
It is worthwhile at the outset of the debate to remind ourselves that we are considering whether the total estimated expenses of Glasgow district council as proposed in the report are excessive and unreasonable. It is to that question, and to no other, that I have applied my mind in presenting this report, and in doing so I have taken into account all the representations that have been made to me about this expenditure.
Before turning to the detail of the report, I should like to say a brief general word about why we need to have such reports and to answer the question as to why the Government cannot just ignore what local authorities spend. It would be much easier for us all if we could, but there are overwhelming reasons why no Government could control the economy properly if they allowed local authority expenditure to take off.
Local government spending is undeniably part of public spending. It is funded partly by local rates and partly by general taxation. If it increases, there are fewer resources available for other public expenditure programmes, and private industry, which earns our living abroad. The Scottish Office spending programme is a clear example of these points. Over half of the money spent on the Scottish Office spending programme is spent not by me but by local authorities. No one who wants to be taken seriously can sensibly believe that any Secretary of State could abandon all control over such a large part of his spending. We do not, therefore, take powers out of any desire to undermine local democracy, despite what is said in an article in The Times today.
It is important that local government and locally elected representatives should determine local priorities. However, central and local government cannot work in isolation. It is an essential part of the machinery of government that they should co-operate. Central government have been democratically elected, with the responsibility for pursuing national objectives, including economic objectives. Local government have been democratically elected to pursue local objectives, but these must be pursued within the framework of national objectives set by Government. There cannot be any question of local government expenditure being left out of accounts when the Government consider their public expenditure policies.
There is nothing new about this. All Governments, including Labour, have felt it necessary to take steps to control local authority expenditure. For instance, in 1975 the noble Lord Ross of Marnock said,
restraint on spending by local authorities in the years ahead has to be of a stringency hitherto unheard of, certainly in recent times. That is necessary in the interests both of Government and of ratepayers. We have to try to keep down the level of expenditure and the level of the rates."—[Official Report, 15 December 1975; Vol. 902, c. 1100.]
Lord Ross was a predecessor of mine in office, and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) was Minister of State, Scottish Office when those words where spoken.
The largest reduction in local authority expenditure since reorganisation was achieved not by a Conservative Government but by the Labour Government in the financial year 1977–78. No Government can afford to ignore the level of local authority expenditure when considering their overall public expenditure policies. That ought to be common ground between the two sides.
When we took office local authority expenditure was increasing. This had obvious implications for the national economy. I had no option but to call for the co-operation of local authorities to reduce their expenditure, in the interests of ratepayers and the national economy. Some authorities made great efforts to co-operate. However, a few did the opposite and continued to budget for a high and increasing level of spending. In that case, apart from exhortation, I had only one means at my disposal to try to control local government spending — alteration of the level of rate support grant. I was not the first to use this device. The largest reduction in the RSG percentage—of four points—was made in 1977–78 by none other than the right hon. Member for Govan. The abatement in 1976–77—again under his leadership—leading to a 3 per cent. reduction in local authority expenditure was also the Labour party's policy. That was the first time that those powers had been used.
Any such general reduction in grant is allocated among authorities according to their original share of rate support grant, not the amount of their overspending. For this reason, we took powers in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981 to make selective reductions of grant when I was satisfied that an authority's budgeted expenditure was excessive and unreasonable.
The object of the powers was to take action before expenditure took place and to concentrate action on those authorities principally responsible for the overspending. However, powers to take selective action against individual authorities that overspent were not new and not invented by me and this Government. They were a repeat of the powers contained in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966 when several right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in Government. They positively supported such powers then. Why do they not so support them now?
The only difference today is that the powers can be exercised at the beginning of the financial year instead of the end. The Government can now ensure that money saved is definitely returned to the ratepayers. This year is the first time that I can require rate reductions. Having initiated action against five authorities, I am now continuing action against four.
When, in letters dated 5 May, I initiated action against five authorities under section 5 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, the House was told in a written answer on 6 May, at about the same time as the authorities were receiving their letters.
The five authorities involved — Lothian regional council, Shetland Islands council, Kirkcaldy, Stirling and Glasgow district councils — were invited to make representations to me.
All five authorities made representations and either I or my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for home affairs and the environment met each of the five authorities to discuss their representations. I made it clear that I had an open mind and would give careful consideration to such representations. In the light of those representations and discussions, I decided to modify my proposals in every case. No one can seriously maintain that I did not listen to the points made and, indeed, in the case of Shetland, I decided to take no further action.
Those consultations were conducted in a genuine spirit of listening to the representations. There was a case for initiating action against the Shetland Islands council on the basis of the figures it presented. However, as in all cases, I took its representations fully into account and considered them. There are a large number of unique circumstances arising from North sea oil which carry with them special financial consequences. For instance, roads have been subject to volumes of traffic of a type for which they were never designed— heavy lorries involved in construction of oil facilities. There was an almost unique expansion of the population of about 20 per cent. between 1978 and 1981. Large population increases followed by large decreases caused immense problems. There was considerable uncertainty about school rolls which led to added costs and extra provisions. For all those reasons —I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree with me—a strong case was made—
—that, with Shetland, there were peculiar and remarkable circumstances. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) would be criticising me bitterly had I ignored the representations and refused to make any change.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me. I presume, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would not, like me, have abandoned action against Shetland but would have proceeded with it. The four authorities against which action continues were told in the letter of 29 June that I proposed to limit the rate reduction initially proposed and the authorities — [Interruption]—
The authorities were told that I proposed to limit the rate reduction initially proposed and the authorities were asked whether they are now prepared to make a voluntary rate reduction of that amount under section 108A of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The authorities were asked to let me know by 6 July whether they were prepared to make such a voluntary rate reduction. Unfortunately, none of them were prepared to make a voluntary rate reduction of the level proposed by me, and I therefore laid on 7 July the necessary reports, seeking the approval of the House to the rate reductions that I had proposed. I personally much regret that the authorities have refused to co-operate in this way, because it prolongs the uncertainty for their ratepayers and delays the point at which those ratepayers can receive the refunds that we consider are both justifiable and necessary.
I turn to the case of Glasgow district council. Much has been said during the past few weeks about so-called "Scottish Office errors" over Glasgow's figures, and I shall deal with this matter first.
All local authorities have to submit by the middle of March each year a form giving information about their budget for the following financial year. This form has to be certified as correct by the authority. Glasgow's form, as submitted, was, to put it at its best, somewhat confusing. It included a sum of £8 million for unallocated contingencies, without any explanation. In view of the size of the sum, the Scottish Office made inquiries of Glasgow. Those revealed that the sum was an unallocated contingency which should have been shown elsewhere, and none of it could have been taken into account as part of Glasgow's relevant expenditure for comparison against guidelines. Once the Scottish Office had established that, the £8 million was removed from Glasgow's figures for purposes of guideline comparison and its guideline excess adjusted accordingly. The £8 million played no part at any time in our consideration of Glasgow's expenditure for selective action. If there was any mistake, it was Glasgow's, for failing to present its figures properly.
The second so-called error was over the £4 million included by Glasgow in its certified return on the line for housing improvement grants. This line is used by all other authorities — and up to this year has been used by Glasgow itself—only for the expenditure involved in administering housing improvement grants and the loans charges, but not for the grants themselves. This year, Glasgow decided to enter in this line expenditure on the grants themselves. It was bound to cause confusion if Glasgow chose, without explanation, to change its practice in providing information. The first time that it was drawn to my attention was by a representative of Glasgow district at a meeting between me and representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. The purpose of such meetings is, of course, to discuss local authority financial matters in general, not detailed points of this kind.
Once again, the term "error" is quite inappropriate. When the true purpose of the £4 million, shown against "housing improvement grants", was explained at the meeting between the Minister with responsibility for home affairs and the environment and representatives of Glasgow district council on 20 June, it was accepted that the £4 million should be regarded as housing expenditure and excluded from the council's expenditure in any consideration of selective action.
I do not know what document the right hon. Gentleman is referring to. I am working quite properly, on the form that was presented to me by Glasgow district council. That is a perfectly fair starting point, which the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, starting from the form that was presented by Glasgow district council, putting the best case that it could.
It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that, because the first time that it was drawn to my attention or that of my officials was on the occasion that I mentioned. That is the information that I have.
Much has been said about the consequences of removing the £4 million, now recognised as housing expenditure, from Glasgow's relevant expenditure. Now that it is excluded from comparisons, Glasgow's excess over guidelines comes down from 36 per cent. to 30 per cent. — still substantial — and its expenditure per head comes down from £112 to £107, still the highest of any district council and well above the average of its comparable districts at £67. The adjustment has been fully taken into account in the consideration of the lower level of reduction to 3p, set out in the report.
Glasgow has made much of the difficulty of comparing it with other authorities, but one is entitled to ask why its expenditure per head is so high compared with other authorities—Edinburgh at £67 a head, Aberdeen at £67, Dundee at £62, while Glasgow is £107 per head. That clear difference cannot be laughed off.
Let us now turn to the rate reduction which I am proposing in this case. I took careful note of Glasgow's representations and modified my original proposal of a rate reduction of 5p to 3p. At the meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister who is responsible for home affairs and the environment, the representatives of the council accepted that, as a result of the extra capital allocation that I made for environmental improvement, there would be savings of at least £3 million on their revenue budget. Glasgow accepted that that would mean that at least 1·5p could be returned to the ratepayers. Indeed, Glasgow suggested that it could be returned as part of its 1984–85 budget. As for the remaining 1·5p, I find it hard to believe that Glasgow cannot make the savings which that represents — £3 million. In terms of expenditure, it is about 3 per cent. of its budget. It is not for me to suggest where those savings might be made. However, I doubt whether the various organisations which the district council has spent money writing to and encouraging to write to me about a "£10 million reduction in expenditure" will suffer as they have been led to expect by some of the propaganda. Glasgow's high expenditure per head, compared with other authorities and measured against the performance of other authorities against guidelines, leaves me in no doubt that its rates must come down, especially as the council itself accepts that half of the reduction I propose is ready and waiting to go back to the ratepayers.
I have outlined the main reasons why it is vital to restrain local government spending where it is excessive and unreasonable, and I have made out the detailed case against Glasgow. We shall come to the detailed cases against the others later this evening.
Before I end, I want to say a brief word about the role of the official Opposition in this matter. I have already described briefly how the Labour Government imposed the biggest ever reduction in rate support grant percentage and the biggest ever reduction in expenditure on manpower in 1976–77. It is true that they did it only under duress, with the IMF breathing down their neck, but the point is that they did it. There was no talk then of"destroying local democracy". There were no cries of the "destruction of local democracy". Local authorities, particularly Conservative-controlled authorities, showed great responsibility in doing all that they could to help the right hon. Gentleman to reach his target of cuts.
Indeed, my attention was drawn to an interesting report on the views of local government in this connection. The report gives the view of a local government spokesman, who said:
We have just got the feeling that the Government are being rather obdurate in their attitude and, as someone remarked, it is about time that the Government should start restoring 'local' into government as far as the Scottish scene is concerned.
The report went on:
The Convention's concern reflects the deterioration in the good relations local authorities had until lately with the Scottish Office, Councils feel they have done everything in their power to reduce substantially expenditure this year, yet the Scottish Office have accused them of over-budgeting and have suggested that councils might consider re-.examining their estimates".
Those are not my words but the words of Mr. George Sharp, the president of COSLA, on 24 April 1976. I hope that that quotation lays once and for all the idea that the Labour party has a monopoly of views on the subject because it had to face the same problems when in office.
That is a helpful intervention. It is helpful to have the vice-president to add his imprimatur to that quotation. The hon. Gentleman is right. I have sympathy with anyone who has to try to reduce spending, because it is difficult to do. As anyone who has had to tackle the problem knows, those who manage their affairs well are good at it. It is part of the good management which everyone must practise.
When the right hon. Member for Govan was in charge he was given remarkable assistance. Instead of crying, "Destruction of local services", local authorities, particularly those that were Conservative-controlled, showed great responsibility and did all that they could to help the right hon. Gentleman to reach his target for cuts. Only a small number of Labour-controlled authorities did not co-operate and paid no attention—even to him.
I have no intention of giving an account of what may or may not have taken place at Cabinet this morning. If hon. Members think that I am just talking without taking action they may like to know that in my time at the Scottish Office we have had a tough time trying to reduce spending and manpower. The Scottish Office staff has been reduced by more than 1,000 in that time. That is extremely difficult and I have genuine sympathy with those who have to try to reduce spending.
I knew that it was a good idea to give way to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) because he makes my point. There is no comparison between the manpower reductions.
Because of the background that I have explained I must describe the position taken by the right hon. Member for Govan and his hon. Friends now as quite irresponsible and thoroughly discreditable. They are deliberately giving the impression to local authorities today that if a Labour Government were in power they would allow them to spend whatever they like. I read something to that effect in the Labour party mainfesto.
The Labour party does not accept a reduction in the rate of grant and it does not agree with selective action against local authorities. It takes that line with complete cynicism, knowing that even a Labour Government would have to place limits on overspending and that they did so when last in office. The Labour party should remember that it reduced the rate of RSG by 6·5 per cent. over two years between 1975–76 and 1977–78. We have also reduced it, but by 6·8 per cent. over four years. The comparison is interesting and I hope that the right hon. Member for Govan will address himself to it.—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is making his usual excellent speech from a sedentary position. They are always his best speeches. They are much better than the speeches that he makes when standing.
The Opposition are acting as we have come to expect, as the permanent Opposition, who know that it will be many years before they have to face the responsibilities of Government—if they ever do.
The Opposition are doing something worse on this occasion. They are trying to use local government to prevent central Government from attaining national economic objectives. They are doomed to failure because no Government can allow such a dangerous challenge to their central strategy. Even though they will fail, their attitude is gravely damaging to the balance between local and central Government. Each has its own task.
Central Government have to run the whole economy and they stand or fall by their success in doing that. Local government has to provide local services under statutes passed by Parliament within the framework of national economic policy. The Labour party, if it has not already lost its self-respect, should be deeply ashamed of what it is doing to damage the essential relationship between central and local government.
Of course, the Opposition try to make out that all this is the fault of the Government alone — that is their natural task as Opposition—but the general public can see one thing very clearly. It can see that the Labour party has no concern at all for the ratepayer. It would gladly let local government spending soar upwards and the burden of rates spiral upwards with it. Everyone in Britain—individuals, families, businesses and industries — is doing their utmost to save money to help our country through these difficult times.
The only people who are not pulling their weight in this great national effort, are a few recalcitrant local authorities aided and abetted by the Opposition.
We are considering only Glasgow district council in this report. I hope that the House will agree that I have made a strong and compelling case to show that its proposed expenditure is excessive and unreasonable and I therefore commend the report to the House.
I have never heard a speech in the House as full of humbug and hypocrisy as that by the Secretary of State. I shall deal first with the general situation, since this is the first of four debates, and then with the report against Glasgow.
I shall not spend much time on the general argument, but, as I have said on numerous occasions, all Governments have an interest in local authorities and wish to influence their expenditure but this Government have taken unprecedented steps in relation to local authority expenditure. For the first time in the history of local government, central Government have taken powers to control the level of expenditure by individual local authorities. This is the first Government to take powers to override the rate decision-making powers of local authorities and to supersede rate decisions by individual authorities. If local government's power to determine its own level of expenditure and rates is removed, the essential functions of local government are removed, and ultimately local authorities become the agents or creatures of central Government. That is just what the Secretary of State is doing through these four motions.
That is why it is accepted by a much wider body of opinion than that in Scotland alone—as evidenced in the article in today's edition of The Times—that we are dealing not with a simple matter of minor penalties against a few Scottish local authorities, but with the whole constiotutinal relationship between central and local government. The Government—the most centralist of Governments ever known in this country—are attacking the very roots of local democracy. Moreover, we understand that what is happening in Scotland is to happen in England and Wales as well. We are also told that there will be further legislation for Scotland later in the Session.
Therefore, all the Secretary of State's protestations about his interest in local democracy and decision-making are utter humbug. His speech was an insult to the intelligence of hon. Members. The Government's main justification for their actions is that somehow local government expenditure is out of control, so they must have tighter control over local government. However, the reality is entirely different. I shall quote figures given by the Secretary of State himself in the debate on the rate support grant on 17 January 1983. Total relevant expenditure by local authorities in Scotland went up from £2,351 million in real terms in 1978–79 to £2,429 million in 1981–82. That is an increase in real terms of about 3 per cent. over the three years, or about 1 per cent. per year. In 1981–82 local authority expenditure in Scotland fell in real terms compared with 1980–81.
We do not yet have the final figures for 1982–83 with which to make a comparison, but I should be astonished if they did not show something like the same trend as in the previous three years. At most I believe that they will show a real increase in expenditure of about 1 per cent. over the previous year, although they may not even show that. The Secretary of State, in a letter that he sent to some of us yesterday, included a very misleading passage about local authority expenditure in the current year being budgeted to increase in real terms. However, the figures that he gave on 31 March in response to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) show that when the 1982–83 budgets for local authorities in Scotland are compared with the 1983–84 budgets, there is an increase in cash terms of 5 per cent., but in real terms the increase between 1982–83 and 1983–84 is nil.
Therefore, Scottish local authorities have had standstill budgets in 1983–84 compared with 1982–83. At the end of this year I believe that expenditure in real terms will be at a standstill again. It is interesting to compare those modest expenditure increases in the past four or five years with what has happened to rates in Scotland. Of course, those increases have been nothing like modest. Again, I shall use figures that the Secretary of State has given in parliamentary answers.
On 23 December 1982, in response to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), it was shown that between 1978–79 and 1982–83 the unfortunate domestic ratepayer in Scotland suffered an increase in rates of 139 per cent. There was an increase in real expenditure in that period of about 4 per cent. and an increase in rates of about 139 per cent. However, the discrepancy between those two figures is easily explained. The increasing rates burden on the shoulders of ratepayers in Scotland — for whom the Secretary of State is constantly weeping crocodile tears—is due to inflation, high interest rates and cuts in Government support to Scottish local authorities. That is why rates have increased so alarmingly in the past few years.
The figures were confirmed in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart) on 30 June 1983. The figures—they are the Prime Minister's figures, so I suppose that that gives them additional authority—show that between 1977–78 and 1981–82, the last year for which figures are given, the percentage of local government expenditure in Scotland provided for by central Government fell from 68·8 per cent. to 58·3 per cent.
It is part of the Secretary of State's "triumph" that whereas in 1977–78 Scotland had 68·8 per cent. of its local authority expenditure refunded by central Government compared with 64·5 per cent. for the United Kingdom, under the Secretary of State's stewardship the figures for Scotland in 1981–82 are exactly the same as the United Kingdom's average. Therefore, the advantage that Scotland once enjoyed had completely disappeared by 1981–82. I believe that the 1982–83 figures will show that Scotland is now getting less in grants in percentage terms from central Government than the average for Me United Kingdom. The Secretary of State has shamefully betrayed Scotland's interests.
Every time we debate this issue, the Secretary of State trots out the reduction in the rate support grant by the Labour Government in 1977–78. The Labour Government, when they came in in 1974, inherited a rate support grant, on a comparable basis, of 66·5 per cent. In 1975–76 we increased that to 73·5 per cent. in order to give special help to Scottish local authorities to deal with local government reorganisation. In 1976–77, when that reorganisation had largely been adjusted for, we reduced it by 1 per cent., and in the subsequent year we made the reduction of 4 per cent. that the Secretary of State trots out in every rate support grant speech that he makes in the House. That reduced the percentage of grant in that year to 68·5 per cent., which was still 2 per cent. higher than the figure that we inherited from the Tory Government in 1973–74. Therefore, the Secretary of State need not pretend that everything that has happened in the past few years also happened under the Labour Government, and need not quote the reduction in 1977–78 as some sort of justification for his argument. It is utter nonsense. Unless the Secretary of State is even more ignorant of local government finance than I believe him to be, he must know that it is utter nonsense to make such points.
The immediate background to the reports was well laid out in the answer that was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South on 31 March. That showed that local authorities in Scotland had budgeted for the current year at no less than £253 million over and above the Secretary of State's guidelines. In so doing they had budgeted for a financial standstill. However, they were still £253 million above the guidelines, because the guidelines bore no relation to realities. We told the Secretary of State that the guidelines were nonsense when we debated the rate support grant in January. Of the 65 authorities in Scotland, only three are within the guidelines. As we predicted, the other 62 are above the guidelines. In some instances they are much in excess of them because the guidelines are meaningless.
If Conservative Members represent areas that will not be affected by the penalties, they should not assume that the authorities in their constituencies will not be penalised in the current year. I am sure that within the next few days the Secretary of State will impose a general clawback on Scottish local authorities. Will that happen? If it is to happen, the House will have been shamefully misled on several occasions, not to mention this afternoon.
I have frequently said that I think it very likely that there may have to be a general abatement. I have not yet worked out the level of the abatement, but I shall tell the House about it as soon as possible.
That will be a change. The clawback for 1982–83 was announced on 28 July 1982, before the House started its summer recess. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has another clawback in mind. We ask that it be announced to the House before the start of the summer recess next week. It should not be announced in a way that is convenient to the Government when the House is in recess and is not able to challenge the right hon. Gentleman. Every local authority in Scotland will be penalised by the clawback and the announcement will be made very soon. If all the stories that we read in the press about further public expenditure cuts come to pass, we may have a considerable clawback in store for us.
Many local authorities have taken great trouble to keep their expenditure low for a long time. Surely that is a good reason why the few authorities that greatly overspend should not be allowed to get away with that.
The hon. Gentleman will be in for a shock when he considers the position not only of the authority that has control in his constituency but of other authorities which have made efforts to control their expenditure. Many authorities in Scotland will be in for a shock.
Local authority expenditure in Scotland has been under control for the past four or five years and it remains under control. It is a falsehood to claim that it is not as a justification for the penalty provisions. I have referred to the figures. If the Secretary of State want to deny or challenge them, he, or one of his junior Ministers, will be able to do so later. All the figures that I have used this afternoon have been provided by the Secretary of State and his Department. They explode the claimed justification for the penalties.
We have repeatedly made it clear that we do not accept that the guidelines are realistic. They should not be used in any circumstances as a basis for penalising individual authorities. In any event, they are drawn up in a strange way, although they used to be formulated in an even stranger way which meant that no one quite knew what factors were taken into account. The Secretary of State calculates what the expenditure need of an individual authority should be in accordance with the factors that go to make up the guidelines. At the end of the day adjustments are made to those calculations. This is an odd way to produce figures that are supposed to give guidance to authorities — they are now more than a guide — on what they can expend in the year to come.
Shetland is unique because it has been budgeted further beyond the guidelines-46 per cent. —than any other authority in Scotland. The Secretary of State told us that after talking to representatives of the Shetland islands council he became aware of the problems that the authority was facing. He learnt that there was oil off Shetland and he heard about Sullam Voe. Apparently, he did not know about those factors before he announced that he would impose a penalty on Shetland. He heard also that Shetland has problems with education, population and roads.
I never expected the Secretary of State to implement the Shetland penalty. He knows that if that were to happen, the Shetland authority could make life difficult for him in respect of oil development. Accordingly, he withdrew. That withdrawal had nothing to do with changed circumstances. He caved in because the authority made it clear that, if he did not, he would suffer considerable oil development penalties. That is the reality. The decision not to go ahead with the penalty had nothing to do with the guidelines, more traffic using the roads on Shetland and more pupils in the schools. It had nothing to do with all the nonsense to which we listened this afternoon from the right hon. Gentleman. All the factors that he mentioned have been known for years. If the guidelines were to mean anything, they should have been incorporated in them in the first place. If they were not, the absurdity of the way in which the guidelines were formulated is clearly demonstrated.
As a Glasgow Member for many years, I am rather surprised to learn that if I want to consider the problems of Glasgow in comparison with similar Scottish authorities, one of the similar authorities is Cumbernauld. That is an extraordinary proposition. Another "similar" authority is Aberdeen. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will agree that, whatever else we may think about the respective merits of Aberdeen and Glasgow, it is ludicrous to compare the two cities in terms of local services, for example; and to compare Glasgow with Cumbernauld is a bit of a sick joke. The article in today's edition of The Times says that it would be equivalent to comparing the Isle of Skye with the Isle of Dogs. It is almost as ludicrous as that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the problems that he is specifically talking about are the responsibility not of Glasgow district council, the authority that the debate is about, but, in the main, of Strathclyde regional council, which we are not talking about?
I do not agree. If the hon. Lady will do me the courtesy of looking at the guideline figures and how they are made up, she will find that what she said is misguided and untrue.
The services are laid out in the circular on the guidelines. I ask the hon. Lady to look at it.
Apart from expenditure per head in Glasgow inevitably being higher than expenditure in other districts in Scotland, this begs the question of local government decision-making. Are we trying to say that every local authority in Scotland should spend the same amount of money on the same services or should work to the same standards, and that anybody who goes above or below those standards is somehow committing a sin? Local government is about making choices and allowing the elected members to decide in some cases to spend more than the average or in other to spend less than the average. If it is not about that, it would be as well to ask every local authority to act simply as an agent for the Government, with standard laid down from the centre. That is what the Secretary of State is trying to do.
With regard to the responsibility of the Government and of local government, which is central to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, can he tell me how many electors benefit from an increase in expenditure by the Glasgow district council without contributing to it and what proportion of the funds spent by that authority are actually contributed by the electors?
I gave some figures for local authorities as a whole. It is my considered opinion, as a ratepayer in Glasgow, that we require more money spent on services because many of the services, due to Government cuts and pressures, are inadequate to meet the citizens' needs. There should be more expenditure on services in Glasgow. If there is any—
I shall not give way. If any Conservative Member could ever get himself elected to Glasgow, I might give way.
I shall now deal with the £4 million, which, the Secretary of State agrees, should never have been taken into account when he issued the first warning to Glasgow that he would impose a penalty. I shall deal first with when it became known to the Secretary of State that there had been the error of £4 million. That error was made not by the Glasgow district council but by the Secretary of State's office. The Secretary of State said that he got to know about this on about 23 June. I do not know the exact date, but that does not matter. It was some time in June.
All right. I shall deal with the matter specifically. The hon. Gentleman has just taken over responsibility for these matters in the Scottish Office. I do not think that he knows anything about them. His hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) is now dealing with something else. He will know about it because he, with the Secretary of State, was at a meeting with COSLA on 22 April, when the specific point about the £4 million was drawn to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. That is not what the Secretary of State said this afternoon.—[HON. MEMBERS: "He said June."] He said June this afternoon, but he knew in April.
The Secretary of State is now agreeing with me. When did he initiate the action against Glasgow city council? Was it not in June? The Secretary of State is now acknowledging that the £4 million so-called error was known to his Department and to him personally, because it is recorded in the minutes of the meeting on 22 April. Why did he write that extremely misleading, dishonest and untruthful letter to hon. Members yesterday? It stated that the £4 million
was only clarified in the course of discussion of the Council's representations.
Those were between June and July. Now the Secretary of State tells us that he knew all about it since 22 April.
Let us be clear. It was on 22 April, which was the date of the COSLA meeting to which I referred. It was brought up by a member of the district council. That was the first time that the matter was raised. It was a relevant matter for us to consider with Glasgow district council when representatives came to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. They met him and clarified the nature of the error. That is perfectly clear and there is nothing extraordinary about it.
I hope that there will be no attempt to change the record, because that would be completely out of order.
I intervened in the Secretary of State's speech and specifically pointed out that the matter had been drawn to his attention on 22 April. He denied that in his speech. The letter written yesterday is the most dishonest letter that I have ever received from the Secretary of State. What is more, he knows it.
I stand by everything that I said. We shall see on the record everything that the Secretary of State said. Whatever he said, yesterday he wrote an extremely misleading letter to me and to other Glasgow Members of Parliament. He cannot deny that.
In a sense, whatever the truth is, the really important issue is that the Secretary of State has steadfastly refused to take out the £4 million and to recalculate the figures. That means that the report takes on an entirely different complexion. Appendix B deals with expenditure per head of population. Glasgow's increase from 1982–83 to 1983–84, once the £4 million is taken out, comes down to 3·7 per cent. However, the increase in closely comparable districts is 5·5 per cent., and that in all districts 6 per cent. Therefore, Glasgow's increase is less than the comparable districts and less than the average for Scotland.
If we examine the trends of expenditure, we find that Glasgow increased expenditure in 1983–84 compared with 1982–83 by 3·7 per cent. That increase is less than for other districts in Scotland at 6·3 per cent. Yet Glasgow is being singled out for penalty because, according to the Secretary of State's original calculations—which he now admits were made on a mistaken premise — its increase in expenditure for the current year is excessive and out of line with so-called comparable and other districts in Scotland. When the figures are adjusted to take account of the £4 million, Glasgow's increase is less, not more, than that in comparable districts.
If one examines the figures that were given in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden on Thusday 30 June for expenditure on services in Glasgow—
—after taking interest adjustments out of account and comparing them over several years, one finds that, taking the £4 million out of account, in 1979–80 expenditure in Glasgow was £82·27 million while in 1983–84, calculated on the same basis, it is only £78·92 million. Those are strictly comparable figures which the Secretary of State gave. In other words, compared with three or four years ago, real expenditure on services in Glasgow has been reduced rather than increased, yet Glasgow is singled out for the penalty provision that we are discussing. Many more figures could be quoted, but, taking out the £4 million, there is no case for the penalty order.
The Secretary of State is exercising political spite against local authorities in Scotland of a different political persuasion from his own. That applies not merely to Glasgow. Glasgow, despite its major problems, has reduced expenditure in real terms in the past few years —as all Glasgow Members know to their cost.
The report is a general attack on local democracy. The ratepayers and electors of Scotland are getting poorer services and we are getting cuts in local authority spending that will add to the appalling high level of unemployment in Scotland. These penalty provisions are part of a wider attack on local government in Scotland. In a short time, they will affect every local authority in Scotland. The Secretary of State is replacing genuine local government in Scotland with dictatorship from St. Andrew's House, that is why we oppose the motion.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker,. Five hon. Members on the Labour side of the House, all of whom represent the city of Glasgow and Glasgow district council, to which the report relates, want an opportunity to speak on it. Not one Conservative Member represents the district of Glasgow. Therefore, I seek your guidance on whether it is possible to call Glasgow Members before others.
In my maiden speech two weeks ago, when I was speaking of the archaelogical and historic interests in my constituency, I observed that the Antonine wall runs through it. It was built to keep unruly northern tribes to the north. Some hon. Members and distinguished strangers might reflect on the need for a modern Antonine wall.
It will be no surprise to Opposition Members to learn that I support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in taking selective action against those local authorities that have spending plans that appear to undermine the Government's broad economic strategy. After two years of restraint, Glasgow is proposing a significant increase in spending. In the medium and the short term, Glasgow's spending per head has been rising faster than that of other local authorities. My right hon. Friend gave the House the figures this afternoon—£107 per head in Glasgow as compared with the upper £60s in practically every other city in Scotland.
I should like to be convinced that the Labour administration of Glasgow district council is not using its budget as a means of confrontation with the Government. It is hard to avoid feeling that some people might relish the opportunity for a little confrontation with my right hon. Friend. Opposition Members have been complaining vigorously today that the Government are interfering with local democracy. Initially, I thought that that might be so but Opposition Members conveniently forget that the Government are making a massive contribution to what is spent in Glasgow. Accordingly, they have a right to say how the money is spent.
Opposition Members who make so much of the wishes of the electorate ought to reflect on the number of people in Glasgow who took the trouble to vote at the 1980 district council elections. Glasgow district council was elected on a small proportion of the electorate — something less than 20 per cent. Domestic ratepayers in Glasgow contribute rather less than 10 per cent. of what Glasgow district council spends. That represents about £34 million. I want to speak up for the other ratepayers in Glasgow who pay much more—some £80 million—and yet have no right of representation and no vote about who should sit in the city chambers in Glasgow. I speak of the commercial and industrial ratepayers who have no way of protecting themselves from rate increases in Glasgow, short of moving out of the city.
I shall declare my interest. As I have already told the hon. Member for Cathcart, who has now left the Chamber, my constituency locks on to the Glasgow boundary. I have many constituents who work or run businesses in Glasgow.
Not at all. I have spent all of my working life in Glasgow and I know well the reaction of the business community, which is bled white year in and year out by increases in rates. Rates in Glasgow have risen from 26·5 p to 61p over five years—an increase of about 130 per cent. One of the councils in my constituency that is slap bang beside Glasgow has, by contrast, increased rates by less than 40 per cent. during the same period.
There is understandable dismay that, after two years of moderation in Glasgow, the authority has put its foot on the spending accelerator once again. One need not be a Glasgow Member to know about the businesses that have been driven out because of high local authority rates. Every day small shopkeepers and commercial and retail organisations are driven out of business because they can no longer—[Interruption.]—Opposition Members must let me tell them some of the facts of life. Lewis's department store on Argyle street pays rates at 2·5 times more per square foot than those paid by its comparable stores south of the border. How can that organisation continue to provide employment for Glasgow people in the face of such high rates? Not only does it pay 2·5 times more per square foot than its sister shops south of the border, but it pays more rates than Harrods.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the percentage of the Glasgow budget contributed by central Government has decreased during the past few years from more than 40 per cent. to about 30 per cent.? If he is really worried about rising rates, the simplest and most sensible thing for him to do would be to persuade the Secretary of State for Scotland to maintain the Government's contribution.
That is the typical Socialist remedy—simply to spend. The Opposition believe that the Government are the milch cow that constantly provides. It is a trite and easy answer to say that the Government should spend more money, but without saying where that money will come from. The example of the Scottish local authority that suffered a great reduction in rate support grant in 1976 was foisted upon other local authorities because of previous Socialist profligacy. It is sad that the Opposition appear not to understand that high rates are a significant contributory factor to businesses closing and jobs being lost. If Opposition Members were sincere in their desire to create more jobs in Scotland, they would recognise that fact and use their undoubted influence with local authorities of the same political persuasion to tell them of the need for restraint iii local government spending.
The Labour party has accused the Government of unwarranted interference in local authority decision-making. I am sorry that it has been necessary for the Government to take these powers. However, that is preferable to exposing ratepayers to increases year after year, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was prepared to come to the rescue of hard-pressed ratepayers.
During the general election campaign my right hon. Friend attended several meetings at which he articulated the Government's intentions on rates. Those proposals have won wide support—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Among the communities that have to pay the rates.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) should be careful when bandying about figures for the general election. If the Conservative party had lost 250,000 votes, I would not be here now. Many figures have been bandied about this afternoon, especially by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan)—[Interruption.]
Rather than confuse the House by quoting more figures, I shall try to clarify the matter. The argument is about the savings that are required. The letter from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, which has been referred to constantly this afternoon, states:
Of this proposed reduction of £6 million, the District Council accepted that at least £3 million could be saved without any effect on services because of an additional capital allocation which I made to them. This leaves savings of £3 million which I propose that Glasgow District Council should make in their expenditure.
The nub of the problem is that £3 million savings must be made. Conservative Members find it strange that the achievement of such a reduction has caused such a major headache to Opposition Members.
All Scottish Members have received a letter from COSLA, which stated that there was no case for the Secretary of State to consider taking punitive action, especially since such action would ultimately be adverse to the interests of ratepayers. I cannot understand how it is adverse to the interests of Scottish ratepayers for the Secretary of State to protect them from unwarranted increases.
If the Opposition are in some difficulty in appreciating from where savings can come, perhaps I may put forward some areas where savings might be made. My right hon. Friend told us about the Contingency Reserve. Why is it so high? Could there not be savings in that, or is it being held in reserve against next year's increase? My colleagues on Glasgow district council proposed that the architectural services be put out to private tender at a saving of £1 million. If that is a viable proposition, why do not the Opposition espouse it as a means of saving ratepayers' money and of contributing to the savings that the Secretary of State wishes to make? The simple difference is that the Conservative party has no ideological hang-up about who does the work. If it can be done more cheaply and efficiently by an outside contractor, it should be given to that contractor.
The district council spends much money on cleansing, but I am unaware of any study being undertaken to put that service out to tender. I do not say that that should be an automatic response, not do I suggest that it would produce an automatic saving. A local authority in my constituency that reviewed the matter concluded that it was doing the job efficiently enough and should retain it. However, at least that authority considered the matter. I wish that Glasgow district council had considered the matter and concluded that no reasonable savings could be made.
My next point—
Opposition Members may protest, but someone must put forward areas of possible saving. I am not simply talking about the principle, but expressing some opinions. There are 6,000 empty houses in Glasgow, almost half of which are empty because they need repairs. Are the Opposition Members who have so much to say about the matter satisfied that proper use is being made of the contractors who could make those houses ready for letting? There are potential savings in that area, and I should be glad if Opposition Members would consider it.
I have told the hon. Gentleman that I must press on.
My final point relates to the building and works department — that notorious direct labour organisation whose past activities are well chronicled in Hansard. The popular conception in Glasgow is that the department is heavily overmanned. I shall examine with keen interest its performance report, but am almost certain that it will be shown to be less efficient than the Scottish Special Housing Association. The department is fortunate in that it can, at ratepayers' expense, follow a policy of no compulsory redundancies. Sadly, the small companies that could do building repairs more cheaply, efficiently and quickly cannot give their employees the same undertaking. It is remarkable that local authorities cannot find the savings readily and fairly easily. Private enterprise has had to tighten its belt time and again and local authorities have no divine right to exemption from the disciplines that operate elsewhere in the market.
The Opposition stigmatise the Government as hard-nosed and uncaring and accuse it of making things difficult for Glasgow. The Government have invested £135 million in major projects which are doing a great deal to improve the face of Glasgow. Those actions underline the Government's determination to ensure that local authorities, like the nation, live within their means. I do not believe that what the Secretary of State has sought is unacceptable or unreasonable.
I listened with great interest and considerable agreement to the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan), but I do not agree that the Secretary of State's letter was the most dishonest from a Minister or his speech the most hypocritical to be heard in the House. Those are extremely strong claims and I do not think that the Secretary of State justified them in his letter or in his speech.
The Secretary of State spoke very fast. He seemed to be galloping hard towards the recess hoping that nobody would catch him before he got there. One was reminded of the comment:
The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.
What has happened in Glasgow is a tangled story. I was confused as to whether the Secretary of State had admitted that the council had told him about the £4 million. I do not understand why he said that it was an error. It is a matter of judgment under which heading it is put. At any rate, there was some confusion, but he made it clear that he had been so informed on 22 April.
The lesson of this and other confusions and the fact that the appendices are not an accurate back-up to what the Secretary of State is doing is that he and his Department are trying to do something which they ought not to do, are not qualified to do and do not have the resources to do. It is not the duty of the Government or the Scottish Office to determine the exact level of rates in Glasgow or any other city or district in the United Kingdom. If the Secretary of State or other Ministers attempt to do that, they will need to build up a vast new bureaucracy. The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) had better realise that the bureaucracy in the Scottish Office will be far greater even than the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) suggests. If this is done, there will have to be lawyers and goodness knows how many other people. Otherwise, it will be done by punching in the dark without the Scottish Office or the Government knowing what they are doing.
The Lane report was eloquent about how much bureaucracy would be involved in central control of local government expenditure, quite apart from its inherent undesirability on democratic grounds, but basic point is that the Secretary of State is trying to do something that is not the duty of central Government.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Government, who fund the Health Service wholly and exclusively, have no interest in the level of rates and the impact on the health authority in the area?
Of course the Government have an interest in that, as has the House and, indeed, business. It is no good just dismissing the business interest, as people try to do in answer to the rather provocative argument of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, because it is important, but that is very different from saying that the fixing of the rate level should be taken out of local hands and vested in central Government.
I must get on. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a lot of interruptions and although he makes very good ones it would be an idea if he would make a speech occasionally.
No responsible Government can be indifferent to the level of local government expenditure. The Government are clearly entitled to fix their own contribution and to have a substantial and controlling say in the level of borrowing. I do not wish to open up the wider issues of the power of a Scottish assembly, in which I believe, but I have always taken the view that a Scottish assembly should have substantial rights to raise taxation. Nevertheless, it should not have the right to run an unbalanced budget. Once that happens, we are on the road to a separate currency and I do not believe that the people of Scotland want that. That is the essential difference between raising revenue that one is prepared to pay for and raising revenue that one is not prepared to pay for.
What is the real position of Glasgow? It is a tangled story, but so far as I can make out Glasgow is a high spender compared with other Scottish local authorities. Does that surprise anyone? It is certainly no surprise to anyone who knows that city. Apart from the specific problems, the underlying difficulty is that the population has fallen from more than 1,100,000 just over 20 years ago to 800,000 now.
I wish that the hon. and learned Gentleman would keep quiet for a moment.
The problems of Glasgow are thus immensely greater than those of Shetland, which has a fluctuating but rising population. It is therefore not surprising that the level of expenditure per head in Glasgow with all its problems is high. Indeed, it would be a bad thing if that were not so. The recent rate of increase in Glasgow's expenditure seems in fact to have been rather low compared with many other Scottish local authorities. Nevertheless, rates in Glasgow are very high indeed.
I wish to comment on two aspects of the powerfully argued report presented by the Glasgow district council. Referring to the shrinkage of the city's manufacturing base, it says that
the city's future probably lies outwith the field of manufacturing industry— in commerce, the service sector, tourism and the like.
There may be something in that, but it would be extremely foolish to believe that very high rate levels are not inimical to such developments. There must be a sensible approach.
The report also states:
The District Council comprises 72 members elected by the people of Glasgow on the basis of their respective manifestos.
That may be so, but they are not elected on the basis of their respective proportions of the votes cast. If that were so, the Glasgow district council would be far more representative, on a local rather than on a central basis, far more responsible and much closer to the people in its approach to the essential issue of rate responsibility.
I oppose what the Secretary of State is doing, not because there are not problems with which he has to deal but because he is going in for excessive interference from the centre in local democratic decisions. That is the wrong road and it will lead him into great trouble in the future.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) that what is at issue is the relationship between central Government and local government. The right hon. Gentleman used the usual alliance skill, in that even in a debate on the Rate Reduction (Glasgow District) 1983–84 Report he managed to introduce the issue of proportional representation. At times, when the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) was speaking, I thought that we were attending a meeting of the Glasgow district council. In dealing with these reports, the danger is that we sometimes end up doing the job of councillors when our job is to legislate.
The Secretary of State seemed to imply that I begrudged Shetlands its reprieve from the hit list. That is not so. I was wondering what its secret was, and I am still in some doubt. There is no question but that the £4 million that was inadvertently included by the Scottish Office in the figures led to Glasgow district council being put on the hit list and it has remained on it as a political face saver for the Secretary of State.
Has the Secretary of State never heard of the telephone and good communications between New St. Andrew's House and Glasgow district council? Many things could have been sorted out quickly if there had been better communications between central Government and the local authority.
The Secretary of State was quoted in the press as saying:
Let the punishment fit the crime".
I know that he is a great admirer of Gilbert and Sullivan, but he should read "Alice Through the Looking-Glass" one day because this issue is about who is to be master. In that book, Humpty Dumpty makes the point:
When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean.
I do not mind the mixed metaphors; I just wish to establish the point.
The Secretary of State wants to make sure that he is the master. There will always be friction between local and central Government, not least because of the differences of political view and also because of the respective differences in the roles of central and local government. However, this order introduces something new in the relationship between the two bodies. We already have guidelines, and the trouble facing many of the authorities is that they are not sure about the precision or indeed the mobility of those guidelines. They are constantly changed when it suits the Secretary of State. We all agree that rates are far too high. However, the Government have cut the rate support grant to local authorities, and in Glasgow there has been a reduction from 41 per cent. to 31 per cent. between 1979 and 1983.
The Government also control the level of approved expenditure, as well as adjusting the percentage of the rate support grant. The problem facing the city is as much one of income available as of expenditure incurred or about to be incurred. I have written to the Secretary of State about a report leaked from the Greater Glasgow health board during the election campaign about hospital admissions during the first year of life. I have had a useful reply from the chairman of the Greater Glasgow health board in which he rightly points out the interrelationship between the health services, housing, social work and education. I hope that the Secretary of State will back up the Greater Glasgow health board's initiative. We compartmentalise far too much of our public spending and sometimes the budget headings in one department have a direct relationship to the problems that may arise in another.
So far in the debate the £1 million for the Burrell collection has not been mentioned. Are we to take it from the Secretary of State that the padlock will be put on the door of the Burrell art gallery before it opens this autumn? The Government encouraged the district council to proceed with the building of the art gallery. The Prime Minister has said that she is critical of local authorities and other public bodies that do not spend on capital projects. I questioned her in a letter that I wrote to No. 10, asking why local authorities should spend on capital projects when they are denied the revenue expenditure to man those institutions—whether libraries, art galleries, schools or other facilities. I did not receive a particularly satisfactory answer.
Reference has been made to expenditure per head. I know that nothing can be done at this stage, but I put this up as a marker. In the forthcoming rate support grant settlements a new element must be introduced that takes account of the variations in income levels. When there is talk about introducing local income tax, we must remember that one of the problems that arises is the equalisation factor, as some areas are far better off than others simply because of levels of incomes and differences in the levels of unemployment of those areas. We know from figures published by the DHSS and Strathclyde regional council that 31·4 per cent. of the population is at or below supplementary benefit level in Glasgow. This is a major influence in the availability of resources to the district council. These variations should be taken into account in the rate support grant settlement.
This is an important point about a community becoming poorer and poorer. Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate the point made by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins)— that over 333,000 people have moved from Glasgow, probably for income reasons? Is it not because of the rating system that they have done so?
I was tempted to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman earlier and ask him whether he was in favour of agricultural rerating, although perhaps that is another issue. I am talking about expenditure per head of population and I am putting down a marker for future rate support grant settlements that the income levels of those communities should be taken into account.
The Secretary of State said earlier that it is not for him to say where the savings might be made. This raises the responsibility factor. Soon, no one will claim or accept responsibility or be responsible for anything. The Secretary of State says, "I give the money but I leave it to the district council or the local authority to determine its priorities. It so happens that my civil servants lay down such stringent guidelines that the local authority is sometimes in doubt about the make-up of these client groups and the nature of the expenditure, but I do not allow the local authority to do that of which I do not approve."
We shall end up by electing councillors next May who will not be able to do as much as the councillors elected in the last district council elections. If it is not too cynical, I point out that last week we were debating parliamentary orders over the timetabling of the rates. There was no suggestion then that we should introduce orders to postpone the district council elections in 1984. However, the way that we are going will make it increasingly difficult to get councillors of the calibre that we require. Many sensible, hard-working and right-thinking councillors are getting a bit cheesed off about the role that they are expected to fulfil in local government. The Conservative party has spent much time devising hit lists and introducing orders. Why are all those intellectual impulses not being put into rate reform, about which they have said so much during the past 10 years?
I want to take the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) to task. I sincerely hope that he will permit me to do so. I am particularly interested in the right hon. Gentleman's career because he is my Member of Parliament. I have a particular interest in the debate as a Glasgow ratepayer. The right hon. Gentleman tallked about Glasgow's problems. He opened the bleeding chunks of flesh, but he forgot to remind the House that we are not talking about the problems of social work or education—the problems that really beset the city of Glasgow—but about the problems that relate to Glasgow district council.
Glasgow district council is famous of old for its overspending. Why is it overspending? Glasgow district council is inefficient, over-bureaucraticised, overmanned and charges low council house rents to keep its own people happy so that it can get back into power at the direct expense of commerce and industry in Glasgow. My hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) articulated well the problems of Glasgow's commerce and industry. Business people in Glasgow do not have the representation although they contribute rates. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is attempting to stop Glasgow cutting its own throat.
Much of the debate the other day was spent talking about mandates and whether the House has a mandate over local authorities. Let me set the record right. Glasgow's total expenditure is £358 million. Of that domestic ratepayers contribute only 9·5 per cent. and they are the only people who have a vote. There is an average turnout of 35 per cent. at local government elections, 20 per cent. of which votes Labour. Therefore, by my calculations, one fifth of that 9·5 per cent. is contributed by Labour voters. Therefore, Labour Members are representing under 2 per cent. of the people of Glasgow and they talk about mandates. Commerce and industry contribute 22·5 per cent.—two and a half times the percentage contributed by the domestic ratepayer. The city is being bled dry. Small businesses are shutting down and large industries have a hard time competing. My hon. Friend talked about Lewis's in Argyle street, which pays over £1 million a year in rates, whereas Selfridge's, a comparable store but far larger in Oxford street, pays less. That is nonsense and it is destructive for the city. That is precisely what my rates are doing to Glasgow and that is why I fully support what the Government are doing. Unless the Government intervene in some way in the activities of Glasgow district council the city will fall apart. As a ratepayer in that city, I am not prepared to see that happen.
Very few people. Only a small percentage of those who pay the full rate in Glasgow benefit from it because much of Glasgow's expenditure has been directed to specific areas. That means that the money is not spread around the divisions of Glasgow equitably and certainly not equally.
We must remember—this is why I heartily endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden said —that the Government are not averse to helping Glasgow. They are very sympathetic and support Glasgow with direct Government funding. Money pours into Glasgow—into the Maryhill corridor and the Glasgow eastern area of renewal.
The Conservative party takes care of Glasgow. We cannot be criticised for our treatment of Glasgow but we can criticise Labour Members for the way in which they try to destroy the city by protecting their own interests.
I have to admit to a deep sense of concern, even of alarm, over the business before the House this evening. We have before us a report from the Secretary of State for Scotland which asks the House to approve the imposition of penalties on four Scottish local authorities for what he calls "excessive and unreasonable expenditure".
There is not a shadow of a doubt that when the House divides tonight that approval will be given and those penalties will subsequently be imposed. There can be no other outcome, given the massive parliamentary majority that the Government enjoy. That inevitable course of events may seem unremarkable to many, both inside and outside the House, but if that is the case they have failed to pay sufficient attention to the detail of the issue before us. There are, indeed, a number of worrying aspects to what can only be described as the cynical exercise of unaccountable power.
First, for those hon. Members who have followed the evidence closely, there is the inescapable conclusion that the Secretary of State has failed to make his case for taking action against those authorities. The detailed representations made by the authorities themselves, and the arguments outlined in the contributions of my right hon. and hon. Friends so far and which will no doubt continue, show clearly that the Secretary of State has built his case not on objective evidence but on a tissue of misrepresentation and half truths. That can be proved by examining the case of Glasgow district council.
The Under-Secretary of State met representatives of the Glasgow district council last month to discuss the proposed penalty. The minutes of that meeting form part of the report before us. When asked for a statement of why the Government were initiating action against the council, the Under-Secretary outlined three main reasons. First, he said that Glasgow had the highest percentage excess over guidelines of any district council in Scotland — well above the district council average of 21·8 per cent. However, the figures produced by the Secretary of State in support of that claim bear little relation to the real world of local government finance or to the real decisions that must be made by councillors about local services and local budgets.
The Government failed to take proper account of a whole range of factors in Glasgow's budget, which inevitably pushed it well over guidelines that were always unrealisable. They also failed to take into account that many of the factors are peculiar to Glasgow, making it indefensible to compare its budget with those of other district councils.
Hon. Members who have made the effort to look at the evidence will know to which factors I refer. Examples are — the running costs of the new Burrell gallery; the reclassification of the city's budget to include items previously treated as non-relevant expenditure—such as the £5 million budget for Glasgow's area management committees; and the inclusion of temporary loan interest in the expenditure figures, even though the council has no direct control over such expenditure. Any objective assessment could find only that that part of the Government's case could not be justified.
The second reason put forward by the Minister was supported by even weaker arguments in justification of an indefensible position. The Government claim that Glasgow's spending per head of population is well above the average for other closely comparable authorities. The choice of closely comparable authorities is unjustified. Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Falkirk are three of the wealthiest local authorities in terms of rateable income. Clydebank and Falkirk have populations that would be dwarfed by that of Glasgow. Cumbernauld is a new town with heavy public investment through the development corporation. Not one of those authorities faces the same scale of need or the same mix of environmental, social and economic problems as those that confront Glasgow which unavoidably, must have implications for Glasgow's level of expenditure. Two of those closely comparable authorities, Cumbernauld and Aberdeen, show increases in their spending per head of population well in excess of the increase shown by Glasgow.
The third reason put forward was that Glasgow's current budget represented a real growth in expenditure at a time when the Secretary of State had asked all authorities to make reductions in their spending. Again, no account was taken of the £4 million expenditure on environmental improvement grants that it was later admitted should have properly been considered as housing expenditure. No account was taken of the running costs of the new Burrell gallery or the cost of the transfer of functions from the region as a result of the Stodart report. No account was taken of the council's prudent provision for an inflation rate of 6 per cent. in the coming year. The whole basis of a major part of the Secretary of State's case falls apart on close inspection.
At the crucial meeting with Glasgow district council, the Under-Secretary put forward those three main reasons to justify action against Glasgow. Yet all the arguments have shown that none of those reasons can be supported by any objective evidence. The conclusion is inescapable —the Government's case for imposing penalties cannot be supported, even by their own evidence. The penalties are unfair, arbitrary and authoritarian.
Conservative Members who like to see themselves in the role of world-wide champions of democracy and freedom should reflect that tonight they will probably lend their support to Government action which, if repeated elsewhere in other countries, they would condemn as dictatorial and tyrannical. Massive parliamentary majorities do not excuse Governments from having to justify their actions on rational and logically defensible grounds. It is clear that the action that the House is being asked to sanction is neither rational nor logical. It is a frightening example of the naked exercise of massive political power which sees no reason to justify itself to those it directly affects.
There are other worrying aspects of the report to which the House should give careful consideration. It was brought before the House by the Secretary of State and is concerned with four Scottish local authorities. It deals with the financing of Scottish local government and with the relative financial burdens of Scottish ratepayers and taxpayers. It deals with what can be described only as Scottish business. Yet it is laid before the House by a Minister with no mandate from the people of Scotland, and it emanates from a Government whose policies have only recently been rejected by more than 70 per cent. of the Scottish electorate. Frankly, it is sponsored by a group of Scottish Office Ministers who have more in common with the colonial administration than with the legitimate executive arm of government in Scotland. It will receive the majority approval of the House not on the basis of votes by the elected representatives of the Scottish people, but of votes cast by many Conservative Members who know relatively little about Scottish affairs in general and even less about the affairs of the local authorities with which the report deals. Some of them may never have set foot on Scottish soil. No genuine believer in the democratic principle could be other than appalled at such a prospect.
Let us consider the results of the recent general election—
Ten out of every 11 voters in Glasgow voted Labour. I shall ignore that cumbersome and irrelevant intervention from someone who is not even domiciled in Scotland, let alone in Glasgow.
Let us consider the results of the general election, in which Scotland, especially urban Scotland, returned a majority of Labour Members to the House. It did so partly because of traditional loyalties—
The hon. and leaned Gentleman is certainly not domiciled in Glasgow, about which he has made at least 10 interventions this evening.
I ask the House again to consider for a moment the results of the recent general election at which Scotland, particularly urban Scotland, returned a majority of Labour Members. It did so partly because of traditional loyalties but partly because of its particular social and economic make-up, which inevitably influences its political outlook. Glasgow illustrates that point effectively. Few areas in the United Kingdom can have been more severely affected by the present recession and by the policies of the present Government.
Last year unemployment in the city constantly hovered between 70,000 and 80,000. At the time of the 1981 census, no fewer than five of Glasgow's constituencies were in the top 10 United Kingdom constituencies with the highest rates of male unemployment. In the space of just two short years, between 1979 and 1981, it suffered the net loss of about 20,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone. It has continued ever since to lose industrial jobs of every description. One hundred thousand of Glasgow's citizens now claim supplementary benefit and many more depend on it. The city faces a severe housing crisis, with more thn 22,000 of its houses officially described as below the tolerable standard and a minimum of 35,000 public sector houses requiring treatment for the growing problem of damp.
For more than 30 years Glasgow's population has been in constant decline with a high proportion of those leaving coming from the more economically active groups. Inevitably, this has had serious implications for the social and economic make-up of the remaining population. Glasgow has a high proportion of less skilled and lower income workers' a much higher than average proportion of its population at or below the poverty line and massive problems of urban decay and multiple deprivation —problems recognised by the Government.
The people of Glasgow need lessons from no one on what it means to be at the wrong end of an unfair and unequal society, in which power and wealth are unevenly distributed and in which the opportunity to thrive and prosper is denied to hundreds and thousands of citizens.
The general election results in Glasgow do not decide who should form the Government. Glasgow has often voted Labour in the past and seen Tory Governments returned. Scotland has often voted Labour in the past and seen Tory Governments returned at Westminster. But this time there is a difference. This time the general election result is proving to have implications for local democracy which few voters could have contemplated at the time they cast their votes. Glasgow voters can accept that the party for which they voted lost the last general election, but they know that the party for which they voted won the last district council elections. In those elections they voted for the Labour party. They voted for a Labour district council and they won. The Labour district council in Glasgow prepared this year's budget. The Labour party in Glasgow district council prepared this year's rate poundage on the basis of a democratic mandate given to it by the voters of that city. If the council abuses that mandate it will answer for that abuse in the proper democratic fashion—at the elections in May 1984. In the meantime, anyone who interferes with that council in the proper exercise of its functions is interfering with the democratic process, and the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office Front Bench team know that well.
I appeal to hon. Members who are genuinely interested in defending the democratic traditions of this country to join the Labour party tonight in the Lobby in voting against this arbitrary and undemocratic Government action.
I should like to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) that the tenants of Glasgow district council pay cheap rents. The rents are far from cheap. My constituents are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their rents. It is nonsense to say that the tenants in Glasgow are paying cheap rents. This problem is the fault not of Glasgow district council but of the Government who have forced local authorities to increase their rents.
I am sorry, but I will not give way. Many hon. Members have intervened in the debate and I understand that the Minister wants to reply to the points that are raised. It would be unfair to other hon. Members if I were to give way.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) has left the Chamber. I am sorry that he made the remarks he made about Glasgow. It is nonsense to suggest that Glasgow and Glasgow alone is losing industry and to suggest that the reason for that is high rates. I happen to know a great deal about the hon. Gentleman's constituency because Springburn adjoins the Bishopbriggs area of Strathkelvin. The hon. Gentleman should know that at this very moment houses are being built on what used to be an industrial estate in Bishopbriggs. If the hon. Gentleman claims that Bishopbriggs is doing well in terms of low rates, why is it losing industry in the same way as Glasgow? The hon. Gentleman should also remember that Keir and Cowden Ltd. used to have a large brickworks in the Bishopbriggs area but it no longer exists. Many companies are leaving boroughs and areas around Glasgow, and so Glasgow is not the only place to be losing industry. The services that the district council supplies benefit the people of Glasgow and those outside the city.
It is planned to build a bypass through my constituency. The large scale demolition will uproot many of my constituents. We will have a concrete monstrosity called a motorway just to accommodate the people of the Stepps. The quality of life in Springburn will diminish because of that motorway. When the hon. Gentleman attacks the Glasgow district council he should remember that many people in Bishopbriggs, Newton Mearns, Bearsden and the surrounding areas are employed by Glasgow district council.
It has always been my view—I am sure that it is shared by many hon. Members—that if an employer is in difficulties it is a duty of the local Member to ensure that an industry or service which happens to be a large employer of labour is protected. Many Conservative Members who have constituencies within travelling distance of Glasgow may well be receiving letters of complaint from their constituents about redundancies in the Glasgow district council. I should like to see the representations that go to the Secretary of State if that happens.
It is ridiculous to suggest that traders are leaving Glasgow because of high rates. Consider, for example, Marks and Spencer, one of the biggest employers in Britain. It is doing very nicely at its Bell street, Glasgow, branch, so well that the firm intends to spend millions of pounds extending those premises. It is across the street from Lewis's—I was in the city centre last weekend—and that company is not doing too badly out of Glasgow.
My hon. Friend knows the Metal Box site and will recall that I saw the Prime Minister before the new year when the firm announced that it was closing that factory. During our conversation the Prime Minister suggested that rates might be the factor, but I said that I had established with the company that the main factor was the economic recession and a fall in the demand for tins.
I agree. Rates are not the only problem from which the private sector is suffering in Scotland. I am the chairman of the industry sub-committee of the Labour group in Scotland. We have had the Opportunity this year to meet various private employers and their organisations. The representatives of the building industry forcefully made the point that they were not pleased with Government policy generally or with cuts in public expenditure in particular. It depends on local government contracts more than any other industry, yet it is suffering the most as a result of Conservative policy. In other words, the Government are attacking not only those who voted for them but those who have supported them over the years.
In common with other hon. Members who represent constituencies some distance from this place, I had a good opportunity during the election campaign to be involved with my constituents. I had time to meet the people of Possil park, where I served my apprenticeship and where my wife lived. The quality of life in that area has deteriorated greatly in the last 10 or 12 years. The poverty is appalling, as is the rate of unemployment.
In areas such as that, only the social services can help, and I include the efforts of Glasgow district council. It may be said that the region provides the s social services, but a great deal of back-up is required from the district council.
If the services provided by the district council are bad, there is often little that the social services can do to improve matters. Nothing is simply the responsibility of the region. Nor is the region free from Government cuts; by this time next year even Strathclyde region could be on the Government hit list.
In view of the terrible poverty that exists in some areas, we need a local authority which will be assured of help and resources, not attacks and cuts, from the Government. It is all very well to say that local government spending must be reduced, but something must be done to replace the services which are being destroyed. By all means administer policies from St. Andrew's House, but if the Government do not intend to increase the social services and improve their quality they will he doing a great disservice to the people of Glasgow and elsewhere.
For many people who are unemployed the only leisure facilities available are in parks and through the sports and recreational facilities offered in public halls. Unemployment is a problem for society as a whole, but it is the duty of Government to reduce the amount of unemployment. Until that is done, many young people will go on feeling resentful and bitter, and those feelings will get worse if they are not given leisure facilities so that they can use their energies.
Conservative Members constantly talk about law and order and about giving people a short, sharp shock. Recently they were all for capital punishment. It is about time that they did something positive to help people. One way to do that is to ensure that local authorities have the means to give people the facilities they deserve.
As one of the Glasgow diaspora, I listened with sympathy to the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). There is no doubt that Glasgow has considerable problems, many of which arise from the dispersal of population in the last 20 years.
I do not believe that Glasgow district council over its considerable history, including its predecessor Glasgow corporation, can be exempted from criticism. But it is a democratically elected local authority and what it says about the services that the city needs should be listened to by the House and, in particular, by the Government.
When the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) said that the interests of industry ranked so highly in her estimation, I suspected she was arguing in favour of the business vote being returned. If so, sheer logic would indicate that it should be returned to the large corporations which contribute so much to the Conservative party. One cannot have one without the other, though the undue emphasis that is placed by Conservative Members on the business element is distinctly unhealthy when we think of local government being democratically controlled and elected.
At a time when one of the great concerns of the nation is jobs—and as jobs relate to the effectiveness of the business community —that is not something that we should lightly ignore.
The hon. Gentleman distorts the point I made. I suggested that the emphasis placed on the business element by the Conservatives was unhealthy. I do not dispute that consideration should always be given to the interests of commerce and industry, but that, too, is a responsibility laid on local authorities, which are elected and should have the duty to nurture industry and commerce in their areas.
It is significant that we have this debate only a few hours after the conclusion of the Cabinet discussions. Soon we shall learn the extent of the sacrifices that the Secretary of State will call upon the Scottish people to make, whether or not they consent. Those who have read about the £5 billion reduction in grant throughout the United Kingdom must be worried about its impact on local authorities and the Health Service in Scotland.
In presenting these reports the Scotish Office is obliged to show that the spending increases of local authorities, including Glasgow, are excessive and unreasonable. The Secretary of State, in his exposition of the case against the Glasgow district council, has not discharged that obligation. He has not explained clearly and satisfactorily why the elected local authority should be compelled to act in the way dictated by a statutory instrument. The way in which the reduction in grant was casually glossed over in correspondence was unsatisfactory. In his letter the Secretary of State said that the Government found it necessary to proceed with the motion without giving any explanation.
This is all part of the squeeze and cutback in local authority expenditure. The distortions in the high rate increases have been caused by a reduction in the rate support grant. Conservatives should not support that. They are supposed to speak for the ratepayers. Therefore, Conservative Members must accept responsibility for the penalty of high rates which has been visited upon ratepayers. It is significant that the share of public expenditure spent by the Scottish Office in 1980–81 was 5·65 per cent. and that, on Government figures, it will reach 5·13 per cent. in 1985–86.
I have spoken in earlier debates about the validity of the local mandate, so I shall not develop that point further. We are talking about democracy and the right of central Government to impose on local authorities decisions that are unacceptable to them. The argument advanced by Scottish local authorities is valid. One of the prime recommendations of the Wheatley commission was that reform of local government was necessary to enhance local autonomy. I warn the Scottish local authorities that the argument about local control, which I accept, will not wash in the House and elsewhere. No central Government would readily concede a reduction in their powers. They would have to be coerced.
Although local authorities wish to push their case, as many hon. Members will do this evening, they will lose. This is not the first round. During the past 10 years—stretching back into the previous Labour Administration —we have had a series of debates such as this one. On each occasion the local authorities have lost the battle. The Glasgow, Stirling, Kirkcaldy or Lothian mandates will not carry the day. The House should address itself to the powerful argument for a Scottish mandate—
The hon. Gentleman makes a jeering point, but he must accept that the Conservative party assumed power on the shirt tails of an English majority. The Government have no moral right to tell Scottish local authorities how to behave. The arrogance of people such as the hon. Member for Argyle and Bute (Mr. MacKay) is driving many Scottish people to look at the quality of the Government that they have.
If we are to achieve anything, we should urge a Scottish mandate. If all Scottish Members asked for and supported a Scottish mandate, it would not affect the votes on these motions, because all the English Members would pour in.
We must argue here and in the country that the Scots should not be governed by a party which does not have sufficient representation to justify it being in power in St. Andrew's house. We must challenge the right of the Government to govern Scotland without the consent of the Scottish people. This is not an and exercise. We know what the Chancellor is trying to do and what the Cabinet will probably have agreed to. Therefore, we realise that considerable suffering will be visited upon our countrymen. If the Opposition do not fight on the basis of a Scottish mandate, we shall have to accept responsibility for all the suffering that will result from the Government's actions during the next four years. Such failure to fight will be on the consciences of those who do not co-operate. What we do, how we fight and how effectively we represent our constituent's interests will be crucial.
The Labour party believes that the Government have no mandate in Scotland, but that requires the establishment of a Scottish assembly and the Scottish National party does not believe in that. It believes in nothing less than total independence. That was the policy passed at its conference.
The mandate argument must be pursued in relation to Glasgow in particular. The Secretary of State for Scotland—if he would for once listen to what other people are saying — seems to think that today he is protecting the Glasgow ratepayers, but they have consistently made clear which party they support, and it is not his party.
In 1978 Labour swept Glasgow in the regional elections. In 1979 Labour swept Glasgow in the parliamentary elections; in 1980 in the district elections; in 1982 in the regional elections again; and in 1983 in the general election. The Labour party has won every election in Glasgow during the past six years. It has decisively defeated the Conservative party. Glasgow, Hillhead was the only Conservative-held seat in Glasgow. The Conservatives now have none.
The people of Glasgow want Labour policies carried out by a Labour district council. The people voted for the Labour party to maintain levels of services. Whereas the Secretary of State may say that he has the right to control the money that he gives to Glasgow district council, he has no right to say how much the district council should raise through the rates that it levies on its citizens who voted for it and for the type of policies that it said it would implement.
The only logical argument that the Secretary of State put forward was that the Glasgow district council spent more per head of the population than any other district council. Many of us have recently received a useful booklet called "Rating Review". It shows that Glasgow spent more per head of the population on libraries, museums, leisure, recreation, halls, environmental health and cleansing than any other district council. It might therefore be called a spendthrift local authority.
No, not even Marxist. The amount per head spent on those facilities by Glasgow district council is high because they are not just for the people of Glasgow. They are for the people of Bearsden and Strathkelvin, in particular, who are parasites on the city's facilities. Those people do not provide money for museums and halls. The Glasgow district council provides the museums, parks and halls.
The best example of all is in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who unfortunately is not present. Right in the middle of Eastwood there is the Rouken Glen park, which is used almost exclusively by the people of Eastwood, although it is paid for and maintained by the ratepayers of Glasgow. Eastwood district council does not contribute a single penny towards the upkeep of that park, although its ratepayers benefit from it. That is true of many of Glasgow's facilities.
If the Secretary of State were logical, he would suggest dividing the total cost of Glasgow expenditure—not just the expenditure of the people of Glasgow, but the expenditure of the whole area of greater Glasgow. The major mistake—this is why Glasgow is in its present position, and why its rates tend to be high— was in 1972, when the House passed the legislation dealing with the reform of local government in Scotland and left the satellite suburbs of Glasgow outside in small separate district councils. I hope that the next labour Government will bring Eastwood, Bearsden, Strathkelvin, and Bishopbriggs into the Glasgow district council, where they should be. In that way the rates would be paid by the people who used the services. That would be the right way to proceed.
These motions are unjustified. We have heard no logical arguments from the Secretary of State to justify them. The right hon. Gentleman is illogical, and he is an intellectual lightweight, to say the least. I ask the House to reject the motions.
The approach of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to his perorations is always fascinating. I have never yet heard him come to the end of a peroration without describing someone in terms that would be better applicable to himself. I was also fascinated by his argument that because Glasgow had no Conservative Members of Parliament the Government had therefore no right to take any decisions affecting the city. He must surely accept that in the unlikely eventuality of his party ever coming to power again, on his own basis, that Government would not be able to govern north of the Tay. It would be nonsense to try to govern Scotland on that basis.
We have had a full debate, and I do not intend to detain the House for long. I shall pick up some of the points that were raised. I listened with interest to all the speeches made by Opposition Members who represent Glasgow constituencies, but we have heard hardly a word about the interests of the city's ratepayers. It is typical of their attitude in debates of this nature that they never pay any attention to the interests of ratepayers, although when the ratepayers, particularly industrial ratepayers, vote with their feet, as they often do, they are the first to complain.
Does the Under-Secretary agree that if he and his right hon. Friend had maintained their contribution to Glasgow at a steady level, in real terms — not increasing it, just maintaining it—it would have been possible to have a rate reduction of 17p in the pound?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way. [Interruption.] I am intending to cover that subject, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall do so. I shall answer the speech of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) last, and when I do so I shall have something to say on the matter.
The second surprise to me in this debate, despite the fact that representatives of Glasgow district came to visit me at the Scottish Office — a meeting that has been mentioned on several occasions in the debate — and despite the fact that at that meeting they had the honesty to admit that, in view of the adjustments that had been made and the £3 million extra that had been given to them by the Government—they had £3 million available to go back to the ratepayers, and in fairness to those representatives, they said that they would prefer to give that back next year—is that there has been no mention of that by Opposition Members, as if the £3 million had somehow disappeared. In their failure to mention that, we see their total disregard for the interests of their ratepayers. In the district elections next year Glasgow ratepayers would do well to remember what has been said in this debate.
A number of matters have been raised with which I shall deal briefly. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), whom I do not see in his seat, mentioned the Burrell gallery. He spoke of the burden that it would place on Glasgow. The expenditure consequences of opening the new gallery were clearly set out in the council's representations, and the Secretary of Slate took into account the points made by the council in proceeding with the action.
I personally welcome the opening of the gallery, and I am pleased that the Government have given support towards the capital costs of the project. Nevertheless, the expenditure implications of the project cannot be viewed in isolation from the need to contain expenditure generally. The Secretary of State was able to provide capital support only by making commensurate reductions elsewhere in his programme, and I wish that Glasgow had done likewise. These are painful decisions, but they must be taken, and therefore the Secretary of State cannot exclude the running costs of the gallery from his considerations.
Yes, but this Government found the money. [Interruption.] It is for the Glasgow district council to decide whether it wants to open the gallery, which, as I said, I personally would welcome. It is for that council to find a way to finance it, just as the Secretary of State did when he provided support.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) has not managed to last the course of a Scottish debate and that he, too, has left the Chamber. He said, somewhat to my surprise, that the entry of £4 million, which has been the subject of dispute in this debate, was a matter for judgment. I shall come back to the matter later. He said that the column into which such a figure goes is a matter of judgment. For an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that about the way in which one presents figures and certifies them as correct leaves much to be desired.
Finally, I come to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Govan. He said a number of things which surprised me. He spoke first of the centralist role of this Government in attacking the roots of local government. He claims that that is being done by the Government in exercising their control over the expenditure of local authorities. However, he cannot avoid the fact that he himself was prepared to use precisely the same methods to control local government expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that, but today he told the House that he believed that central Government must have an interest in local government spending.
We must examine what the right hon. Gentleman did. He said that he believed that central Government should have an interest in overall spending by local authorities. I understood him to say that that should be done by reducing the rate support grant percentage. He used that method himself. The right hon. Gentleman went further and said that the rates were too high because the Government had reduced the percentage of rate support grant. He then said that he did not think that Governments should try directly to influence or control rate increases.
Apparently the right hon. Gentleman's policy is to attack direct methods of reducing rates while advocating rate support grant reductions which put up rates, and implicitly support any level of rate increase, however high it is. That is the logical conclusion that must be drawn from what the hon. Gentleman said today. The right hon. Gentleman should tell the House that his party does not believe in trying to control local government expenditure at all. That is his position, and it is about time that he came clean on it.
The right hon. Gentleman discussed a number of issues connected with Glasgow. He spoke about guidelines in general. He was one of the authors of the original guidelines. I was interested to hear him say that he thought that the way in which guidelines had been drawn up was odd, because I understood that he was instrumental in implementing them. His guidelines were based upon past expenditure. As such, they rewarded high expenditure, irrespective of need. It is no wonder that he objects now to the Government's scientific approach to drawing up guidelines. I am glad that COSLA has agreed to collaborate with the Scottish Office in drawing up the guidelines.
The Minister has referred to the current guidelines and their scientific basis. I draw his attention to the recent publication by Arthur Midwinter of the university of Strathclyde which comes to the opposite conclusion. It says:
The client group approach does not provide a scientific basis. It would be pernicious to use this method given the present state of the art as a basis for current expenditure guidelines.
Given that clear statement from the only scientific body that has examined the guidelines, how do the Government justify their argument?
The client group approach takes more cognisance of need than any past method on the basis of historic expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the £4 million. Perhaps he misunderstood what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said. My right hon. Friend referred to the "so-called error" which he said was
over the £4 million included by Glasgow in its certified return on the line for housing improvement grants. This line is used by all other authorities—and up to this year has been used by Glasgow itself. This year, Glasgow decided to enter in this line expenditure on the grants themselves. It was bound to cause confusion if Glasgow chose, without explanation, to change its practice in providing information. The first time that it was drawn to my attention was … at a meeting between me and representatives of COSLA. The purpose of such meetings is, of course, to discuss local authority financial matters in general, not detailed points of this kind.
Once again the term error is quite inappropriate".
My right hon. Friend said that the true purpose of the £4 million, shown against "housing improvement grants", was explained at the meeting between the Secretary of State and representatives of Glasgow district council on 20 June.
The right hon. Member for Govan made severe allegations about my right hon. Friend. He referred to the meeting with COSLA and to the meeting with me. He distinguished between the two. It is important to put the record straight.
I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman finds that he is wrong he will have the decency to withdraw his remarks.
We have been told by the Opposition that the Government have failed to justify their action against Glasgow. We took this action on the basis of a number of criteria about which the Opposition know. They also know that the statistics and the criteria were changed following the meeting with myself when it was accepted that the £4 million should not be counted as relevant expenditure for the purposes of assessing excess over guidelines. Even with those adjustments, the guidelines excess in Glasgow remained at 30·5 per cent., well above the average district level of 21·8 per cent. The expenditure per head, even after that adjustment, reduced from £112·32 to £107·06, is well above the average for comparators of £67·11. Despite the consultations and the close attention that I paid to the representations made to me which I reported to my right hon. Friend, the case against Glasgow is still strong. That council's expenditure is, in any view, excessive and unreasonable. For that reason, I ask the House to support the report.
|Division No. 38]||[6.48 pm|
|Amess, David||Freeman, Roger|
|Ancram, Michael||Fry, Peter|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Gale, Roger|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Galley, Roy|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bright, Graham||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Greenway, Harry|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gregory, Conal|
|Chope, Christopher||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Coombs, Simon||Ground, Patrick|
|Cope, John||Grylls, Michael|
|Corrie, John||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Crouch, David||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Harvey, Robert|
|Dover, Denshore||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Dunn, Robert||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Durant, Tony||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Eggar, Tim||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Evennett, David||Hawksley, Warren|
|Eyre, Reginald||Hayward, Robert|
|Fallon, Michael||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Farr, John||Heddle, John|
|Favell, Anthony||Henderson, Barry|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Hicks, Robert|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Hirst, Michael|
|Forth, Eric||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Fox, Marcus||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Holt, Richard||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Hordern, Peter||Price, Sir David|
|Howard, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Renton, Tim|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hunter, Andrew||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Jackson, Robert||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Jessel, Toby||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Rost, Peter|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Ryder, Richard|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Key, Robert||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Knowles, Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Silvester, Fred|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Sims, Roger|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Lester, Jim||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lightbown, David||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lilley, Peter||Spence, John|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Spencer, D.|
|Lord, Michael||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Stanley, John|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Steen, Anthony|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Stern, Michael|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Major, John||Sumberg, David|
|Malins, Humfrey||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Malone, Gerald||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Maples, John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Marland, Paul||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Maude, Francis||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Mellor, David||Tracey, Richard|
|Merchant, Piers||Trotter, Neville|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Viggers, Peter|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Moate, Roger||Walden, George|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Waller, Gary|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Walters, Dennis|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Warren, Kenneth|
|Neale, Gerrard||Watts, John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Norris, Steven||Wheeler, John|
|Osborn, Sir John||Whitfield, John|
|Ottaway, Richard||Wilkinson, John|
|Parris, Matthew||Wolfson, Mark|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Wood, Timothy|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Pawsey, James||Yeo, Tim|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Pink, R. Bonner|
|Pollock, Alexander||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Porter, Barry||Mr. Ian Land and|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Mr. Michael Neubert.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Ashley, Rt Hon Jack|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Ashton, Joe|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Eadie, Alex|
|Barnett, Guy||Eastham, Ken|
|Barron, Kevin||Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Evans, Ioan (Cynon Valley)|
|Bell, Stuart||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Ewing, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fatchett, Derek|
|Blair, Anthony||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Fisher, Mark|
|Boyes, Roland||Flannery, Martin|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Foster, Derek|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Foulkes, George|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Freud, Clement|
|Caborn, Richard||Garrett, W. E.|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Campbell, Ian||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Canavan, Dennis||Golding, John|
|Clarke, Thomas||Gould, Bryan|
|Clay, Robert||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hardy, Peter|
|Coleman, Donald||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Corbett, Robin||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Cowans, Harry||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||John, Brynmor|
|Davis, Terry (Bham, H'ge H'I)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Deakins, Eric||Kennedy, Charles|
|Dewar, Donald||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Dixon, Donald||Kirkwood, Archibald|
|Dobson, Frank||Lambie, David|
|Dormand, Jack||Lamond, James|
|Dubs, Alfred||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Randall, Stuart|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Redmond, M.|
|Litherland, Robert||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Loyden, Edward||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Robertson, George|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Rogers, Allan|
|McGuire, Michael||Rooker, J. W.|
|McKelvey, William||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Rowlands, Ted|
|Maclennan, Robert||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McTaggart, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|McWilliam, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Madden, Max||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Marek, Dr John||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Martin, Michael||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Skinner, Dennis|
|Maxton, John||Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Meacher, Michael||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Soley, Clive|
|Michie, William||Stott, Roger|
|Mikardo, Ian||Strang, Gavin|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Straw, Jack|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Tinn, James|
|Nellist, David||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|O'Brien, William||Wareing, Robert|
|O'Neill, Martin||Welsh, Michael|
|Park, George||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Parry, Robert||Wilson, Gordon|
|Patchett, Terry||Winnick, David|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Woodall, Alec|
|Pendry, Tom||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Prescott, John||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Radice, Giles||Mr. Norman Hogg.|