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Rate Support Grant (Wales)

– in the House of Commons at 9:58 pm on 26th July 1983.

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Question again proposed.

Mr. Edwards:

At the outset of the debate, the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) accused us of introducing a centralised regime and criticised us more than once for controlling public spending. That was not the kind of argument that he used to advance from the Dispatch Box when speaking as a junior Treasury Minister.

The right hon. Gentleman asked when I would announce our provisional decision on next year's local authority expenditure. As I told him in an intervention, I hope to do so next week, but when I met the local authorities a few days ago I undertook to consider their representations closely. We have not yet taken final decisions, but it would be wrong to keep them in uncertainty and to delay announcing these provisional decisions because the House has risen for the summer recess. There are plenty of precedents for making announcements of this kind at this time of year.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the complicated system with which we are involved was job creation for civil servants. However complex it may be, the Government have succeeded in reducing their manpower over the last four years—;the Welsh Office by about 15 per cent.—;whereas local authorities have reduced theirs by only about 3½ per cent. Everyone knows the absurdity of the proposition that there is no room for improved efficiency. People in the private sector and many in the public sector have shown that it is po3sible to maintain services and to reduce manpower. That point was rightly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson).

My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) spoke of the inadequate provision for sparsity and the poor treatment of rural areas, but the hon. Member for Neath took the view that there was overprovision for the rural areas and that the industrial areas had been hard done by. I suspect that this is some evidence that the formula arrived at by the local authority working party in consultation with the Welsh Office was sensible.

I forecast that we would hear complaints about savage cuts, and we heard them from the hon. Member for Newport, East. He wanted to know whether, if his local authority got within its target, it would avoid penalty. It will, but the hon. Gentleman really asked whether getting below GRE would mean that it avoided penalty. I must make it perfectly clear that that is not so. Indeed, if the local authority spends above target, it will not benefit from the close-ending provisions about which I spoke in my opening remarks. That is why a relatively small overspend on target can involve a reduction of grant, because the overspend falls on those authorities above target while those below target are exempt.

The hon. Members for Newport, East, Ceredigion and Pembroke, North and Wrexham (Dr. Marek) asked why there was no exemption from grant penalties for authorities whose expenditure was below GRE. Many authorities provide a standard of service satisfactory to their electors when spending below GRE. Indeed, before the GRE system was introduced they never questioned whether the level of spending was reasonable. It was simply what they thought right for their areas. I do not think that it would be possible, except at the expense of seeking unrealistic expenditure reductions from other authorities, to allow such authorities disproportionately to increase expenditure. Authorities spending below GRE, however, unlike the high spenders above the GRE, receive the maximum cash input and are thus in a position to allow a modest growth in expenditure.

The hon. Member for Wrexham suggested that certain alterations should be made in the target system. When I asked the local authorities about this last week, however, they made it plain that they did not wish to operate targets at all but that if targets had to be operated the existing formula should be retained and not altered. I was prepared to consider alterations, but the authorities' answer to the specific question was quite clear.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, NorthWest (Sir A. Meyer) said that we had failed to grasp the nettle of rate reform. That is fair enough, but I note that he did not suggest any alternative system. As he knows, that is the problem that has dogged successive Governments. Nevertheless, he was absolutely right in saying that the bulk of the money for local government comes from the taxpayers and that there must be some limit. We are setting a limit and seeking to ensure that it is maintained.

The hon. Member for Cerdigion and Pembroke, North asked about provision for the elderly and the young. Those decisions are for local authorities to take within the total expenditure provision for local government. It is accepted that there will be increased expenditure on the police, but that will be offset in areas such as education where pupil numbers are falling and expenditure can be reduced. Local authorities will not, however, be penalised for the recent police pay award. Future rate support grant reports will allow for that increase.

The hon. Gentleman referred to employment prospects for the young. As I have said, employment prospects depend crucially on lowering costs, keeping interest rates down and reducing the rate burden. That is one of the principal objectives of the report before the House, and that is why I ask the House to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 3) Report 1981/82 (House of Commons Paper No. 12), which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.

Question put,That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report 1983/84 (House of Commons Paper No. 11), which was laid before this House on 7th July, be approved.—;[Mr. Nicholas Edwards.]

The House divided: Ayes 288, Noes 171.

Division No. 42][10.8 pm
AYES
Aitken, JonathanBaker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Alexander, RichardBaldry, Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBatiste, Spencer
Amess, DavidBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, TomBellingham, Henry
Ashby, DavidBendall, Vivian
Aspinwall, JackBennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Benyon, William
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Berry, Sir Anthony
Best, KeithHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bevan, David GilroyHampson, Dr Keith
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHanley, Jeremy
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnHargreaves, Kenneth
Blackburn, JohnHarris, David
Body, RichardHarvey, Robert
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHaselhurst, Alan
Boscawen, Hon RobertHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bottomley, PeterHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hawksley, Warren
Boyson, Dr RhodesHayhoe, Barney
Braine, Sir BernardHayward, Robert
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHeddle, John
Bright, GrahamHenderson, Barry
Brinton, TimHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Hickmet, Richard
Bruinvels, PeterHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bryan, Sir PaulHill, James
Budgen, NickHirst, Michael
Burt, AlistairHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Butterfill, JohnHolt, Richard
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Hooson, Tom
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Howard, Michael
Carttiss, MichaelHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Chapman, SydneyHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Chope, ChristopherHubbard-Miles, Peter
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hunter, Andrew
Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clegg, Sir WalterJessel, Toby
Cockeram, EricJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Colvin, MichaelJones, Robert (W Herts)
Conway, DerekJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Coombs, SimonKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Cope, JohnKershaw, Sir Anthony
Cormack, PatrickKey, Robert
Couchman, JamesKilfedder, James A.
Cranborne, ViscountKing, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Crouch, DavidKing, Rt Hon Tom
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Dickens, GeoffreyKnowles, Michael
Dicks, T.Knox, David
Dorrell, StephenLang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Latham, Michael
Dover, DenshoreLawler, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLawrence, Ivan
Dunn, RobertLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Durant, TonyLee, John (Pendle)
Dykes, HughLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Eggar, TimLester, Jim
Evennett, DavidLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Eyre, ReginaldLightbown, David
Fallon, MichaelLloyd, Ian (Havant)
Farr, JohnLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Favell, AnthonyLord, Michael
Fookes, Miss JanetLyell, Nicholas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)McCrindle, Robert
Forth, EricMcCurley, Mrs Anna
Franks, CecilMacfarlane, Neil
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fry, PeterMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Gale, RogerMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Galley, RoyMcQuarrie, Albert
Goodlad, AlastairMadel, David
Gow, IanMajor, John
Gower, Sir RaymondMalins, Humfrey
Grant, Sir AnthonyMalone, Gerald
Greenway, HarryMaples, John
Gregory, ConalMarland, Paul
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Marlow, Antony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grist, IanMates, Michael
Ground, PatrickMather, Carol
Gummer, John SelwynMaude, Francis
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Mayhew, Sir PatrickSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Mellor, DavidSayeed, Jonathan
Merchant, PiersShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Meyer, Sir AnthonyShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Silvester, Fred
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Sims, Roger
Moate, RogerSkeet, T. H. H.
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Soames, Hon Nicholas
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Spence, John
Moynihan, Hon C.Spencer, D.
Mudd, DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Murphy, ChristopherSquire, Robin
Neale, GerrardStanbrook, Ivor
Needham, RichardStern, Michael
Neubert, MichaelStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Newton, TonyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nicholls, PatrickStokes, John
Normanton, TomStradling Thomas, J.
Norris, StevenTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Onslow, CranleyTerlezki, Stefan
Osborn, Sir JohnThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Ottaway, RichardThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, John (Harrow W)Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Thornton, Malcolm
Parris, MatthewTownend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, John (Oxford)Tracey, Richard
Pattie, GeoffreyTrippier, David
Pawsey, JamesVaughan, Dr Gerard
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWaddington, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWakeham, Rt Hon John
Pink, R. BonnerWaldegrave, Hon William
Pollock, AlexanderWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Powley, JohnWaller, Gary
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWard, John
Price, Sir DavidWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Raffan, KeithWarren, Kenneth
Rhodes James, RobertWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWheeler, John
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWilkinson, John
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWinterton, Nicholas
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs MarionWood, Timothy
Rossi, Sir HughYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Rowe, AndrewYounger, Rt Hon George
Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Ryder, RichardTellers for the Ayes:
Sackville, Hon ThomasMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Sainsbury, Hon TimothyMr. Douglas Hogg.
NOES
Abse, LeoBruce, Malcolm
Alton, DavidBuchan, Norman
Anderson, DonaldCaborn, Richard
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCallaghan, Rt Hon J.
Ashdown, PaddyCallaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCampbell, Ian
Ashton, JoeCarlisle, Alexander (Montg'y)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Clarke, Thomas
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Clay, Robert
Barnett, GuyCocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Barron, KevinCohen, Harry
Beckett, Mrs MargaretColeman, Donald
Beith, A. J.Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Bell, StuartConlan, Bernard
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Bermingham, GeraldCorbett, Robin
Bidwell, SydneyCorbyn, Jeremy
Blair, AnthonyCowans, Harry
Boothroyd, Miss BettyCraigen, J. M.
Boyes, RolandDalyell, Tam
Bray, Dr JeremyDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Deakins, Eric
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Dewar, Donald
Dixon, DonaldMadden, Max
Dobson, FrankMarek, Dr John
Dormand, JackMason, Rt Hon Roy
Duffy, A. E. P.Maxton, John
Eadie, AlexMaynard, Miss Joan
Eastham, KenMeadowcroft, Michael
Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)Michie, William
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Mikardo, Ian
Ewing, HarryMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fatchett, DerekMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Faulds, AndrewMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Nellist, David
Fisher, MarkO'Brien, William
Flannery, MartinO'Neill, Matin
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPark, George
Forrester, JohnParry, Robert
Foster, DerekPatchett, Terry
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Pavitt, Laurie
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldPenhaligon, David
Garrett, W. E.Pike, Peter
Godman, Dr NormanPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Gould, BryanPrescott, John
Gourlay, HarryRadice, Giles
Hamilton, James (M'well N)Redmond, M.
Hardy, PeterRees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Harman, Ms HarrietRichardson, Ms Jo
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Healey, Rt Hon DenisRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Heffer, Eric S.Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Rogers, Allan
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Rooker, J. W.
Home Robertson, JohnRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Howells, GeraintRowlands, [...]ed
Hoyle, DouglasRyman, John
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
John, BrynmorSkinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSoley, Clive
Kennedy, CharlesSpearing, Nigel
Kilroy-Silk, RobertStraw, Jack
Lamond, JamesThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Leadbitter, TedThorne, Stan (Preston)
Leighton, RonaldTinn, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Wainwright, R.
Litherland, RobertWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Welsh, Michael
Lofthouse, GeoffreyWigley, Dafydd
Loyden, EdwardWilliams, Rt Hon A.
McCartney, HughWinnick, David
McDonald, Dr OonaghWoodall, Alec
McGuire, MichaelYoung, David (Bolton SE)
McKelvey, William
Mackenzie, Rt Hon GregorTellers for the Noes:
McNamara, KevinDr. Roger Thomas and
McTaggart, RobertMr. Frank Haynes.
McWilliam, John

Question accordingly agreed to.