Rates Bill (Allocation of Time)

– in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 29th February 1984.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 3:42 pm, 29th February 1984

I beg to move, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the bill:—

Committee

1. — (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 20th March 1984.

(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 20th March may continue until Eleven p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 21st March.

"Report and Third Reading

2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 45 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House its Resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The Resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 45 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3. —(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.

Conclusions of proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory Motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall he moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7. —(1) On the first allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 10 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

9. —(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), is say—

  1. (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) any Question necessary to a bring to decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  3. (c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
  4. (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;

and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  1. (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  2. (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

Supplemental orders

10. — (1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

(a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or

(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

12. — (1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of re-committal.

(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

Interpretation

13. In this Order— allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day;the Bill" means the Rates Bill;Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that most right hon. and hon. Members will by now be familiar with the issues raised by the Bill. Should there be any who are still in doubt, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will, at the end of this debate, explain in detail the need for the legislation. None the less, in view of the importance of the subject, it is appropriate for me to open my brief contribution by reminding the House as briefly as I can of the purposes of the Rates Bill.

There are three distinct elements to the Bill. Part I provides for the selective limitation of the rates or precepts of the highest spending councils in the country. These proposals have emerged from the experience of four years of effort to counter the historic growth in local government spending.

During that period, the traditional means of securing the observance of the public expenditure plans of the Government, so far as local government is concerned, have been widely tested. Exhortation and the application of general pressures through the rate support grant system have not had the desired effect on all authorities. We have had to invent new procedures. The Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Act 1980 and the Local Government Finance (No. 2) Act 1982 each sought to restrain the higher levels of spending through the grant system.

Those earlier attempts have eventually secured a fair measure of success with the majority of authorities. In 1983–84 80 per cent. of all authorities are spending at, or close to, the expenditure targets set for them. But there is also a disappointment because, despite those efforts by the majority, we are still with an overspending of some £770 million in the current financial year, and three quarters of that figure is accounted for by 16 authorities. As well as these departures from the Government's expenditure plans, there is another consequence of high spending: the very high rates which put intolerable burdens on domestic and business ratepayers alike.

That, then, is the background to part I of the Bill. It has the twin objectives of restraining local government's expenditure and holding down the rates of the highest spending authorities. We have always made it our intention that this legislation should be available to affect the rates which are set for 1985–86 that is the financial year after the one which starts in the coming April.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

The Leader of the House has said that the purpose of the Bill is to enable the Government to determine the levels of rates and services in certain local authorities. Traditionally, that decision has been made locally and a judgment has been made on those decisions at local elections through the ballot box. What will be the purpose of holding local elections in areas to which the Bill will be applied in the financial year in which he wants it to be operated?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

That is not relevant, as local authorities will be subject to the decisions of their local electorates within the parameters that this legislation will set. If the hon. Gentleman is so dismissive of local elections as to suppose that they are invalidated merely because of the guidance and disciplines that the Bill contains, I think he is showing a disregard for the potency of local elections.

Obviously, setting a fair rate limit is not a task which can or should be rushed. There are a number of stages to be observed. The highest spending authorities must be identified and formally designated. In fairness to the local authorities, an expenditure level must be set early enough in the year to allow them time to make the necessary plans. Arrangements must be made to achieve the required savings or to make representations to the Secretary of State that a higher figure is necessary.

Subsequently, the expenditure figure must be translated into a rate poundage figure and time provided for Parliament to debate that figure before the authority has to make its rate or precept. All of that process cannot begin until the legislation is complete. For that reason the Government feel that it is right to ask for the Bill to complete all its stages well before Parliament rises for the summer recess.

To give time for the Bill to be properly examined in the other place, this House must complete its consideration in time for it to have its Second Reading in the other place before Easter.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Milton Keynes

Am I not right in thinking that the parliamentary processes to which my right hon. Friend has just referred could not conceivably start until the new Session of Parliament in October or November?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to administrative processes. It is important for this House to play its part to enable Parliament in its totality to provide the framework to which my hon. Friend refers.

At this point I should like to refer to the other two elements of the Bill. Part II provides for a general power of rate limitation. Of course, it is not the Government's intention that part II should have immediate effect. Indeed, we have said repeatedly that it is our hope that it need never be used at all. It did, however, clearly prove a controversial element in the legislation when it was debated on the Second Reading.

Photo of Mr George Park Mr George Park , Coventry North East

The Leader of the House has said that this House will discuss the level of rate before local authorities make their rate. Will it not also be necessary, if the metropolitan county councils are wiped out and precepting authorities are put in them place. for their precepts also to fit into this timetable?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

That may be true, but I assure the House that what is now being recommended is in the context of the legislation before the House and not of anything which may be contained in future legislative proposals.

The Government wish to ensure that sufficient time is allocated for the provisions of part II to be properly scrutinised. The longer the delay in presenting this timetable motion, the greater would have been the difficulty in securing that end.

Part III of the Bill contains some important reforms of the existing rating system. They provide for statutory consultation within local business about rate levels and for better information to be given to all ratepayers about how much they are paying in rates and to whom. There are also a considerable number of minor reforms which are of some technical complexity. All these provisions, too, should find a proper amount of time allocated for their consideration.

Bearing this in mind, it is with stoicism—if not with surprise—that I have to tell the House that the Standing Committee has, after 80 hours of debate, managed to complete only six clauses. In what I might most charitably call its determination to ensure that no point goes unconsidered — [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] Hon. Members say "Quite right," and I am happy to read that into the record so that the House may make its judgment accordingly. The Committee took 18 hours to deal with clause 1, 35 hours to deal with clause 2 and a further 18 hours on clause 3, and all this after a whole morning sitting of two hours had been taken to debate a motion that the Committee should sit in the afternoons as well as the mornings.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

The Minister gave notice at the second sitting that a motion to sit in the afternoons would be moved at the third sitting. It is unprecedented to make such an announcement when a Committee has met only twice and has had no opportunity to debate the legislation. In the same way, the Government Whips forced the all-night sittings and the long hours.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Not only is that not without precedent, but it demonstrates the prescience of my hon. Friends in charge of the Bill in judging that it would be a matter of major political concern, requiring proper and measured debate and judgment if all the issues were to be considered. That sensible and wise judgment, alas, was frustrated by the calculated loquaciousness of the Opposition.

In the light of the great difficulty in making ordinary progress, the Government had no alternative but to introduce the timetable motion. It has been suggested in some quarters that its introduction is premature, and that it should have been delayed for another three or four sittings of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way and I apologise for being late. I dashed back from a Select Committee especially to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech. When I came in I thought that he was doing very well as he seemed to be speaking on behalf of the Opposition. He has made all the points about why consideration of the Bill should take a long time.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to "progress". We have repeatedly tried to find out what the Government regard as progress, but we have never received any answer. How can we make progress if no one will tell us what it is?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I may be making all the points, but by Heaven I am making them a good deal more succinctly than the Opposition. Progress is in the eye of the beholder—or rather in the ear of the listener, in this context. As right hon. and hon. Members who have been in this place for some time know, timetable motions have been introduced in the past at a much earlier stage on equally important items of legislation.

Moreover, it is precisely because this Bill is of such importance that the motion is introduced now. Clearly, it is intended to facilitate the passage of the legislation. I would, however, emphasise a further point. It will also ensure that the significant matters covered in parts II and III, which I have described, receive adequate consideration. This would not have been possible had we deferred introducing this motion until a later date.

In that spirit, I now wish to assure the House that we do not intend to curtail debate on the Bill unreasonably. The timetable motion that the Government have now put before the House would permit the Standing Committee to meet for a further six days, giving another 12 sittings if the Business Sub-Committee decides to continue morning and afternoon sittings. Wisely allocated, that would allow plenty of time for thorough discussion of the remaining matters in the Bill and ensure that important areas are not neglected. At the conclusion of those discussions, two full days will be made available on the Floor of the House for Report and Third Reading.

It is evident that the Opposition do not wish to allow the Bill to make the progress needed to meet the timetable outlined, without the assistance of this motion. It is a measure of considerable importance to literally millions of ratepayers and a central part of the Government's programme. Therefore, I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 3:56 pm, 29th February 1984

The Rates Bill is an odious and offensive Bill, as anyone who has taken the trouble to study it will be ready to agree. However, it is made doubly odious by the Government's decision to guillotine its further progress, particularly at this stage.

Having listened to the Leader of the House, I have a certain sympathy with him. I could not help but feel for him, in being put up to this unenviable task of justifying the unjustifiable.

Last week, during business questions — which he normally handles so admirably — when asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) whether he was not ashamed of some of his actions or inactions, the right hon. Gentleman said: People with qualities of guilt and shame are never made Leaders of the House."—[Official Report, 21 February 1984; Vol. 54, c. 985.] The tragedy is that the right hon. Gentleman has precisely those qualities of guilt and shame. It is self-evident this afternoon that the guilt and shame overcame his normal resilience and verbal felicity, and that he was reading his script with all the animation of a man addressing himself to a telephone directory.

The roles of the two right hon. Gentlemen have been curiously and wrongly reversed. The debate should, indeed, have been opened by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is the author—or rather the office boy—of this measure. He is the man who, I would have thought, is almost totally without a sense of guilt and shame, because he lacks the basic understanding. It is only if one understands things, and then feels a conflict between what one's understanding tells one about an issue and what one knows and feels is the right thing to do, that problems of guilt and shame arise. One right hon. Gentleman is only too vulnerable to that, because he is capable of thinking in an imaginative way. The other right hon. Gentleman is entirely without such qualities, and is therefore admirably equipped to introduce this insensitive debate, and motion, and to be author—again, the office boy or messenger—of this odious Bill.

Of course all guillotines are objectionable, but no one will doubt that some are far more objectionable than others. If one thinks about it, this motion is self-evidently objectionable for several obvious and distinctive reasons. The first is that it is a quasi-constitutional Bill. We do not have a written constitution, so we neither define those issues which are in some sense constitutional nor, lacking such a definition, do we attempt to introduce any special procedures for obtaining consent. If we had a written constitution we should no doubt seek to deal with a Bill of this character in a special way and we would certainly seek some additional and weighted majority for its passage.

But if we do not have a written constitution we do have common sense—or rather we did have common sense. In the past, when Governments sought to make major changes affecting our democratic institutions at national and local levels, there was a general understanding and agreement that the maximum scrutiny and discussion should be allowed. No one can seriously doubt the Bill's importance. As the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) reminded us on Second Reading, since 1601, locally elected councils have had the right to raise revenues in England and Wales in order to cover those expenditures that they could lawfully undertake. Such powers are essential for the proper and responsible conduct of local democracy. In Britain, the areas in which local councils can lawfully spend money have traditionally been wide indeed, but nevertheless defined and circumscribed. Equally, their capacity to raise revenues, whether through rates, rents, fees, charges and loans, have been limited. But the heart of local government finance has been and is overwhelmingly the rates.

The Government, having abandoned their original pledge to abolish rates altogether, now seek to limit their exercise in this arbitrary and capricious way. In doing so, they are attacking the fundamental responsibility of locally elected councils. Rate capping takes us a giant step along the road to centralism. The area of choice—indeed, the fundamental choice—between the level of spending and the level of taxation, hitherto made by elected councillors, is now to be radically reduced. No longer will citizens be able collectively to decide through their local councils the level of services that they want. They may want better social services, more and improved educational services, better housing administration and the like, and be prepared to pay for them through higher rates. But henceforth it is not their wishes that will prevail. It is Big Brother in Marsham street who will decide just how much, collectively, every local authority will be allowed to spend.

The Government need take only one more step to abolish local government altogether. They need now only place a statutory ceiling on what they think is the correct expenditure of particular local authorities on all the different services that they provide. Indeed, on their philosophy, I can see no reason why the Government should not do that now. They have already worked out to the last decimal point what they think every individual authority should be spending on each service and given to it all the authority that the complex equation-making machinery of Marsham street provides.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

As a former Secretary of State for the Environment, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how he worked out the distribution of the rate support grant when he was in power if he is complaining about the present method?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

Our one deliberate policy decision was not to try to make an individual value judgment about the needs of individual local authorities. That was the one thing that we did not do. The whole nature of the needs element, as it was then defined, was, as the hon. Gentleman will recall, based upon such factors as were thought to be, and tested as being, relevant. They were not allocated to particular authorities but were based on the general pattern of an authority's spending experience.

We are talking about the limitation of spending, not the distribution of spending. The Government work out in detail how to do all those things. As this great change is now about to be introduced, one must ask where is to be found the authority for so massive, so unwelcome and so historic a change. What study by serious and impartial men has taken place? What advice has been tendered by the practitioners of local government?

What is the Government's defence? What authority can they cite for the proposals? None at all, except what presumably moved those who cobbled together the Conservative manifesto in the last few days before the election.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

The right hon. Gentleman has criticised the Government for seeking to take powers to protect the ratepayer. Will he now tell the House where he stands on the issue of the Marxist-led Liverpool city council that seeks to cock a snook at the Government's wish to protect the ratepayers' interests? Does he condemn the behaviour of such Marxist councils which wish to defy the Government's rate-capping proposals and levy an illegal rate?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

I am advised that that council is not even covered by part I of the Bill. My broad answer — a simple and direct answer—is that I have great faith in democracy. That is the real difference between us. I believe, and always believed when I was Secretary of State, that if there were to be major underspends as well as overspends, as they might be perceived centrally and at national level, the right place for them to be corrected, apart from the action that a Secretary of State might take through the rate support grant, was by local people deciding for themselves whether their locally elected councils were doing the job. If they were dissatisfied, they would have the remedy. That is the way that we have conducted ourselves, not just for the hon. Gentleman's short period in the House but for centuries. We have decided matters by the good sense of our people at a local and national level.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

The hon. Gentleman should not shake his head over that, because he is shaking his head against the very purpose and heart of democratic practice in Britain

One would have thought that a Bill of this kind, which diminishes the rights of all elected councils throughout Britain, would have been taken on the Floor of the House so that every hon. Member would have an opportunity to debate it and to seek to amend it. Not only have the Government not given such an opportunity; they have hardly given it a chance to be debated, even in Committee.

It is difficult to believe—but it is true—that barely six weeks have passed since the Second Reading on 17 January. The Bill has been in Committee a mere four weeks and no more than nine days have been devoted to its consideration. But here we are faced with a guillotine. What makes that inexcusable is that the Opposition offered the Government a formal arrangement in Committee to complete the Committee stage by Easter. That offer was spurned and rejected. Now, as the Leader of the House knows better than most, under the stifling limitations of a timetable, we are offered a wretched six days before the Bill returns to the Floor of the House.

What excuse is there for the Government rushing through this most controversial and far-reaching measure? I do not think that the Leader of the House has given us a satisfactory explanation—nor does he—so let me give him one which not only fits the facts but goes to the heart of the matter and explains why we have a guillotine at this early stage. It was essential for the Government to guillotine the Bill before clause 9 was reached.

The Bill, as most hon. Members know, falls into two main parts. Part I gives the Government—the Secretary of State himself—great powers to rate-cap a minority of local councils which, according to his calculations and belief, are overspending. These are, of course, as he presently describes them, precisely those councils which govern the areas of greatest need in the country—in particular, the inner city areas, the very areas whose deep-seated social and economic problems have been so intensified and aggravated by the prolonged recession of the past four years. They are, as the Government well know, overwhelmingly Labour areas. They are, of course, to be rate-capped, come what may. Because they are Labour-controlled authorities, the Government hope, and hoped, that their own supporters will be indifferent to their fate—indeed, will positively support the Government's actions.

The second part of the Bill, the part that starts with clause 9 that must not be reached in Committee, gives the Government—the Secretary of State—that same power to rate-cap not just the Labour-dominated inner city overspenders, as they like to think of them, but to rate-cap all local authorities, the counties and the county districts, just as much as the metropolitan counties and the metropolitan districts. These councils are not run by Labour, of course; they are the councils that are run by the Conservative party.

The full implications of what the Government are seeking to so, the circumstances in which these powers will be used and the incompetent brutalism of an ignorant Whitehall are among the things that would have been exposed most certainly if proper debate of the Bill were allowed in Committee. It is essential, therefore, for the Government to terminate free discussion of this measure before the poison that is in it can be demonstrated to the vast majority of Conservative Members of Parliament whose own local councils will be just as much prisoners of its provisions as the alleged overspenders in the Labour-controlled cities.

It is amazing how naive some Conservative Members can be, but they have only to read the resolutions, the speeches, the submissions, not from the Labour party, but from the Association of County Councils and the Association of District Councils, to understand what is in store for them. Some Conservative Members, of course, think that this will not happen, and that the right hon. Gentleman will be content to attack, further weaken and diminish the financial resources of the Labour-dominated inner cities. They are wrong. There is not enough money to be gouged out of the inner cities.

The House heard a Minister speak last Friday on the subject of London and ILEA, informing the House that ILEA was overspending against the GRE to the extent of £400 million—nearly twice the GRE that had been set for it. No hon. Member in his senses, not even the Minister himself, believes that that can begin to be effectively adjusted, except over a long period. Hon. Members who believe that the Treasury will wait for a timetable that will be acceptable in any way to the inner cities, before it starts getting back the £750 million of alleged overspend, are deluding themselves.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the effects of the Bill would be to diminish the resources that would go to inner city areas. He must realise, of course, that, as the excessive spending of these areas comes down, so their share of rate support grant will go up, and they will get a good deal more rate support grant as they bring their spending under control. Therefore, far from the resources being diminished, the councils will get more from central Government funds to help them.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

This is really disgraceful. The right hon. Gentleman knows, or should know, very well that the massive movement of money that has already taken place has been from the cities to the counties. We can argue about the relative needs. It is a question of swings and roundabouts. The right hon. Gentleman is saying that if the councils cannot raise money through the rates, they may get a little more through the Government grant, because they will not be penalised, punished and fined for overspending. The idea that they will get above the Government's defined GRE is not tenable. The Government have no insight into the real needs of the inner cities; they know it, and we know it.

Some Conservative Back Benchers think that there are safeguards against the operations of part II, and the Secretary of State likes to make a great deal of it, but what are the safeguards? There is the promise to consult. The Government ought to go and talk to the consultative council and local government to see what they think about the pledge to consult, and the reality of that pledge. They think it is a joke. The Government should ask Mr. Lovill, or one or two of the people who run the ADC, what they think of the Government pledge to consult before they trigger the general mechanism.

The second safeguard, it is suggested, is an affirmative resolution in the House of Commons. What a splendid one and a half hour debate that will be! Before the outrage has been expressed, it will be closing time, and that will be the end of that.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

I have used the word "poison" about the effect of the Bill, and I did so advisedly—because I believe that it will increasingly paralyse the working of local democracy. I also believe—I do not think that the Secretary of State has discovered this for himself—that the Bill will paralyse his Department. The Secretary of State may have the arrogance and the wish to impose his judgment, as the Bill allows, upon 23,000 elected councillors in over 450 elected councils. However, I do not believe that more than a tiny minority of his own civil servants, upon whom the responsibility will fall, and by whom the judgments will have to be made, have any wish to engage in such an exercise. Although civil servants have every confidence in their general powers of judgment, the one thing that they know they cannot do is to decide what is best, what is the right pattern of expenditure, in the varied councils and districts throughout the land. Whitehall does not know better than town hall what local services are in the best interests of local people.

This is a rotten Bill, and it is an ideological Bill. Its only purpose is to cut public expenditure, not to affect the PSBR, not to affect money supply and not to enter into any of the major macroeconomic arguments. It expresses two things only — the Government's detestation of public expenditure in principle, and the Government's total disregard of, and indifference to, the inner cities in particular, and local democracy in general. I urge the House to reject the guillotine motion, as I would have urged it to reject this odious Bill.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet 4:19 pm, 29th February 1984

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak after the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) who has articulated his opposition to this controversial and important Bill. His hon. Friends have put forward their arguments in Committee against the measure with the eloquence that the House would expect of them and with a certain sense of exuberance, and they have certainly taken their time in deploying those arguments. The arguments on the other hand have been countered with eloquence, efficiency and conciseness, revealing a welcome clarity from my right hon. and hon. Friends.

In the few minutes available to me, I shall concentrate on the motion and leave, for another time, discussion of the Bill's merits. I have to admit to a profound sense of having been here before when it comes to debating guillotine motions. It is precisely 12 years since I first defended, in the House, a guillotine motion. The first 80 hours or so of the Committee's considerations on this Bill have amounted to nothing more or less than acting out a charade, or even a farce. There is a real sense of déjà vu—I make no apology for using a French term when talking about the guillotine.

I must confess that long Standing Committees seem to follow me around. I do not know what I have done to deserve them. Twelve years ago I had the dubious distinction of serving on the Housing Finance Bill. After 200 hours and 45 sittings, the Government business managers felt it safe to suggest that that Bill should be guillotined. In all, we spent 257 hours examining that important Bill, and I believe that that is still a record. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has some impeccable precedents for guillotining this Bill. I shall pick out just one important Bill that was introduced by the then Labour Government. I refer to the Transport Bill 1967, which was introduced by the former right hon. Member for Blackburn, Mrs. Castle. The Government moved the guillotine on that Bill after only 20 sittings and 70 hours of debate. Mrs. Castle then allocated only three days to it, although it had 169 clauses.

Perhaps rather surprisingly the Standing Committee on the Rates Bill has been spiced with humour and remarkably free from rancour, not least because of the contributions made by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and in particular by the hon. Members for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) and for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown). I now view that city, which was the home of my father, in a completely new northern light. When I listened to the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge, I was reminded of what Abraham Lincoln once said of a colleague of his who happened to be a lawyer. He said: He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I have ever met. Presumably, President Lincoln met quite a few men. However, I must also give a French quotation to maintain the flavour of the debate. It was Baron de Montesquieu's dictum that the less men think, the more they talk, and that sums up exactly what has happened in Committee.

Incidentally, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was being somewhat conservative when he spoke about having only reached clause 6 after 82 hours in Committee. The decision to apply for the guillotine must have been made some time between the end of last Tuesday's sittings and the beginning of last Thursday's sittings, and I calculate that the Committee had then been sitting for 70 hours and had taken up more than 700 columns of Hansard. By that time we had reached only clause 3, page 4, line 4. For the statisticians among us, that means that we had spent 70 hours examining the first 98 lines of an 18 clause Bill with two schedules, amounting to 1,052 lines. In other words, we had considered less than 10 per cent. of the Bill.

In my humble opinion, the serious point to be made is that our actions — and some would say our antics — upstairs at least call into question our parliamentary procedures. At worse, they seem to demean the purpose of Parliament, or the purpose and function of this Legislature. That must certainly be true in the eyes of those who have watched and studied our proceedings. The sad result is that we have been unable properly to scrutinise the Bill. To be more precise, we shall not be able to scrutinise the Bill properly.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Who is the hon. Gentleman criticising when he says that we have not been able properly to scrutinise the Bill? How many of the hundreds of opportunities to speak has the hon. Gentleman taken?

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I shall respond as consisely as I can, because there seems to be some misunderstanding. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues may have spent the vast majority of those 80 hours deploying their arguments, but the fact remains that we are still on part I. I was fortunate enough to catch the Chairman's eye at the first sitting, and in my five minute contribution I thought that I put forward my argument in favour of part I concisely. Indeed, I think that that also goes for most of my hon. Friends. With the greatest sincerity, I must say that there has been an over-indulgence in unnecessary verbiage on the part of the Opposition and a certain conciseness—I would like to think clarity—on the part of Conservative Members.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that it was because several of us had served on local government for many years and the first two clauses of the Bill were so vital that we thought it necessary to make our points so that Conservative Members would be aware of the need for amendments to the Bill to ensure that local government was safeguarded? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that: it was unfortunate that the amendments so vigorously and painstakingly moved by Opposition Members were not accepted. In the main, that is why it took so long to get the business through.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

The hon. Gentleman says 'in the main". However, I listened to the contributions made by Opposition Members, and they were all at sea. It is beyond comprehension that Opposition Members seem unable to make their criticisms—it is not for me to say whether they are valid—more concisely.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I shall give way, for the third and last time.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly at this stage in his remarks. Perhaps he would care to reflect on the fact that the longest Front Bench speech in Committee was made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who spoke for two hours in the middle of the night. He spoke for twice as long as I have ever spoken in Committee.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Of course, we could start trading such statistics across the Chamber. However, I was there, so I think that I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took just over an hour to answer in the detail expected by Opposition Members the valid points that they had raised on a series of amendments that had taken up much of our time.

I should like to develop my theme about the deficiency in our proceedings. When I spoke, 12 years ago, on the guillotine motion for the Housing Finance Bill, I said that a voluntary timetable should be agreed before any Bill went into Committee, so that there could be adequate time to examine and scrutinise all parts of the Bill. I also said that if a voluntary timetable could not be agreed the Government should propose one for the approval of the House. Perhaps, on reflection, a better option might be to recommend that the Committee of Selection should set a timetable after consultation with the interested parties.

I know the arguments against altering the existing procedures. In one of our adjournments I had a very eloquent discussion with my hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary and the Opposition Chief Whip. They pointed out as clearly as they could at 2 o'clock in the morning the virtues of the existing system. I believe that we should be prepared to change parliamentary procedures as our society and as the convenience and wishes of hon. Members change. That has happened in the past. My researches show, for example, that we have to thank one William Ewart Gladstone for introducing the guillotine, which was first used in the House in 1881. Lest it be thought that I am trying to make a political point, let me concede straight away that it was a Conservative Administration that formalised the guillotine procedure in 1887.

We should remember that it was only in 1888 that it was agreed that the sittings of the House should close at 1 am unless a particular motion was moved. By 1906 the House had devised what was known as the 11 o'clock rule. In 1946 under a Socialist Government it became the 10 o'clock rule. I think I am right in saying that it was only in 1947 that the guillotine was introduced for Standing Committees.

I have not heard any hon. Member say that there has been a lack of parliamentary democracy because, for example, Second Reading debates on important Bills, not least this one, are curtailed at 10 o'clock. Of course, we can spend four days, two days or one day on a debate on Second Reading, but it is for the convenience of the House that we agree to finish at a certain time. My point is simply that I do not believe that we would be denying democracy to anyone if there was a sensible timetable for the procedure upstairs on all Bills.

I am not concerned principally or essentially with the convenience of those of us who serve on Standing Committees; I am more concerned about the Legislature doing adequately and properly the job entrusted to it of scrutinising Bills. I hope very much that this brief contribution will not fall on deaf ears in the way that a similar contribution from myself apparently did 12 years ago.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton 4:32 pm, 29th February 1984

The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) has given a brief outline of what has been taking place in Committee, but it is fair to point out that the majority of contributions have been from my hon. Friends, who have proposed constructive amendments with sincerity to try to bring some realism to the Bill. We have said, and it has been endorsed by all the local government associations, that the Bill as it stands will only undermine further the workings, activities and statutory responsibilities of local government.

The Rates Bill should be called the "Direct Rule Bill", because the Secretary of State is seeking by its application to rule local government direct from central Government. Another feature is that it is not the House but the civil servants in Marsham street who will make the major decisions that affect many councils. That is why we have been trying to impress upon Conservative Members the seriousness of the Bill as it stands. If the Government had accepted the amendments that we proposed, the Bill would have been more in keeping with the activities and spirit of local government.

My view, which is shared by many hon. Members, is that the Bill is the most serious matter facing local government. It is a serious challenge to local government by central Government. Hon. Members who have served in local government for any length of time realise the seriousness of the challenge that is being made in the Bill. To introduce the guillotine at such an early stage in the Committee proceedings highlight, the unholy haste with which the Government wish to take a stranglehold on local government.

After four years of relentless pressure on the finances, the staffing and the services provided by local government, the Government have introduced this Bill. In addition, they have issued the White Paper attacking metropolitan county councils, which will affect the very future of local government. Therefore, we have been trying to impress upon the Secretary of State and upon hon. Members in Committee the importance of the amendments that we wish the Government to adopt. To bring the guillotine motion in at such an early stage is to deny to hon. Members who have at heart the interests of local government and ratepayers the right to put their case.

The Rates Bill and the White Paper were prepared hastily to fulfil an election manifesto promise. That was a commitment given by the Conservatives at the general election. As we saw on Second Reading, there is opposition to the legislation from all parts of the House and from all local government organisations, including Tory-controlled organisations, as well as the Labour-controlled Associaion of Metropolitan Authorities. All the organisations are united in opposing the legislation because of the impact that it will have on local government services. Right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House are opposed to the Bill because they believe that it is ill-conceived, brought in with haste and does not offer anything constructive to local government.

The system of financing is the main problem facing local government at all levels, from parish councils up to the GLC. On more than one occasion we have been promised that proposals would be brought forward to ease the problem of local government financing. Although that promise was made in both 1974 and 1979, it has not been met in any shape or form. The Bill is a substitute for keeping that promise. We have warned the Government, and will continue to warn them, that the Bill and the White Paper will not resolve the problem. The guillotine motion will not alter the system. It is a panic measure.

The stability of local government is threatened. I have had 30 years experience in local government and, together with other hon. Members with similar experience, I hope that our views will be heard. That is why we have spent so many hours in painstaking debate in Committee trying to provoke Conservative Members to ask questions about our amendments. They did not know what the Bill or the amendments were about. We took many hours explaining the measure to them—[Interruption.] That is true. Hon. Members who serve on the Committee will accept that point. They sat in Committee without making any contribution to the debate, so Opposition Members had to explain the Bill to them and also why the amendments were necessary to defend local government.

The people served by local government want their views to be heard, which is why the Opposition pursued their carefully considered and constructive amendments. Indeed, on more than one occasion the Minister accepted that our amendments were not intended to disrupt the Bill. We hoped that some of them would be taken on board and given favourable consideration by the Secretary of State. Unfortunately, that has not happened. We tried to influence the Secretary of State in an attempt to secure the provision of local government services.

The motion shows that the Government are committed to undermining the institution that has been valued for more than a century. The Leader of the House said that the Bill was intended to control high-rating authorities. Where do we go in the second round, and what about the implementation of grant-related expenditure? The former Minister for Local Government said that GREs were intended not to control local government expenditure, but only as a measure of guidance on rate support grant, but the Government are now using GREs to set expenditure levels, regardless of the services provided.

The decision about what services will be provided will no longer rest with local representatives elected through the ballot box. They will no longer be provided by agreement between the various parties serving on local authorities. Instead, they will be decided by the Secretary of State and the civil servants in his Department. No one in Whitehall can judge what services are necessary in the various local authorities, but the first three clauses of the Bill clearly outline that that will now happen.

The limiting of rate increases is a controversial matter. However the Bill refers not to limiting rate increases, but to limiting rate levels. That must mean that local authorities can be directed to reduce their current rate levels. Their income will be cut, so their services will be cut. Local authorities are opposed to the Bill because they fear that they will have to reduce their services. They fear that some of their statutory responsibilities will be denied to their electors because the Secretary of State will have the power to direct their levels of expenditure.

The local authority associations are united in their opposition to the substance of the Bill. That has been expressed on numerous occasions by their representatives and through declarations by their leaders and active members.

The short history of rate capping has all the hallmarks of hasty change without due consideration being given to the process. As I say, we are in this situation because of a hasty promise made during the election campaign in June of last year. Today, because of that commitment by the Conservatives, local authorities are having to face legislation which will create untold problems for those who serve in local government. The Tories have done nothing but undermine local government since they came to office.

The Secretary of State should not complain about a lack of progress in Committee. The first few clauses of the Bill govern the whole scheme of rate limitation, and although we tabled and discussed a number of amendments which, if accepted, would have taken some of the heat out of the problems that will be generated if the measure is passed unamended, the Government did not accept one of our proposals. Indeed, because the Government did not accept any of our amendments the debate had to continue, for we had to go on trying to impress on them the need for change.

Many of us consider that, in any event, the Bill was discussed with undue haste in Committee because, had there been more time, we should have liked to make further contributions. Amendments which were designed to secure greater parliamentary control over the rate-capping process were rejected. In the main, we were seeking to achieve a more democratic process. In much of what we said we were reflecting representations made to us or which we were sure would be made once the Bill was passed.

That opportunity has been denied us. In other words, we are being denied the right of democratically elected Members of Parliament to voice the views of our local authorities and constituents. As power is being centralised into the hands of the Executive, we should have the opportunity to make representations on behalf of the communities which we have been elected to serve.

Rather than guillotine debate on the Bill, more lime should be provided, because I can think of several amendments which I should move if there were time to do so. For example, clause 21 should be receiving our careful consideration because it will have a great effect on local government.

Is it not clear that a genuine approach is being adopted by local authorities in presenting reasonable rate increases for the coming year? If the levels of rates now being set by local authorities are reasonable, the guillotine is not necessary and we should have adequate opportunity to discuss all aspects of the Bill in depth. Only then should we feel that we had done our best to defend local government. Against that background, I oppose the guillotine motion.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East 4:55 pm, 29th February 1984

I strongly support the need for a guillotine on the Rates Bill. It is now necessary to establish a timetable for further consideration of the Bill so that the due process of law can take place and this important and much-to-be-welcomed legislation may be placed on the statute book.

Opposition Members, here and in Committee, have argued on numerous occasions that successive measures have removed the freedom of local authorities to provide services according to local needs. That is palpable nonsense. Measures during the last four years — for example, changes to the rate support grant system — have consisted of stick and carrot measures to encourage councils to control their expenditure and make themselves more efficient. But so far—and, say many ratepayers in my constituency, regrettably — there has been no compulsion on local authorities to follow this course; they have been left free to order their spending priorities as they think fit.

We should all have liked the Government not to have had to introduce the Bill. We should all like the 30 or so authorities which are likely to be selected for rate limitation to put their houses in order in the coming months so that the selective scheme need not be applied. But the antics of ILEA, the present GLC and Lewisham council—all three of which dig deep into the pockets of the ratepayers of Lewisham — give cause for little such hope. I shall concentrate on the experience of those three, as their antics reflect the need for a guillotine on the Bill.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

The hon. Gentleman referred to the possibility of 30 local authorities being penalised under the powers which the Bill seeks to take. Does that mean that he is opposed to the general powers, as he does not envisage many more than 30 local authorities having to be controlled by the Government?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I made it clear that I hoped that neither the selective nor the general powers would need to be used, although the hon. Gentleman will agree that that seems unlikely, to say the least. As a result, action must be taken now. In the view of the majority of my constituents, this guillotine does not come a day too soon, for Lewisham council continues to squander ratepayers' money on causes which have little relevance to the needs or aspirations of the overwhelming majority of local people.

There are, however, more important, indeed essential, reasons for urgent action on the Bill. Where Lewisham council has attempted to provide essential services, it has frequently done so by inefficient, ill-conceived, ill-executed and costly means. Every day that passes adds further to the inordinate rises in the rate bills of Lewisham's residents.

The need for a guillotine on the Bill has been implicitly recognised by Opposition Members, who on a number of occasions in Committee argued that as much time as possible should be given to councils to plan within their budget limits. The guillotine will assist them to do that.

At issue is the question of priorities of local spending. Sadly, Opposition Members argue that services are threatened by the Bill. Yet when it comes to making. savings, it is directly in the area of services that Lewisham council heads, partly for political expediency and partly for ease. If councillors in Lewisham wished to maximise the level of service, they would minimise the cost of labour, administration and overheads.

The Lewisham debate centres on the fact that, while, time and again in public, councillors talk about the rate burden and services, they do not tackle the fundamental reforms necessary to achieve greater efficiency and savings. The real issue for them is support for an index-linked, overweight, overmanned bureaucracy embracing public sector unions. How can it possibly be right for a council whose main budgetary item is manpower to be tied, on the one hand, by its own no redundancy policy and, on the other, by a union refusal to cover any jobs vacated by people moving on or retiring? This cannot pretend to be efficient management, or in the interests of the people of the borough. The urgency for this legislation is highlighted by this fact because it is the ratepayers who, year after year, have to foot this escalating bill.

I came to the House from the privileged position of running a Merseyside-based company in the heart of Speke, where every member of the 200 or so work force recognised the need to maximise his contribution so that the joint enterprise would survive. Management audits looking at work practices were a regular and welcome feature of the work. Despite the size of Lewisham council work force — about 7,500 — no external management audit has been undertaken. The local press report on a recent internal audit of the 400-strong team of council house repairmen said: Its findings confirm tenants' worst suspicions about the Council's direct labour organisation. Senior Council officers carried out a four week probe of the organisation, during which all its administrators were questioned at length.They found: staff being told to lie to tenants about starting dates for repair work; workmen getting paid early by signing work-completion forms — then vanishing with the job unfinished; jobs being skipped by workmen knocking on the door too softly to be heard, then leaving a 'you were out when I called' card.The report says there has been a total breakdown in direct labour organisation/tenant communication, causing delays of four months or more. It slams the system—or lack of it—for workmen changing appointments with tenants.The report concludes: 'Little time and attention has been devoted to ensuring a good service is provided to those who ultimately fund the direct labour organisation—the tenants'. This guillotine motion is all-important in the light of such stories. They bear out the need for an end to rate rises from 58·9p in the pound

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge

I wish to clear my mind on one point. Is it not a fact that the ratepayers of Lewisham voted for the hon. Gentleman to be returned to the House? The answer to that is yes. Presumably they were right to do so, in the hon. Member's mind. Is it not passing strange, then, that the same ratepayers voted for the councillors of Lewisham but were wrong that time?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I am delighted to assist in clearing the hon. Gentleman's mind, as I always am. Those two factors are not at odds. On the contrary, this Bill, which was central to the legislative platform on which my party was returned to the House, points directly to the need, on behalf of the majority of my constituents and, without the shadow of a doubt, the majority of ratepayers in my constituency, to implement this legislation precisely to resolve that apparent contradiction.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that three out of five of those who voted in the general election voted against the Tory party policy for which he is claiming a mandate, and that only 40 per cent. of the electorate voted for the Tory party, which nevertheless comes back with a large majority of seats and claims a mandate?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

Inevitably, the hon. Gentleman is walking down the path that leads to proportional representation. That would prove so inadequate to our system that we should not even be here discussing the Bill because it would have been lobbied in corridors by groups coming up with far more ineffectual compromises. The Bill would not have come before the House and we should not have the system of parliamentary Government which has served us so well for so long. I am delighted to see Labour Members agreeing with that point.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

I hope that my hon. Friend will prove the point that it is third time lucky. To substantiate the answer that he gave the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft), will he remind the House of the percentage turnout at the last general election, which rightly and overwhelmingly voted for him to represent Lewisham, East and of the turnout at the last local election?

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to discuss the timetable motion.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

The hon. Gentleman has beaten me by a short head. I was about to remind the House that I could not see anything in the motion that would justify the intervention of the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle).

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is because of the points that I am making that such legislation is before us. If the House is not aware of the seriousness of some of the issues facing ratepayers, not only will there not be this guillotine, but ratepayers may have to go through yet another year of profligacy and unacceptable rate increases. For that reason, it is important that hon. Members and those outside this place should hear of the appalling mismanagement and overspending that is going on. That should persuade hon. Members when it comes to a vote.

I used one example, and I shall, to take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, minimise the number of further examples that I give because, of course, I respect what you have said. Equally, I hope that you will fully understand and support my views about the fundamental issues at stake.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

In the interests of other hon. Members who wish to speak, I shall not give way. I apologise, but no doubt we shall have further opportunities to debate these matters in Committee.

The examples I quote are relevant. Week by week, Lewisham ratepayers have to finance such profligate and unnecessary spending as, for example, a new borough artist for £7,500, in addition to the celebrated marijuana-clouded jaunts to the West Indies for difficult youngsters, £100,000 going to the women's committee and £110,000 to a failed laundrette investment by the council.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is testing the patience of the House. I hope that he will relate his remarks more closely to the motion, or show how they are related.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that I had done that lucidly.

The crucial point arising from these examples is that it is the failure of such authorities to respond to the repeated exhortations that have brought us to the present proposals for rate capping. In many respects, and particularly in respect of public expenditure, we are a unitary state and local authorities are not only responsible for a quarter of all public expenditure but have as much duty as the rest of us to recognise the mandates given to the Government to create the leaner and more efficient public sector which is so essential for our recovery.

I welcome the debate and the need for a guillotine because, above all else, local mandates, applied as they have been in Lewisham, cannot claim an automatic right to be set aside from national policies. The Government must safeguard the policies on which they were elected. The general election results of both Lewisham, East and Lewisham, West, with substantial swings, emphasise how vital it is to implement this legislation as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West 5:07 pm, 29th February 1984

There appears to be a certain unreality about what hon. Members on both sides of the House have said. I am sure that sometimes they have their tongues in both cheeks at the same time.

The problem with the Bill is that the Government have based it on three premises, two of which are false, and one of which is true. The first is that the electorate are incapable of exercising a mature judgment at the ballot box and on the affairs of local government.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) regaled us with appalling stories of profligacy and enormous expenditure. It astonishes me that it is those same councillors who will have to carry out this legislation if it is passed. Unless the Bill is passed they will be able to continue as they are now after the next local election as well. Therefore, the Government's view must be that the electorate are incapable of turning those councillors out of office.

The Government's second erroneous premise is that local government spending is out of control. Whenever Conservative Members refer to rate rises, they miss out the fact that the rate rises have been so high because of the reduction of the grant to local government. Figures published recently in great detail in the Financial Times show that both revenue and capital expenditure of Local government at worst has been no higher than that of central Government, and at best far lower. Therefore, the Government's second premise, that local government expenditure is out of control, is also false.

The Government's third premise is true. Conservative councillors and local government candidates are so ineffectual that they must have a vote of no confidence in themselves and pass the buck to Big Brother in central Government to do what they should be doing at local level. It is fair to say that opposition to the Bill has not been confined to Labour, Liberal and SDP Members of the House. A number of Government Members have set out their principled objections to it and their more detailed objections to certain parts of it. One of them, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), has played his part in expressing those views in Committee as well.

The point—and this is why I can understand the Leader of the House introducing the motion today — is that in 80 hours of debate there has been no sign that any other hon. Member on the Government side of the Committee has shifted his position on the Bill one iota That is a sad fact and one which it behoves Members of the Opposition to appreciate. My opposition to the Bill is of such a fundamental nature, in both principle and detail. that if I felt for a moment that it would be possible, by continuing until the small hours, and through night after night, to secure changes in the minds and hearts of Government Members—

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many nights he has attended the Committee?

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

If the hon. Member wishes to bring up absences, I can tell him that I have sat in Committee into the small hours with other hon. Members, but the fact is that the number of absences of all members of the Committee has been roughly the same. It comes down to similar totals for the three parties.

Photo of Mr Robert Jones Mr Robert Jones , Hertfordshire West

As the hon. Member was present for only 17 out of 38 Divisions—quite the most deplorable record of any Back Bencher—is it not strange for him to say that?

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

I took the trouble to check on the attendance record of hon. Members, and I discovered chat Government Members had been absent from its deliberations twice as often as Liberal and SDP Members, while the absence record of Labour Members was the same as ours. All parties have equivalent duties to perform in the House. If it would achieve a change of mind or heart of any Government Member it would be worth continuing to debate the issues, but the fact is that some of the contributions in Committee—and this would be the case if we were to continue indefinitely — were counter-productive.

I agree with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) that not only has the debate in Committee been carried on without rancour and with a certain humour at times, but that it has been a charade and a farce. For those of us who come from local government—the thing that is under attack in the Bill—it is ironic to consider that the farcial and calculated nonsense that has gone on in Committee would never happen in local government, not least because more members would be participating in the legislative and executive process.

What on earth the people from local government who have sat in the Public Gallery in Committee have made of this process, I hate to think. We have had the benefit of the presence, and of the counsel in the corridors, of a number of people of some eminence in local government, who have had to listen to this somewhat turgid debate going on hour after hour. They will not have been edified by our processes.

I accept that many Labour Members have taken part in the debate in Committee. I accept also that every one is sincerely and fundamentally opposed to the Bill. Nevertheless, whatever Labour Members say today is said with tongue in cheek. They know that, however much time was allowed for the Bill in Committee and however long the debate before the guillotine was applied, they would fill that time. Indeed, at times—and I have enjoyed his contributions immensely — I have felt that the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) could fill it singlehanded—doing it with great style and grace.

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge

I restrained myself.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

For instance, when the Government brought a second sittings motion to the Committee, we debated that for two and a half hours. It says very little for our processes. The bizarre thing is that both sides of the Committee conform to the rules of the game. Government Members sit silent and wait for Divisions. Labour Members share out the time. I must commend the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) for being able to say what he did with a straight face. It is an astonishing achievement to be able to suggest that a lengthy contribution is needed to persuade Government Members and explain to them successfully the points made, when that is not the case. They understand exactly what the Bill is about and are all in favour of it—a sad fact but true.

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge

It is not the length of the speech, or the fact that all Government Members agree with it, but the fact that the longer a speech went on the more could right hon. and hon. Members on the Government side see the point. After all, the Bill will eventually come back to the House, and a number of points have been drawn out to show that the authorities of those Members will eventually be capped. That has been the message.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

I appreciate what the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge says, but I have not seen any signs, in either words or facial expression, that Government Members will succumb to the blandishments of those who are opposed to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Except for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), the Committee has been packed by the Government with adherents and supporters of the legislation, packed by voting fodder, by people who will mount support for the Government's position. The purpose of our debates and our arguments was not to convince those Conservative Back Benchers debating the Bill in Committee that their Government were intransigent and refused to accept reasonable amendments being put forward by Conservative local authority associations, but to demonstrate this intransigence to other Conservative Back Benchers and the Conservative-controlled local authorities—the Back Benchers who were not in the Committee—so that when we vote on Third Reading there will be even more Conservative MPs in our Lobby to vote against this draconian piece of legislation.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

I ought to get on, Mr. Deputy Speaker, otherwise you will be unhappy about my taking too much time. I am not sure that the argument of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) is not one for the guillotine, because the message to Back Benchers might be rather more favourable than if we had been sitting day and night for weeks on end. Nevertheless, he is entitled to his opinion.

I agree with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet—and there is much support for his view on both sides of the House—that what is needed is a timetable from the beginning of the deliberations on each Bill. That is the view of Liberal and Social Democratic Members. I quote from the Commission on Constitutional Reform, produced by the two parties. It said that bills should be timetabled under a procedure involving all parties from an early stage, instead of being 'guillotined' at such a late stage that many clauses and amendments are not discussed at all. That view is held not only by Liberal and Social Democratic Members, but by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) who leads for the Opposition in Committee, who said: I have always made it clear that I am happy to discuss how all Bills might have an agreed timetable. That has always been my view as a Member of Parliament". — [Official Report, Standing Committee G, 2 February 1984; c. 77.] In this week's The House Magazine, the hon. Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) says: In recent years there are few, if any, examples of an opposition successfully delaying contentious legislation. Every MP knows the pattern in Committee—early delaying stages followed by the inevitable guillotine and eventual Royal Assent. The article goes on: A timetable for a particular piece of legislation could be suggested by a timetabling committee composed of senior Members of Parliament in proportion to the party strengths on the floor of the House. Their recommendation could then form part of a timetable Motion which would be moved immediately after the second reading had been passed. In view of the substantial support for that view on both sides of the House, it seems strange that we cannot move towards that position today.

Given that situation, what should be done about the motion before us? There are two reasons why it is impossible to support it. First, as it stands it will not permit adequate debate on the remaining clauses. It is immaterial whether that is because of the time spent on the six that have already been discussed. Secondly, the Government are culpable for not timetabling the Bill from day one. For that, if for no other reason, it is impossible to support the motion.

I agree with hon. Members who have said that the Bill is probably more significant for our democratic health and structure than anything to be brought before the House in this Parliament, certainly in this Session. Anything that I can do to delay or defeat the measure, I shall willingly do. I would support any amendment that would wreck it. However, I do not for a moment believe that the tactics indulged in, both in Committee and on Second Reading, help to achieve that. Therefore, the best one can do is to vote against this timetable motion in the hope that by expressing that opinion something better will emerge in the end.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid 5:20 pm, 29th February 1984

I rise with some hesitancy, because I have not had the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee considering the Bill. Not for me the good fortune of midnight beer and sandwiches with my hon. Friends, and not for me the pleasure of oysters and champagne on the Terrace with Opposition Members after those all-night sittings!

Nevertheless, I wish to put two points, one general and one particular, but before doing so I add my support to the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), which were clearly endorsed by Opposition Members.

This Bill would, perhaps, have been a classic candidate for taking evidence and opinions from those experienced in local government matters—from both the executive and elected councillors — before the Committee deliberated upon the clauses and schedules. Such a thing happened during my right hon. Friend's tenure as Secretary of State for Social Services, when the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill was considered in Committee.

Opposition Members have said that there is wholesale opposition to the Bill throughout the ranks of local government. That is not true. They should ask any Conservative councillor in Liverpool or in the Socialist republic of south Yorkshire whether he feels that those whom he has the privilege to represent get a fair deal and value for money. They should ask industrialists or commercial or business ratepayers whether a large number of local authorities respond to their needs and wishes. It should be remembered that such ratepayers have no voice, no vote, no say and no sanction in the way in which councils spend their money. The Bill seeks to give them that protection.

Photo of Mr Terry Lewis Mr Terry Lewis , Worsley

Would it not be more appropriate to ask the electorate in the people's republic of south Yorkshire?

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

That is precisely my point. Industry and commerce pay a vast proportion of the bills of local government. The majority of money spent by local government—that which is not raised through the rate support grant — comes from industry and commerce, which do not have the opportunity through the ballot box to express their views on whether a local authority has been prudent.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman shows an uncharacteristic disregard for the facts. Only 40 per cent. of total rate income comes from industry and commerce. Moreover, the increase that has occurred above the rate of inflation has, according to the chambers of commerce, been entirely attributable to the changes in rate support grant. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that business men do not have votes as citizens, or is he suggesting that they should have two votes?

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

The hon. Gentleman displays a characteristic disregard for listening to what I said. I said that industry and commerce contribute the largest proportion of that which local authorities do not receive via the rate support grant. That is undoubtedly a fact. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will intervene and confirm whether or not that is true.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I have just given the hon. Gentleman the figure—40 per cent. for business and commerce. He suggested that it was a good deal more than half, which is not the case. It is often suggested that two thirds of rate income comes from industry, but that figure includes the amount that local authorities pay themselves by way of rates on such things as schools, technical colleges and swimming baths.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

When the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) reads Hansard tomorrow, I think that it will confirm that my recollection of what I said is nearer the truth than his.

To answer the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis), local government does not reflect the wishes of the ratepayers. That is borne out by the fact that in the local government elections last June only one in five of the electorate of Liverpool—indeed, a smaller proportion than that which gave that authority its wafer-thin majority of three, which it holds most tenuously—voted for the party in power.

That is why the question of local accountability is subjected to so much criticism. The trouble is that at local elections the electorate generally vote according to the popularity for the time being of the Government in power for the time being, not according to the prudence and performance of the local council. My general point is that the Bill seeks to protect hard-pressed ratepayers in cities such as Liverpool. Although Liverpool may not be on the Government's capping list at present, it inevitably will if that Marxist-controlled authority continues to pursue its kamikaze path to bankruptcy.

I invite my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider my detailed point most seriously, if not during his reply, certainly after the Bill has been guillotined and before it comes back to the House on Report. It relates to void rating. I take no pleasure in admitting that I committed a small act of industrial vandalism about 12 months ago when I mounted the roof of a warehouse just outside Wolverhampton to display to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the then Secretary of State for the Environment the absurdity of certain local authorities levying void rates on premises that were not capable of beneficial occupation. I am delighted that the Bill contains a specific clause — I believe yet to be considered by the Committee — which provides that local authorities will not have the power to levy void rates on industrial and commercial premises.

However, from the answer to a question that I tabled to the Under-Secretary, I gained the impression that that protection will be afforded only to the owners of factory premises, not to the owners or tenants of industrial premises, which includes a wider definition of warehouses and premises that are part-factory, part-warehouse and part-office. I therefore invite my right hon. Friend, before laying the order, to consider widening the definition of the type of premises that will enjoy this void rating protection—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that point any further. We are now discussing a timetable motion, not the contents of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 5:28 pm, 29th February 1984

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle). I do not wish to stray from the guillotine motion, but if the Minister accepts the proposal that empty fctories in the ownership and management of his hon. Friend should not be subject to rates, I take it the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire accepts that when they are set on fire, the local fire brigade will not put the fire out, and that when they are broken into the local police will not investigate who has broken into them. If the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire does not wish to contribute to the rates, I hope that he will not expect to receive any services in respect of those empty properties.

In opposing the guillotine motion, I wish to repeat a story that I told in Committee, which meets each Tuesday and Thursday when the House is sitting. Many people outside the House do not know how hard the Members of Parliament serving on Committees work. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in the mornings and afternoons, and sometimes sit into the night. I am reminded of the young couple who went out together every Tuesday and Thursday. He picked her up to take her out on those days for about 20 years. After that time, the woman took up courage, and said to the man, "Don't you think that we should get married?" He replied, "Don't be daft—and have nothing to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays?" Opposing the guillotine motion is rather like that. It would be a great personal relief not to have to be in Committee each Tuesday and Thursday, putting in the hours.

Leaving that aside, I oppose the guillotine motion because it will be necessary for the Opposition to be in Committee for much longer than the Government will allow to do justice to the legislation. The Committee has not adequately debated the major issue underlying the clauses dealt with so far. We have not dealt with the basis of the Bill, nor have Ministers given us the answers that we require. Only the specific powers have been dealt with, not the fundamentally important general powers.

The introduction of general powers is a major attack on local authorities and local government democracy. All that the Conservative members of the Committee have brought to the defence of the legislation is the sort of prejudice and myth that has already been displayed this afternoon.

Many inner city authorities have problems in meeting the real needs of their decaying areas, those of the elderly and handicapped, and the high proportion of one-parent families. Local authorities provide services for the black and Asian populations. The inner city authorities spend more than other authorities without such problems, yet they are accused of being profligate and wasteful. The Committee has had hearsay stories about small amounts of money being spent on possibly controversial, but financially insignificant matters, including grants awarded by the Greater London council.

The Committee has heard the usual myths, such as those trotted out by the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire, to the effect that industry does not have a vote. The Conservatives are using a strange and new constitutional argument that if people disagree with what their local authority is doing they should have two votes instead of one, so long as they are likely to vote Conservative or for the alliance, but certainly not for Labour.

We even heard the argument that local authorities, democratically elected through the ballot box, do not really represent the electorate that they serve, because there is a low turn-out at local elections. It is as though an election turn-out determines whether a candidate is rightfully elected. If the Government and the Conservative party believe that, they should alter the way in which local and national elections are conducted, perhaps moving towards the Australian system of compulsory voting. But abstention is an equally valid use of one's democratic right to vote. The argument about low turn-out at elections is nonsense. The Government do not object to a Conservative council being elected with a low turn-out, and exercising its power to run the council that it has been elected to run.

The Government, with the support of their often silent Back-Bench Members in Committee, have totally rejected a long series of reasonable amendments. One reason why we have had to debate the clauses at such length is that the Opposition have been forced to table many amendments to each clause. I have served on many Standing Committees, but never on one in which the Opposition have had to table so many amendments to each clause. We were trying to write in reasonable safeguards, put to the Opposition by a unified local government lobby of Labour, Conservative and Liberal councils, as well as by the Association of District Councils and the Association of County Councils, both of which are Conservative-controlled local authority associations, and by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. We tried to get more consultation, to allay the fears of Conservative local authorities and local authority associations. The Government have said no to each amendment.

We have said, further, that if the Government attack the basis of local government democracy, and will not consult local authorities, there should be parliamentary scrutiny at each stage. Opposition Members speaking in the Second Reading debate said that the legislation will give draconian powers to the Secretary of State, his civil servants and the Department of the Environment's computer. Let there be parliamentary scrutiny at each stage. Whenever we have asked for it, being careful not to destroy the principles of the Bill, the Government have rejected it.

We have asked for the right of local authorities to use an appeals procedures that will enable them to present their side of the case, if they are to be rate-capped. We have tabled amendments to provide a proper system of local authority appeal, so that their case may be heard, but the Government have turned them down. It is like a plot by Lewis Carroll, in which the verdict came first and the evidence was brought later. That is how the Government have conducted the Committee stage.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Will my hon. Friend tell the House, in relation to the Opposition's amendments, in Committee, whether that situation would apply to a council such as Burnley, where the grant-related expenditure assessment figure for the current financial year is £5·6 million, and with a cash target of £8·2 million the council is spending slightly in excess of that? If the council wished to appeal I am sure that it could put a strong case to the effect that the rates payable in Burnley are £62·92p per head of population per year, which is the second lowest figure in England. One one other district, Pendle—which is next door to Burnley—pays a lower rate per head of population, at £59·40p.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

That is an apt illustration. It is another reason why we should debate the Bill at length, and why the guillotine is not justified.

We managed to drag out of the Minister in Committee how the Secretary of State will operate the rate-capping procedures and use GREAs as measures for rate-capping, as well as decide on their adequacy for that function. We heard how the Secretary of State, with the powers that he seeks in the legislation, without a right of appeal for councils such as Burnley, or the necessary parliamentary scrutiny, can alter to suit himself the criteria for determining which authorities should be rate-capped, and engineer them in such a way that the local authorities that he wants to penalise, for political reasons, will finish up in the penalty box. Many anomalies have been revealed in Committee. Some local authorities are being penalised and not others, although on other criteria, the penalties should apply the other way round.

We discussed the serious matter whether Burnley would be rate-capped in the same way as would Liverpool, the Conservative-controlled city of Westminster, and a shire county, all of which are totally different sorts of authority under different political control, and with differing needs and circumstances. Different sorts of area will be included in the same report, and the same principles will apply to all of them. The report will be presented to Parliament without assurances of adequate time for a debate in which hon. Members representing all such areas can take part.

The Opposition tabled an amendment to ask the Secretary of State, if he used those draconian powers against local authorities, whether each authority that was rate-capped would be reported to Parliament and debated separately. Even that amendment was turned down.

The Bill's progress has not been as fast as it should have been, because of the Government's intransigence. They would not accept simple amendments relating to consultation, democratic control and safeguards that were requested by Labour and Conservative-controlled authorities and associations. All that we have heard from the Minister are vague assurances that the legislation will not apply to all local councils, and that the Secretary of State hopes not to use his specific powers, or even the general powers, as much as he might.

If that is the case, why is the Secretary of State taking those general powers? We are told that the Government's actions will not apply to all local authorities, and that the good boys will be all right. That is not true. We were told that about previous legislation on clawback and holdback. This year the borough of Sefton, the authority that covers my constituency, which is a paragon of underspending virtue that has done everything the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have asked it to do—it has wielded the axe with relish, closed learner swimming pools and cut services to the bone—has been penalised and has lost nearly £2 million in the rate support grant settlement.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does my hon. Friend accept that if what the Secretary of State says is correct—that rate-capped authorities get more rate support grant—there will be less rate support grant for the shire authorities, and that rates will increase even more in those areas?

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

I am sure that that is the case. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State shouts "Treasury", but it is well known that he is battling with the Treasury. During one of our all-night sittings, some of his remarks percolated through to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is reported to be furious about them. The Treasury's plans for this legislation and the plans of the Secretary of State are entirely different. That is the danger, because the Secretary of State, or another Conservative Secretary of State, in defence of the assurances that he has given in Committee about the Bill not applying to good, Conservative local authorities, might have a row in the Cabinet and be sacked or moved to another job. Then the Treasury will have won, and can use this legislation in another attempt to cut public expenditure across the board. The general powers are in the Bill not necessarily because the Secretary of State for the Environment wants them, but because the Treasury wants them. When the figures do not add up and the PSBR has increased as a result of more unemployment and social security benefits that were not budgeted for, the local authorities will have to foot the bill and the general powers can be applied to rate-cap every local authority.

The Committee has had inadequate time to debate the traditional role of central Government in relation to local government, nor will it have adequate time because of this motion. Opposition Members have always admitted that local government should act within the framework of statutory law, and they have always accepted that it is within the remit of central Government to place duties and responsibilities on local authorities, to lay down minimum standards, to negotiate nationally a rate support grant settlement and distribute that to local authorities, and then to give local authorities the freedom to assess what services are needed in their areas, to balance that with what industry, commerce and the ratepayers in their areas can afford, and to decide on a level of service and local contribution through rates, rents and other charges. That has always been the traditional relationship. There is nothing wrong with it, yet it is being destroyed by this legislation.

We have not had adequate discussions or answers about local elections. I challenged the Leader of the House on this, but he seemed to miss the point. If local authorities have always acted within the framework of central Government legislation and of a nationally negotiated rate support grant settlement, what have local elections been about? The use of the local ballot has been about people in a locality voting once a year in some areas, or once every three or four years in other areas, to elect local councillors. They make a judgment about the level of services that they want in relation to the amount of rates or rents that they are asked to pay. Generally speaking, Conservative-controlled councils have lower rates and worse services, while Labour-controlled councils have higher rates and much better services. The voters judge which they want and vote in the local elections. However, there will be no point in voting in local elections in the future, because that assessment will be made not by local councils but by the Secretary of State and his civil servants, and will be imposed upon democratically elected local authorities.

The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) and others mentioned law-breaking. This legislation will mean that some local authorities must choose between breaking this rating law or breaking other laws. Local authorities, including Liberal and Conservative-controlled authorities, break many laws, but the Secretary of State often turns a blind eye to them. When the Liberal party controlled Liverpool council, there were waiting lists of disabled people for telephones and services; they were illegal under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Those waiting lists were drawn to the attention of Tory Ministers, who refused to take action because the council was breaking a Labour law, and it is only wrong to break Tory laws.

When the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) was chairman of the housing committee of Hillingdon council he put a Bengali family in a taxi and sent them back to Heathrow airport, thus breaking the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. It is difficult to relate what the hon. Gentleman is saying to the motion. I hope that he will try to stick more closely to the motion.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

I shall return to the terms of the motion. My point is that if we do not have time to debate all those matters and if the legislation is not amended adequately in Committee or by the House, local authorities will be forced, because of inadequate powers to raise revenue locally, to break laws that require them to provide services. We have tabled amendments in Committee on this matter, but we have had inadequate answers from Ministers.

The reason for the guillotine motion is that the Government know that the Bill is controversial. It is opposed by most members of the public, by Labour-controlled authorities, by Conservative-controlled authorities and by many Conservative Members. The Government are frightened of what will happen when the Bill goes to the House of Lords. They are frightened of how long it will take to get through the other place, and they want to get it there as quickly as possible. They want to kill discussion of this legislation, because it is almost as embarrassing to them as GCHQ has become. The Government have got themselves into a bunker—they have a bunker mentality—and they cannnot get out of it. They are in a difficult position, and that is one reason—if not the main reason—why they introduced this motion. However, the motion will be counterproductive, because everyone outside the Chamber, some Conservative Back-Bench Members and some members of the other place, understand that the motion is being used for that purpose. It will rebound on the Government.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Milton Keynes 5:47 pm, 29th February 1984

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) for making such a splendid commercial for my article in TheHouse Magazine, because I was about to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) on his remarks on this subject. They needed to be said, and I hope that they will not fall on deaf ears. It would facilitate the process if the Labour party would speed up appointments to the Select Committee on Procedure, which could consider such matters.

I have been a Member of the House for a relatively short time, but during that time the changes in timetable motion procedures have been marked. When I first came here, debates on guillotine motions were major parliamentary occasions. There was oratory, or passion anyway, on both sides of the House and many comments in the press the next day. Now look at what we have: an almost deserted House, and tomorrow there will be hardly a paragraph in the newspapers about our deliberations.

As the hon. Member for Leeds, West has said, I make no secret of the fact that I am in favour of timetabling every piece of legislation, from Second Reading. It may seem, therefore, churlish to oppose the motion, but I feel so strongly about certain aspects of this legislation that anything that facilitates its progress must be opposed.

Any one of the thousands of microcomputers that the Government have so wisely distributed among our schools could have programmed the two speeches from the Front Benches that opened the debate. They were entirely predictable. However, there is a difference on this occasion. The Bill is a major constitutional measure. I know that the Government deny that, but plenty of people outside the House, and, indeed, inside it, take a contrary view. I think it is a scandal that the vital clauses should not be considered on the Floor of the House. The reason why I intervened to ask the Leader of the House a question was that, according to the timetable laid down in the Bill, the parliamentary process cannot start before the start of the next Session. There is really considerable time. Even taking into account the deliberations of the House of Lords, there is no need for such a rush.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House explained, in reply to my hon. Friend's intervention, that, according to the provisions of the Bill, which have been debated at great length upstairs, if local authorities are to have enough time to prepare for the passage of the Bill, they will have to embark on the administrative procedures at about the beginning of July. This House will not be involved at that stage. The opportunity for this House will arise much later. There is no suggestion that the proceedings can start only at the beginning of the new Session. We want them to start in July.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Milton Keynes

I should like to have time to consider what my right hon. Friend has said. The bare bones of the legislation are already well and truly known, and so are the figures.

On the general question of the timetable motion, nothing could epitomise more clearly the perils of the elected dictatorship under which we now work. Whatever the ramifications of the speeches made in Committee, there can be no argument about the fact that a Bill of great consequence is to go to another place inadequately discussed. I do not know what will happen on Report, but — in passing — I hope that the Chair will give sympathetic consideration to amendments covering matters that have already been discussed upstairs.

It now rests with another place, in all its anachronistic glory, to preserve the traditions and liberties of England, which are severely diminished by this legislation. When history comes to be written, the Bill and this motion will be seen as a watershed, not only because the Conservative party has embarked on a course completely contrary to its instincts and its history, but because the motion shows in all its stark clarity the faults of the procedures under which we work in this House.

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge 5:55 pm, 29th February 1984

I agree with a tremendous amount of what the hon. Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) has said. However, I slightly disagree with him, with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) and with the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) about the timetable motion. Nobody could object to the argument as it was presented by those three hon. Members. However, the reason why we are talking about the guillotine now is that the Bill was timetabled long before a word was spoken on it, because the Government had already determined the date on which they wanted the Bill to come out of Committee. The time was set. The die was cast. That will always be inevitable, because no Government will allow the setting of a timetable which does not reflect the date on which they consider a Bill should complete its Committee stage. The idea that everything will be cosy, that we will all get together, and a nice little timetable will make everything beautiful is very naive. That will not come about. The Government have arranged their business and fixed a date on which the Bill should complete its Committee stage.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

Given that what the hon. Gentleman says is accurate, would it not be far better to timetable the Bill from day one rather than from the eighteenth day or the eightieth hour of the Committee?

Photo of Mr Harry Cowans Mr Harry Cowans , Tyne Bridge

That argument will have a strong appeal, especially to the hard-working members of the Committee who sit there through the night, but I doubt whether agreement could be reached on that proposition. I have sat on both sides of the House. I have sat on the Government Benches in superior times, as well as on the Opposition Benches. One of the finest experts in prolonging a debate that I have ever heard—I have scarcely served my time compared with him — is the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). He was so good at it that he became the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary. One's view changes according to which side of the House one is on.

I agree with the Leader of the House about one thing. In extolling the virtues of the Bill, he said that it was very important. No one would disagree with that. He said—these are the right hon. Gentleman's words, not mine—that it was vital that it should be properly discussed and that every avenue should be explored. He did not go as far as the hon. Member for Milton Keynes in talking about constitutional issues, but he said that the Bill was vital. We all agree with that. Is it not therefore vital that it should have the fullest possible examination?

The Opposition did not start the argument. We supported those right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches who thought that the Bill was so important that it should be discussed on the Floor of the House. We voted for that, but the Government in their wisdom wished to hide the Bill away from the light of day in Committee. That was their motive.

Labour Members on the Committee are seeking to expose the Bill for what it is. It is a major piece of constitutional legislation. It is an attack on local government and local democracy. It is also—this point has been brought out in Committee—an attack on the fundamental rights of Members of Parliament. At a stroke—perhaps this is why the Bill has been guillotined—the Secretary of State has elected himself into every town hall in the country with a majority of one. Regardless of what local people may want, what local manifestos may state, or of what people are willing to pay, that will be the situation if the Bill is enacted unamended. That is the constitutional issue, and it should be examined in detail.

Not once in Committee—I have studied the records—has any Government Member stood up and said that any one of the amendments was irrelevant. Government Members have argued against amendments, but not once have they stood up—it has been exceedingly difficult to get some of them to stand up — and said that an amendment was irrelevant.

Each amendment has been debated. I noticed that when trying to answer a difficult question the Secretary of State prayed in aid his desire to give local authorities the maximum amount of time. The Opposition wanted to write into the Bill a definite date by which the Secretary of State had to come out with his decision, so as to give local authorities time. What happened? The man who prayed in aid the consideration of time refused our offer to put his words into action.

It is right that we have gone through the Bill in detail. It is not Conservative-controlled local authorities, but places such as Newcastle upon Tyne that will be rate capped originally. It is we who will have our services determined by the Secretary of State. We are the ones who will lose jobs. Moreover, those jobs will be lost, not for the 80 hours that it has taken us to discuss the Bill, but for a lifetime. Is it therefore any wonder that we get annoyed, raise issues and talk at length? Regardless of what the electors in Tyne and Wear or Newcastle want, their rights will be taken away because the Secretary of State has elected himself on to every council.

Another reason for defeating the guillotine motion is that local elections are to be held in May. Would it not be a fine thing not to carry the motion to see what happens and whether these matters are discussed by ratepayers in Lewisham and in other so-called spendthrift authorities? Labour councillors have not been thrown out in my area. Indeed, they have been re-elected because they protect the services that local people want. The Secretary of State does not like that. If he moves into my area he will have the chance to vote as a ratepayer. That would be right and proper.

A substantial argument that has falsely been used concerns commercial ratepayers. It is argued that commercial and industrial ratepayers foot most of the bill and do not have most of the vote. That is obvious. British elections have always run on the principle—perhaps it will be attacked in the Government's next Bill, we never know—of one person, one vote. However, is it not the case that much of industry disagrees with the way in which the Government spend their taxes? Is it intended therefore to give industry two votes? That is the only possible parallel. The answer is, "Certainly not".

The Government get upset when talking of rates paid by commerce and industry. There is no mention of the ratepayers who use the services. I take no exception to the Secretary of State speaking for one hour and 10 minutes. I would have welcomed a longer speech. We drew something out of his speech, as it brought up issues and enabled us to ask him questions. It was the first time that we had been able to flush him out and find out what is not written into the Bill, but is left to the Secretary of State to decide after the Bill is passed. He is being given power to make all sorts of orders. We are unable to discuss that. The matter is to be left to the ingenuity of one right hon. Member. Worse than that, everyone knows that those powers should not be left to the right hon. Gentleman with whom they will reside.

By passing the motion the House is handing over power to the Executive and relinquishing the chance to examine matters. If we are not here to represent our constituents and to examine legislation, what are we here for? Part of the Bill hands over the power of the House to examine constitutional issues. The Secretary of State is to become a powerful figure in every town hall in spite of the fact that he has not stood for election to those town halls. The House must want the right to examine what he does.

That is a tremendous reason why we should not talk about curtailing free speech. We should call it by its proper name. We should not hide behind some fancy name that came with the French revolution. We should call it what it is. It is the curtailment of the right of anyone who disagrees to say anything.

If the Government had a case they would not need a guillotine, as they would be capable of standing on their own feet and arguing the case, no doubt persuading people outside, if not in the House. The guillotine is necessary because the Government do not have a case.

The Secretary of State will undoubtedly go into the "Guinness Book of Records", as no one in my considerable time in local government has ever achieved what he has achieved. He has succeeded in uniting every local authority association, whether Labour, Conservative or any other, in opposition to the Government. The Secretary of State, marvellous man that he is, has united everyone. That is the nub of the problem.

Having united everyone, the right hon. Gentleman now wants to get out from under the heat. He does not want lengthy debates in which every fallacy of the Bill is exposd to daylight. That is a good reason for a guillotine. If one has a poor case, the best tactical move is to hide it. The way to hide the Secretary of State's case is to guillotine debate on the Bill to prevent discussion, care and attention and reasonable amendments such as have been tabled by the Opposition.

Hon. Members who appear to knock the Committee stage are doing themselves a disservice. I have news for them. Many people outside read the reports of the Committee, not because they want to read our speeches, but because they are the only source, bearing in mind the nature of the Bill, of information about what is in the Secretary of State's mind. I warn the House that most of the provisions of the legislation before us will come into effect after the Bill has been passed, as it allows Ministers to do things that are not discussed in Committee. The Committee is not getting a chance to examine the criteria or to write into the Bill the part of the criteria that has been examined from time immemorial. All that is being taken away.

If the House carries the guillotine motion it will kill local government stone dead and destroy many of the powers of the House. I plead with the House to defeat the motion, even if right hon. and hon. Members do not care about local government. The Opposition care about it passionately, as most of us came up with it and, having been at the sharp end, know what it is like to fix rates. Such decisions are not taken lightly. I remember going right through the night, not in Committee, but examining everything so as to fix the rates. It is a myth that Labour-controlled authorities are spendthrift.

The hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle) suggested that we should talk to certain local authorities. Unfortunately, all the examples that he gave were Labour-controlled. He should talk to the leader of Essex county council, who is not of my party, and who accuses the Secretary of State of pulling the plug from the boat. What happened there?

The sheep behind the Government Front Bench who will pour into the Lobby in support of the Government should heed my warning. If they carry the guillotine motion, as night follows day, their local authorities will also be rate capped. They should remember that, by supporting the motion, they took away from themselves the opportunity to stand up and be counted and to argue their case. If they support the motion, they will give away their own power to the Executive.

For that if for no other reason the guillotine motion should be opposed, because it is a negation of democracy. The power of elected representatives, both locally and nationally, is being handed over to the Executive who are not subject to the necessary examination whereby every hon. Member was elected to this House.

Photo of Mr John Wells Mr John Wells , Maidstone 6:10 pm, 29th February 1984

Much as I respect the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon), who is a thoughtful and constitutionally minded colleague, I believe that he has got this plumb wrong. I support the guillotine motion because, to put it bluntly, the Opposition have waffled on ad nauseam in Committee and I believe that they would continue to do so if given the chance.

My hon. Friend sought to make out that the Bill would bring about a great constitutional change, but local government is a flexible, fluid thing; with the exception of the City of London, it is scarcely 100 years old. To suggest that it will be ruined for all time is a load of junk.

Nevertheless, much as I support the guillotine in general, I have a very close reservation about schedule 2 to the Bill, which is a complete irrelevance dragged in by the bureaucrats. I doubt whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State even knows what it is about. It is three pages long, it contains more than 10 per cent. of the Bill and it is utterly irrelevant. It is disgraceful that no time has been allocated to discuss it under the timetable motion and I give my right hon. Friend warning that if time is not allocated to this by the Business Committee I shall table an amendment on Report to omit schedule 2 from the Bill.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 6:12 pm, 29th February 1984

The House has been using the guillotine procedure for almost 100 years, so today's timetable motion will come as no great surprise to anyone. During my time in the House, I have virtually always supported guillotine motions when my party has been in government. When we have been in opposition, I have always voted against the guillotine, and I shall do so again today.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) rightly said, the reason for the motion is obvious. The present weakness of the House of Commons versus the Executive makes the tactic of debate and delay one of the few strong weapons in the hands of the Opposition. Conservative Members may smile at those words, but after the next general election when they are in opposition they will adopt exactly the same approach. That is the political reality of Parliament today in relation to the general use of the guillotine.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

I shall not give way, as we have agreed to have very short winding-up speeches and the hon. Gentleman has only just entered the Chamber.

I have considerable sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) about the fundamental constitutional issue involved. It is singularly inappropriate for the Government to take such action at this time. The Bill involves major constitutional issues. The Government had the opportunity to allow the Bill to be discussed in Committee on the Floor of the House. There are plenty of precedents for that. If they had adopted that approach, the Bill would have been subject to a timetable from the outset. It is for the Government to explain why they chose not to do that, if they now wish to sustain a case for a timetable. That procedure was proposed by Conservative Back Benchers as well as by Opposition Members, but it was rejected by the Government. The Government rejected the idea of a timetable at the outset, but they now say that they must have a timetable because of lack of progress in Committee. I make no apology for the way in which we have opposed this measure in Committee.

The Standing Committee in no way reflected the strength of feeling of the Conservative party in Parliament on this issue. With the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), who has been unwell since the Committee proceedings began, Government supporters in the Committee have been utterly supine in their approach to the Bill. We have now considered six clauses and just one out of about 100 Opposition amendments has been accepted.

I shall explain why I make no apology for our slow and thorough scrutiny of the proposals. In my speech on Second Reading I pointed out that the principles governing the use of the powers in the Bill would not be subject to any control or amendment by the House of Commons. The Secretary of State intervened to say that that was not accurate. He said: Purely as a matter of accuracy, I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the statement of principles has to be laid before the House and that, unless the spending limit is agreed, it is only with the authority of the House that the capping process can take effect."—[Official Report, 17 January 1984; Vol. 52, c. 180.] That is right, but my point was quite different. It is now clear from our deliberations, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge rightly said, that the principles themselves will not be subject to any control whatever by the House of Commons. Nor will the criteria to be employed by the Secretary of State be amendable by Parliament. That, too, emerged from our deliberations on part I of the Bill.

We make no apology for spending so much time on part I, which contains eight clauses, because it contains the so-called selective powers, which we now know are not selective but wide-ranging general powers. It has become clear from our discussions in Committee that there is no control over the way in which the Secretary of State can exercise those powers. Calling them selective powers is a deliberate misnomer. They are wide-ranging, untrammelled powers and Parliament will have no say in how widely they are used. That is the reality that has come out of our discussions.

Other crucial facts have emerged. Not only will the Secretary of State alone determine the principles. If he decides to act against a number of authorities. he is required to lay just one report before Parliament, so a report encompassing 12, 15, 20 or more authorities may be dealt with in one debate. Does anyone really believe that Parliament will have a proper opportunity to scrutinise and debate—or even listen to—the cases of individual authorities in such a debate? It is nonsense to suppose that that could happen.

Even worse, the local authorities to be controlled will not even have the statutory right to be consulted. No statutory safeguard exists in the Bill for democratically elected councils to have their case properly put to the Secretary of State. In effect, they will be simply politically "fitted up" by the Secretary of State. He admitted in Committee that he would reserve the right to alter the principles to suit his own purpose. He made that absolutely clear in c. 568 of our Committee proceedings on 21 February.

The Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), are now on another hook. When we debated the report on the rate support grant settlement in January of this year, an unequivocal promise was made, on the record, that shire counties would be given more favourable treatment by the Government once this Bill had been enacted. That was used as a carrot to dangle before recalcitrant Conservative Members to bring them to the aid of the Government. It is quite clear from the Government's public expenditure White Paper that, whether or not this Bill is enacted, that promise cannot be kept.

It is clear from the White Paper that there will be further swingeing cuts in public expenditure. The Secretary of State smiles. Perhaps he will say, as he did in Committee, that we should not take too much notice of the Chancellor's most recent White Paper on public expenditure. The ink is hardly dry on the document, and the Secretary of State in Committee has been rewriting the expenditure totals. Is that what he wants us to believe?

It is now obvious from the Committee's examination of the issues that we are right to take our time to scrutinise the Bill as closely as possible. The Secretary of Stale has made long and important speeches, but he chose to make them in the middle of the night. That can be no accident. In fact, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) determined that the Committee would sit through the night. Does the Secretary of State intend us to believe that it was by accident that he came along with two major prepared briefs? Was that really an accident? Was it not designed to hide from people the true content of the Bill?

Although a promise has been made on the record in the past that GRE would not be used to set targets for individual authorities, we now know that GRE will be central to the Government's approach, in spite of universal rejection by the local authority associations of that method of estimating needs. It has become clear beyond peradventure that the powers in part I can neither save significant amounts of public expenditure nor produce fairness for ratepayers. Those powers undermine local democracy, and they will be used to reduce services to the people who are most in need.

None of this information came to light as a result of the activities of Conservative members of the Committee. They demonstrated an almost total lack of concern for local democracy and for their constituents, as the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) candidly confessed. He was a little modest about his contribution. He said that he was able to dismiss part I—containing eight clauses—in a five-minute intervention. In fact, it took him 12 minutes to set aside the democratic rights of his constituents and ours. He may well regret the cavalier fashion in which he treated local democracy.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

The hon. Gentleman totally misunderstands what I said. It is grossly unfair to attribute those remarks to me. I accept that I made a 12-minute contribution instead of a five-minute contribution, which surely helps to destroy his case, but, according to the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans), I made some telling interventions in the proceedings. The only difference is that they were concise and to the point, not rambling and filibustering.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

The hon. Gentleman may have made some interventions—he intervened in the speech that I made the other day—but he took pride in saying that he only needed five minutes to deal with part I. He said that quite clearly, as the record will show.

As for telling interventions, some of the most telling—though not in the way that the hon. Gentleman means—were made by some of his hon. Friends. I have gone through our Committee proceedings, and I discovered that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley) uttered five words. They were: His opposition has obviously subsided." — [Official Report, Standing Committee G, 21 February 1984; c. 637.] The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan), until tonight when he made a speech, uttered four words: We can see that."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 26 January 1984; c. 22.] What he can see is not clear, but clearly he cannot see the threat that is posed to local democracy by the Bill.

My favourite quote from the Bill's proceedings comes from the writing of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Bristol, West, who is responsible for taking the Bill through Committee. In his blue-chip phase, he wrote a book called "The Binding of Leviathan". In chapter six, he wrote the following: Conservatives know that ultimately the State must be supreme because, human nature being what it is, if there are equal powers in the land, civil war will eventually obtain. But Conservatives, like Liberals, should greatly fear the present tyranny of the House of Commons. Unchecked, in other than trivial senses, by the House of Lords and the Monarch; dominating the courts and the traditions of common law with an ever-increasing volume of statute-law and an ever-increasing number of special administrative tribunals from which appeal lies only to a Minister and not to a court; brandishing the theory of the detailed mandate in the face of reasoned argument, the legal power of a majority in the British House of Commons has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. That is what the hon. Gentleman wrote when he was in opposition. That is not what he is saying now, when he is responsible for taking the Bill through the House.

I repeat that my hon. Friends will make no apologies about the Committee proceedings. My hon. Friends have done an excellent job in exposing the fatal flaws—indeed the fraud—in the Bill. They have also done an excellent job in the defence of long-held and cherished local freedoms and democratic rights. They have done an excellent job in defence of services for those most in need — the elderly, the disabled, children in schools and nurseries, and the unemployed. They have done an excellent job in defence of local authorities and the people that they employ. Whatever the outcome of the debate, that is what we shall continue to do. That is why I invite the House to reject the motion.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford 6:30 pm, 29th February 1984

I must start by correcting something that the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said when he attacked my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley) for not having spoken much in Committee. My hon. Friend is a parliamentary private secretary.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

I am sure that my hon. Friend will be most grateful for the hon. Gentleman's ready response.

It is just less than three hours since, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), with his characteristic rasp which we now recognise, and with his usual inaccuracy which we also recognise, sought to rubbish the Bill's safeguards on the introduction of part II. He said that part II could only be introduced on an order passed by the House of Commons. I sought to intervene to correct him but he did not give way. He and the hon. Member for Copeland will know that an order from both Houses is needed. That is the importance of the safeguard on the introduction of part II.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney made the strange proposition that as the Bill had constitutional implications it should have been taken on the Floor of the House. The implication was that that should somehow affect the decision to impose a guillotine. He said that the timetable motion was outrageous because the Government did not accept that the Bill should be dealt with on the Floor of the House. That is a curious argument. By the time the Committee finishes, it will have devoted 125 hours to the Bill. There is not the slightest chance that the Bill would have been allocated anything like so much time had it been dealt with on the Floor of the House. Indeed, a guillotine motion would have been necessary much earlier. Only about five minutes ago the hon. Member for Copeland admitted that had the Bill been dealt with on the Floor of the House it would have been timetabled from the outset. I suggest that the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen should read their speeches before they respond to a debate of this sort.

Nobody denies that this is an important Bill. No one is arguing that it should not be properly debated. The question is what is proper debate. The simple fact is that we have already had 80 hours of debate in Committee and we now propose a further 42½ hours. In all, the Committee will have debated the Bill for more than 120 hours in 30 sittings spread over two months.

The Leader of the Opposition complained during business questions last week that the guillotine on the Bill was objectionable. I have given him notice that I would be referring to his remarks. In a debate when the guillotine was proposed for not one but two Bills—the Health Services Bill and the Dock Work Regulation Bill—the right hon. Gentleman said: there is greater danger to this Parliament from fatuous and superficial scrutiny of Bills than from the expedition of business which the people of the country demand".—[Official Report, 15 July 1976; Vol. 915, c. 912.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle) rightly said, the British people are demanding the Bill. While I would not be so unkind as to accuse Labour Members of fatuity or superficiality, I have to say that they have gone on and on and on interminably.

My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal made some kind references to the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans). He is an engaging debater, but when one has to listen to the hon. Gentleman for no less than four and a half hours on the trot, even the well-known tolerance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State becomes strained. The hon. Gentleman managed to speak for 20 minutes on an amendment which had been withdrawn by the Opposition and replaced by another. He has great skill in talking to the Committee for 20, 30, or perhaps even 40 minutes before he comes to the point of the amendment to which he is speaking.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

No, I cannot give way.

I understand why the Opposition have sought to spin out the debate.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

They hope that it will become impossible for the Government to operate part I for 1985–86. They failed to stop the Bill on Second Reading and the only course left to them is to try to talk it out. The Government simply cannot allow that to happen.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) was right when he said that we would have yet one more year of irresponsible behaviour by the minority of local authorities at which part I is aimed. He spoke of his local authority of Lewisham. The London borough of Islington has now decided to spend so much that it will cease to be eligible for any rate support grant at all. It has promised a rate rise of 14 per cent. this year and, according to the Daily Telegraph, the leader of the council has admitted that the budget had a built-in rate rise for next year of about 15 per cent. Are the ratepayers of Islington not to have the protection of the Bill at the earliest possible opportunity — 1985–86? How much longer must other ratepayers, such as those in the west midlands, put up with the loony decisions of their county council. The West Midlands county council, if you please, set up a £25,000 rates kitty to finance peace propaganda. Lambeth council set up a creche for children of Lambeth council staff which is costing more than £5,000 per child per year, yet it claims not to have enough money. It is also in Lambeth that the arrears of unpaid rents doubled last year under Labour control and are now as much as the arrears in Birmingham, which has nearly three times as many tenants.

It is that kind of extravagance which brings local government into disrepute and forces the Government to implement the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) asked whether we had to have the Bill as early in 1984 as I have said. The timetable that we envisaged for applying the powers in part I must allow authorities adequate time to make economies from the outset of their budgeting cycle, and adequate time for the individual circumstances of each council to he considered. That is the way that we have constructed the Bill and it is essential that we have enough time after the Bill has become law for the administrative procedures to operate properly for the 1985–86 rating year. For that, the Bill must receive Royal Assent by midsummer. If we are to meet that timetable and allow for proper debate in another place, we must ask the House to pass the Bill before Easter.

We have had a good many arguments about whether the Opposition offered a timetable at the beginning of the process. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was remarkably frank about discussions which took place through the usual channels, which are normally conducted in private. But, of course, the hon. Gentleman made an offer which it would have been impossible for the Government to accept, because he offered nothing for the Report stage. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), who served us splendidly on the Committee, was not going to fall for that one. The Opposition made an offer which they knew was bound to be refused.

The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge accused the Government of having timetabled the Bill before the House began to consider it. He is quite wrong. We could have had a splendid debate, and a timetable might not have been necessary—

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

No, I will not give way.

What about the Opposition? The Opposition enjoyed themselves in Committee by quoting from documents in which I have sought to set out the arguments in favour of the Bill. Two can play at that game. I have before me the minutes of the Labour party's Back Bench environment committee, presided over by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), dated 25 January 1984. Under the heading "Rates Committee", item 35 states: There was a discussion as to the wisdom of forcing a guillotine. No firm conclusions were reached. However, the fact of the matter is that, by the time the Committee stage was under way, the Opposition had reached their conclusions, and they have talked and talked and talked, with the result that we have no — [Interruption.] We understand the Opposition's tactics. The debates in Committee have been characterised by an uneasy benevolence, but the Opposition have wasted time interminably. That is why the Government have been forced to table the motion, and that is why I must ask the House to support it.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 333, Noes 196

Division No. 176][6.41 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertFairbairn, Nicholas
Aitken, JonathanFallon, Michael
Alexander, RichardFarr, John
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelFavell, Anthony
Amess, DavidFenner, Mrs Peggy
Ancram, MichaelFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Arnold, TomFletcher, Alexander
Ashby, DavidFookes, Miss Janet
Asp in wall, JackForman, Nigel
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Forth, Eric
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Fox, Marcus
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Franks, Cecil
Baldry, AnthonyFraser, Peter (Angus East)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Freeman, Roger
Batiste, SpencerFry, Peter
Bellingham, HenryGalley, Roy
Bendall, VivianGardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Garel-Jones, Tristan
Berry, Sir AnthonyGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Best, KeithGlyn, Dr Alan
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGoodhart, Sir Philip
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGorst, John
Body, RichardGow, Ian
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGower, Sir Raymond
Bottomley, PeterGrant, Sir Anthony
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Greenway, Harry
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gregory, Conal
Boyson, Dr RhodesGriffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bright, GrahamGrist, Ian
Brinton, TimGround, Patrick
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGummer, John Selwyn
Brooke, Hon PeterHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Browne, JohnHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bryan, Sir PaulHampson, Dr Keith
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Hanley, Jeremy
Buck, Sir AntonyHannam, John
Budgen, NickHargreaves, Kenneth
Bulmer, EsmondHarris, David
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Harvey, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Haselhurst, Alan
Carttiss, MichaelHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Chapman, SydneyHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Chope, ChristopherHawksley, Warren
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hayes, J.
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hayhoe, Barney
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hayward, Robert
Clegg, Sir WalterHeathcoat-Amory, David
Cockeram, EricHeddle, John
Colvin, MichaelHenderson, Barry
Conway, DerekHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, SimonHickmet, Richard
Cope, JohnHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Couchman, JamesHill, James
Cranborne, ViscountHirst, Michael
Crouch, DavidHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Dickens, GeoffreyHolt, Richard
Dicks, TerryHooson, Tom
Dorrell, StephenHordern, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Dunn, RobertHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Durant, TonyHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Eggar, TimHubbard-Miles, Peter
Emery, Sir PeterHunt, David (Wirral)
Evennett, DavidHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Eyre, Sir ReginaldHunter, Andrew
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPattie, Geoffrey
Irving, CharlesPawsey, James
Jackson, RobertPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPink, R. Bonner
Jessel, TobyPollock, Alexander
Johnson-Smith, Sir GeoffreyPorter, Barry
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Robert (W Herts)Powley, John
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelPrice, Sir David
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPrior, Rt Hon James
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineProctor, K. Harvey
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyPym, Rt Hon Francis
Key, RobertRaffan, Keith
King, Rt Hon TomRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Knight, Gregory (Derby N)Rathbone, Tim
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Knowles, MichaelRenton, Tim
Lamont, NormanRhodes James, Robert
Lang, IanRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Latham, MichaelRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lawler, GeoffreyRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lawrence, IvanRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRoe, Mrs Marion
Lee, John (Pendle)Rossi, Sir Hugh
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Rost, Peter
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRowe, Andrew
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lilley, PeterRyder, Richard
Lloyd, Ian (Havant)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lord, MichaelSayeed, Jonathan
Lyell, NicholasScott, Nicholas
McCrindle, RobertShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McCurley, Mrs AnnaShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Macfarlane, NeilShelton, William (Streatham)
MacGregor, JohnShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Silvester, Fred
Maclean, David John.Sims, Roger
McQuarrie, AlbertSkeet, T. H. H.
Madel, DavidSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Major, JohnSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Malins, HumfreySoames, Hon Nicholas
Malone, GeraldSpeed, Keith
Maples, JohnSpeller, Tony
Marland, PaulSpence, John
Marlow, AntonySpencer, D.
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Mates, MichaelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maude, Hon FrancisSquire, Robin
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStanbrook, Ivor
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStanley, John
Mayhew, Sir PatrickStern, Michael
Mellor, DavidStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Merchant, PiersStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Meyer, Sir AnthonyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mills, lain (Meriden)Stewart, Ian (N Hertfdshire)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Stokes, John
Miscampbell, NormanStradling Thomas, J.
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Sumberg, David
Moate, RogerTapsell, Peter
Monro, Sir HectorTaylor, John (Solihull)
Montgomery, FergusTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moore, JohnTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Temple-Morris, Peter
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Terlezki, Stefan
Moynihan, Hon C.Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Murphy, ChristopherThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Neale, GerrardThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Nelson, AnthonyThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Neubert, MichaelThorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Norris, StevenThornton, Malcolm
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Thurnham, Peter
Ottaway, RichardTownend, John (Bridlington)
Page, John (Harrow W)Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Trippier, David
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilTrotter, Neville
Parris, MatthewTwinn, Dr Ian
Patten, Christopher (Bath)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Vaughan, Sir GerardWhitfield, John
Viggers, PeterWhitney, Raymond
Waddington, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Wakeham, Rt Hon JohnWilkinson, John
Walden, GeorgeWinterton, Mrs Ann
Walker, Bill (T'side N)Winterton, Nicholas
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)Wolfson, Mark
Wall, Sir PatrickWood, Timothy
Waller, GaryWoodcock, Michael
Ward, JohnYeo, Tim
Wardle, C. (Bexhill)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Warren, KennethYounger, Rt Hon George
Watson, John
Watts, JohnTellers for the Ayes:
Wells, Bowen (Hertford)Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Alastair Goodlad.
Wells, John (Maidstone)
Wheeler, John
NOES
Abse, LeoEastham, Ken
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Alton, DavidFaulds, Andrew
Anderson, DonaldField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterFields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Ashdown, PaddyFisher, Mark
Ashley, Rt Hon JackFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashton, JoeForrester, John
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Foster, Derek
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Foulkes, George
Barnett, GuyFraser, J. (Norwood)
Barron, KevinFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Beggs, RoyFreud, Clement
Beith, A. J.George, Bruce
Bell, StuartGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Godman, Dr Norman
Benyon, WilliamGolding, John
Bermingham, GeraldGould, Bryan
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGourlay, Harry
Boyes, RolandHamilton, James (M'well N)
Bray, Dr JeremyHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Hattersley, Rt'Hon Roy
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bruce, MalcolmHeffer, Eric S.
Buchan, NormanHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Home Robertson, John
Campbell, IanHowell, Rt Hon D. (Sfheath)
Campbell-Savours, DaleHoyle, Douglas
Canavan, DennisHughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Carter-Jones, LewisHughes, Roy (Newport East)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Clarke, ThomasHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clay, RobertJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)John, Brynmor
Cohen, HarryJohnston, Russell
Coleman, DonaldJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Conlan, BernardKennedy, Charles
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Corbett, RobinLambie, David
Corbyn, JeremyLamond, James
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Leighton, Ronald
Craigen, J. M.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crowther, StanLewis, Terence (Worsley)
Cunningham, Dr JohnLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dalyell, TarnLofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Loyden, Edward
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)McCartney, Hugh
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)McCusker, Harold
Deakins, EricMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dewar, DonaldMcGuire, Michael
Dixon, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dormand, JackMcKelvey, William
Douglas, DickMaclennan, Robert
Dubs, AlfredMadden, Max
Duffy, A. E. P.Maginnis, Ken
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Marek, Dr John
Eadie, AlexMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Martin, MichaelRowlands, Ted
Mason, Rt Hon RoyRyman, John
Maxton, JohnSedgemore, Brian
Maynard, Miss JoanSheerman, Barry
Meacher, MichaelSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Meadowcroft, MichaelShore, Rt Hon Peter
Mikardo, IanShort, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Millan, Rt Hon BruceShort, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Skinner, Dennis
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesSmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Snape, Peter
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Soley, Clive
Nellist, DavidSpearing, Nigel
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonSteel, Rt Hon David
O'Brien, WilliamStraw, Jack
O'Neill, MartinThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Park, GeorgeThorne, Stan (Preston)
Parry, RobertTinn, James
Patchett, TerryTorney, Tom
Pavitt, LaurieWainwright, R.
Pendry, TomWalker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Penhaligon, DavidWallace, James
Pike, PeterWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)Wareing, Robert
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Weetch, Ken
Prescott, JohnWelsh, Michael
Radice, GilesWigley, Dafydd
Randall, StuartWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Redmond, M.Winnick, David
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)Woodall, Alec
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Robertson, George
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)Tellers for the Noes:
Rogers, AllanMr. John McWilliam and Mr. Frank Haynes
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the bill:—

Committee

1. — (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 20th March 1984.

(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 20th March may continue until Eleven p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 21st March.

Report and Third Reading

2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 45 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House its Resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The Resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 45 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3. — (1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.

Conclusions of proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7. —(1) On the first allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 10 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

9. —(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)—

  1. (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) any Question necessary to a a bring to decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  3. (c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
  4. (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  1. (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  2. (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

Supplemental orders

10. — (1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

  1. (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  2. (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

12. — (1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of re-committal.

(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

Interpretation

13. In this Order— 'allotted day' means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day;'the Bill' means the Rates Bill;'Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee' means a Resolution of the business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;'Resolution of the Business Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.