Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill (Allocation of Time)

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 5th March 1984.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 3:35 pm, 5th March 1984

I have selected for debate the two amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and his hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 3:39 pm, 5th March 1984

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

Committee

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

Report and Third Reading

2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on that day; 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 the day as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their 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 explanatiory 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 to be taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.

Conclusion 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 the allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted day

7. If the 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 paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill for a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion.

Private business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on the 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), that is to say—

  1. (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) any Question necessary to bring to adecision 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 the 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 the 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 the 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 the allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit 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 Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) 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 am not clear about the conventions when an English Member addresses the House on specifically Scottish legislation for the first time.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I am in exactly that position. Time has marched on since I joined the House. Of the 72 current Scottish Members, only the formidable quartet of the right hon. Members for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) and for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) and the hon. Members for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) and for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Gourlay) were elected when I first became a Member of Parliament. They flourish still to remind me of my parliamentary childhood. After such a long period of non-involvement, I am not sure whether to count it a fortune or the reverse now to be plunged into a controversy over Scottish rating. I am, however, more than pleased to open my remarks in a mood of measured conciliation.

The Government have given careful consideration to the amendments which stand on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). In a spirit of co-operation and reasonableness the Government are happy to accept those amendments, and I hope that that will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

It is only a week since I moved a similar motion designed to ensure reasonable progress on the Rates Bill which applies to England and Wales. While there are significant differences between the Rates Bill and the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, the aims underlying the two Bills are similar. In view of this, and of the fact that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will deal in some detail at the end of the debate with the need for the legislation, I hope to be tolerably brief in my remarks about the substance of the Bill.

The Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill will help ratepayers in a number of ways. It will enable the grant reductions of individual local authorities, following a general abatement of grant, to be directly related to their overspending. This removes the unfairness of the present system where there is no such link, and it is generally welcomed. It will also enable the grant pressure on high-spending authorities to be increased. Lower expenditure is, of course, the key to lower rates.

The Secretary of State for Scotland already has power to reduce the rates of individual authorities planning excessive and unreasonable expenditure. It is hoped that this power, together with the improved form of grant abatement that I have described, will be sufficient to bring local authority expenditure and rates under control.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I hope that I have not interrupted in any unpleasant way the right hon. Gentleman's extremely careful flow of reading. He was good enough to mention some of the Bill's merits. Has he addressed himself to clause 2? Under that procedure, matters dealing with the allegedly excessive and unreasonable expenditure of individual authorities—perhaps three or four at a time—will all potentially be taken in a debate lasting one and a half hours, and the House will be unable to vote on the respective merits of penalising one authority against another. As the Guardian of the rights of the House, does the right hon. Gentleman really approve of that?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

As I wish to encourage brevity, I must reply, "Yes."

If not, the Bill contains a reserve power under which the Secretary of State can set a general limit on the rates of all local authorities. Local authorities will still be free to decide rate levels within the limit and to decide their own spending priorities. It will, however, protect ratepayers from exorbitant rate levels should that he necessary as a last resort.

As with the Rates Bill, this Bill would introduce a statutory requirement on local authorities to consult non-domestic ratepayers before fixing their rates. Non-domestic ratepayers pay more than half the rates but have no say in the level of a tax, which can have a big Impact on their financial operations. This power will ensure that local authorities are fully aware of the impact of rate levels on the wealth-producing sector before they fix their rates in any year.

As housing authorities, district councils may contribute to their housing revenue account from their rate fund. In this way it is possible for them to use rates to keep down the level of local authority rents. Contributions of this kind account for about one third of the rates of district councils. Control of these payments will obviously be of benefit to ratepayers and ensure the more rational planning of housing finance, with the tenant not being unreasonably subsidised by the ratepayer. The Bill will enable the Secretary of State for Scotland to impose a limit on the contributions that local authorities make to their housing account.

The second part of the Bill makes a series of changes to the valuation legislation in Scotland, which will both improve the structure of the system and remove individual anomalies. These measures will be welcomed by many ratepayers.

The Bill received its Second Reading on 5 December, and discussion of the Bill in the Scottish Standing Committee started on Tuesday 17 January. For the first three weeks the Committee sat in the morning only, but following a sittings motion approved on Thursday 2 February, the Committee started to sit both in the morning and in the afternoon. So far, there have been 21 sittings of the Committee, lasting 82 hours in all. Despite these protracted discussions, however, it has so far completed only seven clauses. There are 17 clauses in all, as well as a number of new clauses which have been tabled and have still to be discussed. All the clauses so far debated have been examined in considerable detail. In particular, clauses 3 and 6, which I think are generally regarded as the most controversial clauses in the Bill, have been discussed for 25 hours and 17½ hours respectively.

I think the House will therefore recognise that the most contentious provisions of the Bill have now been passed and have had very full discussion without any limitation. There are, however, still important clauses to come—those dealing with valuation. Very large numbers of amendments have been tabled to these clauses. It seems clear that without a timetable motion it will not be possible to make orderly progress with the remainder of the Bill. To fail to achieve that progress would be to delay the coming into operation of provisions which the Government consider to be of important benefit to ratepayers.

It is proposed that the fairer method of relating grant penalties to overspend should be used in respect of the 1984–85 financial year. This requires that the Bill receives Royal Assent in the summer, and delays in the Bill will mean delays in this fairer approach to grant abatement. It is proposed also that consultation with non-domestic ratepayers should take place in respect of the 1985–86 budgets of local authorities. If this is to happen in a useful way, the power to require it will need to be available in good time. And these are only two examples. All the provisions of the Bill have a contribution to make to improving the lot of ratepayers, and any delay is to their disadvantage.

In order to ensure that the remaining provisions of the Bill receive the careful consideration they deserve within the remaining time available, I ask the House to agree that the Bill should be reported by 20 March, with Report and Third Reading to take place on one allotted day. Under the terms of the motion before the House, the Standing Committee can meet to consider the Bill for five further days, allowing seven further sittings if the Business Sub-Committee decides to continue morning and afternoon sittings as at present. Bearing in mind that the Bill has so far had more than 82 hours' discussion in Committee, I am sure that the House will agree that this proposal is not unreasonable.

The Bill has been introduced against a background of continued local authority overspending and the failure of authorities to bring their spending into line with the Government's plans. The people who have suffered are the ratepayers, who have had to cope with massive rate increases. For instance, for two years running Scottish ratepayers saw their rates increase by more than 30 per cent. The Government owe it to the ratepayers to take action, and to take that action without unnecessary delay. I therefore commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 3:49 pm, 5th March 1984

I beg to move amendment (a), in paragraph 2(1), leave out, 'Ten o'clock' and insert 'Midnight'.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

With this it will be convenient to discuss also amendment (b).

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

The fact that today's debate is essentially a re-run of the debate last Wednesday, when the Rates Bill was subjected to a guillotine motion, may enable us to make shorter speeches than we did then. However, the length of our speeches in no way diminishes the strength of our objection both to the content of the Bill and to the timetable motion moved by the Leader of the House. Like the Leader of the House, this is the first time that I have participated in an essentially Scottish debate, but, unlike him on this occasion, it is a pleasure for me to perform the duty of opposing what I believe to be a monstrous imposition upon the timetable and the possibilities of free debate on an odious measure.

I confess to having listened to the speech by the Leader of the House with considerable disappointment. As on last Wednesday, he has shown surprising insensitivity about the Bill and has failed to recognise its constitutional significance. After all, we are talking about a fundamental change in the relationship between the Government and local authorities, between the powers of Parliament and the powers of elected local councils. Scotland and England have their different traditions, but the freedom of elected councils in Scotland to determine, within a wide area, their own public expenditures, and to take their own rating decisions, is as firmly established as it has been in England and Wales. Set forth in the Bill, now to be guillotined, is a battery of powers to be exercised by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I refer to the principal clauses. Clause 2 enables the Secretary of State not simply to report to the House on the alleged overspending and misdemeanours of a single council and to seek to curb it but to bring forward offending authorities in batches to be dispatched in a single debate and upon a single vote. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). Clause 3 enables the Secretary of State to deal with whole classes of authorities, under the general power that the Government know they will seek to exercise sooner or later.

The safeguards on the use of that general power was one of the matters raised in the debate last week on the Bill affecting England and Wales. The Secretary of State for the Environment made much of the point that the power could be triggered only if there was an affirmative vote in Parliament. In my remarks I had referred to an affirmative vote in the House of Commons, saying that that was normally after a debate lasting one and a half hours, but the Secretary of State, with his notorious pedantry, sought to make much of the fact that the affirmative order needed the voting consent not only of the House of Commons but of the other place. I doubt whether in practice that makes very much difference. If it does, what a curious commentary it is that the unelected Chamber should be more sensitive to the democratic rights of local councils than the elected majority in the House of Commons.

Be that as it may, one of the few distinctive features of the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill is that the affirmative order procedure is limited to a proceeding in the House of Commons. If the Secretary of State for the Environment thinks that an affirmative order in the other place really matters, perhaps the Minister who winds up will explain why that necessary additional safeguard for England and Wales does not matter, when it is not available for the legislation affecting Scotland. One thing that we have learnt from the Bill is the practical effects of the transfer of ratemaking from the 65 major councils in Scotland, manned by many hundreds — perhaps 2,000 to 3,000—of councillors, to the Secretary of State.

The Bill says that the manpower implications are an additional 10 bureaucrats in New St. Andrew's house in Edinburgh, to take over the functions of all those elected councillors. I have no doubt that the civil servants involved in decision making will be conscientious and able men and women, but it is ludicrous to imagine that they have the knowledge of the circumstances of the different councils throughout the length and breadth of Scotland that the thousands of elected councillors possess.

The Bill is deeply opposed, as Scottish Ministers and the Leader of the House well know, by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which has a right to be taken seriously when it gives its considered opinion on the White Paper and the Bill which is based on it. The Convention said: The proposals, if implemented, would constitute virtually total control by the Secretary of State of local authorities' expenditure and rate levels, and for the first time the Secretary of State would take complete control of local authority rent levels. Such novel concepts constitute a serious erosion of the democratic basis upon which local government is built and if implemented would, in fact, make local government the administrative arm of central government. The Government are getting very near to the abolition of local democracy. We have to search far and wide to find any comparison with what the Government are introducing. In France, the centrally-appointed préfets have until recently, dominated the provision of local services. They have been the provincial and local representatives of central Government. Their whole tradition is profoundly different from our own. In England and Wales, we have to look back to the days of Cromwell's Commonwealth, when major-generals were appointed to administer the different regions of England, before we find anything approaching what the Government are doing to the powers of local government.

One heartening feature of last week's debate was the evidence that our criticisms of the Government's attack on local democracy continue to be shared by a significant section of the Conservative party. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) put it well when he said, On the general question of the timetable motion, nothing could epitomise more clearly the perils of the elected dictatorship under which we now work."—[Official Report, 29 February 1984; Vol. 55, c. 288.] In most respects, the hon. Member for Milton Keynes is a strong supporter of the Government.

What makes the timetable motion especially odd, as well as objectionable, is that substantial progress has already been made in Committee. Indeed, the major clauses, dealing with the powers of the Secretary of State in the making of grants, selective ratecapping, general ratecapping and rate subsidies for housing rents, have already been debated and passed. In the 82 hours referred to by the Leader of the House, the seven major clauses of the Bill have been passed. There are important matters in the remaining part of the Bill, but they are not of the order of magnitude of those that have already been discussed.

I can find no explanation of the rush to impose a timetable and a closing date for the Bill except the general tendency towards authoritarianism, which has marked the first phase of the Prime Minister's second term of office even more strongly than it marked the term between 1979 and 1983. It is as though the Prime Minister, contemplating her 147 majority, has been murmuring to herself, "I, as Prime Minister, am the master now"—or is it the mistress now? No one must be allowed to stand in her way. Those who disagree with her in Cabinet are summarily dismissed. Cabinet government appears to be in partial suspense. Major decisions are made, if not by' No. 10 alone, by small coteries of Ministers, without the knowledge or the backing of full Cabinet.

Just as Cabinet must not be allowed to stand in her way, Parliament, too, cannot be allowed to halt or hinder the Prime Minister's programme. Moreover, Bills are introduced to attack such centres of influence and power as exist in our society outside Parliament. That is why further trade union legislation is being pushed through, why the powers of local government are to be so radically reduced, as they are by this Bill and by the Rates Bill, which was guillotined last Wednesday, and why a whole tier of local government in England is later to be abolished.

We have noted the acceptance by the Leader of the House of our amendments, which I now formally move, and we are grateful to him for that small mercy. We also note the right hon. Gentleman's determination to insist upon the guillotine of this important Scottish Bill. a Bill that affects the practice of democracy in Scotland. Because of that, we shall strongly oppose this timetable motion in the Lobby today.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

As we have heard that the Leader of the House has accepted the amendments, it may be for the convenience of the House if I put the amendments now, so that the remainder of the debate may be on the timetable motion, as amended.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: (b), leave out paragraph 7 and insert—

'Extra time on allotted day

7. — (1) On the 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 the 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. '.—[Mr. Shore.]

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries 4:02 pm, 5th March 1984

It is usually my luck to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in Scottish debates. Therefore, it is a welcome change and a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). It adds to the geniality of the occasion, but in no way changes my profound disagreement with what the Opposition say. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, we have had 21 sittings and 82 hours of debate to pass part I. If, as the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney said, now is all plain sailing to the end of the Bill, and that is only a few sittings away, one raises one's eyebrows at the immense number of new amendments that have been put down on part II and part III.

The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who was mainly involved in tabling those amendments, perhaps does not realise that we have reached the end of part I; if he did not wish to have the timetable motion, he should have pressed on rather more quickly. When one accepts that parts II and III should be wholly acceptable in broad principle by both sides of the House, why should amendments be put down to every dot and comma in part II? This brings back memories of Lord Ross of Marnock arguing whether the word should be "may" or "shall" or "shall not" or "will not" and the rest of it on amendments that were tabled as dilatory tactics by the Opposition, with no hint that they would speed up progress on the remaining stages of the Bill. That is why I am pleased that we have the timetable motion, so that the Bill can be discussed properly in its later stages.

Under the timetable motion, it would be unnecessary to go on sitting through the night to proceed clause by clause, one every four of five hours. That is not the way for Back Benchers to find out from the Government what clauses stand for. There is no publicity and nobody knows what the Opposition have been doing at 3 am or 4 am. It never gets into the papers, so why on earth do it? Why do not the Opposition take the constructive course of questioning the detail of the issues of the Bill?

It is sadly obvious that the Opposition set out from the start, jollied along by members of the Liberal party, to drag out the proceedings as long as possible. They did so by speaking at great length on the amendments that they put down, with the intention, certainly in their attitude to part I, of preventing the administrative arrangements for 1985–86 from beginning to take place within local authorities later this year. They were obviously prepared to scupper part II if they could to prevent part I coming into operation in time for the local authorities to prepare the administrative work for next year.

I particularly criticise the Opposition's attitude to the parts of part II that deal with valuation, which we would have reached long ago if the hon. Member for East Lothian had not procrastinated and put down an infuriating number of amendments on nothing so that he could drag things out as long as possible.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Is this a point of order, or is the hon. Gentleman disagreeing with the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro)?

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

It is a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to criticise another hon. Member for a legitimate parliamentary practice—tabling amendments to a Bill?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) was going to intervene in my speech.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is a major disappointment. It will be surprising if the hon. Gentleman does not pluck up courage before I finish.

In no way have I criticised the tabling of amendments if they were to be debated succinctly and rapidly so that we could get the answers from Ministers about the point of the amendments.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is complaining about the amendments that led to proctracted debate on part II. Would he like to tell us — he will obviously know, having made the point at such length—how much time has been spent on part II and how long was spent on clause 7 in particular? That is the only part of part II that we have so dealt with, so that must be the point on which he is resting his case.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I have been here long enough to know that when out of the blue 50 new amendments are put down to a part of a Bill this is a series of amendments intended to drag out part II as long as the Opposition can.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

As the hon. Gentleman has initiated a vicious attack on me for tabling probing amendments, will he answer this point? I realise that he may have been busy with his correspondence last Tuesday evening during a sitting of the Committee, but he may have noticed that two of the amendments about which he is complaining at such length were probing amendments that were answered relatively satisfactorily by the Solicitor-General for Scotland and disposed of in a matter of minutes. What is wrong with that?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Two out of 200 is not a bad start, but there are still 198 to go.

I am pleased that we are discussing this motion, because those who have tabled amendments to part II and new clauses will have an opportunity to have them debated in the next sittings. They will be properly discussed in a brief and respectable time and we can hear the Minister's answers and then decide whether to proceed with the amendments. If we did not have a timetable motion such as this, those of us who have put down amendments and take seriously the valuation provisions in part II would not have an opportunity to raise the matter in Committee.

Many of the issues in part II are vital, and I hope that discussion of them will give the Minister an opportunity to spell out the very important changes proposed by the Government for the valuation of sports stadia and race courses in Scotland, which at present are treated extremely severely when compared with their opposite numbers in England and Wales. I should have thought that all those issues would be of interest to the Opposition, especially those right hon. and hon. Members who represent Glasgow constituencies with such stadia as Ibrox, Parkhead, and Hampden Park, whose rates are double or even treble those of equivalent size stadia in England. I should have expected right hon. and hon. Members to be eager to hear the Minister spelling out the procedures to be adopted. The opportunity to do that in the near future must please them and make them look forward with keen anticipation to the discussions that we are about to have.

There will also be valuable opportunities to move amendments about amateur sports clubs, mandatory derating and other subjects affecting, for example, the Royal Highland Agricultural Society which I should have expected hon. Members on both sides of the House to want a chance to discuss in the timetable programme. We shall also want to have a reasonable period to debate the new clauses dealing with a number of these issues.

When we deal with valuation we shall also have a chance to discuss such matters as caravan sites and reed beds. Perhaps the Opposition are against reed beds. But even it they are not against the Government on valuation, we know that basically their opposition is to part I. Here again, with their tactics of spinning out our discussions of the Bill, the Opposition have shown that they are against the ratepayers in Scotland, and for the high-spending local authorities. They are against the interests of the ratepayer, the industrialist, commerce and shopkeepers. They have been thrown aside by the Opposition, who want only, for doctrinaire reasons, to stand up for certain high-spending local authorities.

The Opposition appear to think that a timetable motion is a new idea. They forget the Transport Bill of 1967, on which Mrs. Barbara Castle brought in a timetable after only 20 sittings and 70 hours — far less than this Committee has been sitting. She was prepared to timetable a Bill which had 123 clauses. The precedents come from the Labour party of yesteryear, yet the Opposition pretend today that they are against timetables.

Finally, I suggest that it is important for the House to consider fairly soon the valuable suggestion by other hon. Members in recent years that we should think again about our procedures generally. It is obvious that the passions felt by the two sides of the House in timetable debates are not what they used to be. I can remember when a timetable debate was a great occasion. Today, we have a relatively empty House, because the passions are no longer there. It is accepted that we must timetable some Bills if we are to make progress, whichever Government are in power. The sooner that the possibility is looked at in the broadest terms, the better. If it can be done, an informal timetable should be drawn up for every Committee and Report stage so that we can make reasonable progress at reasonable hours and right hon. and hon. Members can attend to their duties on Select Committees and other Committees of the House in which they are involved.

All in all, the Government have adopted the right course in introducing this timetable motion so that the Bill can be discussed fully in the remaining sittings of the Committee that have been agreed by the Opposition and the Government and so that we can have full answers from the Minister on the important issues that we raise. I support the Government strongly, and I want to make certain that we all get a fair crack of the whip in the remaining sittings of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Donald Stewart Mr Donald Stewart , Na h-Eileanan an Iar 4:15 pm, 5th March 1984

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) is in danger of getting into the habit of being put up by the Government to give a respectable front to some of the exceptional measures that they are trying to put through the House. In recent Scottish debates he has been called early to make the Government's case in the hope that the real skulduggery behind the scenes will not be seen. The hon. Gentleman said that as there was no publicity for Committees sitting at three or four o'clock in the morning he could not understand why the Opposition insisted on doing it. That seems to say something about the futility of debating Scottish issues in the House.

As the hon. Gentleman said, timetable motions are not new. However, this one is of a different calibre from past ones. This Bill goes to the very heart of the principle of local democracy in Scotland. The circumstances are entirely different from those affecting previous motions for timetabling Bills.

The Leader of the House referred to high-spending authorities, the need to protect ratepayers from exorbitant rate levels, to improve the lot of ratepayers, and so on. To my mind, that is so much hokum. It is entirely different from the Government's intentions.

As I see it, the powers of elected representatives are being eroded. Local councillors will be relegated to the job of rubber-stamping the decisions of central Government. Even if local councillors cause rates to go through the roof, the remedy for that has always existed and exists now. Electors in Scotland are well aware of that.

Following the rate support grant announcement, I have spent a week in my constituency listening to the great concern and anger expressed about the Government's cuts. We have a special difficulty because of the disadvantaged area that I represent. It is proposed that 20 schools should go. We have 800 miles of roads, but only 80 miles are double tracked. We have the highest level of old-age pensioners per head of the population in Scotland—it is almost double the level on the mainland — but home helps are to go or will be charged for.

All these services are being cut. Despite that, to maintain even meagre services, the local authority has had to increase rates to 149p in the pound—the highest level in Scotland on the poorest area—because of the action of the Secretary of State in not introducing the client group method, not repelling the submissions made to him by other authorities and not allowing the Western Isles council to have the funds that it requires to keep minimum services going. The Nicolson institute, the main school in my area, will be nine teachers short. That is the result of the Government's action. What prospect is there of Munn and Dunning being introduced?

We are arguing in the Western Isles about £1 million or £2 million. In the last week or two weeks people have asked me whether I could get the Argentines to invade the Western Isles so that we may get proper funding from the British Government. Alas, there is no hope of getting anything like that. That is the attitude of the people. We are in desperate straits because of the lack of about £2 million from a Government who are prepared to spend £10,000 million on Trident and who intend to back the Falklands to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, without a word of discussion about it here.

Every clause of the Bill needs debate. It is not for the Government to come here in an undemocratic way to cut down discussion, especially a Government who have no mandate in Scotland. I pre-erupt the Minister in saying, "Nor has my party." However, it is not the Scottish National party which is doing this. It is the Conservative party, which was rejected by a majority of the Scottish electorate. If that is democratic, I am a Dutchman.

I oppose this intention of cutting short debate, and I shall vote against the Government.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden 4:19 pm, 5th March 1984

In the dim and distant days when I was a law student, I recall the professor who lectured me in constitutional law speaking about guillotines in a grave manner. I could not have been expected to realise that, had my law professor known what the cantrips would be in the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill Committee, he might have changed the view that he held about guillotine motions. Such a draconian power seems justified only if discussions are being stultified in the Committee, but I have sat in the Committee during many long tedious hours, listening to Opposition speeches and views that I considered somewhat frivolous, and about which I shall say something in a moment.

I welcomed the Bill on Second Reading because I believed that it did a number of worthwhile things, and I therefore looked forward to constructive discussion in Committee. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said that rates increases had been one and a half times the rate of inflation during the previous five years, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Gascadden (Mr. Dewar) was quick to point out that during that time there had been a reduction in rate support grant. He was right, but that does not account for the fact that the increase in rates has been much more than the amount required to compensate for the reduction in rate support grant.

I welcomed on Second Reading the fact that there was to be consultation with the non-domestic ratepayers——

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

The hon. Member for Garscadden may say "Oh", but he is the first to condemn businesses that have closed because they cannot support the rate burden. It confirms how mealy-mouthed the Opposition are, crying crocodile tears about high rates and at the same time deploring the fact that jobs are lost because businesses can no longer pay the rates.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Will the hon. Gentleman give us some examples—let us say, five examples—of companies in his constituency or in Glasgow that have gone down and given rates as their reason for going out of business?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I shall do better than that. I shall refer the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to the strictures that have been made year in year out by the Glasgow chamber of commerce, and to the fact that on the list of preferred creditors that appear when businesses go bankrupt the local authority is owed substantial sums of money. It is a proven fact that the rates burden on businesses has been a significant destroyer of jobs. If the Opposition cannot see that, it shows how purblind they must be.

On Second Reading, I welcomed the limitation on the amount of rate fund contribution that could go to the housing revenue account. Conservative Members believe that £126 million is a wasteful subsidy, one that penalises all ratepayers, and is completely indiscriminate, in that it does not benefit those who need it.

At the general election, we stated clearly what we intended to do. We had the Second Reading of the Bill, giving furtherance to what we said on the hustings we intended to do. I was always surprised that of all the measures introduced by this Government this Bill has generated less correspondence in my mailbag than any other. I know that the hon. Member for Cathcart will not disagree when I say that I have a substantial mailbag about many different issues, but the only letters that I had on this issue expressed sorrow that the Government were not undertaking a lock, stock and barrel reform of domestic rating, a view with which I have considerable sympathy.

I realise that parts of the Bill are controversial, and they have been hotly opposed in Committee by the Opposition. I accept that Opposition Members find the general power of limitation wholly objectionable. I accept that they do not like the restriction on the contribution from the rate fund to the housing revenue account. When in Committee, I admired the sincerity with which those views were put forward, particularly by the hon. Member for Garscadden, but despite all the huffing and puffing in Committee, and despite all the long-winded tedious speeches which, in the words of Shakespeare, were full of sound and fury,—Signifying nothing", I do not believe that any local authority has anything whatever to fear if it organises its affairs prudently and sensibly, and with the interests of ratepayers at heart.

Surely the lesson of selective action against the four local authorities last summer proved something to us. We heard from the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) how objectionable he finds it that all the selective orders would be brought forward in one debate with one vote. I cast my mind back to my early days in the House, last summer, when we discussed the four selective orders. I remember how the interests of the Opposition waned after the opening speeches, and ground to a halt in the fourth order, when there was no Division and, indeed, no debate on the Opposition Benches. The Opposition may find it objectionable to have one vote on future selective orders, but when they had the opportunity to show their opposition they were found wanting.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife

On the extent to which the Opposition show genuine concern and opposition to the Bill, has my hon. Friend noticed that twice as many Tories as Opposition Members are present?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Yes, indeed. Being an accountant, I reckon that they are at about 18 per cent. strength. That is even weaker than the whisky that we are served these days. The absence of the 42 Labour Members who tell us, north of the border, how hard they are fighting for the interests of Scotland says it all. I wish that they were fighting rather more strongly this afternoon from the Opposition Benches.

We recognise that the general powers of limitation in clause 3 is a formidable weapon in the hands of the Secretary of State. However, its existence should surely be a deterrent to an unreasonable and irresponsible local authority. I listened with interest in Committee when Opposition Members spoke with venom against that power, until I did some research and found that in 1966, when a Labour Government were presiding over our affairs, they brought in a Local Government (Scotland) Act, section 5 of which gave the Secretary of State the power to reduce a local authority's rate support grant if he thought that it was "excessive and unreasonable." The legislation was introduced, and it remained on the statute book unused for 15 years. Presumably that happened because successive Secretaries of State for Scotland felt that there was no justification for using it. Although clause 3 contains a fairly important power, it is a power that I hope will not be needed, but it is available should a local authority be minded to be unreasonable or irresponsible, or to disregard the interests of its ratepayers.

We on these Benches realise that there are controversial clauses in the Bill. We have lived through very lengthy debates. The Leader of the House spoke of 25 hours on one and 17½ hours on another, in which the Opposition had every opportunity to advance their views and to suggest probing amendments in an endeavour to convince the Committee of the merits of their case. Indeed, during an all-night sitting on 23 February, the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), who I regret is not present, spoke on amendment No. 79.

I merely instance amendment No. 79 as an example of the sort of time-wasting that my hon. Friends have had to endure in Committee. That amendment referred to all classes of local authority. We have heard about probing amendments. I do not know what kind of speech the hon. Member for Falkirk, West made at 6 am on that particular morning. I accept that he was tired and emotional about the Bill, but he spoke a great deal of drivel. Indeed, when he started talking about classes of local authority he was able to extend the debate not to classes of local authority but to upper, middle or working-class councils. Then he discussed the aristocratic pedigree of certain of my right hon. and hon. Friends who hold ministerial office in Scotland. I was then convinced that the Opposition's purpose was not to put forward valid probing amendments.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for hon. Members to make personal attacks on other hon. Members without giving notice to them? I happen to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) is not here because he has a meeting on the possible closure of a colliery which employs a number of his constituents.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

There are conventions and customs that are not a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I did not intend to make a personal attack. I was merely reflecting on the fact that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West took an inordinate amount of time and had to be hauled up by the Chair on successive occasions, much to the embarrassment of the hon. Member for Garscadden, for the woolly and peculiar views that he advanced that day which did not accelerate the Bill's progress.

I felt that we were making progress on the Bill when we reached clause 6. As that was in the Opposition's view the most contentious part of the Bill, I thought that we could look forward to accelerating through the remaining stages, thereby endeavouring to promote the Bill's passage which Conservative Members so actively support. But, alas, arriving from the north last Tuesday, I saw scores of amendments in the name of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). I do not know what kind of amendments those are, but if they are probing amendments they are curious. They may well be frivolous amendments. I can only say that the Committee is faced with scores of amendments which do nothing to enhance the legislation.

In amendment No. 157 the hon. Gentleman wishes to delete the words "any official" and introduce "a representative". If the hon. Gentleman wishes to justify himself, I shall be happy to give way. When I looked at those pages and pages of amendments I thought that they were not probing amendments, but merely devices by which Labour Members, particularly the hon. Member for East Lothian, could spin out the Committee's work.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

It would probably have been more appropriate had the hon. Gentleman sought that information in Committee rather than on the Floor of the House. Has it occurred to him that there is a distinction between a local authority official and a member of a local authority?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

May I refer the hon. Gentleman to his amendment which has not yet been reached? It refers not to a local authority but to somebody that a rating member may wish to bring forward in future. In fairness, I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has tabled so many amendments that he cannot be expected to recall instantly amendment No. 157.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I have not been able to listen to the hon. Gentleman in Committee but I am happy to hear from him now.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument carefully. He seems to be saying that some frivolous amendments have found their way to the Committee. Does he not agree that he is criticising the Chair for accepting amendments that are not serious?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am implying no criticism of the Chairman for accepting the amendments. I merely make the point that, having looked through the amendments to see whether they were intended to improve the legislation, I have come to the conclusion that they were not. Of course, that too is a personal opinion.

The Labour party's intention and purpose is to force the Government to impose a guillotine and then to claim some spurious political advantage. Labour Members want to be able to go back to Scotland and say that they have forced the Government to guillotine their measure—that they can only get their legislation through by resorting to a guillotine.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

The hon. Gentleman has given it all away by shouting "Hear, hear".

That is a spurious political argument. The people of Scotland will see the Opposition's tactics for what they are. When I look at the Labour party's synthetic indignation I merely say that there is widespread general public support for the measure in Scotland. The people of Scotland want to see it on the statute book, and they will support what we are doing this afternoon.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 4:35 pm, 5th March 1984

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) has sought to trivialise the debate and to challenge the right of Committees to debate the details of legislation. I particularly deplore what he said about my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). My hon. Friend cannot be here today because he, and several of his hon. Friends who have constituents who are likely to lose their jobs as a consequence of the closure of Polmaise colliery, are taking part in a meeting in Scotland about that important matter — yet another example of the difficulties that are being forced on many in Scotland by the Government.

This guillotine motion is a completely unwarranted curtailment of debate on a highly controversial Bill—a Bill which is of enormous constitutional significance for Scotland. If Conservative Members who find this so amusing do not recognise that, they may care to compare notes with some of their hon. Friends south of the border who have profound misgivings about identical legislation for England and Wales. A number of Conservative Members found it necessary to vote against those identical!. provisions.

The legislation is unwarranted. May I pray in aid the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) on this point? On BBC Radio Scotland last Monday morning he saw fit to say — rightly, in my view — that the Committee was making pretty rapid progress. He said that publicly. We all heard him, and I agree. In view of the controversial nature of the material that we are going through, we are making almost indecent haste in our consideration of the Bill. I do not know whether anybody consulted the hon. Gentleman before he made those remarks, but precisely one week later we have a guillotine motion. I do not know whom we are supposed to believe.

The Government's justification is pathetic. The Leader of the House said that we were taking an inordinate time and that an inordinate number of amendments had been tabled. We have heard some fairly spurious points against the Opposition's tactics in the past. We did not debate the first sittings motion, which is some measure of the Opposition's goodwill on the progress of the legislation.

At only the sixth sitting of the Committee, when the Government moved a motion requiring afternoon sittings in addition to morning sittings, the Minister quoted something that I had said on 31 January in the debate on the Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order, and he has given me notice that he will refer to me again. I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be on the same point, so perhaps I might pre-empt what the Minister may be about to say.

On 31 January, I said of the Bill's coming into force: I am doing all that I can in Standing Committee every Tuesday and Thursday to ensure that that date is delayed as long as possible,"—[Official Report, 31 January 1984; Vol. 53, c. 223.] The Minister has already raised that point, and I gave him a reply to it in Standing Committee: That, as any reasonable person would know, was a shorthand way of saying that I hope to delay an ill-considered Bill by means of constructive argument in order to amend and improve it." — [Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 2 February 1984; c. 202.] If that is not what Standing Committees are for — amendment, improvement and detailed consideration of Bills — why on earth does the House have Standing Committees?

The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden is correct in saying that a number of amendments were tabled last Monday. Up to that point in the Bill, we had been working one clause ahead of ourselves, and tabling amendments to the next clause to be considered. It struck me that it might have been of assistance to the Minister, and to his officials, if they had had longer notice of amendments. I make no apology for tabling probing as well as substantive amendments. That surely is the purpose of Standing Committees in dealing with legislation.

Since some mud is being flung around the Chamber, I point out that some aspects of the conduct of the Committee proceedings have been deplorable. I am thinking of the 11 silent men. In fairness to the Minister, I suppose that he was not all that silent, but his 10 Back-Bench hon. Friends have been conspicuous by their silence in Committee. Those 11 Conservative Members form the majority on the Committee and they are elected Members of Parliament representing Scotland. When the electorate return Members of Parliament to represent Scotland, they expect them at least to pay some attention to the legislation that will be inflicted on the electorate. Yet 10 Government Back Benchers sat in total silence, doing their correspondence, and paying precious little attention to what was taking place.

I also deplore the fact that "stand part" debates on two highly controversial clauses—clauses 3 and 6 — were entirely conducted after midnight. That was unnecessary. It would not have been outwith the power of the Government to adjourn the Committee so that those important debates could have been conducted when all members of the Committee were prepared for them, and not tired. It brings no credit on the House if hon. Members are compelled to work 24-hour shifts and expected to apply their minds to detailed argument on controversial points so late in the day—or rather so early in the morning. It is no coincidence that the Government stage-managed the debates so that those that would most embarrass them took place in the wee small hours of the morning when few hon. Members were present.

The composition of the Committee is a matter for some concern. This debate, indeed, may be an alarming example of the superficial treatment that Scottish affairs receive in this Parliament. How on earth Scottish affairs can be fairly treated in the Committee beggars the imagination. The party that received only 28 per cent. of the votes in Scotland managed to obtain 61 per cent. of the seats on the Committee. Conservative Members just sit in those seats and say nothing—and perhaps think nothing, for all we know. Sometimes those hon. Members are not even present in the Committee: they are outside waiting for somebody to shout that a Division is taking place. The 10 silent Conservative members of the Standing Committee might remember that, even if they do not recognise that all is not well with the legislation, a number of their hon. Friends representing England are worried about a similar Bill.

A specific point——

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

No, I will not give way; I am in mid-sentence.

A specific point that will arise when the House votes on the guillotine motion is the problem confronting hon. Members who are not present. I cite in particular six hon. Members of the House who mysteriously voted in favour of Second Reading of this Bill on 5 December 1983, but voted against Second Reading of the Rates Bill on 17 January. An important constitutional question which merited their voting against their own Government on 17 January must on 5 December have been seen in a different light, or perhaps not understood at all by the right hon. Members for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) and for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), and by the hon. Members for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), for Ashford (Mr. Speed) and for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I do not know what suddenly changed their minds, but, for some reason, they thought that it was all right to abolish the autonomy of local authorities in Scotland, but it was not all right to do the same thing for England. I am fascinated by their past voting conduct, and I shall be even more fascinated to see how some of those hon. Members vote at the end of this debate.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The explanation may be that there are more irresponsible Left-wing councils north of the border, and that they felt that this action was necessary.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to describe his hon. Friends as irresponsible Left-wingers because, in his eyes, that is what they may be. Nevertheless, I shall be fascinated to note how those hon. Members vote, in view of their record.

This squalid exercise shows pretty outrageous contempt for Scottish interests. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) has already said that the Government have no mandate in Scotland, and I make no apologies for making the same point. The Government, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, have no mandate, and no right to control the Scottish Office. It is equally fair to say that the House, in view of the decision taken by the Scottish people in the 1979 referendum, and in subsequent general elections, has a pretty tenuous mandate to legislate on local government in Scotland. Local government should have been devolved to a Scottish Assembly. The people of Scotland specifically voted for that measure, yet a totally unrepresentative Secretary of State for Scotland now seeks draconian and unwarranted powers from the House. The people of Scotland will draw their own conclusions from this state of affairs in due course, but what the House is witnessing today is a pretty despicable exercise.

Photo of Mr Gerald Malone Mr Gerald Malone , Aberdeen South 4:49 pm, 5th March 1984

Both you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House will be indebted to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) for giving us a clear example of one of his Committee speeches. It was exactly according to form—nothing to do with the matter in hand and almost completely related to devolution and the spurious argument about the Scottish mandate. That says something for what has taken place in Committee on this legislation. It became increasingly clear a short while ago that some kind of complicated political gavotte was being performed in Committee. There was a change from the original mood that prevailed in Committee, when there seemed to be a genuine chance of making progress with the legislation. Early last week, we were swamped with an enormous number of amendments, which I believe—and here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst)—were designed to obstruct the proceedings.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) for giving me notice of a matter that I know will be raised later. In a radio interview I mentioned that there was no guillotine motion on the Scottish rate-capping legislation, whereas there was one on the English rate-capping equivalent, because progress was being made. The hon. Member for East Lothian perhaps put something of a gloss on my remarks and took them further than I did, but at that stage progress was being made and was to be welcomed.

Reference has been made to the fact that there was only a short debate on the first sittings motion. Despite the fact that I have been a Member of the House only since June last year, I have worked through one or two Standing Committees. One of them was the Standing Committee on the Telecommunications Bill. I know all about sittings motions. The sittings motion on that legislation lasted for two sittings of the Committee. When I discovered that the sittings motion on this legislation went through relatively quickly, I thought that it was a declaration of good intent. Government supporters on the Committee now see that that was perhaps a fond hope that has not been realised.

I believe that what we are seeing does not come gladly to the heart of the hon. Member for Garscadden. To be fair to him, in Committee he seemed to find filibustering distasteful. That distaste is not apparently shared by many other members of the Committee. I believe that it is with genuine regret that the hon. Gentleman has to turn to the devices of filibustering and raising irrelevant points to keep the discussion going. From the Opposition we are seeing a response to the legislation that must mirror the response that they gave to the English legislation, which required a guillotine a short while ago. I can almost hear the call for them to keep up their macho image to match that of their English colleagues. They cannot go to their Scottish constituencies to hear the question, "English Members have forced a guillotine. Why are you not doing the same?" I am certain that that attitude has made this guillotine motion necessary. The Opposition are forcing this motion on the Bill today. The blame lies fairly and squarely with them, because they have changed their attitude from one of being relatively constructive to one that made a guillotine motion necessary if the measure was ever to see the light of day.

I speak as a relatively new Member of the House. I hope that, in the unlikely event of appearing on a Committee in the role of a member of Opposition, I would not adopt their attitude. I am sure that Conservative Members would adopt a more constructive role, as they did when in opposition.

I find it distasteful and difficult to explain to my constituents the performance that we go through in Committee. I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who expressed the hope that there could be a new approach to the way that we debate legislation in Committee. I find it difficult to explain why we must go on into the early hours of the morning. When my constituents say that they have read Hansard, I find it hard to explain why we have to listen to so much irrelevance and points which border on being out of order, and Members have to be stopped because they wander off the point. It is something that my constituents do not understand and it brings the House into disrepute. If we are to retain our credibility, it is a point to which we will have to address ourselves.

The people of Scotland want the legislation. They need it to protect them from pernicious rate rises and for all the other benefits that it will bring. They need it to provide for consultation. The Opposition are not debating constructively; they merely wish to deny the Scottish people those benefits. My view has changed for that reason. I consider it necessary to have a guillotine not just because progress is in danger of coming to a halt, but because all the amendments tabled by the Opposition are designed to obstruct. For those reasons, I support this guillotine motion. The motion is unwelcome, but the Opposition's actions have made it necessary.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West 4:54 pm, 5th March 1984

I did not have the good fortune to be selected from the Opposition to participate in the few short hours that the Committee has sat. There was keen competition from the Opposition to serve on the Committee.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

If there was such keen competition, why were Opposition Members such poor attenders?

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

That type of intervention raises the question as to whether we should give way when we are having a serious debate. I have said that I am not on the Committee, and therefore I could not begin to respond to the point raised by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). I am sure that those of my colleagues who may catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will respond to the point. I have had the misfortune to listen to speeches from the hon. Member and he has never impressed me as someone I would want to hear, whatever he was talking about, except, perhaps, the brand of economics that is peculiar to one small part of Fife.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

And Chicago, as my hon. Friend said.

It is important that those of us who could not serve on the Committee should be able to make one or two points in support of our colleagues. My colleagues, the people whom I represent in Dundee and I do not believe that the Bill has had the airing, and the interest shown in it, that it merits. We are dealing with the rhetoric of a Government who have done little to help Scottish ratepayers. When they sought the support of the electorate at two general elections they claimed strongly that they had ratepayers' interests at the forefront of their mind, and yet they have failed miserably to find some way of responding to that claim. They have tried to turn the spotlight on to the local authorities and blame them for everything. The Government have tried to absolve themselves from the responsibility of—as they claim—reforming rates. The guillotine motion is the culmination of that.

Since they came to power in 1979, the Government have persistently increased the statutory duties of local authorities while savagely reducing the finances available to the local authorities to carry out those responsibilities. When those local authorities refused to cut the services as the Government wanted and were not prepared to accept the reduction in central Government support in an attempt to protect those services, the Secretary of State blamed them once again.

My local authority has had the misfortune to catch the Secretary of State's eye once or twice since 1979, and the people of Dundee have not forgotten his attempts to attack services in Dundee. The theme underlying this legislation and all the other legislation that the Government have introduced is to weaken all levels of local government. They do not believe in local government because they do not control it, which is why they have introduced the legislation. If the Government had the support in Scotland that Opposition Members can claim to have, this measure would not have seen the light of day. That is the underlying reason for the legislation. They have failed to impress the local electorate because it is too sophisticated for some of the nonsense that has come from Tory party Central Office and, therefore, it has consistently refused to accept them at local government level.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. In the extremely unlikely event of Labour Members being able to form a Government, will he tell me what their reaction would be if Tory-controlled local authorities were to go on a spending spree and drive up their expenditure? If his party were in power, would it stand idly by and allow them to claim more and more resources from the Scottish Office budget?

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

It will be the responsibility of the next Labour Government to encourage local authorities to increase spending. If they do not, the disaster of the last four years and of the next two or three years — depending how long the Government last—will be such that the electors of the next Labour Government will demand that the Government grant that freedom to local authorities.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

That is not Socialist profligacy. It shows a desire to provide services where they are best looked after — at local government level. The Labour party has always had respect for local government and for the right of local authorities to determine the level of rates, support and services in their areas.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

You would not be happy, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I delayed the debate too long, because many of my hon. Friends are anxious to catch your eye.

Opposition Members sought to argue the legislation line by line, clause by clause and comma by comma. The Government, who claim to be anxious to protect ratepayers, have made it clear by their withdrawal of the rate support grant that they are responsible for forcing up rates. There is no better evidence of that than the debate that is taking place tonight.

In approximately two hours the honorary treasurer of Dundee district council will announce the rates for the area. When we compare the two political parties which have controlled Dundee district council recently, we see which party has been irresponsible in local government. In 1980, the Conservative honorary treasurer robbed the general fund balance of more than £3,500,000 artificially to hold down the rate in a desperate and wholly irresponsible election gimmick. That election gimmick failed to confuse the sophisticated electorate of Dundee, because a few months later it kicked out that Tory administration and returned by a handsome majority a Labour administration. It has sought to look after the ratepayers in Dundee.

I am confident that the most popular person in Dundee at about 7 pm will be not the Secretary of State for Scotland, but councillor Tom McDonald, who will announce the district rate. I know that the rate will be welcomed by industrialists, ratepayers, local authority employees, and council house tenants who require the services that he will protect. I know that the Solicitor-General wishes to tempt me to divulge the rate which my colleague on the council will announce, but with his respect for law and order and democracy, he will accept that it is only right that the councillor should make the statement in the city chambers tonight. I am confident that when he makes that announcement we shall see who are the responsible politicians in Dundee.

Photo of Mr William McKelvey Mr William McKelvey , Kilmarnock and Loudoun

I was in my hon. Friend's constituency at the weekend and had discussions with councillors there. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the manner in which the Dundee councillors have run that city for many years, despite the attempts by the Secretary of State for Scotland to deprive them of their democratic rights. I conclude from those discussions and from what I saw that the rate set by the Dundee town council, which will be announced at about 7 pm tonight, will be along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

My hon. Friend's visit to Dundee was most welcome because he has held responsibility on the district council as leader of the opposition. I shall bring my comparison of the council more up to date by contrasting it with Tayside regional council. It intends to raise rates by 3p and still retain enough in the general fund balance by closing schools, increasing school meal charges and refusing to provide necessary nurseries. Incidentally, it is at the same time making a mockery of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which the Secretary of State introduced.

The Government's attempt to force the guillotine demonstrates how unworried Tory Members are about their electoral support among local authorities. Different Scottish Ministers have approached the problem in different ways. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. MacKay), who unfortunately is not present, made an interesting comment on central Government involvement in local decision-making. In a letter to me on 18 January 1984 about the National Health Service in Dundee, he referred to the obvious advantage of reducing the amount of central interference in the local provision of services. If that is good enough for the Health Service, it is good enough for democratically elected local authorities. Whatever the result of tonight's vote, the people of Scotland will be able to judge the Government's actions and real intentions regarding local government, and they will know who their friends are.

Photo of Mrs Anna McCurley Mrs Anna McCurley , Renfrew West and Inverclyde 5:08 pm, 5th March 1984

I was not a member of the Committee on the Bill, but I have sat on enough Standing Committees now to realise what my hon. Friends mean by the Opposition's delaying tactics. I am essentially a cautious person, and while the Bill progressed through the House I waited for an outcry about its effects on the general public. It has not come. Nothing has come to my notice from the general public. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst), I have received not one piece of correspondence from my constituents on the matter. I have received no letters, no one has taken to the streets and local government has shown remarkable restraint.

It is high time that the Bill was brought back to the Floor of the House. I was initially cautious because I was involved in local government — Strathclyde regional council—and because I was anxious about some aspects of the Bill, especially the fundamental relationship between central and local government. I was anxious about the transfer of some responsibilities from central to local government, especially those which were originally associated with the financing of the Department of Health and Social Security. I was worried about the commitment of central Government to cutting expenditure. They asked local authorities to do that, but I felt that it was a sentiment expressed more in word than in deed.

However, when I finally pondered the Bill's effect, I decided that there was no threat of disintegration to local democracy. I believe that the lines have been blurred, and that local authorities act not only in an autonomous capacity but as agents of central Government. These days, local government is big complex business. However, it is not such big and complex business as to warrant what I saw in Strathclyde region's minutes of 14 February. It was the final straw when I looked at the minutes of the policy and resources committee, which is exclusively Labour dominated, and saw the following heading: Strathclyde and the Third World". The United Kingdom's net aid programme for 1984–85 is worth £1,099 million. That may not be as great a percentage of the gross domestic product as the Brandt commission would have liked, and I accept that that commission urges the Government to spend more. However, does the Brandt commission say anything about local government expenditure on the Third world? Although Strathclyde has been crying out for additional resources, and relief from Government strictures, it wants to extend its largesse—correction: not its largesse, but that of the ratepayers — far beyond the curtilages of Strathclyde. It is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. More than ever, and on that basis alone, I am prepared to support the Government in order to enact this legislation quickly.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire 5:11 pm, 5th March 1984

I shall be brief, as I wish only to explain the Liberal parry's attitude towards the guillotine motion and the workings of the Committee. The political position is clear. The Government have a majority. We can argue — as the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) regularly does—about whether the Government have a mandate, but they clearly have a majority. They trailed parts of the legislation in their election manifesto in Scotland; so, as I said in Committee, under the rules of the game they are entitled to introduce it.

However, I do not agree with the Bill, principally because it strikes at the heart of our constitution. That was alluded to by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). It interferes with the electorate's right to determine who their local authority representatives should be. People are entitled to cast their votes. The Government interference represented by the Bill strikes at the heart of the right of people to express their views about how their local authorities are spending their money. It is not for the Government but for the electorate to decide that. If the electorate do not like what the local authority is doing, it is incumbent on them to throw them out. It is not for the Government to set the rates in the way that they have chosen to do in the Bill.

As I have said before, the legislation is unnecessary. The financial constraints that the Secretary of State has in his inside pocket are powerful enough already. Earlier this Session, he demonstrated that to my satisfaction. I concede that, as Secretary of State for Scotland, he has to take account of local authority spending. If, by his lights, it is excessive, there must be machinery that he can use ultimately to redress the balance. However, he has that machinery now, and does not need more. That is why I believe that in principle the measure in misguided.

The Bill obtained a Second Reading and went into Committee. I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone); initially I was surprised and pleased at the speed with which the Committee proceeded. I felt that debate on the first three clauses was informed and that the Government's responses were helpful. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) elicited much useful and relevant information. Clause 3 was the important one, but after that our debates degenerated.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The hon. Gentleman was not there.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

I was not in Committee because I came to the conclusion that my main objections to the clauses would not be dealt with constructively. By definition, the Government will not concede any points of principle in Committee. They did not even agree any amendments, other than those involving minor drafting or typographical errors. I decided that to sit through the night trying to move mostly tinkering amendments would only bring the processes of the House into disrepute.

I am not surprised, therefore, that we are debating a guillotine motion tonight. Everyone foresaw what would happen, but it is not a particularly edifying experience. When the Government have a majority of 143, the Opposition are not being realistic if they expect to get round it by wasting time. There is no record of time-wasting achieving that end, and I doubt whether it ever will during my political career. Therefore, such tactics are unrealistic. If Opposition Members believed that such tactics were the only device available to them, that was a matter for them, but I certainly did not intend to sit up until 5 am, as I had other duties to perform. However, I shall ensure that I redress the balance on Report.

The hon. Members for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and for Aberdeen, South said that the procedures of the House should be changed if we could not improve on the sort of charade that took place in Committee. Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) stated our view in the debate on the guillotine motion on the Rates Bill. The commission on constitutional reform recently set up by the Liberal and Social Democratic parties states: bills should be time-tabled 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 is the view that I took when the sittings motion was moved, and it remains my view.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

The hon. Gentleman said that he would have his say when the Bill returned to the House on Report, but does he realise that the Report stage is also being guillotined and that there will only be one day for it?

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

As I have said, the Government have a majority. I deplore the fact that the debate on the valuation clauses is being curtailed, because they are important. Five sittings are not enough to do justice to the many outstanding clauses, so I shall recommend to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they vote against the motion.

It is quite logical to say that if a guillotine had been imposed allowing the whole Bill to be discussed properly, I would have supported it. However, I cannot recommend that my colleagues should agree to only five days being allowed for the remaining valuation clauses.

Photo of Mr Gerald Malone Mr Gerald Malone , Aberdeen South

If the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with the balance of time left, why has he not tabled an amendment to that effect?

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

I did not think that that would be worth while. We table amendments with monotonous regularity, but none of them is selected, so that is also a waste of time. If the guillotine motion had been introduced earlier, in a sensible way, and had been agreed by the usual channels, we would have supported it. However, at this stage we cannot support it. There is not enough time left to deal with the valuation clauses, so I shall recommend that my colleagues vote against the motion.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling 5:20 pm, 5th March 1984

I listened with sympathy to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) until he said that he would vote against the motion. I thought that I would avoid the temptation of saying that it was typically Liberal, when the going gets rough, to say that one has better things to do than to sit up until 5 o'clock in the morning. The hon. Gentleman tries to have it both ways. Not only did he not attend the Committee and argue his case, but he wants the agony to continue. That smacks of opportunism and is not constructive.

I have listened to speeches by Opposition Members and it is difficult to take seriously their attempts to manufacture indignation and to weep crocodile tears because the Bill will not be discussed properly. After all, their delaying tactics and interminable speeches have made it impossible to discuss some of the technical but important clauses. I agree that there is much to be discussed in the valuation clauses. We shall not be able to discuss them properly because of the Opposition's performance in Committee.

I have served on two Committees. It is interesting that we should be told that this legislation is controversial, that great constitutional issues are at stake and that the legislation must be properly scrutinised. All the controversial bits were agreed quickly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) said. Opposition Members simply ran out of arguments in Committee. Their argument against the legislation was so weak that they could not even keep discussion on part I of the Bill going. When they returned to their constituencies, the hard men of the Left were saying "Why is there not a guillotine?" Labour spendthrift councillors had come down to London at ratepayers' expense and wanted to see a proper fight. Labour Members are under pressure because reselection is in the air again. That is another reason for the charade—[HON. MEMBERS: "Pathetic."] It is pathetic. The Opposition's performance in Committee is pathetic. Having dealt with the major areas of dispute they tabled nonsense amendments on valuation to deny the rest of us the opportunity, for non-partisan reasons, to discuss technical matters.

We have been treated yet again to the argument, so often used by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), that there is no mandate for the legislation in Scotland. Will Opposition Members give an undertaking that, in the unlikely event that the Labour party should ever form a Government and if, as they have for the last two Labour Governments, they depend for their majority on seats north of the border, those elements of policy applying north of border will not apply south of the border? How do they justify their position now in respect of the mandate with what happened when they were in government?

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Can the hon. Gentleman name one Department of State that is exclusively English and does not cover the whole of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I was hoping that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) would give me the guarantee for which I asked. Knowing him, I imagined that he would. Unfortunately, neither he, nor the Opposition Front Bench in Committee, is able to bind the Labour party.

In Committee, the performance of Opposition Members was abysmal. With one or two exceptions, there was precious little constructive argument. Opposition Members were like the puffers that used to ply the west coast of Scotland, making a lot of steam and being obsolete and inefficient in their use of time. They even had their own version of Para Handy with his long-winded statements and attempts to keep his shambolic crew together.

The debate has a more serious aspect — the whole performance of the Committee and the fact that we should now be discussing a guillotine motion. Sitting up all night and tabling nonsensical amendments does not do any good to my constituents who are anxious to see the legislation on the statute book. The case for reform is overwhelming.

With due hesitation, as a new boy, I must say that I do not understand why Committees cannot be timetabled in advance. I do not understand why we cannot limit the length of speeches. Those of us with experience in local government are familiar with that concept. There is general agreement about the importance of local democracy, but I have heard no cries from local government that it is impossible to ensure local democracy when speeches are subject to a time limit.

The Bill is important, not for the bogus reason of an alleged threat to local government independence. Central Government are not interfering with the decision-making process of local authorities in Scotland. The Government are interfering with the right of local authorities to squeeze ratepayers until the pips squeak and to embark upon extravagant expenditure, but local authorities will be as free as they ever were to make decisions within available resources.

I should like us to give greater scrutiny to the valuation clauses. The Government's proposals could be improved in some respects, but——

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I am well aware of the point that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) wishes to make. He will argue that if I am so anxious to discuss valuation, why support the guillotine? If he is not planning to say that, I shall give way.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I was about to produce a more sympathetic variation of that argument. The guillotine will be enforced by a majority in the Lobbies tonight, so the amount of time available for the important valuation clauses will depend entirely on the Government's judgment when setting the timetable. If the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) is distressed that there will not be enough time, why does not he put pressure on Ministers to provide more time?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

As in all matters, a balance must be struck.

It is important to pass the legislation. It is already having an effect before it reaches the statute book. Far be it from me to praise Stirling district council in two successive debates. That is unlikely, but how unlikely was it even a year ago that Stirling district council would be announcing that there is to be no rate rise this year? Cynics might think that the legislation has nothing to do with that but that another matter has concentrated its mind. That local authority's attitude has changed markedly because it knows that the game is up. The rules may have been changed, but it will play by the rules. The beneficiaries are the voters of all political colours not only in my constituency but throughout Scotland.

Council tenants in my constituency are alarmed by the appalling rate-borne subsidies that Stirling district continues to impose. Some council tenants have within their families three or four wage-earners. The elderly, owner-occupiers and single occupiers do not want to subsidise those who can afford to pay a proper rent. Nor do they want better-off council tenants to be subsidised at the ratepayers' expense. There is no equity in that; and the sooner we have the benefits of clause 4 of the Bill, the better.

I welcome the guillotine. It will bring relief and sanity to local government. When the legislation has progressed through the House and finally to the statute book, it will obtain what Labour Members keep saying is their concern in local government — namely, better services for the ratepayers. Time and again during the progress of the Bill they have asserted that good services imply spending lots of money, yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The opposite is not true. Good services come from good housekeeping. When local authorities are forced to budget and manage their affairs within given financial limits, they provide better services. They move away from what Labour Members have tried for years to make local government do — to become a vast employment organ within the community. Indeed, I understood the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) in an intervention to encourage the growth of public expenditure.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

Labour Members believe in public expenditure. They believe that the higher it goes, the better, because more people become dependent on the state for their livelihood, income, services and everything else. Society becomes more Socialist and less free. That is why the Opposition have opposed the Bill root and branch.

Those of us who are in politics to help people in the greatest need believe that local government, subject to financial constraints, performs more effectively. There are no good examples in Scotland, apart from Cumnock and Doon Valley. However, south of the border local authorities have been forced by expenditure constraints to test the efficiency of their services — professional services, such as those involving architects and lawyers, and cleaning and refuse collection services and to go out to tender. Not only have savings been made through private contractors coming in, but, more to the point, local direct labour organisations, work forces and officers have produced savings.

That is what the Bill is all about. It is designed to allow local authorities to have the freedom to do what people in private business do — to test efficiency, invite competition and get the best deal they can. In local government, that means getting the best deal for the ratepayers.

At the local elections in May the voters will have to decide which party can best provide services that represent value for money and genuinely care for their electorate. Opposition Members, by virtue of their performance and arguments on the Bill in Committee, have shown that they have precious little claim to that accolade.

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

Order. I am anxious that all hon. Members who wish to speak should have the opportunity to do so. This debate will conclude at 6.39 pm. I hope that all hon. Members who are called will be brief.

Photo of Mr Robert McTaggart Mr Robert McTaggart , Glasgow Central 5:35 pm, 5th March 1984

It is always unfortunate when the House must debate a guillotine motion because at issue is the very right of hon. Members to defend the interests of their constituents and oppose measures, as they see fit, to the best of their ability.

Labour Members need make no apology for the way in which we have opposed this legislation, which we believe to be bad for our constituents and local authorities. It is a shame that the guillotine should be applied to this of all Bills because the measure attacks local authorities and councillors and, thereby, attacks local democracy. The Government are forcing through legislation which will impose the will of the Government on local authorities.

So strong is feeling against this legislation that when the Bill's sister measure, that applying to England and Wales, was discussed, Conservative Members felt that they could not support it, and many of them voted with the Opposition against it and even more abstained. It is to be regretted that not a Conservative voice was heard in Committee against the Bill from among those who voted against the English legislation.

The Leader of the House said that the Bill's two most controversial clauses, clauses 3 and 6, had already been discussed. Clause 3 relates to the controversial rate-capping measures while clause 6 limits what a council can take from the rate fund contribution to its housing revenue account. As the two most controversial clauses have been discussed, it seems ludicrous for the Government to cut short future debate on the Bill, especially as we are making headway.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Is the hon. Gentleman by implication agreeing with my proposition that the scores of amendments in the name of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) are vexatious and designed to disrupt progress on the remaining parts of the Bill?

Photo of Mr Robert McTaggart Mr Robert McTaggart , Glasgow Central

No. Every hon. Member has the right to oppose legislation which he considers to be bad. It is brutal for the Government to impose the guillotine and so cut short the debate on legislation which we consider to be bad. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) is entitled to introduce such amendments as he sees fit to protect his constituents. It is sad that at a time when even the Leader of the House admits that we are making progress the measure should be guillotined.

My hon. Friends and I did not force a vote on the first sittings motion in Committee. However, within a couple of weeks the Government introduced a timetable motion which kept us sitting till all hours. We opposed that because legislation of this complexity and importance should be dealt with in a proper fashion, and we should have adequate time in which to prepare our arguments.

Even if the Government had a sufficient mandate in Scotland, it would be an abuse of that mandate to introduce legislation such as this. My constituents must accept that, because of the way in which the English electorate voted, they have a Conservative Government. They cannot do anything about that. However, they elected local authorities to protect them from what they regard as some of the worst aspects of central Government, no matter the political persuasion of that Government. Local authorities are designed to protect local people against the worst ravages of the actions of central Government.

Photo of Mr Robert McTaggart Mr Robert McTaggart , Glasgow Central

We have been urged by Mr. Deputy Speaker to be brief, as many hon. Members wish to speak. I shall not give way.

It is sad that my constituents, having recognised that they must suffer under this Government, for whom they did not vote, must be doubly attacked in that the local authorities, which they did elect, are being attacked by that same Government. Local councillors know best what services their communities require. They are accountable through the ballot box in the same way as Members of this place and they should have the right to fix rents and rates for those whom they represent.

My right hon. and hon. Friends have tried to highlight during consideration of the Bill who is responsible for the lack of services, cuts in services, local authority redundancies and the forcing up of rent levels. The fault lies with central Government and not with the duly elected councillors. Central Government are hiding behind Bills such as the one before us while seeking to impose their will on communities which have no truck with them. I hope that tonight we shall see some Conservatives joining Opposition Members to vote against the guillotine motion, which will do nothing for democracy. It will lead central Government down a path of confrontation with local government.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his brevity.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West 5:41 pm, 5th March 1984

I suspect that no Scottish Conservative Members will be joining the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart) in the Opposition Lobby, and I shall explain why. It is important to set the Bill in context. The Bill has been discussed in Committee for no fewer than 82 hours. What did the previous Labour Government do when they had the Scotland Bill on the Floor of the House? Almost at once, before it had been discussed for many hours, a guillotine was applied to it. The guillotine motion was carried and implemented at an early stage. There was no question of discussing the major controversial issues in the Bill for anything like 82 hours.

Why has a guillotine motion been applied to the Bill at this stage? After the all-night sitting it became clear that Labour Members—I mention one in particular, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who has the capacity to speak for half an hour on virtually any subject under the sun—did not want the Bill to make progress. I say with respect that the hon. Member for Garscadden has the capability to exhaust time and to encroach upon eternity. When a vast number of amendments were tabled on valuation, which had not until that stage been a desperately controversial issue, it became clear that the Opposition's tactic was to speak at as great length as possible to ensure that the Bill could not pass through the House without a guillotine.

I believe that there is a time for the fullest debate and discussion. I believe also that there is a time for decision. It appears from the correspondence that I have been receiving that there is strong support for the reserve powers that are contained in the Bill and the necessary measures to protect ratepayers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) said in his excellent speech, a high level of rating can have a detrimental effect on business and a significant effect in destroying jobs. I believe that the Bill will protect jobs and lead to the creation of more jobs by keeping rates at reasonable levels.

The progress that has been made so far is not sufficient. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) said that he looked forward to hearing more speeches, and he will hear them in the fullness of time. I am anxious to contribute to the discussion on the new clauses that my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has tabled, especially the interesting one that is designed to ensure that accounts can be scrutinised. I wish on behalf of my constituents to contribute to the discussion on clause 13 while directing myself to the Edinburgh zoo, which has the best collection of animals throughout Scotland. Bearing in mind that the most controversial issues have been dealt with already, I believe that it will be in the interests of Labour Members, as well as in our own, to address ourselves to that clause.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire asked why there had not been more speeches from Conservative Members in Committee. Having listened to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, we have been well satisfied with the arguments that he has advanced. When my colleagues have not been so satisfied they have intervened. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling has major speeches during our deliberations in Committee.

At 3 o'clock in the morning hon. Members do not contribute to debates quite as well as at some other times. For example, at 3 am during the all-night sitting on 23 February, the Chairman asked the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) to direct his remarks to the amendment. The hon. Gentleman replied that it was difficult to relate his remarks to anything while a dialogue was taking place at the same time. It will be much easier if there is an informal discussion on the best way to proceed with the remainder of the Bill, which is considerably less controversial.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire said that he might have supported the guillotine motion if it had been introduced at the beginning of the consideration of the Bill in Committee. Surely that would have been a much more controversial issue. If that had happened, there would have been a case for arguing that democratic rights were to be curtailed. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman would not have had the support of his party if he had tabled such a motion at that stage. There is no Liberal amendment on the Order Paper and so we shall not have the opportunity to vote on Liberal policy. I support the motion as being reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South 5:46 pm, 5th March 1984

I do not think that anyone will deny that this is an important Bill. I do not think that anyone will deny either that the Government's gross behaviour in trying to make such a Bill subject to a guillotine motion will be noted in Scotland.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) talked about an equally important Bill—the devolution Bill. He observed that it was subjected eventually to a guillotine motion. I remind the hon. Gentleman that that Bill, because it was a constitutional measure that also bore on our democracy, was debated on the Floor of the House, and indeed there were practically no closure motions. If the Government had taken that course with this Bill, we might have been able to accept some of the special pleading of Conservative Members.

The Bill is an important constitutional measure that will erode further the democratic rights of local authorities and those who elected them by expressing their wishes through the ballot box. The sister measure for England and Wales will be responsible for a similar erosion. We happen, partly because of the opposition of the troglodytes on the Conservative Benches to devolution, to be a unitary state. There is no balance for federal states of the sort that exist in America. We have none of the powers of prefectures that are to be found in France. Consequently, there are many problems, and that is the case for devolution. However, we do not have it and we shall not have it under this Government.

Local government is not a substitute for devolution, but it represents a recognition that we cannot leave all decisions about the services and welfare of our people to central Government. We cannot leave all decisions about planning and education in the hands of a unitary Government in Westminster. Central Government do not understand the needs of people in particular areas and they cannot express them. They do not understand because they are concerned with the running of major Government Departments. They are not concerned to try to understand, because they are not in power to reflect the separate and disparate needs of local areas. Therefore, the Bill is an important constitutional measure and it is a major disgrace that it was not brought on the Floor of the House so that hon. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and I could participate in its consideration.

The attack on the democratic nature of our state and, above all, upon the will of the electorate has not been taken on board by Conservative Members. They seem not to understand that following that attack we shall no doubt witness the whittling away of local differences.

The Bill betrays an appalling economic ignorance. That ignorance has been demonstrated by the hon. Members for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) and Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), the Gog and Magog of the group of troglodytes on the Conservative Benches. They fail to understand the importance of public expenditure. They claim that the Bill is an attempt to cut public expenditure; but it was not supposed to be that. It was supposed to be a means of regulating local authorities.

Those hon. Gentlemen are saying now that the legislation is to do not only with serving the needs of ratepayers and, above all, the non-domestic ratepayers—the business section in which Conservative Members are interested — but with the economic state of the nation and the theory of public expenditure. That view is maintained now only by the University of Chicago, one or two of the Conservatives' outriders, such as Milton Friedman, when he is not advising Chile and similarly democratic states, and the Prime Minister. The Scottish Tories are the only other group that believes in that concept. Few of the English Tories now believe it. During the passage of the Rates Bill, a number of English Tories expressed reservations and some had the courage to oppose the legislation. Sometimes with these Members opposite I shudder about what will happen with devolution. Not a single Scottish Tory Member has taken on board the importance of public expenditure in relation to the expansion of the economy. Their attitude is also cutting across the traditional Conservative view.

The Conservatives have taken away the century-old philosophy of the importance of local democracy and the need to cut the central power of the state. Remember Maggie saying, "We will roll back the boundaries of the state." We have seen the state moving in on local authorities and the trade unions. The state has laid its icy hands upon the opportunities available to local areas to meet their local needs by spending money. We have seen what occurred at Cheltenham. We have seen also the reverse of the election promise to "roll back the boundaries of the state." The Government have rolled back the boundaries of the welfare state and rolled in the powers of the oppressive state. Those false promises are encapsulated in the Bill.

I was a little revolted at the arguments about the failure to have serious discussion of amendments. The only example given related to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, who gave the example, did not understand the amendment. That amendment was sensible and should have been discussed. It provided for the replacement of an official by a representative, who would be either a councillor or an official. The amendment was a small piece of democracy. It is amazing that Conservative Members fail to understand the operations of democracy, but that is a characteristic of them.

I wish to be brief, so I shall not embark on the main point—the villainy of the Bill and the heresy of the cuts in public expenditure. The attempt to cut public expenditure has resulted in 4 million people being unemployed. Without the trigger of public expenditure, there is no impetus for the recovery of the economy. The sooner Conservative Members realise that, the better. Scottish Tories have been a disgrace to their historic conservatism, to Scotland and even the democracy within the Conservative party. Some bold Conservative souls south of the border were prepared to speak out and put up their hands in the interests of this country. The Bill should be withdrawn, and kicked off the Order Paper. The legislation should again be discussed in Committee to expose its inadequacies.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife 5:52 pm, 5th March 1984

The speech of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) was striking for its brevity, compared with the speeches in Committee on less important points. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) spoke of the importance of Edinburgh zoo and the improvements he hopes to see effected by the Bill. In the idle hours, when we have had to listen to speeches that were extraordinary for their quantity rather than their quality, hon. Members might have given some thought to new species that might be introduced to Edinburgh zoo — the dribbling driveller of East Lothian, the wordpecker of Garscadden, the bearded barker of Falkirk, the magpie of Monklands and the throated puffer of Maryhill.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Is not the hon. Gentleman wasting time now?

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening from a sedentary position. My remarks were typical of speech after speech from Opposition Members.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife

I managed to contain my remarks on secondary considerations to one minute. Opposition Members made speeches lasting hours on matters that were no more weighty than those on which I have spoken so far.

The Committee's performance shows that that is no way in which we can effectively legislate. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) has recently come from presiding over the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Some of his friends in Scottish local government would be astonished if they observed how Parliament went about its business by going through crucial legislation line by line and clause by clause. Such legislation is important not only for local government but for the way we establish rating and, ultimately, the effect on taxation. If local authorities conducted their affairs in committee as all too often the House does, the House would feel that something ought to be done. I hope that the House, in looking at the way it conducts Committee work, will decide that improvements should be made.

I have as great a respect as any hon. Member for the customs, traditions and rules of the House. I recognise the point made by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) about improving the efficiency of the House. He made the fair point that to most people improved efficiency normally means the Government getting their business through faster. That may be more efficient for the Government, but it is not in the interest of Back Benchers generally or of the Opposition.

I recognise the legitimate rights of the Opposition to have a reasonable say and, if necessary, to delay the Government's business through legitimate processes on the Floor of the House. I do not believe — hon. Members should concentrate on this point—that, in an era when Committee debates are rarely held on the Floor of the House, the customary practice of dragging out Committee business is any longer relevant. The only people to suffer are members of Committees and those affected by the legislation, because its quality will be less than if the hon. Members had worked together in Committee to improve it. Ultimately, the Government's business is still discussed. The House should look at the way it will discuss business. I recognise that there will not be an overnight revolution and that we must find a gradual process by which our practices can be improved.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart) said that local councillors know what services are needed in their locality. That is probably true in most cases, but they do not have a broad view of other services competing for resources, or, above all, the combined effect of competition on the totality of public expenditure and, therefore, the burden on individual citizens.

I shall give one example of that. If local authorities charge heavier rates, over which the House has no control, they may reduce the amount of health care available from the health services. Substantial increases in the rates represent one of the largest increases in costs that the health services have had to bear in recent years. The local authorities spend more money on providing services that might be inefficient, but the health services find it more difficult to provide patient care because they have to pay more money in local authority rates.

We have had discussions before about the control of rates. The Labour-controlled Fife regional council has not been one of the extreme big spenders in Scotland, but this year its rate increase, which it has just announced, is more than double the rate of inflation, although the new distribution formula works positively to its advantage and it has had increased money as a result of the change of formula to the client group approach. By contrast, the Conservative-controlled north-east Fife district council, where the formula worked against the council to the extent of the loss of the product of a penny rate, has not increased rates or rents. Opposition Members have been frank, saying that they would welcome any opportunity to increase public expenditure.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife

I understood that that is what they said, and it came across clearly.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

This is the second time that we have heard a complete distortion of the facts. We believe in intelligent application of public expenditure. That is the only real trigger to economic recovery. The hon. Gentleman must not talk nonsense, saying that we want to deprive people of freedom or that we are in favour of any sort of public expenditure. I could list a number of things that we are not in favour of—aid to private education is one.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife

The hon. Gentleman must know that the Government provide less for private education than the Labour Government did.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) spoke, there was a clear cry from the Opposition, particularly from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey), for increased public expenditure. Such an increase would mean taking more money from individual citizens. The tragedy of the past 20 years is that when the Conservatives left office in 1964, only people on or above average earnings paid income tax, but because of many Labour Governments since then, virtually everyone who works pays tax.

Parliament has a duty to respond to the grievances of the people. One of their greatest grievances is the burden of rates and tax. I believe that they will welcome the Bill and therefore this guillotine.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart 6:03 pm, 5th March 1984

The hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) walked into the Chamber at 5.20 pm and made his speech, obviously having been told to do so by his Whip. That is disgraceful. He failed to understand economic policy and the fact that his Government have massively increased public expenditure, as the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) said. An example is expenditure on the Falkland Islands. The Government are prepared to increase by 3 per cent. every year the amount of money that they spend on defence, particularly on nuclear weapons, yet the hon. Gentleman argued that there should be a cut in public expenditure.

Ultimately, the debate is about the Government's economic policy and the fact that they have failed dismally to carry out the ideological and economic policies that they set themselves in 1979. They are now making local government the whipping boy for their failure to cut public expenditure in Government Departments. They have been asking local authorities to do it instead.

Scottish local authorities were elected by the people of Scotland. I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), but I agreed with him twice tonight, which is unusual. I agreed with him when he said that the Liberals, as usual, were dithering around on the fence and were not sure on which side to come down. Secondly, agreed when he said that the people will decide at the district elections in Scotland in May. Let the people decide. Let them say what they think about local government and how it should be run. Let us prove, as Conservative Members claim, that the people of Scotland want this legislation.

The Government should say, "We shall hold back the legislation. We shall keep it in Committee and keep talking until May, or we shall abandon the Committee stage and bring the Bill back after the May elections. We shall prove our contention that the people of Scotland want this legislation and reject the philosophy that the Labour party will put forward in the local elections." Of course, the Government are not prepared to say that because they know that it will not happen. They know that in local authority after local authority the people of Scotland will return Labour to control because they want better services, with more investment in local services. They want the right to have a say in their own affairs. The local authorities, elected by the people, should not be controlled by a Government whom they did not elect in the first place.

The other argument by the hon. Member for Stirling, in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), typified more than anything else what the debate is all about. He said that Scotland has more irresponsible Left-wing local authorities than England. The Government are attacking Labour-controlled authorities that want to protect their people and services. The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) said that somehow or other companies have been driven out of business by the level of rates. I asked him for one example, but he could not give one. All that he could say was that Glasgow chamber of commerce was opposed to high rates. Of course it is. Incidentally, it is also opposesd to high taxes. The Government have increased taxes as well as trying to keep down rates. The increase in taxes has been higher than the increase in rates. The hon. Gentleman blamed local authorities as well as creditors for people going out of business. What an excuse. Most businesses borrow money from banks. Is the hon. Gentleman blaming the banks for the fact that many companies go bankrupt? That is the logic of his argument.

The measure is undemocratic. I shall be in the Lobby to oppose it.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West 6:08 pm, 5th March 1984

With the greatest respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is no way that I can make a useful contribution to the debate given the fact that I have been asked to confine my remarks to three minutes.

I hope that some hon. Members will take my comments seriously. Having made a useful contribution to local government in Scotland over the years, and having served on the Committee—I hope that I have been regarded as a fairly faithful member of it — I believe that my comments on the matter should not be confined to two or three minutes. Moreover, some Conservative Members have criticised the contributions of Committee members, no doubt including myself, who are perfectly entitled to make speeches. It is defying democracy and any sense of fair play to suggest that we can reply in the short time available to us.

For that reason, I conclude by saying that my commitment to local government is no less as a result of the debate and that my commitment to Parliament is undiminished, too. What we have seen during the passage of the Bill and as result of the guillotine motion is an affront to local government and Parliament. Against that background I shall consider my future role within the Committee.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 6:09 pm, 5th March 1984

The speech of the Leader of the House was remarkably unconvincing. I suspect that that was because he recognised that his case was unconvincing. The right hon. Gentleman outdid himself. He is normally laconic and detached, but today he was reduced to a low monotone, dropping to a mumble on occasions.

I got the strong impression that the Leader of the House did not know what was in the Bill and that he cared less. He stuck to a dreary Scottish Office brief and hurried away to more congenial matters. Perhaps he will return shortly. In a sense, I do not blame the Leader of the House for adopting such an approach. He has a certain idiosyncratic pride in our democratic system and the exercise in which we are engaged is rather squalid and distasteful.

For example, I cannot help thinking that the Leader of the House would find clause 2 of the Bill an extremely unpleasant item. It proposes that when the Secretary of State takes the unusual and draconian step of overruling a local authority's democratically elected councillors by bringing in an order to reduce their rate support grant, as a penalty and a fine, no matter how many authorities are being dealt with—each will deserve individual attention —they are to be lumped together in one order on which there can be only one vote. That is an example of the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of the legislation.

How could the Leader of the House, as custodian of the rights of the House, agree to such a proposition? Four of five authorities may be named in an order. Perhaps even Labour Members may feel that some were being properly penalised—who knows what may happen in the future?—but everyone may agree that it is a monstrous liberty to penalise others. The House will have no way of distinguishing between the two sets of circumstances. That makes a mockery and a farce of any idea of control by the House over the Executive. That is what the Government are trying to slip through in the Bill.

The facts have been rehearsed — 21 sittings, 78 hours, 1,000 columns of Hansard. I say to Conservative Members, "So what?" I believe that we were right to look at what was being done and being proposed. I will not apologise for that and I do not suppose that any of my hon. Friends will apologise either.

We have had some extraordinary contributions to the debate. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) told us in a strange speech that she had decided to support the Bill because Strathclyde regional council had done something to aid the Third world. We were left in a state of anti-climatic depression, because the hon. Lady would not even tell us what the council had done. She merely said that the council was in favour of the Third world. Then she got up and left. How extraordinary. I am only sorry that the hon. Lady is not here to tell us in an intervention what was so offensive about Strathclyde regional council helping the Third world that it drove her into the arms of her own Government.

The hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) talked about the heavy burden of tax upon the people. I thought for a moment that he was about to condemn his own Government, who have made a considerable contribution to increasing the tax burden of ordinary people in Scotland over the past five years. It is time that we cleared our minds about the grounds on which the Government are conducting their vendetta against local government. The hon. Gentleman did nothing to help us.

I ask the hon. Gentleman a rhetorical question. Is his objection to the fact that Fife is putting up its rates based merely on his disagreement with what the council is doing? If so, he is clearly saying that the Government should take over all the powers of local government. That seemed to be the burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument. I hoped that he would not show that sort of extremism.

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) arrived, perhaps not like the seventh cavalry, because he is more of a Dobbin, to give succour and help to his Ministers. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should read some of the briefings that we have received. If he thinks that the valuation clauses are not controversial and are generally acceptable, he should read the briefings from the Faculty of Advocates, the Association of Assessors and COSLA. He will see that those clauses are the kernel of a technical but important argument.

The Opposition have not been obstructing part II of the Bill. We were told by many of those who make their living by working within the valuation system that clause 7 fundamentally changes the basis on which that system is operated. The Committee passed that clause in one day and the afternoon sitting finished at 7 pm, yet we are told that we are filibustering and obstructing and that our proceedings must be brought to a premature end. Conservative Members have prated on about their wish to have a proper debate on the valuation clauses, but the guillotine will prevent that proper debate from taking place.

One of the distressing feaures of our proceedings has been the fact that Conservative Back Benchers have remained silent throughout. Perhaps I should not complain. One of the reasons for voting against the guillotine is that we could end the unprecedented silence of the hon. Members for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Dumfries.

However, it is a sad commentary that when major debates have taken place about the future balance of power between central and local government, there has been nothing from the serried ranks of Conservative Back Benchers—not a squawk or a squeak of pain; nothing but impenetrable silence.

We make no bones about our opposition to the Bill, and we are not alone in opposing it. We have support in every quarter of Scottish opinion. We are supported by COSLA and Labour councils, but even independent and Tory councils have expressed their reservations. The Edinburgh chamber of commerce sees the Bill as unconstitutional and exceptionable. The only person who has had anything good to say about the Bill—and that in a rather backhanded way—was the Tory leader of Edinburgh district council, councillor Brereton. He said merely that the Bill was not so much wicked as totally unnecessary.

The press, the public, those who work in local government and those who serve as elected members have said, almost unanimously, that the Bill is an unnecessary encroachment on local authorities' room for manoeuvre and on the principles on which local democracy is founded. The Bill is friendless and unwanted, except amoung the claque on the Tory Back Benches.

The Bill is a fundamental attack on local democracy. The Secretary of State will be able to set rates and rents and steamroller the decisions of democratically elected councillors who have done nothing illegal and nothing wrong. They have merely exercised a perfectly proper statutory discretion in a way that the Secretary of State does not like. That is what is so offensive about the Bill. It is another dose of the centralisation which has become the hallmark of the Government.

I say in a friendly, but perhaps warning, way to the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) that he is now known as "Hepworth man"; he is becoming a Central Office identikit loyalist. I thought that his speech was smug, self-satisfied and, although he did not realise it, in one passage offensive. He said that if local authorities were sensible and prudent, they would have nothing to fear. That is a damaging and ludicrous euphemism for saying that they will be all right as long as they do what the Secretary of State tells them to do. We do not like or want that.

I accept that there is sometimes a great deal wrong with the way in which we conduct our business in the House, but some of the things that were wrong with the Committee were clearly the fault of the Government. It was wrong that the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), time and again, in sitting after sitting, was totally inflexible, not prepared to give an inch and unwilling to consider any emendation or change, even in the nuances or on the margins of the tablets of stone that he had brought down from Dover house.

Labour Members, rightly or wrongly — I do not assume that we were always right — consistently put points of view that had widespread support far beyond the active ranks of the Labour party. Yet all that we achieved in all those 82 hours was the correction of one typographical error in one schedule to the Bill. That suggests to me that the Minister was probably under orders and the Administration had a closed mind. When we are talking about what is wrong with parliamentary scrutiny and why it is sometimes an arid and unrewarding process, we must look at such phenomena.

Then there is the fact that we had to sit through the night. I did not like it any more than anyone else. It has not done any good and it did not improve the clarity of my mind or my arguments. Whose fault was it that we were sitting through the night? Whose fault was it that the Government were so determined to push through the Bill on a telescoped timetable that they unjustifiably forced us to sit through the day and night? If the atmosphere turned sour, whose fault was it? It was the fault of the Minister and the business managers who set up those circumstances.

I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). I disagree with almost everything he says, but I am prepared to accept that he was genuinely concerned about the fact that we may not have time properly to consider the valuation clauses that remain. I intervened in his speech, but all he could say was, "We are in such a hurry to get the Bill on the statute book because there will be so many benefits for the people of Scotland that we must have it immediately."

Clauses 3, 4 and 6 are the controversial clauses that the hon. Member for Stirling, with his strange order of priorities, thinks will be valuable, but they apply only to the financial year 1985–86. They do not affect the current financial year, so there would have been plenty of time for another two or three weeks' debate on the important valuation clauses. If the hon. Member complains, why does he not address his remarks not to me but to the Secretary of State and his colleagues who have decided that we should rush, to no particular benefit, to the conclusion of this important Committee stage?

After all, not only are the important matters not due to come into effect until the financial year after next, but there is no pressing weight of Scottish legislation. We have almost—I make that important caveat—a consolidation Bill dealing with roads, and we have the Bill on static fishing gear, and almost nothing else in the pipeline. There is nothing to dictate the speed with which we have been forced to move. The whole thing is a sad business and a sad comment on the way in which the Government have been souring relations in the House.

I do not know whether I should boast about this point—some may think that it is a badge of shame, although I do not think that my colleagues do—but this is the first Scottish Bill that has been guillotined since 1979. We have not been an unreasonable group of Opposition Members, and where we thought that a Bill had merit we have positively tried to aid its passage. Only two or three weeks ago, the Tourism (Overseas Promotion) (Scotland) Bill, which could have been held in Committee for many days, if not weeks, was allowed through all its stages in one day on the Floor of the House because we were prepared to deal impartially with its merits.

I accept that we have a different attitude to this Bill, but that is not because of some senseless prejudice but because we believe that it deals with important and fundamental matters. We have to articulate and put the many points that are coming from almost every quarter of Scotland where these matters are considered. One can make a cheap point by saying that the mailbags are not full of letters with worries about how the next general abatement distribution formula will be affected by clause 2. They are not, because such matters do not attract public attention. As the results become clear, as we see the erosion of local democracy, we shall see the public anxiety which at the moment comes only from those quarters where people watch the system and worry about the way in which we are constructing our local government in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. In those quarters, there is a great deal of anxiety and anger, which we are entitled to express in Committee.

The position has not been helped by a rather petulant statement unnecessarily put out to the press by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland a few days ago. Typically of him, he wanted the best of both worlds. We were told that the guillotine was justified by the Opposition's obstruction, but in the next paragraph we were told that there had been no effective opposition. That is an interesting example of the lack of logic to which we have become accustomed from the Under-Secretary.

There has been effective opposition, and it was justified. I give the Under-Secretary a warning. We shall continue to fight the Bill as best we can, although we shall be circumscribed as a result of the vote in a few minutes. We shall continue to fight it in the time left by the timetable motion. We shall fight it on Report and on Third Reading. I hope that the other place will take up the cause and that we shall rouse public opinion in the way that I have described. There is every point in fighting if there is a cause—and there is a fundamental cause at stake here. It is the right of local communities to elect their representatives to manage their local affairs and to hold those representatives responsible for what they have done at the ballot box. I dislike what the Bill stands for and I am proud that we have made what stand we can within the rules of the House.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scottish Office) 6:25 pm, 5th March 1984

The difference between the two sides of the House tonight might have been epitomised by the failure of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) to distinguish between "obstructive" and "effective", because that is the argument that we bring to bear in the debate. The hon. Member used all the passion that we have come to expect from him. He must have been disappointed that this major issue, which is of crucial importance to Scotland according to him, attracted at the beginning of the debate less than one quarter of the total number of Labour Members from Scotland. Only at the end of the debate has the number increased to about half.

Not surprisingly, the debate has ranged fairly widely over all the differing aspects of the Bill. I shall concentrate on the central issue before us today, the timetable motion for the remaining stages of the Bill to ensure its reasonable progress and, more importantly, to ensure that those who will benefit from it will not unreasonably find their right to do so delayed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) pointed out.

During business questions last Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition said of this motion: The Opposition bitterly oppose this limitation on a measure which includes a major constitutional change". — [Official Report, 1 March 1984; Vol. 55, c. 397.] This attitude was reflected in the speech of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore).

I dispute that there is any "major constitutional change" involved in this Bill, but that is perhaps a matter for another debate. What is beyond doubt is that the Standing Committee on this Bill has already fully, without restriction and at length, dealt with the two clauses upon which the Opposition have concentrated this criticism.

Clause 3, which seeks powers generally to limit rate increases, was, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, debated in Committee for some 25 hours. Clause 6, which seeks powers to limit rate fund contributions to the housing revenue account, was debated for some 17½ hours. Hardly a case of limited debate. More importantly, these contentious clauses have been passed by the Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman's bitter opposition to any "limitation" of debate on them is therefore totally and utterly misplaced in the context of today's debate.

The hon. Member for Garscadden made the point that I had accepted no amendment in Committee except one minor technical one moved by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood). The reason was simple. There were no amendments that I could tell my hon. Friends would improve the Bill in any way. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman went further and began to go back into past local government debates and to talk about the erosion of local democracy. We have heard a lot from him about that in Committee. It was an echo from those Committees of four years ago when he talked about the erosion of local democracy and of how those pieces of legislation would destroy local government as we knew it in Scotland. Looking around now in local government in Scotland, we find a very healthy situation. There is no sign of the erosion which was foretold. Once again the hon. Gentleman is concentrating his attack on an area which he knows may cause fear in some people's hearts but which bears no relation to reality.

Today we are dealing essentially with the very real benefits which would be lost if the Bill did not become law by the summer. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has already referred to some of these, but it might be helpful if I spelt out the consequences in more detail, because in each case it would be the Scottish ratepayer who lost from delay. It is all very well for the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) to say that our arguments in this respect are pathetic. I do not think that the ratepayers of Scotland see them in that way.

Clause 1 of the Bill enables the amount of grant lost by an individual authority in the event of a general abatement to be directly related to its degree of overspending. That is not the position today and the present system is generally regarded as unfair. The new system proposed in this clause will come into operation immediately on the passage of the Bill, so that these fairer arrangements will be available for the financial year 1984–85 if there is a general abatement this summer. If the Bill did not become law by the summer, any general abatement would have to be shared on the present unfair basis. I do not understand how the Opposition could defend their actions whereby councils close to guidelines would yet again be paying proportionately higher grant penalty than authorities which had overspent to a far greater extent. That would rightly be resented by authorities and ratepayers alike. They want this provision available for this summer.

Clause 4 introduces the requirement for authorities to consult non-domestic ratepayers before determining their rates. This has been widely welcomed by such ratepayers as an opportunity to ensure that all local authorities are fully aware of the effects of their rating decisions on those who provide the jobs and create the wealth within their areas. Quite rightly, they want this consultation for next year, but if it is to be useful it needs to start in the late summer or early autumn, and it will require the necessary direction and code of practice which will be issued immediately on the passage of this Bill.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scottish Office)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I have not much time, and I want to cover as many of the Opposition's arguments as possible.

If the Bill did not become law until after the summer it would in effect make such consultations impossible until the financial year 1985–86 and yet another year would have gone by before those paying more than half the rates in Scotland had some voice in the process of deciding those rates. The fact that this clause has already been approved by the Standing Committee would in such circumstances add insult to injury.

The clauses yet to be debated in Committee also contain a number of provisions which are eagerly awaited by ratepayers. While some of the valuation provisions of this part of the Bill are required only after the revaluation due in 1985, others seek to correct anomalies where delay would rightly be resented by the ratepayers concerned. For instance, failure to secure the timeous enactment of clauses 11 and 12 would prolong unnecessarily the high rate burdens carried by Scottish caravan-occupiers and Scottish reed-bed exploiters compared with their English counterparts. Already, over the years, their contribution has been inequitable, and delay in rectifying the situation would be hard to defend.

Clause 14 widens the provision for appeal between revaluations, and some ratepayers may wish to take advantage of this before the next revaluation. Indeed, the use of this new right of appeal might influence the revaluation of certain properties. Both the Government and ratepayers wish it to be available in good time. Any delay which reduced the practical benefit of this clause before revaluation would hardly be in the best interests of ratepayers.

These are some of the provisions of the Bill which are threatened by delay and which ratepayers rightly want to have available as soon as possible. I believe they want also the arguably more contentious provisions in the Bill, which have been duly approved by the Committee and which are designed to protect them from exploitation by overspending and irresponsible councils.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment pointed out last Wednesday, it was the Leader of the Opposition himself who, in 1976 in a similar debate, said: there is a 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.] I agree. Scottish ratepayers are demanding this Bill. It fulfils the commitments they have a right to expect from our election manifesto, and they are anxious for the protection and help it provides.

In that context, it must be hard for them to understand how the Opposition on the Standing Committee could take nearly two hours discussing schedule 1 — a Keeling schedule, the substance of which could not be amended—which in any event was incorporated in the Bill to meet criticisms made in the past by the hon. Member for Garscadden. It must be harder still for ratepayers to appreciate that three-quarters of an hour could be spent debating the meaning of the word "exactly". While I am sure that they will admire the ability of the hon. Member for Garscadden to speak for more than an hour on one amendment to clause 3, I am also sure that, like me, they will wonder what the real purpose was.

Again, while they may be entertained by a discourse on class from the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), as were we all at that late hour, they might be forgiven for wondering whether this did riot come within the defintion by the Leader of the Opposition of ' fatuous and superficial scrutiny".

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I heard exactly what was said, and I do not think that this can be a point of order.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scottish Office)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, because I would not suggest that the fatuous and superficial remarks that we heard in Committee from the Opposition were in any way out of order, but being in order did not make them any the less fatuous or superficial.

We have spent almost 74 hours discussing part I of the Bill — an average of more than 12 hours per clause. There are at this stage 57 amendments on the Notice Paper on part II on which we have already spent a further six hours, and it does not require much study of those amendments to realise that most of them are not very substantial.

The motion provides ample time for the proper and full consideration of the remaining clauses. If the hon. Member for Garscadden is right about the minor nature of his amendments and if his spokesman was right as reported in The Scotsman last Friday, there is ample time to do the amendments justice as well.

The hon. Member for Garscadden cannot have it both ways. Either this motion gives enough time for discussion of these amendments and the remaining clauses or he intended all along to prolong the Committee proceedings well beyond the generous date provided in the motion. believe that his intention was the latter and not because I rely on my own judgment or because of the powerful arguments advanced by my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries, (Sir H. Monro) and for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) and others. Because I do not 174 ant to disappoint him, I look to the Opposition Whip on the Bill. During the debate on the housing support grant in the Chamber on Tuesday 31 January, the hon. Member for East Lothian said, when discussing whether the Bill should become law, I earnestly hope that it will not, and I am doing all that I can in Standing Committee every Tuesday and Thursday to ensure that that date is delayed as long as possible." — [Official Report, 31 January 1984; Vol. 53, c. 223.]

That is why we tabled the motion, and that is why I ask the House to support it.

Main Question, as amended, put:

The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 178.

Division No. 180][6.38 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Ailken, JonathanGlyn, Dr Alan
Alexander, RichardGoodlad, Alastair
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelGorst, John
Ancram, MichaelGow, Ian
Ashby, DavidGower, Sir Raymond
Aspinwall, JackGrant, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Greenway, Harry
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Gregory, Conal
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Griffiths, E. (B'y St EdnTds)
Baldry, AnthonyGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Batiste, SpencerGrist, Ian
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyGround, Patrick
Bellingham, HenryGrylls, Michael
Bendall, VivianGummer, John Selwyn
Berry, Sir AnthonyHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Best, KeithHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Boscawen, Hon RobertHanley, Jeremy
Bottomley, PeterHannam, John
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHarris, David
Brooke, Hon PeterHaselhurst, Alan
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Browne, JohnHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Budgen, NickHawksley, Warren
Bulmer, EsmondHayes, J.
Burt, AlistairHayhoe, Barney
Butcher, JohnHayward, Robert
Butterfill, JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Heddle, John
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHenderson, Barry
Chapman, SydneyHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Hickmet, Richard
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hicks, Robert
Clegg, Sir WalterHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Cockeram, EricHirst, Michael
Colvin, MichaelHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Conway, DerekHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Coombs, SimonHolt, Richard
Cope, JohnHooson, Tom
Corrie, JohnHordern, Peter
Cranborne, ViscountHoward, Michael
Dickens, GeoffreyHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Dorrell, StephenHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHubbard-Miles, Peter
Durant, TonyHunt, John (Ravensboume)
Eggar, TimHunter, Andrew
Evennett, DavidHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Fairbairn, NicholasIrving, Charles
Fenner, Mrs PeggyJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyJessel, Toby
Fletcher, AlexanderJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Fookes, Miss JanetKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Forman, NigelKershaw, Sir Anthony
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Key, Robert
Forth, EricKing, Rt Hon Tom
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Fox, MarcusKnight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Knowles, Michael
Freeman, RogerKnox, David
Fry, PeterLamont, Norman
Gale, RogerLang, Ian
Galley, RoyLatham, Michael
Garel-Jones, TristanLawler, Geoffrey
Lawrence, IvanRossi, Sir Hugh
Lee, John (Pendle)Rost, Peter
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRowe, Andrew
Lester, JimRyder, Richard
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant)Sayeed, Jonathan
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Luce, RichardShelton, William (Streatham)
McCrindle, RobertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McCurley, Mrs AnnaShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Macfarlane, NeilShersby, Michael
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Silvester, Fred
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Sims, Roger
Maclean, David John.Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Fst)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McQuarrie, AlbertSoames, Hon Nicholas
Madel, DavidSpeller, Tony
Major, JohnSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Malins, HumfreySpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Malone, GeraldSquire, Robin
Maples, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Marland, PaulStern, Michael
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mather, CarolStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Maude, Hon FrancisStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mayhew, Sir PatrickStewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Mellor, DavidStokes, John
Merchant, PiersStradling Thomas, J.
Meyer, Sir AnthonySumberg, David
Mills, lain (Meriden)Tapsell, Peter
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Miscampbell, NormanTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Terlezki, Stefan
Moate, RogerThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Monro, Sir HectorThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Montgomery, FergusThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Moore, JohnThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Moynihan, Hon C.Thornton, Malcolm
Murphy, ChristopherThurnham, Peter
Neale, GerrardTownend, John (Bridlington)
Needham, RichardTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Nelson, AnthonyTracey, Richard
Neubert, MichaelTrippier, David
Newton, TonyTrotter, Neville
Nicholls, PatrickTwinn, Dr Ian
Normanton, Tomvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Norris, StevenVaughan, Sir Gerard
Oppenheim, PhilipViggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Waddington, David
Osborn, Sir JohnWakeham, Rt Hon John
Ottaway, RichardWaldegrave, Hon William
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Walden, George
Parris, MatthewWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Patten, John (Oxford)Wall, Sir Patrick
Pink, R, BonnerWard, John
Pollock, AlexanderWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Porter, BarryWarren, Kenneth
Powell, William (Corby)Watson, John
Powley, JohnWatts, John
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Price, Sir DavidWheeler, John
Proctor, K. HarveyWhitfield, John
Raffan, KeithWhitney, Raymond
Rathbone, TimWiggin, Jerry
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)Wilkinson, John
Renton, TimWolfson, Mark
Rhodes James, RobertWoodcock, Michael
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonYeo, Tim
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Ridsdale, Sir JulianYounger, Rt Hon George
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Tellers for the Ayes:
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Mr. David Hunt and
Roe, Mrs MarionMr. Tim Sainsbury.
NOES
Abse, LeoAlton, David
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Anderson, Donald
Archer, Rt Hon PeterHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Ashdown, PaddyHolland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Ashton, JoeHowells, Geraint
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Barnett, GuyHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Beckett, Mrs MargaretJohn, Brynmor
Beith, A. J.Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bermingham, GeraldKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Blair, AnthonyKilroy-Silk, Robert
Boothroyd, Miss BettyKirkwood, Archibald
Boyes, RolandLambie, David
Bray, Dr JeremyLamond, James
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Leadbitter, Ted
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Leighton, Ronald
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Loyden, Edward
Buchan, NormanMcCartney, Hugh
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Campbell-Savours, DaleMcGuire, Michael
Carter-Jones, LewisMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cartwright, JohnMcKelvey, William
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Clarke, ThomasMcNamara, Kevin
Clay, RobertMcTaggart, Robert
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)McWilliam, John
Cohen, HarryMadden, Max
Coleman, DonaldMarek, Dr John
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Martin, Michael
Corbett, RobinMason, Rt Hon Roy
Corbyn, JeremyMaxton, John
Cowans, HarryMaynard, Miss Joan
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Meacher, Michael
Craigen, J. M.Mikardo, Ian
Crowther, StanMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cunliffe, LawrenceMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cunningham, Dr JohnMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Deakins, EricOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Dewar, DonaldO'Brien, William
Dixon, DonaldOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dobson, FrankOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Dormand, JackPatchett, Terry
Dubs, AlfredPavitt, Laurie
Duffy, A. E. P.Pendry, Tom
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Penhaligon, David
Eastham, KenPike, Peter
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Ellis, RaymondPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Prescott, John
Fatchett, DerekRadice, Giles
Faulds, AndrewRandall, Stuart
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Redmond, M.
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Fisher, MarkRichardson, Ms Jo
Flannery, MartinRobertson, George
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Foulkes, GeorgeRogers, Allan
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Rooker, J. W.
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Freud, ClementRowlands, Ted
Garrett, W. E.Ryman, John
George, BruceSedgemore, Brian
Godman, Dr NormanSheerman, Barry
Golding, JohnShore, Rt Hon Peter
Gould, BryanSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Gourlay, HarrySkinner, Dennis
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)
Hardy, PeterSmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Harman, Ms HarrietSoley, Clive
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSpearing, Nigel
Hattersley, Rt Hon.RoySteel, Rt Hon David
Haynes, FrankStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Healey, Rt Hon DenisStott, Roger
Heffer, Eric S.Strang, Gavin
Straw, JackWareing, Robert
Taylor, Rt Hon John DavidWeetch, Ken
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Welsh, Michael
Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)Williams, Rt Hon A.
Thome, Stan (Preston)Wilson, Gordon
Tinn, James
Torney, TomTellers for the Noes:
Wallace, JamesMr. James Hamilton and
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Mr. John Home Robertson.

Question, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

Committee

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

Report and Third Reading

2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at Midnight on that day; 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 that day 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 clay 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.

Conclusion 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 the allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted day

7. On the 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 the 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 the 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 bring to a 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 the 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 the 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 the 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.

Recommittal

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

(2) On the allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit 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 Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) 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.