Basis of Apportionment of Needs Element of Rate Support Grants

Orders of the Day — Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 29th March 1984.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scottish Office) 6:45 pm, 29th March 1984

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 12, leave out from 'above' to 'either' in line 15 and insert 'the Secretary of State may, in prescribing a basis for apportionment under either of those paragraphs or in providing for apportionment under paragraph 3 above, have regard to the extent to which, in his opinion,'. The amendment is of a technical and drafting nature and clarifies a power which was welcomed by all parties in Committee. The clause aims to permit my right hon. Friend, when apportioning any general abatement of rate support grant arising from local authority overspending, to relate the penalties of individual authorities to the extent of their overspend, measured against the guidelines issued by him. The statutory powers governing the distribution of the needs element of rate support grant are set out in part 1 of schedule 1 to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, a copy of which is usefully reprinted in the schedule at the back of the Bill.

Paragraphs 1 and 3 provide for apportionment on the basis prescribed, and during the years up to 1983–84 the annual rate support grant order contained schedules prescribing a basis for distribution. Paragraph 3 contains powers for apportionment of a prescribed amount of needs element to such classes of authorities, or to any such authority, as may be prescribed. The latter power was used in the needs element of distribution for 1984–85, and we expect to continue to use it in the future. The change was a consequence of the use of the client group assessments of relative need for the distribution of the needs element of the rate support grant.

The amendment seeks to ensure that where the needs grant is distributed on the basis prescribed in earlier years, or by way of the prescribed amount for each authority, as in 1984–85, any general abatement can be apportioned among authorities in proportion to the overspend. The House will accept that the amendment is proposed in the spirit of the clause, which was welcomed by the Committee, and seeks to remove doubt. I ask the House to approve it.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The Minister read his script with an air of quiet triumph, safe in the assumption that few people would understand the gobbledegook with which he favoured us.

The hon. Gentleman said that clause 1 was welcomed, but that overstates the case. He assumes that because the Committee did not divide against it. We believed that there was some virtue in the new distribution formula for a general abatement. But I do not want the word "welcomed" to encompass any sly suggestion that we see virtue in general abatements. They are unpleasant and have been over-used of late by more than one Government. That should save the Minister from making another tiresome party political point. They have become endemic in recent years and I hope that they will be curbed.

I am prepared to accept that it is a tidying-up amendment and does not alter the general principle of clause 1: that the apportionment of general abatement should be on the ratio of an individual local authority's share of the overspend which has attracted that abatement. On the understanding that it is in line with that, and merely enables that object to be achieved, I shall not occupy the House's time further.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

That amendment having been agreed to, I will direct the Public Bill Office to make the necessary consequential alteration to schedule 1, which sets out the law as amended.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 7:15 pm, 29th March 1984

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 10, leave out clause 2.

This involves a more substantial matter. The amendment seeks to delete clause 2. It is perhaps a little unusual that such a radical and fundamental amendment should come before the House on Report, especially as we debated it fully in Committee. There are special reasons for that, and I make no apologies for it. I am grateful to those in charge of selection that we can debate the matter again.

Clause 2 is innocently entitled: Procedure under section 5 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966. But behind that facade hides a nasty proposal, of constitutional significance, which is of importance to anyone who is interested in the proceedings of the House.

Section 5 of the 1966 Act empowers the Secretary of State to make a judgment at the beginning of the financial year about the estimated budget of a local authority. If, in accordance with vague and ill-defined criteria, the Secretary of State concludes that the estimated expenditure is excessive and unreasonable, he is entitled to ask the House to reduce the rate support grant settlement during the year to deal with what he considers to be extravagant budgeting by the local authority.

We have had a long and sad series of debates on this matter. They have always been conducted on the basis that there was an order for each local authority under threat, and that at the end of the debate there would be an opportunity for the House to pass judgment on each local authority's case.

Clause 2 seeks to allow the Secretary of State to take more than one local authority — perhaps four, five or six, if it is a busy year—and put them all in one order so that only one vote will be taken. That is a thoroughly bad proposition, which has pricked the consciences of a considerable number of Conservative Members.

The matter has had a long history. The 28th report of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the matter in 1980–81. There were excessive and unreasonable orders against both Dundee and Stirling and it was proposed that they should be taken together. Under the chairmanship of our then colleague, Mr. Bob Cryer, the Committee considered the matter and, to use the rather quaint phraseology of the report, it concluded that taking the orders together was an "unexpected use" of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State under section 5. No further attempt was made and subsequent orders have been taken separately — as, for example, last year when, unfortunately, four local authorities attracted the adverse attention of the Secretary of State. Each was the subject of a separate debate.

It is fundamentally important to the procedures of the House and the House's ability to scrutinise what the Executive is doing that the option of taking each order separately and voting on each separately should be preserved. I stress that this is an option, as I am not suggesting that we want to take the orders separately every year. We might, by agreement, take them together. That is a matter of common sense.

There is no doubt that excessive and unreasonable expenditure orders are highly controversial. There is also no doubt that they raise the strongest possible feeling among local authority representatives in the area that is to be penalised. By definition, we do not get such an order until there has been a breakdown in negotiations and relations between the local authorities and St. Andrew's house. It is only then when, by definition, at least in the local authority's mind, there will be a strong case to put forward that a Minister will come to the House with an order asking for the House's sanction to take the unusual and serious step of docking rate support grant during a financial year.

In those circumstances, it is common courtesy—I put it no higher than that at the moment—that the local authority should have the opportunity to put its case and have it properly debated and examined in the House. That is implicit in the machinery of section 5 of the 1966 Act. The House will remember that it requires the Secretary of State to consult the local authority concerned and to consider its representations. When he brings his report to the Floor of the House, it is required by statute that he provides copies of those representations, because it is essential, since the Secretary of State's considerations seem to amount to a kangaroo court, that the court of appeal, which is the House of Commons, should be supplied with information about the case for the defence and have a proper, opportunity to consider it.

It would make a farce of the statutory requirement to print such representations if we had just one debate on five or six cases and if all the problems that they represented were bundled together in one unsatisfactory and confused debate. We are right to protest about that. I know that the Minister will say that he is a nice chap who went to a good school and would not do anything so unreasonable. He has tried to shelter behind that argument at various stages of our discussions. I am grateful that we have recently had a good deal more than the minimum amount of time for such debates. If, unfortunately, we have to examine such orders, I hope that that type of agreement will continue. However, we are being invited to enable a Government, if they want to, to say, "You will get one and a half hours to debate all the authorities." When deciding whether to give a nod of approval to clause 2 or to accept amendment No. 2 which deletes it, we must consider whether it is right to open up that possibility. The Government are the masters of the management of the House, and if they have a statutory power to limit us to one and a half hours we cannot rule out the possibility of that being done. It is dangerous to open up that possibility. If the Minister's defence is that that will never happen, why do we need to put on the statute book a power that will allow it?

It would be fundamentally wrong to have the possibility of just one order on which the House can debate, ventilate and examine the case of local authorities that are under threat and in open conflict with the Scottish Office. I am not raising a red herring or a transitory fear, because we know from the 28th report of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments for 1980–81 that Scottish Office officials, in evidence to that Committee, made it clear that in 1980–81 it was being considered whether to put five or six local authorities in one order.

If the Government were so unreasonable as to exercise their right to expect the House to debate the cases of five or six authorities in one and a half hours, the House could do nothing about it. That eloquently makes the case against opening up such a possibility. It would mean that local Members of Parliament would not get a hearing in the debate, as only two or three Back Benchers would be able to speak, even if right hon. and hon. Members were disciplined and brief. Many right hon. and hon. Members would then have to explain to their local authorities and constituents why they did not open their mouths. That would be extremely bad for the House.

The Minister is furiously pulling faces at me. Does he deny that one of the points of clause 2 is to make it possible for five or six orders to be taken together and, if the Government wish, for them all to be debated in one and a half hours? If that is what clause 2 allows, there is a strong prima facie case against it.

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

The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that clause 2 will do hon. Members out of a chance to speak about their local authorities. In so arguing, he seems to be suggesting that all local authorities are represented by exactly the same number of Members of Parliament. Last summer we had four authorities in orders before the House—Glasgow district council, which is represented by 11 Members of Parliament, Kirkcaldy, which is represented by two, and Stirling, which undoubtedly has one. In that context the hon. Gentleman's argument does not hold up, because Glasgow would be represented by 11 Members of Parliament speaking in one and a half hours and Stirling would be represented by only one Member of Parliament speaking in a debate of one and a half hours. The hon. Gentleman must see that a more extended debate of the type that we had in Committee is fairer.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

Of course I agree with the Minister that a more extended debate is fairer and that if we agree on a full day's debate, that is more satisfactory. We object to putting on the statute book a power that will allow a future Secretary of State to say, "You will have one and a half hours for Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Stirling, uncle Tom Cobleigh and all." I do not doubt that it will often be possible to get something more satisfactory, but why should we give the Secretary of State powers which might mean that we have no room for manoeuvre?

The more important point is that if we have only one order we have only one vote. I find it difficult to know what to say about that; it is so monstrous. The point about excessive and unreasonable expenditure orders is that the Secretary of State carefully exercises his judgment in the special circumstances of each local authority and makes a decision about whether they have been irresponsible. That is a subjective judgment which comes to the House because it is important that final authority lies with us. Built into that, by definition, is the proposition that the House may decide that for local authority A the Secretary of State is justified but that for local authority B he is not. With separate orders we can sanction penalisation and the clawing back of rate support grant in one case and not in another.

However, if we put clause 2 on the statute book, and if we are then faced with one order covering four or five local authorities, there is no way in which we can select those which we think deserve to be punished by the Secretary of State for their conduct and those which do not. We are left with a blanket situation which makes a mockery of any attempt at parliamentary scrutiny. That cannot be right, and I do not believe that the Under-Secretary, in his private moments, would for one moment pretend that it was. I do not understand why we are being faced with such a ludicrous proposition, which strikes at the whole ability of this House to do its duty and protect local authorities in Scotland. It is beyond my comprehension why we should be asked to do this.

7.30 pm

I have re-read during the course of the day the report of the Committee stage of the Bill. The Under-Secretary made no attempt to produce a coherent intellectual defence of something which makes a farce of the already inadequate scrutiny which the House procedures allow on matters of this kind.

There is no doubt at all that for many people these orders and the whole use of section 5 of the 1966 Act represent arbitrary authority. This is seen by many people as having constitutional significance and importance—as a shift in the balance of power between central Government and local government. There may be differing views about that, but certainly it is a matter of serious import which will have enormous implications for authorities when questions arise.

In that situation, some of us might feel that even an order on which there will be whipping on a United Kingdom basis and something will be pushed through in a one-and-a-half hour debate is a very flimsy safeguard in terms of scrutiny by the legislature of the actions of the executive. But, if we are going to undermine what little there is by allowing one order and only one vote, with no differentiation, I believe that we shall do a disservice to the parliamentary system of which we are part, and certainly a disservice to our constituents. I therefore hope that he will think very hard about that.

I do not need to tell the House that this is a clause which has attracted criticism from everyone, I think, except those on the Government Front Bench. I do not know of anyone outside the Conservative parliamentary group who has tried to support it. COSLA—I think very properly—has referred to the fact that it will lead to confused debates and detract from detailed consideration of the cases of individual local authorities. Glasgow district council, more trenchantly, and I think very fairly, said that it was making a mockery of parliamentary control.

To be fair, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Corrie)—he is not present at the moment but was here earlier in the debate—made it perfectly clear on Second Reading that he had grave reservations about what the Government were trying to do. He ended by saying, rather hopefully: I genuinely hope that my right hon. Friend and other Ministers will consider that matter in Committee." [Official Report, 5 December 1983; Vol. 50, c. 75.] They did, but of course to no avail, because the Government used their all-too-obedient majority on that Committee to force the matter through.

Sadly, if this had been a debate in Scotland, totally divorced from the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of local government structure, without any other consideration, I believe that we would not have been faced with this clause. I very much fear that the reason we have it is that in England, where there is an enormous multiplicity of local auhorities, there would be a genuine procedural difficulty in having 70 or 80 orders placed before the House in one financial year. Therefore, for purposes of expediency, this clause was introduced into the English Rates Bill and, because it was there, the Scottish Office fell into line. Thus, we have been lumbered with something which I believe is damaging and dangerous, and totally unnecessary in the Scottish context.

In practical terms, this is certainly not as important as the rate-capping or the rate fund contribution clause, but I cannot remember—I say this with consideration—any clause in my time in the House for which I have seen less of a case. I cannot for the life of me understand why we have it. It is so thoroughly bad that I hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, will think again, stay his hand and promise to reconsider this matter. It is a discredit to the House of Commons. It makes us something of a laughing stock. It certainly means that those of us who have to stay on the Opposition Benches temporarily, or those who try to defend their local authorities or see that they get justice at some future date, are being placed at a hopeless disadvantage. Expediency is being allowed to overrule principle in a most fundamental and, in my view, repugnant way.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I must first apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) for guffawing at one point during his speech. I think perhaps he did not understand why I did so. It was because he said that the conscience of Conservative Members had been pricked by this matter. I guffawed because, of course, I do not believe that any of them has a conscience.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

None of them is here, anyway.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

My hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden is right in a sense, however. There is some concern among certain hon. Gentlemen with some low political cunning, because they have worked out what the implications of a one and a half hour order with five or six local authorities in it could mean for them in terms of voting. As these local government measures start to bite on local authorities, as the Conservative members of local authorities make clear to their Members of Parliament their views on this legislation and the action that the Government are taking, and as, even more specifically, the electors of Conservative Members begin to make clear in local authority elections what they think of this legislation and this Conservative Government, hon. Gentlemen will possibly find themselves in a situation in which one of their local authorities is on the list—that in fact Bearsden and Milngavie or Strathkelvin or Eastwood is on the hit list.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

My hon. Friend keeps referring to "hon. Gentlemen" when there is, in fact, only one hon. Gentleman present on the Government Benches. The entire Tory party, other than the paid Front Bench, has stayed away. I beg my hon. Friend to be accurate.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I like to talk about ghosts, or to ghosts. They are somewhere about, I presume.

One of their local authorities—it could very well be the Stirling district council—might be on the hit list. Let us suppose that with all these Left-wing, Marxist local authorities there are five on a hit list, to be dealt with in a one and a half hour debate, with a vote at the end of it. We have Strathclyde, Glasgow district council, Dundee, Stirling and Bearsden and Milngavie. It is unlikely, but not impossible. After all, Bearsden and Milngavie has the second highest average domestic rate payment of any local authority in Scotland, one of the highest payments in terms of housing costs, so it is just possible that it will be on that list.

If that happens, what will the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) do? First, he will have difficulty in getting into the debate, because all the Labour Members from Strathclyde, all the Members from the Glasgow district and the two Members from Dundee will want to get into the debate. The hon. Gentleman may have difficulty getting into the debate in the first place, but he and all his hon. Friends will find, at the end of the debate, that they are asked to vote. They will want to vote against these Marxist, Left-wing district councils and regional councils, but they will also have to vote against the Tory district council of Bearsden and Milngavie.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I hesitate to remind the hon. Gentleman—because I know that it will vex the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) — but when we had a chance to vote, on separate orders, the prospect of that 11.30 pm train seemed enough not to give some of us the chance of voting against the extravagance of some Left-wing councils. In practice, if such a debate were to occur on a Thursday evening, previous examples suggest that it certainly would not result in a vote.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I assume that the hon. Gentleman will now have to sit out the whole of my speech. After all, he will find it difficult to leave the Conservative Back Benches totally bare. However, if he listens a little longer, I shall come to that point. He and the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden may well have to vote against their local and district authorities, and all the Conservative councillors will not be very happy about that. Therefore, there is a certain amount of low cunning in the provision. It is an attack on democracy. Indeed, the whole Bill is an attack on local democracy, and the clause takes it one stage further. It is an attack on the legislature's right to scrutinise Government action, and as such the Government are limiting democracy even more.

My hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden said that he could not understand the reason for the clause. Unfortunately, I can understand why such legislation is introduced, particularly in a Scottish Bill. The simple fact is that the House finds it extremely difficult to accommodate the Scots with separate legislation and orders. The Scots are given insufficient time for their legislation. Not enough Question Times are given to Scottish affairs and we are not given enough time to debate our issues.

The Minister shakes his head, but the Scots have to ask questions covering 10 different subjects during Question Time, whereas our English colleagues have separate Question Times for separate subjects. The Report stage of the Bill is limited to one day, whereas the equivalent English legislation is given two days. Next week and the week after, three days, I understand, are to be given to the Report stage of the London Regional Transport Bill. That is an important Bill and it should be scrutinised properly, but to compare London Transport or one part of England with local government and the attack on democracy throughout Scotland is unfair.

I gather that we are debating the Bill tonight rather than last night or the night before simply because the Secretary of State for the Environment wants to parade his ego on "Question Time" tonight. The debate is being held tonight only because he wants to appear on that programme. That is disgraceful. [Interruption.] One day perhaps I shall parade my ego on "Question Time", but that is another matter.

I see that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden has entered the Chamber. If he is still in Parliament after the next bit of legislation, he will, I hope. represent one of the Glasgow seats once we have brought Beasden and Milngavie into Glasgow district.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

He will not be in Parliament then.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart 7:45 pm, 29th March 1984

That is true.

There is insufficient time for Scottish business. In addition, the time that we are given is resented by other hon. Members. We all know how our colleagues resent it when Scottish business is being considered. We get remarks about how it is the Scots again, and English Members ask why the House is not dealing with this or that rather than with the Scottish matters. If the Government believed in proper Scottish legislation, carried out close to the Scottish people, by the Scots and for the Scots, and in genuine democracy, they would satisfy the clear wish of the Scottish people to have an Assembly in Scotland. That Assembly would be elected by the Scottish people. There would be 140 Members representing Scottish constituencies and the true wishes of the people of Scotland, rather than, as under this Government, a small minority of them. The Assembly would represent the majority of Scottish people and it would pass legislation.

I can see that you are beginning to get slightly nervous, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I may be drifting a little wide of the amendment.

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

I should be very interested to know why the hon. Gentleman thinks that England should have nothing to do with Scotland and that Scotland should have nothing to do with England. He is wearing a badge in support of the GLC. What has that got to do with Scotland?

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I am wearing the badge because the attack on the GLC is part of the attack on local democracy. While I am part of the United Kingdom Parliament, I shall defend local authorities from attack, wherever they may be.

I know that to talk about an Assembly is to drift slightly away from the subject, but the point is that the Scots are given insufficient time and the House is not prepared to allow us time for proper scrutiny of Scottish matters. If that is the reason for the clause, both sides of the House should be considering how to ensure that there is proper time for such scrutiny. That can best be done by ensuring that there is an Assembly in Scotland that can properly scrutinise Scottish affairs.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

If there is such a chronic shortage of time when it comes to Scottish Members scrutinising such important legislation, why was only one Opposition Member present at the last sitting of the Committee and why was he left to carry out that scrutiny single handed?

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I did not serve on that Committee, but I can understand why some of my hon. Friends who spent sitting after sitting being quite unable to get across the majority view of the Scottish people—because the rules of the House ensure that the minority party in Scotland has the majority in Committee—may have felt so frustrated that they decided not to attend. However, I do not think that that was the case. I think that some were ill, and some had other reasons for not being there. Nevertheless, I could understand it if they felt frustrated, because the majority party in Scotland is in a minority in Committee and thus is unable to carry out the wishes of the Scottish people.

If we had a Scottish Assembly there would be proper scrutiny of Scottish legislation and we would be able to enact the legislation that the majority of Scottish people want, instead of having to suffer the legislation that is enacted with an English majority against the wishes of the Scottish people as expressed at the last general election, and at the district and regional elections. At election after election, the Scottish people have rejected the Conservative party. The best way of ensuring that the Conservative party's wishes are not carried out is to have that Assembly. I shall vote with my right hon. and hon. Friends to remove this iniquitous clause from the Bill, as to do so is to take at least one step towards ensuring proper scrutiny of Scottish matters.

Photo of Mr Gregor Mackenzie Mr Gregor Mackenzie , Glasgow Rutherglen

I have several worries about the clause, the first of which is due to the fact that I have a very old-fashioned view about Acts of Parliament. I was interested to hear the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). He said that at some stage in our deliberations tonight the Minister might say that he had no intention of using clause 2 in the way that some of us think he might do so. As I have said, I am a bit old-fashioned about Acts of Parliament. A provision should not be in a Bill unless the Minister intends to use it.

I well remember that when the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) was Solicitor-General for Scotland he said at the Dispatch Box that he, as a Law Officer of the Crown, could promise us that the Government would never use a certain section in an Act. The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who, like his hon. and learned Friend, is a legal practitioner, said that that was the worst comment that he had ever heard from a Minister, because the law is the law, and if it is not to be put into practice it should not be written into a statute. My main concern about this matter is that if this is not put into effect the whole practice of law-making is called into disrepute.

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

I might be able to reassure the right hon. Gentleman. The intention of the Government is to use the clause if the circumstances warrant it. As I said in Committee, and as I shall say again later, we shall use it where it is reasonable to to do in the light of the actions of various authorities. At this stage, not knowing whether there is to be selective action, what authorities there will be, and what the similarity will be, I cannot give an undertaking whether the clause will or will not be used in a particular area.

Photo of Mr Gregor Mackenzie Mr Gregor Mackenzie , Glasgow Rutherglen

I am glad to hear the Minister being so forthcoming. When my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden made a similar point the Minister intervened, but he did not satisfy us. This is a matter of considerable concern to all of us. My main objection to the Bill is a purely practical one. We cannot have a proper discussion of local authority questions if part of the Bill is put in this way.

Many of us feel that the Secretary of State has denied local authorities their rights. Rate capping is a denial of the rights of local authority representatives and the people whom they are privileged to represent. Members of Parliament will be denied their right to put forward, on behalf of their constituents and their local authorities, their particular point of view. I know that the Minister's hon. Friends from south of the border took some exception to the measures that have been passed in the last few days, but knowing the record of Scottish Conservative Back Benchers I doubt whether any of them will say a word, or vote, against this measure.

It is conceivable that the Minister will take exception to what is being done by the Glasgow district council, by Lanarkshire or by Stirling. Those areas account for about 20 Members of Parliament, and all of them, with the exception of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), are Labour Members of Parliament. We would have an hour and a half to debate the order. We would have to allow for the two Front Bench speakers, who, if they are kind to Back Benchers, will take up 20 minutes. That will leave 70 minutes, of which only 35 minutes will be for Opposition Back Benchers to put their case. Eleven hon. Members represent the Glasgow area, and if the right hon. Member for Hillhead or my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) or even I chose to exercise our rights as Privy Councillors and speak we might talk for quite some time. I hope that we should not do so, but there is that possibility.

There is also the practical difficulty that the speakers would have to be called from alternative sides of the House. There is not a Conservative Member for Glasgow or Lanarkshire, and there is only one Conservative Member for Stirling. If we all wanted to say something, we should get only a minute and a half each. That, in purely practical terms, is one of the reasons why I object to the clause. As I said earlier, this is a House of Commons matter, and the House of Commons should express a view and uphold the traditional rights of its Members to put a point of view for their constituents. This cannot be done if the clause is allowed to remain in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

I do not normally talk on matters of rating, local government and housing, but the Report stage of this Bill gives us an opportunity to discuss such matters. The average lay Member, as opposed to the specialist in local government or housing, has the chance to give Parliament's view of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is right. This clause is a democratic monstrosity, and a disgrace to the party who brought it in, to the Conservative Members who have sat silent while the Government have introduced it for their convenience, and to the institution of Parliament that we serve.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) made a valid point about the sheer technical problem facing us. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) about the lack of time for Scottish affairs. However, we do not need these technical arguments. This proposition in itself is a constitutional monstrosity. It is disgraceful that while in English and Welsh matters a number of Conservative Members have protested about recent Government action and the continual drift towards centralisation and extending Government power, no Scottish Conservative Member has complained about this Bill. In almost every action taken by the Government since they came into power five years ago, they — the Government that boasted about rolling back the powers of the state — have in every action, in all legislation, extended the powers of the state.

We see that every day on our television screens with the practices of the protective arm of the state, and its provocative attitude. We are seeing it here because this clause is a further attempt to buttress the malevolence of the Bill towards the freedom of local authorities in financial and other terms by limiting their opportunities to protest to the House of Commons. That is an exact parallel to what we see happening to the pickets on our television screens.

What I am saying is true in any event. That is why the silence is so terrible. Whether the Labour or Conservative parties are in power, as a unitary state, if we do nor have the checks and balances that come from local government, we are heading towards a highly centralised authoritarian political structure. It becomes a matter not only for local democracy but for national democracy. We are above political arguments—they are not the important ones.

If local authorities are treated in this way by a Government who limit their powers, they will expect us to advocate their position in the House of Commons. Even if there were only one Tory in Glasgow—which there is not—and a Labour Government were taking this action against Glasgow, I should expect that Tory to participate in putting up the case for that local authority. All of us know that our function is to be not only political animals but the last line of defence for our constituents and the areas that we represent.

It is no use talking as the Minister did about the relative numbers of Members of Parliament who might be available — 20-odd for Strathclyde or whatever. The problem is that that local area may be left without representation because all authorities are put into the one portmanteau of an hour and a half.

8 pm

Whatever the political complexion of the hon. Member or the local authority, an authority can be left without representation, as happened recently when four authorities were considered by this holy court.

We are talking about a matter of intense importance for local and national democracy. The issue involves the representative nature of our constituency and area structure. The clause cuts the power of the tongue. The terrible thing is that the clause is introduced so casually in a Bill dealing with rating and valuation. The Government have slipped in a major constitutional change which is central to local and national democracy and to parliamentary control.

Never since 1812 and the time of Sidmouth and Castlereagh has such a succession of measures been introduced to whittle the power of the individual Member to represent the people and the power of bodies outwith the House to act as a balance and check upon central Government. Such power, when not written into legislation, can be seen in the Government's activities. It applies to the Government's behaviour towards trade unions and local authorities. Now it is true in their behaviour towards individual hon. Members.

The measure is a monstrosity, conceived out of malice and put forward in a hidden silence. It has been smuggled into the Bill. It is shameful that only one hon. Member representing the Conservative party in Scotland is here even to listen to the argument. The hon. Member for Stirling has not yet dared to defend or, as he should, attack the proposition. I fear that the hon. Gentleman is here because he has no means of contacting his hon. Friends outside to ask them to come in and relieve him. That is a great shame. We feel sorry for him. He must remember that his area, too, could be under attack. If his area were subsumed within a mass of orders to be taken in one and a half hours I hope that he would have the courage to say, "I cannot leave my area unrepresented. I must challenge the Government." Under the proposal he will not have the opportunity.

We must remember what Pastor Niemoller said, that they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. … Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist … Then they came for me … By that time there was no one to speak up for anyone. I say to the Government, please take care of what you are doing to the democracy of this country.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I make a brief intervention to prove that the fish are biting after all. We have heard the most exaggerated argument conceivable. It is nonsense to suggest that if orders are made against Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Stirling, Dundee or any of the other extreme councils under which we have to suffer, it would be necessary for every Scottish Member to participate in the debate to defend those authorities' interests.

I remember that on a similar occasion the biggest difficulty for hon. Members on both sides was having to say something different in the time allocated. The arguments were the same. One advantage of restricting the time available and reducing the opportunities for hon. Members to jump up and repeat the same arguments is that the ratepayers might benefit, not only because the Secretary of State will be curtailing those authorities' expenditure, but because ratepayers will have to pay for the large delegations of councillors who sometimes swell the Strangers Gallery to watch hon. Members perform. We should not then have to watch hon. Members perform for the sake of such delegations.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

That is a disgraceful attack upon local councillors who come here. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) reinforces my argument that local authorities cannot properly lobby their Members of Parliament because Parliament is too far from them. If we had an Assembly in Edinburgh, they would find it easier and cheaper to lobby us.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I am always happy to see councillors in my constituency. It is odd that they find it necessary to come to London to consult me in the House when more time is available when I am in the constituency. I understand that in the case that I have in mind the councillors combined their visit with a meeting at county hall with the Labour group to discuss other matters. I have no doubt that they made suitable recompense to the ratepayers since they were making that journey for two purposes.

The serious point is that every local authority in Scotland that has deliberately gone out of its way to try to frustrate the Government's economic policy and deliberately taken a path of extravagance and overspending has come up with the same arguments. They argue that financial cuts result in cuts in services. In all cases, including Stirling, we are still waiting for the cuts in services. Stirling had a surplus at the end of last year.

The notion that 11 hon. Members should stand up to put the case for Glasgow is absurd. The argument is nothing to do with constitution, but everything to do with putting on a show for the media and for Labour Members' friends who have come down for the show. The argument has little to do with Scottish ratepayers' interests.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) was putting on a show before the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs when he took up so much time moving amendments to the report on Scott Lithgow.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The difference is that Select Committee proceedings are in private, so there is no question of putting on a show. Obviously some hon. Members feel that they are not bound by the privacy stricture.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has done his duty as the only Government Back Bencher to support his Front Bench. Perhaps he will be made a Parliamentary Private Secretary if he continues in that fashion.

The hon. Gentleman said that the powers sought by the Government will be used only against Left-wing councils. Anything can be sacrificed on the altar of expediency by this Government in defence of their economic policies. If a local authority stands in the way of the Government's economic policy it will be swept aside by any means. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State nods his head; we like to know how he feels about such matters.

I warn the hon. Member for Stirling that, whether he likes it or not, his party will not always be in power. A Government of another political complexion may one day have the powers that will be put on the statute book if the Bill is passed. I too have my prejudices. I should love to have a go at some of the underspending authorities in Scotland which do not provide adequate services. By varying the legislation, we might be able to have a go at them. The hon. Member for Stirling should remember that it will not always be like that. The point of principle is that, if central Government and this House interfere in local affairs, local Members of Parliament should at least be able to say something about it.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

Will the hon. Gentleman say which local authorities in Scotland are underspending and which he would like to have a go at?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

The list is quite long. In fact, I reside in one such authority, and as my Member of Parliament is sitting beside me perhaps I can mention the Border regional council. I notice that my Member of Parliament — the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) — is indicating assent. Many more Scottish local authorities are not providing adequate services—Tayside, Grampian and so on.

A genuinely important point of principle is involved. If Parliament is to be wheeled in by any Government to interfere in local affairs, surely in a parliamentary democracy such as Britain the Members of Parliament concerned should be able to have their say. Under the procedures in clause 2, I very much fear that it will be possible to override even that basic principle. The hon. Members concerned might lose the vote, but they would at least have had the opportunity of having their say.

Much has been said about the constitutional significance of the Bill, but this debate goes to the practical heart of the matter. The principle is enshrined in clause 3, but clause 2 facilitates this oppressive measure being dragged through the House.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has already said, Scottish business receives pretty inadequate attention in the House because of the very nature of this House. That is not the fault of the House: it is the fault of the constitution. For example, a sparsely attended House of Commons is now dealing with extremely important constitutional legislation. Not many hon. Members are now present, but, hey presto, come the time to vote, many hon. Members from both sides will pour in. I freely admit that the votes will be whipped in, but as this is Scottish legislation the majority of hon. Members will not know very much about what they are voting for.

About an hour ago we discussed rate capping. Only last night a number of Conservative Members saw fit to defy their Whips and vote against their own Government on the principle of rate capping. Earlier today I was a Teller in the Lobby and was able to see who was voting against one of our new clauses. The hon. Members for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), for South Hams (Mr. Steen), for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) and for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) voted for rate capping in Scotland when yesterday they rebelled against their own Government.

I do not necessarily blame those hon. Members—the system is wrong, rather than those hon. Members. As this does not affect their constituencies, why should they know what is going on? The system is fundamentally flawed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart also said, this legislation should be dealt with in a Scottish Assembly rather than in this House.

8.15 pm

Clause 2 compounds a basically bad state of affairs. By this clause the Government want us to make possible mass production of oppressive orders affecting Scottish local authorities. The clause will enable whole batches of Scottish local authorities to be clobbered in rapid order following a late-night debate lasting one and a half hours. It will be possible to gag the local Members of Parliament, yet there is a guaranteed right for hundreds of hon. Members from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to vote on purely local Scottish issues.

This is a deplorable proposal. It is a graphic example of the centralisation that the Government keep foisting on Scotland and, indeed, the whole of the United Kingdom, in spite of the principles of decentralisation of local democracy about which Tories keep talking. This is also a deplorable example of the suppression of democracy in general, and local democracy in particular. It must be resisted.

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

I wish to make a brief intervention merely to put my position on the record and to make sure that everyone knows that I am here, especially as much of the debate is concerned with who is and who is not present.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Can the hon. Gentleman advise me how my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart) and I, without making speeches, can ensure that everyone knows that we have been here?

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

I am not quite sure how to handle that intervention. Both hon. Members are practised exponents of intervening and making their presence felt from sedentary positions. I look forward to their doing so in the next few moments.

I closely followed the argument deployed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). We should concentrate on the constitutional issue. The hon. Members for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) deployed different arguments, and I agree with what they said. However, I do not think that this is the time or the place to deploy them fruitfully.

From a House of Commons, rather than a party political, point of view, it is indefensible to lump these authorities together in a one a half hour debate to be followed by only one vote. All hon. Members should objectively take that view. I sometimes have difficulty in justifying the debates and votes that take place from time to time in the House. We often spend hours debating abstruse subjects which do not affect too many people. it is, therefore, difficult to justify spending one and a half hours on abstruse and arcane statutory instruments and secondary pieces of legislation, and then have to explain to our constituents why we did not have a chance to put on the record a view that needs to be expressed when discussing local government regulations.

In essence, this measure has nothing to do with rating and valuation. The powers that the Secretary of State is taking could stand just as easily without clause 2. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that in future he must use these powers, he should take time to argue the case. Even if it takes four or five one and a half hour debates, it is only right and proper that he should exhaustively rehearse the arguments for taking and using these draconian powers.

The procedure under clause 2 is not necessary for that to be done. It is gratuitous to the extent that it will inflame the situation and cause a needless raising of the temperature of the political debate north of the border. Some of these matters are contentious and difficult, and the situation will be made needlessly worse if things are lumped together for the sake of the parliamentary timetable.

As a new Member, I am told that the only thing we need here is stamina—not intelligence or anything else. This is a new form of Government power.

Incidentally, if I had drafted the amendment, I should have left in subsection (2). Those of us who study these issues into the late hours of the night find solace in the fact that sections 2 to 7 of the 1966 Act have been out in schedule 1 to the Bill. Any practising lawyer—I declare a bit of an interest; though only a wee bit—would say that there was some force in doing that.

In my opinion, the clause will aggravate the situation. It is unnecessary and, from the point of view of the House of Commons, it is indefensible. I shall vote against it.

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

I listened carefully to the debate, and I was entertained by the histrionics of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan). I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) made a good point. In fact, had he not made it, I should have done so. He said that one reason for the Opposition's dislike of this provision is that they use such occasions to make a lot of heat and noise. As we know from experience of the Labour party, that is much more their way of opposition than constructive debate.

I shall try to deal with the arguments that have been put forward. I do so from the starting point that the Government's intention in introducing the clause was, as I said in Committee, to streamline the procedure. However, when I said that, I also said that it would be used only when it was reasonable so to do. That was what the White Paper said, and that remains the Government's position. I shall return to that matter.

I listened to — and was puzzled by — the basic arguments that were put forward this evening. I was told by the hon. Member for Garscadden and others that it was all a question of time. They said that all these orders—they did not know how many, and all sorts of numbers were suggested—would go through at the dead of night in one and a half hours. The hon. Member for Garscadden was honest enough to admit that he knows from experience that more time has been given than that. Indeed, on rating matters, this Government have always tried to co-operate with the Opposition in considering Scottish rating business, and business to do with rate support grant, on the Floor of the House during the day. Our record is considerably better in that respect than that of Labour Governments.

The hon. Gentleman said that one and a half hours was not enough because of the number of Members of Parliament who would wish to speak on behalf of their local authorities. I could understand the logic of that if he said that the present system — the system that has endured up to now — was wrong, because last year Stirling got one and a half hours with only one Member of Parliament, while Glasgow district got one and a half hours with 11 Members of Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman had said that we should therefore have a system in which Glasgow had 11 times as much time to debate the order——

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

The hon. Member for Paisley, South said that these authorities had a right for their Members of Parliament to speak on their behalf in the House of Commons. He cannot have it both ways.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

I am afraid that the Minister has completely misunderstood the point. The question is not whether every Member of Parliament for Scotland, or for the area involved, would necessarily choose to participate in the debate, but that the area under attack would be represented. By having that number, entire areas can go without being represented here. Certainly, many of them will have to go without proper representation. No one has said that they want to have 11 hon. Members speaking for Glasgow. We have all argued the necessity of that local authority having the opportunity at least to have an advocate in the House. If there is only one Member for Stirling for that area, so be it. He will have to make the case. We are not talking in political or personal terms. I hope the Minister will take on board what we are saying. We are talking about the institution of central Government as against the institution of local democracy. We say that this provision is eroding and crushing local democracy, more than the Government have done so far.

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

What the hon. Gentleman has just said does not detract from what I said, that he wished those authorities to be represented on the Floor of the House. He wanted their spokesmen to get up and speak for them. Their spokesmen can get up and speak for them in a debate where they are all taken in one order.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

In an hour and a half.

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

The hon. Gentleman says an hour and a half. At least his hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden admitted that it is a matter for the House how long a debate on an order should take. There are ways of having a debate for considerably longer than one and a half hours, and obviously during that time there should be a chance for all the authorities — we never know how many are concerned—to be represented.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill

Can the Minister at this stage say whether there will be selective action in the current year? Normally it would arise at about the time of the district council elections in May. The hon. Gentleman might find it embarrassing if Edinburgh and Eastwood district councils were to rank alongside the others that might be selected for action.

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

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that the budgets of all the Scottish authorities have only just been made available to my Department, and we shall want to consider them carefully. We have never taken the view that we could take selective action lightly. We examine all the budgets carefully to ensure that cases on which we decide to take action—if we do so decide—merit such action.

On the question of time, it is hard to argue on the basis of precedent that during a debate on an order of this nature there would not be enough time for the cases of the various authorities to be properly represented.

Next, I come to the question of votes. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) surprised me when he said that the important thing was to let them have their say, and that it did not matter if one lost the vote.

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

If the hon. Gentleman reads Hansard tomorrow, I think that he will find that that is what he said. The question of voting was tied to the line that the hon. Member for Garscadden took, that Parliament was a court of last resort—I think that that was the phrase he used —and that these authorities had the right to come to Parliament to have their cases heard. It was a form of appeal system against the decision that had been taken by the Administration.

I do not accept that argument. The argument has two sides to it, and they do not fit. There is the argument that was used by a number of hon. Members—including, I think, the hon. Member for Garscadden — that the Government would push through these composite orders on their majority, without due consideration of the merits. If Parliament were to operate in that way—I do not say for a moment that Parliament would operate in that way —it could operate on a number of individual votes just as much as it could on one. If it did that, it would not be acting in the way the hon. Gentleman described, as a court of last resort.

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

Perhaps I may be allowed to finish my argument. However, if Parliament were to discriminate, and if it found that the Secretary of State had come forward with a case of selective action which had no merits, on an individual case it would refuse to vote for the order, but equally, if it were in a composite order, the Government, by putting it into a composite order alongside other stronger cases, would risk losing the lot. It was for that reason that I said in Committee that the Government would only use this power where it was reasonable to do so in the individual circumstances. The logic of that is that no Government could operate in any other way. This is not a mandatory provision but an enabling provision. The word is not "shall" but "may". Obviously any sensible Government would have to operate in the way that I have been explaining.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 8:30 pm, 29th March 1984

Does the Minister not recognise that where three local authorities are dealt with on one order there is a real risk that a Government Back Bencher, although he may have considerable doubts whether authority A is being properly dealt with, if he feels that the Government are right about authorities B and C, rather than defeat the Government and lose all three, will trudge into the Lobby, whereas if there were a separate debate and vote on each there would be a much fairer chance of real justice for authority A.

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

The hon. Gentleman is being unfair to hon. Members in taking that line. If an hon. Member believes that an injustice is being done he will act accordingly.

I must sum up my remarks by reiterating what I said in Committee. It is not necessarily the intention to put together all the authorities subject to selective action as a matter of course. That is why the legislation is enabling rather than mandatory. I went further when I told the hon. Gentleman that combined reports would be used only when it seemed reasonable in the light of individual cases. The purpose of this provision is to streamline.

Labour Members said that local authorities had a right to be heard, and that is correct. I took over my present job after the election in June, and I spent the first part of my time in the job meeting a number of the councils against whom selective action was being taken. I listened to their representations, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In each case a reduction was made. That is a measure of the care and attention that we paid to the cases that were put forward. Therefore, it is not possible for Labour Members to say that local authorities will not be heard. If selective action is taken against local authorities they have a right to see the Minister to put their case.

A lot of lather has been worked up during the course of the debate by Labour Members. This is a straightforward streamlining measure which will be used only when it is reasonable so to do, and for that reason I ask the House to reject the amendment.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The Minister is being loyal but obtuse. I accept that he has a reasonable record in giving time on the Floor of the House for orders under section 5 of the 1966 Act and I am glad to acknowledge that. But what he is inviting us to do, as I said earlier, is to put on the statute book a power which would allow an unreasonable Minister to deal with four or five authorities together in an hour and a half and that is completely indefensible.

I find almost laughable the argument that a Government Back Bencher, faced with four or five authorities in one order and having doubts about one, would vote against the Government and cost them the order. It does not work like that. The Minister invited us to look at the practicalities of the situation. If he considers them, he will see what a ludicrous situation he is presupposing. It is as logical for me to say that we should not table any amendments to the Finance Bill, that we should not look at it clause by clause and amendment by amendment, because if there is one clause that we do not like the whole Budget can be brought down.

As always when a vote is imminent, a number of hon. Members from the United Kingdom are gathering. They will probably troop into the Lobbies knowing nothing about what they are voting for. I make no attack on them for that because I have been in the same situation and I am honest enough to admit it. But if they knew just what nonsense they were being asked to endorse, some at least would hesitate.

I raised this matter with the Leader of the House in an intervention during the debate on the guillotine motion. If I may say so, he looked somewhat taken aback and said in an offhand way that he was in favour of anything that shortened debates. That is the kangaroo court logic of clause 2. It is an insult to the House, which has the power to scrutinise, control and examine what the Executive are doing, to say that we shall do it all on the kind of telescoped time scale that is now theoretically possible. After all, in any negotiations the Minister will be in a position to bargain from great strength. If negotiations break down, he will give the legal minimum of one and a half hours for the lot. In that situation, Parliament will not be allowed the basic right to support the Government in penalising authority A but to withhold support for penalising authority B. People cannot be tried together and given a group verdict. Every one cannot be exonerated because a jury is unhappy about one individual. That is nonsense. That is a perfectly fair parallel to what the Government are inviting the House to do on this occasion.

I have no doubt that we shall lose a few minutes in protesting against the clause, but this is a pretty shabby business. We are not getting into a lather or any hypocritical or synthetic party rage. We have a genuine concern about the way in which the procedures are being abused and the way in which the Minister, for no good reason at all except the vague slogan of streamlining procedures, is destroying the basic rights of Opposition Back Benchers.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 29, Noes 197.

Division No. 214][8.37 pm
AYES
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Carter-Jones, Lewis
Anderson, DonaldClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterClarke, Thomas
Ashley, Rt Hon JackClay, Robert
Ashton, JoeCocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Barnett, GuyColeman, Donald
Barron, KevinCook, Frank (Stockton North)
Bell, StuartCorbett, Robin
Benn, TonyCorbyn, Jeremy
Bermingham, GeraldCraigen, J. M.
Bray, Dr JeremyCrowther, Stan
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Deakins, Eric
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dewar, Donald
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Dobson, Frank
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Eadie, Alex
Bruce, MalcolmEastham, Ken
Buchan, NormanEvans, John (St. Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Fatchett, Derek
Campbell-Savours, DaleFaulds, Andrew
Canavan, DennisFlannery, Martin
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Foster, DerekMeacher, Michael
Foulkes, GeorgeMeadowcroft, Michael
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Michie, William
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
George, BruceMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Godman, Dr NormanMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gould, BryanNellist, David
Harman, Ms HarrietO'Brien, William
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterO'Neill, Martin
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithPavitt, Laurie
Haynes, FrankPenhaligon, David
Healey, Rt Hon DenisPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Heffer, Eric S.Prescott, John
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Richardson, Ms Jo
Howells, GeraintRobertson, George
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Janner, Hon GrevilleRowlands, Ted
John, BrynmorShore, Rt Hon Peter
Johnston, RussellShort, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldShort, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Kennedy, CharlesSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Kilfedder, James A.Skinner, Dennis
Kilroy-Silk, RobertSmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Kirkwood, ArchibaldSnape, Peter
Lambie, DavidSpearing, Nigel
Lamond, JamesSteel, Rt Hon David
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Litherland, RobertStrang, Gavin
McCartney, HughThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McCrea, Rev WilliamTinn, James
McDonald, Dr OonaghTorney, Tom
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Wallace, James
McKelvey, WilliamWeetch, Ken
Mackenzie, Rt Hon GregorWhite, James
McNamara, KevinWinnick, David
McTaggart, RobertYoung, David (Bolton SE)
McWilliam, John
Madden, MaxTellers for the Ayes:
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Mr. John Home-Robertson and Mr. James Hamilton.
Martin, Michael
Maxton, John
NOES
Alexander, RichardChope, Christopher
Ancram, MichaelChurchill, W. S.
Arnold, TomClark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Ashby, DavidClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Aspinwall, JackClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Conway, Derek
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Coombs, Simon
Batiste, SpencerCope, John
Bellingham, HenryCouchman, James
Bendall, VivianCranborne, Viscount
Berry, Sir AnthonyCrouch, David
Best, KeithDorrell, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDover, Den
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peterdu Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Body, RichardDurant, Tony
Bonsor, Sir NicholasEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Boscawen, Hon RobertEggar, Tim
Bottomley, PeterEmery, Sir Peter
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Evennett, David
Boyson, Dr RhodesFallon, Michael
Braine, Sir BernardFavell, Anthony
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFenner, Mrs Peggy
Bright, GrahamFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brinton, TimFletcher, Alexander
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruinvels, PeterForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bryan, Sir PaulFranks, Cecil
Buck, Sir AntonyFraser, Peter (Angus East)
Burt, AlistairFreeman, Roger
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Gale, Roger
Carttiss, MichaelGalley, Roy
Channon, Rt Hon PaulGardiner, George (Reigate)
Chapman, SydneyGarel-Jones, Tristan
Glyn, Dr AlanOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Goodhart, Sir PhilipParris, Matthew
Goodlad, AlastairPercival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Gower, Sir RaymondPink, R. Bonner
Grant, Sir AnthonyPollock, Alexander
Gregory, ConalRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Grist, IanRoe, Mrs Marion
Ground, PatrickRossi, Sir Hugh
Grylls, MichaelRumbold, Mrs Angela
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Ryder, Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Sayeed, Jonathan
Hampson, Dr KeithShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hanley, JeremyShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hannam, JohnShelton, William (Streatham)
Harvey, RobertShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Haselhurst, AlanShersby, Michael
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelSims, Roger
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hawksley, WarrenSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hayes, J.Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hayward, RobertSpeller, Tony
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidSpencer, Derek
Heddle, JohnSquire, Robin
Henderson, BarryStanbrook, Ivor
Hickmet, RichardStanley, John
Hicks, RobertSteen, Anthony
Hind, KennethStern, Michael
Hirst, MichaelStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)Stokes, John
Holt, RichardStradling Thomas, J.
Hooson, TomSumberg, David
Hordern, PeterTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)Terlezki, Stefan
Hubbard-Miles, PeterThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Thurnham, Peter
Hunter, AndrewTracey, Richard
Jessel, TobyTrotter, Neville
Johnson-Smith, Sir GeoffreyTwinn, Dr Ian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Jones, Robert (W Herts)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithWaddington, David
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyWakeham, Rt Hon John
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Walden, George
Knight, Gregory (Derby N)Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Knowles, MichaelWaller, Gary
Lawler, GeoffreyWard, John
Lawrence, IvanWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lee, John (Pendle)Watson, John
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Watts, John
Lilley, PeterWells, Bowen (Hertford)
McCurley, Mrs AnnaWells, John (Maidstone)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Wheeler, John
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Wilkinson, John
Maclean, David JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann
Major, JohnWinterton, Nicholas
Mather, CarolWolfson, Mark
Monro, Sir HectorWood, Timothy
Moore, John
Moynihan, Hon C.Tellers for the Noes:
Murphy, ChristopherMr. Ian Lang and Mr. Tim Sainsbury.
Neubert, Michael
Norris, Steven

Question accordingly negatived.