Mitigation of Corporation Tax Liability of Industrial and Provident Societies and Housing Associations

Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:54 pm on 10th July 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

'(1) Where in any accounting period of a body to which this section applies the rate of corporation tax exceeds such special rate as Parliament may fix for the purposes of this section the body may claim that the corporation tax charged on the income of that body for that period shall be calculated as if the rate of corporation tax were equal to that special rate.

(2) The bodies to which this section applies are:

  1. (a) any registered industrial and provident society as defined in section 340 of the Taxes Act and any such co-operative association as is mentioned in subsection(8) of that section;
  2. (b) any housing association for the time being approved for the purposes of section 341 of that Act;
not being a society, association or company under the control (within the meaning of section 302 of that Act) of one or more companies which are not themselves bodies to which this section applies.

(3) For the purposes of this section the income of a company for an accounting period is its income charged to corporation tax for that period as defined in section 85(6) of the Finance Act 1972.

(4) The special rate for the purposes of this section shall have effect for the financial year 1985 and subsequent years and be 30 per cent.'.—[Mr. Hattersley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 4:07 pm, 10th July 1985

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The purpose of the new clause is to provide what is wrongly, though properly, called a special rate of corporation tax, a rate of 30 per cent. which this new clause would apply to registered industrial and provident societies and to housing associations. The incidence of this tax would be importantly felt and is desperately needed by housing associations and co-operative societies.

I said that I regarded the term "special rate" as something of a misnomer, because the idea of a special rate implies, and certainly in uninformed circles is taken to mean, that something to the advantage of the group in question is being proposed. This clause deals with the rate of corporation tax paid by industrial and provident societies and housing associations. It is not demanding, and I am not asking for them to be specially advantaged. I am asking that that group of institutions should be removed from their present situation, in which they are disadvantaged compared with their commercial competitors.

Some of my hon. and right hon. Friends may argue — I would argue on another occasion — that the advantages of these non-profit making institutions are such that they should be given a positive advantage from corporation tax. But that is not what we are arguing for today. We are asking for their treatment to be comparable with and no worse than that which is given to commercial companies. The new clause merely seeks to relieve the societies and the associations of the discriminatory tax penalties which they presently suffer as a result of last year's Finance Bill.

When we sought to amend last year's Finance Bill to avoid these unfair penalties, I assumed that the Government in reforming corporation tax — as they chose to describe their proposals—had simply forgotten the effect which their proposals would have on friendly societies, provident and industrial societies, co-operatives and housing associations. I assumed that they had not realised the necessity of making special arrangements for these institutions to ensure that they would not be disadvantaged. It is impossible for me to be so charitable this year. The Government must know of the damage that their tax policy is now doing to these institutions, yet they have chosen to do nothing to rectify the injustice of last year's Bill.

Last year, when I moved the amendment which would have avoided the injustice coming about, the Financial Secretary sought to rebut the Opposition's arguments simply by saying that all tax innovations ought to be welcomed and that only fiscal conservatives would oppose a change of this kind. I understand why anyone who is responsible in any degree for Government economic policy welcomes changes of any description, but I cannot support a change—I did not support it, and I now want to remedy that change — that puts an important section of the economy at a disadvantage.

Now that Treasury Ministers have had a year to ponder the injustice, I look forward to hearing whether it will be argued that no such injustice exists or whether it will be said that the injustice exists but that it is just the bad luck of the institutions involved. My suspicion is that the failure to remove it is at least in part the result of the Government's prejudice against some of these institutions, co-operative societies especially.

The problem faced by the co-operative societies is easy to describe. When, in 1965, corporation tax was introduced, the rate of 40 per cent. was applicable to all companies — large and small companies and industrial and provident societies. In the early 1970s, the assessment of corporation tax was changed to what is called the imputation system. That system gave relief to businesses in respect of advance corporation tax on distributions. But since industrial and provident societies by their nature could not make such distributions, they were not originally required to pay the tax at the full rate. So when the imputation system was first introduced there were two special categories of enterprises which faced special problems for which the Government made special and necessary allowances. They were co-operatives and the like and companies or institutions which could not, sometimes by rule and often by practice, make the normal level of dividend distribution. Special arrangements were also made for small concerns which distributed a smaller proportion of their profits than the new rate of corporation tax hypothesised — 52 per cent. based on average distribution, which was anticipated to give a 40 per cent. yield.

At that time, the Government accepted that in smaller firms and institutions where the proportion of profit distributed was smaller than in normal commercial undertakings, a special accommodation had to be made. To accommodate the small companies, the small company rate was introduced. Initially, it was 42 per cent. Then it was 40 per cent. Then it was 30 per cent. That was designed as a special encouragement to small firms.

The Government of the day acknowledged that a parallel position existed in and for the institutions listed in the new clause. They acknowledged that co-operative societies by their nature distributed a smaller and a fixed percentage of their profits. Therefore, a special rate was fixed for them.

The differential between normal commercial companies and friendly, industrial, provident and co-operative societies was not meant to favour the latter group. It was not meant to ensure that those institutions paid less than others in tax. It was meant to give them equality of treatment.

The point was described exactly by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) in Committee on last year's Finance Bill. I did not warn the hon. Gentleman of my intention to quote his words because I felt certain that he would be here to take part in the debate. I am gratified to see that my judgment on that issue about him is correct, and I repeat that I cannot imagine a better way of describing the position than that which he used a year ago. He said: if one accepts the principle of the differential between imputation where one can and cannot distribute, there should be a lower rate for building societies, and presumably co-operative societies, so that we still maintain the justice effected in 1972."—[Official Report, 1 May 1984; Vol. 59, c. 286.] 4.15 pm

The new clause seeks to restore the justice that the Government in 1972 believed to be proper. Yet last year the justice effected in 1972, in the hon. Gentleman's terms, was removed. Co-operatives are now taxed at full corporation rate, whilst private and commerical companies are allowed to deduct their shareholders' liabilities on the distributions which are made.

When the special rate for co-operatives was withdrawn last year, I am told that the Co-operative Union, speaking on behalf of co-operative societies in general, met the Inland Revenue. The Co-operative Union assures me that the Revenue itself, acting as the Revenue always does in a role almost independent of that of the Treasury and its Ministers, agreed that to introduce the scheme proposed in last year's Finance Bill and to abandon the special rate for co-operatives would be to militate against the interests of co-operatives in a way which placed them at a severe fiscal disadvantage to their commercial competitors.

The talk about fiscal neutrality does not appear to apply to co-operative societies, to industrial and provident societies, to friendly societies and to housing associations.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

My right hon. Friend is on to a very important point in arguing for, in effect, simple equity. He is making a compelling case, and I welcome that as chairman of the Co-operative parliamentary group in the House. Will he emphasise that a fundamental difference is that a co-operative shareholding is quite distinct from that in a company and that co-operative members do not benefit from rights issues? Again I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for the very strong and unanswerable case that he is advancing.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend as well, because he is right when he says that, by their constitutions, co-operative societies have members — in some cases they are nominally described as shareholders — who do not enjoy the normal privileges and advantages of shareholders. There are no rights issues and no scrip issues, and the proportions of the profits that they receive are always limited by convention, often limited by rule and sometimes limited by law. It is because of the limitation on distribution that, were there not to be a special rate for co-operatives, the co-operatives would be enormously disadvantaged.

By their nature, co-operative societies minimise profits to their shareholders because they exist to maximise benefits to the consumers. Very much the same rule applies with the co-operative wholesale societies in England and Scotland which, although having a new and different constitutional form, nevertheless do not distribute profits in the way which is common in commercial undertakings, and they could not be allowed to do so. It is for the reasons that my right hon. Friend explained that, were they to be treated as if they were normal commercial companies operating under normal commercial rules, they would continue to be disadvantaged in the way that I have described.

When the Financial Secretary wound up last year's debate, he made two points in rebuttal, having criticised the Opposition for not accepting any change, no matter how unjust. First, he said that the problem that we described did not arise, and he added that in any case it arose only in a very few cases. He said that fewer than 30 industrial and provident societies and what he described as rather more than 50 building societies would be adversely affected.

At the end of the debate, I was glad that the hon. Gentleman at least conceded that some of these societies, worthy in themselves and an important part of the economy — the co-operative movement represents 6 per cent. of the total retail trade — were adversely affected by the new rule. But I made it clear on behalf of the Opposition that we regarded this as a gross injustice which ought to be removed if only one society was affected.

However, more and more co-operative societies seem certain to be affected because of the reorganisation now going on within the co-operative societies. They are amalgamating. They are becoming larger. As they become larger, they become more profitable. As they have become simultaneously larger and more profitable, an increasing number are being required to pay a rate of tax which is unjust compared with that of commercial competitors.

I shall conclude—no doubt the Chief Secretary will soon conclude the speech that he will give rather than the one that he is preparing — with three examples of the new iniquitous system, which the Finance Act 1984 brought about. They relate to successful co-operative societies.

The Sheffield society, which was called the Brightside and Carbrook when I was a subscriber, would have paid £510,000 under the scheme that existed before the Finance Act 1984. Under the new scheme it pays £675,000 on exactly the same turnover, and if the new clause is accepted, the tax liability at 30 per cent. will produce a yield to the Treasury of £306,000, which will more or less return it to its position before the discriminatory clause was introduced.

Under the old scheme the Plymouth co-operative society would have paid £20,000. Under the new scheme it pays £708,000, and if my 30 per cent. proposal is accepted the society will be required to pay £531,000, which is little more than was levied from it under the old scheme, but much more in line with what was regarded as just before the Finance Act 1984.

Under the old scheme the Peterborough society would have paid £705,000, under the new scheme it pays £800,000, and under my scheme it would receive a benefit which would return it more or less to its position before the Finance Act 1984.

We are asking for a return to the position that existed before the Finance Act 1984, which acknowledged that because of the co-operative societies' patterns of profit and dividend distribution, to levy corporation tax on them in the same way as on commercial undertakings would put them at a fiscal disadvantage. Surely that is wrong. I hope that the Financial Secretary will agree to change it.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Stockton South

I support the new clause because I welcome the opportunity to support mutual organisations. Yesterday we discussed an amendment which sought to help friendly societies. We all know, especially those of us who come from and represent northern constituencies, of the important social and economic role that mutual organisations, such as friendly societies and co-operative ownership enterprises, have played in the north and, indeed, throughout the country. We should support those organisations because their owners and participants, whether consumers or producers, workers or customers, are motivated by a prime interest in the organisation. They participate in and organise the societies not for private gain, but for the benefit of the co-operative and the community that it serves.

The new clause would help co-operative societies, especially co-operative ownership in housing, which is a relatively recent development. It has become a significant part of the housing sector—some would say not nearly as significant as it should be—only during the past two decades as a result of the pioneering work of a small group of enthusiastic supporters including Mr. Harold Campbell, who played a major role both through the Co-operative Housing Agency and by promoting the idea of co-operative housing in Government circles and throughout the country.

As the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said, the new clause seeks to extend the lower rate of corporation tax to a variety of institutions defined in the Taxes Act. As I understand it, that includes credit unions, industrial co-operatives, housing associations and self-build societies. In my constituency, self-build societies, co-operative housing bodies and housing associations are making a most worthwhile contribution to the community's housing needs, especially in the south Middlesbrough area.

One of the best features of that development, which my colleagues and I should like to see extended to other areas, is the mixture and proximity of different types of housing ownership. Rented accommodation, self-build accommodation, part-rent and part-owned accommodation, co-operative owned accommodation and privately owned accommodation are together in the same development. That provides both a good social mix and, more importantly, a chance for consumers to have a wide range of opportunities to buy or rent houses, and to participate in housing schemes, as their inclination and pockets will allow. That sort of development, which the new clause would encourage, should be supported by the House.

The trouble is that, even if the Government accept the new clause, it will do little to reverse the dreadful decline in support for this type of housing venture and institution that has occurred since they carne to office. There has been a 21 per cent. real fall in gross loans and grants to housing associations since 1982–83. That means that in the north-east the Housing Corporation cannot meet the bill for more than £4 million worth of major repairs to housing association properties, of which some £2·27 million relates to properties for which local authorities are prepared to provide funds, but to which the corporation cannot respond. For a Government who say that home ownership is one of their most important aims in housing policy—they said that in the housing expenditure White Paper—they have been especially tardy in helping the low-cost home ownership programmes, which have become a growing proportion of housing association activity.

4.30 pm

We all know from our experience in our constituency surgeries, possibly from our own personal experience, and from those with whom we have contact, that low-cost home ownership and the role that the housing associations can play in it is vital.

In the north-east, the housing associations were allocated only £16 million, compared to bids of up to £45 million. Therefore, there is a substantial gap between what the associations could do to help the housing needs of the north-east, where the gap is considerable, and what they are enabled to do. We have rehearsed, during general economic debates in this House, the arguments for investment of that sort. It is just the type of investment on which the Government should be embarking at present. There is a real need, in areas such as the north-east, for this type of housing accommodation. There is also a real need for the spin-off in jobs and growth which would arise if the Government were to respond to the bids of £45 million made in the north-east by the housing associations.

In view of the Labour party's new enthusiasm for home ownership, it is interesting to note that in the 1985–86 programme there are only 300 houses under this heading for the whole of Cleveland county, where the smallest number of bids in the north-east region were made. Those are in Middlesbrough, which I have already mentioned. Perhaps some of the local authorities and their representatives on the boards of housing associations should investigate that apparent lack of interest, because many of us believe that the developments in co-operative housing and housing associations in the past 20 to 30 years have led to a third force in housing that is of enormous benefit to the community.

We hear a great deal from the Conservative Benches about the shortage of rented accommodation, but the references are usually to private rented accommodation. In recent times, to the benefit of many communities, there has been an enormous growth in the number of rented units of accommodation available through housing associations as an alternative to council housing. That is a very desirable development. I hope that the Government will support it.

The Conservative Government's limitations on capital finance have already held back the development of housing co-operatives. While the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and some of his hon. Friends may be enthusiastic about the development of housing co-operatives, which were supported in the past by the late Tony Crosland and others who established the Co-operative Housing Agency, only 8,000 units of housing have been provided since the Government started to take action in that area many years ago. Those 8,000 units have been provided by about 200 registered co-operatives. One of the reasons for the small number of units is that Labour councils throughout the country have been adamantly opposed to the development of housing co-operatives and housing associations because of the blind ideological commitment of those Labour councils to council housing as the answer — and the only answer — to the housing problems in their areas.

There is no better example than Liverpool. Under the Liberal council, 2,000 homes were provided in over 30 registered co-operatives—a high proportion of the total in the country as a whole. Therefore, it is not surprising that the registered co-operatives in Liverpool have been given a tribute—

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide of the new clause.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Stockton South

I am marshalling the case in support of the new clause, which seeks to aid mutual bodies, such as the housing co-operatives to which I am addressing my remarks. In demonstrating why the new clause should be supported, I think it is appropriate that I should point out the developments that have taken place in housing co-operatives in past years. I have also tried to show why such developments have not taken place more rapidly than some of us would have liked to see.

I was pointing out that one of the reasons for the slow rate of development is the antagonism towards those mutual bodies, which provide housing and other forms of enterprise, by councils such as Liverpool, because of their commitment only to local authority housing. It seems to me that that is a perfectly valid point to make, because the new clause is concerned with encouraging the development of mutual housing associations and mutual bodies which can provide facilities of that sort.

I hope that the House will support the new clause, because the distinctive type of housing that is involved could make a major contribution to the country's housing and social needs. One of the best ways to encourage that sort of development is through the taxation system, and it is wrong that the mutual bodies should not be on all fours with companies in that respect. They should be given the fairly modest encouragement that the new clause envisages. As I said earlier, the new clause would do very little to make up for the deficiences in respect of which the Government have been guilty since they came to office.

I am very pleased that the Government, after some dithering on coming to office, kept the Co-operative Development Agency in existence. The agency is doing a first-rate job but it could be doing a much bigger and better job if more resources were made available to it. In the 1960s and early 1970s, I was, together with other colleagues, responsible for putting together the proposals that led to the establishment of the agency. We also saw it not only as a promotional body but as a body that would provide substantial funding for co-operatives of all sorts. I appeal to the Minister, in considering the new clause, to have regard to the good work of the Co-operative Development Agency and to the extra work that it could do if given more resources.

The case made by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook in favour of helping mutual bodies also applies to resources for the Co-operative Development Agency. That body, which at national level can do a certain amount, could do a great deal more if it had the co-operation, support and resources of the local co-operative development agencies that local authorities have established in some areas to promote mutual bodies and co-operatives of one sort and another. We want to see the co-operative sector and the mutually owned sector develop as a significant force in the British economy. We want to see bodies with a diverse ownership. That is why in consideration of the Bill last night we proposed amendments to seek to make share ownership in institutions established under the Companies Act much broader, to try to introduce incentives to spread ownership.

We should like to see the co-operative sector as a dynamic and much more substantial third sector of co-operative employee-owned enterprises than is currently the case. We believe that this requires a new framework, including the development of strong co-operative support organisations along the lines of the Spanish Laboral Popular, which has helped to foster the Mondragon group of co-operatives, with which I know many hon. Members on both sides of the House are familiar. That has been an enormous success. There are other reasons, in addition to the support which is being given by that body. The provision of up to 75 per cent. of the finance for new co-operatives is an enormous help to the establishment of such mutual organisations, and we have nothing comparable in this country.

In addition to the modest incentives provided in the new clause, we also want to see a new form of incorporation.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I would not interrupt the hon. Gentleman's exposition on co-operatives in general and on Social Democratic party policy in particular were he not doing damage to the case which some of us want to make. What we are arguing for in the new clause is not a special incentive. The strength of the case which I have tried to make out, and the strength of the case which the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) made a year ago, is not that this proposal provides anyone with some special incentive that gives an advantage, but that, unless the new clause is accepted, people will suffer from a disadvantage. If the hon. Gentleman insists on talking as if he wants to give people some special advantage, he totally undermines the case which he is making for the co-operative movement.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Stockton South

I do not accept that. I take the right hon. Gentleman's point that it is a powerful argument, when a Conservative Government are in office, to suggest that mutually owned organisations should be on all fours with institutions registered under the Companies Acts, but I should like to think that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends will also accept from me and my right hon. and hon. Friends that the concept of mutual ownership and co-operative ownership is so desirable that it should be encouraged by other incentives, in addition to the modest incentive of putting it on all fours with company-registered institutions, as the new clause proposes.

I was seeking simply to demonstrate our commitment to the co-operative sector. As you will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for many years many of us have had, and continue to have, long associations with that movement, and we believe that a great deal more should be done beyond putting these institutions on all fours, as the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook is proposing.

I will not go into the details of the proposal which we have made for encouraging the co-operative sector. That will no doubt be appropriate on another occasion. New clause 9 is a limited but helpful step in the direction of giving co-operatives and other voluntary developments support on equal terms with conventionally owned companies. I hope that the Government will respond to the pressure that has come from various parts of the co-operative movement, and that they will seek to make up for some of the damage that their other policies have done by accepting what is, after all, a modest and fair proposal.

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering 4:45 pm, 10th July 1985

I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) and of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) regarding not only co-operatives but housing associations. I think that the comments were well taken.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook may not be aware that my constituency was and, indeed, still is the home of many well-known co-operative associations, particularly in the footwear industry. At the end of the 19th century, far-sighted employers set up many institutions as workers co-operatives or entities in which the principle of sharing the profits and involving the work force in the management of a company was enshrined. I think that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was quite correct. He may be interested to know that my council — which, incidentally, has a Conservative majority — has recently decided to provide finance for our local co-operative development association. One of the best managed co-operatives in my constituency is in Brixworth, which I have visited and which I intend to visit again soon.

Housing associations are very important to my part of the world with its high proportion of elderly citizens who depend a great deal upon the work of institutions such as the Abbeyfield, which in turn depend upon local housing associations for support. Therefore, I agree with the sentiments.

However, I have experienced great difficulty in accepting some of the arguments put forward in the debate. I should like to address some of the arguments, in particular those advanced by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. The essence of his argument is that the imputation system, the rate of advance corporation tax, which has been in operation for a decade now, in a sense benefited companies which had a distribution policy and were able to distribute some of their profits by convention or practice. For those entities which by convention or in terms of their own internal statutes or requirements did not distribute profits, his argument was that if one took the old corporation tax rate of 52 per cent., one had to deduct the standard rate of tax, the advance corporation tax, which the company was deducting from the dividend flow and paying to the Inland Revenue, with the shareholder receiving only the net payment and, therefore, 52 per cent., where, in a simplistic world, all the profits were paid out. I make that assumption to simplify the argument, although we know that it is not the case.

At one extreme, if a company paid out all its profits, with a 30 per cent. standard rate of tax and the old 52 per cent. corporaton tax rate, that would bring down the figure to a 22 per cent. rate of tax — mainstream corporation tax, as it is called — which would compare very unfavourably with a lower company rate and, indeed, with the rate at which larger companies would be paying corporation tax. I think that that was the argument that the right hon. Member was advancing.

I have problems with that argument, and I should like to advance three in particular. I will not pursue the obvious argument that companies do not distribute all their profits, but in the argument one would have to make some assumptions about the average rate of dividend distribution in the economy before one could compare those companies which distributed profits with those which did not. I did not pick up the exact calculation which the hon. Gentleman was making on that point, but I know that he shared the point with me.

My three points are as follows. First, it depends on which industry and company one picks before a generalisation can be made about dividend rates. There is no way in which one can make a general argument, as the right hon. Gentleman tried to do, about companies in relation to dividend rates. They vary from industry to industry, from type of company to type of company and from year to year, whether we are in recession or in boom. It may be legitimate to use that argument in a debate, but if the right hon. Gentleman tried to reduce the argument to an amendment or to a new clause to be included in the Finance Bill I think that he would be in serious difficulties because one cannot generalise about the dividend rate. It is a fair debating point, but, in practice and reality, one which cannot be sustained in considering legislation.

I suspect that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook understands that point. He advanced the argument that a company is interested only in the net cost of its dividends. It assumes that the advance corporation tax that it deducts from dividends and pays to the Inland Revenue is a payment on behalf of shareholders as part of their total tax liability. That is the nature of our tax legislation and I cannot quarrel with it, but the reality is that companies look at their total corporation tax rate, not just at their mainstream rate. That is the rate which is shown in their accounts and which is used by financial analysts and the stock market when it compares the performance of different companies. Companies therefore look at their total corporation tax rate. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he is comparing the 30 per cent. rate for workers' co-operatives, housing associations and friendly societies with a higher rate nominally, but with a lower rate in reality, because of the payment in advance on account of shareholders' liability to tax, that, in the real world, is not the way in which companies look at it. They look at their total corporation tax liability.

Another argument relating to the main philosophical thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's case is that dividends are assessable at the higher rates of tax, not just at the standard rate. He knows that the advance corporation tax that is paid by companies on dividends paid out is added back. The net dividend is grossed up at the standard rate of 30 per cent., the advance corporation tax rate, but the shareholder is liable to higher rates of tax. It is not true to say in a simplistic way that the imputation system to which he referred earlier is simply about the standard rate of tax. It is not. It is about the part deduction by a company of a shareholder's ultimate liability to tax, but one has to look at the total liability of the shareholder.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made an interesting point about rights issues but it seemed to me to be a bogus point. He appeared to argue that the entities that the right hon. Gentleman's new clause encompasses—housing associations, workers' co-operatives and friendly societies — do not have rights issues, whereas companies have rights issues, and that there is injustice, in the sense that corporate shareholders benefit from rights issues whereas this benefit is not available to the owners of the entities that are referred to in the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook's new clause.

Many hon. Members will be aware that if one takes up one's rights in a rights issue all that happens is that the total equity of the company may have grown by the subscription of new cash to the company but that there is no change in the financial status of the individual shareholder who takes up his rights. Therefore, I cannot follow the argument of the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe. If a shareholder does not take up his rights but sells them, he is subject to tax, but he gives up part of his equity ownership in the company. He gains cash through the sale of his rights but he forgoes an equal amount in terms of the value of his remaining ownership in the company, assuming that he remains a shareholder. I do not therefore follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The fiscal relevance of rights issues is not relevant to the new clause or to the argument upon it.

As for the main part of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook's argument, he acknowledged that the small company rate of tax is 30 per cent. That rate is referred to in new clause 9. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman chose that rate not only because it is the income tax rate but because it is relevant to the rate that is paid by small companies. However, the right hon. Gentleman correctly pointed out that he is addressing his argument not to the smaller entities that would pay 30 per cent. but to the larger entities where the rate of corporation tax will be 35 per cent. in the fiscal year 1986. He argued that for the larger entities paying 35 per cent. one must deduct a proportion of the advance corporation tax on dividends paid out to shareholders. That brings the effective rate which should be borne by the company below 30 per cent.

I do not accept that argument. One should stick to the 35 per cent. rate of corporation tax for the larger entities caught by that rate for two reasons. The first is fiscal simplicity. Many farmers in my constituency choose to be taxed at income tax rates rather than at corporation tax rates. They do not incorporate themselves. That may or may not be wise. I submit that it is for the convenience of the business world that there is a 35 per cent. standard rate of corporation tax that will apply from fiscal year 1986 and a lower rate of 30 per cent. That is widely understood, so I am not in favour, unless there are compelling arguments, of variations.

The second and more important point relates to a matter to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, namely, the major capital allowance changes that were announced in the 1984 Budget and incorporated in the Finance Act 1984. He knows that many large companies, although on a nominal rate of 52 per cent., were paying actual rates of corporation tax that were considerably less than that. As a general rule of thumb in the banking world one assumed, in the analysis of an industry, that the actual rate of corporation tax was between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. for industry as a whole. What has happened as a result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's 1984 Budget and the Finance Act 1984 is the reverse of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The rates of corporation tax for companies have risen in many instances because capital allowances have been withdrawn. The position of entities like co-operatives and housing associations which did not have the benefit of capital allowances has remained unaltered. The effective rates of corporation tax for service companies have fallen, but for manufacturing industries and for some exploration companies they have risen. The actual rate is very close to the nominal rate. From fiscal year 1986 onwards it will be 35 per cent. Therefore, the injustice to which the right hon. Gentleman referred does not exist.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Stockton South

Is that not an argument for not abolishing capital allowances? Is that not the core of the argument to which the hon. Gentleman should address himself?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is an entirely separate issue which has been debated on its merits: whether there should be specific fiscal incentives for capital investment. I am very much in favour of encouraging correct capital investment, but it must be capital investment in either the public or the private sector that will make an adequate return on outlay. The right way to do that is not by the continuation of our very generous capital allowance system but by proper management systems for the review of capital investment projects and other projects to which I have referred in previous debates on the Budget and the Finance Bill and to which I intend to return later.

5 pm

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook made a speech at the meeting of the Crosland Society at Trinity college on 7 June 1985. I draw the House's attention to the speech because it explains what sort of entities would benefit from the new clause, and what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind as examples of co-operatives. Towards the end of the speech, the right hon. Gentleman said: We have to realise that if we are committed to a more equal distribution of power as well as of wealth, the old Morrisonian model of centrally controlled public utility does not meet our needs. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that old-style nationalisation is no longer relevant to the future of the Labour party or our economy. Some enlightenment from the right hon. Gentleman would be helpful because it is confusing that later in the same speech he spoke about institutions that have been privatised by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the time when a privatised utility is returned to public ownership and spelt out the type of control there would be if Labour renationalises British Telecom, British Aerospace — although that is not a public utility — and British Gas which Conservative Members hope that the Government will succeed in privatisating next Session. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he refers to the renationalisation of utilities such as British Telecom and British Gas? What type of control will there be? Will they be genuine workers' co-operatives? The right hon. Gentleman ruled out the Morrisonian nationalized industries. Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that if British Telecom is returned to public ownership it will be a gigantic workers' co-operative? That is the only conclusion one can draw from his speech.

I can understand the thinking behind the new clause, if the right hon. Gentleman is serious about his intention regarding the 30 per cent. rate of corporation tax for those entities. Perhaps the real reason is to benefit the utilities that the Labour party would renationalise as workers' co-operatives if, heaven forbid, it is returned to power, because they would be subject to this rate of corporation tax. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten the House.

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

I wish only to add a few words of support for the new clause which aims to overcome the tax penalties that emanated from the Finance Bill last year. All sorts of organisations are affected, including industrial societies and other mutual organisations such as the friendly societies and the various types of co-operatives. We have heard from both sides of the House examples of the effect of the removal of the differential rate of corporation tax on those organisations.

We had a long debate on friendly societies yesterday. Already, we have seen that the Government's action is crushing these organisations. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) quoted Mr. Madders, the chairman of the friendly societies liaison committee, who said that the Government's action could result in friendly societies becoming extinct. That would be sad because the societies have a long-established tradition and have been in existence for about 100 years. They have served the people of Britain, especially those on lower incomes and in rural areas. The new clause would help the mutual organisations to come to grips with the severe competition with which they must contend.

The Government's line on friendly societies is that if they want to remain alive they must compete in broader areas of business where they would encounter more forms of taxation. They would have to employ staff to overcome the intricacies of tax problems. They do not have the necessary expertise or manpower. They rely on the voluntary help of people who do not have the skill or the time to deal with the complicated taxation matters which the organisations inevitably must deal with if they are to survive in the competitive areas into which Ministers suggest that they should move.

The Government's removal of the differential rate of corporation tax is an additional crushing action on the friendly societies. We argue our case not only from the economic point of view, but from the social aspect. That aspect is most prominent in my mind when considering the corporation tax treatment of friendly societies.

The local postman often plays the role of the deposit collector in rural areas, especially in the north of England. The postman does his rounds and collects deposits. He makes sure that Mrs. Smith is alive and well by checking the milk bottles on her doorstep. We must consider the friendly societies in that context. Social services have been cut; that is a broader issue and I do not wish to go wide of the point, but the social angle must be taken into account when considering the effect of last year's Finance Bill on mutual organisations.

Some hon. Members have mentioned the effect of the changes on co-operatives and much mention has been made of housing associations. I regard my constituency as a deprived area in housing terms and hon. Members who represent deprived parts of the country welcome all initiatives to help overcome the housing crisis which has resulted from the Government's crazy economic policy. It is distressing for the co-operatives to be crushed at a time of housing crisis. In my constituency there are 2,640 families in houses unfit for human habitation, houses with black fungus crawling up the wall and so on.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

I understand the argument, but so that we may be better informed may we have an estimate of how many more properties would become available if the hon. Gentleman had his way and there was a reduction in corporation tax for housing associations?

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

We are not talking about a swamping action but about a fairly small reduction. The effect will not be massive and the new clause will not change the world, but small improvements can contribute to creating a better society. I do not think that the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar) would like small co-operatives or housing associations to disappear because they help, in their small way. I see that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me.

Photo of Mr Peter Hordern Mr Peter Hordern , Horsham

The hon. Gentleman refers to small co-operatives and friendly societies. What rate of corporation tax do they pay now? Surely they benefit from the differential rate for small companies. Is the hon. Gentleman thinking of the larger co-operatives?

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made an interesting and useful point about the larger co-operatives when he said that because of competition co-operatives were having to get together and that we were experiencing a "fewer and larger" syndrome. That means that the tax paid by the larger co-operatives makes them uncompetitive compared with their commercial counterparts.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, for instance, most of the members of the Co-operative Wholesale Society will benefit because they are covered by section 340 of the Taxes Act? I do not have a copy of that Act but is the hon. Gentleman suggesting ways of helping the Co-op to beat Sainsburys and Tescos? Is that what he is really after?

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

The hon. Gentleman should go to the Library and check whether he is really talking about section 340 of that Act. I have been asked an ill-prepared question and I do not want to waste my time on it. I want to talk about the future of co-operatives.

A specific example of the importance of co-operatives is in high technology. The Labour party is now strongly associated with high technology. I regard the Labour party as the party of the future and of high technology. There is no question about that.

Many small companies involved in high technology are co-operatives. Such businesses, by their nature, are high risk. There is a serious downturn in the electronics industry and this is causing liquidations. The uncertain future and the changes in technology mean that a company might soon be producing obsolete products which it cannot sell and so it will become unprofitable.

One advantage of co-operatives is that the equity can be shared among a number of owners. Many instances of that have occurred in Scotland. I think of the closure of the British Steel plants. Many organisations have branched out. Joint ownership is laudable and should be encouraged. The removal of the benefits which existed until March last year has had serious effects.

We are talking about helping high technology not in a massive way, but in a small but significant way. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook will recall visiting the Earls Court exhibition and speaking to three people who owned a small company. They explained how difficult it was to raise the capital to float the company. They did not intend to expand the business because they could not afford to go through yet another nine months of raising money.

5.15 pm

Such organisations should not be discouraged by an oppressive tax regime. Diverse ownership is the principle behind co-operatives and should be encouraged. It gives employees the opportunity to take part in the management and running of a business.

The new clause is worth supporting. It will ensure that mutual organisations such as co-operatives and friendly societies can go from strength to strength rather than being destroyed.

Photo of Mr Peter Hordern Mr Peter Hordern , Horsham

When I first saw the new clause I confess that I was attracted by the notion that co-operatives, friendly societies and housing associations should be relatively well treated compared with other companies. After all, co-operatives and friendly societies have had a long and honourable history. Long before the welfare state the majority of people in Britain were covered by friendly societies.

There is more to the clause than meets the eye. I understand that friendly societies and co-operatives were favourably treated in terms of corporation tax before the changes made last year. The Opposition are suggesting that they should be yet more favourably treated.

I agree about the need to encourage small companies. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) referred in particular to high technology companies. In passing, the hon. Gentleman said that the Labour party was the party of high technology. When I first came to the House similar claims were made. The Labour party described the trend as the "searing white heat of technology." Shortly after the Labour party came to power, it put its plans in hand in the shape of the national plan. It needed evidence that there was a real interest in technology, and created the Department of Technology. More importantly, it put Mr. Frank Cousins in charge. The reason for placing Mr. Frank Cousins in charge was not—as it might seem to the general public and as we were led by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx to believe — to encourage technology but to find Frank Cousins a job. That job-finding practice has been done before and will no doubt be done again.

I was interested in the remarks made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West about encouraging small companies and technology. He was right to say that these companies suffer from an acute shortage of capital because they do not have much of a track record to impress bankers. The fault that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West ascribes to the present system does not apply to small companies because small companies have the benefit of the small companies corporation tax rate. I hope that the Minister will tell us how small companies, whether they are co-operatives or industrial provident societies, will be affected by the proposal.

Small companies do not suffer in the way that the new clause tabled by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) suggests. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will say how many co-operatives pay the full rate of corporation tax. My guess is that not many pay the full rate. Most are small, individual, friendly and provident societies that we all want to see thrive. They are doing well under the present corporation tax rate.

The Chancellor's measures taken in last year's Finance Act were intended to avoid distortion in the operation of corporation tax. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) made that point in his excellent speech when he said that there had been too much of a buzz and distortion about investment. Companies should concentrate on making profits, and any distortion of the corporation tax in favour of a specific form of money-making activity — for instance, co-operatives and friendly or industrial societies — departs from the principle set out in the Chancellor's measures.

Some distortions do exist in corporation tax. As I see the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) present I shall mention one area where distortion arises, and that is in Northern Ireland. I am in favour of a distinctive form of corporation tax for different parts of the country. The system of regional aid and grants has been extremely wasteful and we should reduce the cost of work either by reducing national insurance contributions or corporation tax in the regions most affected by the tax—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. We have strayed from the new clause. I hope that we may return to the mitigation of corporation tax liabilities.

Photo of Mr Peter Hordern Mr Peter Hordern , Horsham

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The new clause invites us to make distortions in corporation tax, and I know that I cannot ask your opinion on that. If distortions must exist they should not be in the techniques of corporation tax or its operation but in its coverage. It is an established practice for grants to be given to firms in Northern Ireland to recover corporation tax.

The substance of the new clause remains to be proved. I understand why the Opposition want to make a case for the co-ops and that some Opposition Members may be sponsored by the Co-operative Wholesale Society. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether the Co-operative Wholesale Society as a trading unit suffers in terms of taxation when compared with such trading units as Sainsburys or the other big multiple organisations. The new clause does not make the case and I believe that the fewer distortions in corporation tax, the better.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee

I declare an interest as a member of several co-operative societies, many of which have gone bankrupt. I was a member of the Sowerby Bridge co-operative society and I am a member of the Oxford co-operative society.

The Opposition have a simple motive in tabling the new clause. We want to encourage the co-operative principle and to encourage the co-op which has fallen on hard and tough times. The co-op is not organised on the same basis as the giant organisations and cannot fight Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda. The Government want to put the co-op on the same competitive footing as the giants in terms of taxation. The co-op is not organised for that form of competition.

The Opposition want to encourage the principle of co-operation and the co-ops. The tax concessions to co-operatives in the rate of corporation tax has been accepted by Labour and Conservative Governments. It originated in the Heath Government, and there is no reason why what the Heath Government giveth the Thatcher Government should take away. The only reason can be that the Thatcher Government have a distaste for the principle of co-operation and for any principle decreed or decided by the Heath Government. That is another manifestation of the difference between the Heath Government, which wisely agreed a distinct rate of corporation tax for co-operatives, and the Thatcher Government, with their extremist composition.

The Opposition seek to repair the damage caused by the Finance Act 1984 by restoring the special tax concession for co-operatives which all previous Governments have accepted.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee

I shall not give way.

The Government are clear in their commitment to remove that privilege and to put co-operative societies on the same tax footing as private firms. I know that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury will say that co-operative societies should be treated the same in tax terms, but I say that co-operatives should have special treatment. They are a special form of organisation which deserves a special concession which all Governments have conceded in the past. That is an advantage — not a major advantage—that the co-operatives need because of their peculiar form of organisation and the specific competitive difficulties they face. Their interests are different from crudely and directly motivated, profit-oriented firms. The co-operatives' role is much wider and they have a commitment to serve their members and to advance certain principles in society. Co-operation is only one of those principles. Such aims and objectives merit and justify special treatment.

The Government will doubtless claim the principle of equality. They do not like co-operation, and do not know what co-operation and working together means. They will proclaim the virtue of one system of reduced corporation tax for all. The Opposition say that that is not right or reasonable. The co-operatives deserve a special advantage that they once had and that we are seeking to restore. The advantage springs from the co-operative principle which is not to maximise profits for their shareholders but to further the cause of their members and to maximise the benefits for their consumers by returning any profit or surplus in the system to those members at intervals in the form of the dividend in proportion to their purchases.

The central principle of co-operative societies is a commitment of service to, and a desire to advance and improve the position of, their members. Generally speaking, the members of co-operative societies are not the wealthy in society. Indeed, in most cases they are not even the middle class, because the co-operative principle has always been strongly rooted in working-class areas. Their aim is to improve the position of the less well-off, and that is another argument for the special tax concession that they had and that we are seeking to restore by the new clause.

5.30 pm

Although there have been accusations of giantism against the co-operative wholesale societies, the impact of competition from undoubted giants such as Sainsbury has forced the co-ops to come together to achieve the benefits of strength and size to enable them to face competition. It is unfair, therefore, to tax them with this form of liability when it has been forced on them by the nature of the giants with which they are competing. Nevertheless, the giants among the co-operatives are organised on exactly the same co-operative principle. Although they may be concerned with production, they are organised in the interests of the consumers, their members, rather than in the interests of the profit of their shareholders.

With more than 12 million members in about 500 separate societies, it is clear that the co-operative societies have a role which is worth encouraging. They appeal to millions of people who do not have large spending power. These are people to whom the pence really count and for whom the principle of co-operation—the return of the "divi"—is important.

My hon. Friends and I hold strongly to the view that it is fair to give organisations which perform that important social purpose the advantage which was accepted by all Governments up to the time of the passing of the Finance Act 1984. We want to return the position to the status quo ante Lawson. That position, which we say the societies should have, arises from the nature and organisation of co-operatives. When, in the early 1970s, there was a change in the basis of corporation tax, a Select Committee examined the possibility of changing from the classical system to the imputation system. That Committee received representations from, among others, all interested bodies, including the Co-operative Union and the various co-operative societies. It agreed that the change would be unfair to the co-operatives and that there should be a special rate to recognise their unique role.

When, therefore, the new chit system was brought in, there was a special rate; without that rate, there would have been a massive increase in taxation for co-operative societies. The reason for the distinction was simple. Co-operatives do not make distributions, as companies do, and, as the imputation system gives relief to a business in respect of the advance corporation tax on distributions, the co-operatives would have been paying tax on the full rate of mainstream tax. They were therefore given a special rate in recognition of their special role.

The Government argue that, because they are bringing down the rate of corporation tax, the co-operatives should be on the same basis as other private firms, so that they will all pay the same rate. However, the reasons for the special concession remain. If there was justification for the concession, it remains valid whether at the higher or lower rate.

When the Chanceller introduced his 1984 Budget, the co-operative societies protested against the abolition of their special rate, not because that rate had given them an advantage but because, if there was no special rate, the co-operatives would be liable to corporation tax at the full rate, whatever the full rate was, whereas companies could deduct the tax liability of the shareholder on the distribution.

After that proposal was made, a meeting took place between officials of the Inland Revenue and a deputation from the Co-operative Union. That took place in September of last year, when spokesmen for the Inland Revenue agreed with the co-operatives that the withdrawal of the special rate would disadvantage the co-ops compared with companies, and they agreed to advise the Financial Secretary accordingly.

The Inland Revenue officials also confirmed at that meeting what had been said by their predecessors in 1971 to the then Select Committee which recommended the special rate in the first place — that there had been no change in the circumstances to alter the co-operatives' position.

That was the situation at that meeting in Somerset house in September of last year. Subsequently, the co-ops received the news that there would be no amendment of the 1984 legislation and that the special rate would be abolished. That seemed to be a negation of the agreement — or at any rate the feeling — of that September 1984 meeting. It seemed an unreasonable decision which bore no relation to the position that the Inland Revenue officials had taken at the meeting. If the grounds were as the officials had then suggested, there should have been a change. That change has not been made, and that is why we are proposing in the new clause that it be made.

Why are the Government, in their zeal to remove anomalies and have a more uniform and simple tax system, so preoccupied with removing only those anomalies which help the mass of the people, particularly the less well-off, rather than the tax perks and advantages of those whom the Conservatives, by and large, represent?

The Government demonstrate that zeal — as the Minister will no doubt do when he replies — single-mindedly against one section of society — those whom my hon. Friends and I represent — whereas when it comes to any similar zeal for uniformity, efficiency and simplicity in the system which might harm the supporters of the Conservative party, it suddenly dries up. The cold glint behind the steel-rimmed glasses turns warm and affectionate, and changes proposed in that direction are suddenly withdrawn.

Let us consider some of the privileges and anomalies that are being attacked, amid howls of protest only from Opposition Members. When it comes to tax concessions which might benefit workplace nurseries or tax changes which might benefit friendly societies and working-class organisations such as the Buffaloes, or to considering postmen's Christmas boxes, the Government are full of zeal for tax reform and efficiency. When we speak of a special concession for the co-operatives, which benefit working-class people and help the humblest in society to improve their lot, giving them more power as consumers, the Government are full of energy and efficiency, bustling with zeal to clean up anomalies. But as soon as we consider anything which harms concessions to the Conservatives in society, it becomes political and cannot be done.

The Government stopped short of the sort of changes, for example, that the Secretary of State for Education and Science wanted to make in the grant system, because that would have harmed their section of society.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. The hon. member must restrict his remarks to the question of the mitigation of corporation tax liability.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee

My zeal for the new clause has overcome my normal caution and desire to stay within the rules of order.

There is a case for a special rate for co-operatives to demonstrate the Government's attachment to furthering the cause of co-operation and to demonstrate that we regard co-operatives as something of a higher order and a better form of industrial and economic organisation than the simple profit-oriented greed of the company that has only shareholders. By the new clause, we are therefore giving the comparatively small advantage to the co-operatives that they have always had.

There are various arguments for doing that. The former economics editor of The Times, Mr. Peter Jay, was writing in the mid-1970s about the theme, which has now been taken up in America, of furthering co-operatives as a means of breaking the deadlock in society between capital and labour and ending the constant wages inflation that seemed to be the dominant theme of the economics of the 1970s. There are economic, social and political reasons for recognising co-operatives as a higher form of economic and industrial organisation that should be encouraged.

We have to recognise that at the moment the co-op is not as healthy or as powerful as it was, and it is certainly not the intimidating organisation that Conservative Members have been trying to paint it as. It is having a difficult time in competition with Sainsbury, Asda and Tesco. One reason is that it is a democratic organisation that serves its members and puts their interest higher than sheer greed for profit.

A second reason is that the co-op has social commitments and responsibilities that spring from being a co-operative organisation. All those factors have to be recognised in the way the co-op is run, and if they are recognised, the co-op is put at a competitive disadvantage. We could argue that the clause is not only recognising a higher organisation, but repairing a weakness under which the co-op now labours. It is totally single-minded fallacious pursuit of the principle of tax equality for the Government to kick the co-op when it is in that state, as they did in the Finance Bill last year.

By the new clause we should recognise the unique role and special importance of the co-operatives, and express our desire to encourage that vital social principle.

Photo of Mr William Clark Mr William Clark , Croydon South

The House started off listening with interest to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), but during his speech our interest waned. His special pleading on behalf of the co-operative movement killed his case. If I had anything to do with the co-operative movement, I should not ask him to advocate my case.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the profit motive of companies such as Sainsbury and Tesco and compared that with the co-operative movement. What is wrong with the management of the co-operative movement? Why is it not making profits? Why do people who used to go to the co-operatives now go to Tesco and Sainsbury? The simple reason is that they are cheaper, so that is where the British working man and woman are now buying their goods. Let me make it clear that I have no vested interest in Sainsbury, Tesco, Fine Fare or any other supermarket.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

Does my hon. Friend agree that the speech of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) called on people to shop at Tesco or Sainsbury because they are more efficient than the Co-operative Wholesale Society?

Photo of Mr William Clark Mr William Clark , Croydon South 5:45 pm, 10th July 1985

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. The special pleading became a little sickening, because in my view the co-operative movement has gone down because it cannot face the competition. When the hon. Gentleman began his speech he spoke about two co-operatives that had gone bankrupt. It is small wonder that they go bankrupt if they cannot face the competitiveness of Tesco, Sainsbury and so on. The co-operatives are owned by their members, and the hon. Gentleman maintains that the mass of poor people go there. If that is so, why are the co-operatives not more successful? The Opposition are always saying that everyone is poor. If everyone is worse off, surely people should be flocking to the co-operatives, which should be thriving, but the reverse is the case, and people are shopping at Tesco, Sainsbury and so on.

One of the best co-operative movements that we have seen in the past few years is the co-operative that has been formed by the National Freight Company. That co-operative works, but before the employee buy-out it was a loss-making organisation. It is now highly profitable. Is it not possible for the co-operative movement to do that? I do not know whether the hon. Member for Great Grimsby has anything to do with the co-operative movement, but if he has I suggest that he either pays a little more attention to why the co-operative movement has gone downhill or resigns from the movement.

I come next to housing associations. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) did not know what section 340 of the Taxes Act covered. It covers the mutual societies and the rest, which do a good job. Housing associations do a first-class job.

Housing associations have done good work in the sale of the houses and flats they have owned. That is a good thing, but we have to do more. We should not single out any section, because the sale of houses and accommodation of housing associations is an incentive to buy for people who belong to the associations.

I shall trace the history of corporation tax so that we may discuss the subject with more clarity than is evident in the clause tabled by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). If the right hon. Gentleman looks at corporation tax, he will see that it was introduced at a rate of 40 per cent. It was then increased to 45 per cent. and when the Conservative Government took office it came down to 40 per cent. In 1973, as the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, the imputation system was introduced, whereby advance corporation tax became an advantage to distribution—a 30 per cent. advantage.

In an articulate speech of great clarity, my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) dealt with the matter. If a company distributed the whole of its profits, and if the profits were 100 units, and there was a 52 per cent. rate of corporation tax, that left a possible dividend of 48 units. If the 48 units were grossed up, it would be 70 units. With 30 per cent. ACT off, that brought one down to 48 units. In my reckoning, that meant that the effective cost of corporation tax on a distribution was just over 31 or 32 per cent. That was an advantage to companies that could distribute profits.

Mutual societies, co-ops, and housing associations do not distribute profits in that sense. That was the origin of the special rate for the mutual societies and so on. That special rate was 40 per cent. But then, as has been mentioned, in 1984 my right hon. Friend the Chancellor stopped stock relief and cut down capital allowances. He made the reason perfectly clear last year. He did it so that overall he could cut the burden of corporation tax. It was at 52 per cent., then it was at 50 per cent., 45 per cent. and 40 per cent., and it is coming down to 35 per cent. in 1986, which is one year hence. That reduction in corporation tax is an incentive for our whole economy. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, who has special responsibility for matters affecting our economic future, will agree. Corporation tax reductions must generate economic activity. That is the idea behind them.

The special rate was and is set at 40 per cent. The Opposition want it to be reduced to 30 per cent. A rate of 35 per cent. should be the lowest level for every mutual society. What happens if the co-operatives and the housing associations do not make huge profits? They are not in business to make huge profits. As the hon. Member for Great Grimsby said, their profits are small. In the past, the co-operatives have enjoyed the advantage of paying dividends fully tax free, which are chargeable against their gross profits. Now they give a discount with their stamps, which are fully allowed for tax purposes.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on achieving a maximum 35 per cent. rate of corporation tax for next year. The corporation tax level for any business earning £100,000 profit is 30 per cent. The new clause is slightly redundant because most of the mutual societies — the co-operatives and housing associations — make profits below £100,000 and would suffer only 30 per cent corporation tax. This new clause would impose another anomaly on our tax system. If we say that all organisations should pay corporation tax at 35 per cent., let us stop special pleading. Small businesses, small mutual societies, co-operatives and housing associations would be on all fours if this measure were accepted. I trust that my hon. Friend will resist the new clause.

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) explained that the measure followed from a similiar amendment that he moved to last year's Finance Bill. The new clause has enabled us to have an interesting and, in some ways, rather general debate on the societies — the provident societies, co-operatives, housing associations and building societies—that are affected by the new clause.

We have had a wide-ranging debate and it is not easy for me to pick up all the threads. The hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) referred to the taxation of housing associations. Under section 341 of the Taxes Act, which applies to approved housing associations, rents received by associations are not liable to tax. Interest paid by associations qualifies for tax relief for their members and the profits on house sales are exempt from capital gains tax. Housing associations are liable to the full rate of tax only if the profits exceed £100,000, when they move beyond the small companies rate. Although most hon. Members would agree that housing associations need encouragement, I believe that the regime under which they operate is favourable.

A number of hon. Members referred to the nature and virtues of co-operatives. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook suggested that the Government had a prejudice against co-operatives. That is not the case. The hon. Member for Stockton, South spoke of the Co-operative Development Agency's work. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) referred to the work of the co-operative development association in his area. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) referred to the possibility of co-operatives becoming more involved with the high technology sector. Hon. Members generally have recognised the valuable role that co-operatives can play.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said that he thought that the co-operatives should be especially advantaged and should have special treatment because they particularly look after the interests of consumers whereas companies with shareholders do not. He said that they were suffering from competition from these companies with shareholders and that this was not necessarily fair. They therefore needed special treatment. There is a certain inconsistency in that line of argument. Any company, whether an incorporated or a co-operative body, that looks after the interests of consumers and customers is likely to flourish and any body that neglects them is likely not to do so well. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) referred to the reasons for the decline in the co-operative movement. I do not think that any of us disagrees with the fact that the cooperative societies — the industrial and provident societies, housing associations and building societies—that are covered by the suggested provisions of the new clause play an important and sometimes central role in various activities in the community. We want them to prosper and develop.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that he was asking not for special advantages for the co-operatives and the other societies but for comparable treatment with commercial companies. He said that it would be wrong to call the proposed 30 per cent. tax a special rate and that he wanted to ensure that those societies were not disadvantaged. He referred to the "discriminatory pressures" of the 1984 changes in the corporation tax regime for capital and other allowances. He referred to the "injustice" of last year's legislation.

Even if the comments of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook were justified — I shall endeavour to show that they were not — they conflict with what his colleague the hon. Member for Great Grimsby said. The hon. Gentleman felt that the co-operatives should receive special treatment because they were a higher form of organisation. I do not want to dwell on this difference between Labour hon. and right hon. Members, but it is important in understanding the new clause to be clear about what they said. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that he was not asking for special advantages; he was merely suggesting that last year's changes brought about particular disadvantages for the co-operative societies. He looked back to the introduction of corporation tax in 1965 and then to the significant change made in 1972, from the "classical" system to the "imputation" system. He said that special arrangements were introduced at that time for small companies—the small companies rate—and for the societies because of their acknowledged special circumstances. That is the point on which we differ, because his argument is that the maximum rate of 40 per cent. which applied to those societies from that date recognised that the industrial and provident societies were in some way disadvantaged by the imputation system and, therefore, that a special rate should be retained to shield industrial and provident societies from the impact of the 1984 corporation tax reforms. I hope that that is not an unfair representation of the right hon. Gentleman's argument.

6 pm

I should like to take the right hon. Gentleman through the arguments, which will show that that is an incorrect interpretation of what happened. It was not the imputation system which damaged the societies from 1972 onwards. The rate of corporation tax which was, at that time, raised from 40 per cent. to 52 per cent. caused the problem. Before the imputation system was introduced, all companies paid the 40 per cent. corporation tax rate. With the introduction of the imputation system and the application of advance corporation tax payments for incorporated companies being offset by a higher rate of corporation tax, which rose to 52 per cent., the societies were damaged, but they were damaged by the rate change and not by the imputation system. It was, therefore, fair that there should be a special rate for industrial and provident societies, not because of the structural change but because it would have been wrong to make them pay the 52 per cent. which was the rate chosen to offset changes effected by advance corporation tax.

When the rate returns to 40 per cent., as now, and goes to 35 per cent. as it will next year, there is no longer a case for retaining a special rate because the industrial and provident societies are not disadvantaged by having to pay a rate above that which operated under the old system. The 40 per cent. rate was introduced, not to advantage them but to stop the 52 per cent. rate disadvantaging them.

The right hon. Gentleman argued that a special rate should be retained to shield societies from the consequences of last year's tax reforms. More than 99 per cent. of the industrial and provident societies pay the small companies rate, which we reduced last year from 38 per cent. to 30 per cent. Like small incorporated companies, if their profits are below £100,000 they are already enjoying a lower rate of corporation tax. Larger societies would pay the normal corporation tax rate. Most building societies pay the small companies rate, and the great majority of co-operative retail societies will be paying the small companies rate.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Stockton South

May I confirm that the Minister is not misleading the House when he gives such volume figures? How much business do the societies which pay at the higher rate conduct? Many of the societies to which he referred may be substantial but they may conduct little business.

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

That is a fair point. I was coming to it immediately. I do not intend to mislead the House. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West mentioned some of the smaller societies. About 20 of the 200 retail societies conduct about 75 per cent. of the turnover. The top 10 per cent. therefore conduct three quarters of the business. The smaller societies mostly benefit from the small companies rate.

The larger co-operatives, housing associations and building societies pay at the full corporation tax rate. During the 10 or 12 years before last year such societies enjoyed a highly privileged regime. When the imputation system was introduced, the offset for companies between advance corporation tax and the 52 per cent. rate was set to produce a broadly neutral revenue outturn for the incorporated sector. At that stage it did not and could not take account of the influence on rates of tax paid caused by 100 per cent. first-year capital allowances and by stock relief because they had not been introduced. The 100 per cent. capital allowances were introduced after the imputation system and stock relief was introduced in 1974. Those allowances were designed to ameliorate the 52 per cent. basic rate of corporation tax.

If we take into account what happened in the 10 or 12 years that followed, first, inflation turned out to be higher than had been anticipated and, therefore, stock relief came to play a much larger part in the tax affairs of distribution companies. Secondly, there was a period of heavy investment and many companies and societies took the opportunity to shelter their profits from corporation tax through capital allowances. They, therefore, enjoyed a relative advantage through an unintentional combination of circumstances during that time.

All that is happening as a result of the 1984 changes is that the societies are being brought back to a more normal and ordinary basis of tax charge. They will still be better off than under the classical system. They will still be better off than companies because their dividends to members are allowed in full against their taxable profits whereas company dividends suffer a 30 per cent. deduction which is allowable as an offset against advance corporation tax although it does not fully cover the corporaion tax charge. In that respect, societies, co-operatives and so on are at an advantage compared with the incorporated company sector. Although such societies and co-operatives in recent years have taken great advantage—as it was reasonable for them to do — of an extraordinary combination of high capital allowances, high stock relief and a lower ceiling to the corporation tax rate, that is not a regime which we choose to perpetuate. It was a set of circumstances which did well for the societies and I do not begrudge them that. It enabled them to accumulate reserves in a satisfactory way and I hope that they will be useful to the societies. There is no argument for introducing a different system of corporation tax or a lower rate for those societies merely because they were able to take unusual advantage of a set of circumstances in recent years. I therefore ask the House to reject the new clause.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

May I first clear up the distinction—there is not a shadow of difference—that the Minister of State seemed to see between my speech and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell)? Much to my regret I missed my hon. Friend's speech, but as I understand it he was arguing for the principle of assistance because co-operatives are, in the Minister's words, a "higher form of organisation" which should be given special benefit. I share that judgment. I believe that the co-operative organisation is a superior form of organisation. I should like and hope one day to be able to give them special assistance. My hon. Friend and I are in agreement on that point.

That is a subject, as I know my hon. Friend will agree, for another new clause or for an amendment, not the one that we are debating today. My hon. Friend and I equally agree that the new clause is only a step towards the superior treatment that we should like to see given to restore the previous position that co-operatives had in the fiscal lexicon.

The most surprising speech of the day was that made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark). As I understand it, he was opposed to the new clause and to the reorganisation of tax liability that I suggested for co-operative societies in particular. This is surprising, because last year when we debated the subject he was the most passionate advocate of the position which the new clause advocates. The hon. Member shakes his head. I have already had the good fortune to quote one paragraph from his speech. Let me quote his peroration in full: In 1972, the Finance Bill was introduced by a Conservative Chancellor and it was seen that equity should be carried through. I hope that my hon. Friend will either now — if he can say it now all well and good—or between now and Report say that when corporation tax comes down from 50 per cent. to 40 per cent. the differential, whether it is 31 per cent. or something else—I shall not argue the percentage — will be between the top rate of corporation tax and the rate that building societies pay. If it is not, there will be an injustice because building societies and co-operative societies do not have the right to distribute their profits."—[Official Report, 1 May 1984; Vol, 59, c. 286.] If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, he could not have put it more clearly a year ago, yet this afternoon he argued quite the opposite. I do not know why that should be, but the case he made a year ago is much stronger than that which he has made today and was not in any way undermined by the speech of the Minister of State. As I understand the last passages of the speech of the Minister of State, the Government case now is that co-operative societies, housing associations and the rest were unfairly advantaged in 1972. If he is not saying that, I do not understand how he can possibly advance his case.

With corporation tax at 52 to 55 per cent. it was necessary to have a 40 per cent. special rate to meet the needs of co-operative societies because of their special conditions in that they distributed only a small percentage of their profit. If it was necessary when the normal rate was 52 per cent. to have a co-operative rate that met their needs of something like 80 per cent. of the usual figure, why is it not necessary to have 80 per cent. of the usual figure to meet the special conditions of co-operative societies?

It is no good the Minister of State saying or implying that the change in the top rate of corporation tax has absolved the co-operative societies from the need to pay at a rate which penalises them. I gave him three examples — Sheffield, Peterborough and Ipswich. Each of those societies demonstrates that under the new arrangement, which is trumpeted about the country as a reduction in corporation tax, they are now paying more because the new method of calculation excludes them from the special rate. If they were not specially benefited 30 years ago and they are paying more now in comparison with what they might have been allowed to pay had the old arrangements been allowed to continue, the only possible conclusion anyone is able to draw in logic is that there is unfair discrimination against the societies and it operates—I do not know whether by intention or by mistake—because they distribute a very small proportion of their profits.

The Minister if State's answer was wholly unconvincing but not surprising. The speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South was equally unconvincing but astonishing. In the light of what the Minister of State says we shall divide the House or we shall continue to argue the case of equity for co-operative societies and the proper incentives that they need to multiply and to profit.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 197, Noes 267.

Division No. 268][6.13 pm
AYES
Alton, DavidFreud, Clement
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGarrett, W. E.
Ashdown, PaddyGeorge, Bruce
Ashton, JoeGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Godman, Dr Norman
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Golding, John
Barnett, GuyGourlay, Harry
Barron, KevinHamilton, James (M'well N)
Beckett, Mrs MargaretHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Beith, A. J.Hardy, Peter
Bell, StuartHarman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bermingham, GeraldHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bidwell, SydneyHealey, Rt Hon Denis
Blair, AnthonyHeffer, Eric S.
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boyes, RolandHolland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Bray. Dr JeremyHome Robertson, John
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Howells, Geraint
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hoyle, Douglas
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bruce, MalcolmHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Buchan, NormanJanner, Hon Greville
Caborn, RichardJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Campbell-Savours, DaleJohn, Brynmor
Carter-Jones, LewisJohnston, Sir Russell
Cartwright, JohnJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clarke, ThomasKennedy, Charles
Clay, RobertKilroy-Silk, Robert
Clwyd, Mrs AnnKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)Kirkwood, Archy
Cohen, HarryLambie, David
Coleman, DonaldLeighton, Ronald
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Litherland, Robert
Corbett, RobinLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Corbyn, JeremyLofthouse, Geoffrey
Cowans, HarryLivsey, Richard
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)McCartney, Hugh
Craigen, J. M.McCusker, Harold
Crowther, StanMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cunningham, Dr JohnMcKelvey, William
Dalyell, TamMacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)Maclennan, Robert
Deakins. EricMcNamara, Kevin
Dewar. DonaldMcTaggart, Robert
Dixon, DonaldMcWilliam, John
Dobson, FrankMadden, Max
Dormand, JackMarek, Dr John
Douglas, DickMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Dubs, AlfredMason, Rt Hon Roy
Duffy, A. E. P.Maxton, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Meacher, Michael
Eastham, KenMeadowcroft, Michael
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)Michie, William
Ellis, RaymondMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Ewing, HarryMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fatchett, DerekMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
Faulds, AndrewMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fisher, MarkNellist, David
Flannery, MartinNicholson, J.
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Forrester, JohnO'Brien, William
Foster, DerekO'Neill, Martin
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Park, GeorgeSmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Parry, RobertSmyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Patchett, TerrySnape, Peter
Pavitt, LaurieSoley, Clive
Pendry, TomSteel, Rt Hon David
Penhaligon, DavidStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Pike, PeterStott, Roger
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)Strang, Gavin
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Prescott, JohnThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Radice, GilesThorne, Stan (Preston)
Randall, StuartTinn, James
Redmond, M.Torney, Tom
Richardson, Ms JoWainwright, R.
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Robertson, GeorgeWareing, Robert
Rogers, AllanWeetch, Ken
Rooker, J. W.White, James
Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)Williams, Rt Hon A.
Rowlands, TedWilson, Gordon
Ryman, JohnWinnick, David
Sedgemore, BrianWoodall, Alec
Sheldon, Rt Hon R.Wrigglesworth, Ian
Shore, Rt Hon PeterYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)Tellers for the Ayes:
Silkin, Rt Hon J.Mr. Frank Haynes and
Skinner, DennisMr. Sean Hughes.
NOES
Adley, RobertChope, Christopher
Aitken, JonathanChurchill, W. S.
Amery, Rt Hon JulianClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Amess, DavidClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Ancram, MichaelClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Ashby, DavidClegg, Sir Walter
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Cockeram, Eric
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Colvin, Michael
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Coombs, Simon
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Cope, John
Baldry, TonyCorrie, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Couchman, James
Batiste, SpencerCranborne, Viscount
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Bellingham, HenryDickens, Geoffrey
Bendall, VivianDicks, Terry
Benyon, WilliamDorrell, Stephen
Bevan, David GilroyDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDover, Den
Body, Richarddu Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDurant, Tony
Boscawen, Hon RobertDykes, Hugh
Bottomley, PeterEggar, Tim
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaEmery, Sir Peter
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Evennett, David
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Eyre, Sir Reginald
Boyson, Dr RhodesFairbairn, Nicholas
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardFallon, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFavell, Anthony
Bright, GrahamFenner, Mrs Peggy
Brinton, TimFletcher, Alexander
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonForman, Nigel
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Browne, JohnForth, Eric
Bruinvels, PeterFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bryan, Sir PaulFranks, Cecil
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Buck, Sir AntonyFreeman, Roger
Budgen, NickGale, Roger
Burt, AlistairGalley, Roy
Butcher, JohnGardiner, George (Reigate)
Butler, Hon AdamGardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Butterfill, JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Glyn, Dr Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Goodlad, Alastair
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Gorst, John
Carttiss, MichaelGow, Ian
Cash, WilliamGower, Sir Raymond
Chalker, Mrs LyndaGrant, Sir Anthony
Chapman, SydneyGregory, Conal
Griffiths, Sir EldonNeubert, Michael
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Norris, Steven
Grist, IanOsborn, Sir John
Ground, PatrickPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Grylls, MichaelParris, Matthew
Gummer, John SelwynPattie, Geoffrey
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Porter, Barry
Hampson, Dr KeithPowley, John
Hanley, JeremyProctor, K. Harvey
Hannam, JohnPym, Rt Hon Francis
Haselhurst, AlanRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelRees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Hawksley, WarrenRenton, Tim
Hayes, J.Rhodes James, Robert
Hayhoe, Rt Hon BarneyRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidRossi, Sir Hugh
Heddle, JohnRost, Peter
Henderson, BarryRowe, Andrew
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelRumbold, Mrs Angela
Hickmet, RichardRyder, Richard
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Sackville, Hon Thomas
Hill, JamesSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hind, KennethSayeed, Jonathan
Hirst, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Holt, RichardShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hordern, Sir PeterShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Howard, MichaelShersby, Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Silvester, Fred
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)Sims, Roger
Hunt, David (Wirral)Skeet, T. H. H.
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hunter, AndrewSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Irving, CharlesSoames, Hon Nicholas
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickSpeed, Keith
Jessel, TobySpeller, Tony
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreySpencer, Derek
Jones, Robert (W Herts)Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSquire, Robin
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSteen, Anthony
Key, RobertStern, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
King, Rt Hon TomStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Knox, DavidStewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Lang, IanStokes, John
Latham, MichaelStradling Thomas, J.
Lawler, GeoffreySumberg, David
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelTapsell, Sir Peter
Lee, John (Pendle)Taylor, John (Solihull)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Temple-Morris, Peter
Lightbown, DavidThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Lilley, PeterThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Lord, MichaelThornton, Malcolm
Lyell, NicholasThurnham, Peter
McCurley, Mrs AnnaTownend, John (Bridlington)
MacGregor, JohnTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Trippier, David
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Trotter, Neville
Maclean, David JohnTwinn, Dr Ian
McQuarrie, AlbertVaughan, Sir Gerard
Major, JohnViggers, Peter
Malone, GeraldWakeham, Rt Hon John
Mather, CarolWaldegrave, Hon William
Maude, Hon FrancisWalden, George
Mawhinney, Dr BrianWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinWall, Sir Patrick
Merchant, PiersWaller, Gary
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Ward, John
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Miscampbell, NormanWarren, Kenneth
Moore, JohnWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Wheeler, John
Murphy, ChristopherWhitfield, John
Neale, GerrardWhitney, Raymond
Wiggin, JerryYounger, Rt Hon George
Wilkinson, John
Wolfson, MarkTellers for the Noes:
Woodcock, MichaelMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Yeo, TimMr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.
Young, Sir George (Acton)

Question accordingly negatived.