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Local Government Finance Bill (Allocation of Time)

– in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 26th January 1987.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 4:24 pm, 26th January 1987

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

Committee, Report and Third Reading

1.—(1) The remaining proceedings in Committee on the Bill and the proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at midnight on that day.

(2) Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.

Proceedings on going into Committee

2. When the Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

Conclusion of proceedings in Committee

3. On the conclusion of the proceedings in Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question, and the House shall proceed to consider the Bill, as amended, without any Question being put.

Order of proceedings

4. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which proceedings in Committee or on consideration of the Bill are taken.

Dilatory Motions

5. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made on the alloted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time

6. —(1) On the allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2)Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If the allotted day is one to which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private business

7. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on the allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, he considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

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

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

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

(3) If the allotted day is one on which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over to Seven o'clock, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If the allotted day is one to which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

Supplemental orders

9. —(1) The proceedings on any Motion made in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on the alloted day the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time appointed by this Order for any proceedings on the Bill to be brought to a conclusion, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

10. Nothing in this Order shall—

  1. (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order, or
  2. (b) prevent any business from being proceeded with on the allotted day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

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

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

Interpretation

12. In this Order— allotted day" means a day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day;the Bill" means the Local Government Finance Bill.

As I move this timetable motion, Mr. Speaker, I am conscious that just a week ago we spent some time debating a dilatory motion affecting proceedings on the same Bill. Although the juxtaposition of the two debates may seem to have an element of perversity to it, notwithstanding the failure of that dilatory motion, the issues which we address today are wider and more important to the passage of the Bill than those in last week's debate. In addressing these issues I propose first to deal with the nature of the Bill and its urgency, and then with its passage so far. Finally, I intend to say a few words about its future consideration.

The House will recall that the reasons for this legislation were set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in his statement of 16 December. In that statement he explained that, following legal advice, it had been established that the treatment of expenditure in local government finance was incorrect in law. This being the case, all past decisions involving the concepts of total or relevant expenditure were put in doubt.

My right hon. Friend therefore introduced this legislation primarily to validate for England and Wales all past decisions involving the use of relevant or total expenditure and to allow decisions to be taken for the remainder of the present rate support grant system and for rate limitation in line with the practice which has been adopted until now.

It is clearly in the interests of everyone involved in local authority finance, not least the local authorities themselves, that this complex area is restored to a basis of certainty as soon as possible. Quite rightly, neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales thinks it proper to take further decisions on rate support grant matters or complete the rate limitation process until the law and the practice on this matter once more coincide. Thus, only after the Bill receives Royal Assent can Parliament approve the necessary rate support grant reports and local authorities be paid that grant for the coming financial year.

On the Government's part, the recognition of this urgency was shown by the introduction of the Bill immediately after my right hon. Friend's statement. Part I addresses the position in England and Wales, set ting up a new method of calculating relevant and total expenditure for rate support grant purposes in future. It makes arrangements also for a rate limitation process for 1987–88. In addition, it validates what has already been done for rate support grant purposes and for rate limitation purposes. Part II is less substantial and deals with minor difficulties which have come to light in the present Scottish practice which, of course, derives from separate legislation. I accept at once that these provisions are both difficult and technical, but this is the case with many issues which the House debates.

The Bill received its Second Reading on 12 January by 233 votes to 175, following a debate lasting just over 6½ hours. Its consideration by a Committee of the whole House began one week later on 19 January and continued on 21 January. During the course of those two days the Bill was debated for more than 14½ hours, and the Committee considered 13 groups of amendments. A further 25 amendments or groups of amendments remain to be considered: of these only eight involve Government amendments.

I shall seek, Mr. Speaker, to deal with two points on which the Government have been criticised in Committee. The first criticism is directed at the number and length of Government amendments. I realise that there are difficulties for the House when, particularly on a complex subject, Government amendments are not available early. I have to observe that my right hon. Friend has been ungenerously treated by his critics. On the one hand, he is criticised for having waited to inform the House until after he had confirmed that there was indeed a problem: on the other, it is objected that the Bill has been brought to the House of Commons at a stage when the Government believe that it can still be improved by amendments, rather than being delayed until it is a polished and refined version. Both sets of criticisms cannot be fairly sustained, although in politics they usually are.

The second point which was raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was that the Bill should not have been committed to a Comittee of the whole House because of its technical and complicated nature. The hon. Gentleman is a fair person and will appreciate that the urgency with which the legislation is needed was one of the factors in deciding on this course. I can, however, assure him that, however urgent the Bill, we would not have taken this course had we felt that proper and detailed consideration of the Bill was beyond a Committee of the whole House. I would also point out to him that Members of another place conduct the Committee stage of legislation on the Floor of the Chamber, and apparently have no doubts about their ability to do so. Leaving that aside, progress in Committee has been slower than had been hoped. It has certainly been slower than is commensurate with the urgency of the Bill

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

Will the Leader of the House explain why the Government are in such great haste and will not allow a separate day for a Report stage, given that the Bill was significantly amended by the Government in Committee and the fact that by this timetable motion—it could have been different—in practice the House is being denied a Report stage because of the impracticability of submitting, and having accepted, manuscript amendments?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The main motivation and desire has been to get the Bill to another place where it will undoubtedly be very fully considered and then reported to this place. I accept all the arguments of time that turn upon the niceties of just one more day—but a day, day, a day and so on stretches out. In all charity we have to judge whether there might be a change in attitude towards the passage of this legislation, if that one more day was forthcoming. Our view of human nature is a little more generous than that of the hon. Gentleman.

The motion before us today would provide for one allotted day until midnight to complete the proceedings on the consideration of the Third Reading of the Bill. That allotted day, as the House will be aware, is today. While I accept that there is an almost infinite amount of time which we could spend on the intricacies of the local government finance system, I believe that the House will think it not unreasonable that we should regulate our consideration of this measure in this way. We will of course have an opportunity to examine it further when it has been considered in another place.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that progress has not been as speedy as it might have been because of the Government's action in tabling a large number of amendments in an unprecedented manner? New schedules, new clauses and a virtual process of rewriting took place in Committee such as I have never experienced—and I have served on every local government Bill since 1979.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having survived that experience with such robustness. I have touched on the problems caused by tabling amendments, but I still think that our reaction is reasonable in view of the time available and the speed with which this has had to be considered.

Photo of Mr Terry Davis Mr Terry Davis , Birmingham, Hodge Hill

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify some details? To what extent were the Government's deliberations on the way to put forward this timetable motion influenced by the wish of the Secretary of State for the Environment to avoid any further embarrassment as a result of yet another court case between the Secretary of State for the Environment and the city of Birmingham for which leave was given last week?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

That thought, I am sure, was not either in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment or any one of us on the Treasury Bench when we calculated how best to present a timed debate on this measure.

I will end my remarks there, since the sooner we conclude our debate upon this motion, the sooner we may proceed to consider the Bill. There is still opportunity for constructive consideration of this Bill and I urge hon. Members to use it. I believe that there is general recognition of the need for the Bill's prime objective of restoring certainty to these aspects of local government finance and the recognition also that this needs to be achieved expeditiously. Among those seeking the early passage of the Bill must be the local authorities and their associations whose present approach to these matters will be validated by the Bill. This motion will help to ensure that we do not delay that validation unduly. I am inspired to that sentiment by the remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. He caught the mood of the Oppposition precisely and, for once, succinctly. On 21 January he exhorted the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) who was speaking to amendments 48 and 154 to "Drag it out." Those three words pretty well say it all and have inspired my actions ever since. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West 4:35 pm, 26th January 1987

The number of times that the Leader of the House during his brief defence of this unacceptable motion used the word "complex" is a justification of the argument that this measure should never have been debated in Committee on the Floor of the House in the first place.

We object that this, the 31st guillotine motion tabled by the Government—the 22nd on the Floor of the House, and of which at least six have been attributable to the Department that has caused this guillotine—is in itself guillotined by the way in which it has been tabled because it has been incorporated within the timetable that is available for the entire Bill.

Therefore, in discussing the merits and demerits of the guillotine as we should, we reduce the time available for the even more important discussion of the Bill's contents. We further object because, as far as we can gather, there is in effect to be no Report stage because of the way in which the timetable motion is worded.

The motion allows no time for the tabling of amendments and their scrutiny by Mr. Speaker. Consequently, we are to be denied a Report stage. A preposterous proposition was made by the Leader of the House. We are asked to guillotine the Bill after a couple of days of debate. The Committee stage is to be curtailed and the Report stage eliminated. Yet, what did the Leader of the House of Commons tell us, as elected Members of Parliament? He said that we needed to curtail our consideration of the Bill so that there should be full consideration of it in another place.

Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that he, as Leader of the elected House of Commons, should come to the Chamber and tell us that we must cut short our discussions on a Bill to enable fuller discussion to take place in another place? All I can say to our colleagues in another place is that I hope that they take note of this abuse by the Leader of this House and I hope that they make him pay for it. I hope that they will take the opportunity that their procedures allow, with the absence of a guillotine system, to ensure that every minute detail of the Bill is examined.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the example he has just given of the words of the Leader of the House gives a new twist to the words of the noble Lord Hailsham about the elective dictatorship of this place?

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

My hon. Friend makes the point very effectively.

Thankfully, after a miserable weekend, I come to the debate from outside the area of local government and local government finance legislation. It has been my 23-year good fortune not to have been involved in the detail of it before. Having tried to make sense of it during the past few days, my lasting impression is of the complexity and convolution of the subject we are supposed to be debating. The opportunities for misunderstanding seem to be enormous. My political early warning system cautions that experience has shown, with this subject, haste is a dangerous policy for the Government to pursue. Essentially this matter needs slow and deliberate contemplation—as we would normally have—with a proper Committee and Report stage.

The present Bill may do what the Secretary of State claims or what my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) claims. I must admit that, having tried to read through the Bill in a few days, I do not pretend to know but, in the end. I had hoped that we would have the chance to know. Nothing that the Minister has said so far has convinced me that my hon. Friend is wrong. The Government have ignored our offer to give support to a simple Bill brought forward merely to rectify the problems of the past. In that way the Government would have got the Bill through the House.

Having read through the proceedings, certain things have become clearer to me. The first is that the Minister originally responsible for this Bill, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), and the present Secretary of State have agreed upon one thing—the magnitude of the problem. They have agreed about the £30 billion that may be involved in the fiasco that underlies this Bill. That alone suggests that the Bill deserves considerable discussion in the House. Secondly, it has taken six years to establish that the original legislation was wrong. That also suggests that we, if we showed any sense in these matters, should give priority to get the matter right this time.

The third thing that strikes me is that there have been so many banana skins. The Government have already had to amend or seek to amend their rectifying Bill on 40 separate occasions. Fourthly, eminent lawyers, quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland the other day, expressed their clear views about the scope and breadth of the legal immunity that will be given to the Minister. That advice implied that that immunity is far wider than the Minister has so far admitted. I must draw the attention of the House to the comments made by the Secretary of State, under interrogation by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he said: It is impossible to disentangle some parts of any conceivable court case from those parts that relate to total expenditure."—[Official Report, 12 January 1987; Vol. 108, c. 995.] Those comments imply that our legal advice is right with regard to this Bill and that the legal protestations made by the Secretary of State are absolutely wrong. I hope that when the Secretary of State comes to make his speech he will address his remarks to that point—about the conflict of legal advice. That conflict is the nub of the difference between the two sides of the House.

Having read through the debate, the fifth point that strikes me is that we should always be careful when enacting retrospective legislation as there is always an implicit threat of a risk to the concept of the rule of law. We are fortunate, with regard to this Bill, in that we have, in the present Secretary of State, the greatest living exponent of retrospective legislation.

I have given five good reasons why I suggest that we need a thorough analysis of the Bill. However, so far we have spent only three parliamentary days discussing the Bill, and that includes Second Reading. Indeed, the Bill was published only one day before the Christmas recess. When a Bill has 17 clauses and four schedules I do not think the desire to discuss all that detail can be described as filibustering or causing undue delay. Yet we now face the guillotine.

The Secretary of State assures us that we can take his word that he has got it right this time. We would perhaps be more convinced of this had it not been for the fact that between the time that he gave us that assurance on Second Reading and the time when he next came to the House to discuss the Bill — an interval of three days — the Secretary of State had found it necessary to amend his Bill 40 times to get it right. The Secretary of State is so confused about what is right that he tabled amendments to two of the clauses and, having advanced those amendments, then withdrew them. Does this smack of a firm, determined knowledgeable Government? The right hon. Gentleman has impressed us!

If the Government have got it right this time, we are a little puzzled as to why, on Thursday 22 January, the Government tabled yet another Bill on the rate support grant system. All this must be viewed against a background — which is less than reassuring — of a Department overruled in the High Court on 15 April for illegally trying to rate-cap the city of Birmingham.

When the Secretary of State tells us that we must take his word he will understand that we have certain reservations. The right hon. Gentleman may come to the Dispatch Box and say that these amendments are proof of his determination to get everything right this time. Although I appreciate that some of us may have a cynical disposition, we might be inclined to think that those measures show how far the Government have got it wrong this time. Yet the Secretary of State wants to rush over the cliff on this occasion with a guillotine motion.

It is not just a joke. When one considers the events that have led to this situation our doubts are compounded by suspicions. On 16 December, in the fourth RSG statement in five months, the Secretary of State said: The first intimation I had that the legal advice was as I have described it was towards the end of October."—[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1053]. That is clear enough, but on 12 January, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, the Secretary of State said: I think I told the hon. Gentleman that I first became aware of the problem in September."—[Official Report, 12 January 1987; Vol. 108, c. 43]. The Secretary of State gave no apology, showed neither remorse nor contrition for the indication that he had misled the House in his statement by the use of the words: I think I told the hon. Gentleman. That was another attempt to mislead the House about a matter upon which the House had already been misled. This man, this dissembling Minister, is asking the House to take his word in respect of those matters. He is not simply a man from whom one would not buy a second-hand car but a man to whom one would not sell a second-hand car.

One is bound to ask the Minister what on earth happened in the three months between September and 16 December. Why was there no mention in the Queen's Speech of the legal advice and the changes that would be needed? Why did the Minister not mention that legal advice and the changes that would be needed in his speech during the debate on the Queen's Speech? Why was there no explanation of the legal difficulties when the right hon. Gentleman failed to produce the statement on RSG in November? Why was there no mention of those problems when the right hon. Gentleman answered a private notice question on 3 December? Such were the opportunities to confide in the House of Commons but those opportunities were ignored.

Why should we trust someone who has misled the House and, not only that, has concealed facts of which he was well aware? The Secretary of State's description of events is, of course, somewhat imaginative. He said: credit should go to the Government for having identified a legal weakness and for having sought immediately and honourably to put it right. Three months does not exactly conform with the dictionary definition of the word immediate. I must leave it to the House to decide whether Government action was immediate and honourable. I have my conclusions in that respect. I was intrigued by the judgment made by one of the Secretary of State's hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). He asked: Does my right hon. Friend agree that he is the least guilty in a long line of guilty Ministers". Note that the hon. Gentleman does not say that the Secretary of State is not guilty, but simply that there might be extenuating circumstances. What the right hon. Gentleman seems to be saying is, "Honest guy, I didn't do it. I only hid the body." I repeat his comment: It was the Government who spotted the error, so the credit should go to the Government for having identified a legal weakness". In other words, in a further submission for remission, he is saying, "Don't I get some time off for coming clean eventually?" Indeed, he even tried the most novel defence that I have come across. He tried to rewrite constitutional history. It turns out that my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland is really the guilty party. The Secretary of State said: It takes me to do not only my job but the Opposition's job in pointing out what Parliament failed to stop in 1980. We now have a new definition of ministerial responsibility. When a Minister gets it wrong, the shadow Minister is expected to resign. It is imaginative and we have to give the Secretary of State credit where it is due.

I read with some bewilderment some of the comments made about the statement. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) said: my right hon. Friend who has a brain that is even finer than that of his four distinguished predecessors". There he sits, the Government candidate for Brain of Britain. May the good Lord protect us. What on earth must the rest of them be like? When he came to the Dispatch Box, he said—please do not laugh at this because it is serious— I am the only person who is quite certain what the law is. I looked at the official box and even the men in the white coats were laughing.

The matter becomes even more absurd the more one reads these comments, because the hon. Member for Eastbourne went on waxing eulogistic about the Secretary of State's policy. He said: Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has earned the admiration of the House for his courage?"—[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1053–7.] That is an interesting proposition. Was it an act of courage, as suggested? The Secretary of State left it to the last possible minute. He left it so late that now we can discuss the Bill only under the threat of the guillotine. The Secretary of State came here only when he had no alternative but to come here because he could make no more statements that would progress the proceedings for next year's rate grant until he had cleared the position.

I must chastise my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. He is excessively kind to the Secretary of State. I am sure that I read somewhere—I apologise if he did not say this—that he had said that the Secretary of State had delayed coming to the House until another local government Bill had received Royal Assent. That is generous of my hon. Friend. The reality is that the Secretary of State came forward only when he could delay no more. I do not call that courage. He knew that his reputation and job were on the line if he did not come and make his confession. Eventually, he went over the top only after he had been shown the firing squad, and that is what the Conservative party is claiming as its courageous Minister.

All this is hardly surprising if one has followed the Secretary of State's career, which is colourful, to put it mildly. He came to the job with a track record even worse than that of the Department he was joining. When he was at the Department of Transport, the Court of Appeal overruled him because he had tried to stop the GLC lorry ban when that was outside his legal powers. It would have been a resignation matter for most Ministers—those with pride and integrity. The Secretary of State came from the Department of Transport after the High Court had overruled him because he had wrongly demanded £250 million from the GLC when that was outside his powers, outside his rights and outside the law. Again, that would have been a matter of resignation for any Minister with integrity.

What was the judge's description—not ours—of the Secretary of State and his actions? It was that they were: Unlawful, irrational and procedurally improper. This is the Government's M ENSA candidate. What a brilliant prime ministerial appointment it was to take a man with his record and put him in a Department with that record. He came with only one qualification—a discount on barristers' briefs. He is part of the Government's economy campaign.

The Secretary of State has said that the issue is urgent. Ministers knew before we went away for the Christmas recess that the business was there, was urgent and was complex. Why did we not have a two-week Christmas recess, as we have done in the past, so that the Bill could be judged properly?

There has been no delay, and no long speeches from the Labour side of the House. From Ministers there has been a flood of amendments, amendments to amendments and now more amendments to go in in the other place. For the first time, the Government have decided that it is time to impose a guillotine not on us but on Ministers, because they do not know what is coming next. There is no justification for imposing the measure on us and for that reason I call on the House to reject the motion.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Streatham 4:57 pm, 26th January 1987

Of the 20 minutes or so that the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) spent speaking. I noticed that, rather wisely, he spoke about the measure before us for only a few minutes. The rest of his speech was a good humoured but unnecessary and unpleasant attack on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

It is necessary that the Bill should be guillotined today and that the Bill should go through. I speak as a Member with a constituency interest in Lambeth, and ratepayers there need the protection of the Bill against the tactics of Lambeth council, which is a classic example of Labour in power. Let me explain why the Bill is important for my constituents. If the Bill goes through, Lambeth will get a rate support grant of some £85 million, which is—I hope that my constituents will be aware of this—an increase of £21 million on the rate support grant that Lambeth received last year. That increase is good news.

Even better news for my constituents is that under the Bill Lambeth will be rate capped, with a budget of around £152 million, which will give a rate of about 113p in the pound. Last year, the budget was £167 million and the rate 126p in the pound. Lambeth council will have a reduction in budget of £15 million, and my constituents a reduction in their rate of 13p in the pound. That is the first reason why the Bill is so important for ratepayers in my constituency.

I accept, as perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware, that this will create a difficulty for the Lambeth councillors. At a policy and resources committee meeting of Lambeth council on 6 January, it was revealed by the officers, who bear no blame in the situation confronting Lambeth, that a preliminary budget forecast for this year showed a budget of £197 million, including £7 million carried forward unspent from last year on the salaries account, because the council cannot recruit sufficiently. Therefore, there is a shortfall of £45 million. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will tell me it' our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has power to increase the amount of rate support grant or to change the rate capping once the Bill has gone through. If Lambeth's problems stemmed mainly or entirely from rate capping or a lack of finance, I would be the first in a delegation to persuade my right hon. Friend to make more money available for Lambeth, but that is not the case. As I have said, Lambeth is a true picture of Labour in power—the services are breaking down, the council is a shambles, and money is wasted because of mismanagement, loony schemes and underspending on staff as was the case last year.

Members of the Opposition or people in the constituency who do not believe me perhaps saw the leaked report of the auditors. That report is soon to be published, but it was front page news in the Sunday Telegraph, I believe, the Sunday before last. The headline read: "Loony Left push London into Anarchy …". The auditor's report, which has not yet been published. concludes that social conditions and Government measures bear some of the responsibility, but most of the blame is directed at Left-wing Labour councillors and, of course, Lambeth is named. The report says that expenditure per person by councils since 1981 has fallen in real terms, except in inner London where it has risen by 20 per cent. in real terms. It also says that inner London has twice as many staff per capita as the most deprived metropolitan districts outside London …". I understand that there are certain pressures to have that leaked report modified, but I hope that they will be resisted. I draw the attention of the House to the last auditor's report, published in September 1986. [Interruption.] It is relevant because if the Bill does not go through the typical Labour profligacy of Lambeth will not be checked. I shall read a few of the comments from the September report. The auditor says: Opportunities to reduce expenditure without reduction in standards have not been acted upon …My audit has led me to question the efficiency and effectiveness of the way in which some of the Council's services are managed … whether there is too much talking about problems and too little action. That is typical of Labour. The auditor goes on to make specific and damning criticisms: serious deficiencies in the accounting controls over domestic rents … shortcomings in the Council's accounting arrangements … clearly the situation cannot be allowed to continue". Referring to the management of the council's fleet of 525 vehicles, the auditor states: financial control procedures and the quantity and quality of management were inadequate". On refuse collections he says: costs for the current method of collection … around £180,000 (16%) above the optimum. On collection of rents, rates and so on, he says: Large sums of money are owed to the Council … exceeding £34 million at the end of March. He also refers to Inadequacies of collection procedures. The report goes on like that, page after page.

Any hon. Member who does not believe the auditor should look at the memorandum sent by the chief executive of Lambeth, Mr. George, to the leader of the council, Miss Linda Bellos. That memorandum, too, found its way into the press. It was a confidential memorandum and I do not know how it found its way there, but I have a copy and I shall quote some of the highlights. The chief executive writes: There is a grave danger that certain areas of service may have to be closed down and this may occur in areas of statutory responsibility with very serious consequences for the Council indeed … the Council is unable to recruit quickly or retain staff'. The chief executive highlights the high profile of the trades unions in Lambeth's affairs and talks about: other detrimental consequences for the way in which the Council came to be run. In the absence of strong management the trades unions increasingly came to determine the nature and pace of introduction of organisational change and new procedures. He also highlights the problem of political interference by Labour members so that the role of Chairs of committees and directors and the Chief Executive are blurred and confused". That, again, is a damning indictment of mainstream Labour in power. It is not just mismanagement—it is a classic case of what happens when the Labour party runs something. For example, Lambeth is spending £44,000 for extra staff in the council's own police unit. The council boycotts the community police association, for which it was recently deeply criticised by Lord Scarman. It spent £760,000 on propaganda about the rates in 1985–86 and £40,000 to fight the proposed Channel tunnel terminal at Waterloo.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I find it a little difficult to relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the allocation of time motion and the Bill which is the subject of the debate. I am sure that he will relate his remarks to the motion before the House.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Streatham

I am coming to the end of my speech. If the Bill does not go through, the antics that I have described will continue unchecked. There will be no rate capping and no reduction in the rates and instead of spending £500,000 on four new equality units catering for lesbians, gays, and so forth, the council will probably spend £1 million.

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Vauxhall

In the list that the hon. Gentleman has cited he has not drawn attention to the fact that Lambeth's housing investment grant has been cut from £56 million in 1979 to £33 million projected for the coming year. In current terms, that is a nominal cut of a third. Further, 40 per cent. of the residents in Lambeth claim housing benefit. Delays in those benefits, which affect the hon. Gentleman's point about slow payment of rent, have been affected because since 1982 the Government have brought in 36 statutory instruments that have affected housing benefit. Why does not the hon. Gentleman address himself to those real issues of cuts in housing expenditure and to the way in which the Government have fouled up the possible payment of housing benefit, which is of far more concern to the residents of Lambeth than the trivial points that he is raising?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Streatham

If what the hon. Gentleman says is true, how can responsible councillors spend £500,000 on equality units catering for lesbians, gays, ethnic minorities, the disabled and women? How can they spend £14,000 on a peace and nuclear affairs officer and £50,000 on a woman's day on 8 March? Of course the council has difficulties in its inner city area, but is it not irresponsible—

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Vauxhall

If the hon. Gentleman will give way, I will answer his points.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I realise that the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) was somewhat tempted by the Opposition but he must return to the motion.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Streatham

If the Bill does not go through the shambles in Lambeth will continue. While the council is spending that sort of money and spending at a rate above the rate at which the council will be capped, there are unprocessed claims for housing benefit, rent arrears, empty homes, squatters, staff shortages and, to use the words of the auditor's report, "a cycle of decay". The council is ignoring its responsibilities and seems to be capable only of ill spending money. It is typical of Labour in power and for the protection of my constituents I urge the House to support the Bill.

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Vauxhall

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House has been aware of the fact that you attempted to bring the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) to order several times. He paid no attention to your ruling—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) has resumed his seat.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West 5:10 pm, 26th January 1987

It is sad that the Leader of the House came before us today with this motion when we have a certain regard for protection of the rights of the House. It is not insignificant that he appeared to have little heart for what he was saying and, sadly, that he has left the Chamber so soon. It is a shame that he did not come forward with the motion in any spirit of humility by saying, "Here is something that has been caused by the Government and by errors in the past. It has been brought upon us by matters that we have found to he wrong, that we are seeking to put right." Instead of doing that, he tried to brazen it out. What is worse, he used the age old threat that we have heard throughout the proceedings on the Bill that unless it goes through quickly it will hold up the rate support grant settlement.

As I have said before, I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of those who wish to deal with rate support grant to find some way of making that possible in the interim with the active support of Opposition Members. It compounds the felony to use the problem about rate support grant settlement as a reason for guillotining the Bill. It flies in the face of the fact that, had the Bill been solely to validate the financial problems, it would have been through by now.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If it is true, as I have been saying throughout the previous two days in Committee, that the Bill does precisely that, would it now be time for the hon. Gentleman to realise that he could deliver on his promise by not making his speech?

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

I do not know whether the Secretary of State misunderstands the Bill in its entirety or whether he now contradicts what he has said before. The Secretary of State has admitted in the Chamber during previous debates on the Bill that it goes further than validating the errors. If he has accepted that before, why is he now trying to say that, if all we want to do is secure the RSG settlement, we need not have the debate? The fact is that we oppose the Bill and many of its provisions because it goes way beyond validating the illegality that the Secretary of State discovered in his Department. It goes way beyond that in terms of codes of practice, in trying to define and in attempting to introduce retrospective legislation beyond what is necessary for the rate support grant settlements. That is why it does a disservice to the House to try to pretend that we have somehow brought about the need for a guillotine.

The Bill has been in Committee of the whole House for some 15 hours and we are roughly halfway through the amendments and new clauses. I do not believe that anybody could sustain the argument that there has been undue delay or excessive speeches by Opposition Members. It is not possible to say that there has been a filibuster. It showed the flimsy nature of the Leader of the House's argument that he had to pick up the comment of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who, when I said that I would not delay the House, said, "Drag it out, Michael." The Leader of the House did not point out that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West and I did not drag it out. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West could have dragged out the debate but he chose not to. To be fair to him, which is not always possible, he spoke little and often. He certainly did not delay the House unduly.

Many of the amendments selected for discussion, those we have dealt with and those to come, are Government amendments. There is a complex new schedule tabled by the Government. It was not tabled by my hon. Friends or by Labour Members. Therefore, it is a disservice to the House to propose this motion now.

A total of 66 amendments have been selected and of those 12 are Government amendments. There are no amendments piled up by the Opposition for the sake of it and there are no amendments which simply probe. A large proportion are Government amendments. One of the amendments selected for debate is in the name of two Conservative Members. I am sorry that the hon. Members for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) and for Halifax (Mr. Galley) arc not in the Chamber to defend their amendment against what will happen to it if the Bill is guillotined. It is a particularly important amendment. They have consistently argued that more resources are required for the fire and civil defence authority in west Yorkshire. Again, that is not something that Opposition Members have sought to set out to delay the Bill.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) mentioned the problems about Report stage. I raised that issue on a point of order on 20 January. I pointed out the problems that would occur if there were to be no gap between the Committee of the whole House and Report stage, especially when there are such complex Government amendments, new clauses and the new schedule, which presumably the Government will drag through. We will then be faced with manuscript amendments which we would be unable to relate to particular lines of the Bill, and there would be problems of debate. To be fair, the Leader of the House said on that day that the Government did not intend to drive the Bill through and that the debate would terminate at a reasonable hour. Therefore, the question put in my legitimate point of order would not arise. After that, which I thought was fair to the House, it is intolerable that today the same thing does not apply and that we will either have to move straight from the Committee of the whole House to the Report stage, attenuated no doubt, or the Report stage will be virtually non-existent and the only debate on that will be for another place.

I am surprised that Government Ministers would risk provoking Members of another place to amend the Bill We all know that our noble Friends are particularly concerned with their constitutional position and, to the chagrin of some Labour Members, they take their position so seriously that they do not push their views to a Division so often. I believe that the Government are risking an awful lot if, by attenuating the debate here, they provoke Members of another place to do their worst with the Bill. It may be that it will be counter-productive and do exactly what the Government do not want. Therefore, it is dangerous.

What is happening today may well validate the cash, but it will not validate the damage that is being done to local government. I hope that Conservative Members are on their knees night after night praying that there will never be a Labour Government who might try to use the powers that the Government are taking to themselves in this Bill, especially in view of the things that have been itemised by Conservative Members as happening in local government. If Labour Members were in government and they had the powers contained in this Bill and others being pushed through the House, Conservative Members would rue the day they ever put this Bill on the statute book, because the draconian centralising powers in the Bill could be used to devastating effect, directly opposite to that intended. It is important to recognise the danger.

Up and down the country there are Conservative members of local authorities who are not standing for re-election. There are some in my own city. They believe that the Government no longer see them as people of importance within the community. They believe that the powers they would want to enable them to operate within local government are being taken away.

It is significant that Conservative Members who have defended local government in the House were absent from previous debates on the Bill. They seem to have given up the struggle against their Government. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) was conspicuous by his absence, as was the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). They have all genuinely and bravely defended local government and it is significant that they seem to have given up the struggle.

The Conservative Government have broken the consensus about what should happen in the relationship with local government. They have been tempted, by what has happened in certain local authorities, to take powers to themselves which are not needed and which will ultimately prove to be counter-productive. Once that consensus is broken, I fear that they will have sown the wind and that they will therefore reap the whirlwind. Guillotining the Bill is callous in the extreme to local government and it adds insult to injury to the way in which the men and women who serve local authorities without fear or favour are treated by the Government. The Government will rue the day that they tabled the motion.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 5:20 pm, 26th January 1987

If any group has broken the consensus in local government, it is the extreme Left, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) gave an example. I could give another—Ealing.

I am surprised that the Labour party feels able to oppose any guillotine motion, as it was the Labour party which proposed no fewer than five guillotine motions in one day. Not one of those Bills had been considered in Committee on the Floor of the House, as has this one. The flimsiest of reasons was given for those motions. Indeed, they were anti-reasons for a draconian and, to my mind, anti-democratic action.

This Bill would validate a good deal of past expenditure and I am therefore surprised to hear the Labour Front Bench argue against it. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) should know that the action of the Labour-controlled Greater London council, which imposed a rate increase of 100 per cent. and doubled bus and underground fares in 1981, would be invalid without the Bill. Many other actions which have to be permitted for democratic reasons, I suppose, would be validated. Among them is the expenditure by Ealing council of £140,000 for removing books from school and other libraries because they are considered racist and sexist. Without the motion, and therefore the Bill, such action is not legal, although it will in due course be rejected by the electorate. The £140,000 is intended to remove racist and sexist books such as "Robinson Crusoe" from Ealing schools. It is said to be racist because Man Friday has a subservient role and it is said to be sexist because there is no woman in it. That is an example of the absurd and wicked behaviour of some local authorities such as Ealing.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) for interrupting his flow, but is this strictly relevant to the guillotine motion?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

The hon. Member is relating his speech to the allocation of time motion, and I am sure that he will continue to do so.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I am trying to describe what will happen if the motion, and therefore the Bill, is not passed. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West is one of the great filibusterers of the House. Filibustering is a skill in which he excels and, without a guillotine motion, he could no doubt prolong the discussion of the Bill himself. We must bear that fact in mind.

Actions such as I have described could not be scrutinised properly if the guillotine motion and the Bill were not passed. Ealing council is spending £5·25 per line advertising teachers' jobs in The Guardian rather than £2·25 advertising them in The Times Educational Supplement and Higher Education Supplement, which are a much more relevant recruiting ground. Such an abuse of expenditure and so much else will, by a great irony, be the better exposed if the Bill is passed.

Some £3·1 million is to be spent each year on a grand new office block for over-grand councillors. A substantial sum of money has been spent on bogus consultations of residents in the process of taking their allotments away from them so that they can be built on. Such behaviour could be better scrutinised if the Bill were enacted.

I should mention one such action in a little more detail so that the House understands what I mean by bogus consultations. There are a few plots of land in part of Greenford which are all taken up by residents. Ealing council proposes to confiscate the land and build council houses on it. It is surrounded by houses. A lady of 76, Mrs. Skillman, heard at a public meeting that her house would be acquired compulsorily—the first intimation she had of it.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hesitate to raise this point again, and I realise that the debate may range widely, but the hon. Gentleman appears to be making a constituency speech with no reference to the motion's title— Local Government Finance Bill (Allocation of Time)".

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, North will relate his speech to the motion.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I most certainly will, Sir. We all know that the Labour party does not like to hear the truth about its colleagues in local government and the evil behaviour of Brent, Ealing, Haringey and the rest. It defends such councils, but I do not know how it can. This 76-year-old constituent, who has worked for 20 years with a sick husband to buy her house, needs the protection that the Bill, and therefore the motion, will afford. She has been victimised by a callous, wicked Labour council. I hope that Labour Members will see the meanness of their ways in encouraging them.

Photo of Mr Terry Davis Mr Terry Davis , Birmingham, Hodge Hill 5:26 pm, 26th January 1987

I would have more respect for the time-wasting remarks of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) if he had spent more time in the Chamber during our consideration of the Bill.

The arguments employed by the Leader of the House will not wash. It is not true that there has been a filibuster during the Bill's Committee stage. If there had been, my collegues from Birmingham and I would have—

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) made a very rude remark about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House when he left, but the hon. Gentleman sat down only two minutes ago and has himself rushed off. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is there."] He is going out of the door. I wonder whether it is in order to ask the hon. Gentleman to apologise to my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Let us get on with the debate.

Photo of Mr Terry Davis Mr Terry Davis , Birmingham, Hodge Hill

It is not true that there has been a filibuster. If there had been, I and my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Birmingham would have taken part because we oppose the Bill to the greatest possible extent. Instead, we have waited patiently for amendments that affect the city of Birmingham to be considered. Even with the guillotine motion we will still debate those amendments, but there has been no time-wasting in the meantime.

It is especially inappropriate for the Leader of the House to move a timetable motion on this Bill because it was this Secretary of State who said on 16 December that the need for the Bill arose from inadequate scrutiny of previous legislation. The Government are now moving a timetable motion which will curtail scrutiny of the Bill. I only hope that, some time in the future, the Secretary of State's successor will not tell the House that it must consider yet another Bill because there is a loophole in this legislation as a direct result of our not being able to give it proper scrutiny—because of the Government's draconian decision to move a timetable motion.

It would have been possible for the Government to provide adequate time. We could have come back earlier from the Christmas recess, we could have sat later in our two previous sittings, or the Government could have made more time available by providing more days. Instead, they are determined to bulldoze the Bill through, just as they have bulldozed through other local government legislation. This is a regrettable and deplorable decision and yet anoter example of the shabby way in which the Government treat local government.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North 5:30 pm, 26th January 1987

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), who opened the debate for the Opposition, on trying to prove to the House—unsuccessfully, I am afraid—that there is life after death. Having heard Labour Members' reactions to today's statement, I can assure the House that the Labour party is in terminal decline.

I should like to make a lesser and a greater point, and ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say whether he intends to include them in the Bill at a later stage.

My first point is about the voting rights of co-opted members of education committees. It is quite sensible and understandable that the great majority of co-opted members, being very much in favour of education, would wish to see more money spent on education, because that is largely what they are there for. Co-opted members can sometimes sway decisions in favour of spending more money on education, and can sway those decisions against the majority on the local authority. Once that decision on the local education committee has been swayed it is sometimes very difficult, for quite understandable political reasons, for the majority party on the county council or local authority to reinstate the original situation. That sometimes leads to greater expenditure than would otherwise have been the will of the elected majority. Taxation without being representative is wrong, and something should be done about it.

My second and greater point concerns creative accounting. The Audit Commission has said that certain local authorities have creatively accounted and have sold assets on lease, and so on and so forth, to the extent of about £700 million. One of today's newspapers said that that figure could be a massive £5,000 million. We want to know what will happen because these are largely poor areas. Will the ratepayers of those areas have to pick up the tab at some stage, or will the general taxpayer have to pick up the tab? We ought to know.

There was once a noble bishop who, when confronted with a problem of great theological complexity, looked it straight in the eye and then passed by. I should like to think that the Government will not pass by this problem.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 5:32 pm, 26th January 1987

I was surprised and somewhat gratified to figure so prominently in the speech of the Leader of the House. Alas, lie greatly overrates my influence on Opposition Front Bench tactics, because, alas, my advice was ignored, as, I regret to say, it so often is.

I was brought into the justification for the motion. which is absurd. When I said to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) that he should "drag it out", I was not referring to the Secretary of State, nor was I inviting him to dress up in women's clothing, handsome though he might look. All I was trying to do was to make it clear to Conservative Members—not that there were many of them here then, nor are there many here now—that they should not, in any way, underestimate our intention to make a great fight of this.

The record has shown that far more responsible advice was taken on the Opposition Front Bench, and we have made a very good fist of the Bill. We have done so responsibly, and we have in no way done it by crying to prolong discussion.

The Minister knows, because he is handed briefs that he probably has not seen until a few minutes before, that it is a highly technical Bill. None of us can say that we fully understand it. I am absolutely convinced—the Minister would probably agree with me if he could get up and say so—mistakes have been made as the Bill has gone through the House in the amendments that have been moved by the Government and the amendments that have been refused by the Government, which we have tried to make. No one can be 100 per cent. sure, and there is a great case to be made out for going slowly and surely on the Bill. One of the reasons why the Government took such a leisurely pace was that amendments were coming hot off the press while Ministers were considering it.

I hope that the attitude that we have taken has always been consistent with our view that the Bill is profoundly misguided in certain fundamental respects. Great mistakes have undoubtedly been made. We believe that the Government have been trying to hurry the Bill through to frustrate legal challenge, but in hurrying it through in the way that they have they will lay the Bill open to further legal challenge at a later date. That is why I shall oppose the motion.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 5:34 pm, 26th January 1987

I say at the outset that not only could there have been agreement about a short Bill with the aims and objectives of clarifying the law, but there could have been agreement on the timetable of such a Bill, as the Secretary of State well knows.

I emphasise that the Government cannot shelter any longer behind the excuse of shortness of time, when Ministers have known about that state of affairs since September. Such is the confusion and incompetence in the Government's affairs that even as recently as Friday yet another Bill was published, the Rate Support Grants Bill, in the explanatory and financial memorandum to which there is again our old friend of an excuse: the Bill is designed to remove uncertainty in the law. Within months of one Bill receiving Royal Assent, the House is considering a second Bill and yet a third one appears necessary to clarify the law.

If that was not sufficient reason for us to object to the Bill being railroaded through, I received a letter from the Secretary of State for the Environment this afternoon—I thank him for this courtesy. He is trying to re-establish previous normal working relations by writing to me. It would be instructive to tell the House what the right hon. Gentleman had to say. In his letter he makes it clear that the Government will again have to amend the Bill. He wrote: the amendment will relate to the information about total expenditure and rateable values to be used in making reports … it will be, as is the whole schedule highly technical and I am afraid rather long … It is very much in the local authority's interests that we get this schedule absolutely right and that is what my amendment will aim to do. Incompetence, bordering on farce, has been a feature of our considerations of these matters. However, yet again we have a confession from the right hon. Gentleman, within days of previous denials, that major revision of the Government's legislation is again necessary before we have completed the Committee stage. That, of course, proves our point that this highly technical, highly complex legal and financial Bill has no place on the Floor of the House. As we argued from the outset, it should have been properly, carefully and slowly considered in Committee, before a proper Report stage.

What has happened now, in the way in which the timetable motion has been engineered and in the rather lame way in which it was moved by the Leader of the House—I am grateful that he is in his place—demonstrates the inadequacy of the procedures of the House when a Government are determined to railroad a Bill through, regardless of the consequences. As I have emphasised, we already have a further Bill, but we have not yet cleared up, nor do we appear able to, the major legal row about the Bill.

The point still at issue is that clause 4 contains a sweeping catch-all immunity for the Secretary of State from legal challenge in the courts, which is unprecedented, so far as we can tell, in modern legislation. [Interruption.] I emphasise that we share the widespread concern—the Secretary of State again murmurs that we are wrong—that he has failed adequately to define the immunities that he is seeking in the Bill. His inability to be clear about that was apparent in his somewhat contradictory remarks and in his uncertainty in response to questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on Wednesday 21 January at column 995 of the Official Report.

Obviously, many provisions of part VI of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act, 1980 are not dependent on total or relevant expenditure definitions, as we have constantly argued. Examples are the Secretary of State's duty to consult local authority associations; determination of the aggregate amount of domestic rate relief grant; calculation of block grant to each authority—deduction from total expenditure of the product of grant-related poundage multiplied by gross rateable value; the principles to be specified in the rate support grant report; the power of the Secretary of State to apply multipliers to the product of GRP multiplied by GRV; and the duty to frame guidance by reference to principles applicable to all authorities. None of those things is dependent upon definitions of total or relevant expenditure, and all of them are affected by the sweeping provisions for immunity that the Secretary of State is seeking.

We make no apology for saying that it is the duty of the House rigorously to examine those matters and to be satisfied about them before we can allow the Bill to pass. Why should the Secretary of State's decisions on all those issues be immune from legal challenge? Why are clause 4(1) and (2) not much more carefully qualified than at present? We have similar major reservations about the provisions with respect to rates limitation in clause 6.

If the Government were seeking simply to validate retrospectively past decisions for the reasons claimed—that is, reasons of the definition of total or relevant expenditure—decisions taken for the financial year 1987–88 would have been included in clause 6(2). Those decisions would then have been for the purpose of part I of the Rates Act 1984.

We have had no answer on this point, either. It seems clear that decisions on the 1987–88 rate limitations are, in clause 6(3), for a particular reason. Under the clause, decisions are For the purposes of section 7 below and Schedule 2 to this Act". They are not for the purposes of part I of the 1984 Act. In other words, it appears that at some point in the process of determining rate limitation for the coming financial year, but before the introduction of the Bill, the Secretary of State deliberately stopped taking decisions that he had a duty to take. He stopped taking those decisions in the context of the Rates Act 1984 and instead he began to act, presumably under the guidance of decisions in the context of the forthcoming legislation—the Bill—which was yet to be introduced to the House. That is an extraordinary state of affairs for a Secretary of State to find himself in, I agree, but it is an unsatisfactory way for him to act. I should like at some time, either now or later, some confirmation that that is the case.

The Secretary of State could well be forgiven for reflecting on the words of John Gay: I know you lawyers can, with ease.Twist words and meanings as you please. The right hon. Gentleman, seems to have been doing a little of that himself while the Committee has considered the implications of the legislation.

We cannot accept the timetable motion. It is unreasonable, in the circumstances in which the House finds itself, to suggest that a timetable motion is necessary at all. I have no doubt that we shall discover that in another place their Lordships will have some searching questions to ask, not only about the provisions of the Bill but about the reason why they were not more carefully scrutinised and why more time was not allowed in the House before the Bill went to another place.

For those reasons I shall ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the motion.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 5:45 pm, 26th January 1987

I should like to deal first with two extraneous points. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) asked whether the Bill would prevent the co-option of non-elected people to education committees. It does not have that effect.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I was suggesting that those people should not have voting rights, not that they should not be co-opted.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Indeed, but the Bill does not affect that. The matter would have to be the subject of a separate piece of legislation.

The other matter that was irrelevant to the Bill was raised by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who mentioned the Rate Support Grants Bill, about which he was warned in July, September and December. He appears to have forgotten that the Government have always said that they would abolish grant recycling. For the hon. Gentleman to try to draw that into this discussion is ridiculous. It shows how right the Government are to introduce the timetable motion.

I shall not rehearse the urgent reasons for which the Bill is required because the House know them very well. I think that Opposition Members will find that local authorities will be keen to see the Bill on the statute book so that they know where they are.

There have been extraordinary examples of filibuster, particularly this afternoon. The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) came to the debate from the cold, not having the faintest idea what the Bill or our discussions were all about. He talked for 20 minutes. Your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was remarkable. I congratulate you upon it, letting that drivel from the right hon. Gentleman run on. I am sure that once the motion is passed, as it will be, the right hon. Gentleman will go away from the Committee and never be seen again. He was right when he said that he knew nothing about the rate support grant. I think that he said that he has been in the House for 26 years—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Twenty three years. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he knew nothing about the rate support grant. That was absolutely right. He would be wiser to absent himself from all matters connected with local government after his pathetic filibuster this afternoon.

The right hon. Gentleman accused me of misleading the House. That is a serious charge, and it is not true. I nearly asked him to withdraw it, because I have been absolutely frank with the House throughout the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman had been present at our discussions and taken the slightest bit of notice, he would not have dared to make that charge, so I invite him to withdraw that remark.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

I do not withdraw that remark, and invite the Secretary of State to look at his own comments, as quoted from Hansard, in which he gave one date on one occasion and another date on the other. He made no attempt to apologise. It is not for me to withdraw; it is for the right hon. Gentleman to apologise.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The right hon. Gentleman has compounded his error. He has not read Hansard properly. He will know perfectly well that I told the House that, at the end of September, I received from my officials advice that the total expenditure definition was doubtful. I therefore told the House that I sought legal advice from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, which was received on 21 October—I am sorry; at the end of October. The right hon. Gentleman must now realise that what I said was absolutely right. I did not know that there was a problem that had to be legislated upon until I received that advice. Therefore, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would now withdraw that accusation.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman. I was talking to the right hon. Member for Swansea, West.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I understood the Secretary of State to say that he had not given way.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I was giving way to the right hon. Member for Swansea, West.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

The hon. Gentleman must look at the Official Report for 16 December, when the Secretary of State said: The first intimation I had that the legal advice was as I have described it was towards the end of October and this was confirmed in a second opinion".—[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c.1053.] On Second Reading the Secretary of State announced that he knew in September. The conclusion that one is left with is that it is not good enough simply to listen to what the right hon. Gentleman says; one has to see whether his eyes are rolling as he says it.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The right hon. Gentleman has not done his homework, and would not understand even if he had. I bitterly resent what he is saying because it is an unfair and untrue charge, and I shall ask him to withdraw it. On Second Reading I said perfectly clearly that I was told that there was doubt about the definition of total expenditure at the end of September. I then received legal advice, and it was not until then that it was known that it was necessary to legislate. That is what I have said throughout, and it is no good the right hon. Gentleman sitting there shaking his head. He has made a mess of his speech this afternoon and he should withdraw from the debate if he does not understand it.

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

The Secretary of State is struggling in a quagmire of his own making. On 16 December I asked: For how long has the Secretary of State known of this situation? When did he first receive the legal advice to which he referred? The Secretary of State replied: The first intimation I had that the legal advice was as I have described it was towards the end of October, and this was confirmed in a second opinion."—[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 1401, c. 1052–53.] We now know that the Secretary of State had known about it since September. He has caused the confusion, and he has been less than candid with the House.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Will the hon. Gentleman get this point straight, please? Officials told me that there was a problem and legal advice was needed to resolve it. That was at the end of September. The legal advice was recieved at the end of October, and that is what I referred to when answering his question. I said that the first time that I received legal advice was at the end of October. I would now be grateful if the right hon. Member for Swansea, West would please withdraw his offensive remarks. He cannot come into a debate, make an accusation of that sort and expect to get away with it.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

I value my integrity in the House as much as the right hon. Gentleman values his. I have never maligned an hon. Member, and if I have ever done anything in the House that I felt was wrong I have been willing to withdraw it. In this case I am absolutely correct; the circumstances are as reported in Hansard, and as I have described them in my speech.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The House will know that the hon. Gentleman cannot be relied upon to do the decent thing in a situation such as this.

We have already had 14 hours 50 minutes of debate in Committee, two and a half hours of which was spent on procedural motions and points of order. During those two long days only 17 groups of amendments were considered and 25 groups of amendments remain provisionally selected by the Chairman. At this rate we shall need three more days in Committee alone.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Authorities might not receive any grant. The Opposition have had a bad time recently on everything from defence to their extraordinary attempt to counter the sort of points that my hon. Friends forEaling, North (Mr. Greenway) and for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) were so rightly emphasising in the debate this afternoon. This is a pathetic attempt to accuse decent, efficient Tory councils of meanness. They dropped that pretty quickly. Then we had the extraordinary visit to Bishop's Stortford, when the Opposition announced that a financial collapse was imminent. The stock exchange went up 19·5 points on the day and 65 points on the week, having digested the economic policies of the Labour party.

The hon. Member for Copeland thought that the Bill would be different. He thought that he would be able to make his reputation without slipping on a banana skin. He thought that there was potential for him to put right the appalling blunders of the Labour party on the Bill.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Will the Secretary of State reflect on the fact that I have served on all 12 local government Bills introduced since 1979? The major difference between this Bill and the others has been the conduct of the Government, the Secretary of State and other Ministers. The Secretary of State has treated the House, the Opposition and local government with more contempt than any of his predecessors and he should be ashamed of himself.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The major difference is that the Opposition have not understood the Bill. The hon. Member for Copeland certainly has not understood the Bill. To coin a phrase, the hon. Gentleman has been making bricks without straw. He invented the first scare that I was putting myself above the law in some way, and the other scare that the Bill contained draconian, centralising powers, as the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) called them.

It is odd that the hon. Member for Copeland sought to make the point on a point of order on Wednesday afternoon when it was not remotely a point of order and when he knew that the debate of substance would not be reached until late that night. He knew that I could not reply on the point of order; he knew that he was talking rubbish, and he hoped that it would be picked up by the press because he made it at 3.30 pm when he hoped that the press would be there. I thought that was a shabby trick. The hon. Gentleman knows what a point of order is, and he knew that what he was saying was not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman did not bother to raise the matter in the clause 4 stand part debate; he left it to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who accepted the Government's case on that matter entirely, and when he received my letter today he realised how wrong he was.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Sit down. I will give way when I feel like it. The hon. Member for Copeland is trying to make accusations about the Bill which will stick in prime time because he knows, as all my hon. Friends know, that what the Bill does is validate the past in the way that I always said it did.

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

I would have accused the Secretary of State of seeking to mislead the House in suggesting that I had accepted the Government's case had I not thought that it was a joke. The Secretary of State was present during the debates on 19 January about the effect of clause 4(6). Would he like to quote one single word or sentence where I intimated that I had accepted the Government's case?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I was accusing the hon. Member for Copeland of making bricks without straw. If he had straw with him, I am happy to admit that the hon. Gentleman is wrong, as well as his hon. Friend. I was trying to pay him a compliment by saying that he was the only Member on the Opposition Benches who knows what the Bill does.

The Bill simply validates all that was done because of the definition of the law not being as everybody thought it was. I admit that it is more complicated than we would all like, but the great mistake that the Opposition have made is to think that it puts me above the law or gives me excessive centralising draconian powers. There is not a single word of truth in that at all. It is right we should debate the Bill for the rest of the day and put it on the statute book as quickly as we can.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South 5:59 pm, 26th January 1987

If ever there was a reason why we should not rush to vote on the guillotine motion, we have just heard it. It must surely have reinforced the doubt that every hon. Member must feel that the Secretary of State is the only person here who understands the Bill because he is so vague about its concept and ambitions.

On 21 January the Minister for Local Government said: I shall have to be careful with the words because all these words mean something and have to be interpreted … I try to interpret them for myself at the same time as I interpret them for the Committee and five minutes later I wonder if I have. I should prefer to write to the hon. Member"— that is me— about this".—[Official Report, 21 January 1987; Vol. 108, c. 981.] If a Minister in the Department promoting the Bill has doubts about the interpretation of the words in it—much of what has gone on before is about the way in which those words will be interpreted and the way in which local authorities will have to respond—the Secretary of State must surely see the merits of allowing the House to go into a proper Committee stage to try to draw from him and his colleagues the real meaning and implication of their words.

The Minister of State is dead right—words mean something and they must be interpreted correctly. Much of what has happened in the 15 hours in which we have discussed the Bill will lead to a gross misinterpretation of what the Bill is about and will undoubtedly mean that many local authorities will be drawn into expensive legal battles with the Government. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) talked about the shambles that had occurred in many Labour authorities in London. I want to draw the Secretary of State's attention to the shambles that will occur if he adopts the powers that the Bill would give him. In answer to me last week in the House he said that Hampshire county council could levy a rate not in excess of 1·5 per cent. His Department told Hampshire county council that it would be happy if that rate increase was 4 per cent. greater than that—some 5·8 per cent. A real shambles would occur if Hampshire adopted that policy. It would mean that about £20 million worth of cuts would have to be made. It would mean fewer policemen, firemen and social workers. It would mean cuts in education. It would mean a really regressive and nasty turn for services in Hampshire. The council would have to make £20 million worth of cuts if it took the Secretary of State's advice.

The Secretary of State tried to score a cheap and silly political point in answering my question. Unfortunately, the substance of the Bill is a silly political point. Surely we have a responsibility to expose that and to try to get the Secretary of State to come to the House with the integrity and honesty that is needed to spell out what is meant by some of the terms in the Bill. Many of the amendments that will be before us later this evening are probing amendments—they have to be, by the very complexity of the subject before us. They hope to probe and bring out the reasons behind the Bill, to discover who will be affected by it and what powers the Secretary of State will have. The shambles is here for all to see—we do not have to quote chapter and verse from our own experiences in local authorities.

To do our job properly we must devote time and energy, and the Government must provide that time, to examining the Bill properly. That will not be possible with the timetable motion before us. I fully understand the embarrassment felt by the Leader of the House at having to present such a motion because he, above all, must realise that it is not giving the local authorities a fair chance and certainly not giving the House a fair chance to examine a complex and far-reaching piece of legislation.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 247, Noes 173.

Division No. 70][6.05 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertBrooke, Hon Peter
Alexander, RichardBrown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Amess, DavidBrowne, John
Ancram, MichaelBruinvels, Peter
Arnold, TomBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Buck, Sir Antony
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Budgen, Nick
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Burt, Alistair
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Butcher, John
Batiste, SpencerButterfill, John
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCarlisle, John (Luton N)
Bellingham, HenryCash, William
Bendall, VivianChapman, Sydney
Benyon, WilliamChope, Christopher
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnChurchill, W. S.
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnClark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Blackburn, JohnClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Boscawen, Hon RobertClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bottomley, PeterCockeram, Eric
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Colvin, Michael
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Conway, Derek
Boyson, Dr RhodesCoombs, Simon
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardCope, John
Brandon-Bravo, MartinCouchman, James
Bright, GrahamCranborne, Viscount
Brinton, TimCritchley, Julian
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonCrouch, David
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Dickens, GeoffreyMates, Michael
Dicks, TerryMather, Sir Carol
Dorrell, StephenMaude, Hon Francis
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Dover, DenMayhew, Sir Patrick
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir EdwardMellor, David
Dunn, RobertMerchant, Piers
Durant, TonyMeyer, Sir Anthony
Dykes, HughMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Eggar, TimMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Evennett, DavidMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Eyre, Sir ReginaldMoate, Roger
Farr, Sir JohnMonro, Sir Hector
Favell, AnthonyMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Fenner, Dame PeggyMoore, Rt Hon John
Fletcher, Sir AlexanderMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Fookes, Miss JanetMoynihan, Hon C.
Forman, NigelMudd, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Neale, Gerrard
Forth, EricNelson, Anthony
Galley, RoyNeubert, Michael
Garel-Jones, TristanNewton, Tony
Glyn, Dr AlanNicholls, Patrick
Goodhart, Sir PhilipOnslow, Cranley
Gow, IanOppenheim, Phillip
Gower, Sir RaymondOttaway, Richard
Greenway, HarryPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Griffiths, Sir EldonPatten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Pattie, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Pawsey, James
Hannam, JohnPercival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Harris, DavidPollock, Alexander
Hayes, J.Powell, William (Corby)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPowley, John
Heddle, JohnPrice, Sir David
Hicks, RobertProctor, K. Harvey
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Raffan, Keith
Hind, KennethRathbone, Tim
Hirst, MichaelRenton, Tim
Holt, RichardRhodes James, Robert
Howard, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jackson, RobertRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRoe, Mrs Marion
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyRossi, Sir Hugh
Key, RobertRost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Rowe, Andrew
Knowles, MichaelSackville, Hon Thomas
Knox, DavidSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lang, IanSayeed, Jonathan
Latham, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, IvanShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShelton, William (Streatham)
Lester, JimShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Shersby, Michael
Lightbown, DavidSilvester, Fred
Lilley, PeterSims, Roger
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Speed, Keith
Lord, MichaelSpeller, Tony
Luce, Rt Hon RichardSpencer, Derek
Lyell, NicholasSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McCrindle, RobertStanbrook, Ivor
Macfarlane, NeilStanley, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Steen, Anthony
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Stern, Michael
Maclean, David JohnStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
McLoughlin, PatrickStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
McQuarrie, AlbertStradling Thomas, Sir John
Madel, DavidTapsell, Sir Peter
Major, JohnTaylor, John (Solihull)
Malins, HumfreyTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Malone, GeraldTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Marland, PaulTemple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, AntonyTerlezki, Stefan
Thomas, Rt Hon PeterWarren, Kenneth
Thompson, Donald (Calder V)Watts, John
Thorne, Neil (llford S)Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Thornton, MalcolmWheeler, John
Thurnham, PeterWhitfield, John
Townend, John (Bridlington)Whitney, Raymond
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Wiggin, Jerry
Tracey, RichardWolfson, Mark
Trippier, DavidWood, Timothy
Twinn, Dr IanWoodcock, Michael
van Straubenzee, Sir W.Yeo, Tim
Vaughan, Sir GerardYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Waddington, Rt Hon DavidYounger, Rt Hon George
Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamTellers for the Ayes:
Walters, DennisMr. Richard Ryder and
Ward, JohnMr. Michael Portillo.
Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
NOES
Abse, LeoFoulkes, George
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Alton, DavidFreud, Clement
Anderson, DonaldGeorge, Bruce
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGodman, Dr Norman
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Golding, Mrs Llin
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Gould, Bryan
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Gourlay, Harry
Barron, KevinHamilton, James (M'well N)
Beckett, Mrs MargaretHamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)
Bell, StuartHancock, Michael
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bermingham, GeraldHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bidwell, SydneyHeffer, Eric S.
Blair, AnthonyHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boyes, RolandHolland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Bray, Dr JeremyHome Robertson, John
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hoyle, Douglas
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Buchan, NormanHughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Caborn, RichardHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Janner, Hon Greville
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Campbell-Savours, DaleKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Carter-Jones, LewisKennedy, Charles
Cartwright, JohnKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lambie, David
Clarke, ThomasLamond, James
Clay, RobertLeadbitter, Ted
Clelland, David GordonLeighton, Ronald
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLewis, Terence (Worsley)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)Litherland, Robert
Conlan, BernardLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Corbett, RobinLoyden, Edward
Corbyn, JeremyMcCartney, Hugh
Crowther, StanMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cunningham, Dr JohnMaclennan, Robert
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)McNamara, Kevin
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)McTaggart, Robert
Deakins, EricMcWilliam, John
Dixon, DonaldMadden, Max
Dormand, JackMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Douglas, DickMartin, Michael
Dubs, AlfredMason, Rt Hon Roy
Eadie, AlexMaxton, John
Eastham, KenMaynard, Miss Joan
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Meacher, Michael
Fatchett, DerekMeadowcroft, Michael
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Michie, William
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Mikardo, Ian
Fisher, MarkMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Flannery, MartinMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Forrester, JohnNellist, David
Foster, DerekOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
O'Brien, WilliamSkinner, Dennis
O'Neill, MartinSmith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Orme, Rt Hon StanleySmith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Park, GeorgeSnape, Peter
Patchett, TerrySoley, Clive
Pavitt, LaurieSpearing, Nigel
Pendry, TomStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Pike, PeterStott, Roger
Prescott, JohnStraw, Jack
Radice, GilesThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Randall, StuartThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Raynsford, NickThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Redmond, MartinThorne, Stan (Preston)
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)Tinn, James
Richardson, Ms JoTorney, Tom
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Wainwright, R.
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Robertson, GeorgeWareing, Robert
Rogers, AllanWelsh, Michael
Rooker, J. W.White, James
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)Williams, Rt Hon A.
Rowlands, TedWilson, Gordon
Sedgemore, BrianWinnick, David
Sheerman, BarryYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Shore, Rt Hon PeterTellers for the Noes:
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)Mr. Frank Haynes and
Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)Mr. Ray Powell.
Silkin, Rt Hon J.

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

Committee, Report and Third Reading

1 .—(1) The remaining proceedings in Committee on the Bill and the proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at midnight on that day.

(2) Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.

Proceedings on going into Committee

2. When the Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

Conclusion of proceedings in Committee

3. On the conclusion of the proceedings in Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question, and the House shall proceed to consider the Bill, as amended, without any Question being put.

Order of proceedings

4. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which proceedings in Committee or on consideration of the Bill are taken.

Dilatory Motions

5. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made on the alloted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time

6.—(1) On the allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If the allotted day is one to which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private business

7. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on the allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

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

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

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

(3) If the allotted day is one on which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over to Seven o'clock, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If the allotted day is one to which a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that. Motion.

Supplemental orders

9.— (1) The proceedings on any Motion made in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on the alloted day the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time appointed by this Order for any proceedings on the Bill to be brought to a conclusion, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

10. Nothing in this Order shall—

  1. (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order, or
  2. (b) prevent any business from being proceeded with on the allotted day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

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

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

Interpretation

12. In this Order— allotted day" means a day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day;the Bill" means the Local Government Finance Bill.