(6) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.
he motion provides for three hours of debate, which begins now. We must get through a large number of amendments, but the bulk of them are technical and drafting amendments. I believe that the period of three hours provides plenty of time for discussion of the issues of substance raised in the amendments. However, it would be unfortunate if we were to use up time discussing the allocation of time motion. I hope that the Opposition will agree that that is sensible.
As so often happens, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) is wrong. We intend to say a little about the timetable motion. I assure him that we wish to leave adequate time to raise or amendments and ensure that they are debated. I find the allocation unsatisfactory, for reasons to which I shall refer in a moment or two.
I recognise the pressures on Governments and that Ministers like to get to their legislative programmes. I accept, too, that, on occasions, there are double standards in speeches made in debates of this kind. I do not deny that, probably in a month or two, we shall use timetable motions and defend the principle, but we must examine the merits of every case as a matter of perspective— as a matter of keeping a sense of proportion. The Government have the duty to think about what is right for the House and for the parliamentary process. They have got the balance wrong on this occasion, and I shall attempt briefly to persuade the House of that fact.
The Under-Secretary of State briefly introduced his motion. It is a supplementary motion, tacked on as almost an afterthought to the main guillotine motion, which, of course, truncated the Committee proceedings. Normally the Leader of the House or the shadow Leader of the House would perform on such occasions, but this time we have had to be content with the Under-Secretary of State. I make no complaint about that, except to remark that he is rather more shameless in his approach to such matters than is the Leader of the House, who normally, probably because of long contact with the Prime Minister, has a certain self-deprecating style. He smuggles bad news and offensive material into debates in a way that is quite endearing. There is always an air of apology about such matters. He implies that he is only the messenger. The defence is always one of incrimination, that he is bringing the news from some other Minister. On this occasion, of course, the Under-Secretary of State is attempting to bungle through the remaining stages of a highly controversial measure in three hours, and three hours alone. This is not satisfactory, partly because of the enormously long consideration of the workability and practicability of the measure, both in the House and in another place.
The amendments deal with issues of genuine concern. During the long Committee stage, despite some of the misplaced sarcasm in an earlier debate, Ministers were forced to give ground. We now have a series of specific but important issues dealing, for example, with the definition of mentally handicapped, and with students, in the context of exemption from poll tax. The amendments raise complicated arguments; for example, about the definition of severe impairment. Why are we talking about mentally handicapped people, but not about physically disabled people? A range of issues are raised in the amendments and in the variations to the Lords amendments that have been put down by my hon. Friends and myself.
No one who has followed the debates, even in the most Cursory way, will fail to recognise that, in connection with the protection of the living standards of students, there are severe reservations about what the Government are proposing, even after the rather ill-defined and incomplete amendment. Such anxiety is not the preserve of the National Union of Students and individual constituents, but has been reflected by principals and vice-chancellors, who are genuinely concerned about the ability of universities to compete for students in the circumstances that the Government envisage.
Would my hon. Friend care to consider the significance of the fact that, on this major piece of legislation, which drastically changes the rating system into this new poll tax idea, it is a matter of such importance to the Government that they have managed to muster three Back Benchers and one PPS to discuss these issues, that my admirable young hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), out of his usual charitable inclinations, had to lend his backside to their Benches to make them look healthier; and, of course, that he was trying out a future position on those Benches in government?
My hon. Friend has made a fair mathematical point with characteristic subtlety. He is right. There is a proper degree of diffidence among some Conservative Members about appearing in such debates these days.
The complicated matters to which I have referred and which we shall debate in a short compass have been swept up into a brief period of parliamentary time. The debate is taking place in injury time— the twilight days— with a Scottish Office team that is already living on borrowed time. The exceptions are not satisfactorily defined. We are still getting an enormous number of representations from people who have no political axe to grind but who are alarmed at what is happening. My first point is that the timetable motion does not give the House the opportunity it should have to consider, debate and reach a measured conclusion on such matters.
One other factor of a more fundamental nature must be canvassed. We are looking, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) said by way of an intervention, at a remarkable fiscal innovation. We are looking at an almost unprecedented poll tax, certainly in the sophisticated financial systems of Western Europe. It is a poll tax, and I use that term unashamedly. Presumably I shall no longer be criticised for doing so. It was given the Prime Minister's imprimatur only this week as the proper expression. I was delighted to hear the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs refer to the "poll tax" in the proceedings last night on the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Bill. It is a poll tax. The hon. Gentleman was quite right to use that term. It is an imposition of so much per head, straight across the board. It is a tax that is widely seen as regressive and impractical. It has little support across the range of Scottish public opinion.
I recognise that the motive for introducing the poll tax—the volte face that we have seen since 1983 in Government thinking—is imagined electoral advantage. Conservative Members are wrong. It will be an unpopular imposition and will become much more unpopular over the next year or two, if it reaches the statute book and, even more relevantly, if it is ever implemented. I have made the point before that we know that an irreversible rise is built into the poll tax. With the treatment of commercial and industrial rates we shall narrow the tax base— the buoyancy factor — in a remarkable fashion. The poll tax will certainly escalate in a way that will greatly disappoint, and probably alarm, those who may calculate temporary personal advantage from it.
I make those points because the depth of opposition to, and the concern about, the tax puts a large question mark over the propriety of forcing the measure through in this way. From a large amount of independent evidence, we know that there is concern about its impact. I saw a report — I am sure that the Minister is familiar with it— from Professor Hughes at the department of economics at Edinburgh university. He did a calculation based upon, I gather, an extensive and cheerful survey of a sample of Scottish households to try to take into account the impact of the social security changes that are so interlinked with the poll tax and rebate system, and the impact of the tax itself. His conclusion was that one needed a household income of well over £400 a week before one was likely to benefit from the changes. That underlines what I have said about its regressive nature.
I have another report. Again, it is from an area of the country that has not traditionally been seen as in alliance with my party. I refer to the plea—that is the correct word — from the convenor of the Highland regional council, whose planning department, according to The Scotsman,has come to the conclusion that the effect of the tax in the Highlands will be
staggeringly different from the Government's intentions set out in the Green Paper.
According to the department, up to 91 per cent. of households in the more remote parts would be worse off and the local taxation burden on such communities would rise by more than 230 per cent.
It is not just a plea from our heartland and support. We are articulating a view that is beginning to be painfully reflected in different parts of Scotland. I believe that the Government should even now think again. My plea is a simple one. I do not think it is right for Ministers to force the Bill through in this way and at this time. We all know that there is an election in only a few weeks' time. It would be best to suspend judgment on the matter now and leave it to the judgment of the electorate, to see what the people have to say about it. If the Bill is forced through with a last-gasp guillotine motion, we shall be lumbered with an unwanted and ill-advised tax that will be deeply resented.
Politicians talk — I did so a moment ago myself— about propriety, but that is too nice a consideration. There are deeper and more basic considerations here. It is a matter of a feeling for Scotland and respect for Scottish opinion, and it would be wrong to bulldoze the legislation through in the dying days of this Parliament. To do that would be to show the kind of insensitivity that damages trust, not in the Chamber, but in the communities of Scotland.
We unashamedly dislike the measure. It is wrong and we are implacably hostile to its implementation. We do not approve of the decision to force it through in this way. It is for those reasons and because we know that, on this and many other issues, we speak for such a wide coalition of Scottish opinion that I shall, in a while, invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide against the motion.
I shall be brief, and I mean it—unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar).
I was surprised by the complaint made by the hon. Member for Garscadden, which was not about the shortage of time that is available' in this session of Parliament to discuss the legislation. It has spent many hours in Committee, in another place and in this Chamber. Presumably his objection is that, at this late stage in this Parliament, the House is making decisions on the final shape of the legislation.
I do not understand that objection. What could be fairer and more democratic than that the Government should put specific proposals before the electorate in Scotland about the community charge and the abolition of domestic rates? The proposals are in no way uncertain or ambiguous: they are specific proposals, enabling the voters in Scotland to know precisely what the choice is between the present system of domestic rates and the community charge proposed in the legislation. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is normally fair-minded about these matters, should completely ignore the fact that, as we go into the election, there will be no doubt in people's minds about what the Conservative party is proposing in terms of the community charge, or about what the Labour and other Opposition parties are proposing—they are all proposing the status quo.
I said that I would be brief, so I shall not give way.
The other parties are all proposing that we should keep the present system of domestic rates; the effect of that, as it is in Edinburgh, will be to increase again by 30 per cent. the cost of rates to many people who cannot afford that amount of tax.
The Government believe that the new system is a fairer way of raising local revenue. The Opposition believe that the present system is fairer. In the time-honoured phrase, we shall be going to the country now, and the thing to do is to trust the people.
I support the views expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who spoke of the coalition of interests in Scotland against the Government's proposals for reform of local taxation. I hope that, after the election, the hon. Gentleman will again talk of a coalition of Scottish interests, and will be prepared to participate in these discussions if the electorate decides that it is appropriate to have cross-party government.
Speaking about the timetable motion, the Minister has made the quite astonishing suggestion that the matters to be considered this afternoon are purely technical. They are far from that. Some of the amendments passed in another place go to the very heart of the Government's Bill and of the principles that the Minister has earlier stated. They go against the concept of universality — that everyone in Scotland must pay, whatever his ability to pay, at least 20 per cent. of the new poll tax. I do not see how the Minister can set that aside as purely technical, and no doubt we shall be discussing that in more detail later.
Since the Bill was considered in Committee and in another place, a number of further matters and representations have come to light which make it quite improper — I repeat the word used by the hon. Member for Garscadden—to proceed with the legislation in the face of the increasing evidence of the inequitable way in which the tax will operate, and the improper way in which it will bear heavily upon the majority of the Scottish people.
The study to which the hon. Member for Garscadden referred, by Professor Gordon Hughes of the university of Edinburgh's department of economics, makes it clear that the main burden of the poll tax will fall on those with gross household incomes ranging from 70 per cent. to 150 per cent. of the average household income. In other words, the bulk of the Scottish people will be cowering under the blows inflicted by this insensitive and out-of-touch Government.
This is an all-too-short debate, and the hon. Gentleman should take up any matters that may concern him with the responsible Minister.
Professor Hughes stated, in conclusion:
It should be noted that, if the community charge is as expensive and difficult to collect as some fear, the average local tax burden of all groups will increase because of the high levels of the community charges required to replace domestic rates. The question of implementation must therefore he the main concern about the effect of this proposed reform".
Professor Hughes has raised issues that were raised in Standing Committee but were not authoritatively examined— certainly not by the Government. However, they were raised by Opposition Members of all parties.
It has also been made clear—some of the Lords amendments touch on the point — that the above-average increase in local taxes due to the community charge, in households whose heads are aged between 45 and 59, confirms the belief of many of us that the poll tax will bear heavily upon broad sections of the community which the Government have tried to suggest they were seeking to protect. In households whose heads are aged between 45 and 59, families with children over the age of 18 who are still living at home will bear the burden of the tax change.
These are authoritative objections and they go to the root of the proposals, which the Government have presented as an attempt to relieve the Scottish people of an unloved tax. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Sir A. Fletcher) wholly misrepresented the position when he suggested that other political parties in Scotland have not put forward alternatives. Not only has the Scottish National party put forward its proposals for a local income tax, but the two alliance parties have done so. Furthermore, in another place, the official Labour Opposition also supported proposals for the introduction of a local income tax.
In a series of answers to parliamentary questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) on 8 April and, subsequently, from myself, the Minister demonstrated how right we have been to advocate local income tax. On the equalised figures that he has, most Scottish people living on the incomes that I have summarised, in the groups that are mentioned by Professor Hughes, will be substantially better off under the local income tax scheme.
No doubt this measure will be a centrepiece of the Prime Minister's speech in Scotland later this week. It was brought forward in a hurry without adequate consultation and without consent. Its sole aim is to seek to save the Government from the embarrassment caused by the revaluation that they put in hand.
The Scottish people regard this tax as anathema. That is one reason why the Conservative party in Scotland will go down to humiliating defeat on 11 June. The Minister who has been saddled with this measure may well prove to be its most spectacular victim. He has fought it through Parliament against the overwhelming opposition of all those hon. Members who represent the true interests of the Scottish people.
The impropriety of seeking in a matter of a few hours to wipe out a form of taxation which, though inequitable and unloved, has lasted for 200 years, beggars constitutional precedent. The Minister has done nothing for his own reputation or for that of the Government in seeking to proceed in the manner that he has proceeded today. There are many significant and substantive amendments and they have to be considered in the all-too-short time available. Substantial debates cannot take place. The amendments touch upon the position of students and the definition of the registered disabled and mentally handicapped and cannot possibly receive proper consideration in such a short time.
I predict that if this measure is placed on the statute book it will not last five years. It will be repealed and replaced by a tax that is in accordance with proper principles of local taxation, related to an ability to pay. That reform will be welcomed by the people of Scotland as a whole. Even though the Labour party has not been in the van, it will follow us in introducing an effective local income tax.
I shall be brief, because many hon. Members want to take part in the debate. This measure is a kind of constitutional travesty. Never in the whole history of Parliament has a basic tax that is to be applied to the entire population of Scotland and in future to the population of England and Wales been treated with such contempt and brought in as a guillotined measure. It should be subject to measured debate rather than to the guillotine. It is a constitutional travesty to impose a guillotine of this magnitude in the very last syllable of recorded time in this most meretricious of all Parliaments and Governments. That is my first and most crucial point.
Secondly, this measure not only deals with taxation which per se should put it beyond this kind of behaviour, even from this Government, but affects the well-being of the majority of the British people. The figures were not given of those who would benefit and those who would not. On the scale of comparative poverty and wealth, in every case those who are rich will benefit and those who are poor will suffer.
That is just rubbish. How can the hon. Government possibly argue that, when poor pensioners living in their family homes will find themselves considerably better off? How can the hon. Gentleman possibly argue that everyone who is poor will be worse off?
The hon. Gentleman should look at the position of poor pensioners in council houses and in some areas in his own constituency. I agree that in the case of four pensioners living together, one can make a comparison with less well-off households, but in 99 per cent. of cases the rich will benefit and the poor will suffer.
If the hon. Gentleman wants a comparison he can look at the rateable value on the Prime Minister's house in Dulwich. This measure will in future apply to England and Wales. It is precisely because it will be extended that it has been brought in in this desperate way. All the evidence is that the same pattern will be applied in England and Wales and as a result, the Prime Minister will be given £140 a month. This measure will hit pensioners, council tenants and people on below-average wages, but less than about 15 per cent. of the top earners will lose.
To benefit from this measure a person will need to earn about £558 a week. That is over £2,000 a month, well into £25,000 a year. The average family will lose. One thinks especially of comparatively poor families with children of 18, 19 or 20. They will lose. The additional rates on council houses in my constituency vary for a three-apartment house from £33 to £40 per month. For a four-apartment house the figure is £35 to £47 per month. The tenants of those houses, whatever their earning capacity, will be worse off to the tune of £20 a month for a couple and £40 to £60 a month if there is another earner. Compare that with the Prime Minister, who will benefit by £140 a month. Council house occupants in my constituency will face an extra bill of £20 to £60.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be basing his claims about gainers and losers on the present rating system. Can he tell the House whether he believes that the present rating system in Scotland is fair?
If the hon. Gentleman had given us enough time to discuss this measure, we could have looked at alternative methods. At the moment, we are dealing with a measure rushed through at the very last point of time in order to obscure, among other things, the real horrors that are being applied. This is not the only aspect. This is part of the open manifesto, but we must also consider the Government's hidden manifesto. The Government claim that they will move from direct taxation to indirect taxation, which means value added tax, and that will hit the poor. Direct taxation has been cut, but the average taxpayer is nearly £7 a week worse off as a result of the increase in indirect tax.
The Government are trying to beat their hidden manifesto by running to the country and they do not have the courage to perpetuate their policies for another week. They are running to the country a year before their time in order to hustle through measures like this and avoid the measures that are clearly adumbrated in the hidden manifesto.
The Tory Commissioner in Brussels, Lord Cockfield, who is an appointee of the Prime Minister, is proposing to extend value added tax to books. At one time the Conservative party might have resisted that. It is also proposed to extend it to other publications, to babies' and children's clothes and to fuel and food. That is the background to which this tax has been rushed through.
I hope that the people of Scotland, who have been betrayed by the Government, will know about the results that we are seeing here and about the monstrosity that is being committed, and that they will reject the Conservatives at the polls in three weeks. This is a damnable and in many ways an unconstitutional measure and it will certainly hit the pockets of all the working people of Scotland.
I am astonished at the speech by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan). The hon. Gentleman never ceases to astonish me. He seemed to be arguing that pensioners who had saved a little money during the course of their lives and who are on low incomes should subsidise people in work who are earning good money. That is the substance of his argument. He seemed to be arguing in favour of retaining a rating system that he admits is unfair. I wonder why. The explanation is obvious. The hon. Gentleman likes the rating system because it allows his party to remain in local government and force pensioners and others with savings and low incomes to pay for the extravagance of his
colleagues in power in local government. He knows that when the Bill is on the statute book the game will be up for the Labour Left in local government in Scotland because no longer will those people be able to ask the minority to pay for their extravagance and their policies.
If, as the hon. Gentleman argues, the Bill is so unfair and so unpopular, why are he and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) so anxious to prevent it from getting on the statute book? If it is so unpopular in Scotland and if it will do so much harm, they have the ideal opportunity in the forthcoming general election campaign to convince the people. The reality is that, even in these last desperate hours, they are struggling to prevent the Bill from being passed because they know that it will be popular, even with those who will have to pay a little more, because the people of Scotland recognise that the system proposed in the Bill may not be perfect, but it is very much better than the rating system that we have. The people of Scotland are not so venal as those in the Labour party and the alliance, who think that, just because some people will have to pay a bit more, that is a reason for not having the legislation.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland does not want the Bill to reach the statute book because he does not want the people of Scotland to have a clear choice. He has regaled the House with long speeches— half an hour on Second Reading and goodness knows how many hours during the 120 hours in Committee. He has failed, despite repeated challenges, to explain how his local income tax would work. He say: "We in the alliance have said that we are in favour of a local income tax," but he has not explained how that tax would not result in people in rural areas paying far more towards local government than they will under the community charge or at present under the rating system. He has failed to do so despite repeated challenges. He says that it is not his job to define how local income tax will work. He wishes to prevent the Bill from reaching the statute book so that there will not be a clear choice for the Scottish people.
The clear choice is that if they return a Conservative Government, they will see the abolition of the rating system and a fairer system instead, whereas if the Conservative Government are not returned, we shall have fudge and mudge. However, the hon. Gentleman and his party will never form a Government and people will be left with the rating system ——
The people of Scotland, particularly those in the Highlands, know that although the rating system is bad, they will be substantially worse off under the Government's proposals. Dr. Arthur Midwinter has put to the Government the fact that seven out of 10 households in the Highlands region will pay substantially increased taxation as a result of the Government's proposals. That is a fact. On local income tax, the hon. Gentleman does not need a speech from me to draw attention to the facts, which demonstrate beyond peradventure that, under local income tax, the majority of Scottish people would be substantially better off than under the appallingly inequitable tax that the hon. Gentleman has been backing from the beginning.
The hon. Gentleman is like a cheap ticket tout. He sought to intervene when I criticised him for not spelling out how his local income tax policy would work, yet again he has failed to do so. Instead, he makes allegations about our policy and who would be disadvantaged by it. The hon. Gentleman fails to deal with the basic point, that, under his policy of a local income tax, people in the Highlands, with a narrow tax base, would pay far more than they will under the community charge or the present rating system.
In his speech on local income tax, the hon. Gentleman made great play about the effect on people with average incomes, but he does not seem to have noticed the answer that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave, which shows that a local income tax would be a disaster for the people of Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to promote such a policy, that is his business, but he owes it to the people of Scotland to explain how it will work and how it will be to their advantage. The fact is that, for the vast majority of people in the Highlands who at present are suffering under the rating system, the community charge will be a welcome relief.
It is true that those who are in work, who are able to pay and who have contributed nothing to local government in the past, will be required to do so, but the hon. Gentleman does not take into account the effect of the community charge on local government itself. He seems to imagine that the whole thing is static. The fact is that when the politicians in local government are subject to accountability, when they know that every decision that they make will have an effect on the pockets of the people who elect them, they will behave more responsibly.
It is important that the Bill is passed, not only so that the people of Scotland have a clear choice, but so that local government is given a guiding light for the way forward. The way forward is to be responsible and accountable to the people. By all means let us make local government take decisions at local level; let us remove some of the controls on expenditure that have been imposed from the centre, as we do in the Bill; but let us recognise that it is only by bringing accountability to the system that we shall achieve that aim.
The Bill has been discussed ad nauseam in the House. This view has come not just from Conservative Benches; significantly, every newspaper in Scotland has commented on the lamentable opposition from the Opposition parties. Every commentator, every group——
If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman does his colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) a great disservice. My instant reaction is that, based on the latter's performance in Committee arid his muddled thinking— at one point he had to ask my hon. Friend the Minister what his own amendment meant — it is not surprising that he did not score many successes in Committee. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) finds that the arguments in the other place were aired more successfully, I should have thought that that was a criticism of his colleagues, not of my hon. Friend who is putting forward suggestions for change. Indeed, the fact that there are amendments before the House shows that my hon. Friend is being flexible in considering the matter.
My criticism of the Opposition is that on Second Reading, in Committee and during the Bill's passage through the other place, they singularly failed to come up with an alternative to what we have on offer. They have nailed their colours to the rating system, which is unfair, because it penalises people who improve their properties, those who have saved and those who have a stake in their property. It rewards extravagant and unprincipled Left-wing local authorities, in which I understand the hon. Member for Garscadden has some interest.
The people of Scotland are waiting for the Bill to become an Act. When it is, they will know that the hon. Member for Garscadden and his friends would repeal it if they won the election. I am sure that the people will give their verdict at the polls.
Unlike the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), I do not intend to speak for long. I remind him that one of the reasons why we shall vote against the motion is that it is unfair and unjust. It is the job of a parliamentary Opposition, with different constituencies, to oppose measures that we consider to be deeply damaging to our electorate.
To some extent, I was surprised to listen to the claims made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Sir A. Fletcher), followed by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and subsequently the hon. Member for Stirling. There were great calls to the Scottish people for the coming election. We know that the Bill would never have seen the light of day if the parliamentary majority in Scotland had control of legislation. It has been pushed through on the basis of English votes in the House of Commons because there is an overall United Kingdom majority for the Conservative party.
It is illogical for the hon. Members for Edinburgh, Central, and for Stirling to say that it will be sufficient to put the matter to the test of the electorate. If the Conservatives won the election, but their numbers were decimated in Scotland, would the Government say that they would drop the legislation? Having put the matter to the Scottish people, would they say that the legislation had been rejected because there was not sufficient support at the polls? That puts to the test Conservative Members' assertions that they are putting something to the Scottish people. They are not. It is part of the programme for the British people, and if the Scottish people take a different view, they will have to like it or lump it. In this case, they will be lumping it. They will have to pay out a substantial sum in cash.
The Government are to leave it to the electorate and the people, but to which electorate and people are they leaving it? I have no doubt that in the coming election the Scottish people will reject not only the Conservative party but the piece of legislation on which it has pinned its hopes. Is it not a mark of the Conservative party's desperation that, two years ago, it was looking around for something on which to get a grip? The Conservative party, to its eternal discredit, has produced a piece of legislation that will have a vicious impact on the people of Scotland. It will cause distress and hardship.
The Government say that it is a choice between the rating system and the community charge, but I can envisage no benefit to the people at large from this new system. I accept the Government's arguments against the rating system, which has long outlived its usefulness and any fairness. The Scottish National party and the alliance parties have proposed a local income tax, which would be based on ability to pay. The acid test will be whether it is fair. Will people have to pay more even though they may not have the income to do so? The abolition of domestic rates—much though I welcome the abolition—is spoilt by the introduction of the poll tax. If this measure ever comes into effect, the Government will bitterly regret what they have done. The dislocation caused will far out-measure any of the temporary embarrassments felt by the Government during the rating revaluation about two years ago.
I am fascinated to learn that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) comes to the House to suggest that the business on which Scottish Members spend their time is not relevant to Scotland but is relevant to the whole of the United Kindom. We believe that our separate Scottish laws are important, so much so that we spend many hours on them in Committee — many more than the hon. Gentleman has ever done.
Labour Members have a commendable record for the way in which they work on legislation that affects Scotland. We may not agree with what they do, but we will not criticise their work load. Sometimes they put their points badly and do not present them well, and sometimes they fluff them. That has been their record on the Bill—they have not won the arguments or presented them well — but one cannot argue with the fact that Labour Members attend the Committees and apply themselves.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has a commendable record in dealing with Scottish legislation. Some of us think that, like most lawyers, he goes on a bit, but no one ever suggests that he does not carry out his duties properly and effectively. The hon. Member for Dundee, East is criticising not only Conservatives, but the Labour party, suggesting that Labour Members should not apply themselves so diligently to Scottish business because he judges it to be United Kingdom business. This is a piece of Scottish legislation and it is right that it should have been dealt with as it has been. Much time was spent on Second Reading and in Committee considering it.
The Opposition think that Conservative Members have suicidal tendencies, but that is not so. I invite Labour Members to tell me after the general election about their great pledge that they will win Tayside, North. That is called whistling in the dark anywhere else. The alliance candidate may have an argument with Labour Members, never mind me, on that.
That is just about the most awful piece of nonsense to which I have ever listened. I believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland will be my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). He is probably one of the most able and clever Secretaries of State that we have ever had. There is no doubt that he will retain his seat comfortably. I believe that any honest individual in the House would accept the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend will lead for the Conservatives in Scotland on this matter. He will be leading out front, as he does so ably and well.
Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State can trust his No. 2 to handle the Bill effectively. Is my hon. Friend surprised that, during all the hours of consideration in Committee and on the Floor of the House, we still have not heard from the Scottish National party or from the other parts of the anti-Conservative alliance how their local income tax will work? Is it the kind of local income tax that will disadvantage the most deprived areas, or is it the kind of local income tax that will mean that people who live in areas of prudent local authorities will subsidise those who live in the areas of spendthrift local authorities?
I do not want to be caught out twice in two days, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Once is enough. May I say that I regret that your comments yesterday have not been printed in Hansard and I hope that the matter will be put right. If one looks carefully, one will see that there is an omission at the beginning of the relevant business yesterday. The statement that you made and which I did not hear is not reported. I do not argue, but it should be printed. I just wanted to let you know about that, Sir. I have no wish to fall foul of you on two consecutive days——
Order. I understand the point that the hon. Member is making. I have not studied Hansard, but I assure the hon. Member that I shall and, if there is any fault, I shall seek to have it corrected.
I have no doubt that you will do that, Sir. The object of drawing it to your attention was to see that the record was put right.
I return to why there should be a guillotine and why the community charge will be of benefit to people in Scotland, especially in my constituency. My hon. Friend the Minister may be interested to know that the rate demands in Scotland went out within the past two weeks, certainly they did in Tayside. I have not heard a single unfavourable comment on the community tax, but I can certainly fill a barrel with the unfavourable comments that I have received on the rates increases that have just been inflicted on the citizens of Tayside by the Labour administration, assisted in that enterprise by the nationalists. The people of Tayside have no doubt who is attempting to protect their best interests. People in north Tayside believe that the hon. Member for Dundee, East, who cannot even attend the House when his Bill is debated, is not the type of individual who should comment ——
Hon. Members may find it amusing, but from time to time I have a slight hearing defect, which is the result of my activities while I was on service for His Majesty. That is a matter of record, and I am not ashamed of it, but it gives me problems from time to time. I was present at that time, so that is not the problem.
It is unique for a party to go to a general election with legislation as interesting and, perhaps, as controversial as this, but it would be barmy even to think that any party would be so foolish as to do so if it did not genuinely believe that the new system was a substantial improvement on the existing system of local government taxation. Rates are unpopular with the public at large and people have condemned them, particularly the few who have to pay vast sums.
The Labour party has used the rating system more effectively than has any other local government party because it recognises that it can buy votes by spending other people's money. I congratulate the Labour party on having done that so successfully. Labour party Members are troubled because, if the system is changed, they will have the same opportunity to buy votes as they have done in the past. Everyone over the age of 18 will be required to contribute, which can only mean that they will take an interest in how the money is spent. Even those who are given income assistance in the form of rebates will take an interest because of the fact that they have to make a contribution.
The contribution is approximately the same as the cost of a television licence. There are figures on how many television licences exist among the lower paid, pensioners and those on supplementary benefit. I have no doubt that they will be capable also of paying the community charge, or at least the reduced rate that they will be required to pay. The people who will pay the full amount are those who can afford to pay. I have three adult daughters who enjoy the benefits of local authority services, and I think it is right that they should pay for them.
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why it is right that someone on a low wage should pay exactly the same as someone who earns an enormous amount of money?
I can explain that easily. Much of local authority expenditure comes from central taxation. Those on high incomes—whatever "high" is; it is relative—pay more income tax and buy more expensive products which carry more value added tax. Therefore, they contribute handsomely to the coffers of central Government. As it is the central Government, on behalf of the taxpayer, who pick up the bulk of the cost of local government services, it can be said that those on higher incomes are already making their contribution through central taxation.
The big problem with linking local authority expenditure to rates is that other local government expenditure affects central Government taxation. I mentioned earlier today that the Tayside region has put up its rates, which will put an unbearable additional burden on the Tayside health board. The board will have to find an additional £500,000, which means that £500,000 less will be spent on health services and facilities. The ratchet effect of this has meant that the Government have had to find a way to ensure that central Government expenditure is properly funded, as it is through taxation — that is, personal income tax, value added tax and corporation tax on profitable companies.
Those taxes fund the central Government's contribution to local government expenditure, so taxpayers who pay higher rates of tax are able to say, with hand on heart, "I am paying for my proper share of services." Anyone who uses additional facilities, such as water, has to pay for the amount consumed, as determined by the water meter. Many provisions are available to cater for that, so it is right that those who can afford to pay should pay equally. In other words, those who use the same services should pay equally, and those who, for whatever reason, require income assistance — whether through supplementary benefit or in some other way—are catered for in the same way as students and others who have special requirements.
My hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to be congratulated on the way in which he has dealt with those who have special needs. I congratulate the Government on the way in which they have dealt with these matters. I am delighted that the Bill will be on the statute book as an Act before we go to the country.
That is a nonsensical question, but I have no hesitation in answering it. I expect the Conservative party to do as well in Scotland as it did in 1983, if not better. I shall not make unrealistic claims——
I shall not make unrealistic claims, and I shall not be tempted by the less than silent Deputy Chief Whip of the Labour party. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we expect to do well and to return as the Government. I expect to be sitting in my place as the hon. Member for Tayside, North and I look forward to looking into the eyes of those hon. Members who are fortunate enough to return to the Labour Benches and to see whether they enjoy again their term in opposition.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is an extremely important and radical piece of legislation. A number of us are very eager to speak; not only Members for Scotland but Scottish Members who represent English constituencies, because the implications of the legislation will spread into England. It is quite improper if, to help the Government's funk in running to the country, parliamentary discussion is prevented and that this is pursued and allowed by the Chair. We must have an opportunity——
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not reflect on the Chair in that way. I am the prisoner of Standing Orders. I have to carry out the Standing Orders which have been agreed to by the House. The Standing Orders govern the timetable.
Order. The hon. Gentleman now is, I must say, abusing the time of the House. I told him quite clearly that I am bound by Standing Orders, as is every other hon. Member, including him.
|Division No. 164]||[5 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Corrie, John|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Couchman, James|
|Alexander, Richard||Critchley, Julian|
|Ancram, Michael||Crouch, David|
|Ashby, David||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Dicks, Terry|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Dover, Den|
|Bellingham, Henry||Durant, Tony|
|Best, Keith||Evennett, David|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fallon, Michael|
|Blackburn, John||Farr, Sir John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fletcher, Sir Alexander|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Forman, Nigel|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Forth, Eric|
|Bright, Graham||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Brinton, Tim||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Franks, Cecil|
|Browne, John||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Galley, Roy|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Butterfill, John||Gorst, John|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Greenway, Harry|
|Carttiss, Michael||Gregory, Conal|
|Cash, William||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Chope, Christopher||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hannam, John|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Harris, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Harvey, Robert|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Conway, Derek||Hayward, Robert|
|Coombs, Simon||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Cope, John||Henderson, Barry|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hicks, Robert|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Raffan, Keith|
|Hind, Kenneth||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hirst, Michael||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Renton, Tim|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Holt, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Hunter, Andrew||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Jackson, Robert||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Rost, Peter|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Ryder, Richard|
|Key, Robert||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Knowles, Michael||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Knox, David||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lang, Ian||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Latham, Michael||Shersby, Michael|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Silvester, Fred|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sims, Roger|
|Lester, Jim||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lightbown, David||Speed, Keith|
|Lilley, Peter||Speller, Tony|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Spencer, Derek|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Lord, Michael||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Steen, Anthony|
|Maclean, David John||Stern, Michael|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Madel, David||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Marlow, Antony||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Marshall. Michael (Arundel)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Mates, Michael||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Mather, Sir Carol||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mellor, David||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Merchant, Piers||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Tracey, Richard|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Moate, Roger||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Waller, Gary|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Walters, Dennis|
|Mudd, David||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Warren, Kenneth|
|Nelson, Anthony||Watts, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Newton, Tony||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Whitfield, John|
|Norris, Steven||Whitney, Raymond|
|Onslow, Cranley||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Osborn, Sir John||Wilkinson, John|
|Ottaway, Richard||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Pawsey, James||Wood, Timothy|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Woodcock, Michael|
|Pollock, Alexander||Yeo, Tim|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Price, Sir David||Mr. Gerald Malone and Mr. Michael Portillo.|
|Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Anderson, Donald||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Home Robertson, John|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosemary||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Barron, Kevin||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Beith, A. J.||Kennedy, Charles|
|Bell, Stuart||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Lambie, David|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Lamond, James|
|Blair, Anthony||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Leighton, Ronald|
|Boyes, Roland||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Litherland, Robert|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Livsey, Richard|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Bruce, Malcolm||McGuire, Michael|
|Buchan, Norman||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Caborn, Richard||McKelvey, William|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Maclennan, Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||McNamara, Kevin|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||McTaggart, Robert|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||McWilliam, John|
|Cartwright, John||Madden, Max|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Marek, Dr John|
|Clarke, Thomas||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Martin, Michael|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Maxton, John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Coleman, Donald||Michie, William|
|Conlan, Bernard||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Crowther, Stan||Nellist, David|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||O'Brien, William|
|Cunningham, Dr John||O'Neill, Martin|
|Dalyell, Tam||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Parry, Robert|
|Deakins, Eric||Patchett, Terry|
|Dewar, Donald||Pike, Peter|
|Dixon, Donald||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Dobson, Frank||Prescott, John|
|Dormand, Jack||Radice, Giles|
|Douglas, Dick||Randall, Stuart|
|Dubs, Alfred||Raynsford, Nick|
|Eadie, Alex||Redmond, Martin|
|Eastham, Ken||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Edwards, Bob (Wh'mpt'n SE)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Fisher, Mark||Robertson, George|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Forrester, John||Rooker, J. W.|
|Foster, Derek||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Foulkes, George||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Sheerman, Barry|
|Freud, Clement||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Gould, Bryan||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Sims, Roger|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Snape, Peter||Wareing, Robert|
|Spearing, Nigel||Welsh, Michael|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Stott, Roger||Wilson, Gordon|
|Strang, Gavin||Winnick, David|
|Straw, Jack||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)||Mr. Don Dixon and Mr. Frank Haynes.|
|Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|