Orders of the Day — Local Government Bill

– in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 6th July 1987.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 7:13 pm, 6th July 1987

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are about to start a very important debate on the Local Government Bill. As you will appreciate, it is a United Kingdom Bill that foreshadows the privatisation of local authority services and threatens the jobs of thousands of workers in Scotland as well in other parts of the United Kingdom. The essence of the problem that I wish to draw to your attention is that this is a United Kingdom Bill. As you will be aware, there has been a different tradition in Scottish local government. We have our own structure, legislative system and financial base. Our concern is that what should be a Scottish Bill is being buried in United Kingdom legislation, at least partly, I believe to save Ministers the embarrassment of wrestling with separate Scottish Bills.

The Bill is liberally scattered, as you will know, Mr. Speaker, with references to Scottish statutes as the draftsmen struggle to make sense of two systems that are different north and south of the border. It is an abdication of responsibility when Scottish Ministers sit tight and let the Secretary of State for the Environment conduct Scottish business for them.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, about possible protection for hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Scottish interests. It is unsatisfactory, in terms of the proper scrutiny of Scottish legislation, that this should happen. What options are open to us? I recognise that you are not responsible for the way in which the Government present their business, and I would not try to put an unreasonable burden on you, but how do we ensure that there is some form of expanded Committee, that there is proper representation for Scotland on that Committee, that the Scottish Office does not duck out, and that there is a Scottish Minister in Committee? Would it be possible to have a Committee of the whole House, which will at least ensure that all Scottish Members have a fair chance to take part?

I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on these matters. Through you, I express our alarm and concern at the cavalier approach of the Scottish Office to Scottish business as instanced by this legislation.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for a United Kingdom Parliament to deal with Scottish legislation in an English Bill or Bills that are substantially for England? If that is so, we who are Members on the unionist side of the House believe that this is the correct way to deal with matters in the circumstances in which the House now finds itself.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there not now a pressing need to examine the basis for the treatment of Scottish business? Will you give serious consideration to the setting up of a Speaker's Conference with the specific remit of the careful scrutiny of Scottish business and how it is processed in the House?

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

Order. I apologise. It was just a slip of the mind.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

He looks much younger than I do.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Labour Members are concerned about the fact that the Secretary of State, who is likely to lead for the Government on this Bill, does not know where Scotland is. Given that the Bill will have a major effect on Scotland, it is strange that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not here to defend Scottish rights. We look to you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the separate Scottish identity is protected. We hope that you will ensure that our voice is represented both tonight, which is essential and important, and in Committee.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a Local Government Bill. As an ex-president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, I remind the House that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said, there is a big difference between Scottish and English local government. That is why we had the Redcliffe-Maud report on English reorganisation and the Wheatley report on Scottish reorganisation. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the Wheatley report recommended specifically that there should be one association in Scotland speaking for Scottish local government, strengthened by regular communication with the Scottish Office.

To present the Bill in this way, especially if it is to be seen as a precedent, means that local government in Scotland, which is already gravely under-resourced, is being unacceptably exploited. As Parliament has always felt that its relationship with local government is important, is it not in the interests of the House and its proceedings to ensure a good relationship between Parliament and Scottish local authorities? Therefore, is it not wrong for the Government to pursue the Bill in the way that they are attempting to pursue it?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I endorse much of what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said. It is not a new venture for the Government to tag on Scottish legislation to a United Kingdom Bill. It happened in the last Session, on the Public Order Bill. Only one Scottish Member of Parliament served on the Committee. It was felt that, apart from the fact that it was a terrible burden to put on one Member, the resulting legislation did not reflect the best interests of Scots law, which is a distinctive system. Here we are faced with a distinctive system of local government and there will be general concern unless, Mr. Speaker, you consider some of the suggestions that have been put to you by the hon. Member for Garscadden. Scotland will be lumbered with a poor system of local government if the legislation goes through without proper Scottish scrutiny.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I am just a simple Back Bencher and I certainly do not have a suspicious mind. I ask for your guidance and assistance, as you always give such help to Back Benchers. Is this a new practice? If so, is it not an extremely dangerous precedent for Scottish business to be slipped in almost covertly in this way so that we may not have appropriate discussion in the House? Furthermore, if we have to seek meetings with Ministers on Scottish business, must we now seek meetings with United Kingdom Ministers on Scottish business, rather than with Scottish Ministers?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

It appears that the Government will try to adopt a whole series of shenanigans to inflict their legislation on Scotland, where they have no mandate. I am sure that all Scottish Members would be grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, if you would keep a particularly wary eye on the Government's conduct with regard to Scottish business. The Local Government Bill is a dramatic example of legislation that would normally have been two distinct Bills — an English Bill and a Scottish Bill, or even an English Bill and a Welsh Bill. I wonder how much expense the Government have incurred in using Civil Service time to produce this composite Bill, which is an English Bill and a Scottish Bill rolled into one. This is an abuse of the Civil Service and is about to become an abuse of Parliament unless you, Mr. Speaker, can find some way of protecting Scottish interests.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I am the hon. Member for a Welsh constituency with 70,000 electors. If you, Mr. Speaker, take into account the point of order about a Speaker's Conference, would you also bear in mind the artificially high level of Scottish representation and the low number of voters in some constituencies, and reduce the level of Scottish representation to the level permitted to English and Welsh Members?

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

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

Order. Hon. Members should allow me to deal with this matter. I believe the House knows that the hon. Member introducing a Bill is perfectly entitled to draft the Bill so that it applies to all or any part of the United Kingdom. It is for the hon. Member in charge—in this case the Secretary of State for the Environment — to defend the provisions of his Bill. None of the matters that have been raised are for me. They are matters of tactics. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has correctly described the number of options that could be operated. With regard to the precedent, I must tell the House and the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) that there are plenty of precedents.

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

I want to raise a separate point of order arising from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and from the precedent set by the Government in introducing legislation in relation to local government that covers England and Scotland. As I understand that in about six months' time the Public Bill Office will be accepting amendments for the English Bill dealing with the abolition of rates and the introduction of the community charge — otherwise known as the poll tax. Will you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that it will be in order for hon. Members to table amendments for the repeal of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, thus removing the poll tax that was rejected by the people of Scotland?

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

That is a hypothetical question.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I shall not delay the House for very long. You said something very important, Mr. Speaker. You referred to the Minister in charge of the Bill. In every instance that appears, in essence, to be the Secretary of State for the Environment in England and Wales. The essence of our objection is that there should be a separate Scottish Bill under the control of the Scottish Office. That should be scrutinised properly in a Scottish Committee. That is the principle upon which we will continue to fight during the remainder of this Session.

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

Order. I have already taken a point of order from the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). I call Mr. Maxton.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I want to pursue the question that was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) about a Speaker's Conference. We are reaching crisis point in the way in which Scotland will be legislated for in this Session. The simple fact is that the Government suffered a crushing defeat in Scotland. They are left with 10 Members of Parliament and they simply cannot pass legislation for Scotland. That is why we have this Bill —which we could almost describe as hybrid — before us today. If this kind of legislation is brought before us, and Scottish hon. Members and, more importantly, the Scottish public, our voters in Scotland, are, I am afraid to say, to be insulted in this way by the House of Commons, a constitutional crisis will be created in Scotland.

I know that you, Mr. Speaker, more than anyone else, would want to defend the union, and all Opposition Members, with very few exceptions, would want that also. However, there are limits to the strains that can be placed upon that union by the House of Commons. The contempt with which the Government are treating Scottish parliamentary time is the way in which that strain can be taken to breaking point.

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

I call the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh). Please be brief.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

Mr. Speaker, you said that this is a matter for the Minister. How can we assure accountability in the House through you when places for Scots Members on the Committee and in this debate are restricted? How can we ensure accountability when the Government are not accountable to the Scottish people and were not elected by them? How can Opposition Members ensure accountability, as that is what we were elected for?

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

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

Order. Hon. Members must allow me to deal with this matter now. I do not need any further help. I can tell the House that the House has a responsibility, scrutinise legislation. That can be done in the ??? described by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Dewar). The Bill might possibly be committed to a Committee of the whole House, or to an expanded Committee upstairs. That is not a matter for the Chair.

Indeed, it is not up to the Chair to select those Members for the Committee. That is a matter for the Chairman and the Committee of Selection. There are plenty of opportunities for this matter to be discussed widely, as no doubt it will be.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

I know that you are anxious to proceed, Mr. Speaker. However, this is a very serious matter at the beginning of a new Parliament. It is better that the House should spend some time now to understand that feelings are running high about the way in which the people of Scotland and the decision that they made at the recent general election appear to be disregarded. It is bad enough if that opinion is disregarded by the House, but it would be even worse if it was disregarded by Mr. Speaker or anyone else in the House —although I know that that is not the case. However, that impression may be given because of the Government's attitude, and if that is the case the people of Scotland could react to it.

This is very serious. The Bill has legal implications following what was said in the Widdicombe report. There is a different legal system in Scotland. The Scottish courts could easily rule what is legal in terms of expenditure differently from rulings given in English courts. A ridiculous situation exists at present. No Law Officer from Scotland is present. If and when the Committee to consider the Bill is set up, and if Scottish Members on that Committee call for a legal opinion, there is no Lord Advocate or Solicitor-General for Scotland who can be called to give a legal opinion to the Committee members.

My second fear is that, because of the Government's attitude, a practice might develop whereby United Kingdom Ministers start a Bill in its Committee procedure, and halfway through the Bill, because the English and Welsh clauses have been disposed of, the Government Whips arrange for the United Kingdom Ministers to be taken off the Bill and we may be landed with Scottish Office Ministers who have heard nothing of the debate in Committee. That would be a most unsatisfactory way to proceed. I ask you to make it clear, Mr. Speaker, that you will deprecate such practices in any Committees of this place. As I have said, this is an extremely serious matter.

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

I understand fully the points that have been raised with me, but the plain matter of fact is that we legislate in this House for the United Kingsdom. I am aware that there is a different legal system in Scotland.

Hon. Members:

What about Northern Ireland?

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

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. It is not for me to decide which hon. Members will consider the Bill in Committee; nor is it for me to decide whether a Scottish Minister should be a member of it. I think that we should proceed.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 7:33 pm, 6th July 1987

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

The Bill represents a further significant step in two of the Government's major objectives—introducing greater competition and securing greater value for money. The first steps in this direction were taken in the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Act 1980, which included the direct labour organisation provisions in part III and which, incidentally, applied to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The Bill introduces other changes in local government law that are aimed at improving the way in which local authorities operate.

The free operation of the market is the best way of delivering greater choice, higher productivity and better quality services at lower prices. The Government have increased competition since 1979 in such things as air services, conveyancing, opticians' services and bus services, to name but four, with dramatic results.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I shall not give way to every hon. Member who seeks to intervene because I have much to say and I do not want to delay the House too long.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I want to ask the Secretary of State only one simple question. The Bill covers Scotland, and I do not see the Secretary of State for Scotland on the Treasury Bench. I assume that a Scottish junior Minister with responsibility for local government will reply so that Scottish Members will have the chance of hearing something to do with Scotland.

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

Hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies can listen to what I have to say and to what my hon. Friend the Minister of State has to say when he replies.

For many years we have been trying to persuade local authorities to follow our example and to try competition to help them deliver good quality services at lower cost.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have spent some time discussing whether there should be a separate Scottish Bill and I have very recently raised an important question with the Secretary of State. Surely it would be common courtesy for the Government to ensure that a Scottish Minister replies so that there can be some response to the Scottish part of the Bill.

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

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of this place and he knows that the issue that he has raised is not a matter for the Chair.

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

Judging from what the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said on 24 October 1986, he shares the view that there should be competition in the provision of local authority services. He said: We know that some part"—

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

Perhaps it would help the House if I read the quote first. I believe that the House should have the privilege of hearing it. The hon. Gentleman said: We know that some part of the Tory electoral success in 1979, repeated in 1983"— and now in 1987— had to do with a recognition of popular disenchantment with public services—a disenchantment not necessarily with the principle, but with the practice. Now if that is the hon. Gentleman's view—

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

I think that I am grateful that the Secretary of State has given way grudgingly but I am not grateful that he should misquote and misrepresent what I had to say in the way that he has done. He has quoted me accurately by reading from the speech that I made at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' annual conference at Newcastle upon Tyne in October 1986, but the complexion that he has put on my remarks is wholly dishonest.

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

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw. I quoted the hon. Gentleman's words that were uttered in a speech and set out in a press handout and I am entirely entitled to do so. I did not interrupt the sentence halfway through or anything of the sort. I hope that he will apologise for what he said to me. If he does not like what he said in the past and if he feels ashamed of it when it is brought to the attention of his Left-wing colleagues who sit behind him, he should be more careful and not say such things.

We issued a consultation paper over two years ago warning local authorities that we might have to force them to expose their activities to competition if they did not choose to do that themselves. A few authorities responded but the vast majority continued to increase the burdens that they were imposing on their ratepayers and, in many instances, provided poor quality services. We therefore decided to introduce legislation to implement the main proposals set out in the consultation paper. Part I will compel local authorities, and other public bodies with a similar role, to open up a range of their activities to competition. The initial list set out in clause 2 covers the services proposed in the consultation paper — refuse collection, building cleaning, street cleansing, catering, ground maintenance and vehicle maintenance. We shall be issuing a further consultation paper shortly on the possibility of adding sport and leisure management to that list.

Clause 2 also provides a power to add further activities to the list. This power is necessary so that we may add further services later once authorities have coped with the initial list. We shall certainly not use the power to add core services such as teaching, policing, planning control and the like. Use of the power will be subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses.

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

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

No, I shall not give way now.

The way that the public sector unions and many Labour local authorities have reacted to the threat of competition is highly significant. In their endless teach-ins, seminars, training courses and the like the emphasis again and again has been on the need for direct labour organisations to improve their own efficiency. Despite the ritual attacks on the private sector, it is clear from the literature produced by DLO pressure groups that their real fear is simply of competition itself and not necessarily of unfair competition.

The fear of those pressure groups is local residents' hope—hope for the savings the competition can and will deliver. Wandsworth's total saving over five years from competition tendering amounts to about £25 million. This represents 26 per cent. of the cost of the services and includes the cost of the generous staff severance scheme. Now that most severances are over, the annual saving is running at almost £6 million a year. Another example of such savings is the savings from the National Health Service tendering exercise, which are now running at over £90 million a year. From contracting out there comes £26 million and the rest comes from in-house efficiency improvements. The activities listed in clause 2 cost something approaching £3 billion a year. Competitive savings are typically between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. If we hit a modest target of 10 per cent. savings, it would save about £300 million a year. That is worth saving.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that he will discuss the matters that he has outlined in respect of DLOs and competitive tendering with local government authorities in Wales? There is great difficulty in applying such developments in rural areas where, whatever the circumstances may be in urban areas, they are particularly unsuited.

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

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of-State for Wales will respond to the hon. Gentleman's question. As he knows, I am not responsible for implementing the Bill in Wales, and neither am I responsible for so doing in Scotland. This is a United Kingdom Bill, but my right hon. Friend's attention will be drawn to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

The Bill requires compulsory competitive tendering, not compulsory contracting out or compulsory privatisation. Those who fear contracting out frequently say that it will lead to poorer services. This is utter nonsense. The Bill requires local authorities to specify the standard of service that they require, whether that service is provided in-house or by contractors. For some authorities even that process will be a new departure. Up till now few have attempted the essential management task of saying precisely what outputs they are aiming for. Instead of concentrating almost exclusively on arguing about who should be producing health and social services or education, we should be asking how best to make sure that the appropriate kind of service, whether public or private is being produced, to the right specifications of quality, at the right price and in the right place for the right people. That was a quotation from an article about the future of the welfare state published two weeks ago in New Society, and I entirely agree with it.

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

If the Secretary of State is so convinced of the effectiveness of contracting out services, and the ability to rely on the quality of service thus provided, why has the maintenance of police vehicles been specifically excluded from the provisions?

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

Because, as the hon. Gentleman would realise if he thought about it for a moment, there are considerable security implications. Incidentally, I wish that the hon. Gentleman would get a new buttonhole. His red rose is becoming a bit tarnished. Perhaps he would also pay me the courtesy of intervening a little less frequently. I know that I am keeping many of his hon. Friends, particularly those from Scotland, who may wish to contribute from doing so.

As anyone who has contracted out services knows, it is easy to develop sophisticated systems to ensure that the specification is delivered. Occasionally, contracts go wrong. The trade unions ensure, of course, that these receive the maximum publicity. But in the vast majority of cases these problems are quickly sorted out, and, where they cannot be, the contract can be terminated and a new contractor appointed. Compare that with the problem of improving an inefficient direct labour organisation.

I turn to some more detailed aspects of part I of the Bill. Competition for cases where DLOs carry out work for their own authority will be phased in by regulations under clause 6, at a pace with which local authorities and contractors can cope. The phasing-in period is likely to take no more than three years. Clauses 7 to 12 require authorities to publish full specifications. They will then have to invite tenders, and their DLOs can prepare formal bids, too. Tenders received will have to be compared fairly with the DLO bid. If, following that, the work is awarded to the DLO, clause 9 requires authorities to keep separate accounts for the work to ensure that the DLO delivers its price. Clause 10 allows me to set financial targets for work subject to competition. In most cases, targets will be set in the form of rates of return on capital. Clause 11 requires authorities to publish annual reports on each of their activities.

In order to enforce compliance, the sanction against authorities which insist on sheltering their DLOs from fair competition is to order the closure of the DLO. In the six years of the original DLO legislation, two closure orders have in fact been made. Authorities will not find themselves automatically subject to those sanctions if they fail to accept lowest tenders, despite much scaremongering to the contrary. Proper tender appraisal is not a simple matter of whose bid is lowest. Authorities will have a full chance to explain their decisions. If they can justify rejection of a lower tender in favour of their DLO, they will not face any sanction. The sanction will be available for both anti-competitive behaviour and financial failure.

Part II of the Bill deals with local and other public authority contracts. Political discrimination in the award of contracts is an offensive and growing practice; increasing numbers of councils subjugate the interests of their ratepayers and business men to futile political gesturing. All that is required of local authorities is to provide good local services at minimum cost to their ratepayers. People want good street lighting, regular and clean refuse collection, level pavements to walk on, roads without potholes, high standards of schooling and a well-maintained housing stock. They do not want the councils' political views and posturing on national policy issues to be a surcharge on the rates, through the imposition of conditions in contracts for the provision of services.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng , Brent South

I am much obliged to the Secretary of State for giving way. Will he give a categorical assurance that nothing in part II of the Bill will in any way limit or otherwise affect the powers and duties of local authorities under section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 to promote good race relations in the United Kingdom?

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

The clause to which the hon. Gentleman refers in fact concerns two sections in the Race Relations Act. The point can be debated at length in Committee, but the Bill is perfectly explicit about what he means.

What is it to do with Leicester city council, Peterborough city council or the London borough of Greenwich whether contractors have any links with the nuclear missile programme? What is it to do with the London borough of Newham whether any of the directors are freemasons? What is it to do with St. Helens council whether contractors on its tender list contribute to funds for a hospital in North Vietnam? What is it to do with the London borough of Brent whether companies are involved in the construction of United States bases?

Those and other authorities of that ilk discriminate against contractors on such grounds in placing firms on approved lists and awarding contracts. Actions of that kind bring local government as a whole into disrepute. Although as yet only a minority of councils go in for such political posturing, the disease is spreading. Already, more than 40 local authorities impose contract conditions relating to links with South Africa. Too many councillors seem to find it more fun to play at national politics at their ratepayers' expense than to deal with the real local challenges and problems.

Many of the practices that I have mentioned could probably already be challenged under the existing law. Local authorities have to act reasonably, and cannot take account of irrelevant considerations in reaching their decisions. While the provisions in part II of the Bill will strengthen the law by making it absolutely clear that such practices are illegal, this type of blackmail will be stopped only if it is challenged. Firms must use the new provisions to stand up to authorities which continue to abuse the contractual process. Otherwise, they will eventually find themselves being told how much to pay their staff, how many gays and lesbians to employ, and for which employers and which countries they can work.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does not the Secretary of State accept that the fallacy in his criticism of local government in relation to contract compliance is the same as the fallacy in his criticism in relation to tendering? Does he not accept that local authorities comprise people who are perfectly able, whatever their party, to debate the issues and to make an appropriate local decision, and that, occasionally, moral considerations might be as relevant to local government—or more so—than they are to central Government? Local councillors, including Conservatives, are elected to make decisions. Does not the Secretary of State respect local government's right to make decisions any more?

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

I do not think that it would be right to impart such political considerations to the provision of services for which the ratepayers are asked to pay the excess costs. As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, the ratepayers do not elect the councils; in his and many other areas, a very small minority of the electorate pays full rates.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

A particularly pernicious habit has been developed by many extreme Left-wing local authorities over the past few years. Many Conservative Members received a great many complaints about it during the election campaign, and we are delighted that my right hon. Friend is bringing the Bill forward. Will he tell the House how it will work? Suppose that someone who has been contracting and working with United States bases comes up with a tender that is better and cheaper than any other, and the council turns it down? How will they be able to take action, and will my right hon. Friend reassure us that such action will be successful?

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

It would be a breach of the civil law. The contractor, an association of contractors or anyone else—for instance, a ratepayer—will be able to bring a case against the local authority on the basis of the provisions of the Bill, if they become law. If the case were as blatant as my hon. Friend suggests, there is no doubt that the aggrieved person would have a case which would prevail.

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

I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once, and I do not intend to give way to him again.

When I announced in October last year that the Government would bring forward this legislation, I hoped that it would be possible to include a special provision to allow authorities to use the contractual process to promote the employment prospects of inner-city residents.

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

It is clear to the whole House that the Secretary of State does not intend to give way, so hon. Members must not persist.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the Secretary of State opening the debate and the Minister for Local Government closing it, it is clear that the only way in which Scottish Members of Parliament will be able to make any point at all or obtain any information about Scotland is by questioning the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I am hoping that the House will hear some Scottish Members of Parliament, but if there are constant points of order their chances are that much less.

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

Hon. Members will note that part II of the Bill does not contain such a provision relating to inner-city residents. That is because it has subsequently become clear that European Community rules designed to ensure equal conditions of competition for public works and supply contracts, rules which the Government fully support, do not permit the introduction of that type of measure into the contractual process. The absence of this provision from the Bill should not be interpreted in any way as weakening this Government's resolve to ensure that inner-city residents share fully in the benefits flowing from new investment and new initiatives in the inner-cities.

Our research has shown that employment growth in inner-city firms assisted through the urban programme has been well targeted on inner-city residents. The jobs did not require especially high skills. The majority needed only on-the-job training. On average, 84 per cent. of new employees lived locally, and the proportion from ethnic minorities was equal to or greater than the proportion of such residents in the district.

But certain jobs—in construction, for example—need particular skills. To require that a quota of jobs must be given to local residents, with the rise in costs and the fall in standards which that entails, is clearly impractical as well as unlawful. Proper training is an essential component of many inner-city projects. The Manpower Services Commission is reshaping its efforts in favour of the unskilled and unemployed in the inner cities. It is working with my Department, for example, to provide community programme places for the long-term unemployed in refurbishment schemes on rundown estates.

Within the inner-cities initiative of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Government's task forces are working to encourage firms to recruit more inner-city residents, to ensure that training is well matched to employers' needs and to develop the capacity of small local firms to win contracts. Our aim is to raise skill levels so that local people are better equipped to compete for jobs and employers find that it makes sound sense to hire them. We have made very encouraging progress in a number of schemes sponsored by our task forces. These examples demonstrate our commitment. I and my colleagues charged with the responsibility for regenerating our inner-city areas will continue to make sure that our programmes are designed to encourage firms to recruit local labour, and to ensure that that labour is better trained and motivated to grasp the opportunities thus created.

I must emphasise to hon. Members that the provisions in part II of the Bill are designed to ban abuses of the contractual process. They will not stop public authorities from taking reasonable action—for example, over health and safety, or under the race relations legislation. In the latter case, there is special provision in the Bill to allow authorities to ask reasonable questions, and take account of the answers, in pursuance of their specific duty to carry out their functions with regard to the need to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. It is the unreasonable use of their contractual muscle by certain authorities that these provisions are intended to stamp out.

I shall mention very briefly the other measures that he Bill contains. Part III of the Bill and clause 28 bring back the measures on local authority assistance for private rented housing and on land registers which were contained in last Session's Bill but lost when the election was called. Clause 26 honours the commitment we made during the passage of the Local Government Act to reverse the effects of amendments made in another place to the publicity provisions. Clause 27 provides for various changes to the powers of the local ombudsmen, most of which result from representations made by the ombudsmen themselves.

Clause 30 regularises the basis on which the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Employment can enter into training agreements with the Inner London education authority and the joint boards created when the Greater London council and the metropolitan counties were abolished. Clause 31 is a purely Scottish provision, which extends the Scottish Accounts Commission's remit to enable it, like the Audit Commission in England and Wales, to carry out value for money studies of local authorities.

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

I shall give way, but it will be for the last time.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

On the Scottish elements of this English Bill, what representations did the right hon. Gentleman's Department receive from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities? Will he list those in Scotland who are in favour of the Bill?

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

This provision will be welcomed in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"] It was included at the special request of a large number of Scottish interests.

Clause 32 abolishes the dog licensing system—

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

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

No. I said that I would not give way again.

Clause 32 abolishes the dog licensing system, an anachronism which at present costs about four times as much to operate as it collects in fees. As I announced last year, following consultations, we concluded that abolition is the right course to follow.

My announcement last February that we had to postpone legislation on competition, contracts and publicity caused some dismay among my hon. Friends. I promised then that it would be brought forward at the first opportunity. I am pleased to be able to deliver my promise after a delay of only four months. This Bill will bring major benefits to ratepayers and local residents alike, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 7:56 pm, 6th July 1987

The Bill's unpleasant nature was, unfortunately, thoroughly matched by the nastiness of much of the speech of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

It is significant that the first Bill to be produced for a Second Reading debate by the Government demonstrates the enduring determination of Ministers, and especially of this Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, to go on diminishing the role of democratically elected local government. The Bill continues the sustained attack on local government of the past eight years. It is the 44th piece of local government legislation to have been proposed since 1979. There is no parallel for that in Britain in any other policy area, nor is there any parallel for it in any other democratic country.

What the Bill contains does not seem to be so important as that there should be a local government Bill. It is said that the Department of the Environment office where Bills are drafted has been nicknamed The Windmill because, rather like that entertainment establishment, the officers are drafting so much legislation that they never have a chance to close the office. The Prime Minister continues to keep these local government issues in front of the electors bcause it is convenient for her and for the Secretary of State for the Environment to have a political whipping post. They need to blame all the ills and failures of central Government policy on democratically elected local councils.

As the Secretary of State ploughs on through the rhetoric, the dogma and the new powers, I wonder whether he ever stops to think about their impact? The claim is that, after eight years of Thatcherism, 43 Acts of Parliament, numerous see-saw changes in local government finance, a massive loss of freedom and unprecedented ministerial powers and interference, local government is inefficient. Given the burdens that have been placed upon it in the past eight years, it is hardly surprising if some aspects of local government are less efficient than they otherwise might be.

In any event, efficiency is not the Secretary of State for the Environment's real objective. That was made obvious during the recent general election campaign in connection with the proposed sell-off of the nation's water assets. When the right hon. Gentleman on 18 May 1987 wrote to the chairman of the Water Authorities Association, he made this abundantly clear, because he said that the Government were committed to extending share ownership and narrowing the public sector…we have been led to conclude that these aims must have priority. In other words, it is the Government's philosophy that has priority, not the efficient management of services, whether the water industry or any other public service. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said then. I have no doubt that he stands by it. However, his statement today about efficiency being the Government's overriding objective flies in the face of what he knows to be the most efficient management of the water industry.

Of course, we should not be surprised. These views are the price of survival in what the writings and interviews of the right hon. Member for Oswestry describe as a "Stalinist regime". Dogma always takes precedence in such organisations, and the Secretary of State is the epitome of it doing so again.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Should not the hon. Gentleman refer to the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) as that is the proper name of his constituency?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Constituency names have changed and we all have problems with that fact.

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

I apologise to the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), but in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday he said of the Tory party: so that we do not have a sort of Stalinist regime any longer". It is important to have that on record, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) because I would not want anyone to think that his right hon. Friend's words had been misquoted.

Just a few days ago in the debate on the Loyal Address, the Secretary of State said that more controls over local government were necessary to control public expenditure—another of the shibboleths that are always paraded on these occasions. It is as if somehow local government expenditure is rising too rapidly.

Any comparison between the rise in central Government expenditure and local government expenditure shows where the real problem is. Central Government's expenditure on its own account has risen since 1979 by 127 per cent. In the same period, and on the same basis, local government expenditure has risen by 103 per cent. The rise in central Government expenditure on its own account is therefore at least 25 per cent. higher than that of local government. Which is out of control? Would the Secretary of State like to comment?

Central to this legislation, as with all such Conservative legislation, is the Government taking more and more powers to themselves. For example, they are taking more powers over the city of Birmingham which has a budget in excess of £500 million, or Leeds, where the budget is more than £300 million, or Manchester, where it is almost £300 million, or Newcastle upon Tyne, where it is about £155 million. Who in this House really has the knowledge, understanding and detailed information to be taking more and more powers and control over businesses of this size?

We can imagine the reaction if private enterprise was being interferred with in this way. We can imagine the reaction if Governments in other countries were doing so. We can imagine the reaction of the Mayors of Hamburg, Milan, Toronto or Los Angeles to all this centralist nonsense. We can imagine what would have happened had President Mitterrand said something like that when Mr. Chirac was the Mayor of Paris. His response, if repeatable at all, would have been something like "Va t'en!"

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

Indeed. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, even though as a PPS he is supposed to be silent, for directing that comment to his right hon. Friend.

Ministers are asking the House and their own civil servants to continue second-guessing the decisions of thousands of elected councillors of all the political parties and of thousands of local government administrators who have the information, knowledge and understanding of the problems and sensitivities of delivering effective local services.

This Bill is also about controlling publicity as well as about enforced competitive tendering and undermining good employment. I suggest that it should more aptly be called the Shutting up of Opposition, Undermining of Good Employment and Enforcement of Unfair Competition Bill, because that is how we judge its principal provisions.

Part IV attempts further to gag local government before much of the national debate on major aspects of the Government's legislative programme has even really begun. Who has argued that the 1986 legislation on these aspects of publicity and local government is not working? Where is the evidence to support that contention? What is to become of the right hon. Gentleman's own draft code of practice on these matters, which is currently undergoing discussion and debate? The latest draft of that code of practice states: The principles set out below recognise the political nature of local government. They have taken account of the fact that some local authority publicity will deal with issues that are controversial because of particular local circumstances, or because of a difference of view between political parties locally or nationally. The principles do not prohibit the publication of information on politically sensitive or controversial issues, nor stifle public debate. That is in the right hon. Gentleman's own draft code of practice. What will happen to that draft code? Is it to be agreed or abandoned'? Will he continue discussing it on that basis with the local authorities? Will he say what he intends to do? Of course he will not, because he is already preparing to rat on that promise, just as he has ratted on so many other promises to local government over the years.

Local government, to be genuinely local, needs freedom to voice the concerns of the community it is elected to serve and, where necessary, to voice its criticisms of central Government policies that adversely affect its area, its communities and its population. That is what local government should have the right to do in any plural democratic society. The Labour Opposition stand by that right, but apparently Conservative Members no longer do so. The legislation contains a contemptible set of proposals and we denounce them.

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

The hon. Gentleman is mixing up the right to express political opinion, which of course remains for councillors on all occasions, and the denial of the use of ratepayers' money for overt political purposes, which is what the Bill seeks to achieve.

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

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Government have already legislated on the overt use of local authority money for party political purposes. For my part, I support his view on that absolutely and unequivocally. But he now knows that this Bill contains clauses that go much further. That is what we object to, and that is what we shall go on objecting to.

Clause 26 is aimed at restoring the two clauses of the Local Government Act 1986 that were removed by the House of Lords. Those clauses dealt with the definition of party political publicity and the legal status of the recommended code of practice on local authority publicity by which local authorities are supposed to abide. That is the point now at issue and that is the point that the Secretary of State singularly failed to respond to in his intervention and about which we object most strenuously.

In connection with the powers set out in clause 26(2) on page 26, I ask him who will censor the performance of local authorities in the matter. Who will be the judge? How will those powers be enforced? Will local authorities and individual councillors have the right of reply to some of the torrent of personal abuse and vilification heaped on them dishonestly by the Tory Government's friends in the mass media? Will they have the right to reply to some of the garbage we see in The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express so regularly in support of the right hon. Gentleman and the Conservative party? It does not seem so.

The Secretary of State has called again today on local authorities to go for greater efficiency. In the past he has called for them to abandon national wage agreements—the practice established more than 50 years ago —although he is very reticent to say much about it in public. The Secretary of State for Education introduced a Bill not just to abolish the Burnham procedures but to eliminate the ability of local education authorities to negotiate at all with teachers about pay and conditions. The fair wages legislation has been abolished. This centralist authoritarian tendency of the Government continues to erode people's democratic freedoms and rights and to undermine good employment practices. That, too, is one of the aims that are at the heart of what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to the House today. The Labour party will strenuously oppose such proposals.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

The hon Gentleman is obsessed about centralism and the fact that central Government is taking over powers from local government. Could he tell the House, by number, which clauses are transferring power from local government to central Government rather than from local government to the people who work and operate with the local area?

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

I say to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that, even with his renowned lack of ability and understanding, he is quite capable of working that out for himself.

Labour Governments created the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Health and Safety Executive. [Interruption.]

Hon. Members:

Name him.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. That is very unseemly behaviour, and the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) knows it. Dr. Cunningham.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Member for Northampton, North has been here for a good many years. I expect him to help the Chair by setting a good example to new hon. Members of the House. Dr. Cunningham.

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

Labour Governments created the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Health and Safety Executive. We believe that it is time to take the next logical step and legislate for contract compliance. Such legislation should be central to any Government's policies to reduce unemployment, to regenerate the inner cities, to attack the scandalous housing crisis we face, to promote racial equality, to strengthen the impact of equal opportunities legislation, to improve employment prospects for people with disabilities, to improve Britain's abysmal lack of effective training, to achieve better conditions of employment, to produce better value for money in public spending and to improve health and safety, especially in building and construction.

Those are 10 powerful and positive arguments for contract compliance, and there are others. Apparently Tories, some people in the CBI and the private sector generally, present the issue as damaging to British business, as some awful Left-wing radical idea which can only harm our economy. It is a typical Conservative, even reactionary, response to the challenge of necessary, indeed long overdue, change. But Ministers ought to know, as we know, that in the United States of America—the home of the market economy and free enterprise—80 per cent. of all jobs in manufacturing and 83 per cent. of all jobs in transportation, public utilities and communications are now governed by contract compliance legislation. It is because of that legislation and because of the force of law that progress has been made in ending the inequalities between people in black and ethnic communities and women and white males in a whole range of employment issues across the nation.

The United States Congress and successive Presidents have long recognised the fundamental, social and economic force of such proposals, and Britain must do so too. There is nothing new in the principle of contractual conditions in Britain. They have existed for a long time in many forms. Craft guilds and professional bodies apply them to individuals. For several centuries Governments have applied conditions to contracts specifying broad matters of policy not directly related to the cost of goods or services.

More recently, observance of the Race Relations Act 1976 has been a required contractual condition, although no one ever seems, so far as I can tell, to have lost a contract because of that required compliance. However, I suspect that is because' of lack of monitoring of the compliance, not because of the conduct of employment practices. We could even say that the fiasco that went on over weeks in Australia about Mr. Wright was a form of contract compliance. At least that is what the Government were trying to enforce in his case.

Local government is the target of much abuse, but contract compliance is a positive and innovative development in the best traditions of British local government, again in the forefront of social and economic progress and, I remind Government Members, of companies such as Marks and Spencer. That is the reality staring hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the face. They will not face up to the facts at home or abroad.

Within the public sector, it is commonplace to find routine systems for checking the bona fides of companies that want to sell things. In the past those systems have generally concerned themselves only with a firm's financial good standing or technical competence to perform a particular contract, although if one's firm got involved with defence contracts, the security services might make extremely searching inquiries into the more personal aspects of the lives of the firm's senior executives and of the lives of other employees in the company. The same is true in the civil nuclear power industry. The Government are no different from any other Government in that it might also intervene to specify in some detail the precise quality control systems that firms must follow in respect of defence contracts as well as a variety of other matters that could affect the final quality of the end product.

We say in support of contract compliance simply that questions of equal opportunities for women, for ethnic minorities and for people with disabilities, issues affecting health and safety, the elimination of lump labour and various other matters connected with the construction industry, better training, trade union rights and low pay, rank at least equal in importance to a firm's financial good standing or its technical competence or its acceptability to the security services. It is madness for a national Government to claim, as the Government do, that they are upholding the law when it effectively subverts the law by providing substantial financial resources to companies and organisations that they know perfectly well are breaking those laws.

It is hypocritical for the Government to say that they are taking major new initiatives for the inner cities and then setting aside any attempt to legislate effective contract compliance. It is no longer acceptable for the Government to fund the Health and Safety Executive, the Campaign for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and a range of inner-city and other initiatives aimed at eliminating discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity while channelling vastly greater sums of money to companies and organisations that are perpetuating and possibly exacerbating the very problems that those other programmes are supposed to be tackling.

I have a few questions for the Minister who is to reply. On 29 October last year the Home Secretary wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw): we are not contemplating legislation which would prevent a local authority from taking action in accordance with this duty so as to encourage the provision of equal opportunity for ethnic minorities in employment. The "duty" referred to was that contained in section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. More recently the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in an interview in a programme called "Witness: On the Margin" on Thames Television on 1 July said: Mr. Ridley and I are totally committed to the policy of using local labour and getting development to generate more local employment. However, the Minister for Local Government spoke at a press briefing which was reported in The Independent on 27 June 1987. It said: Outlining the conditions on contract compliance and private tendering yesterday, Mr. Howard promised that no legislation to enforce local quotas of workers would be introduced. Which is right? Who is in charge of the policy and the initiatives?

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

Who is telling the truth? I invite the Minister to answer, because they cannot both be right. The Minister is saying that no such legislation will be enacted but other members of the Cabinet are saying something very different. The hon. and learned Gentleman ought to be candid with the House and tell us exactly what the Government's intentions are. I will willingly give way to him.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

Both are correct. There will be no legislation to enforce quotas in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman, but that does not mean that steps cannot be taken to encourage the use of local labour. If the hon. Gentleman had done my right hon. and learned Friend the courtesy of listening to his speech he would have known that on the urban programme 84 per cent. of those employed were local to the inner city.

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

The Minister, in the same way as some of his right hon. and hon. Friends, wants to will the end but he will not provide the means. All the lessons—[Interruption.] Without legislation, the objectives cannot possibly be achieved. Legislation is a prerequisite and anybody who has looked at the propositions knows that that is the case.

No one would defend inefficiency, poor services or the waste of precious public resources. However, enforced privatisation and enforced competitive tendering do not deal with that. That causes unemployment. It exploits low-paid people, often from ethnic communities. It exploits women, lowers standards and generates public squalor, as we have seen not only in some local authority areas but in the Health Service. Low-paid workers know what happens to them and their standard of living when there is competitive tendering. They are in no doubt about the value of Labour's power at local level. It is Labour control of the local authority employers' side that has ensured that people on low wages have had some fairness of treatment that the Government seek to deny them.

Why do the Government not publish the responses to their Green Paper on competitive tendering? Why cannot the evidence be put before the House? It is interesting to reflect that all local authority associations, regardless of political control, remain totally opposed to it. Where is the evidence for the savings that the Government claim? What is the basis of comparison? There is no valid comparison of costs and efficiency between, for example, the private sector in the building and construction industry and local authority direct labour organisations. What is the rate of return required in the private sector? I would be grateful to know if the Minister can tell us that in his reply. The profits quoted by the private sector are based on turnover rather than on capital employed, which is the basis he is enforcing on local government.

In spite of what the Secretary of State had to say, the Government are interested in cheapness for its own sake. The effects of tendering were considered by the Select Committee on Social Services in its report of 1985. That report questioned the value of tendering even in the Government's own terms. It said: This whole exercise, which has now been under way for around four years, has involved a considerable amount of management time and effort; has caused disruption and discontent, not exclusively among NHS staff directly employed in these services; and to date has not brought home the bacon. Invariably it is the case that cost cutting is done at the expense of wages and conditions. It is not done by cutting out waste or by being more efficient.

On the matter of competition, the market is dominated by two major multinational holding companies, BET and the Hawley group. In many respects there is no competition at all. That is the reality. In the most recent edition of the Local Government Chronicle it said: More than two thirds of the number of councils reporting privatisation said they had done the opposite and brought services previously contracted out back in house. Of these 27, there were 13 Labour controlled, seven Conservative and two Alliance. Local authorities themselves are coming to recognise the fallacy that is at the heart of what the Government have to say on these matters. The road to greater and necessary efficiency in local government is by strengthening democratically elected local authorities, not by undermining them, by giving local communities more rights and information and not denying it to them, by improving quality tests, and by requiring councils to publish a report on the performance of their statutory duties. The reality in this Bill, as in almost every other piece of local government legislation introduced by the Government, is that more ministerial control is the Government's principal concern. There is more nit-picking bureaucracy, which is inefficient in the extreme. We have nothing but contempt for this legislation and the manner of its introduction and we shall certainly oppose it at every stage.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake 8:29 pm, 6th July 1987

So far there has been the barest mention of one aspect of the Bill that I want to discuss in more detail. I refer to clause 32, which aims to abolish the dog licence.

I believe that that decision is wrong, and I deeply regret the decision of the Government to go ahead with it, despite all the efforts that have been made by a vast number of organisations to persuade them that they should not do so. I accept that the present amount of 374½p is ludicrous. We are all aware that that sum does not even cover the cost of collection and therefore the amount available to local authorities is minute. However, I believe that the Government have drawn the wrong conclusion by believing that the dog licence should be phased out altogether.

In this country we face many problems with dogs. The problems have been with us for many years, and I believe that the situation is likely to get worse rather than better. Animal welfare organisations spend a great deal of time seeking to deal with strays, as, of course, do the police. Thousands of dogs are destroyed each year, and before that unfortunate event occurs many attempts are made to find a new home for the dogs. In some cases those attempts are successful, but in many cases it proves impossible. In addition, uncontrolled dogs cause endless trouble. I am sure that most Members have received complaints from constituents about dog fouling. It can be an extremely serious matter for many people, but is just one aspect of the problem. Another extremely serious problem is that of animals, especially dogs, causing road accidents. Goodness knows how many people are injured, or even killed, in accidents in which a dog is in part responsible.

There is also the problem of livestock worrying. The National Farmers Union calculated that, last year, no fewer than 10,000 animals, probably mostly sheep, were either killed or maimed. Such attacks cause untold suffering to the animals, quite apart from the appalling financial effects for the farmers.

All in all, it is a great mistake that the Government have not used the opportunity to put the dog licence fee up to a realistic level so that it could be used to fund schemes for dog wardens and generally to improve the control of dogs.

I have a particular love for dogs and it saddens me when I go round, as I often do, to animal homes and see countless animals being brought in off the streets, unwanted, unloved and probably with an extremely short life in front of them. Furthermore, we know that there is the possibility of rabies coming across the Channel at some stage. I am well aware that drastic emergency measures exist, but how much better it would be if we had dogs under control. That would lessen the need for emergency measures. Such measures would probably include the wholesale slaughter of animals and widespread panic if rabies entered the country, as it seems likely to do at some stage.

We are also aware that many animals are bred by irresponsible people and by dog breeders, if one can call them that. If one used the licence on a differential basis so that dogs that had been neutered or spayed would be liable to a much lower licence fee, that would go a long way to reducing the number of dogs that are bred, but unwanted. If we do away with the licence, there is no way in which that could happen.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

I am sure the hon. Lady is aware that during the previous Parliament, the Select Committee on the Environment studied the question of dog licences. We recommended to the Government —they have not responded, but perhaps the general election intervened — that, although the national licence should be abolished, powers should be given to local authorities to levy their own licences and fund such services as the hon. Lady has described. The hon. Lady is quite right when she says that there is a terrible problem. In my constituency people come to me and say that when they go out of their garden gate it is quite often like entering a safari park.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I am not in the least surprised that no substantive answer has been given to the report of the Environment Committee—election or no election. Over the past 12 years I have been seeking to obtain proper answers from Governments of both complexions. Both have failed dismally to give any answer until now, and in my view the Government have given the wrong answer, so we are no better off than we were before.

I urge my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to think again about this matter. If they are unwilling to have the cost of dog licences borne nationally, perhaps there is a case, as suggested by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), for licences to be issued on a local basis. Personally, I would much prefer a uniform national system, which at least has the merit of familiarity.

I believe that many people would agree to an increased licence in return for the various benefits that could he adduced. There is no reason why there should not he exemptions for working animals or block licences for those who go in for breeding in a big way, or even for packs of hounds, much though I dislike packs of hounds when used for their primary purpose.

I believe that the Government's policy is short-sighted and that we shall pay dearly for it because of an increase in the number of dogs that are out of control. It is ironic that the Conservative Government introduced a scheme in Northern Ireland very much along the lines that I have suggested. After a few years of operation, that scheme appears to be working extremely well. Sheep worrying was a great problem in Northern Ireland, but it has been considerably reduced. I had hoped that such a scheme in Northern Ireland would act as a forerunner for a more general scheme for the rest of the United Kingdom.

With all the power at my command I urge the Ministers to look again at the laws relating to the control of dogs. It cannot be right that we have about 24 different Acts that seek to control dogs, yet we are doing nothing about dog licences. Unless I have some assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister when he winds up the debate tonight, I shall reluctantly be compelled to cast my vote against the Bill on that one issue alone.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant , Tottenham 8:37 pm, 6th July 1987

I am pleased to be here representing the constituency of Tottenham and I am also pleased to follow my predecessor, Norman Atkinson, as Member of Parliament. Norman served the constituency well for more than 20 years and I shall be pleased if I am able to equal his fine record of service to Tottenham's citizens. I wish to add my voice to the thousands of constituents in thanking Norman for his work on behalf of the people of Tottenham. We wish him well in the future.

For myself, as for Norman, local government and the needs of inner cities are of prime importance when representing a constituency such as Tottenham. Tottenham has almost 20 per cent. unemployment and almost half our citizens are from the black and minority ethnic communities. Such are the major characteristics of life in Britain today. Therefore, I was pleased to see that this Government, somewhat belatedly, had come to recognise the need for the inner cities and for their regeneration. What a wonderful opportunity this first Local Government Bill of the new Parliament would have been to address those problems. However, once again, they have got it wrong, I believe deliberately.

The Bill before us, in common with the 14 previous Bills on local government introduced since 1979, provides the wrong answers to the wrong questions about local government, its priorities and needs. The solutions the Bill provides are privatisation of local government services, an end to contract compliance and a reduced role for local government publicity. That is a recipe for more local government domination by lawyers and the courts and less by those professional officers who provide the necessary services for our people. Last week, The Guardian showed that even among Tory local authorities privatisation was unpopular. It reported that, these days, more councils are cancelling contracts to outside firms rather than extending them.

Ask the residents of London's east end what the Government's solution to inner-city needs means to them. It means the yuppification of docklands, putting two-bedroomed flats at £250,000, beyond the wildest dreams of local people. Yet living cheek by jowl with that is the unrestrained Thatcherite land of Spitalfields, with sweatshops, atrocious housing and dire poverty, so graphically brought to life last week by Prince Charles' visit. Nestling beside both is Rupert Murdoch's Wapping, the subject of our previous debate, and that other face of Thatcherism— Murdoch's press—which simultaneously welcomes yuppies and condemns Prince Charles for drawing attention to the poverty. No wonder the Government back Murdoch's bid to take over the British press without restriction or inquiry.

To this Government, the solution to local government and inner-city problems is to increase freedom, but their definition of freedom is freedom of choice for those who have the money to opt out, and the freedom of the private sector employers to exploit low-paid workers. That is not the answer. We with experience in inner-city local government see no merit whatsoever in worsening services and driving down the wages and working conditions of ordinary people so that they become a new servant class to an influx of yuppies. Public services in our inner cities need to be improved under democratic control, not impoverished and handed over to outside profiteers and carpet-baggers, as the Bill proposes.

The improvement that is necessary costs money, and the Government must find it. We in the Labour party do not want the freedom that the Government propose for local authorities and inner cities because it is a licence for the few to exploit and impoverish. We are interested in real freedom for everybody, a type of freedom that liberates people from the yoke of poverty and the chains of racism that infect our inner cities. The fight against institutionalised and personal racism in this country must be at the top of the agenda for anyone who seeks to address inner-city problems.

However, in the Bill the issue of racism is an afterthought. The fact that the Bill allows section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 to be included in contract compliance proposals is a feeble gesture in the fight against racism because the Race Relations Act itself is feeble and in need of major reform.

Furthermore, in the same Bill, the Government propose to withdraw the power of local authorities to refuse to give contracts to firms that have trading links with South Africa. That gives the lie to any pretence by the Government that they are concerned about eliminating racism. It is further evidence of the Government's intention to prop up the racist regime in South Africa.

Let us return to the United Kingdom, where black unemployment runs at two or three times the rate of white unemployment in inner-city areas such as Tottenham. Such discrimination cannot be allowed to continue. It should be the role of Government to stop it by taking strong and positive action to combat racism in employment and other areas. The proposals in the Bill are inadequate, and we shall oppose them vigorously in the later stages of its passage.

It is clear that the Bill represents a continuation of the neglect that the Government have shown towards the disadvantaged, which has resulted in urban violence. That is a tragedy, because unless the political system can offer some prospects, particularly to our young people and our young black people, they will find other means of expressing their frustration. As an alternative approach, let me refer to one estate in my constituency, Broadwater Farm. It is an example of what local government can do in an inner-city estate.

What has Haringey council done? We have embarked on skill surveys and on the economic regeneration of the estate through our economic development unit. We have provided jobs in an estate where there is 40 per cent. unemployment and where up to 80 per cent. of the black youth are unemployed. We have gone out of our way to recruit local people to work on projects and in running essential council services. We have done that by inserting a clause into contracts for work on the estate, which states that local people must be employed wherever possible.

The architecture on the estate has major drawbacks, so we have employed architects to work with the community, taking on board the people's aspirations for how the estate should be developed. We have improved the provision of public and community facilities by encouraging the participation of all concerned, including the police, in an open forum rather than imposing the ideas of so-called experts on that community.

What has been the outcome? There have been no more disturbances. The community spirit is high and people are confident. There is no graffiti on the estate. The local police chiefs publicly praise the co-operation that they get from the local community in improving relations.

Despite the chronic levels of economic deprivation, crime levels on the estate are at an all-time low and the police tell us that they are the lowest in Tottenham. Even the Department of the Environment uses the estate as a model of what community development can mean in practice, by bringing in visitors to the estate from home and abroad on a weekly basis. That approach is light years away from the cheapskate. mean-minded and corner-cutting solutions that the Bill offers the inner cities. That approach meets the needs of the inhabitants, not the needs of the fly-by-night profiteers.

In contrast to the measures proposed in the Bill, our approach in Haringey involves the community in controlling developments in the area and having the power of veto over those developments. By working with the community, we have been able to develop together in partnership and in confidence. The alternative suggested in the Bill and in the Government's other proposal for the inner cities is to take power away from the people, to put it in the hands of faceless Whitehall bureaucrats and Tory politicians who have to pick up a map to find where inner-city areas are.

I believe that we are sitting on a powder keg in the inner cities. The Bill and future Government legislation could be the spark that ignites it. I do not want to come back to the House in a year's time and say, "I told you so." If that happens—I am trying to ensure that it does not—it will be the responsibility of this Government.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight 8:47 pm, 6th July 1987

I compliment the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) on his confident speech and knowledge of local government.

I believe that few, if any, hon. Members have had the pleasure and honour of addressing it and knowing that their constituency has remained unchanged in name and in boundary since the election of our first Member of Parliament in 1293. There was a gap in the sending of Members to the House from 1295 to 1583, when the boroughs decided that they could not afford the cost of a Member of Parliament. In 1584, however, they made up that gap by electing no fewer than six Members to the House. I am delighted to be able to say, as the hon. Member in this Parliament who represents the largest constituency in the country, with just under 100,000 electors, that that is the sort of productivity that we in the Conservative party like to see, although we are usually looking for a much shorter time scale.

In 1690 one of my predecessors occupied your Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in a rather inglorious way. He had the unique distinction of moving a vote of confidence in himself and was absent when the vote was taken—an absence subsequently explained in his letter of resignation as having been brought on by a severe attack of the colic. The reason why he moved a vote of confidence in himself was that he was accused of taking a bribe. I am sure that, in the usual charitable fashion of the House, when the matter of an hon. Member who had fallen from grace came before it, the attack of colic was referred to the Catering Committee.

A number of distinguished hon. Members have represented the Isle of Wight — Sir Arthur Wellesley, afterwards the Duke of Wellington; Lord Palmerston; the right hon. George Canning; and William Lamb, afterwards Lord Melbourne. No fewer than four Prime Ministers started their political careers on the Isle of Wight. I am not for a moment suggesting that that position will be vacant in this House. Unlike some hon. Members, I am certain that it is adequately filled for this Parliament and for many Parliaments to come.

I noticed that Sir Peter Macdonald, my predecessor but two, mentioned in his maiden speech that he came from a dockyard constituency. I was delighted this morning to visit one of the shipyards of which he spoke and to see the completion of £1 million-worth of orders going to Korea, no less. I noticed that my predecessor but one, Mark Woodnutt, reminded the House in his maiden speech of the reputation for natural beauty that the island possesses, known as it is as the garden isle. I also see that he reminded the House of our county council's motto, which is that all this beauty is of God. I am happy to report to the House that, in a changing and shifting world, 27 years on, the island seems even more beautiful today.

So to my predecessor, Stephen Ross. He enjoyed that rare compliment in politics, the respect of both sides of the House. He had an undeniable reputation for hard work in the constituency and in the House and, as we never tire of telling people, the Isle of Wight is a slightly different place. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that I paid him that tribute in the constituency during the course of the election as well.

Of course, we have our problems as a constituency. As far as I can discover, we are the only reasonably heavily populated island in the United Kingdom that receives no assistance with our ferry costs or with locating industry and commerce on the island. Despite that, we have an enviable and undoubted reputation for innovation and invention. We have companies selling laser technology to West Germany, and we have Westland Aerospace and Plessey, both of which produce outstanding products. It has been estimated that, including ferry time and waiting time, a round trip for a commercial vehicle to London — 178 miles from the island — is equivalent to a mainland journey of 448 miles. That shows the difficulty of the increased costs of operating on an island.

Typically, and topically, we have a lot of innovation, and in view of the news of Richard Branson's weekend attempt with a balloon, I am delighted to tell the House that we are currently in the process of completing the manufacture of a gondola for delivery to Australia for a high altitude balloon attempt to travel round the world in 12 days. The mould of the gondola comes from a mould for a septic tank.

In 1956 my family company was asked by the local authority to become involved in the provision of a crematorium service. That was long before the days of privatisation. Since then we have been involved on no fewer than three occasions in winning a tender for the privatisation of that service in local government. With the small exception of indexation, which no commercial company can afford to provide outside of the public purse, in every case the staff that we took over received a pay rise, better pay and conditions and better pension rights than they had had in local government service. It is time that we nailed the nonsense that private enterprise is not responsible enough to empty our dustbins, clean our streets, service our vehicles and cut the grass. It is about time that we had this legislation, and a great deal more, to allow those services to be provided at a cost that the nation can afford.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 8:56 pm, 6th July 1987

First, I wish to congratulate one hon. Member from either side on their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) was right to pay tribute to his predecessor. I know, and he knows that I know, that constituencies such as his need a lot of representing. The inner cities of Britain have not done well in recent years and have done worse in the past eight years. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will fight as hard as any to ensure that all the people of Tottenham get a better deal —if that is possible under this Government—and they will be able to see that he puts them first. I welcome him to the House.

I am slightly less able to welcome the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), for obvious reasons—he took back the seat from Liberal hands. That is no personal criticism. He, too, was right to pay tribute to his predecessor, who was a friend of mine and of local government. If Stephen Ross had been here, he would not have been supporting the Bill. He would have been saying that local government should be left to get on with its own business without Government interference. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will represent that island conscientiously and assiduously, and I have no doubt that he will try to do so.

As the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said, the island has the largest electorate of any constituency in the United Kingdom and its representative probably receives more letters from prisoners than that of any other constituency. If one is in prison one certainly writes many letters if one can, because there is not much else one can do. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt make sure that the island is not forgotten and, unlike other outlying parts of the country, receives a better deal from the Government. It has not fared well, either, under his party's hierarchy.

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

As the hon. Gentleman is obviously in a nostalgic mood, will he tell us what Michael Meadowcroft would have said if he had been here? Has the hon. Member retaken his local government portfolio?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am always grateful for the hon. Gentleman's interest. Yes, I have retaken the portfolio on local government matters and I am happy to have done so. I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that the more people that we can get into the army opposing the Government in the battle of the inner cities and against local government, the better it will be. I look forward to a sturdy alliance with the hon. Gentleman on this matter, as we have had previously on many such matters.

My last welcome is to the hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the new Minister for Local Government. We are glad to see him. He has a reputation as a doughty fighter and I hope that by the time he ends his term of office, he will have successfully fought to correct some of the Department's failings. It certainly needs enlightenment and correction.

There were rightly many points of order earlier. We should not he legislating for Scotland, England and Wales in one Bill. It is improper, unsuitable and inappropriate. The Bill does not pay due respect to the differences between countries and until we devolve power to local government and to Wales and Scotland, the people of those countries will not be properly governed centrally, nationally or locally.

As the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, it is typical that the first Bill of a new Parliament should be an attack on democracy. The Bill is yet another attack on local government. I have been reflecting on the difference between the Government's biased view of local government and their view of the private sector. They put out a White Paper about the private sector entitled "Lifting the Burden", but they put more obligations on local government and undermine the theory and practice that local people elect councillors to act for them locally, untrammelled, where possible, by central control.

Some of us believe in local government, even when it makes mistakes and gets things wrong. We shall fight for local government and the sooner that the Government realise that they are undermining people in their own party as well as others and are discouraging people from going into local government by taking away its powers, the sooner they will begin to get things right.

The evidence is so clear. Not only Opposition parties oppose the Bill. The Association of District Councils, which is led by a Conservative majority, opposes the legislation and there is all-party opposition among people who know to the removal of yet more local government powers.

If the Government applied their own criterion of quality control—they say that they are intervening to achieve a better quality of service in local government—we would not have had the poor quality of argument and the pathetic quality of presentation that we had from the Secretary of State when he opened the debate. That combination is demeaning to local government. When the right hon. Gentleman mentioned clause 26, which deals with local authority publicity, only in passing, without reference to the fact that it is a major attack on local councils, he did not do his office any service.

Part I of the Bill contains the long-expected proposals to compel local authorities to put a number of services out to tender. The Secretary of State made it clear that his argument was fallacious when he said that, following the consultative paper of 1985, the majority of councils had not done what the Government are now to compel them to do. The reason is that those councils had chosen not to do that. Many of those are Conservative councils and yet the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) said. "We don't believe in coercion." This Government are the most coercive ever to wear the Conservative tag.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

No. The Government coerce people all the time and they have no national mandate to do so.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

The hon. Gentleman referred to me. Will he give way?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

No. I will not give way.

It is about time that the Government realised that local authorities should be free to decide for themselves how they can provide services most effectively and efficiently. As a Liberal, I reject blinkered, ideological commitment to provision either by the municipalist establishment or by the private sector for profit. Local authorities are democratically accountable, though imperfectly so, and if private sector provisions were substantially more effective and less expensive for local authorities—and, therefore, for local voters—many of the councils that have no ideological opposition to private sector provision would have found that to be the case. Local voters would also be crying out for it. That has not happened. All the local authority associations, including the Tory-controlled Association of District Councils, are clearly opposed to this centralist, authoritarian anti-local government set of provisions. The Association of District Councils says that these measures will mean increased central bureaucracy and a reduced, rather than increased, likelihood of achieving greater efficiency and value for money. The Government question the accountability of local authorities and the efficiency and effectiveness of the services that they provide. It is right to ask questions about those things, but the Government respond by imposing from the centre methods of working that increase the accountability of local authorities, not to their local electors and communities, but to the Secretary of State. When the Government say accountability they mean accountability to the Conservative party in Whitehall. That is not acceptable to many local councils.

The Government know that there is an easy solution, but year after year they run away from it. They could introduce local proportional representation. They need not even think of it nationally, but if they introduced it locally there would be none of the partisan solutions that the Government complain about so much.

I have a final point about the substantive part of the Bill. Although the Government say that it is not intended to bring about the privatisation of local authority services but only to increase competition, no one has any doubt that the motivation of many Conservative Members is to privatise. That is in the mistaken belief that the services for the profit of private employers are inherently better than the services provided by local authorities directly employing people.

As the hon. Member for Copeland said, the proposals in the Bill will not bring competition. They will not bring competition between a large number of firms in a fairly free market for contracts. They will provide opportunities for a small number of huge multinationals to extend their activities into further areas, making redundant in the process many highly trained and proficient local council employees. There are, substantially, two companies that get all the work and that is not sharing the responsibilities and the rewards.

Part II of the Bill deals with contract compliance. Not only does it go entirely in the wrong direction, but it also breaks the word of the Secretary of State. In his press release of 21 October he said: A special provision will be made to allow the promotion of employment prospects of local labour in the inner cities. If the Government were interested in employment in inner-city communities such as mine, they would allow local people to have first option on inner city jobs and homes. There is no point in the Government putting in money that is then creamed off by outside developers, often against the interests of the people who most need Government initiatives.

Part IV of the Bill deals, among other things, with publicity. The hon. Member for Copeland understated how bad part IV is, because the Government have not just reinserted what in the last Parliament the House of Lords removed, but have gone further and said that anything that is a matter for political controversy and which might have the effect of influencing a party's political position will be outlawed. Presumably that means that my local authority of Southwark, for example, which is of a different political colour from mine and from that of the Government, cannot print anything to influence me to argue or vote against the Bill. That is entirely unacceptable and does not stand up to any objective assessment. We could do good things in this Bill.

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

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, because, if anything, I understated the provisions in clause 4. Does he recognise, as we do, that not only local authorities also but the national associations of local authorities will be impeded? Over many decades, under Governments of all political persuasions, those associations have had the right to draw to the attention of Parliament and the country matters of political controversy. They would be inhibited in that activity by this legislation.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman is right. The sort of submissions that he and I received before today's debate from the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Association of District Councils and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and others may well not be permitted. That means that the representative groupings of authorities will be subject to a Government veto and a Government gag. That is centralist, silencing Toryism. It is totally unacceptable and contrary to all that local government means. As my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) has just said to me, it is the sort of Stalinism that drove one member of the Cabinet to the Back Benches.

We could have had provisions that enforced reports by local administration commissioners. We could have had provisions that allowed public land to be held for local use at a lower than market price. As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) said, we could have had provisions to allow local authorities to charge for dog licences and that would have enabled them to do something about the pests that dogs often are. But instead, the Government have just steamrollered on in the fashion to which we are all so sadly accustomed.

If the Government think that they will win votes by provisions such as this, they are wrong, and the evidence confirms that. I hope that if they do not learn the lessons of recent history, the other place will, yet again, take them to task. This central Conservative Government are showing, within two weeks of the new Parliament, that they are no friends of local government, of whatever colour, anywhere in Britain. That is the surest sign of an undemocratic central Government.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid 9:10 pm, 6th July 1987

I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), who spoke eloquently. He referred, rightly and generously, to the record of service of his predecessor, Mr. Stephen Ross. We shall miss him. In his stead, we will gain. My hon. Friend's modesty forbade his mentioning that he has considerable local government experience. We await with pleasure his contribution to local government debates. He also omitted to mention the he won his Isle of Wight county council seat from a Liberal in 1986. For reasons that one quite understands, he did not say that the Medina borough council in his constituency, heretofore controlled by the Liberal party, is now Conservative-controlled. The general election eclipsed the local elections, but that fact should be placed on record.

We have heard much about local accountability. The Bill's provisions will enhance and strengthen local accountability, not diminish it. How can Labour Members shed crocodile tears about local accountability when only 25 or 30 per cent. of the electorate vote in local elections, and when the majority of the money provided for local authorities comes from industry and commerce, which has no voice, and no vote or sanction over the way in which the local authority spends its money? Some of the Bill's provisions will enhance the strength of that voice.

In a glossy publication costing 75p, produced by the Labour party some six or nine months ago and entitled "Investing in People", the first paragraph read thus: Britain's most precious resource is its people. Given the right skills, the right equipment and the right opportunities, they will transform Britain into a country which is efficient and competitive. The Bill will help to ensure that local government becomes more efficient, competitive and responsive to the needs and wishes of the local community, the ratepayers, their customers and the local work force.

The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) has left the Chamber, but he intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with a reference to section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. I am opposed in principle to the use of contract compliance by local authorities to promote equal opportunity polices. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber are, I am sure, fully committed to equal opportunities for employment, irrespective of sex, race, colour and creed. However, contract compliance should not become accepted as the appropriate instrument for the promotion of equality, for two reasons. First, local authorities have a duty to their ratepayers to obtain value for money and should not award contracts on anything other than fair competitive considerations. Purely and simply, they should be awarded on commercial criteria. The enforcement of the law on equal opportunities has been entrusted by the House to the Commission for Racial Equality.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

I shall finish my point and then give way.

The responsibility for the enforcement of the law on equal opportunities has been devolved by the House to the Equal Opportunities Commission. It is not a matter to be interfered with or usurped by local authorities for purely partisan and party political purposes.

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

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Equal Opportunities Commission has been in operation for about 12 years, yet in that time it has succeeded in increasing equality in women's wages from 72 per cent. to 74 per cent.—only 2 percentage points in 12 years?

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but it adds nothing to the quality of the debate. It did not answer my point about which I thought he was intervening — that the House has devolved powers to the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality to ensure that the will of the House and the people is carried out.

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

That is what local authorities are doing.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

As I have said, local authorities have a duty to carry out the wishes of the ratepayers and their electors. They do not have a duty to interpret under their own terms the will and power of the House.

Contract compliance places an unacceptable administrative burden on employers. When it existed, the Greater London council's form for contractors contained 10 pages of questions on equal opportunities. The Inner London education authority, which has taken over the GLC's mantle on contract compliance, is proposing to issue a set of guidance notes nearly 60 pages long, concerned solely with equal opportunities for use in conjunction with its contract compliance activities. How can any responsible and prudent employer bother to wade through a plethora of red tape to comply with irrelevent questions when he has better things to do creating wealth and jobs in the private sector?

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

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the GLC's contract compliance models were based almost entirely on the American example?

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Staffordshire Mid

I am aware of that, but that adds nothing to the quality of the debate. We are talking about United Kingdom legislation devolving certain responsibilities and powers to local authorities to provide services for ratepayers. As a former chairman of the GLC, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) knows that the relationship between the state, senate and local administration in the United States is completely different from the procedure here.

Such non-commercial considerations, produced entirely for overtly political reasons, are a bar to jobs and to creating local employment. Many hon. Members will be aware of councils refusing to employ contractors because they have worked on cruise missile sites or in connection with South Africa, or because directors of those companies happened to be freemasons and other wholly irrelevant considerations to do with the composition of a contractor's work force or the terms upon which it is employed. At best, non-commercial considerations increase bureaucracy and red tape and hamper economic growth. They also increase contractor's costs, and especially employment costs. As such, they destroy jobs. That trend is particularly acute in low-paid jobs, or where there is a high turnover of labour, because the cost of contract compliance is disproportionately high. At worst, some councils seek to subvert the national policy properly passed by the House.

When I introduced a ten-minute Bill before the dissolution of Parliament, entitled the Local Government (Supply of Goods and Services) Bill, I cited the examples of Peterborough and Greenwich, which banned firms for working at cruise missiles sites. Other councils have acted similarly in London, and these include Brent, Haringey, Islington and Southwark. The electorate has already pronounced on what it thinks of such posturing and on the non-nuclear policies of those local authorities. It is not local government's place to seek to determine foreign or defence policies. It is elected to provide services for the people. I am glad that the Bill makes that clear. It comes not a moment too soon and will be a source of great relief to ratepayers and business men, who are faced with horrendous rate rises of the sort that have been introduced in Ealing and Waltham Forest. These increases have been imposed by lethal Left Labour-controlled local authorities.

Many of my constituents work in the construction industry and they have been especially hard hit. I know that they are grateful for the speed with which the Bill has been introduced. I wish it godspeed in this place and in another to be sure that it appears on the statute book before too long.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling , Edinburgh Central 9:20 pm, 6th July 1987

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. Before I address the subject matter of the debate, I wish to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Sir Alex Fletcher, who represented the constituency for four years after the redrawing of the boundaries in 1983. Before that he had represented Edinburgh, North for some years. When I had dealings with him he was entirely courteous and during the election campaign there was no rancour. I am happy to tell the House that the campaign was conducted entirely on the issues, which is perhaps why I have the pleasure of being able to address the House this evening.

Before I address myself to the Bill I take the opportunity of paying tribute to George Willis, who represented Edinburgh, North and who sadly died during the general election campaign.

It is appropriate that in my first speech in this place I should talk about a local government Bill that affects Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. I shall allude briefly to the position of Scotland and of those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are not separatists, who form the majority of Scottish Opposition Members. If we are to be part of the United Kingdom, the position of those of us in Scotland must be considered and recognised. I consider that it is bad practice to attempt to legislate by what are essentially English provisions and to foist those on Scotland without giving them separate consideration, which they so richly deserve, from a Scottish point of view.

There is a feeling abroad in Scotland that the Government do not care. That feeling will be exacerbated or will be fired if we are to see more legislation that applies to Scotland tacked onto the back of English legislation. The powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland are perhaps greater than those of any other Secretary of State and that makes the case all the more for giving Scotland and Scottish legislation separate consideration. If the Government are so proud of their record, let us hear those who speak for it. Let them proclaim the advantages that they say have come to Scotland. There is a junior Scottish Minister on the Treasury Front Bench and perhaps we shall have the opportunity during the debate of hearing what he has to say about the Bill.

This is an unusual local government Bill, because it deals with Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. Scotland normally has separate legislation and Scottish legislation usually follows in about a year after the legislation has been introduced for the rest of the United Kingdom. That was the position until the introduction of the community charge legislation, or the legislation that imposes a poll tax on Scotland. In that instance Scotland was treated, for once, as an experiment. The poll tax has been tried out in Scotland as an experiment to see whether it will work and to see what the response is before it is tried in the rest of the United Kingdom.

In a perverse sort of way it is possible that some good may come from Scotland being used in this way. Conservative Members know how greatly their forces were diminished north of the border and I believe that the poll tax contributed possibly more than anything else to their rejection at the ballot box just one month ago. The much criticised and much talked about yuppies, if there be such creatures, turned out overwhelmingly to support Labour Members.

In Edinburgh, Central, as in the rest of the country, we have a sense of fairness and decency and of what is right and what is wrong. We believe that if a local authority is elected it should be left to get on with the job without interference from central Government. The hallmark of this Government is that they have interfered more than any other Administration in the way in which local authorities conduct their business. More than that, we value local services and we are willing to pay for a job well done. We do not want cheap and shoddy services. Instead, we want repairs that last and services that people take a pride in delivering and that others appreciate when they receive them. Cost cutting does not make for greater efficiency, and privatisation leads to cost cutting, which means in the long term that local authorities and the public sector must pick up the pieces.

Part I of the Bill is clearly designed to squeeze direct labour organisations, although in many parts of the country they are extremely efficient and win a large share of the work that has to be put out to tender. Local authority services can be efficient, because the people who provide those services take pride in doing so. They know that they are providing a service on which local people rely.

The Transport Act 1985 did more than anything else to undermine the provision of one local authority service-buses—by putting transport affairs into private hands. In the Lothian region, we had one of the best bus services in the country; now the ratepayers are paying £2 million more to subsidise a less efficient bus service. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) will no doubt have some sympathy with that. When I was chairman of Lothian region transportation committee, he wrote to me again and again, more than any other Member of Parliament, asking whether I could do anything to restore services in his constituency.

We must maintain and enhance DLOs, because they have to deal with emergencies and pick up the pieces when the private sector cannot meet the need. If the legislation is passed, DLOs will be weakened, jobs will be lost and it will cost us, the ratepayers and those who live locally more in the long term.

Part II of the Bill is what I might term the morality part. It seeks to strike at those local authorities that choose not to do business with certain firms. I cannot see what is wrong with deciding that we do not want to do business with a firm that conducts itself in a way that we find reprehensible. I cannot see what is wrong in deciding that I do not wish to trade with a firm that mistreats its work force by not paying them properly, or by discriminating against certain sections on grounds of race, creed or colour. I should have thought that such an attitude would be lauded by all hon. Members. However, it appears that the Government intend to strike against it.

I consider this a matter of decency. Where is the local authorities' right to choose? Coming from a Government who support the right to choose and freedom of choice, this part of the Bill is ill founded. It strikes at the very right of local authorities to make choices, not just on cost but on matters of straightforward decency.

I find part III of the Bill particularly difficult to understand. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) paid tribute to the magnificent vistas that can apparently be seen in his constituency by anyone who visits it. I invite any Conservative Member who wishes to come to Edinburgh. Indeed, I will invite the Scottish Front Bench, and will gladly pay for the two taxis that will be required to take them round the city. The Georgian facades and the historic and beautiful royal mile belie the fact that 20 per cent. of the constituents are unemployed, many of them young people. We have young bands of nomads with nowhere to live and nowhere to go. Instead of paying money to private landlords to build accommodation, we need controls over the sort of accommodation that is provided, proper supervision and proper funding. When we consider that the public purse pays private landlords some £9 million a year in Edinburgh, we realise that the money would be better spent by local authorities to provide properly supervised accommodation to suit the needs of young people—to give them a sense of pride in their accommodation, and a chance to make something of their unfortunate lives.

Much has been said about the part of the Bill that strikes at publicity. I will say only that it seems very bad practice that the Government intend to suppress dissent to the extent of saying that communications from local authorities, perhaps to Members of Parliament, are to be struck at if they are critical of the Government. Part IV demonstrates that no one can attack the Government without fear of retribution through the courts. This Government have spent a large amount of money, both directly and indirectly, on privatisation and advertisements. We were told that businesses that had been created by the state were shackled by the state, but when they were to be privatised they became, suddenly, a model of efficiency, and we were told that they ought to be purchased when the opportunity arose. Who paid for that? The taxpayers paid for it. If the Government can spend public money on advancing what they believe to be right, democratically elected local authorities ought to have the freedom to do exactly the same.

The Bill is one of the worst examples of local authority repression. Scotland will oppose it, just as it will be opposed throughout the country. Scotland will not be pushed beyond the pale. The legislation is bad for Scotland, just as it is bad for all parts of the United Kingdom. Opposition Members who represent Scotland will not pull down the shutters. We shall advance our arguments for fairness, justice and decency.

The Government say that the economic recovery is taking a long time to come north. Similarly, Labour's argument for fairness, justice and decency is taking longer than I should like, but in the end I believe that our view will prevail. One can trample on decency and scorn consensus only for so long. This Bill illustrates what a heavy-handed, centralist approach this Government have adopted. That is why the Opposition will oppose it root and branch.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Welwyn Hatfield 9:31 pm, 6th July 1987

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this important debate.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) on his eloquence. I do not agree with his views, but he made an impressive maiden speech. I have to declare an interest. I am a non-executive director of a company in the service sector. I thank the previous member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield, Mr. Christopher Murphy, who served the constituency so well. He was a first-class constituency member. All the people in Welwyn Hatfield thank him for his efforts on their behalf. He contributed to making Welwyn Hatfield a constituency of which we can all be proud.

Welwyn is a garden city which began life 50 years ago, and 95 per cent. of its people are in work. Recently, BAe won from TNT an order for 72 jets. The air weapons division of BAe is also in my constituency. During the last year 150 one-man businesses have been started up. That demonstrates the entrepreneurial flair of the people of Welwyn Hatfield. Pharmaceutical industries, the Crown paint company and many other industries have come to Welwyn Hatfield. Those industries, and the fact that the people of Welwyn Hatfield were determined to make the city into something of which they could be proud, have led to high employment and high investment. With 3,000 sq ft of business space now under construction, there will soon be 100 per cent. employment in Hatfield.

There is both private housing and local government development in Welwyn Hatfield. A third of our council housing is now owner-occupied. We can be proud of that record. We have had problems over our schools, and we are discussing with the Minister the proposed closure of two schools, the Bishops Hatfield girls' school and the Wheathampstead secondary school. We have also had problems with our main hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II hospital, but by making savings and by competitiveness we have produced the money that is necessary to keep the hospital fully open. We have not gone back to the Government, or to the regional health authority or to the district health authority and asked for money. That is not the style of the people of Welwyn Hatfield.

The Local Government Bill deals with local government services. The work force benefits from privatisation, because it results in new equipment and investment in the utensils used by the work force—the clothes, the dustcarts, the lorries and the canteens, not to mention the pensions and the wages. All are improved under privatisation.

Privatisation is the answer to the problems of the work force. Through that competitiveness and freedom the work force responds, and when it does, the customers—in this case the ratepayers—receive a far better service because the work force has won back its pride. Consequently, it does the job better. When given the tools, the work force will do its job better and the ratepayers appreciate the improved services. They then appreciate what the work force is doing. As a result of such improvement, those who live in the areas that have been privatised look to the work force and the local companies to increase the services, thereby increasing jobs.

The local authority can do as it will with savings. It can improve other services and attract new investment and jobs. The failure to achieve savings is at the root of our problem. For too long the work force has been dominated by half a dozen shop stewards and bureaucratic officers who will not look at tenders fairly or release the work force. The more privatisation, the more jobs and savings there will be.

I warn the Government and the House that the administrators and bureaucracy will try to stop privatisation. We should free the work force so that it can do its job properly. Under privatisation, the work force becomes the most important part of the organisation—not the least important part, as it has been for years. The poor old dustman is suddenly the most important person. That is the answer. If we give the work force the opportunity, it will give us the service. Of that I am convinced.

I, along with all other new Conservative Members, will endeavour to maintain the traditions, protocol, honour and distinction of the House. When I leave the House, I hope that those traditions will be safeguarded by the hon. Members who remain.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East 9:38 pm, 6th July 1987

In his maiden speech, the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (M r. Evans) pointed out that he represents a garden city in a prosperous part of southern England. We in Wales are always jealous of it. I was particularly jealous of all the new industries about which the hon. Gentleman spoke, and only wish that some of them would come to us.

There was also the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling). He represents the capital city of Scotland, and in that sense has an important responsibility. He demonstrated his extensive local government experience, which is always useful in this place. My hon. Friend was certainly fluent and forthright, and I feel sure that we shall hear a good deal more from him.

Numerous Welsh Members complained that the proposals in the Queen's Speech were irrelevant to the needs of Wales. The Local Government Bill is positively detrimental to the best interests of Wales. Part I will give the Secretary of State powers to compel our local authorities to invite tenders from private contractors to carry out defined activities—refuse collection, street cleansing, cleaning buildings, catering services, school meals and meals on wheels, vehicle repair, maintenance and ground maintenance. As has been said, too, the list can be extended by order and at the discretion of the Minister.

In recent years, Wales has experienced a rundown of its traditional industries—coal and steel. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the process and we are now suffering from chronic unemployment. Alongside this, Wales has developed a strong dependence on the public sector. Our Welsh authorities have been under severe pressure from central Government, with all manner of financial restraint. They have had great difficulty in maintaining local services up to anything like the standards that they know to be necessary. Despite all those difficulties and all those pressures, they have acted responsibly throughout. When they read and digest the proposals contained in the Bill their reaction must be: "What have we done to deserve this?"

No Welsh councils, including Tory-controlled councils, have opted for privatisation of services. They had a choice and they made their decision. So why should it now be made compulsory and their own considered judgment be trampled upon? If such proposals were of benefit to the people of Wales, they would have been implemented long ago. The Ridley-Walker jackboot that is an essential feature of the Bill is completely unnecessary in Wales. It should be a basic, elementary, democratic condition that local authorities should be free to make the final decision on how their services are provided. They should be made accountable to their local electorates for the extent, quality and cost of those services.

Judging by the record to date, privatisation will lead to worse standards of service together with a decline in jobs, pay and conditions, and compensation. The track record of private companies in local government and in the National Health Service is a catalogue of disasters. There are several hundred well publicised examples, and I will quote just one or two. ISS Service Systems failed to meet the cleaning contract for the Birmingham school and had to pay Birmingham £150,000 compensation in September 1984. The five-year contract to Initial Service Cleaners Ltd. for pest control awarded by Shepway district council had to be terminated after only a few months. Henley magistrates fined Pritchards for overloading offences in a south Oxfordshire refuse contract. Gloucester returned the cattle market cleaning contract to direct labour after failure of Initial Cleansing Services in 1982.

I could go on, but it would be merely a recital of the declining standards. There can be little doubt that if those proposals become law, the cowboys will move in and the power of local authorities to do anything about it will be severely reduced. Low tenders will be merely a sprat to catch a mackerel because once the market has been cornered, the price goes up. Profit, not service, will be the principal standard of judgment and local authorities will have to bear the redundancy costs of reducing the size of their direct labour force. In addition, there will be the start-up costs for setting up new departments to deal with tendering, overseeing contractors and drawing up specifications. Such developments could be costly, with only the possibility of a cheaper, let alone better, service.

Aneurin Bevan once asked why we should look into the crystal ball when we can read the book. Experience tells us that privatisation invariably ends with the ratepayer paying more for poorer services. Privatisation has a chequered history in local government. Early in the century private contractors for services to the public were plentiful and standards of service were poor and corrupt practices were a legendary feature. Eventually, decisions were taken to make those services a part of municipal government. Therefore, we have been through it all before.

In the private sector of industry, despite all the marketing drives, the majority of United Kingdom companies continue to use directly employed staff for cleaning, catering and maintenance. That tendency is most marked among larger companies which are more comparable in size to the average local authority.

The Government claim that competition in the market place will ensure higher standards and services that are cheaper to run. They turn a blind eye to the monopolistic trends that are already developing. Following mergers, the council services market, as my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) pointed out, is being effectively divided between two contractors, Hawley and BET. So much for competition. Councils will lose democratic control over local services and service standards are bound to decline. Matters such as equal opportunities, training and health and safety will take a back seat. Councils will be banned from imposing noncommercial conditions; by that I mean decent pay and conditions for working people. They will not be able to crack down on labour-only sub-contractors or ban companies with South African links. All those are important social considerations about which local authorities should be able to hold a view.

I have dealt essentially with part I of the Bill but I feel equally critical of clause 26, which is yet another Government attempt to suppress local authority publicity on matters of public controversy. It is a thoroughly undemocratic proposal and will be a means of suppressing sincerely held opinions that should be vented.

The Government have the audacity to say that local people should look after the interests of the local community but they are putting forward proposals that could spell the end of local democracy. Overall, the Government's proposals mean that central Government will control about 80 per cent. of local government income. Those moves towards centralisation are essentially a Stalinist concept. That is the way in which the Government function as was movingly revealed over the weekend by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). The centralisation tendency is to be deprecated in every way. Democracy thrives on diversification of decision making.

In the recent general election, Conservative candidates in Wales managed to survive in only eight out of 38 constituencies. A decade ago, many leading figures in local government in Wales were opposed to devolution, but the same people are now calling for a Welsh Assembly. The proposals in the Bill are completely unnecessary for Wales. We do not want them and we do not need them. Why should they be forced upon us?

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East 9:50 pm, 6th July 1987

I am delighted to be the first on the Conservative Benches to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) and to congratulate him on his maiden speech, which lived up to the expectations of those of us who have known him for some time. My hon. Friend could not have selected a better debate in which to make his speech, as he represents one of the best examples of enterprise and experience of which this Bill is all about. We all join in my hon. Friend's tribute to Christopher Murphy, who in addition to being such an active Member of this House was also an active representative for this country at the Council of Europe.

Unfortunately, no proper tribute has been paid from the Conservative Benches to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) on his maiden speech. I am sorry that he is not present in the Chamber just now, but I am pleased to congratulate him on his speech.

I shared in the tribute that the hon. Member for Tottenham paid to his predecessor, who was my namesake. He was also the Labour party treasurer. Indeed. I once received in my post the paying-in book of the Labour party. The stubs made extremely interesting reading until I realised it was meant for Norman and not for me. I promised that I would not divulge anything that I had read.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing forward this Bill. I know that he accepts that it is long overdue. Indeed, hon. Friends and I have long campaigned for it. I believe that if we had introduced this Bill, together with the community charge, during our first term in office, we would have avoided all the time-wasting in this place and all the aggravation with local authorities over rate capping, holdbacks, penalties, limitations, surcharges, clawbacks and all the other contortions in the rate support grant system in the attempts to control excessive local government expenditure.

If such legislation had been introduced earlier I believe that we could have avoided some of the problems now faced in our inner cities. Indeed, the Labour party might wish to speculate on whether the winter of discontent would have taken place if local services had been contracted out.

I am amazed that there should be any opposition to this Bill and its proposals. The sheer common sense—

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

No; plenty of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues wish to speak tonight and I would not wish his intervention to be at their expense.

The sheer common sense of the proposals— putting public and municipal services to the test of competition just as a check that both ratepayers and consumers are getting value for money—must be evident to anyone. When one considers the record of those councils, all Conservative, that have had the guts to pioneer this policy, the case becomes overwhelming. We have seen that competitive tendering works. It saves, and it benefits not only the consumer but those who carry out those services when taken into the private sector.

We could have no better proof than the experience of Southend which, in 1981, was the first local authority to put refuse collection, together with street cleaning and public lavatory maintenance, out to private tender. That policy saved £500,000 a year, which is about a 2p in the pound rate. The winning tender purchased most of the waste disposal vehicles, employed most of the collectors, gave a good deal to those who opted to leave and left the council with a profit on the deal. The service is better and more efficient than it was before, with a happier and more contented work force. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield was able to tell the House that, because it is his work force. As a former resident of Southend and a former member of the county borough council there, I can bear out exactly what my hon. Friend told the House.

Others have followed Southend's lead. At least 140 councils have contracted out nearly 60 different services, saving over £22 million a year, but that is nothing compared with the potential savings, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said. As the Audit Commission has estimated, over £500 million could be saved if all the councils followed the privatising practices of the best. With such savings, we could all enjoy better services, lower rates and probably both. It is a scandal that the majority of local authorities, including, regrettably, Conservative authorities, continue to ignore the benefits and refuse to apply the competitive test.

The reasons of all four of the local authority associations for opposing the Bill do not stand up to analysis. They complain about the compulsion element. That is pathetic. They are "compelled" to do what is obviously common sense, which is just to check whether they are getting value for money. They still have doubts about whether it will work. That is pathetic. They just need to look at the record of the Conservative-controlled councils that have had the guts to do it, and at the report of the Audit Commission.

The associations complain about the limitations of the market. Of course there will be limitations. They have been maintaining a monopoly of services for so long that there will be few companies in some of those services with that experience, but, given time, private enterprise will deliver. The real reason for the opposition is, of course, that the test of competition strikes at the heart of local empire-building and bureaucracy, and the vested interest of the trade unions, which regard local councils—

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

—more as a provider of jobs than as a provider of services to the public—

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

Some of those councils will do their best—

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

Those councils will do their best to ensure that the Bill will not be effectively implemented. That is the reason why clause 7 is so necessary, to prevent the methods that have already been used to sabotage the privatisation of direct labour organisations and the privatisation of some of the non-medical services of local health authorities, such as putting out tenders all at once so that the private market cannot cope—

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

—such as producing tender documents full of unnecessary conditions, breaking down jobs into small units to escape putting them out to tender and ignoring the advice of the district auditors and the ombudsman.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

I hope that it is a point of order, not an intervention.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

No, Mr. Speaker. Some days ago my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) drew to your attention the fact that if hon. Members were involved in debates in which they might have a pecuniary interest, they should declare that interest over and above what is contained in the Register of Members' Interests. I notice that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) states in "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" that he has a special interest in NHS and local government privatisation. The Register of Members' Interests says that he is parliamentary adviser for Good Relations Ltd. and Grayling Ltd. I understand that those companies are specifically interested in these matters. In view of what is contained in those different books, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would like to explain to the House his interest in privatisation.

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

I have no special interest to declare, and I am no longer retained by the two companies to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

My disappointment with the Bill is that it restricts the services to go out to tender to six manual services, which are listed in the Bill. Other services are already available on the free market, such as architectural services, refuse disposal, printing, local authority transport, public relations, and, especially today, computer services, where there should be no problem of definition for the purposes of legislation. They could be included in the Bill.

I appreciate that the Bill provides for additional services to be included by order. All these are services that can be put to the competitive test today and I hope that my hon. Friend will consider including them in the Bill Committee. I hope, too, that he will not ignore the scope that exists for some of the larger services for which local authorities are responsible, and to which my right hon. Friend has referred—the fire fighting services, libraries and aspects of social services such as community care—to be put out to tender as happens in other countries. I look forward to some confirmation that we are studying the experience of other countries in these areas.

I welcome clause 32, which abolishes dog licences. They have been a nonsense for too long. A choice had to be made: either the licence was to be a source of revenue—a tax on dogs, which would outrage practically every other person in the country—or it was to finance an effective means of controlling dog nuisance, which the licence scheme was never meant to do; or it could be abolished, which was exactly right. However, my right hon. Friend cannot ignore the problems of dog control that exist, not least in areas such as my constituency.

There is nothing so off-putting for visitors as parks, recreational areas and beaches which are littered with dog dirt. That is what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment had in mind during the last Friday's debate on tourism, when he spoke of seeking a spotless Britain. Responsibility for the control of dogs must be that of the owners. Now that the licensing system has been abolished, I hope that my right hon. Friend, together with the Home Office, will continue to give sympathetic consideration to those local authorities that will now undoubtedly come forward with their own byelaws, powers and orders to control dogs. I look forward to hearing what my hon. and learned Friend the Minister has to say about local authorities introducing their own licensing schemes for that purpose.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West 10:02 pm, 6th July 1987

I begin with a word of tribute to all those who worked so hard in recent months and weeks to return a Labour Member of Parliament for Leeds, West. As is customary, I acknowledge the work of my predecessors, Charles Pannell, Joe Dean and, most recently, the Liberal Member Michael Meadowcroft. Michael Meadowcroft was well known for his local activism and used every opportunity to have a go at the Labour party. In his own maiden speech he cited Rebecca West's comment that to be wiped out by the Liberal party is a more inglorious end than to be run over by a hearse". In the light of the recent result in Leeds, West and the current national debate, perhaps the remark that immediately preceded that statement seems uncannily apposite: At its best the Liberal party is a jelly fish. Sometimes the milk of human kindness which flows through it (instead of blood), gets heated and then it flops about and tries to do good. This warm—milk—enthusiasm soon evaporates and it lies inert. On a more personal note, Michael Meadowcroft, as some hon. Members will know, played the jazz clarinet and rather fancied himself as the Benny Goodman of the House in the tea shop across the road. I wish him well in his life outside the House.

My earlier predecessor, Joe Dean, had a reputation for addressing himself in the House to the problems of the large northern cities and local government issues, and had a particular concern for providing decent homes for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Those concerns are still central to the agenda of the people of Leeds, West and I intend to try to match his dilligence in pursuing them in the House.

Last week I called in at the Bramley jobcentre in the heart of Leeds, West to see what was on offer. In the window there were six jobs on offer. All were part-time or temporary, and all were low-paid. There were two posts for part-time cleaners, one offering the derisory sum of £2·20 per hour, the other an office cleaning job-offering £2 an hour. A temporary cleaner's job offered £2·28 an hour and there was a vacancy for bar staff and one for a part-time canvasser, which offered commission only.

Therefore, it is not that there are no jobs available. Inside the centre there were cards for cleaners, bar staff, counter and sales assistants and even a few in the traditional manufacturing and industrial sectors —engineering and textiles — which in the past have provided the majority of work opportunities in my constituency. However, the only jobs on offer are low-paid — £2·80 an hour for an experienced lathe setter and £2·95 for an experienced trained miller. The only jobs advertised in the clothing industry are piecework jobs.

The Bramley jobcentre provides a microcosm of what is going on in our economy. The structural shift is not simply from employment to unemployment or from manufacturing to the service sector. It is in the direction of the development of a part-time, temporary and low-paid economy as the only alternative to work in the traditional manufacturing industries.

Conservative Members have the nerve to talk about freeing the workers. In my constituency it seems that the workers are being freed into poverty, and that is the sort of freedom that sets language on its head. The intentional creation of a low-wage economy, fuelled by the undermining of the social security system and the suppression of the public service sector, is breeding hopelessness and resentment among the potential work force that I represent.

I respectfully invite the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who referred in a speech to the CBI during the general election campaign to "the exhilarating 80s," to speak at the Bramley jobcentre about the booming economy. His words will return with a hollow ring.

During the debate on the Loyal Address the righ hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) said that the economy was hitting a glorious summer in the home counties"—[Official Report, 25 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 68.] and developing into a "long-delayed spring" in the midlands. The myth of a creeping economic boom, moving up the country, cuts no ice in northern cities and towns.

One of the most disturbing passages in the Queen's Speech refers to legislation being introduced to enable benefits to be withheld from those who refuse a place on the youth training scheme. There are 35 YTS vacancies for young people in Bramley, with well over 2,000 youngsters chasing them. Nearly half the teenagers in the north cannot find a job after YTS. The Government have accepted that taking up benefits is the worst start in life that a youngster can have, but after a brief spell on the YTS that is all that our young people have to return to, with a consequent further reduction in their income.

Penalising the young for not taking up places, forcing them to leave their families, but not allowing them to stay where they are forced to go, and the new poll tax proposals form a compound that will breed pessimism and resentment within families. Young people should be encouraged to develop as the future of our society and not he kept down and treated as though they were a burden and a problem to us. Our young people are not alone in feeling rejected. More than 200,000 people in Leeds are effectively locked into the inner city, prevented by poverty from moving out. The majority of the unemployed, the elderly living alone and people from ethnic minority groups live in inner cities and in the worst housing, both public and private. They face a vicious downward spiral of poverty and feel increasingly marginalised and written off by Government policies. They will not warm to the Secretary of State for the Environment's efforts to undermine the potential for employment in the service sector of local authorities.

The Social Security Act 1986, which was passed by the House on the day of the royal wedding, reduced housing benefits. When compounded with the introduction of the poll tax, it will bite hard in the inner cities, yet the Government seem determined to press on with the poll tax, regardless of critical opposition. Indeed, if clause 26 goes through, local authorities will be prevented from spelling out the impact of the poll tax on the areas that they represent. I emphasise that even according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy calculations the domestic ratepayers of Leeds city council would face an increase of approximately £20 million a year as a result of the community charge.

We have yet to hear about the administration of the community charge. Last week The Daily Telegraph carried the headline: Big brother checks will trap poll tax dodgers. The story said: Those who use any local service from education to taking out a library hook will be cross-checked automatically against the Town Hall's list of poll tax payers. So will those who ask for help with council housing or apply for any locally administered grant aid schemes. It will apply to 18 year olds signing on for evening classes and pensioners attending council run day centres. Poll tax evasion will carry penalties including fines, property confiscation and in extremes imprisonment. What is this but the pricing of people out of their right to vote? In future only those who can pay will be able to afford to register their vote. It is hard not to draw the inference that the true purpose of the proposal is narrowly political. It is a measure targeted at the Labour vote. Is this what the Prime Minister really means when she says that she has to get into the inner cities, and when she declares that she wants them the next time? Is she really out to get us? Is the real future role proposed for local government simply a punitive one?

Already we have seen the shift to local government of the administration of housing benefit, hut councils not been given adequate back-up facilities. We have seen a reduction in the tax contribution for the rate support grant from 60 to 40 per cent. and an insistence on an increased rate contribution of exactly that proportion.

What we are witnessing is the inability of local authorities adequately to respond to local needs in employment, housing and resources. Teaspoonfuls of urban aid to local authorities are being offered as palliatives, while the Treasury has imposed for the last eight years a tight grip on the windpipe of the main programme of spending on housing, social services and education. Leeds alone needs about £70 million to improve and repair housing in both the public and the private sector and to tackle the backlog of defects in system-built homes in which many people are now trapped because they are blighted by the mortgage lenders, yet the city council's housing investment programme has had imposed on it incredible reductions over eight years.

Local authorities are now to be reduced to adopting a punitive role of poll tax collection, and that is coupled with the determination to dismantle local authorities by way of an obsessive privatisation drive. Although the Secretary of State spoke of increasing efficiency, in practice the proposals in the Bill will push forward a low-wage economy. Contrary to the view of the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), it will mean wage cuts for already low-paid workers. It will mean a deterioration in conditions of employment and the weakening of statutory employment rights. It will mean that there will be no provision for equal opportunities policies and no provision to ensure that contractors in inner city areas employ local labour.

On Thames Television on 1 July the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment were totally committed to the policy of using local labour and of getting development to generate more local employment. The 1986 Treasury report said: Most of the savings from contracting out arise because contractors offer poorer conditions of employment. As Lord Stockton, then Mr. Harold Macmillan, said in 1946: It was the Treasury … who were always scraping to see whether they could obtain some small advantage by placing their contracts at some slightly lower price with second or third rate contractors. Have the Government learnt nothing in the past 40 years? The Widdicombe report said that John Stuart Mill saw the principal value of local self-government as raising the political capabilities of the people. We on this side of the House believe that there is a real danger in the proposals of the Bill that locally elected government will be reduced to local administration directed from the centre. That will mean that people are even further cut off from political engagement. The only outcome will be deepening political cyncism and a further unacceptable build-up of power at the centre.

Restrictions on the publicity functions of local councils strike at the heart of the founding intentions of local government. If clause 26 were enacted, it would be an instrument of most serious attack on our democratic system. The definition of political controversy opens the door to widespread suppression. A proper prohibition of party political publicity would be supportable, and section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986 already sets this out. But are the Government seriously proposing that local authority publicity designed to promote racial equality is to be curtailed because it could be identified as opposed to the policies of the National Front?

In Leeds, even Conservative councillors argue that people should be encouraged to take up their full welfare benefit entitlement, but under clause 26 such publicity would be outlawed. The Government have already gone much further in their plans to restrict local government publicity than was proposed, even in the recommendations of the inquiry conducted by David Widdicombe.

Surely local councils must be left to exercise their own judgment about the information and publicity that they issue for the benefit of the communities that they serve, without unnecessary and democratic restraints being imposed by the Government. All that we are asking is that the same rules apply to local government as apply to central Government.

One of the first letters that I received as a Member of Parliament was from a major advertising company based in my constituency. It did not criticise the rate level of the local council as a great burden but urged me to do all that I could to argue against the unified business rate, on the ground that it would have to pay three times as much and would end up going out of business. It is not only the domestic ratepayers who oppose the poll tax. Criticism is building up from all quarters. I urge the Government to heed that criticism and not force through legislation on this, as they forced through legislation on social security, without spelling out in detail who will pay the price or taking into account the most universal criticisms.

In the heart of my constituency is the ruin of a monastery, Kirkstall abbey, one of the earliest communities in west Leeds. That community lived according to the rule of St. Benedict, the first word of which is, "Listen". The message from my constituency, as from other inner city constituencies, from many in the north, from many areas represented by democratically elected Labour councils and from those communities that now make up "Poor Britain" is the strongest possible plea to the Government to listen attentively to what we have to say inside and outside the House before proceeding. The Government must allow themselves to be persuaded by the evidence and the arguments and to act for justice for all the people in Britain. We appeal to the Government not to tread roughshod over the people with legislation that will breed resentment. Outside the House, like elsewhere in the world among downtrodden communities, the Opposition have a moral duty to join popular campaigns for the defiance of unjust laws when Governments choose to use their large majorities to push through Parliament such measures regardless.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne 10:18 pm, 6th July 1987

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) on coping so admirably with the ordeal that now faces me.

I start my maiden speech with the customary words of thanks to my predecessor, not because tradition demands that I do so but because it is richly deserved. Sir Humphrey Atkins was a Member of this place for 30 years, during which time he represented two separate constituencies. Over the past year I have seen at first hand how hard he worked for all local people. Sir Humphrey Atkins also served his party with great distinction, particularly as Chief Whip. He also served the nation with much skill and great integrity inside and outside Cabinet.

Rather than recite career details that we all know well, may I just single out one part of Sir Humphrey's distinguished career—his period as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? I single that part of his career out not just for the work that he performed but for the personal sacrifice that such service demands. As I have discovered in the year that I spent as a prospective candidate, all Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland pay a terrible price for the rest of their lives for serving the nation and this place so well. Sir Humphrey Atkins had a distinguished career in this place. His many friends from all political parties wish him and his wife well and hope that he can have a new career in another place.

I am glad that tradition goes on to say that I must talk about my constituency because Spelthorne is not a name on everyone's lips. As this is only the fourth maiden speech from the hon. Member for Spelthorne in 60 years, the whereabouts of Spelthorne is not widely known in this House. To say that it is in Surrey does not help much, as most of us prefer to believe that it is still in Middlesex. However, it includes part of Heathrow airport and all of Stanwell, Staines, Ashford, Laleham, Shepperton and Sunbury on Thames. Everyone will therefore have a mental picture of the constituency, complete with sound effects.

However, that is as far as I want to take tradition tonight. Instead of enthusing about Spelthorne's many attractions, I want to draw the attention of the House to some of Spelthorne's less attractive aspects, such as the Perry Oakes sewerage works. That is not a pleasant place, but we want to keep it, because its replacement would be Heathrow's terminal five, which none of us wants. Another of the less attractive parts covers the gravel pits with their heavy lorries. They are not particularly photogenic, but they are preferable to the houses that would swallow up the last of the open spaces that are left. The remand centre at Ashford is not a pretty place, but it is far better than the proposed new prison that the powers that be want to foist upon us, which I believe should be sited somewhere else.

It is not a coincidence that I make this maiden speech during a debate on local government. I have spent the past 11 years involved in local affairs. My experience in local government has taught me that the Bill deserves the wholehearted support of us all. If it has a fault, it is that the schedule listing those services for competitive tendering confines those services to a list of six. Will the Secretary of State tell us why not 16? Why not 26, or indeed all the services?

I welcome the Secretary of State's reference to the possibility of extra services being added to the list. When the time comes, I urge him to give special thought and priority to the administrative and financial services at the heart of local government, such as the payment of salaries and wages, internal audit and legal and estate management services. The direct services to the public and the manual workers in local government have been the subject of review after review. I contend that it is now high time that that bureaucracy was sorted out. If that is sorted out, dramatic improvements will follow. The local authority that I represented until last May tackled that central problem and in doing so managed to switch 10 per cent. of the general rate fund expenditure away from paper-pushing to real services to local people at no extra cost to anyone.

Predictably, this Bill has come under fierce attack from vested interests, empire-builders and the inefficient. The same old claims are being trotted out. Some claim that it is undemocratic, others claim that services will be worse. Those and all the other claims are utter nonsense. The Bill is not an attack upon local democracy. Councillors will still decide what services they need. The Bill will simply insist that those services are provided efficiently. The Bill is not an attack upon the level of services. Surely council staff can write detailed tender documents if they turn their minds to it. If they cannot, it is the councils that are to blame for the services that are suffered by the electorate and not the Government. I am not the least impressed by those who trot out lists of private enterprise failures, because they are seeking to suggest that the public sector never makes a mistake, which is nonsense.

Above all else, the Bill is not about privatisation. It is directed to competitive tendering, and provided that the in-house work force is efficient and enthusiastic, its knowledge and ability could mean that it wins every contract. If it does not, it does not deserve the work.

If this were not my maiden speech, I would wish to say a great deal more about local government but tonight I shall content myself with congratulating the Government on their past achievements and on the progress that they have made in sorting out local government. I give my support to all parts of the Bill and encourage the Government to make the earliest possible progress with the community charge and the other proposals that they have further to sort out local government.

I count it as a great privilege to be here. I am honoured to succeed Sir Humphrey Atkins and I look forward to doing my best for many years to come to repay the trust placed in me by the electors of Spelthorne.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 10:27 pm, 6th July 1987

First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) on his first speech in this place. He started by showing that he intends to be an independent minded Member, and that is always welcomed by Opposition Members. However, I watched the face of the Government Chief Whip visibly draw when he realised that as well. Eventually the all-pervading influence of the Government Whips spread its way backwards from the Government Front Bench and the hon. Gentleman became orthodox, which means that we know the sort of contributions that we shall be hearing from him in future.

In an impressive first speech my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) demonstrated that he knows his constituency extremely well. I know that Leeds, West will be well served by its new Member. My hon. Friend mentioned his predecessor, Mr. Michael Meadowcroft. It must be said by Opposition Members that he was an amiable Member. He had many talents, some of which were far more controversial and newsworthy than others. I am naturally more than delighted to see Michael Meadowcroft replaced by my hon. Friend, but I am sure that all of us would wish our former colleague well. We know that he probably will do well because if all else fails he can do some busking outside Leeds town hall to earn an honest copper.

Before turning to the Bill, I wish to add my congratulations to the many that will be coming to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) on what was a superb maiden speech. I say in all sincerity that my hon. Friend will make many distinctive and distinguished speeches in this place. He is the authentic and authoritative voice that we knew he would be. I welcome him to the House as warmly as I welcome any of my hon. Friends.

There were many vital reasons why we wanted to defeat the Tory party at the general election. We wished to heal the social divisions and deal with economic injustices. Another factor is that had we won the general election we would not have had to endure the almost weekly local government Bills that we have come to know, but not love, since 1979.

Environment Ministers come and go and the present Secretary of State comes quickly and goes quickly. It is fair to say that he has now returned to the Chamber. I have been told that he leaves the Chamber for a quick drag of his fag. He must be the only one of us who smokes 16 ft fags. He has been out of the Chamber for a long time and consequently has missed speeches that might have taught him a little. As I have said, Environment Ministers come and go rather like presidents of banana republics, but central Government have become obsessed with local government matters.

I listened carefully to the Gracious Speech. It was, as ever, graciously delivered; but the legislative programme enunciated in it was full of bile and venom, mostly directed at local government. As you can imagine Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am no imperialist. However, I understand that there was a time when the speech at the opening of Parliament actually meant something, not only to the country but to the rest of the world. That is clearly no longer the case. Under this Conservative Government, Britain is steadily being reduced to the status of a street-corner shop, and the content of the Gracious Speech has become as relevant to the rest of the world as the menu in the Members' Dining Room.

Of all the economic and social problems facing the country that we could be discussing tonight, what do the Government give us? They give us another Local Government Bill. There is no doubt about it: Opposition Members are now convinced that the Government are deliberately bent on destroying local democracy. That obsession with local democracy and local government originates in the paranoia of the Prime Minister. To her, all opposition, whether inside or outside her party, amounts to treachery and must be eliminated. In her fevered mind, as she sits in her bunker in No. 10 Downing street, the right hon. Lady manages to lump Labour councils and trade unions together with international terrorism. It is clear to us that the Government do not believe in local democracy, in civil rights or in free speech if any of those are used to express opposition to their increasingly Fascist leanings.

I was proud to be a member of a local authority—the Greater London Council—for 17 years, until the Government ungraciously abolished it. Local councils, under the most difficult circumstances, have done their best to defend services, and in return for their efforts they are being taken apart piece by piece.

What, today, is the point of being an elected councillor in this totalitarian country—attacked by central Government, vilified by the right-wing press, abused by much of the electorate and dictated to by civil servants? What a dismal prospect faces a newly-elected local councillor. We shall probably reach a point at which many of my local government colleagues will contemplate mass withdrawal from local office, so that the people can see who is really to blame for the ever-accumulating problems in local government.

This morning two of my hon. Friends from Newham and I had our usual weekly meeting with Newham's council leaders and senior officers. Our meeting was about cuts: cuts in education, cuts in building, cuts in maintenance and cuts in repairs. We talked about homelessness, which is growing faster in Newham than in any other part of the country. We now have 420 families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, much of which is not even located in the borough; we have 650 people in temporary accommodation; 33,000 people are on supplementary benefit; and 47,000 of our houses in the borough are in urgent need of repair. We are now selling more council homes than we are able to build.

I ask Ministers and other Conservative Members to come to boroughs such as Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, and see the scale of the problems—problems that are being exacerbated by central Government policies.

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

If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House a little longer, I might have sat down at that point. But if he prefers dinners to speeches, he should sit there with a little more patience and burp his way through a few more speeches before he tries to intervene.

We need homes in the inner cities, we need jobs and we need hope. But all that we get from the Government are divisive Local Government Bills, cheap gimmicks and common abuse from Ministers. What will this Bill do to solve any of the problems of the London borough of Newham, or any of the problems of the inner cities in London or elsewhere?

Conservative Members talk of putting services out to tender. We have heard many wild and exaggerated claims from the Front and Back Benches about efficiency and cost savings, yet figures cannot be produced to substantiate those claims. We know what privatisation and putting services out to tender will mean. It will mean that some of the lowest-paid workers in council activity will find their wages and conditions squeezed even more as rapacious contractors come in many of whom give money to the Conservative party and are advised by Conservative Members. That is a form of political corruption that the Government have brought to the House. Privatisation is about ideology. It is nothing to do with efficiency. If people think that it is to do with efficiency, they should look at the recent survey of people's views about the service provided by British Telecom after privatisation. The great majority say that services are now less efficient.

The last part of the Bill concerns amendment of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. It is a continuation of the Government's relentless attack on direct labour organisations. Has the Secretary of State any idea how many times direct labour organisations have had to step in when private contractors have gone bust or because the standard of service were not high enough? Local authorities have had to bale out hundreds of firms which have proved incapable of dealing with the problems that they were prepared to take on when they made their first tender.

In the southern part of the borough of Newham, Ronan Point and the Taylor Woodrow Anglian tower blocks are now being taken down, thus adding to the borough's already great housing problems. They were built by a private company which gave generously to the Conservative party. Jerry-built tower blocks, that is what we got from a private contractor, yet the Secretary of State could in a mumbling shambles of a speech, before he cleared off for an early fag, suggest that we will get more efficient building from private contractors. That is nonsense. Only on the most narrow definition is it economically efficient.

The Bill has nothing to do with local government efficiency and need. It is all about the Government's pernicious ideology. It is about dismantling local democracy and handing responsibility for local services over to appointed business men and friends of the Conservative party, who are unelected by the local community and unaccountable to it. It is about commercial favours to spivs and racketeers such as dominate today's Conservative party. It is cheap and nasty. It is thoroughly typical of the Government and their Ministers.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet 10:37 pm, 6th July 1987

I shall return to that shadow cabinet election speech in a moment.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and to be the first on this side of the House to congratulate him on his maiden speech. He paid a generous tribute to his predecessor, Sir Humphrey Atkins, and I wish him as illustrious a career in the House. He referred to some of the less attractive parts of his constituency— a sewage works, gravel pits and a remand home—and made it plain that he has his own views about the future of them and his constituency.

I am sure that my hon. Friend's experience as leader of a west country local authority will be of great value to the House. I have personal reasons for saying how genuinely pleased I am to see him here at last. I know how hard he has fought to be here and how much he has sacrificed on the way, but I hope that he will be happy here for many years.

I wished to speak only to clause 32, but having heard the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who declined to give way to me, mention me, I feel compelled to comment on the substantive part of the Bill. The hon. Members for Copeland and for Southwark and Bermondsey have failed to grasp the difference between genuine coercion and the coercion that they claim this Bill embodies. Equal rights, good race relations and equality for homosexuals will be brought about not by coercion but by education. The hon. Members are unable to grasp the difference between coercion and a legislative framework that is designed to promote free enterprise and genuine competitive tendering.

I have an interest to declare. When I lived in London I lived in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. When I stay in London, I still live in Fulham. When I lived in London, Hammersmith and Fulham were under Conservative control and the rates were modest. Under Socialist control the rates in that borough have gone through the roof. That is probably why the Opposition lost the seat that they had taken at the by-election and why the Conservative party represents Fulham again. It is highly likely that the seat of Brent, East—won by such a narrow margin—and the Newham seats will soon go the same way.

Clause 32 was referred to earlier in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes). It seems almost churlish to refer to what some may consider to be a trivial item in a Bill that otherwise deserves support. However, for many people dog licences are not a trivial matter. I am privileged to have been reelected to represent the people of Thanet, North. It is a pleasant seaside constituency, with many miles of beaches and seaside lawns. It is a source of genuine concern to my constituents and to the many holidaymakers who are attracted to Thanet that those beaches and lawns are fouled by dog dirt.

I also have in my constituency a fair amount of agricultural land. Opposition Members may make light of this, but one only has to speak to shepherds whose flocks have been savaged by wild dogs to realise that they take it very seriously. [Interruption.] There is a shepherd in my constituency to whom that has happened fairly recently. The man was distraught. Those on both sides of the House who seek to make light of this ought to think of the misery that is caused to families, particularly to children, when an animal is lost.

A registration scheme is needed. In this throw-away clause at the end of the Bill, we are missing an opportunity for reform. Instead of abolishing the dog licence fee we should increase it. We should introduce not a local government regulation—yet another quango mish-mash—but a national, computerised dogs register, to be paid for by an increase in the dog licence fee. A national dog warden scheme would also prevent the kind of abuse and misuse of animals that my hon. Friend the Member for Drake and I wish to be terminated.

I shall not vote against the Bill; there is far too much in it that is good for me—[Interruption]—but I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to look again in Committee at this clause and to seize the opportunity that it presents for reform.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley , Stoke-on-Trent North 10:45 pm, 6th July 1987

The discretion referred to by the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), is a discretion that we on the Labour Benches would like to see given to all local authorities.

In my first speech to the House, I must express my pride at representing the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent, North. I am proud because it is the area that I come from, and because it has consistently returned Labour MPs.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, John Forrester, who worked in the House for 21 years. I and my constituents wish him well. I also pay tribute to the previous Member, Harriet Slater, who was one of the first women Labour Whips. She was concerned about many issues that are dear to my heart and which I shall be taking up in this Parliament.

The people of Stoke-on-Trent, North are the finest in the country. Furthermore, they make the finest pottery in the world. They deserve the best local government. That is why it gives me particular pleasure to speak on this Bill.

I invite hon. Members to look at what has happened to people in my constituency over the past eight years. Thousands of jobs in the pottery industry have been lost. Only last week I heard that more than 2,000 jobs had been reported to the Staffordshire Development Association as having gone. My constituency needs investment, yet that is precisely what it is not getting from this Government. My constituents want jobs. In parts of Stoke-on-Trent, North as many as 70 per cent. of the people are unemployed. As well as jobs and investment, people there want a healthy, safe and clean environment. They are looking to Staffordshire county council, Stoke-on-Trent city council and Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council to provide that environment and the staff to do that work and to monitor the way in which the work is done.

They are looking to local government workers to do a good job, but I submit that the provisions in this Bill will not provide that. Competitive tendering will mean more low-paid workers, more workers who are not concerned about the job they do, and more workers who are unable to do a good job. That is not what we want.

The constituency has many housing problems. Money is needed so that many older terraced dwellings can be properly modernised, yet that money has not been made available by central Government to the local authority. Endless numbers of elderly people want to move into bungalows, but again the necessary money has been denied to local councils by the Government.

In the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, the coal board promised elderly miners that they would he looked after, yet their homes have either been sold off or starved of the money needed to bring them up to standard. In other homes in which people have become the victims of absentee landlords, much-needed repairs are not being done.

The North Staffordshire district health authority is one of the most under-funded in one of the most under-funded regions of the country—the West Midlands regional health authority. Even according to the Government's own statistics we need more money.

Furthermore, inside the Health Service I have seen at first hand the results of competitive tendering. I have seen nurses taking over shifts in the moring unable to sort out who should have done the previous night's work. The reason is simply that so much stress and strain is put on the low-paid workers in the Health Service. I certainly do not want to see that kind of system applied in local authorities on refuse collection and street cleaning. I am afraid that if the Bill goes through, that is what is in store for us.

The most important thing is that this legislation, concerned as it is with local government, is just one more example of how local democracy is being undermined. Local councillors are elected by local people to do the job that local people know needs doing, and local councillors can do it best. The Government should enable those local councils' elected members to go ahead and do that job. They must he given the resources with which to do it. If they are not allowed to function I shall be unable to do my job properly in the House. So many people need proper services, and my fear is that the local councils will be unable to provide them. People want a say in what services will he provided. This legislation will not give it to them. With all the other local government legislation, the Bill will constitute one more step backwards.

Health and safety should be given priority. I want to see that people arc able to live in a healthy, safe and clean environment. I only wish that in my first speech I was taking part in a debate on a Bill which was to provide that kind of service for local people. However, we are not.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your attention will no doubt have been drawn to the fact that the Bill involves a good deal of privatisation proposals. Clause 2 of the Bill refers to and defines a number of activities. You are probably aware that a number of Tory members have been lining their pockets in the past through parliamentary adviserships to various companies which undertake the sort of defined activities set out in clause 2 of the Bill.

Erskine May on page 436 says: So far as voting in the House or a committee is concerned, and for this purpose only, the recording of an interest in the Register of Members' interests is by itself regarded as sufficient disclosure since the House on 12 June 1975 resolved:'That, for the purposes of the Resolution of the House of 22 May 1974 in relation to disclosures of interests in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, any interests disclosed in the copy of the Register of Members' interests shall he regarded as sufficient disclosure for the purpose of taking part in any division in the House or in any of its Committees'. You will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that Register of Members' interests is not compiled and that, therefore, the resolution cannot be adhered to. There are members who have been on the earlier Register who have been taking money from agencies involved in the sort of activities that have been provided by private organisations under clause 2 of the Bill. Therefore, as Erskine May cannot possibly be followed, I ask you to make it clear to those greedy Tories who are lining their pockets and who have no doubt fixed up various parliamentary adviserships —some are continuing their old parliamentary adviserships, their parliamentary salaries not, apparently, being sufficient for them to live on—that if they have got any of those parliamentary adviserships they should not vote because, if they do vote in the Division, they will be in breach of the rules of the House.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Until the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) came to his last point he accurately described the position. There will, of course, be a Register of Members' Interests, which will be produced in due course—I should imagine very soon—but the hon. Gentleman also made the point that it is customary for any hon. Member who has an interest to declare to do so when he addresses the House. So there are, as it were, the two safeguards there. The hon. Gentleman dealt with the point about voting early on in his point of order. There is no bar to an hon. Member exercising his vote in the House.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair earlier when the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) was mentioned. The Register of Members' Interests showed that he was a parliamentary representative for a company called Grayling Ltd. and another called Good Relations Ltd. His description in Dads, Parliamentary Companion which I assume is the one he submitted, says that he had a special interest in NHS and local government privatisation. We have reached a point in the debate where it is obvious, since my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) raised the matter, that there are some Tory Members speaking who have obvious pecuniary interests in the legislation. We ought to have a ruling as to whether the Conservative Members who are directors of companies such as office cleaning services and others involved in privatisation have a moral obligation to declare their interests and perhaps whether they have the right to vote at all.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Every hon. Member is entitled to exercise his vote in the way in which he thinks appropriate. However, I repeat that it is customary for hon. Members who have an interest to declare it when they speak. That is a well-established convention in the House which I think is well known on both sides of the House.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I will listen to the hon. Gentleman, but I remind him that time is moving on. Many hon. Members still wish to speak, including some who wish to make their maiden speeches. I sense that the House does not want to be too long before it comes to a conclusion.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You said that it was custom and practice for hon. Members to declare to the House prior to speaking that they have an interest. During the course of the debate how many hon. Members have made such a declaration? If they have spoken and have not declared their interest, would you say that they should not vote insofar as they are in default of what you described as "practice".

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

That must be for the discretion of the hon. Members concerned.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Further to my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I emphasised the question of voting. The resolution of the House makes it clear that for the purpose of voting, an entry into the Register of business interests is sufficient. The point, which no doubt you were about to answer, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that since there is no Register, there can be no adequacy of declaration to satisfy the resolution of 22 May 1974, a resolution duly passed and accepted by hon. Members. Therefore, it falls upon you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to declare that those who have any pecuniary interest in this, since they cannot declare their interest in the Register, and have not spoken—as my hon. Friend the member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, nobody has made a declaration tonight, anyway—cannot vote.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

That is certainly not correct. We are all honourable Members in the House and any hon. Member who is called to speak should declare any interest during the course of his speech. In due course there will be a Register of Members' Interests which will be on public display. It has never been the practice in the House that an hon. Member who has a interest to declare is barred from voting. Every hon. Member is perfectly entitled to vote at the conclusion of the debate. That is the long arid well-established practice in the House.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could reconsider your ruling, because it is in the recollection of this House that, in 1981, when we were debating the Lloyd's Bill, Mr. Speaker advised right hon. and hon. Members who were members of Lloyd's—approximately 50— that it would be inadvisable for them to vote on the passage of the Bill because they had a direct and pecuniary interest in the matter of Lloyd's.

I imagine that the Clerk is saying that the Lloyd's Bill was a private Bill. However, if it is true that the interests of non-underwriting members of Lloyd's was sufficient to disbar them from voting in the Lloyd's Bill, is it not equally true, because of the direct and pecuniary interests of Members of this House who are paid consultants and advisers to firms such as BET, Pritchards or Hawley, which plainly stand to gain—as do the hon. Members involved— from the passage of the Bill, that they too must be advised that they should not vote, in accordance with the rules of the House?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

The distinction to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention is between a private Bill and a public Bill. The Lloyd's Bill was a private Bill. There are different rules and customs with regard to private Bills. What we are dealing with this evening is a public Bill and I merely repeat that the well-established practice of this House is that every hon. Member is entitled to exercise his vote on a public Bill.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not the integrity of the House in question tonight? If hon. Members on the Conservative Benches vote later tonight on a measure from which they will gain financially, is that not unacceptable both to the standards of this House and public opinion outside?

Arising from the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) in the absence of a Register—it has yet to come about, but we have all been asked to supply details—I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to reconsider what you have just said. I strongly believe that it is the integrity of Parliament that is at stake and in a new Parliament I believe that it is most unacceptable that hon. Members should vote for a measure from which they will clearly gain financially.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

If we were to follow the logic of the argument of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) I do not believe that there would be many hon. Members voting on anything in this place. I merely repeat the ruling that I have given and which is well-established in this House. We are now getting repetitive and I am anxious that we get on with the debate.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you would be most interested to read the paragraph that has been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). That paragraph implies that the House has been at fault in failing to produce a Register at the beginning of this Parliament. It is not necessarily the case that hon. Members involved, who may wish to vote and who have interests to declare, have made any error. It may be that they have complied with our rules in every way. It may be that the Select Committee on Members' Interests in failing to meet and in failing to approve a Register has inadvertently prevented hon. Members who wish to vote from having the right to vote tonight.

This is a matter that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, should look into. It may be that our rules are wrong and not that hon. Members are wrong. Hon. Members may well be correct. Perhaps you should suspend the House for 15 minutes to examine this important matter. It is an important matter because the ruling that you are making is an important one insofar as you are overriding a resolution of the House — the resolution that was identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South on page 437 of "Erskine May".

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you will accept. We are extremely confused as to how we can proceed, especially when we are faced with the evidence of the previous Register of Members' Interests. For example, in the Register of Members' Interests, the list of directorships under the name of the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) is as follows:

  • "Westminster (Communications) Ltd.
  • Care Services Group
  • Rigidized Metals Ltd.
  • Harvard Securities Group P.L.C.
  • Harvard Securities P.L.C.
  • Ceema Group and companies
  • Tele-Stage Associates Ltd."
Under the heading "Employment or Office" are listed:
  • "Consultant:
  • 3M (UK) Ltd.
  • Shepherd (Construction) Ltd.
  • McCarthy & Stone Ltd.
  • Alcrafield Ltd.
  • Marples International Ltd."
Almost every one of those companies has a direct interest in local government privatisation. If we then go to the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) and his directorships—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. What is the hon. Gentleman's point of order? I do not want to have the Register of Members' Interests read out.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

I am saying that even when a Register of Members' Interests is not extant, on the previous declaration of Members' interests there are hon. Members who will vote who are contravening the rules of the House. They have a direct financial interest in local government privatisation. That is not only immoral but we suggest that it is illegal and improper according to the rules of the House.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To facilitate progress, may I make a suggestion that I hope will be acceptable to the Chair? We have a genuine problem, that when the Register was created, the House inadvertently created a vacuum for the period during which the Register does not exist. I accept that the matter has not been addressed properly before. We all recognise that we want to make progress in the debate, and hon. Members want to make their maiden speeches. Rather than getting involved in the current circular discussion, will you or Mr. Speaker give us a ruling in, say, half an hour on how to deal with the situation in the interim because there is a gap in our procedures?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his helpful comments. I will, of course, discuss the matter with Mr. Speaker, particularly the point that he made that there is not at the moment a Register of Members' Interests. In the practical nature of things, it takes some time for it to be compiled. But I remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the convention about declaring interests and voting is long established. It existed long before the Register of Members' Interests. This evening we are following normal practice and customs in the House.

I am not prepared to accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request to ask Mr. Speaker to come and give a ruling in half an hour, but I am prepared to say to him and the House that I shall discuss with Mr. Speaker the proceedings that have been taking place during the past quarter of an hour or so.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West

I am grateful, and I hope that my hon. Friends will allow a little time for consideration. The basic question is whether the resolution of the House superseded or supplemented the original procedures of the House. It is on that that we need a ruling. We should be grateful if we could have it before the crucial vote at midnight.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

All that I need to do is repeat the ruling that I have given on several occasions. Every hon. Member is entitled to vote on a public Bill. Tonight we are dealing with a public Bill.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes 11:08 pm, 6th July 1987

In spite of that interlude, the House should not lose sight of the excellent maiden speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley). It is hard to believe that I am following a maiden speech, because the hon. Lady spoke with such fluency, knowledge and understanding of the problems in her constituency that I felt that she had been in the House for a long time. I wish her all the best in the House. She is a worthy successor to her predecessor.

I very much welcome the Bill. It has been a long time coming, but it is the better for finally arriving in the House. I have an interest to declare — the interest of my constituents as ratepayers. My constituents, as ratepayers, have paid unnecessarily high rates because, in the absence of legislation, services that could have been put out to competitive tender by local authorities have not been so dealt with. It is this legislation that will enable my constituents and those of every hon. Member to have, in the future, services provided at a lower cost.

I speak with a certain amount of knowledge on this matter because my mother is the leader of the Arun district council. She has been able successfully to privatise not only street cleaning but refuse collection in her area, thus saving ratepayers and the Arun district council an annual sum of more than £300,000. When she and her colleagues submitted themselves for re-election a few weeks ago at the district council elections, 51 members of a council of some 56 members were Conservatives and the rest were opposition members. That is living proof that competitive tendering can deliver value for money to the ratepayer, who benefits and votes Conservative as a result.

The Bill will offer every prospect of improvements to all ratepayers in the United Kingdom. They will, as a result of it, receive services at much lower cost. There are enough examples of district councils voluntarily introducing an element of competitive tendering into their services over the past few years. Nearly every local authority that has done that has been able to deliver to its ratepayers and the residents of its boroughs services at a lower cost, but of the same, or higher, standards than existed before. I welcome every aspect of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East 11:12 pm, 6th July 1987

It is normally the custom to mention one's predecessor. Unfortunately, in view of the repercussions from the general election, I shall not in the meantime follow that custom tonight.

The Bill advances various buzz words among its objectives which betray its purely political intentions. It seeks to introduce what it calls "competitive tendering". It seeks to stop what the Government call party politics on the rates. The Bill wants to make direct labour organisations, in its own words, "competitive" and to improve the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of local authorities". I can agree with some of those objectives, but they are not necessarily delivered by the Bill. They are sought by the Government in a manner that will diminish local government powers and reduce the standing, status and staff of local authorities. Whatever these short-term measures may mean, the long-term proposals are quite obvious—a reduction in staff, status and standing of local government in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom.

The great irony for the Scots is that, in trying to protect our institutions, we find that this measure for Scotland is being tacked on to the end of an English piece of legislation. We know why. It is because there are too few Tories properly to man the Scottish Committees.

The Government have no mandate for these measures. Indeed, the opposite is true. They were specifically rejected by the Scottish electorate. I hope, therefore, that this is not the start of a trend in Scottish legislation, because it is not good enough. I hope that the powers that be in the House will take on board the strength of feeling in Scotland about the practice of tacking on Scottish legislation to English Bills, rather than properly considering them in the context of Scotland.

We have Scottish local government institutions, we have a separate judicial system and now, apparently, we have a separate political system. Scottish legislation needs to be given proper scrutiny by Scots Members. in its proper context.

The Bill contains massive problems in its details. Competitive tendering is in it, not because of "efficiency", but as part of a general attack on local authorities. This is another step along the Government's path to reducing the power of local government. Central Government already control capital spending. The Government have taken on extra powers over revenue, to which they are now adding extra powers that are steps down the road to centralisation.

The accusation of inefficiency in local government, which is implied throughout the Bill, is an insult to local government and to local authority professionalism and its traditions of public service and accountability. It is a great cheek for the Government to tell others that they should increase their efficiency. The system at Westminister separates budgets from spending, passes Bills that are not linked with the Government's overall income and has no way of monitoring its current spending.

Parliament must be one of the most inefficient organisations known to mankind. How can an organisation that cannot even register its own Members without something resembling a rugby scrum and provides those Members with working conditions that would be regarded as a disgrace by junior management in any self-respecting company accuse local authorities of being inefficient arid force on them tendering arrangements that they would not otherwise introduce'?

The COSLA critique points out that local government produces good value for money and that local authority budgeting gets within plus or minus 1 per cent. of its targets. No Government have ever achieved that. Conservative Governments looking for efficiency have regularly produced budget overshoots of tens of billions of pounds. It is not local government, but central Government that is financially inefficient.

After 11 years of constant cuts in revenue, local authorities have had to be more efficient. They cannot afford to miss tendering opportunities. Therefore, I disagree strongly with the assumption that local government cannot put its own house in order and must be forced to follow the supposed improvements in the Bill.

I am opposed to institutionalised graffiti. I have never seen sense in one political grouping putting up signs at public expense, merely to find that, in the normality of politics, it is replaced by another group that puts up different signs which people find equally offensive. However, decisions on such matters should be made locally by locally elected councillors and the local electorate, not by central Government sledgehammer methods such as those proposed in the Bill. What difference is there between local government slogans and taxpayers' money being spent on partisan party politics such as council house sales, privatisation or other issues? The local electorate, and not a politically biased Secretary of State, should decide such matters.

The measures in the Bill against direct labour organisations show the Government's true intent. Of course, there are examples of grossly inefficient DLOs, but there are many other examples of the effective use of permanent local authority staff in providing continuity of work and quality of standards. In their desire to reduce the local government work force the Government are unnecessarily throwing away the dependability of a local government system, merely to satisfy a political theory. That is entirely wrong, and will be seen to be wrong.

By abolishing the dog licence the Government have abdicated their responsibility in a matter that is a serious problem for local authorities in terms of health and the environment. Only a long-term system involving dog wardens and dog pounds, allied to a properly priced licence, with safeguards for owners of guide dogs and for pensioners and the unemployed, will solve the problem. Someone has to take responsibility, but instead of grasping the nettle or instead of lumbering local authorities, the Government merely abdicate all responsibility.

It is equally typical of central Government consistently to starve local authorities of housing support grant and financial assistance for housing. They then ask local authorities to spread what little they have left even further into the private sector. Central Government again appear to be giving new powers, but not the new money that is required to meet the new responsibilities. That is one of the banes of local authority work that I have had to face for the past three years in my own local authority. If the Government wish local authorities to do extra work, they should give them the resources to do it.

On the plus side, I welcome the extension of the powers of the ombudsman. It is a small part of the jigsaw that will eventually lead us to give our omnbudsman the same kind of powers as ombudsmen expect and use in Scandanavia, New Zealand and even in Quebec. It is a small step in the right direction, and I hope that it will be on the road to a proper system of administrative justice in Britain. However, I am afraid that that is a long way off.

Alarmingly, the Bill contains a clause that gives open-ended powers to the Secretary of State, and those powers presage further encroachment on the local government system. Parliament dictates local authority powers, and this Government are forever eroding what little autonomy remains with local authorities. I should like to see a different approach, one that gives maximum self-determination to local authorities. It should be an approach that clearly defines their powers and adequately funds them, allowing them to provide adequate services for their ratepayers.

Local authorities are a crucial part of our democratic system, and that is especially true in what is becoming a faceless age of centralisation. The Bill does not help at all. It contains some good elements, but, on balance, I have no hesitation in saying that I shall vote against it. I shall be joined in my opposition by my hon. Members in Plaid Cymru, who are equally concerned about the implications of this measure for Wales.

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall , Leicester South 11:23 pm, 6th July 1987

I gather from those cheers that hon. Members are getting restless about coming to a decision. I can assure the House that I shall not detain it too long. After an absence of four years I am again pleased to represent the constituents of Leicester, South. As the House will remember, I have in the past extolled the virtures of Leicester, South, which is a microcosm of Britain. In the city of Leicester we have the social, economic and political divisions that are to be found throughout the country.

In my constituency there is a large inner city area with massive social and economic deprivation, while in the suburbs there is private affluence. I assure the House and warn the Government that throughout the life of this Parliament I shall judge the Government's policies and actions in terms of how they will affect my constituents. Before moving on, I should like to comment on my predecessor, Mr. Derek Spencer. I understand that he was diligent in handling constituents' problems and was held in some esteem by his hon. Friends on the Conservative Benches. I can only say that I wish him well in the career that he will pursue.

Unfortunately, one of the legacies that Mr. Spencer has left in the House and in the city of Leicester is the pernicious image that he and Mr. Peter Bruinvels, the former Member for Leicester, East, fostered—that Leicester city council is extremely silly. He has done a great disservice to the city of Leicester, and all the people who live there. It is a curious distortion of the political process that a city council that seeks to protect its services, enhance both its private and public housing and encourage local enterprise should be labelled extremist. Both those individuals were assisted on many occasions by glib comments and remarks from Ministers. I hope that we do not have a recurrence of such behaviour.

I know that The Sun, the Daily Mirror and The Mail would love to see Mr. Bruinvels return here, but as the electorate of Leicester, East showed in the election that they had had enough of him, I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) now represents that constituency. Mr. Bruinvels may be back, but he will not be back to represent the city of Leicester.

Unfortunately, local authorities like Leicester have to face every day the human consequences of the Government's social and economic policies. I find it abhorrent that in clause 26, the Government seek to gag local authorities by denying them the right to criticise the central Government actions and policies that bring about human disasters and miseries.

The Bill represents a further attack on the independence of local government. I have said before that there is a difficult relationship between central and local government. There will always be tensions in such a relationship, but one does not resolve the problem or remove the tension by gagging one of the parties to the debate, as clause 26 seeks to do. It will reduce the rights of local authorities to voice opposition and put forward the views of those whom they represent.

Increasingly, in their contacts with local authorities the Government appear to be telling them that they must accept Government policy or lose the right to dissent. Clause 26 imposes restrictions on local authorities that are not placed on other public or private bodies. They will continue to have the right to comment on controversial issues while the new legislation will deny that right to local authorities or to national associations of local authorities. It represents a unique repression of local councils.

I ask the Minister three specific questions, on which I should like answers. Clause 26 includes subjective judgments. My first question is, who is to decide what is the likely effect of publicity? Secondly, who is to determine what is a question of political controversy? Thirdly, who will define a campaign? We already have strict controls against party political publicity, so why do we need those extra restrictions?

It appears to me that the Government are seeking to repress democratic debate by preventing local authorities from acting as the local voice of the people and denying them the right to express local issues and views in opposition to those views put forward by central Government. That represents a further step down the road towards the tyranny of the centre over local democracy. I for one shall vote vigorously in opposition to the Bill.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe 11:30 pm, 6th July 1987

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak as the new hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe. I believe that it is customary in maiden speeches to mention one's predecessor. My predecessor was Richard Hickmet. Although we had fundamental differences in policy, he carried out his duties as an hon. Member conscientiously, and I wish him well in his continuing career as a barrister.

The constituency of Glanford and Scunthorpe has been through traumatic changes in recent years with the reduction of its original base of steel workers. There has been a reduction from 20,000 steel workers eight years ago to about 7,500 today. The fact that I am standing here at all is a tribute to all those who campaigned so hard in the Labour party and to our success in attracting support from the voters who are reasonably well off home owners with high aspirations for themselves and their families. They rejected the appeal to narrow self-interest and instead voted for decency, justice, caring for our community, the quality of life and good local services. That is why I am particularly grateful to speak in a debate on local government and the services that it provides.

I have a local government background. I believe that local government is the very grassroots of democracy and local accountability. I serve two councils in my constituency — the Labour-controlled council of Scunthorpe and the Conservative-controlled council of Glanford. I may have differences with those councils, but I support their right to make decisions on the basis of local democracy and choice; decisions that affect their people, based on the priorities as the councils consider them and how they will affect their people.

My constituents want efficiency and value for money from their services. However, there is nothing efficient about undercutting council services and simply sacking the work force, re-employing fewer of them on lower wages and under poorer conditions and using the whip hand of high unemployment to force those workers down.

Already a very good refuse collection in the borough has been undermined because it has had to be reformed to get it ready to compete. That has led to complaints and a deterioration in service. Scunthorpe has traditionally always provided a high level of services, community and leisure centres, and has one of the highest percentages of urban areas of parklands and playing fields. That must be paid for. We do not get anything for nothing. However, it is significant that Scunthorpe has had a higher success rate in attracting new industry to the borough than has its neighbouring Conservative-controlled council, even though they both have the same kind of grants and facilities to attract industry. It is also significant that local councils are seen as more important in many ways than central Government in helping industries to set up and in providing the services that industries need.

The Bill goes farther than simply attacking the jobs and conditions of those working in local government. In clause 26 it attacks the basic freedoms of local councils to campaign on behalf of their people. An example would be Humberside county council which led the campaign against the dumping of low and intermediate-level nuclear waste at South Killingholme. That campaign could well have been ruled illegal under clause 26.

In terms of local accountability, Scunthorpe holds elections every year and puts its policies to the test. What tests has local authority privatisation have? There had been spectacular failures, and industries such as British Telecom have been shown in a report published today to have reduced the quality of services. Service to people has deteriorated since privatisation.

As a former teacher, I know only too well the excellent work of council employees such as school cleaners and dinner staff, most of whom are women and are on low pay. Such jobs are particularly at risk, and it is women who will suffer especially if the jobs are contracted out.

I am glad that the Secretary of State said that core services such as teaching will not be contracted out, but it seems that some schools will be allowed to contract themselves out. Education was an issue at the general election, because parents want stability and an end to unrest. The Government's interference with local authorities has already threatened teachers' jobs in my constituency through their insistence on using falling rolls as a way of saving money rather than reducing class sizes. The Government have talked of improving education standards and seeking co-operation with teachers. Overruling local authority agreements with teachers and denying their basic human rights in negotiations will be as successful in obtaining their co-operation as soaking someone's house in petrol and then asking him to pass the matches.

Another example of privatisation is bus deregulation. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not in his place, but he may remember, if and when he reads the report of my speech, that I met him some years ago to argue about deregulation. I did not think much of his ideas then, and I do not think much of them now. Time has demonstrated that everything that we warned about deregulation was right. In my constituency, Lincolnshire Road Car has been placed in an impossible position. Jobs are being lost and wages are being cut. Fares have not been cut and services have not been improved.

I am glad that the privatisation of steel did not feature in the Gracious Speech. Scunthorpe's steel workers have already suffered from back-door privatisation. There has been contracting out of many production and maintenance jobs and this has threatened job security, conditions and pensions. Scunthorpe's steel workers have broken all production, quality and productivity records and they deserve a better reward than the insecurity of privatisation.

Steel influences the local council in my consituency to such an extent that even the reflection of the furnaces on the night clouds is incorporated in the council's moto, which is The heavens reflect our labours. I want that glow in the sky to continue to raise my spirits as I travel home to Scunthorpe. I want the glow to remain, as I want the steel jobs to remain. I want the steel workers and their families, along with every other constituent, to enjoy the excellent local services that are provided by Scunthorpe. I do not want to see services slashed and the jobs and wages of those who serve in their communities slashed with them.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education 11:37 pm, 6th July 1987

In this debate we have heard maiden speeches from 10 hon. Members; one from the Scottish Nationalist party, three from the Conservative party and six from the official Opposition. I congratulate the hon. Members for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), for Welwyn, Hatfield (Mr. Evans) and for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) on their maiden speeches. I can do that with a spirit of more than usual generosity, as in each instance the seat was not taken from the Labour party. I congratulate the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) on his maiden speech, in which he spoke with some eloquence about the inability of the Government and the House to organise their own affairs. That led the hon. Gentleman to wonder why the Government are so willing to lecture others on their organisations.

We heard an eloquent and powerful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant), in which he explained his experience as a councillor and a good leader of the London borough of Haringey. My hon. Friend is concerned that the Government's inner city policies, which have a great deal more tinsel than reality about them, are leading to more deprivation of the people who live in the inner cities, and will continue to do so.

We heard an articulate, witty and forensic speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling), in which he explained his opposition to having an omnibus Bill that seeks to foist on the Scottish system of local government provisions that are wholly alien to its traditions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) paid an eloquent tribute to the former Labour Member, Joe Dean as he was then, and to the former Liberal Member, Michael Meadowcroft. He showed great generosity in paying tribute to Michael Meadowcroft, whom we all remember, and to the work that he did in this place. Labour Members have a special pleasure in welcoming my hon. Friend, because his was the only victory in England where we took a seat from the Liberal party.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) made a powerful speech about the importance of local government in the provision of jobs in Stoke-on-Trent, and about the central importance of local government in the operation of democracy.

Opposition Members welcome back to the House my good and hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), whose presence was as sorely missed in the last Parliament as the absence of Mr. Peter Bruinvels will be celebrated in this one, on both sides of the House. [Hon. Members: "Oh."]— I think that hon. Members doth protest too much.

We heard a fine maiden speech—all the finer for its brevity—from my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who as someone else remarked to me, made a not only generous but very charitable reference to his predecessor, Mr. Richard Hickmet, whom many of us remember. However, he also spoke powerfully in support of the right of councils of both persuasions to make their own decisions about how their own local communities should be run.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said in his opening speech, there is always a Local Government Bill under the present Administration. The last Local Government Bill 1987 only completed its passage through the House on the last day of the last Parliament. This Bill was published within a day of the opening of the new Parliament, and has its Second Reading today, the first available day in this Parliament. For those of us on both Front and Back Benches who have been dealing with local government legislation these last four years, the norm is to be stuck upstairs in Committee with Environment Ministers; the exception is to be able to devote some time to one's constituents and the world outside local Government.

I see the Parliamentary Under-Secretary smiling. The only consolation for my hon. Friends and myself is that in four years we have seen off two Secretaries of State, two Ministers of State and innumerable Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. We congratulate the new Minister for Local Government on his elevation and appointment. He is, it has been said, the only man reckless enough to wager his ambition upon the passage of the poll tax legislation. The Secretary of State should beware the smile on the face of his Minister: it was, after all, the last Minister of State but one—the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker)—who ended up with his master's job.

This is the 44th Local Government Bill from a Government who, in ancient times—I speak of 1970 or thereabouts—were committed to such dangerous, not to say revolutionary, propositions as trust in the people, rolling back the frontiers of the state and transferring power from Whitehall and Westminster to local communities and their town and county halls. But, in each of those 44 Bills, the Government have removed themselves from what were once key tenets of Conservative philosophy. In their place is not a philosophy, but a collection of crude, short-sighted prejudices by which it is asserted that Parliament is sovereign in the country, the Conservative party is dominant in Parliament and No. 10 and the Whips control the Conservative party, and that therefore No. 10 and the Whips should control the country. Nowhere is that attitude more obvious—as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central pointed out — than in the Government's approach to dissent.

Dissent is at the core of democracy: it is about the right to do and say things differently from those who hold power. Yet the Government's approach and reaction to dissent is to see it not as an occasion for celebration but as a threat, and then to seek to crush it. Even from within the Cabinet — as my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland reminded us—we are now told by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) that the Prime Minister's approach is to run a Stalinist regime. What, above all, characterised Joseph Stalin's approach was the crushing of dissent and the centralisation of power, which is a necessary consequence of that approach.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman had better direct that remark to the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North, who said that he looks forward to the time when we no longer have a Stalinist regime. That was in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, so it must be true.

The Bill is all of a piece with the Stalinism of which the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North spoke yesterday. It tries to say that there is only one way—the Prime Minister's way—in which the efficient delivery of local government services can be achieved. That is by what is laughingly called competition, but which is in practice the forced transfer of public services to just two multinational corporations which happen to have a number of Conservative Members in tow and which have made substantial contributions to the Conservative party or its front organisations.

We are told that the Government are about the restoration of Victorian values. These, however, are not the values of Conservatives such as Disraeli, Lord Shaftesbury or even Lord Salisbury. They are the Benthamite values of the Gradgrind of "Hard Times" and those early Victorians who believed that any regulation of factory organisation or any imposition of statutory improvement of conditions of labour were bound to damage enterprise and undermine the moral fibre of the nation.

In part II, we see the Government taking extraordinary powers at the request, this time, of their paymasters in the building and construction industry, to exclude from contractual conditions anything which is euphemistically described as non-commercial. It was in 1891, under the Government formed by Lord Salisbury, when the Conservative party — the old, traditional Conservative party—first decided that it should lay down regulations concerning fair wages among contractors who contracted with the public sector. What was the argument advanced at that time? I shall quote the Treasury Bench of Lord Salisbury's Government, which said It is the duty of the Government in all Government contracts to make provision against the evils recently disclosed before the Sweating Committee, to insert such conditions as may prevent the abuse arising from subletting"— subcontracting today— and to make every effort to secure the payment of such wages as are generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen. That is the stance that the Conservative party took 96 years ago. In 1945, the Conservative party joined hands with the Labour Government in strengthening the fair wages resolution to ensure that fair wages and trade union rights were recognised wherever public sector contracts were let. Now we have, in clause 17, a Government who sweep aside the respective histories of the Labour party and the Conservative party.

The lump—the abuse of labour only subcontracting—to which even the Heath Government of the early 1970's took exception, is now protected by subsection 5(b). Most astonishing of all, local authorities are now to be expressly prohibited by law from providing minimum conditions of employment and the fair wages that, 96 years ago, the Government formed by a hardly revolutionary Lord Salisbury tried to provide through their fair wages resolution.

Local authorities are prohibited even from laying down provisos about the training of people employed by private firms. Because of part I, such firms will take increasing responsibility for providing local authority services. Local authorities will be unable to insist on minimum levels of training for the staff of private firms who are providing a catering service, when knowledge of and adherence to the public health regulations is critical.

There was extensive discussion in Committee of the contract compliance provisions in the Bill that was passed at the end of the last Parliament. I spelt out the Labour party's approach, and the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) accepted that there was some common ground between us. He referred to the Race Relations Act 1976 and also said: Health and safety legislation is also part of the law of the land, as is equal opportunities legislation. That legislation is applicable throughout the country and it is expected that local authorities will enforce it." —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 2 April 1987, c. 242.] I ask his successor, the new Minister for Local Government, to say where provision is made in this Bill for the enforcement by local authorities of the health and safety legislation. And where is provision made for the enforcement of the equal opportunities legislation? Is it not a fact that since the departure of the right hon. Member for Brent, North the Government have watered down even further their adherence to even the minimum level of contract compliance?

I press the Minister again on the well publicised difference of opinion between the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State. In his elegant fashion, the Minister suggested that there was no disagreement between the Department of Employment and the Department of the Environment. Why is it, then, that the press officers of the Department of Employment have been briefing us so heavily against the Secretary of State for the Environment, and vice versa?

In a television programme on 1 July, Mr. Jonathan Dimbleby said that if firms came to the inner cities the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should guarantee that a certain proportion of the jobs went to the people who live in the inner cities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was very keen upon doing that. In his own inimitable fashion, he was saying, yes. If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is very keen that firms coming into the inner cities should both provide jobs for those who live there and give a guarantee that jobs will be provided for them, how will the Minister of State achieve that if, according to the Bill, it is not possible for a local authority to insist that the guarantee should be written into the contract between a local authority and an outside firm? I offer to the Minister yet another opportunity to explain how this Bill can be squared with what was said by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He does not take the opportunity that I offer to him, so we know now that he has had second thoughts and that what the Secretary of State for the Environment says and what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster says is not a seamless robe.

How on earth can the Minister justify this Government's opposition to contract compliance when even the Reagan Government in the United States has used contract compliance to ensure equal opportunities in race relations and equal opportunities for women? The Republican federal contract compliance programme applies to 300,000 companies and 41 million employees. So unacceptable is all this that the Government have been unable to find support for their actions, even among Conservative local government. That is apparent from the words of the Conservative-dominated Association of District Councils. Indeed, the latest survey in the Local Government Chronicle shows that Conservative authorities are voting with their feet when it comes to privatisation, with a sharp fall in the number of authorities contracting out services and a rise in the number of authorities that have abandoned that practice.

We do not deny that local authorities may be able to achieve some savings by privatisation, but we object to the means by which they will do so. The only way in which to do so is by cutting the wages of those who are already very poorly paid indeed.

It was the Conservative Gillingham borough council which in the latest edition of the Local Government Chronicle set its face against any further privatisation and said that it would not consider any further privatisation unless the Government so dictates". Dictate is indeed the word. No longer are this Government even willing to trust the experience of their own supporters in local government and to accept their dissenting voice that there are better ways of delivering efficiency than through enforced privatisation.

Eighteen months and two Ministers of State ago we went through in great detail the restrictions then proposed on local authority publicity. The Government went too far on that occasion and were defeated in the Lords. Even so, that Bill as enacted contained far reaching restrictions on local government publicity—ones that local government has observed. Not once to the best of my recollection since the enactment of that Bill has any Minister been able to point to what he would describe as an abuse of that legislation. The Secretary of State certainly failed to do so.

All hon. Members should weigh the words of clause 26, which states: In determining whether material falls within the prohibition regard shall be had to … whether the material … promotes or opposes a point of view on a question of political controversy which is identifiable as the view of one political party and not of another". I venture to suggest that there is not another Western nation—unless by definition we include Pinochet's Chile or the current regime in South Korea—that would even contemplate such a provision, let alone put it into law.

But there is a bigger question of the goose and gander variety. As dissent has been closed down in local government, there has been a vast expansion of central Government expenditure on publicity. Just before the election scarcely a day went past before there was yet another publication of another "glossy" on education, defence, "Action for Jobs", or the reform of social security. There was one aspect of Conservative propaganda after another, all of which was paid for by the British taxpayer. There were leaflets, posters and carefully timed advertisements, and all were on questions of political controversy that was identifiable as a view of one political party and not of another.

I therefore ask the Minister two questions. Does he remotely suggest that the Government's expenditure on all that publicity is consistent with the prohibition in clause 26, and is he willing to practise what he preaches? Will he accept amendments to ensure that these provisions have the same force on Ministers as they have on local authorities?

This Bill is not about competition, the efficient delivery of services or the encouragement of enterprise. It is about the arrogance of power. So lacking in the art of persuasion s are these Ministers that they cannot even persuade their own colleagues in local government of the wisdom of what they propose. Instead of appreciating the moral in this rejection—that perhaps the propositions they make are so wrong-headed that even their own supporters cannot subscribe to them—they blithely believe that the whole world is out of step but themselves. To comfort themselves in that belief, to ensure that the world is only as they think it is, in true Stalinist fashion they seek to silence all dissent about their proposals. this is a bad Bill from a bad Government. We shall oppose it in the Lobby tonight.

12 midnight

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

It is a privilege to wind up in the first debate on the Second Reading of a Bill that we have debated in the Parliament. We have heard a notable number of maiden speeches, and I congratulate the hon. Members for Tottenham (Mr. Grant), for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling), for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley), and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and the hon. Gentleman the retread for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), all of whom made distinguished speeches and all of whom paid tribute to their predecessors. As for the speech of the other retread, the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh), all that was notable about his speech was the fact that he was unable to bring himself to say a word about his predecessor. I relish the opportunity to make good that omission. Peter Fraser was a Member of the House who was regarded with a great deal of affection on both sides of the House. We miss him greatly.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The hon. Gentleman had his chance to say what he should have said and he conspicuously failed to use it at the appropriate time.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Member must not persist if the Minister is not giving way.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

Mr. Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. I would be happy to explain to the Minister why I did not do that. There is no personal animosity whatsoever, nor should there be. He will find in due course what the repercussions were from that election campaign—it was through the courts of law.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

It is a bit late now, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I turn to the maiden speeches of my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) made a distinguished maiden speech in which he drew on the experiences in his past which are relevant to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), in a mature, powerful speech, similarly drew on the knowledge which he has of those matters which are at the heart of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) tellingly drew on his experience in local government to give the House the benefit of the wisdom and knowledge that he brings to our deliberations on those matters.

This has been a debate which has told us a great deal about the attitudes of the two sides of the House to some very fundamental questions about the nature of local government. Not surprisingly, the debate has concentrated on parts I and II of the Bill. From this side of the House we have had a series of speeches supporting some very simple propositions. The first was that local government exists not to serve the interests of sectional trade unionists, but to serve the interests of the people for whom it provides services. The second was that these services, in common with other services in other areas of economic life, will be provided more efficiently if they are subjected to competition. The third was that the people who will benefit from the more efficient provision of those services are the very people whose interests local government exists to serve.

Those propositions should not be controversial. Indeed, I have deliberately, in setting out the first and most fundamental, used the identical language used by Councillor Margaret Hodge, the Leader of Islington borough council, as reported in the Local Government Chronicle of 3 July. She is reported as saying: A clear message has got to go out from us, which is—the reason we are there is not to service the interests of sectional trade unionists, but to serve the interests of the people for whom we provide services. It is a message that has yet to reach the Opposition Benches. Speaker after speaker from those benches has risen to defend sectional interests, vested interests. For all we heard of them from the Opposition Benches, the people for whom the services are provided might as well not exist.

It should come as no surprise that the words of councillor Hodge have not reached her colleagues on the Opposition Benches. She can hardly be said to practice what she preaches. Islington council's spending record is so appalling that its rate has had to be capped each year since the Rates Act 1984 came into force.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Since the Minister is talking about sectional interests, does he defend the interests of a number of Conservative Members in BET and the Hawley group, and the fact that those two groups, sectional interests if ever there were any, are to dominate the privatisation of cleaning and other services?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

Generalised slurs of that sort deserve to be treated with the utmost contempt. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make specific allegations against specific hon. Members, he should do that in the proper way and those specific Members will respond. To engage in that sort of blanket character assassination, although it is the sort of behaviour we have come to expect from the Opposition Members, deserves to be treated with the utmost contempt.

I want to return to the subject of the debate; the record of the councillors whose conduct will be controlled by the legislation currently before the House.

Islington, like so many Socialist-controlled councils, has used creative accounting devices to put off the evil day when its ratepayers have to bear the costs of its profligacy. Mrs. Hodge fully understood the risk that she was taking. She was reported last year as having written to her Labour colleagues This is a high risk strategy, because not only does it depend on a change of Government, but it also depends on a commitment by the Labour Front Bench to bail us out when they return to power". She now knows how high that risk was.

Her council had rent arrears of £6·2 million and rate arrears of £11·4 million. Both figures are well above the average for its class. In November last year it owned 227 vacant dwellings—5·8 per cent. of its total stock. In those circumstances it invested £250,000 from its employees' pension fund in the ill-fated News on Sunday. Once again, ratepayers will have to pick up the costs of that investment.

The council has also made sure that its building maintenance direct labour organisation is protected from fair competition. In 1984–85 it put all its housing maintenance work out to tender as a single contract with conditions which were so onerous that no private contractors bothered to tender. Since then it has introduced a ban on contracts with companies with South African links. Both those practices will be stopped by this Bill.

Councillor Hodge may have belatedly recognised in her words this weekend the truth about the essential purpose of local government. However, the actions of Islington council fall a very long way short of matching her words. However, it is precisely her message, that local authorities are there to serve the interests of the people for whom they provied services, that lies at the heart of the Bill. It is the people for whom the services are provided who will benefit if those services are provided efficiently and economically. It is the people for whom the services are provided who will lose and suffer if they are not.

We have had many examples during the course of the debate of savings which have been achieved from the competitive tendering process. In opening the debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to Wandsworth's savings now running at £6 million each year. There are many other examples. The London borough of Merton has reported annual savings approaching £2·5 million on the services that it has contracted out. Independent bodies are in no doubt of the savings available. The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the London Business School said in an article last year that where local authorities had exposed their refuse collection operations to competition, costs had been reduced by between 17 and 22 per cent. The authors said that applying this to those authorities which had not so far done this would mean savings of a further £80 million in England and Wales as a whole.

The Audit Commission in its recent paper on competitiveness and contracting out concluded that lack of sufficient effective competition was costing authorities some £510 million in forgone value improvements on just three services—house maintenance, refuse collection and vehicle maintenance. It even went so far as to say: On average DLOs are more expensive to ratepayers than private suppliers. That is, most DLOs are not cost-competitive. It is the people who gain from such savings. It is the people who are able to take advantage of the extra services that those savings can be used to provide or the lowering of rates to which such savings can lead.

In this debate my right hon. and hon. Friends have once again shown themselves to be the champions of the people; the Labour party has once again shown itself to be the champion of narrow, sectional interests.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

I cannot see how the Minister can possibly talk for the people of Scotland. At local government level, regional and district level and at national level the people of Scotland have clearly rejected the Minister and his Government. Therefore nothing in this Bill should have anything to do with Scotland because the Scottish people do not want it.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The people of Scotland will benefit from the provisions of this Bill in exactly the same way as the rest of the people of the United Kingdom. We shall not allow the actions of Opposition Members to prevent us from bringing the benefits of our policies to the people of Scotland in this legislation as in so many other respects.

I shall now deal with some points that were raised by right hon. and hon. Members during the course of the debate. The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) asked about the draft code of practice on publicity arrangements and asked what the Government's intentions were on the code of practice. There is nothing sinister about it. The period of consultation in relation to that code of practice expired on 3 July. We shall consider the responses to that code of practice. On the face of it we see no reason to change the draft simply because of its change of status as proposed in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman also asked, as did the hon. Member for Leicester, South who would be the judge of those provisions and how they will be enforced. They will be enforced in the way in which we believe all provisions of this nature should be enforced, through the courts. The judges will be the courts and the courts will determine what interpretation should be applied to those provisions.

I must deal with one particular matter which, although it was not mentioned by any of the Opposition, was mentioned by three of my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Foulkes) expressed her reservations about the abolition of the dog licence. She was joined in that by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). It is an important matter about which many people feel strongly and it is something with which I must deal.

I hope that I can at least go some way towards allaying the reservations of my hon. Friends. I assure them that the abolition of the licence will not, in any way, affect the legislation to control dogs. There are powers available to local authorities to deal with the problem of dog fouling, to ban dogs from certain beaches or parks or to require dogs to be kept on a lead. Local authorities are also able to employ dog wardens. The local authorities in Scotland and some in England and Wales have powers similar to those of the police to deal with strays.

My hon. Friend the Member for Drake, raised the particular problem of livestock worrying. That is of great concern to farmers and I assure my hon. Friend that the legislation to deal with that problem will remain. Powers to deal with dogs that are not under control or which attack people are also unchanged. I hope that those assurances will go some way to allay the concerns expressed by my hon. Friends.

We have heard a good deal during the debate about the relationship between central Government and local government. In his speech, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) went back to 1891, to put some thoughts to us. I should like to remind the House of some much more recent observations by the hon. Member himself. In one of the last debates on these matters in the previous Parliament—the debate on the Second Reading of the Bills's predecessor on 3 March — the hon. Gentleman, with his customary ingenuity, put forward a novel constitutional doctrine, the doctrine of the most recent mandate. He reminded the House that all the local councils in this country have a mandate that is far more recent than that of the Government. The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the accountability that was available through the ballot box, adding rather boldly: The Labour party is not afraid of that test, although the Government may be." —[Official Report, 3 March 1987; Vol. 111, c. 781.]

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

As a fellow countryman from Llanelli, may I ask the Minister to address himself to whether, in view of the election result, the Government have a mandate to impose policies on the nations of Scotland and Wales?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The Government have a mandate for their policies for the United Kingdom as a whole. We shall carry out that mandate with relish because we know of the benefits that it will bring to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.

I return to the constitutional doctrines of the hon. Member for Blackburn. It is characteristic of his ingenuity that no sooner does he invent those novel doctrines than he abandons them. We have not heard anything this evening from the hon. Gentleman about the doctrine of the most recent mandate. I wonder why.

It is a fact that the passages in the Bill that have been the subject of the most vociferous attack from the Opposition were spelled out clearly in our manifesto for the general election. They were placed fairly and squarely before the people, and we shall do what we told the people we would do.

I must admit that I came to the House today with a certain amount of anticipation. Over the weekend the world was led to believe by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), with whom I had so many enjoyable tussles during the Committee stage of the Financial Services Bill, that the Labour party was to be dragged kicking and screaming into the first half of the 20th century. In future, he said, the Labour party would make the popular appeal of policy a prime consideration, not an afterthought. Indeed, we understand that the Leader of the Opposition himself has been giving vent to similar thoughts today. I had expected to see signs of that during today's debate. After all, if the Labour party was minded to take the hon. Gentleman's advice, what better occasion could there be than the Bill?

We know about the popularity of the policies enshrined in the Bill not only from the result of the general election but from a more precisely targeted source, some opinion poll research carried out by the National and Local Government Officers Association. To the great discomfort of NALGO, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the debate on the Address last Wednesday, its research showed that: Researchers find such strong feelings that privatisation is an extremely good idea that they advised that, though it is an issue of great importance to NALGO, it should probably be avoided in the campaign to defend public services." —[Official Report, 1 July 1987; Vol. 118, c. 539.] Sadly, the advice of the hon. Member for Dagenham has fallen on stony ground. His party has learnt nothing from its defeat. The debate has shown that it is the same old Labour party with the same old shibboleths and the same old Socialism. I warn Opposition Members that the way they are going, at the next election it will be the same old result.

It is perfectly clear that Labour will continue to oppose the popular policies that the Government will bring forward. It will continue to defend sectional vested interests while we promote the interests of the people. The Bill does nothing for the sectional interests to whom councillor Margaret Hodge referred in her weekend statement. It does much for the people whom local authorities exist to serve. It is in that spirit that I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time—

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 212.

Division No. 7][12.20 am
AYES
Adley, RobertField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Aitken, JonathanForman, Nigel
Alexander, RichardForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelGale, Roger
Allason, RupertGarel-Jones, Tristan
Amess, DavidGorman, Mrs Teresa
Amos, AlanGorst, John
Arbuthnot, JamesGow, Ian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Gower, Sir Raymond
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Ashby, DavidGreenway, John (Rydale)
Atkins, RobertGriffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Atkinson, DavidGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Grist, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Ground, Patrick
Baldry, TonyGrylls, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bellingham, HenryHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bendall, VivianHampson, Dr Keith
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Hanley, Jeremy
Benyon, W.Hannam, John
Bevan, David GilroyHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnHarris, David
Blackburn, Dr John G.Haselhurst, Alan
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterHayes, Jerry
Body, Sir RichardHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHayward, Robert
Boscawen, Hon RobertHeathcoat-Amory, David
Boswell, TimHeddle, John
Bottomley, PeterHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hill, James
Bowis, JohnHind, Kenneth
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHolt, Richard
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHordern, Sir Peter
Brazier, JulianHoward, Michael
Bright, GrahamHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Brooke, Hon PeterHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Browne, John (Winchester)Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Buck, Sir AntonyHunter, Andrew
Burns, SimonHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Burt, AlistairIrvine, Michael
Butcher, JohnIrving, Charles
Butler, ChrisJack, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Janman, Timothy
Carrington, MatthewJessel, Toby
Carttiss, MichaelJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cash, WilliamJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Chope, ChristopherJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Conway, DerekKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Key, Robert
Day, StephenKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Devlin, TimKirkhope, Timothy
Dorrell, StephenKnapman, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Durant, TonyKnowles, Michael
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Knox, David
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanRost, Peter
Lang, IanRowe, Andrew
Latham, MichaelSackville, Hon Tom
Lawrence, IvanSainsbury, Hon Tim
Lee, John (Pendle)Sayeed, Jonathan
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Scott, Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShaw, David (Dover)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lilley, PeterShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lord, MichaelShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Luce, Rt Hon RichardShersby, Michael
Lyell, Sir NicholasSims, Roger
McCrindle, RobertSkeet, Sir Trevor
Macfarlane, NeilSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maclean, DavidSoames, Hon Nicholas
McLoughlin, PatrickSpeed, Keith
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Madel, DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Major, Rt Hon JohnSquire, Robin
Malins, HumfreyStanbrook, Ivor
Mans, KeithSteen, Anthony
Maples, JohnStern, Michael
Marland, PaulStevens, Lewis
Marlow, TonyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Mates, MichaelStradling Thomas, Sir John
Maude, Hon FrancisSumberg, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSummerson, Hugo
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickTapsell, Sir Peter
Mellor, DavidTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Meyer, Sir AnthonyTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Miller, HalTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Miscampbell, NormanTemple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moate, RogerThorne, Neil
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Thornton, Malcolm
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Thurnham, Peter
Morrison, Hon P (Chester)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moss, MalcolmTracey, Richard
Moynihan, Hon C.Tredinnick, David
Mudd, DavidTrippier, David
Neale, GerrardTrotter, Neville
Needham, RichardTwinn, Dr Ian
Nelson, AnthonyVaughan, Sir Gerard
Neubert, MichaelWaddington, Rt Hon David
Newton, TonyWakeham, Rt Hon John
Nicholls, PatrickWaldegrave, Hon William
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Walden, George
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Onslow, CranleyWaller, Gary
Oppenheim, PhillipWard, John
Page, RichardWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Paice, JamesWarren, Kenneth
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWatts, John
Patten, Chris (Bath)Wells, Bowen
Patten, John (Oxford W)Wheeler, John
Pawsey, JamesWhitney, Ray
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWiddecombe, Miss Ann
Porter, David (Waveney)Wiggin, Jerry
Portillo, MichaelWilkinson, John
Powell, William (Corby)Wilshire, David
Price, Sir DavidWinterton, Mrs Ann
Raffan, KeithWinterton, Nicholas
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWolfson, Mark
Rathbone, TimWood, Timothy
Redwood, JohnWoodcock, Mike
Renton, TimYeo, Tim
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Riddick, GrahamYounger, Rt Hon George
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Ridsdale, Sir JulianTellers for the Ayes:
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Richard Ryder.
Roe, Mrs Marion
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeGodman, Dr Norman A.
Allen, GrahamGolding, Mrs Llin
Anderson, DonaldGordon, Ms Mildred
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGould, Bryan
Armstrong, Ms HilaryGraham, Thomas
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Ashton, JoeGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Grocott, Bruce
Barron, KevinHarman, Ms Harriet
Battle, JohnHealey, Rt Hon Denis
Beckett, MargaretHeffer, Eric S.
Beith, A. J.Henderson, Douglas
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Holland, Stuart
Bermingham, GeraldHome Robertson, John
Bidwell, SydneyHood, James
Blair, TonyHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Boateng, PaulHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHowells, Geraint
Boyes, RolandHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bradley, KeithHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bray, Dr JeremyHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Ingram, Adam
Buchan, NormanJanner, Greville
Buckley, GeorgeJohn, Brynmor
Caborn, RichardJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Callaghan, JimJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Canavan, DennisKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Lambie, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lamond, James
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Leadbitter, Ted
Clay, BobLeighton, Ron
Clelland, DavidLestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLewis, Terry
Cohen, HarryLitherland, Robert
Coleman, DonaldLivingstone, Ken
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Livsey, Richard
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Corbett, RobinLofthouse, Geoffrey
Corbyn, JeremyLoyden, Eddie
Cousins, JimMcAllion, John
Cox, TomMcAvoy, Tom
Crowther, StanMcCartney, Ian
Cryer, BobMacdonald, Calum
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcFall, John
Dalyell, TamMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Darling, AlastairMcLeish, Henry
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McTaggart, Bob
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McWilliam, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Madden, Max
Dewar, DonaldMahon, Mrs Alice
Dixon, DonMarek, Dr John
Dobson, FrankMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dunnachie, JamesMartin, Michael (Springburn)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMartlew, Eric
Eastham, KenMaxton, John
Evans, John (St Helens N)Meacher, Michael
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Meale, Alan
Fatchett, DerekMichael, Alun
Fearn, RonaldMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fisher, MarkMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Flannery, MartinMoonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, PaulMorgan, Rhodri
Fookes, Miss JanetMorley, Elliott
Foster, DerekMorris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe)
Fraser, JohnMorris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)
Fyfe, Mrs MariaMowlam, Mrs Marjorie
Galbraith, SamuelMullin, Chris
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Murphy, Paul
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Nellist, Dave
George, BruceOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnO'Brien, William
O'Neill, MartinSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Parry, RobertSnape, Peter
Pendry, TomSoley, Clive
Pike, PeterSpearing, Nigel
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Steinberg, Gerald
Prescott, JohnStott, Roger
Primarolo, Ms DawnStraw, Jack
Quin, Ms JoyceTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Radice, GilesTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Randall, StuartThomas, Dafydd Elis
Redmond, MartinTurner, Dennis
Rees, Rt Hon MerlynWall, Pat
Reid, JohnWallace, James
Richardson, Ms JoWalley, Ms Joan
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Robertson, GeorgeWareing, Robert N.
Robinson, GeoffreyWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Rogers, AllanWigley, Dafydd
Rooker, JeffWilliams, Rt Hon A. J.
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rowlands, TedWilson, Brian
Ruddock, Ms JoanWinnick, David
Sedgemore, BrianWise, Mrs Audrey
Sheerman, BarryWorthington, Anthony
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWray, James
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Short, ClareTellers for the Noes:
Skinner, DennisMr. Chris Smith and Mr. Frank Haynes.
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Dewar.]

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 243.

Division No. 8][12.30 am
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeColeman, Donald
Allen, GrahamCook, Frank (Stockton N)
Anderson, DonaldCook, Robin (Livingston)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCorbett, Robin
Armstrong, Ms HilaryCorbyn, Jeremy
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCousins, Jim
Ashton, JoeCox, Tom
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Crowther, Stan
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Cryer, Bob
Barron, KevinCunliffe, Lawrence
Battle, JohnDalyell, Tam
Beckett, MargaretDarling, Alastair
Beith, A. J.Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Bermingham, GeraldDewar, Donald
Bidwell, SydneyDixon, Don
Blair, TonyDobson, Frank
Boateng, PaulDunnachie, James
Boyes, RolandDunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Bradley, KeithEastham, Ken
Bray, Dr JeremyEvans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Fatchett, Derek
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Fearn, Ronald
Buchan, NormanField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Buckley, GeorgeFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Caborn, RichardFisher, Mark
Callaghan, JimFlannery, Martin
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Flynn, Paul
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Foster, Derek
Canavan, DennisFraser, John
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Galbraith, Samuel
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Clay, BobGeorge, Bruce
Clelland, DavidGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGodman, Dr Norman A.
Cohen, HarryGolding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Ms MildredMorley, Elliott
Gould, BryanMorris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe)
Graham, ThomasMorris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Mullin, Chris
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Murphy, Paul
Grocott, BruceNellist, Dave
Harman, Ms HarrietOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Healey, Rt Hon DenisO'Brien, William
Heffer, Eric S.O'Neill, Martin
Henderson, DouglasParry, Robert
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Pendry, Tom
Holland, StuartPike, Peter
Home Robertson, JohnPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hood, JamesPrescott, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Quin, Ms Joyce
Howells, GeraintRadice, Giles
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Reid, John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Richardson, Ms Jo
Ingram, AdamRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Janner, GrevilleRobertson, George
John, BrynmorRobinson, Geoffrey
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Rogers, Allan
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRowlands, Ted
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilRuddock, Ms Joan
Lambie, DavidSedgemore, Brian
Lamond, JamesSheerman, Barry
Leadbitter, TedSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Leighton, RonShore, Rt Hon Peter
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)Short, Clare
Lewis, TerrySkinner, Dennis
Litherland, RobertSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Livingstone, KenSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Livsey, RichardSnape, Peter
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Soley, Clive
Lofthouse, GeoffreySpearing, Nigel
Loyden, EddieSteinberg, Gerald
McAllion, JohnStott, Roger
McAvoy, TomStraw, Jack
McCartney, IanTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Macdonald, CalumTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
McFall, JohnThomas, Dafydd Elis
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Turner, Dennis
McLeish, HenryWall, Pat
McTaggart, BobWallace, James
McWilliam, JohnWalley, Ms Joan
Madden, MaxWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mahon, Mrs AliceWareing, Robert N.
Marek, Dr JohnWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Wigley, Dafydd
Martin, Michael (Springburn)Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Martlew, EricWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Maxton, JohnWilson, Brian
Meacher, MichaelWinnick, David
Meale, AlanWise, Mrs Audrey
Michael, AlunWorthington, Anthony
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Wray, James
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Millan, Rt Hon BruceTellers for the Ayes:
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Mr. Chris Smith and Mr. Frank Haynes.
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Rhodri
NOES
Aitken, JonathanAtkinson, David
Alexander, RichardBaker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBaker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Allason, RupertBaldry, Tony
Amess, DavidBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Amos, AlanBellingham, Henry
Arbuthnot, JamesBendall, Vivian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Benyon, W.
Ashby, DavidBiffen, Rt Hon John
Blackburn, Dr John G.Jack, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterJanman, Timothy
Body, Sir RichardJessel, Toby
Bonsor, Sir NicholasJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Boscawen, Hon RobertJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Boswell, TimJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Bottomley, PeterJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Kirkhope, Timothy
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Knapman, Roger
Bowis, JohnKnowles, Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesKnox, David
Brandon-Bravo, MartinLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Brazier, JulianLang, Ian
Bright, GrahamLatham, Michael
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonLawrence, Ivan
Brooke, Hon PeterLee, John (Pendle)
Browne, John (Winchester)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickLilley, Peter
Buck, Sir AntonyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Burns, SimonLord, Michael
Burt, AlistairLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Butcher, JohnLyell, Sir Nicholas
Butler, ChrisMcCrindle, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Carrington, MatthewMaclean, David
Cash, WilliamMcLoughlin, Patrick
Chope, ChristopherMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Madel, David
Conway, DerekMajor, Rt Hon John
Day, StephenMalins, Humfrey
Devlin, TimMans, Keith
Dorrell, StephenMaples, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMarland, Paul
Durant, TonyMarlow, Tony
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Forman, NigelMates, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Maude, Hon Francis
Gale, RogerMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, TristanMellor, David
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMeyer, Sir Anthony
Gorst, JohnMiller, Hal
Gow, IanMiscampbell, Norman
Gower, Sir RaymondMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Greenway, John (Rydale)Moate, Roger
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Grist, IanMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Ground, PatrickMorrison, Hon P (Chester)
Grylls, MichaelMoss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Moynihan, Hon C.
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Mudd, David
Hampson, Dr KeithNeale, Gerrard
Hanley, JeremyNeedham, Richard
Hannam, JohnNelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Neubert, Michael
Harris, DavidNewton, Tony
Haselhurst, AlanNicholls, Patrick
Hayes, JerryNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hayward, RobertNicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidOnslow, Cranley
Heddle, JohnOppenheim, Phillip
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Page, Richard
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Paice, James
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hill, JamesPatten, Chris (Bath)
Hind, KennethPatten, John (Oxford W)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Pawsey, James
Holt, RichardPorter, David (Waveney)
Howard, MichaelPortillo, Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Raffan, Keith
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Rathbone, Tim
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Redwood, John
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Renton, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Riddick, Graham
Hunter, AndrewRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRidsdale, Sir Julian
Irvine, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Roe, Mrs MarionThornton, Malcolm
Rost, PeterThurnham, Peter
Rowe, AndrewTownend, John (Bridlington)
Sainsbury, Hon TimTracey, Richard
Sayeed, JonathanTredinnick, David
Scott, NicholasTrippier, David
Shaw, David (Dover)Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarf)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shelton, William (Streatham)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Waldegrave, Hon William
Shersby, MichaelWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Sims, RogerWaller, Gary
Skeet, Sir TrevorWard, John
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Watts, John
Speller, TonyWells, Bowen
Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)Wheeler, John
Squire, RobinWhitney, Ray
Stanbrook, IvorWiddecombe, Miss Ann
Steen, AnthonyWiggin, Jerry
Stern, MichaelWilkinson, John
Stevens, LewisWilshire, David
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)Wolfson, Mark
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, DavidYeo, Tim
Summerson, HugoYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Tapsell, Sir PeterYounger, Rt Hon George
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Tellers for the Noes:
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Richard Ryder.
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thome, Neil

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills)