Housing and Local Government (Scotland)

– in the House of Commons at 4:25 pm on 25th January 1990.

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Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office 4:25 pm, 25th January 1990

I beg to move, That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 12th December, be approved.

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

I suggest that it will be convenient to debate at the same time the following four motions: That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Variation Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 12th December, be approved.That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Revenue Account General Fund Contribution Limits (Scotland) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 2310), dated 7th December 1989, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th December, be annulled.That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1989, a copy of which was laid before this House on 21st December, be approved.That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990. dated 8th January 1990, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th January, be approved.

The debate, as the House knows, must conclude at 7 o'clock. I therefore appeal to hon. Members who are seeking to be called in the debate to speak briefly. Then, with any luck, it may be possible to call all of them.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

This is the annual opportunity for the House to debate the revenue support grant and housing support grant orders affecting Scottish local authorities. It is our tradition not only to deal with the details of the orders but to use this as an opportunity to comment on some of the wider matters that arise out of the provision made by the orders.

Because of the time available, I shall speak briefly to the orders and then make some wider comments on matters relevant to them. I hope that that will enable the debate to move forward.

I start with the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Variation Order 1990, about which I need say little. It deals with the interest rate assumptions for local authority borrowing. In the original order, there had been an assumption of a 10·2 per cent. interest rate. As it turned out, the average interest rate for local authorities has been 10·5 pr cent. The consequence of that has been an increase of grant payable to local authorities, which will now be £65·3 million instead of £60·4 million.

The main instrument, the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990, sets out the amounts of housing support grant to Scottish local authorities for 1990–91. It. provides for a total of £59·6 million to be given to 21 local authorities.

In determining the level of housing support grant, I am required to reach a view as to the difference between the estimate of relevant expenditure and the estimate of relevant income for local authorities' housing accounts. There are essentially two components to expenditure—the loan charges that local authorities are likely to incur and the management and maintenance expenditure in which they will wish to involve themselves.

At present, we estimate that loan charges will be 10·2 per cent.—the average rate of interest—but if that turns out to be inaccurate, then, in the same way as this year, there will be a variation order, which is the normal practice.

For management and maintenance, which is an important aspect, for 1990–91 there is a per house allowance of £407, an increase of 12·5 per cent. in the assumption that we are making of the resources that local authorities will wish to provide for the management and maintenance of their housing stock. I am pleased to say that this is the fourth year in succession that we have been able to put forward a figure well in excess of inflation, recognising the desirability of local authorities improving the management and maintenance of their housing stock, in the interests of their tenants and of housing as a whole.

On the income side, we are assuming, for purposes of housing support grant, a relevant income that is based on rents increasing by £2·37 per house per week. That is an increase of 12·5 per cent., exactly the same as the assumption for management and maintenance.

I should emphasise that that is simply an assumption that the Government make to ensure equity in the distribution of housing support grant. It is a matter entirely for the discretion of local authorities whether they wish to work on the basis of the assumptions that the Government have made or whether, in respect of rents or management and maintenance expenditure, they wish to provide for a higher or lower figure. Local authorities have total discretion in the matter, without any penalty from central Government as a result of whatever decision they choose to take. Because, for most authorities, loan charges are not expected to rise significantly above 1989–90 levels, most local authorities can increase their management and maintenance expenditure by significantly more than they increase their rents. That will be true even of those authorities that receive housing support grant. I therefore would not expect average rents to increase by anything like 12·5 per cent.

I should also mention that our proposals for limiting general fund contributions in 1990–91 are based on a proposition that they should be limited to £2·8 million. It is our view that the extent to which the community charge payer should be expected to subsidise council house rents should be at the lowest practicable level. The House will be aware that the sums available have been steadily reduced over the past few years.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram , East Kilbride

On the general fund contribution, I draw the Secretary of State's attention to a matter of concern in my constituency and a problem facing East Kilbride district council. Representations have been made to the Secretary of State and to the Scottish Office about the 58-bed single persons' unit at Lindsay house in East Kilbride. That hostel runs at a deficit of £60,000, which must be borne by 1,138 council house tenants in East Kilbride. That works out at £1·01 per week for each council house tenant.

The district council does not receive any entitlement to transfer from the general fund to meet that deficit. Will the Secretary of State give further consideration to the representations made by the district councils and allow all poll tax payers in the district to meet the deficit that has been run up on that unit?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I am certainly willing to give consideration to the hon. Gentleman's point. However, as he knows, it is a basic principle that there should be a proper balance on the housing account. All local authorities, not just East Kilbride, are expected to balance from their income the expenditure that they incur. Only if there was a good reason why East Kilbride should be exempted from that proposition would it be appropriate to apply different rules from those that are traditionally applied to other local authorities.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram , East Kilbride

A special set of circumstances is applicable to East Kilbride. The bulk of public sector housing is run and operated by the development corporation. I repeat that there are only 1,138 district council tenants within the conurbation of East Kilbride. Those circumstances warrant proper examination.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, and obviously we shall have an opportunity to study his remarks in due course.

On the basis of forecast loan charges, and assuming that each authority increases its management and maintenance spending by 12·5 per cent. per house above last year's levels, our calculation is that local authority rents would need to be increased from their present average level of £18·80 per house by about £1·38. That would represent an increase of 7·3 per cent. That is what local authorities would need to do; whether they choose to do that or to opt for a much higher figure is a matter entirely for them.

Where authorities have opted for a much higher level, it is almost invariably because of the covenant arrangements that some local authorites have established. I understand that Edinburgh district council is proposing a rent increase of £3·50. It should be clearly understood in Edinburgh, as well as in the House, that that is a consequence not of the level of Government support, but of the covenant arrangements that that local authority, along with others such as Glasgow and Dundee, chose to enter into, to finance capital investment above and beyond the levels of capital allocations. As a consequence of that, such authorities may have to contemplate higher rent increases.

The Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1989 deals with the errors that were made by Strathclyde regional council in the figures that it submitted to the Scottish Office in respect of two authorities—Strathkelvin and Argyll and Bute. The effect of the error was to reduce Strathkelvin's grant entitlement in the current year by £323,000. The error did not affect Argyll and Bute's overall grant position in 1989–90, but it did affect the proportion of grant that the authority received from the safety net for that year. If a correction had not been made, that would have reduced the amount of safety netting that Argyll and Bute would receive in 1990–91 by almost £320,000. The order will restore to Strathkelvin the under-allocation of £323,000. That will be achieved by marginal reductions in grant for most other local authorities.

The purpose of the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990 is to implement the distribution of the sum of £2,479·3 million, which was the figure announced by me in the House on 26 July last. I remind the House that at an earlier stage of our deliberations the Convention of Scottish Local AuthoritiesCOSLA—said that it hoped that the Scottish Office would provide for a 7 per cent. increase in grant. COSLA considered that that would be acceptable as it would meet the requirements of local authorities. The figures that I announced in July met that requirement to the letter. They provided for a 7 per cent. increase, and, of course, there has since been a further increase because of the £30 million safety net fund that the Treasury is providing through the Scottish Office, to those local authorities. Together with specific grants, that means an overall increase of 8·2 per cent. There are two stages in the process of the distribution of these resources. First, an amount is distributed among authorities to equalise differences in their grant-aided expenditure, which is determined by the client group assessment approach. The rest of the grant is distributed on a per capita basis.

I should like to deal briefly with the safety netting principle. I remind the House that COSLA said that there should be no safety net at all, either last year or thereafter. Hon. Members from Glasgow and Strathclyde constituencies, who occasionally deem fit to criticise the effect on their local authorities of the running down of the safety net, might like to reflect on the fact that if we had accepted the advice of COSLA, which they normally like to support, there would have been no safety net at all right from the very beginning. So, if criticism is to be the order of the day, I trust that it will be directed towards the right quarter.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

The hon. Gentleman says, "Not at all." That does not reflect his customary sense of fairness, but perhaps it reflects his realisation of where the strength of the argument lies.

In this, its second year, the safety net will add up to £30 million. The main beneficiaries will be Strathclyde region and Glasgow district, which will receive extra grant totalling £17·1 million and £10·4 million respectively. However, I emphasise that this year those grants will not be at the expense of local authorities in other parts of Scotland, many of which have benefited significantly from the fact that there is no longer a requirement to fund the safety net of Strathclyde and Glasgow and one or two other authorities.

In July I said that, in the light of this generous settlement, there should be no need for many authorities—indeed, most authorities—to consider an increase in the community charge above the rate of inflation. I stated that, in respect of a number of authorities, there would be a powerful case for reducing the community charge when they came to settle the proposals for the forthcoming year. That process has not yet been concluded, but it is interesting to see that, already, a significant number of authorities appear to have reached a similar conclusion. On the basis of the figures that we have currently, it is clear that in the case of quite a number of local authorities, the community charge will be reduced—not just not increased, but actually reduced.

I think, for example, of Ettrick and Lauderdale district council, where there will be a reduction of 4·76 per cent.; Falkirk district council, a zero increase; Grampian regional council, minus 5·29 per cent.; Gordon district council, minus 2·27 per cent.; Badenoch and Strathspey district council, minus 34·29 per cent.; and Eastwood district council, minus 30·16 per cent. In many of those cases, of course, there could have been even greater reductions without any effect on services. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that important progress has been made on that front.

Inevitably, there are one or two other local authorities that choose to spoil the general picture. The House will not be surprised if I make reference to them. I shall not dwell for long on what might, at first glance, appear to be the greatest sinner of them all. I notice from the list that I have—at present it is a proposal—that in the case of one local authority, at district council level there is a proposal to increase the community charge by no less than 116 per cent. That might imply a wicked imposition on the local electorate, but when I look further I find that it is Sutherland district council, whose community charge in the current year was the princely sum of £6 per head, which it is proposing to increase to £13 per head. I do not want to give the impression that even an increase of £7 is acceptable or can be defended, but I acknowledge that that authority is not entirely comparable with others.

However, the same cannot be said for some other authorities, such as Stirling district council and Edinburgh district council.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

In order to put the figures that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is about to give us in context, along with the political comments that he will no doubt make, will he tell us who controls Sutherland district council? Is it the Labour party or the aptly named independents, who everybody knows are the Scottish equivalent of the Conservative party?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I would like to believe that it was the Scottish equivalent of the Conservative party, but I am not sure that Councillor Jamieson, the vice-president of COSLA, who sits as an independent, would agree with that description.

Sutherland is not a Conservative-controlled authority because, if it were, it would not be contemplating a 100 per cent. increase in the community charge. That seems to be a fairly conclusive argument.

I was about to refer to authorities that are going for substantial increases, for which they will have to account to their local electorate. Stirling district council, an authority that had an increase in grant and non-domestic rate income for the year that is about to begin of no less than 20 per cent., instead of reducing its community charge, or even maintaining it, starts off with the second highest community charge in Scotland at district council level and is proposing an increase of some 18 per cent. in order to fund new expenditure.

Edinburgh district council, my local authority, has approved an increase of some 24 per cent. I see that no Edinburgh Labour Members are in the Chamber today, and I am not surprised because they will not be anxious to defend that decision—

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

I am anxious that fairness should be done. Is it not the case that my hon. Friends from Edinburgh are occupied with the important issue of Ferranti, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks might just be the cheapest of shots?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

That might be convincing if the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) had not just walked into the Chamber.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but he might like to wait until he has heard what I am about to say about his fraternal colleagues, when I am sure that he will wish to intervene in order to make his views known.

Before there is any suggestion that Edinburgh's Labour-controlled district council's 24 per cent. increase in the community charge—which enables it to retain the unenviable position of having the highest community charge in Scotland, combined with the Labour-controlled regional council—was due to the level of Government grant, the hon. Gentleman might like to be aware of the explanation given by his colleague, Councillor Mark Lazarowicz, who explained that extraordinary increase by saying that it was regrettable but that the council had a commitment to provide good service and that it proposed to increase expenditure on the staffing of new sports centres and libraries, and on grants to various other organisations.

Councillor Vestri of Edinburgh district council, talking of the rent increase of £3·50, said: No one wants to increase rents but we have no alternative. The rise will include an increase in spending on repairs and maintenance". He went on to say: The problem, of course, was that the amount to which the council could subsidise the rents had been reduced by the Government. Councillor Lazarowicz said that as well. If it had not been reduced by the Government, the community charge increase would have been not 24 per cent. but 34 per cent., as a consequence of the authority's profligacy.

Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths , Edinburgh South

I wanted to take this opportunity Madam Deputy Speaker, to apologise to you and to Mr. Speaker for coming late to the debate, when I had said that I hoped to catch your eye. The reason for my lateness is that the figures that I intend to use to rebut some of the Secretary of State's arguments were in my room, which was locked because of the masonry falling off the roof of the building. It has taken me half an hour to persuade the Serjeant at Arms' office, which is hard pressed, to unlock that door.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) is a member of the Committee presently considering the Broadcasting Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) is dealing with the Ferranti matter, which is of pressing importance, not just to him but, I am sure, to the Secretary of State and his colleagues.

I shall come to a defence of Edinburgh, and a stout defence at that, and will refer to the Secretary of State's figures and his appalling meanness towards his city if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

Methinks the hon. Gentleman doth protest too much. The House is fascinated to know where some of his hon. Friends are, but we were waiting in eager anticipation to know where the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) was; clearly the hon. Gentleman has not been given such information, for reasons on which we can speculate.

We shall all be interested to know whether Edinburgh district council and Stirling district council, in proposing such massive increases, appear to be following the advice of one Labour local authority in the south of the United Kingdom, which encouraged Labour local authorities to set their charges at the highest you can get away with. That is clearly the aspiration of Labour local authorities.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

The Secretary of State obviously has a clear idea of Edinburgh district council's requirements. Therefore, will he tell us which of the budgets that were debated at the meeting of the Tory group on Edinburgh district council yesterday he supports? Does he support the views of the leader of the Tory group, who is somewhat fancifully represented in The Scotsman today as the leader of the Left faction, or does he support Mr. Paul Martin, who triumphed over the leader and put forward a budget that contains even more cuts in services?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

The proposals before the group involved a substantial reduction in the community charge compared with the Labour party's proposal. I should have been content if either had been adopted by the district council, as would the community charge payers in Edinburgh.

I am conscious of the fact that Her Majesty's Opposition are in the process yet again of trying to find an alternative to the community charge and to the domestic rates that it replaced. We have had a pretty miserable saga over the past couple of years, as the Labour party has twisted and turned from one option to another before abandoning each and desperately looking for a new solution. We started off with a Labour party committed to the retention of the rating system, believing that somehow it was preferable to the alternative. Then it came up with the rather extraordinary idea that one unpopular tax should be replaced by two unpopular taxes and we had the proposition that there should be a property tax and a local income tax as an alternative to the community charge.

The Leader of the Opposition made a most delightful comment on the proposition of two taxes to replace one, when in The Guardian on 21 September last year, he said: What we are contemplating may involve a tax based on the value of property supplemented by a small, a very small, local income tax". That is rather like the housemaid's baby. As long as it is very small, it is somehow considered acceptable. But clearly that view has since been repudiated by the Labour party, because it is now telling us that that has been abandoned. Earlier this week we heard that the Labour party is to come forward with a proposal for a property tax based on the capital value of property as opposed to the rateable value, which would be supplemented in some form or fashion by reference to income.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I shall give way in a moment.

We shall all be intrigued to know whether there is any truth in the report in The Scotsman, which said: Labour is to adopt a different poll tax alternative in Scotland than in the rest of Britain. If I were a more suspicious and uncomplimentary sort of fellow, I might have accused the Labour party of wishing to treat Scotland as some sort of guinea pig, some sort of experiment, with Scotland being treated differently from elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That is a most extraordinary proposition and I find it difficult to believe that it can seriously represent the views of Opposition Members. However, that is what it says in The Scotsman and Mr. McLoughlin is a well-recognised and respectable correspondent, and if he says that Labour intends to adopt a different alternative in Scotland from that in the rest of Britain, presumably he has been in receipt of some information from the Labour party. Perhaps the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) will tell us whether Mr. McLoughlin is correct.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has already entered his statutory attack on the Labour party, I assume that he has finished saying anything of substance about his Government's policies. I apologise, however, as I want to drag him back to those policies. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is so keen on having uniformity of taxation throughout the United Kingdom, why has he not mentioned poll tax capping in his speech—I may have missed his reference to it—as such capping will certainly be employed in England and Wales? The raison d'etre of the poll tax was to make councillors accountable to the electorate, so that if those councillors increased the poll tax, they would be held accountable. Why does the operation of such a tax apparently now merit interference from the Government? Such interference will remove accountability, as the local electorate will be told that their duly elected councillors will be unable to raise the poll tax to the required or suitable level because the Government will then cap that authority. Will such capping operate in Scotland?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I note that the hon. Gentleman is reluctant to comment on the Labour party's policy, but I have every intention of pursuing that matter. However, the hon. Gentleman—will be aware that the statutory basis for intervention in Scotland is different from that south of the border. In Scotland, the Secretary of State can intervene only if he is satisfied that the proposed expenditure of a local authority is excessive and unreasonable. If the believes that that is so, he tables an order before the House. That has happened in previous years, but it did not happen in the current years under the new system. It is for the House to consider whether such an order is appropriate, but such action can be considered only when the budgets of the local authorities have been duly analysed.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

Will there be capping?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I cannot comment now on whether there will or will not be any capping. In the past, I have said that I should be extremely reluctant to take action against local authorities, as I believe that, under the arrangements for much greater accountability, it is primarily for the electorate to pass their verdict on a local authority.

Parliament still provides for action to be taken, if the House so approves, but I cannot contemplate whether such action would be appropriate until the local authority budgets have been considered.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

It is important to clarify this issue. Was the right hon. and learned Gentleman searching for the word "yes"? Will poll tax capping be used in Scotland? Under the different circumstances that prevail in Scotland, will circumstances arise under which he will take a course of action entirely opposite to the essence of the poll tax, which he introduced in the first place?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

The hon. Gentleman knows that that power remains on the statute book. I did not deem it appropriate to use it in the current year and I have already said that I should be reluctant to use it in the future, for the reasons given. Any final decision cannot be taken now, at the end of the previous financial year and the hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well.

Let us return, as promised, to the alternatives to the community charge. We are told that it would be a property tax based on the capital values of properties in Scotland. If the Labour party were to continue with such a proposition, it would make the controversy over the community charge look like a General Assembly garden party in comparison.

Such a tax would be a most appalling innovation in several respects. First, it would be a recipe for an explosion in local tax payments. As we know, property values have soared over the years, and under a system where one's liabilities were based on the value of one's house, one's local tax obligations would also soar. Secondly, such a tax would be a tax on home improvements. People seeking to improve their homes, especially the 170,000 council tenants who, having bought their homes from their local authorities have, in many cases, initiated substantial improvements to them, would find that they were faced with a massive increase in their tax obligations to their local authorities.

To seek to discourage young married couples from improving their lot and that of their families is an extraordinary proposition. If they should build an extra room for their growing families, erect a garage or install central heating to keep the family warm in winter, it will not only cost them in terms of providing such facilities, but the Labour party will tax them more heavily as a consequence.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I give way to the hon. Gentleman, as I cannot believe that he would want to support such an inequitable proposition.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned young couples' ability to get homes. In the high-demand areas of my community, local authority houses are now changing hands at £30,000 a time, but he will know that those houses were acquired by the sitting tenants for £7,000. Young couples who are on the dole cannot obtain a local authority home in the area in which they were brought up, because they cannot afford such prices. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should study the problem to see whether he can find any answers.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I shall be happy to look at that problem if the hon. Gentleman will inform his constituents that, under his party's proposal, the tax that they would pay to their local authority would be based not on the £7,000 that they paid for their council houses, but on the £30,000 which the hon. Gentleman says such houses are now deemed to be worth. I am sure that his constituents will not thank him for advocating a proposition that would result in an explosion in the amount of tax that they would pay to their local authorities. Such tax increases would also be faced elsewhere in Scotland.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Perth and Kinross

If that proposal was put forward, there would be another triumph for the Labour party, particularly the Scottish Labour party—that since property prices in Scotland are so much lower than they are in the south-east of England, that region would be taxed at a much lower rate.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

My hon. and learned Friend is right.

Several factors are associated with the Labour party's proposal and, so far, I have mentioned two. The third is the hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland who did not pay rates because they were not owner-occupiers or tenants, but who are now contributing to the community charge. Under the Labour party's proposal, they would once again, be exempt from any direct contribution to the cost of local government. The sums that such people currently pay under the community charge would have to be borne again, as they were under the rating system, by the minority—

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

The poor would be exempt.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

No, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Those exempted would include many young adult sons and daughters who would be in receipt of a much greater income than their elderly next-door neighbours. Under the Labour party's proposal, those young people would not make a penny contribution to the revenues raised by local authorities.

It appears that the Labour party wants us to return to the time when hundreds and thousands of young adults, on good incomes and in employment, were exempt from making a contribution simply because they were living with their parents or in someone else's house. Such an attitude is fundamentally unfair.

Fourthly, the Labour party's proposal would represent a tax on the elderly. The longer one lives in one's own home, the more its value will increase and the more one's taxes will increase, irrespective of whether one is retired or not. Furthermore, there would be no question of a pensioner's tax contribution being halved when his spouse died—such an exemption operates under the community charge. Under the Labour party's proposal, the remaining partner would continue to make the maximum contribution based on the value of the home.

Fifthly, we would return to the days of revaluation on a regular basis, with all the horrors that that produced. I speak with some feeling on that matter; should the Opposition introduce a system that required regular revaluations, they would live to rue that day.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

Does the Secretary of State accept that he is building a rather melodramatic fantasy on the basis of a third of a column in The Scotsman?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the report is entirely inaccurate and that the Labour party does not intend to propose an alternative based on capital values, we shall look forward to hearing more. The hon. Gentleman says that what I have said is a melodramatic fantasy. If the Labour party is not proposing a capital value-based local tax, I shall happily withdraw the accusation. But if it is, then, by the hon. Gentleman's own words, it is a melodramatic fantasy. That is a most interesting description.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

Although I am unable to aspire to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's legal sleight of tongue, there is a great difference between a system based on capital values and what he has spun out of it, for it bears no relation to anything that the Labour party is ever likely to put forward. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has constructed something in order then to knock it down.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

We look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman explain why it is that a tax based on capital values would not increase a person's liability to tax if he improved his home and thereby increased its capital value. We shall also look forward to hearing him explain how, under a system based on capital values, people who live in somebody else's house will cease to make any contribution to local taxes. We look forward to hearing how the elderly will be protected. I am aware that reports imply that the Labour party admits the inherent unfairness of a tax based solely on capital values and that it has suggested that it will also wish to take account of income. The Labour party, we understand, would modify tax liability on the grounds of income, but what about savings? The elderly rely primarily on savings. I hope that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) will say whether savings, too, will be exempt.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State is weaving fantasies about what he thinks The Scotsman thinks the Labour party's policies might be. Am I not right in thinking that the debate is supposed to be about the level of poll tax and rents which he, the minority Secretary of State for Scotland, seeks to impose on the people of Scotland? Will you please ask him to direct his remarks to the reality of life in Scotland rather than to his fantasies?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have wide-ranging debates on such motions.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to catch my eye. He is not going the right way about it. I also remind the Opposition that they will have an opportunity to refute the arguments in due course.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

The House, and the people of Scotland, will be aware of the sensitivity—the raw nerve—that I appear to have touched, such is the reluctance of the Opposition to have their policies examined and considered. I am surprised that my modest comments about what I presume the Labour party firmly believes will be wildly popular throughout the length and breadth of Scotland should have given rise to accusations of irrelevance, unfairness, misrepresentation and all sorts of other terrible sins.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

Opposition Members are anxious to tell me what a popular tax this will be. I happily give way to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who no doubt wishes to say that.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I am anxious to point out to the Secretary of State that in a debate which is to end at 7 o'clock he has spent 30 of the 35 minutes of his speech explaining what he thinks is Labour party policy. He has spent only five minutes on the subject of the debate. I know that he tries to be a fair-minded Secretary of State for Scotland, but it is carrying matters a little far, to cover his blushes, deficiencies and embarrassment, not to bother to make the case for his own orders.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I have spent half my time responding to Opposition interventions. They would have been the first to criticise me if I had declined to give way. I sense the Labour party's embarrassment. We shall have many other opportunities to consider its policies. I look forward to hearing the Oppositions's version of them.

As for the alleged non-payment of the community charge, I know that a number of Opposition Members have a personal pecuniary interest in it, either because they have or have not paid it. We shall no doubt wish to identify which hon. Members have or have not paid the community charge.

It has been suggested by the Labour party and the Scottish National party that the levels of non-payment of the community charge in Scotland give a message to the Government and to the wider public. If they examined what happened under the old rating system, they would find that at this time of the year local authorities, including Strathclyde regional council, issued summary warrants to almost exactly the same number of non-payers of domestic rates—

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, I shall happily give way to him. Apples and oranges are fruit, so they have a considerable amount in common.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

They are different kinds of fruit.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

Of course they are different, and domestic rates and the community charge are different. However, when it comes to some people preferring not to pay their taxes, there appears to be a great similarity between them. In Strathclyde, 15 per cent. of those who were liable to pay domestic rates directly to the regional council declined to do so at this time of the year and received summary warrants. It is an interesting coincidence that, at this time of the year, 15 per cent. of community charge payers have similarly declined to pay it.

Before the Scottish National party grows too excited, I ought to say to the SNP Members of Parliament that Scotland would be more interested in what the SNP did than in what it says. In the one local authority that is controlled by the SNP, Angus district council, respectable, law-abiding people are anxious to obey the law and to encourage others to do the same. They are participating fully in the implementation and collection of the community charge.

However, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), and the infant Robespierre from Banff and Buchan are encouraging law-breaking thoughout the length and breadth of Scotland—so much so that their colleague, Mr. Hamish Watt, a former Member of this House, felt it necessary, along with his colleagues, to resign from the SNP precisely because the hon. Member for Govan and the infant Robespierre from Banff and Buchan hijacked his party and turned it into another Left-wing Socialist party which is unacceptable to people in the north-east of Scotland. The hon. Member for Govan will no doubt wish to comment on these matters in due course.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

My right hon. and learned Friend has referred to a distinguished former Member of this House who left the Scottish National party. He did not refer to a regional councillor, Flora Iles, who also left the SNP because it has no policies for anything and different policies for everywhere.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

There will soon be more people leaving the Scottish National party than attend its constitutional convention.

The orders that are before the House are representative of a Government who have given a generous settlement to local authorities. It accords with what they asked for a year ago, when these matters were first considered. Any reservations that anyone might have had about the community charge will pale into insignificance the more the House and the people of Scotland have the opportunity, which the Labour party will be anxious for them to have, to examine the capital-value-based local tax that the Labour party wishes to propose and its implications for the elderly, those who wish to improve their homes and those who want a fair deal from local government in Scotland.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 5:07 pm, 25th January 1990

The Secretary of State has certainly painted a broad canvas. At one stage, I thought that I might follow him by showing my holiday snaps. They would have just about as much relevance. He was clearly enjoying himself, but it was a disgraceful speech. The Secretary of State made no attempt to deal with what is happening under his Government. It was a diversionary tactic and intermittently it was amusing—for example, the important piece of information that Mr. McLoughlin of The Scotsman is a respectable reporter and, according to the Secretary of State, a respected one. We were also told that there was something intrinsically comic about the poll tax in Sutherland.

I had hoped to make a brisk and brief speech, but it will take a little longer than I had anticipated. However, I am conscious that many of my hon. Friends want to take part in the debate.

The orders relate to the delivery of services and the quality of life. Both are directly affected by local government finance and housing finance in Scotland. IL is not just a nice Treasury balancing act that can be shrugged off in a few minutes before the Secretary of State takes off to go somewhere else. We shall want to consider the consequences of what is happening in our constituencies and in Scotland generally as a result of the inadequate way in which these matters have been dealt with by the Government.

I invite whoever is to wind up the debate for the Government to consider certain matters. I presume that, it will be the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) who is sitting there, as always, looking extremely alert—a pet by his master's side. I have no doubt that the hon. Member might say a word or two about councillors' allowances, which of course are part and parcel of the whole business.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Is the hon. Member aware that decisions on these matters have been deferred for three months, at the request of COSLA and other associations, in order that further investigations may be made? We look to COSLA to return to us with further information for my right hon. Friend, who will be seeing them on 9 February. That is the up-to-date information.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The hon. Member will soon be known as Action Man. I am delighted to hear this, because—it is not often that I ride to the defence of Councillor Brian Meek and his colleagues—undoubtedly there was widespread concern right across the board, embracing all parties and all political persuasions, about what was proposed. It is very important that those who wish to serve as elected councillors and who carry the confidence of the electorate should be in a position to get on with the job.

The danger of the scheme that he proposed and the Government had embraced was that this would become the preserve of those who could afford to serve but were not necessarily best qualified to do so. It would have been tragic if a clumsy little manoeuvre of the Department of the Environment had damaged local democracy, which has already been put under unreasonable pressure by the Government. I very much hope that we shall now be able to get away from the very crude two-tier system based on an annual payment of £3,400 per regional councillor and £2,700 per district councillor, as was proposed.

I can only hope that the Minister has learnt something from his traumatic experience with the poll tax about the dangers of flat-rate systems and cash limits in that context. It is very important indeed that, if we cannot reach agreement on something that will allow people of talent and commitment to remain in local government, we should continue, perhaps for longer than three months, an attendance allowance system which at least has the basic virtue of being based upon the work that is done by councillors.

My attention was drawn in the Largs and Milport Weekly News to a very typical statement by the leader of the Conservative group on Cunninghame council, Councillor Edith Clarkson, who complained very bitterly about Members of Parliament: They see us councillors as incompetent and useless, and people who do not do anything. There is no will in Parliament on any side of the House to look at it and see what we are doing. She went on to complain bitterly about the Government's schemes, plans and proposals and their impact on local authority allowances and the new way of compensating councillors for the inevitable loss of income which they incur because they are elected to local government. I very much hope that the Minister will use the three months' period of grace which he has announced to find a way to get over these problems.

I turn first to the revenue support grant, because it is very basic. I expected that the Secretary of State would say that COSLA had asked for 7 per cent. I put that to one or two COSLA officials the other day and got a very robust reaction. As the Secretary of State well knows, that figure was produced at a period when the situation was rather different in terms, for example, of interest rates. The 7 per cent. or 7·5 per cent. that was then announced included within it a number of factors which could not have been anticipated.

I am thinking of the mandatory rating relief for charities and the rating relief for universities in Scotland. I do not think that these are necessarily bad in themselves—in fact, I strongly support them—but they have been announced as concessions by central Government, and they have been financed entirely out of the revenue support grant that had already been fixed.

When Sir Kerr Fraser says, understandably in some alarm, that he thinks that it will take £40 million merely to preserve the fabric of Sir Gilbert Scott's Gothic imagination on Gilmorehill, no doubt he is thankful for the small mercy brought by rating relief, but I am sure that he would also accept that it is unfortunate that such a concession should be financed entirely at the expense of local government and local government services, or the poll tax payer, or some combination of both.

I believe that the figure is inadequate and that there is plenty of reason and evidence for saying so. Obviously, there was some initial confusion. The Secretary of State will remember the illuminating incident of Glasgow's allocation—a situation in which the Minister had forgotten to use his toes as well as his fingers when he did the initial calculation. When we have time to look at the final figures, the shape that emerges is one of enormous importance to the poll tax payers whose health is of such concern to the Secretary of State. There is no doubt that there is a direct correlation between what is happening to the poll tax in the individual areas of Scotland and what the Secretary of State has achieved in his grant distribution.

If we take the aggregate Exchequer grant and the non-domestic rate income of an authority and put them together, we find that the cash available to an authority such as Bearsden and Milngavie will in the coming year be 51 per cent. higher. In Eastwood, the increase is 50 per cent. Going down to some of the authorities which have been the butt of criticism by the Secretary of State, we begin to see, with the unwinding of the safety net and other grant distribution difficulties, some of the reasons why they have been faced with particular problems.

Bearsden plus 51 per cent. and Eastwood plus 50 per cent.: these are not areas that spring to the minds of my hon. Friends as those of highest deprivation or outstanding need when one considers the social profile of Scotland. Glasgow had a cut in cash terms of 2·6 per cent. Edinburgh had an increase of 0·082 per cent.—less than 1 per cent. When we compare that with the 50 per cent. and 51 per cent. figures at the top of the scale, we begin to see the gap that had to be bridged and the difficulties that had to be faced.

I think that the Secretary of State was ungracious and misleading in not recognising that and accepting that there was that genuine problem. He was the author of that problem, and this does him no credit.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I will give way to him in a moment, but first I want to add a couple of points that he may want to deal with; I do not want to accept as many interruptions as he did, in the interests of other hon. Members who want to take part in the debate.

I do not disguise the fact that there is a difference of philosophy. In a sense, the Secretary of State outlined it perfectly clearly when he quoted my colleague Mark Lazarowicz. He said that the leader of the majority group on the Edinburgh district council had apparently said something unforgivable—that the council had to bear in mind its commitment to provide new services. I do not think that that is something of which he should be ashamed. Commitments have to be tempered in every authority by the realities of the situation and balances have to be struck.

The Secretary of State and I might have a disagreement about where that balance should be struck, but I find it offensive that he should suggest that it is some kind of grotesque, absurd or ludicrous proposition that someone looking at the social problems in Edinburgh's peripheral housing schemes or some of the inner-city areas of Edinburgh should consider improving services and tackling those problems.

If the Secretary of State intends to intervene, perhaps he can deal with this point.

If we look at the other part of the equation of that area, at the Lothian region budget meeting we had an extremely well-documented account of what the alternative is. It came from a man who is admired as the sort of civilised face of the new Conservative party; someone who is still clinging on to some of the older civilised values, despite the efforts of the chairman of the party and his dominating philosophy. I refer to Conservative Councillor Brian Meek. Brian Meek was suggesting the abolition of welfare rights and pensioners' free bus passes. He was suggesting the privatisation of Hillend ski centre and seven old people's homes, as well as a number of other items of that type.

I really do not think that the Secretary of State can suggest, in the face of the grant allocation made in Edinburgh and the cut that occurred in Glasgow, that if they had responsible people at the helm, good Tories, men of integrity, men who could manage a bawbee or two, who knew how to make ends meet, they could cut back on our present extravagances, as he would see them; they could reduce the poll tax without hurting vulnerable people, without doing genuine and real damage to services; and they could carry out the kind of policies that even a moderate such as Brian Mack is having to suggest in the Lothian region.

It is a real problem, which to some extent relates to the philosophical divide between us and our views about community and the duty of a council, but it also goes back to the Secretary of State and his grant allocations. The same applies to the regions. Although the figures are less dramatic, the amounts are larger and therefore the variations are just as significant. The grant allocation has increased by 13·2 per cent. in the Borders; by 13·1 per cent. in Dumfries and Galloway; by 12 per cent. in the Highlands; and by 10 per cent. in Grampian. Then there is a substantial drop—a chasm in local government financial terms—until we reach Lothian and Strathclyde which have received 4·6 per cent. and 3·8 per cent. respectively.

We cannot banish the problem by saying that they are black and white figures on a page and they mean nothing. Inevitably they will present dilemmas for councillors and burdens for poll tax payers. If the Secretary of State were prepared to concede that, perhaps we could have a reasonable argument.

One of the great tales about the poll tax is that it strengthens local authority accountability. I believe that the present message—although it may change over the years—is that what matters is the grant that a local authority receives and that conditions the poll tax that has to be paid.

I shall take just two examples, which are not politically contentious because the authorities concerned are not in the eye of the political storm and have not been singled out by the Secretary of State for criticism or sarcasm. Gordon district council has cut its community charge by 2 per cent. If I remember correctly, that represents a £1 reduction. It could do that not because it had been careful and prudent with its expenditure, in the Secretary of State's terms. I am told that its spending is going up from £5·6 million to £8·5 million. It has nothing to do with the discipline of reducing the poll tax and calling extravagant councillors to heel. That massive increase in expenditure may have been justified. It was possible because its aggregate Exchequer grant and its non-domestic rate income had gone up by 33 per cent.

Clydebank council is increasing its poll tax imposition by 24 per cent., yet its spending has risen by only 2 per cent. The reason is that its aggregate Exchequer grant and non-domestic rate income has gone up by less than 0·5 per cent. That is the message. It has nothing to do with all the claptrap about accountability, and everything to do with the Secretary of State and the sums that he does mysteriously and secretly in the recesses of St. Andrews house.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office

I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman say that reductions in the community charge have everthing to do with the grant given by the Scottish Office. Will he join me in condemning Labour-controlled Stirling district council, which, despite an increase in grant of more than 20 per cent. for the forthcoming year, proposes not to reduce its community charge or even to maintain it at its existing level, but to increase it by 18 per cent.—more than twice the level of inflation? Does that not fly in the face of what the hon. Gentleman has just said?

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

It certainly establishes that the performance of Stirling and the decisions taken by the council are out of line with many other parts of the country. I do not condemn that. It is up to the electors in Stirling, who have been advised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and, more shrewdly, by the local Member of Parliament over many years to repudiate that policy. They have not done so. The Secretary of State may think that the people of Stirling are barmy and do not know what is in their own best interests, but if he believes in democracy, he had better recognise that that formula has gained the approval of a sufficient number of people to continue to elect that council.

I am talking about the general position in Scotland, and I repeat that many of the difficulties that have been mocked rather unsympathetically by the Secretary of State relate to the grants. The general position is exactly as we predicted. COSLA reckoned that the 7·5 per cent. added under the revenue support grant settlement would mean average increases in the poll tax of about 12 per cent.—and that is exactly what is happening now.

Although it would not be fair to other hon. Members to have a major debate about it, I must tell the Secretary of State that almost everything we have said about the social justice of the poll tax and the problems of administration and collection have been fully justified. I have to warn the House, having spent half an hour yesterday struggling—I make no apologies for that—to understand the intricate workings of the new transitional allowance, that the problems that we all anticipate in April in calculating the transitional allowance for next year, making the back payments for this year and adjusting the entire rebates system will be a nightmare. I believe that it will bring a system which is already disliked and widely considered to be unworkable into ultimate disrepute.

I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State to say a word or two about the business rate and the non-domestic rate. I understand that the Government have decided that £80 million should be made available to reduce the rate poundage by 6·25 per cent. across the board. That is an interesting decision, because it could have been used to take out some of the peaks and to help areas particularly in the urban central belt where the rate poundage was very much higher. The Government decided to spread it thinly across Scotland, so perhaps the Minister could say why.

I should like a fairly specific answer to my second question. In England, the unified business rate poundage is 34·8p. I am told that the rate poundage that will have to be uniformly levied across Scotland to raise the present level of revenue is 55p. That gap has to be closed. I have heard authoritative figures ranging from £250 million to £450 million as the sum required to close that gap. I understand that the Scottish Office has consulted the CBI, and I know that the advice from COSLA was near the top of the range. Will the Minister say what he thinks that figure will be, how far we will have to go to plug that gap and what it will cost the public purse?

I close by briefly raising a major issue concerning the housing support grant, which used to be a major factor in local Government finance, particularly for district councils. When the present Government took office, 39 per cent. of council house costs came from the housing support grant. The figure is now 7 per cent. It reached a peak of about £228 million, and it is now down to £60 million. It was £60 million last year, and this year it will remain unchanged.

The Minister may say that I should be grateful that it has not been cut further, but as interest rates are higher than they were, they are eating into what is available for genuine housing work, and the figures take no account of inflation. We now have an HSG which will mean higher rents or will handicap authorities in tackling the real problems of deterioration of fabric.

The Under-Secretary of State says a great deal in a pleasant style about the Government's generosity in housing finance. The capital consents and the housing revenue account for 1990–91 compared with that for 1989–90 shows that the Government allocated £474 million in public sector housing capital allocation. In the coming year, the figure will be £420 million. That is a reduction of £53 million and a real terms drop of close on £100 million.

I know that I will be told that the net consent is being increased from £145 million to £189 million and that that is a measure of the Government's generosity, but if the net consent were being decreased and capital receipts were being increased, I would be told that I was being extremely silly and short-sighted in considering the net consent because all that matters is the total amount that will be spent.

If the total amount that will be spent is what matters, there will be the substantial drop that I have just outlined. The problems that I see every weekend in my constituency, and the problems faced by tenants in my constituency and in those of my hon. Friends, make me sceptical and cynical about the well-tailored rhetoric that emerges from the word processors in Dover house and St. Andrew's house.

The housing support grant has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. Over the years, it has been cut ruthlessly. If it had been maintained at the level of the early 1980s, we would now be debating a cumulative increase in local authority resources of billions of pounds. Against that, we recognise the miserable inadequacies and desperate need of the Secretary of State to tilt at windmills rather than talk about the realities that he has so sadly neglected.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries 5:30 pm, 25th January 1990

I have suffered three misfortunes today. First, I have been done out of my Burns supper by this business tonight; secondly, I have had a bit of masonry whistling around my room upstairs and have been locked out; thirdly, I am having to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). I think that I would rather have seen his holiday snaps.

I shall begin by considering housing, because it is an important issue in Scotland. Last year, the Government set up Scottish Homes, so we must look forward to better standards in the foreseeable future. I know that it will play its part in improving the old Scottish Special Housing Association housing and working with housing associations to develop housing in Scotland.

The housing support grant is a key part of housing management. Housing management involves considering the problems not only of damp, condensation, repairs and rents but of vandalism, bad neighbourliness, noise and the general feeling that the environment of housing estates is not what it should be. We must also consider the problems of waiting lists and homelessness. I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the work that they have been doing on urban projects, which often improve rather miserable areas.

Over the past 10 years, the Government have increased housing investment by 2 per cent. per annum in real terms, whereas under the Labour Government of 1974–79 it declined by 8 per cent. per annum in real terms. There is no doubt but that the Government have given housing a high priority.

I welcome the impact of the sale of council houses, which is what tenants wanted. I am glad that, despite the opposition of the Labour party and Labour-controlled councils, we have sold so many over the past 10 years.

Capital allocations, which are extremely important, have doubled over the past five years. I welcome that increase, and when I raised it with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) before Christmas, he assured me that the aggregate for this year would increase by £64 million, or 50 per cent. That should enable local authorities to maintain expenditure, but the Government recognise that increases are necessary in some of the worst areas.

I am glad that the two districts that I represent—Nithsdale, and Annandale and Eskdale—are receiving allocations far above the national average of £559 per house. Annandale and Eskdale will receive £727, and Nithsdale £815. That is of particular benefit to Nithsdale, where the public sector contribution to housing is increasing by 67 per cent. In Annandale and Eskdale, it is increasing by 16 per cent. Various adjustments have been made in Annandale following the Lockerbie disaster, in which my right hon. and learned Friend was so helpful by providing finance for the rehabilitation of damaged houses.

Nevertheless, the Government have recognised that much remains to be done by making available additional money in the Lochside area of Dumfries. That continuing high investment has allowed the council to undertake many projects. I know that there has been a small national increase in non-housing revenue account grants, but districts in my area have above average allocations. Improvement grants are one of the key ways of quickly improving housing. Rural cottages are not only attractive to live in but enhance the countryside if they are in a proper state of repair. I am in favour of giving as much non-HRA support to district councils as possible.

The Government have allocated substantial sums for the revenue support grant. However, most authorities—but, I am glad to say, not all—have increased expenditure by more than the rate of inflation. I very much doubt whether local authorities would have increased expenditure so rapidly if they had been working under the old rating system. Over the past two years, they have taken the opportunity to increase expenditure and blame that on the community charge and the Government. This year, they cannot blame the Government for cutting expenditure, because almost all local authorities are receiving a substantial increase in expenditure.

I know that there must be a careful balance between prudent expenditure and what other people may regard as excessive experience. That is the key job of councillors. I remember when I was a councillor that councillors were only too keen to spend money on projects that were important to their ward or council. Sometimes restraint must be exercised, particularly when the country knows that the Government are keen to restrain inflation. Increases in local government expenditure are extremely inflationary and add to the problem of restraining interest rates.

This year, the Government have increased the revenue support grant by £242 million and adjusted the safety net. Most important, they have made moves towards the uniform business rate, which will be of great advantage to businesses, particularly small businesses, in Scotland. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has been given sufficient recognition for what he has done for the rating assessments of sports grounds. His action has been well received by all sports clubs and voluntary organisations in Scotland. I hope that community charge payers will bear in mind the Labour party's proposals, which chop and change so much that one does not know where one is. But if the Labour party decides on the capital values option, the community charge payer will undoubtedly have to pay a great deal more.

Let us consider the regions and districts. Like the hon. Member for Garscadden, I find it virtually impossible to understand local authority accounting—the use of balances, the options relating to the community charge, the change from the client-group method to grant-aided expenditure and so on. It is very difficult to find true comparisons from one year to the next to establish what is going on. In 1989–1990, with inflation running at roughly 6·5 per cent., the grant to my region was 13 per cent., whereas this year, with inflation at 7·5 per cent., the grant is 14·3 per cent. One might think that there was every reason to believe that the community charge could be stabilised and that a substantial amount would still be left to improve services. The region has had an increase in grant of 70 per cent. over five years, so it is disappointing to discover that the community charge is to increase substantially.

I know that councillors considered various options—increases of from zero to 15 per cent.—and in the end settled for 6 per cent. But add to that a 21 per cent. increase in water charges arising from more stringent requirements relating to water quality, and the overall increase is 8 per cent. That is a substantial increase in view of the money made available through the grant system.

Matters have been made worse by the two districts in the area, which have increased their expenditure substantially. In Socialist-controlled Nithsdale, where the grant increased by 18·9 per cent., expenditure has increased by no less than 28 per cent. That was voted through against strong Conservative opposition at a council meeting last night. That is the increase that the community charge payers of Nithsdale will now have to face. In Annandale and Eskdale, with a Liberal Democrat majority, grant is up by 17·3 per cent. and expenditure by 19 per cent. That simply will not do. It is not fair on the community charge payer.

We all want improved services, but we must be careful to ensure that improved services do not always mean substantially increased costs. I support my region in its efforts to attract industry, and I realise that that may cost more. I also realise that school boards may add to costs. But all that should be taken into account against the background of the substantial balances that local authorities can achieve.

The House ought to send out the message that prudent expenditure is essential if we are to make our way forward and maintain low inflation and, it is to be hoped, lower interest rates. We cannot go on spending and spending without facing the consequences. I hope that local authorities will consider their plans carefully. I was sorry to hear that a respected SNP regional councillor in Dumfries and Galloway had had to resign his membership of the party because he wanted the council to maintain the rule of law and collect the community charge. It was sad that his local party should have forced him out.

I gather, too, that the Member of the European Parliament for Dumfries and Galloway and the south of Scotland, Mr. Alex Smith, has had some difficulty recently. When I first saw headlines saying, "MP's bank balance frozen", I wondered whether they referred to me, but it turned out to be the MEP, who is setting an astonishingly bad example to the community charge payers of Scotland.

My message is this: let us have prudent expenditure. We really cannot go on increasing grant from central Government—from the taxpayer—and having it all put into the kitty to allow local authorities to spend more and more. If we do that, we shall become a banana republic, spending far more than we should. That is something we must avoid.

Photo of David Marshall David Marshall , Glasgow Shettleston 5:44 pm, 25th January 1990

No matter how the Government try to dress up the figures, the fact remains—as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said—that they represent a cut of £58 million in funds for council housing and, when inflation is taken into account, a reduction in total resources for council housing of £100 million.

Like all other hon. Members, I am grateful to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities for the excellent brief that it has sent us, which exposes the Government's meanness and the true extent, nature and effect of the cuts.

This debate should be not about figures but about human beings. It may be possible to argue about the need—or otherwise—for some items of Government expenditure, but in the name of decency and humanity, the House must agree that, in this day and age, everyone should have a fit and proper home in which to live, and that is especially true of pensioners and children. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case and the order will make matters worse. It will lead to increased rents and a further deterioration in the fabric of our council housing. All that many tenants have left is hope, and some of them do not even have that luxury.

No doubt my hon. Friends will deal with the general questions arising from the order, but I want to highlight what I believe to be a unique and scandalous catch–22 affecting between 2,000 and 3,000 people, which the order will do nothing to remedy. I refer to the 998 Winget-type houses constructed in 1924 in the Carntyne area of Glasgow and divided between the constituencies of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan and myself. They are the only houses of their type in the whole of Scotland. There are no such houses in Wales and only 2,568 in England.

The houses were classified as defective under the Housing Defects Act 1984. Arguments followed as to what should be done until 1988, when Glasgow district council applied for the houses to be declassified. In March 1989 the Secretary of State refused to agree to the council's request, so the houses are still officially classified as defective. The tenants took the matter up with the ombudsman who, to his credit, found in their favour. But his recommendation, in June last year, was simple: the council and the tenants should get together to discuss the problem. That took us back to square one. No advance of any kind had been made. One wonders what is the advantage of having an ombudsman's report in one's favour.

At present an insulation programme is under way in the Carntyne area, but Winget houses are excluded because they require extensive fabric repair. The housing department of Glasgow district council states that outstanding work on the houses includes recladding, window replacement and roof renewal, all directly related to the Winget method of construction. Someone whose house need a new roof or new windows is unlikely to be very comfortable in weather conditions such as those prevailing this week.

The estimated cost of those essential repairs—they are not repairs that should be undertaken only in ideal circumstances—is £12 million. The council says that it will not be able to carry out any of the work in the foreseeable future, and certainly not before 1995. The order will do nothing to help: it will probably make the time scale longer still. My hon. Friend the Member for Provan, the local councillors, the Winget action group, especially Mrs. Brawley and Mrs. Love, the Carntyne residents association, especially Mrs. Robertson and Mrs. Burns, and I have all tried to get something done about the problem. Glasgow district council cannot help because it does not have the money. Sadly, the Government will not help because they do not want to help. Scottish Homes will not help financially. It will give what advice and counselling it can, but it will not help financially because, as it says, it has limited resources and other higher priorities. Appeals to the Scottish Office and to the Prime Minister fell on both stony and iron ground.

The tenants are not political pawns to be used and abused as politicians see fit. Many of them are pensioners who have been tenants of their homes for over 60 years. They have always paid their rents and rates and have never been in arrears. They have probably paid for their houses several times over and their reward is to be trapped in houses which no one will repair. They will be left to rot unless something is done. No politician can possibly justify ignoring their plight.

We heard earlier about damage to the Palace of Westminister. No doubt, however many millions of pounds that damage amounts to, the money will be found to put it right immediately or as soon as the work can be carried out. But not even a penny will be found to put right the disrepair of the 998 homes of those 2,000 to 3,000 people in the Carntyne area of Glasgow. On Robbie Burns' birthday, it is sad to see that man's inhumanity to man continues unabated.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of David Marshall David Marshall , Glasgow Shettleston

A better one than that will follow.

I understand that the housing support grant formula takes into account economic conditions. Glasgow has the eight constituencies with the highest unemployment in Scotland. Surely that factor merits the allocation of additional resources to tackle the appalling housing conditions which, sadly, persist in many part of the city. My constituents have a perfectly good case for sueing Glasgow district council under the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 and, in all probability, they would win their case. But the only result would be that the council would have to rob Peter to pay Paul. The citizens of Glasgow would be no better off.

Specific Government assistance is needed to resolve the problem. It must be recognised that this is a special and urgent case. I appeal to the Secretary of State and to the Minister to do something positive. They should begin by convening a meeting of the tenants' representatives, Glasgow district council, Scottish Homes and the Scottish Office to discuss what action to take. That would give the tenants some hope, which is the very least that they deserve.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside 5:52 pm, 25th January 1990

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dumries (Sir H. Monro), I should have preferred to be in Scotland this evening remembering the birth of our bard and enjoying good company. We are here because the official channels agreed to have this debate tonight. I have been told by those who do not understand, "You will be finished by 7 o'clock so you can get to a Burns supper." One would have to be pretty clever to travel from here to a Burns supper in Perthshire.

Like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall), I wish to speak about housing. Housing is important and many of our citizens depend on properties owned either by a local authority or some other state body. I welcomed the setting up of Scottish Homes. Such a body was long overdue. I am particularly pleased that it is carrying out a survey into rural areas, and I have suggested to Scottish Homes that it should consider places such as Aberfeldy.

Aberfeldy is an interesting place. It is one of the places in Scotland where there have always been more jobs than people to fill them. That is because businesses there are prosperous and doing well. They have to bus people from Blairgowrie to Aberfeldy. Anyone who knows the area will know how far that is and how difficult a journey it can be in winter months. We need to build low-cost housing that could be made available to people who want to work in the Aberfeldy area. I hope that Scottish Homes will take up my suggestion and do just that.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the community charge. The registration and collection system in Tayside region is different from that of anywhere else in Scotland and, as far as I know, in the United Kingdom. Every time there is a change in the amount due, an individual receives a new book. Some people have had three or four books. One can imagine the impact of that on elderly pensioners who did not understand what the first book was about. They may request a change because their conditions have altered. They then have to be given a second book. If that is not right, they are given a third book, and some are on their fourth book. That is appalling; something will have to be done.

For some interesting reason, a rumour is spreading round Tayside about my position with regard to the community charge. Why anyone should imagine that I do not support the community charge is beyond me. Some scurrilous people have put it about that I have not paid my community charge. I wish to place on record the fact that I and my family have paid our community charge. Like most other hon. Members, I have registered for the standard community charge at my flat in Westminster. I do not understand where those mischievous rumours have come from.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

May we take it that there is no reason why the hon. Gentleman's name would not appear in the public register?

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

None whatever. I have not looked at the public register so I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman whether I am on it. I see no reason why my name and those of my wife and daughters should not be there. I have commented on the unique collection and registration system in Tayside, so nothing would surprise me. The only thing that I know for certain is that I have paid. Like most people on Tayside I pay by standing order through the bank. A debit appears on my bank statement so someone is receiving the money. If it is not going into the system properly, it is not my fault.

On Tayside the administration of one district council is controlled by the Scottish National party. Contrary to the views expressed in the House by SNP members, the SNP in Angus recommends that people should pay the community charge, and it is collecting it. That is interesting because we are told that the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) will not pay his community charge. It will be interesting to see what happens when he does not pay. Other people in Angus will have to pick up the tab.

I also draw attention to the fact that Provost Murray of Perth and Kinross district council, another distinguished member of the SNP who attends the convention to which I shall refer later, has put it on record that he believes that people should behave properly and pay their community charge. As ever, the SNP speaks with different voices. That is why Hamish Watt, Flora Iles and other distinguished councillors have had to leave the SNP. They can no longer stomach the illegal activities that it recommends.

Last Friday we had a rare opportunity to debate the Labour party's policies. It tells us a lot about the Opposition's policies that no Back-Bench Member from any of the Scottish Opposition parties was present. That is not surprising, because many of them were attending the sham convention in Scotland, where they can achieve nothing. All that they can do is talk. They did not attend this House, where changes can be made.

I realise that many hon. Members wish to speak so I shall not speak at great length. If we are to believe the leaks that appear in the Scottish newspapers, the Labour party proposes to replace the community charge with a tax. I use that word carefully. It will bring in a tax based on property valuations. They call it a fair tax, but it is still a tax.

That must raise the constitutional question whether it is possible to have a tax in Scotland that is different from the taxes in the rest of the United Kingdom. If the Opposition are not aware now that that raises a constitutional problem, they certainly would be if they ever tried to introduce it.

Another important point is that we are not discussing a charge. Rates are a charge but—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

That is a nice use of language.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

No, it is not just a nice use of the English language. I had to obtain Mr. Speaker's ruling on this some time ago. The community charge is a charge. Indeed, the community charge is a community charge. It is nor a poll tax. Opposition Members should not persist in trying to legitimise something like that because they might find themselves in some difficulty if they tried to introduce it and used the word "tax". They might find that people in the other House would take exception to there being different taxes in Scotland and in England because of the constitutional position. If the Labour party had a different form of tax in Scotland from that in England, the question arises whether Scotland is to be used—in the words of the Labour party—as "a guinea pig". If so, the Labour party should come clean and tell us exactly what it is going to do.

There is no question why Scottish Opposition Members were not here last Friday—it was because they cannot answer for their proposals, which are flawed and full of leaks. I shall go further and say that, like their proposals for devolution, these proposals are flawed, fraudulent and unworkable. At the next election, despite all their hoo-hah and brouhaha about the community charge, Labour Members will have to tell the people of Scotland their alternative. That alternative will be dissected and analysed and, as on so many previous occasions, the Labour party will be found wanting. That is when the Opposition will find that their support begins to evaporate.

Photo of Mrs Ray Michie Mrs Ray Michie , Argyll and Bute 6:01 pm, 25th January 1990

In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State said that we are here for our annual debate on revenue support grant. It seems as though nothing has changed. Everything sounds the same. The Government continue to show indifference to local councils about the levels of revenue support grant.

The poll tax is now in being in Scotland, but a number of authorities have had to increase it in an effort simply to maintain services. Even with adjustments to compensate for the loss of non-domestic rates, £13 million, still has to be found in Scotland. Costs are increasing daily for councils, which are facing growing pressures on their social work departments as they struggle to meet the needs of an aging population, the costs required to run their school boards and horrendous burden of administering and collecting the grossly unjust, "unworkable" and "fraudulent" poll tax—to echo some of the words of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker).

The poll tax is a terrible mess, as can be seen from the number of irate letters that I believe we are all receiving from our constituents, protesting at the muddle and at the number of poll tax demands that are wrong, to say nothing of the costs incurred by councils that are having to pay sheriff officers to chase those who are in default.

The Minister is aware of the reduction in revenue support grant in my constituency of Argyll and Bute. My council, which is not profligate, firmly believes that that is the result of the formula and the method used for calculating the level of grant. Over the years, on a variety of occasions but without success, the council has tried to persuade Scottish Office officials that the method used for calculating the support grant is unfair and does not take fully into consideration the difficulty of providing services to communities in remote and island areas. The problems in Argyll and Bute are similar to those experienced by the island councils—in fact, they are probably worse. My constituency contains 28 inhabited islands in its total area of 3,000 square miles.

The Minister has written to me on this subject, and I shall certainly take up his invitation to meet him to discuss it. However, that might not be necessary if the Minister could assure me that he will ask his Scottish Office officials to help if I ask Argyll and Bute district council to present a detailed case for change to the distribution committee. I hope that we can get this settled once and for all, so that the problem does not recur year after year. I hope that the Minister can assure me that his Scottish Office officials will give some help to the council.

I am aware of the time, so I shall speak only briefly about the housing support grant. The last figure I have heard is that there are now 29,000 homeless people in Scotland, which is quite disgraceful. Funding for hostels run by the local authorities still comes from the housing revenue account. Therefore, tenants are having to pay the cost of housing the homeless through their rents.

The proportion of those costs funded through rents has increased from 47 per cent. to 92 per cent. in the past 10 years. As the Government frequently tell us, the number of council house tenants is in decline—although, I believe, not to the extent that the Government would like—and the burden on current tenants has therefore become much greater.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem is particularly acute in north-east Scotland because of the high cost of renting and buying houses in the private sector? Banff and Buchan, and Aberdeen and Gordon have had record increases in homelessness compared with any other part of the country. Does my hon. Friend agree that those authorities need help to enable them to deal with the problem in a way that does not disadvantage existing tenants?

Photo of Mrs Ray Michie Mrs Ray Michie , Argyll and Bute

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. Providing for homeless people should be the responsibility of the whole community, which is why I plead for funding to be transferred from the housing revenue account to the housing support grant or some other means to be found. The importance of this issue was acknowledged as long ago as 1968, when the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1968 allowed for the "hostel proportion" of housing support grant.

Last year, the Minister said that he recognised that it was a problem and stated that he would ask the Department to write to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to seek its considered views on the extent to which the cost of these and similar services should be excluded from housing revenue accounts. I should like to know what progress the Minister has made, if any, because it appears to take the Government an enormously long time between supposedly recognising a problem and taking practical action to remedy it.

I am especially concerned about housing in rural areas, which requires a different approach from that for urban areas because distribution is focused far more on elderly households from low socio-economic groups. There are estimated to be at least 24,700 "below tolerable standard" properties in rural Scotland. The Minister may wish to excuse the level of housing support grant to local authorities on the grounds that Scottish Homes is now in existence, but even its level of funding leaves much to be desired if we are to meet the real need and to build the type of houses that are required for young people, for single or married people without children, for retired people, for the single middle-aged, for divorcees, widows and widowers, to say nothing of those who live in winter lets, caravans and tied houses.

The Minister knows of my concern about the sale of school houses in sparsely populated communities in my constituency. Once the school house is sold, where on earth is the new teacher supposed to live? There is little choice because demand exceeds supply, and there is really nothing available for them. I give the House the example of the Ross of Mull on the island of Mull, where at least eight local families need housing. Three of the people involved are the local teacher, a home help and the postman. They should not find themselves in a position where they cannot get a house.

Even if houses come on the market, they are snatched up by incomers who can afford a high price. Locals everywhere in rural Scotland are being priced out of the housing market—the hon. Member for Tayside, North referred to this.

I would like to pay tribute to Scottish Homes for its consultative document on rural housing. Although it leaves many questions unanswered—it deliberately poses questions—it is a genuine and commendable attempt to address the real issues and it shows vision and foresight in asking, for example, whether measures must be taken to reduce competition from second home and retirement home buyers, and whether councils should seek balanced communities and controls in targeted areas on the resale of houses so that they are retained within low-cost home ownership initiatives in priority areas.

This has been done in England, where the Government have sponsored a rural housing initiative to build 1,800 housing association houses in villages each year on land, planning consent for which is restricted to housing associations catering exclusively for local needs. This is the sort of foresight and enterprise—the great vogue word—that is required, and I will fully support any moves in such a direction. The Minister and the House need to know that resentment is building up in many parts of Scotland among many local people who are unable to get houses. This is a serious situation which I do not like and which I do not believe the Minister approves of either.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn 6:12 pm, 25th January 1990

Mention has been made of the poll tax which hon. Members on the Government Benches call the community charge. There is one thing that I would like to get on the record: severe hardship is being caused by the poll tax in my area. Many families face bills of over £1,000, and they do not know where the money will come from. The Government should look at the difficulties in areas where unemployment is high and where the few jobs going are low-paid.

It does not help matters when people like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) come to my constituency and tell people, some of whom are in the hands of illegal loan sharks, that they should not pay the poll tax, telling them that it will be all right, they will not go to jail but they might get their furniture lifted.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

You cannot get your furniture lifted.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) says that people cannot have their furniture lifted, but my understanding of warrant sales is that they can.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

I may be wrong, and it is up to the hon. Member to contradict me, but one thing that is certain is that the poorest of the poor will come out of a warrant sale very badly. It is all right for hon. Members to say that warrant sales will not do a great deal of harm. They do not do a great deal of harm to people earning £26,000 a year; but we are dealing with people who have taken a lifetime to get their bits and pieces together. Already, people have been on the telephone to me, telling me that they are in difficulties because they took the advice of a Mr. Tommy Sheridan, a Trotskyist leader, and the hon. Member for Govan. I just think that hon. Members should be careful in the advice that they give when they tell people that they are not going to do something, because the circumstances for some of the people sitting in the audience are different.

What is more, it ill becomes officials of Strathclyde region who are community workers employed by the authority collecting the poll tax to give advice like this. I blame not the councillors but some of the community workers who are organising these meetings in their own time. It is hypocrisy to pick up a wage from an authority which is collecting tax while at the same time telling the people they are supposed to advise not to pay it. Once again, some of these people are earning a good shilling or two while giving this advice to the poorest of the poor.

A lot of money is going into housing estates at present from this grant and from previous grants, from both central Government and from local government. Impressive things have been done in my constituency and other parts of Glasgow in doing up houses, but something will have to be done about the environment. People are proud of their houses and their tenement flats, but many tell me that they are ashamed to bring people into their street—not the home but the street. Graffiti cover the tenement closes.

The Secretary of State may well blame the local authorities and the local authorities the Secretary of State. Surely both parties can get together to do something about the environment. It would cost a small amount compared with what is being spent on rehabilitating homes.

While we are talking about the environment, surely something can be done about tenants who own dogs which have aggression bred into them—pitbull terriers, rottweilers and alsatians—and which are allowed to roam housing estates. I have heard it said that if there were no bad owners there would be no bad dogs, but that is small consolation to someone who walks into his own street and is attacked by animals which have been let loose. Some of them are used to stop policemen raiding houses for drugs. Surely we can legislate to do something not only about the aggression of these animals but about the dirt they leave in our parks and streets. It makes people feel ashamed when they have relatives from England, Canada and America coming into an area that they were once proud of.

The Secretary of State failed to give me an answer to a problem in high-demand areas in our council estates. These houses have been sold off and, as he knows full well, some have changed hands as often as three times since the sale of council houses began. The Minister will tell me and other hon. Members that Glasgow has a surplus of housing stock. When I was a councillor for Govan, if I could get the best house in Springburn for a Govanite he did not want to move, because Govan was the area where he had been brought up, where his mother and father came from, and where his wife's family came from, and it was the community to which he belonged.

The problem is the same in the rural areas: no one wants to leave the village where he was brought up. The people of Springburn do not want to leave Balornock, Barmulloch and the Carron scheme; they want houses next to their mothers and grandmothers and other relatives. In the high-demand areas, people have to find £30,000. That is unfair in an area with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The Minister should look into that.

Commendable work is going on in housing action areas and in areas for which Scottish Homes is responsible. The people running these organisations tell me that they do not have the same fear as local authorities about the rehabilitation of the houses. The Government are prepared to put more finance into rehabilitation, but what is the point, in places like Dennistoun, of rehabilitating the houses to a high standard and then allowing motorways to be shoved through the middle of the district? Residents complain to me that, although their houses are excellent, they would need double glazing and more soundproofing because of the heavy traffic on the road which the Secretary of State approved.

I know that the Secretary of State will say that it is a Labour-controlled authority that is building the roads. I have the highest regard for Strathclyde, but it is impossible to talk to its road officials. There is motorway madness at its worst. If people are to get beautiful homes, and if Government money is to be spent on rehabilitation—we are talking about 90 per cent. Government aid—surely there should not be a motorway just outside with cars going along at 50 or 60 mph. I ask the Minister to consider that.

Several Hon. Members:


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

Order. It may be convenient for hon. Members to know that the replies to the debate will begin at 6.40 pm. If hon. Members speak for about five minutes each, I shall be able to call most of them.

Photo of Mr David Lambie Mr David Lambie , Cunninghame South 6:21 pm, 25th January 1990

May I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that the three hon. Members from my party who have spoken are all associated with the city of Glasgow? We know that Glasgow is a city of culture this year, but Glasgow is not Scotland. If the remaining time is to be divided, I think that you should call Members from throughout Scotland and not concentrate on the city of Glasgow.

This week we have had a series of similar debates on England and Wales, yet those debates were totally different, because housing support grants and housing orders affect only a small number of people in England and Wales. In the south of England, the number is insignificant. It is only when we move north into Scotland that we are speaking on behalf of the majority of people, because in Scotland most people are still tenants who are affected by the orders. When so many people are concerned, it is a disgrace that there are so few hon. Members here.

Several hon. Members have said that, during the 10 years of Conservative Government, we have seen an attack on council housing. The Government have moved money from public sector housing into the private sector. Where has all the money gone? A total of £7 billion has gone to owner-occupiers through mortgage tax relief. The Government have taken money from the pockets of tenants and given it to owner-occupiers. In doing that, they have moved money from Scotland to the rich south of England. The Government have been like Robin Hood in reverse, taking money from tenants in Scotland and giving it to the rich in the south of England who have too much money already.

At a time when we are discussing further reductions in the money available for housing in Scotland, the Prime Minister, we are told, is recommending that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should increase the limit for mortgage tax relief from £30,000 to £50,000, or perhaps £60,000, so as to give further help to owner-occupiers in the south of England. That is totally different from the case that the Secretary of State is making about the need to claw back money from council tenants.

Most people in Scotland are afraid of Scottish Homes. They believe that it has been established by the Government as a Trojan horse to attack public sector housing, without appearing to be an attack by the Conservative Government. A large number of houses in my area that were formerly owned by the Scottish Special Housing Association are now under the control of Scottish Homes. People are up in arms. Tenants' and residents' associations are campaigning against the policies of Scottish Homes.

I and the Labour party accept that we cannot stop the Government's policy of the tenant's right to buy. It is a bad policy in principle, but the people have accepted it, and so has the Labour party. Therefore, tenants should have the right to buy. What is Scottish Homes doing? In my constituency, when a house becomes vacant, it is putting that house up for sale. Scottish Homes tells me that these are so-called economic expansion houses—in other words, houses for incoming workers. Surely it is a poor reflection on the new town of Irving when it is said that houses are no longer needed for incoming workers.

There are 4,000 people on the waiting list for Cunninghame district and 1,000 on the waiting list of Irving development corporation. Scottish Homes is beginning to sell houses that are lying empty, but they should be tenanted from the waiting list of Cunninghame district council.

I have been informed that Scottish Homes intends to go further and to announce at some date that every house that becomes vacant, whether or not it is an economic expansion house, will be put up for sale. When the Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate, I want him to confirm or deny that that is the future policy of Scottish Homes.

I have in my constituency 29,000 homeless, the majority of the homeless in Scotland. I want the Under-Secretary, on behalf of the people on the waiting list and the homeless in my constituency, to deal with Scottish Homes. It should not be the Trojan horse of the Tory party in public sector housing. People have the right to a home at a decent rent. They have the right to the same conditions enjoyed by people in the south of England. We should speak for the majority of the Scottish people. In the European elections, we made Scotland a Tory-free zone in Europe. If the Government do not change their policy and look after tenants better than owner-occupiers, after the next election Scotland will be a Tory-free zone in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan 6:27 pm, 25th January 1990

I appreciate the position and I shall be as brief as possible. I want to take the Secretary of State up on his point he made about comparing the amount involved in non-payment of rates with that involved in the non-payment of poll tax. He pretended that they were exactly the same, but he was using two different and separate statistical bases.

Let us take the example of a street with 100 houses. Under the rating system, if 15 per cent. of the rates were not paid, that meant that 15 people did not pay. If we assume that there are four adults in each house, under the poll tax we are talking about 400 people in the street; if 15 per cent. do not pay the poll tax, that is 60 people. That is why there is a tremendous problem for the Government and the regional councils which are trying to collect the poll tax. They have to cope with the magnitude of the non-payment revolt. If the Government want to pretend that there is no problem, they are foolish.

There is a reason why non-payment of the poll tax is succeeding. It is different from every other Government imposition. When the Government wanted to drive young people on to the YTS, they could withdraw benefit from them and we could protest, but do nothing about it. When the Government privatised British Steel and jeopardised Lanarkshire, we could protest, but do nothing about it because they were using the power of legislative and Executive control. The difference with the poll tax is that for it to be implemented the Government require the co-operation of every individual adult in Scotland. They have to register, put in a standing order or a direct debit, send a cheque or postal order, or go along with the money. When the people who have the power in the poll tax equation withhold their co-operation, the Government cannot implement it. Their flagship has struck the rock of non-payment.

In the limited time available I shall direct the main burden of my remarks to housing. Whatever the Secretary of State may say today, the Government have inflicted enormous damage on the standards of the people of Scotland. That is summed up extremely well in the brief that we received from Shelter, which states: The net effect of the Government's policies has been that as capital allocations programmes have decreased (a reduction in real terms of £90 million for 1990–91 … vital new stock has not been built to replace ageing stock and stock lost through council house sales. At the same time the stock that does remain is likely to be poorer quality as the better quality stock is sold off, with high repair and maintenance costs, which are increasingly having to be met from a shrinking rental income base. I echo what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) said—the problem is not about statistics, but about people. I can give three examples from my constituency. In Corkerhill, most of the houses have flat roofs, but require pitched roofs. There have been technical reports and the council acknowledges that those houses face severe dampness problems and have poor insulation. But the people of Corkerhill are fighting for resources with folk in other parts of Glasgow. Insufficient investment is going into the public housing sector to meet the needs of ordinary people.

An area called Moorpark in my constituency has been visited by representatives of every political party. Many hon. Members probably visited it during the Govan by-election. It has suffered a major drugs problem which we have tried to tackle. However, the underlying problem of the housing conditions remains. I was present at a meeting between the tenants association and Mr. Comley, the director of housing in Glasgow. He did not argue for one moment that the area did not require enormous investment or that it was an area of multiple deprivation. However, he had to tell the tenants association that there was no money available in the current five-year programme. Nobody knows what the score is beyond the current five-year programme.

My constituency also includes an area called Teucharhill with which many hon. Members will probably be familiar. This month, the Govan Initiative produced a special secure communities report from which it emerges that there is concern about windows caving in because they have not been replaced for years, dampness and lack of insulation. When we go to get some money, we are told that the council does not have it.

I do not absolve Glasgow city council of criticism; folk can criticise it for its allocation of funds to one part of the city or another and its inefficiency. But there is no question but that the housing problems in Glasgow can be resolved only by central Government allocating the appropriate amount of resources to meet the people's needs. It is an indictment of the Government and each of us who represent Glasgow constituencies, that we hear such heartbreaking stories about housing when we sit down in our surgeries. The Government have created misery when people are entitled to a decent and harmonious life.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 6:35 pm, 25th January 1990

These debates can turn into flights of fancy about obscure statistics and heaven knows what else, but as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) and a number of my hon. Friends have said, we are talking about the conditions in which people in Scotland have to live. In far too many cases, their circumstances are well-nigh intolerable.

The House would do well to remember that today's proceedings set the scene for poll tax levels and the quality of service in every district and region in Scotland for the coming year. We now know that every one of my constituents, including the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who will reply to the debate, will have to pay £407 a head in poll tax—whether it be the Parliamentary Under-Secretary with his means or people living just above the poverty line and income support level. That is the kind of arbitrary, unfair tax which this Government have imposed and local authorities are having to try to implement to fund hopelessly overstrained and overstretched local services. As hon. Members have said, tenants also face higher rents.

The poll tax system in Scotland today is a monstrosity for which the House must accept full responsibility. It was not just Douglas Mason who dreamed up the poll tax before he lost his seat on Kirkcaldy district council. It was not just Michael Ancram who dreamed it up or tried to force it through the House before he lost his seat in Edinburgh to my excellent learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths). The House forced through that tax and imposed it on the people of Scotland. It is small comfort to my constituents to see hon. Members representing English constituencies, who voted for the poll tax in Scotland, suddenly discovering that they do not like it after all when it is imposed on their constituencies.

This is a viciously unfair tax which applies to everyone, whether or not they can afford it. It is also an administrative nightmare, as those of us representing Scottish constituencies can confirm. I can think of many anomalies. For example, a nurse in my constituency is employed by a boarding school which requires her to live in for part of the time. She is a single person on low pay and she had to pay not only her personal poll tax because of her accommodation at work, but a double standard poll tax for her own flat. The tax is an administrative nightmare and grossly unfair.

When calculating the eligibility of local authorities For revenue support grant, the Government assume that all these debts will be paid; but they will not be paid, because it is such an inefficient tax. The trouble with the minority administration in the Scottish Office is that it exercises power without responsibility. That seems to have been the prerogative of the Tory party in Scotland during the past 10 years.

The Tories have no serious aspiration of winning political support in Scotland. They are content to rely on English Lobby fodder to see through their legislation in the House. They have the power to impose any kind of dog's breakfast on the people of Scotland—and that is what the poll tax is. Once the Conservatives have done their mischief, the elected local authorities and their officials have to try to maintain local services in schools and elsewhere which our people so desperately need.

Tonight's business sets the scene for local services in the coming year. When the Secretary of State opened the debate, he suggested that Lothian regional council should cut its budget—do away with pensioners' free bus passes, I suppose. But the local Labour authorities are elected to do a job in Scotland and, unlike the Minister, they have a right and duty to implement the policies on which they were elected.

In my last couple of minutes I shall concentrate on housing. I can certainly confirm what local authorities and Shelter have said about the housing crisis which people in Scotland are experiencing. The housing capital allocations are insufficient to meet the well-known need for investment in repairs and improvements, let alone build the new houses needed to meet the growing needs of people on waiting lists in every part of Scotland. It is intolerable that people have to live in cold, damp housing with windows that require replacement and, sometimes, unsafe wiring, because local authorities are not allowed to spend the money required to bring the houses up to standard.

East Lothian district council's borrowing allocation is £1·221 million on top of its projected receipts from council house sales. That is fully £5 million short of what the council requires to spend on its improvement and repair programme in the coming year. It is better than the position last year, when it had a negative capital allocation, but it is still not good enough.

We must not lose sight of the housing shortage. The Government do not seem to care how many people do not have houses so long as those who have them own them. If ever there was a case of warped principles, that must be it. In my constituency, 5,700 people are stuck on the district council's housing waiting list. Hon. Members hear about such cases in their surgeries. We must deal with young people just married having to live in their in-laws' overcrowded accommodation. What sort of way is that to begin a marriage?

The Conservatives, who claim to be the party of the family, govern Scotland. Local authorities cannot meet those needs. The present state of affairs is a scandal. Tonight in East Lothian, 20 families will be living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation because the local authority does not have homes to let to those people who urgently need them. It is a tragedy and a scandal, and the Government are responsible for it.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North 6:41 pm, 25th January 1990

It is unfortunate that, at the end of the debate, we must cram in short speeches, largely because, in opening the debate, the Secretary of State treated us to an epic epistle to absent friends. He spoke for 40 minutes.

At the end of the debate, in marked contrast to what we had from the Secretary of State, we get down to the nitty-gritty of our discussion. It is not about abstruse statistics or about calculations in the basement of the Scottish Office. It is about human beings, and in particular about the housing conditions in which they are having to live. Anyone who walks through the streets and is in touch with the real world of people who live in our constituencies knows that there are conditions which are appalling; that they are getting worse; and that authorities are being starved of resources by the Government.

A revealing figure is the housing revenue statistics that were accepted by the Government as the grant calculation figure for the management and maintenance of council stock. It is £407 per house; but the real figure which local authorities will announce next year is not £407 but £466. The difference between the two is represented by the cases we see in our surgeries and about which we read in letters concerning repairs and maintenance that cannot be carried out.

Give local authorities the resources to do a decent job on behalf of their tenants and they will do it, for they are crying out to do it; but producing bogus statistics and saying that it is £407 instead of £466 does not change the realities of the situation. It simply changes the script and the false basis on which the statistics are prepared.

The poll tax calculations produced by the Government are based largely on false assumptions about inflation and the performance needs of local government. All the time, we get a politically motivated picture. The Secretary of State is trying to build up that picture by saying, on the one hand, that profligate Labour councils are doing things that do not need to be done, are taking daft decisions and are creating services for which there is no demand. He speaks, on the other, of cautious, penurious Conservative councils which are watching every penny they spend.

Look in detail at the figures and the real picture becomes clear, while Scottish opinion polls show that 50 per cent. of the people support Labour policies and 16 per cent. support the Government.

Let us take a quick spin round Scotland to see some of the realities that lie behind the facade that the Government erects. It being Burns night, it is appropriate to go first to Ayr— Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses For honest men and bonnie lasses. The Tory lead is down to a stump, and John Mackay has got the bump. In Ayr, there is a 40 per cent. increase in the revenue support grant settlement to the good Labour council, leading to a cut in the level of poll tax.

Move up the Ayrshire coast to Cunninghame and we find an increase of 13 per cent. in the poll tax. It is not difficult to see why there is that difference, recalling what Kyle and Carrick are getting. Whereas the latter has an increase of 40 per cent., the increase in Cunninghame is barely 3·5 per cent.

No wonder, when consulting that valuable organ of public opinion, The Largs and Millport Weekly News,—we find that the Leader of the Conservative group on Cunninghame district council is not attacking the Labour administration for a poll tax increase of 13 per cent. but congratulating that administration on keeping the increase to that figure. That newspaper reported: The budget was welcomed as a fair one by Tory councillors. Group Leader Edith Clarkson said the committee convenors and officers had done 'very well' … The local Conservative councillor hit out at the lack of support from the Government who cut Cunninghame's revenue support grant. She expressed extreme concern over the lack of grant aid. It is nice to know that there are Tories somewhere who have not yet fallen under the malign influence of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling.

We move on to Strathclyde, also cited as a bogey figure despite years of fiscal responsibility since its inception. There can be a lower poll tax in Strathclyde, but at a cost. The Tory budget for the area, reported today involves £9 million-worth of cuts in education expenditure. Do the people of Strathclyde want that? They will have a chance to say when they vote in May.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said, it is interesting to see the cost when we cross to Lothian. Mr. Moderate Meek has put forward the Tory budget, which includes selling off seven old folks' homes and a ski slope, closing down welfare rights services and taking away concessionary bus passes. Any fool can make cuts, but everybody in Scotland must realise the price that would be paid for the figures that the Tories are putting forward. Those figures are based on cuts in the level not of luxury services but of necessities.

In Lothian this year they would sell off the old folks' homes—as they do a Bradford—and they would sell off a ski slope, thereby keeping the poll tax artificially low. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us what Lothian should sell next year or the year after that.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North


Let it be clearly understood in Lothian that the basis of the Tory budget this year has involved selling off seven old folks' homes. Is that what the people of Lothian want? They too will have a chance to have their say in May.

We move to Tayside, where less political manipulation is going on with the poll tax. A range of budgets has been put forward in that area, varying from £280 by the Tories, £284 by the SNP—always a wee bit in the middle—and £285 by the Labour administration. Where there is political competition, with the parties aiming to be electable and wishing to maintain a decent level of services, all the calculations come out at about the same figure.

The Tories think that the poll tax can be used as a political game. They think that in Scotland, and now in England, it can be sold by saying that Labour councils mea high poll taxes and Tory councils mean low ones. People are not stupid. They are realising in Scotland, as they will come to realise in England and Wales, the potential that exists for the Government to manipulate the level of poll tax for political advantage.

Those who cannot appreciate that should consult the grant figures, which show an increase for Borders of 13 per cent. The increase in Strathclyde is less than 4 per cent. The increase in Edinburgh is 0·08 per cent.; in Bearsden and Milngavie, 51·23 per cent.; in Eastwood, 50·2 per cent.; and the decrease in Glasgow is minus 0·2 per cent.

Those are the statistics of political manipulation. The people of Scotland will not let the Tories, the architects and onlie begetters of the poll tax, off the hook when the statistics become available. As poll tax levels are set throughout Scotland, they are being seen as the products of political manipulation through grant calculations by the Secretary of State.

I want briefly to discuss housing support grant. Yet again, ordinary people whom we represent will face rent increases this year of at least £2 to £3 as a direct result of Government policies. For 10 years, the Government's ideological motivation has been to drive people out of tenancy into owner-occupation. At least there was a political logic in that, when people could afford to buy council houses or move into starter homes because they thought that they would be no worse off. The tactic of the Government was to force up rents and send people into the private sector.

It can be argued that that was a fair political tactic, but now the position is different. People cannot now go into the private sector or pay their mortgages because of the Government's high interest rate policy. Now, the choice is not between becoming owner-occupiers and staying as high-rent council tenants; it is between massive rent rises—achieved by Government manipulation of grants—or mortgage misery. The Government and the Scottish Office are confronting the people of Scotland with the choice of rent rises or mortgage misery.

Finally, I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). I have no truck with those who, for political advantage, urge poor people not to pay the poll tax in the hope that, at the end of the day, they will make political capital out of attacking local authorities for doing the job that they are legally obliged to do, which is to collect the revenue. As a Socialist and a member of the Labour party, I am proud that in its history Strathclyde regional council has never initiated a warrant sale. It never will do so against people whose need is genuine.

My contempt is profound for those who would try to make it impossible for the council to maintain that record—not for reasons of defending the poor, but out of malice in the hope of attacking that Labour authority. I have no time for those people. We will get rid of the poll tax in Scotland, as well as in England and in Wales, by getting rid of the Government. The poll tax will be one of the principal vehicles by which we do so.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West 6:53 pm, 25th January 1990

I strongly reject the charge that there has been any manipulation in the grant, and I shall cite evidence. Stirling had its grant increased by 20 per cent., the Labour authority of East Kilbride by 33 per cent., Hamilton by 18 per cent., Kyle and Carrick by 30 per cent., Motherwell by 29 per cent., and Strathkelvin by 41 per cent. That is clear evidence that the distributions are done entirely on the basis of need, to equalise the needs of an authority on the basis of the arrangements agreed with COSLA, with the balances then distributed on a per capita basis.

There has been not only a 7·5 per cent. increase in the rate support grant but, taking into account other grants, an increase of 8·2 per cent. If authorities spend in line with the settlement, community charges, on average, need not rise by more than inflation. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfies (Sir H. Monro) that there is no doubt that if community charges higher than inflation are set, they will be a direct consequence of growth in spending and not the level of the settlement. The encouraging reality of the community charge is that it persuades the electorate to focus sharply on the validity of council spending plans.

On the safety net, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) asked me a specific point concerning her district council. It was invited last year to submit a detailed paper to the distribution committee, explaining how it considers itself to be disadvantaged. So far, it has not done so, but the offer remains open. I strongly suggest that the council does that, as the distribution committee consists of local authority and Scottish Office representatives. The Exchequer buy-out of the safety net means that those authorities such as Grampian, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, which contributed to the self-financing net last year, will receive their grant entitlement in full in 1990–91 and in future years.

I recognise that there are those who argue that we are giving too much grant to rural areas. Under the new grant system, it is our aim that prudent authorities would no longer be disadvantaged compared with high-spending authorities. The effect of the new system is now being seen, whereas previously it was practically obscured by the safety net. It is now working its way through to the advantage of Scotland.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) wanted me to speak about the business rate. The Government's policy on business rates has been widely welcomed. The across-the-board reduction of 6·25 per cent. in rate poundages is an important first step towards a common rate poundage, and further steps are planned to continue the process towards harmonisation.

The Government recognise the concern expressed by local authorities about the uncertainty of the yield of the non-domestic rating income. That is why we gave a commitment to consider redetermination of the RSG for 1990–91 in the light of actual rate yield.

The hon. Member for Garscadden asked for an estimate of the sum needed to eliminate the balance. The original estimate of the CBI was £250 million. We recognise that the effect of revaluation might affect that figure, and we will take that into account when considering further reductions in the business rates. We believe that the £80 million reduction will be a significant first step along the right road.

On the collection of the community charge, I agree with the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) that those who are in a position to pay the community charge should do so. It should be stressed to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) that more than 1 million people in Scotland receive rebates—a higher number than the first Scottish Office estimates. I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) that those who have the capacity to pay should do so.

It is especially significant that Angus district council, the sole nationalist-controled council in Scotland, should be busily collecting the community charge when the Scottish National party Members of Parliament are claiming that they are not paying. I suggest to the House that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. I remind them of the old New Zealand saying that the tree that is split is nothing but food for the ants.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) raised the relevant matter of a hostel in his constituency. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) raised a similar point. Consultations are taking place with COSLA to the extent that hostel costs should continue to be charged to the housing revenue account. I regret that the consultations are not yet completed, but agreement in principle has been reached that the HRA should be restricted to the authorities' landlord function. Any change involves complex issues, but I hope that that will be completed before long and that revised guidance will be sent out.

As hon. Members will appreciate, there has been a £64 million increase in the net allocation. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) asked about the Winget houses. That is primarily a matter for the district council. The final allocations will be made in March and we will thoroughly investigate all available possibilities. If we are in a position to make a further allocation, we will do so, but I am not in a position to do so now.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

No, I must answer a few more points.

The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) failed to mention that East Lothian had a supplementary allocation in excess of £1 million a month ago. We will keep the points made by hon. Members in mind before final allocations are made in March. I agree with the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute that it is important for Scottish Homes to focus on not only low-cost home ownership but the problems of rural housing. That is why Scottish Homes was asked to go into it thoroughly, to prepare a report and to develop a rural housing strategy. The document, which I think is a good one, made many wide-ranging suggestions. I agree with Scottish Homes that the view of all those with an interest in rural housing should be aired. Only then will resulting policies be seen to be in the interests of all those living in rural Scotland. I hope that policies will be fully developed later this year, as I am sure they will be.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) raised the question of environmental considerations. As time has almost run out, I can only say that I will write to him.

Let me end by saying that our overall housing policies would have received the approval of the great Robert Burns, and tonight I commend them strongly to the House.

It being after Seven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [19 January] to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Motions.

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 167.

Division No. 50][7 pm
Alexander, RichardBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBenyon, W.
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBevan, David Gilroy
Amess, DavidBiffen, Rt Hon John
Amos, AlanBlaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Ashby, DavidBoscawen, Hon Robert
Aspinwall, JackBoswell, Tim
Atkinson, DavidBottomley, Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Baldry, TonyBowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Bowis, John
Batiste, SpencerBoyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Bellingham, HenryBrandon-Bravo, Martin
Bendall, VivianBrazier, Julian
Bright, GrahamHeathcoat-Amory, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hind, Kenneth
Browne, John (Winchester)Holt, Richard
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hordern, Sir Peter
Buck, Sir AntonyHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Burns, SimonHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Burt, AlistairHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Butler, ChrisHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Butterfill, JohnHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunter, Andrew
Carrington, MatthewIrvine, Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaIrving, Sir Charles
Chapman, SydneyJack, Michael
Chope, ChristopherJackson, Robert
Churchill, MrJanman, Tim
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Jessel, Toby
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Conway, DerekKey, Robert
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Kilfedder, James
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cope, Rt Hon JohnKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Couchman, JamesKirkhope, Timothy
Cran, JamesKnapman, Roger
Critchley, JulianKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Curry, DavidKnowles, Michael
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Day, StephenLang, Ian
Devlin, TimLatham, Michael
Dorrell, StephenLawrence, Ivan
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Dover, DenLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dunn, BobLightbown, David
Dykes, HughLilley, Peter
Eggar, TimLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Emery, Sir PeterLord, Michael
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Evennett, DavidLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Fallon, MichaelMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Favell, TonyMaclean, David
Fenner, Dame PeggyMcLoughlin, Patrick
Fookes, Dame JanetMcNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Forman, NigelMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Malins, Humfrey
Forth, EricMans, Keith
Fox, Sir MarcusMaples, John
Franks, CecilMarlow, Tony
Freeman, RogerMarshall, John (Hendon S)
French, DouglasMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fry, PeterMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gale, RogerMawhinney, Dr Brian
Gardiner, GeorgeMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Garel-Jones, TristanMellor, David
Gill, ChristopherMeyer, Sir Anthony
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMitchell, Sir David
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMonro, Sir Hector
Gorst, JohnMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Gow, IanMoore, Rt Hon John
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Moss, Malcolm
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Moynihan, Hon Colin
Gregory, ConalMudd, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Neale, Gerrard
Grist, IanNeedham, Richard
Ground, PatrickNelson, Anthony
Grylls, MichaelNeubert, Michael
Hague, WilliamNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Nicholls, Patrick
Hampson, Dr KeithNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hannam, JohnNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Norris, Steve
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Harris, DavidOppenheim, Phillip
Hayes, JerryPage, Richard
Hayward, RobertPaice, James
Patnick, IrvineStokes, Sir John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStradling Thomas, Sir John
Pawsey, JamesSummerson, Hugo
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTapsell, Sir Peter
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Porter, David (Waveney)Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Powell, William (Corby)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Price, Sir DavidTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyTemple-Morris, Peter
Redwood, JohnThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Renton, Rt Hon TimThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rhodes James, RobertThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Riddick, GrahamThorne, Neil
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasThornton, Malcolm
Ridsdale, Sir JulianTownend, John (Bridlington)
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Tracey, Richard
Roe, Mrs MarionTrippier, David
Rost, PeterTrotter, Neville
Rowe, AndrewTwinn, Dr Ian
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaVaughan, Sir Gerard
Ryder, RichardViggers, Peter
Sackville, Hon TomWaddington, Rt Hon David
Sainsbury, Hon TimWakeham, Rt Hon John
Sayeed, JonathanWalden, George
Shaw, David (Dover)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Waller, Gary
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Warren, Kenneth
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Watts, John
Shersby, MichaelWells, Bowen
Sims, RogerWheeler, Sir John
Skeet, Sir TrevorWiddecombe, Ann
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Wilkinson, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wilshire, David
Soames, Hon NicholasWinterton, Mrs Ann
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Winterton, Nicholas
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wolfson, Mark
Squire, RobinWood, Timothy
Stanbrook, IvorWoodcock, Dr. Mike
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir JohnYeo, Tim
Stern, Michael
Stevens, LewisTellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Mr. Alastair Goodlad and
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)Mr. Tony Durant.
Allen, GrahamCorbyn, Jeremy
Anderson, DonaldCousins, Jim
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCox, Tom
Ashton, JoeCrowther, Stan
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Cryer, Bob
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Cummings, John
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Darling, Alistair
Barron, KevinDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Battle, JohnDewar, Donald
Beckett, MargaretDixon, Don
Bell, StuartDobson, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDunnachie, Jimmy
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Bermingham, GeraldEadie, Alexander
Blair, TonyEastham, Ken
Boateng, PaulEvans, John (St Helens N)
Boyes, RolandEwing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bradley, KeithEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Bray, Dr JeremyFearn, Ronald
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Buckley, George J.Fisher, Mark
Caborn, RichardFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Foster, Derek
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Fraser, John
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Fyfe, Maria
Cartwright, JohnGalloway, George
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Clay, BobGodman, Dr Norman A.
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGolding, Mrs Llin
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Gordon, Mildred
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Graham, Thomas
Corbett, RobinGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Nellist, Dave
Grocott, BruceO'Brien, William
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyO'Neill, Martin
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Home Robertson, JohnOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hood, JimmyPike, Peter L.
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)Prescott, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Radice, Giles
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Redmond, Martin
Illsley, EricRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Ingram, AdamReid, Dr John
Janner, GrevilleRichardson, Jo
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
Kennedy, CharlesRuddock, Joan
Kirkwood, ArchySedgemore, Brian
Lambie, DavidShore, Rt Hon Peter
Leadbitter, TedShort, Clare
Leighton, RonSillars, Jim
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, TerrySmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Litherland, RobertSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McAllion, JohnSmith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
McCartney, IanSoley, Clive
Macdonald, Calum A.Spearing, Nigel
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McKelvey, WilliamSteinberg, Gerry
McLeish, HenryTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Maclennan, RobertTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
McWilliam, JohnThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Madden, MaxThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mahon, Mrs AliceWalley, Joan
Marek, Dr JohnWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Wareing, Robert N.
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Maxton, JohnWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Meacher, MichaelWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Michael, AlunWilson, Brian
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Winnick, David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Worthington, Tony
Moonie, Dr LewisWray, Jimmy
Morgan, Rhodri
Morley, ElliotTellers for the Noes:
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Mr. Frank Haynes and
Mullin, ChrisMr. John McFall.
Murphy, Paul

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 12th December, be approved.

Resolved,That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Variation Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 12th December, be approved.—[Mr. Dorrell.]

Resolved,That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1989, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2Ist December, be approved.—[Mr. Dorrelli.]

Resolved,That the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1990, dated 8th January 1990, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th January, be approved.—[Mr. Dorrell.]