HC Deb 14 May 1975 vol 892 cc522-54
Mr. Raison

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 29, leave out subsection (1) and insert: '(1) A council who on the 1st April 1974 held any dwellings to which a rent loss certificate relates shall recover the sum certified therein or the appropriate part of it as hereinafter defined by 1st April 1977'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment, it may be convenient to take the following Amendments:

No. 7, in page 2, line 36, leave out subsection (2).

No. 8, in line 39, leave out subsection (3) and insert: '() A council shall perform their duty under this section by a general increase of the rents of those of their housing revenue account dwellings in the part or parts of their area to which the certificate relates; and a council may make any such increase notwithstanding section 111 of the Housing Act 1957 (charges for local authority's houses)'. No. 9, in line 40 leave out 'either'.

No. 10, in line 42, leave out from 'relates' to 'and' in line 44.

No. 11, in page 3, line 1, leave out, subsection (4) and insert: '() On the application of a council to whom this section applies the Secretary of State may by statutory instrument make an order substituting for the date "1st April 1977" in subsection (1) above such other date not being later than the 1st April 1978 as he may in the order specify; and any such order shall be subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament'. No. 17, in Clause 3, page 3, leave out lines 17 to 28 and insert: 'may elect to charge the sum which it would otherwise fall to them to recover under section 2 above either wholly or partially to their general rate fund but any sum so charged shall be chargeable and charged by them separately on the area of any former council to whose account the rent loss certificate relates and only on such area'. No. 18, in line 19, leave out from 'and' to 'shall' in line 21 and insert: 'any sum charged to their general rate fund by virtue of this paragraph'. No. 19, in line 22, after 'chargeable', insert 'and charged by them'.

Mr. Raison

These amendments have been grouped together because they are all concerned with the process of recovering money that was not collected as a consequence of the failure to implement the Housing Finance Act. They cover three very important but to some extent separate points.

Amendments Nos. 5, 7 and 11 are concerned with the rate or time-scale of recovery of the money that was not collected. Amendment No. 8 is concerned with the possibility that council tenants who were not in the area which benefited from non-implementation might still have to pay. Amendment No. 17 is concerned with the parallel possibility that ratepayers who were not in the area that benefited might also have to pay.

I make my remarks on this group of amendments in three stages, and I begin with Amendments Nos. 5, 7 and 11. Instead of allowing recovery to take place over a period of five years, Amendment No. 5 states that the uncollected money shall be recovered by 1st April 1977. Backing this up, Amendment No. 7 deletes the five-year recovery period. The later amendment, No. 11, gives the possibility of an additional year's grace.

We welcome the Government's view that the money that was not collected in the form of rent as a result of the defiance of the Act should come from the relevant community. We welcome the principle set forth by the Secretary of State as being that which underlies the Government's approach. It is right that the taxpayer should bear none of the burden for the failure to implement the Act. So far as we can judge, the Bill at least sticks to that undertaking. But the very important effect of our amendment would be to give councillors from the time of the Act becoming law until the 1st April 1977 to recover the money. Depending on the date at which this Bill might receive the Royal Assent—and we hope that it will not—this could allow a period of well over a year and a half for the moneys to be recovered.

Anybody not knowing the facts which emerged in Committee would regard this period of about a year and a half for recovery to take place as very reasonable. After all, it is a greater period than the period of operation of the Housing Finance Act, and therefore of the possible period of default. One cannot have added to one's rent or rates more money than was not collected during the period when the law was being defined. Therefore, I suggest that the five-year recovery period which the Bill allows, even at a superficial glance, is quite excessive.

I emphasise again, as in the last debate, that the corollary of a five-year period of recovery will be a prolonged period of grievance. The sense of grievance that is felt and will be felt by those who are having to pay because of the dereliction of duty of the councillors will last for the whole of that five-year period and will make nonsense of the Government's claim that this Bill is a way to wipe the slate clean.

It is also quite unnecessarily favourable to have this period, in that if a council chose to spread out the collection of money over five years it would be collecting far less in real terms than if it were to collect the money in the near future The value of money is falling the whole time and the pound collected in five years' time will, alas, be worth very much less than a pound collected today. It is a straight economic incentive to local authorities to delay the collection of money. The longer they delay it, the less money in real terms they will have to collect. I see no suggestion in the Bill of any interest charge being made on the money to be collected, the collection of which could be delayed.

What really persuaded my right hon. Friends and myself that a five-year period of recovery was totally and utterly unnecessary—indeed, even ridiculous—was the table produced to the Committee so helpfully by the Under-Secretary.

This table—I say this for the benefit of those who were not in the Committee—set out the estimates, derived from the information available within the Department of the Environment, of potential increases if recovery were spread out over the defaulting areas only over a five-year period—for example, taking the North Derbyshire case, confined only to the old Clay Cross area, rather than being spread out over the whole of the North-East Derbyshire District Council. The table gave both the average weekly rent increase and the annual average rate poundage increase for the 18 authorities, which we understand are being audited at the moment in connection with this Bill.

What was so striking about the table was that the sums it showed were so extraordinarily small. They did not begin to justify the need for a five-year period for repayment. The authorities were not named in the table, for reasons which we understand, but I hope that hon. Members interested in this argument will seize the opportunity to look at the facts set out therein. I will quote one or two of them. In the column devoted to average weekly rent increases—the amount of rent that would have to be collected if recovery were made over the defaulting area only over the five-year period—we see average weekly rent increases of 5p, 3p, 4p, 9p, 2p, and so on. In other words, the sums, if spread over a five-year period, are on a very small scale indeed.

Exactly the same applies to the average rate poundage increase, where the sums are 0.25p, 0.15p, 0.05p, and so on. There arc one or two exceptions. One is quite a bit larger. But, on the whole, the amount to be collected is pitifully small in relation to a five-year period of recovery.

What would happen if the whole rent loss were to be recovered in one year? In terms of rate poundages, in one authority it would yield only 0.25p in the pound, in six authorities it would yield only 0.5p, and in only two authorities would the increase spread over five years mean more than 1p in the pound on the rates.

For the purposes of this debate, it is easier to see the scale of the problem in the estimated rent increases. One authority would need to impose only a 5p a week increase for repayment in one year. What possible argument can there be for allowing this to be spread over five years? All except four authorities could recover the payment by a 25p a week increase spread over one year only. Of the four which are larger sums, one would need a 30p a week increase for a year, one a 35p increase, and one a 45p increase for one year. There is only one substantial one, which the Under-Secretary gave us to understand was Clay Cross, where the figure is 27p a week over five years, which is equal to a 135p a week increase over one year.

Our scheme would not allow only a year but would make possible about one and a half years. So all the figures that I have given for a one-year period would need to be reduced by a third.

These figures demolish utterly the case for spreading the recovery payment over up to five years. To do so is deeply offensive to the law abiding, especially those in the areas where the money has to be raised. But, although there is no need for this long period for recovery and although the date which we propose of April 1977 seems adequate by any standards, nevertheless in Amendment No. 11 we make possible a further extension of one year. We say, in other words, that in certain circumstances the period for recovery could be stretched to April 1978 where a council applied to the Secretary of State for such an extension and could justify its case. Our amendment suggests that the Secretary of State would then be able to make a statutory instrument extending this up to the date of 1st April 1978.

In the most substantial case, which we take to be Clay Cross this would mean a rate of recovery of about 60p-odd a week. By any standards that is not an inordinate burden to fall on the community which benefited most from non-collection.

6.45 p.m.

I believe that it is right that this extension should be subject to parliamentary control. We are talking about an act of defiance of the laws of Parliament. Therefore, we propose that Amendment No. 11 should require the affirmative procedure of this House to make sure that the House agreed to the proposals of the Secretary of State.

Once again the arguments on all this are rooted in common sense. There is nothing dogmatic or extreme in our approach. It is a common sense approach to the problem.

I turn to Amendment No. 8 which deals with the burden which it would be possible to impose on council tenants. The effect of it is that where a council opts to recover money through council rent increases, it may do so only by raising rents in the areas to which the certificate relates. Our amendment would not permit councils to raise the rents of council tenants who did not form part of what the Secretary of State described on 6th November 1974 as the communities which "benefited from late implementation".

It is clear that those communities which benefited from late implementation can mean only the areas of the old local authorities where defiance of the law took place. In the case of Clay Cross and possibly others where this problem has arisen, the old authorities have been merged subsequently in the new enlarged authorities created under the Local Government Act 1972.

Is not it a complete travesty of words or sense to say that a community which benefited could be the new enlarged local authority rather than the old small local authority where defiance of the law took place? It is a complete travesty to make it possible that all the council tenants of the new authority of North-East Derbyshire should have to bear the burden of repaying the money which was not collected by the councillors of the old Clay Cross areas, a fact which benefited only those who live in those areas.

I find it astonishing that a Labour Government, of all Governments, should even contemplate the possibility that council tenants outside the areas which benefited from defiance of the law should have to bear this burden. I cannot understand how Government supporters, who constantly talk of their interest and concern for council tenants, could agree to the Government's proposition. As I said in Committee, when I recall the wrath and indignation—whether simulated or real, I do not know—which we heard from Labour Members about the possibility under the Housing Finance Act that council tenants might have to support other council tenants in other areas or other council tenants in their own areas out of their rents, I cannot conceive how today they can support the proposal that council tenants who derived no benefit from non-implementation should now bear the burden on behalf of their fellow men.

It is tragic, incidentally, that at this stage we should have so few Government supporters present. This matter must touch them closely. I have no doubt that there is concern among them. I hope that it will be expressed when we press this amendment to a Division.

Let me ask the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) why council tenants in the rest of North-East Derbyshire should be liable to pay for the keeping down of rent increases in the Clay Cross area. How can this be justified? They had no part in the electing of the rebel councillors.

Mr. Swain

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, when this Bill becomes law, it will be the responsibility of the local authority to decide, yea or nay?

Mr. Raison

I accept that it will be the responsibility of the local authority to decide, yea or nay, but I can see no reason why this possibility should be open to it. I can see no justification in logic, honour or anything else for this provision to be in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that and vote with us at least on this clause—[Interruption.] I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should listen to his councillors—

Mr. Swain

I was there this morning.

Mr. Raison

Then he should listen to his own Labour leader—

Mr. Swain

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Raison


Mr. Swain

I thought not. The hon. Gentleman will not give way because he knows that he is telling a lie.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That word is not allowed.

Mr. Swain

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If a man tells a lie, what are we to say to him—"Thank you very much"? I say that the hon. Gentleman is telling a diabolical lie.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain), who has been in the House a long time, must help me. He knows that that is a word that I am not allowed to permit. He may say that what the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said was inaccurate or was not in accordance with the facts, but I cannot permit the word "lie".

Mr. Swain

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A hell of a lot of words in this House are used that should not be used. Apparently Opposition Front Bench speakers have a certain licence to use them. I suggest that when it is pointed out that an hon. Member is telling an untruth, out of all respect to the hon. Member who reminds him of this and who does know the truth, he should give way to him so that the other hon. Member can tell him, or else he must incur the wrath of the hon. Member whom he is criticising.

Mr. Speaker

I hoped that we could settle this point without too much heat. I regret personal exchanges like this. Sometimes they are provoked, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the word "lie".

Mr. Swain

I withdraw the word "lie", Mr. Speaker, and apologise to all the liars in this country for bringing them down to the low level of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Speaker

In my discretion I shall construe that as an unreserved withdrawal.

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman's blandishments to me to give way are not the most seductive that I have ever heard.

Mr. Swain


Mr. Raison

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He can speak in the debate and put his point of view. I ask him and all Labour Members who may have more conscience and more sense than he has, why should it be possible that the ratepayer—

Mr. Swain

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is now directly insulting me. No doubt there are other Labour Members who have more sense than I have, but no doubt there are a hell of a lot of Labour Members who have more sense than the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Fortunately it is not for me to adjudicate on the amount of sense which hon. Members on either side of the House have. I suggest to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that he should not be deliberately provocative. There is a bit of give and take in this House—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member is not helping me with his interventions from a sedentary position. I am doing my best to conduct this debate in an orderly way. I would hope that Members on either side would not be unduly provocative. Let us get on.

Mr. Raison

Why should the Bill make it possible for the ratepayers of North-East Derbyshire, as represented by their councillors, to be in a position to place the burden on innocent council tenants? I do not suppose that they will, but why should the possibility even exist? The Government have never advanced any good reason.

I have some sympathy for the tenants of Clay Cross and the comparable areas. I believe that they were very badly served by their councillors, but at least those who lived in the Clay Cross area derived some benefit. At least their rents were held down. However, the other council tenants outside these areas, in the new authorities, can only suffer if this option is implemented.

In Committee the Under-Secretary responded in the feeblest possible way to our arguments upon this point. He talked of the possibility of tabling amendments on Report. He talked of the wish of the Government to extend, if possible, the range of options for repayment. We were not very interested in extending the range of options, because we did not think that was necessary. However, I am disappointed that the Under-Secretary has not seen fit to produce at least some recognition of the force of our argument. Perhaps I should qualify that by saying that it is still on the cards that he may accept our amendments. I hope that he will at least accept Amendment No. 8. We shall listen with great interest to what he has to say.

His hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Silverman), who alas does not appear to be present, seemed to me to do more than the Under-Secretary to try to defend the Government on this clause. In effect, he said that we can leave all this to the good sense of councils. That may be so. It may well be that they will behave in a very sensible way. However, I cannot see why such a blatantly unfair option as the Bill allows should be permitted.

I remind the Under-Secretary that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington said that he agreed that the clause was weak. I hope that all hon. Members will have the guts to join us at least in supporting Amendment No. 8, because they must know that both morally and in practical terms it is right.

I am glad that the Secretary of State has just arrived. I wish that he had heard a little more of this argument, because I believe it is one of the most important arguments that we are putting forward. I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell his right hon. Friend what we have been saying.

Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 17 which is the parallel amendment dealing with the position of the ratepayers in those areas outside the areas to which the rent loss certificates would apply. The effect that we seek here is the possibility that the burden of repaying sums which were not collected could fall only on the ratepayers of the area to which rent loss certificates attach and not on those parts of a new authority to which the certificates does not relate.

Again, the obvious example has to be North-East Derbyshire and Clay Cross. That is the only area where we can talk in anything remotely resembling concrete terms, but it may well be that the same situation would apply in other parts of the country.

Much the same arguments apply to this amendment as applied to the last one. As it happens, I feel particularly strongly about injustice to council tenants, about which I spoke under the last amendment, but there is no doubt that the injustice to ratepayers, which we are trying to remove by this amendment, would be just as great. There is no doubt that the ratepayers in North-East Derbyshire feel very strongly about this.

I am put in something of a dilemma by my desire to keep the peace and to live up to what you, Mr. Speaker, have just asked me to do. However, I cannot but refer at least to the point of view which was expressed very forcibly on 10th May—only last week—by the new North-East Derbyshire District Council which asked their Member of Parliament, apparentiy in vain, to call upon the Government not to proceed with the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill.

Mr. Swain

I should like to make a correction. It was not a request from the council but a statement by the leader of the Tory Party in the council, followed by the lady who was retiring as chairman. No decision was made. No resolution was moved or seconded. No recommendation was made by the council and not one of the councillors—and I was in the room—told me of it. The first I heard about this was when I read the article by A. J. Travers on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph this week. Now will the hon. Gentleman believe me when I say that I was not reprimanded? If I am to take instructions from a dud lawyer from Dronfield, the leader of the Tories on that council, I shall go out of this House tomorrow as a dishonest man.

Mr. Raison

I shall concede to the hon. Gentleman one thing—and that is that I believe that no Member of Parliament should be bound to take instructions from a local authority. That is part of our constitution. However, there was far from one Press report covering this matter. I have read a number today conveying the strong feelings of the North-East Derbyshire District Council and stating categorically—if I am wrong I shall accept correction—that the Labour Group leader was the person who called upon the hon. Gentleman to behave in this way, and as I say—

Mr. Swain

He went to a tea-party in Manchester.

Mr. Raison

We had plenty of other evidence before the Committee and before the House about the deep distaste felt in North-East Derbyshire for the action which the Government are putting forward.

I believe that what the Government are putting forward is both profoundly mistaken and completely unnecessary. There is no need to have the possibility written into the Bill that the money should be collected from the tenants or the ratepayers outside the areas to which the rent loss certificate applies. There is no need for this and there is no advantage in it. If this provision is enacted it can only produce bitterness. When the Government say again and again that they are trying to end bitterness, how can they be so foolish as to persist with the ingredients in the Bill which, if they are implemented, are the surest guarantee I know that they will prolong bitterness.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 18 and 19, in my name, which have much the same effect as Amendment No. 5, moved by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison).

My amendments put the responsibility for meeting the costs involved firmly on the backs of those who benefit by the actions of the councils concerned. It is right that that should be so. I support everything that the hon. Gentleman has said.

I was disappointed to hear that the Press reports from North-East Derbyshire were not correct. I accept what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) said. I had been heartened by the fact that it appeared that the council there was concerned to make it clear that it felt that the deficit, such as it is, should fall on those in its area—in Clay Cross in particular—who have benefited through rates or rents. If that is not correct, the amendments are much more important, because we should make it clear in the House exactly what we feel should happen which is that the payment of the deficit should fall on those who benefited.

I am surprised that the Press reports are not correct, because we have had many representations from people resident in the area and other areas. There happens to be a Liberal Party in Clay Cross—

Mr. Skinner

There is not.

Mr. Ross

In that case, the gentleman who has been in touch with me must be telling me an untruth. I have had representations from a Clay Cross Liberal Party, and I am delighted that there is such a party. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) spoke there during the last election—[Interruption.]It is progress. [Interruption.] I suggest that the sedentary remarks should cease. The letters I have received from residents in the area—

Mr. Skinner

Name some.

Mr. Ross

I shall pass the letters to the hon. Gentleman after the debate, and he can read them.

These residents say that they would be outraged if they had to pay for back rents and rates for which they have no responsibility. Therefore, I recommend support for the amendments. I also support the view that the payments could and should be clawed back within 18 months to two and a half years.

Mr. Swain

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the biggest contribution to rate increases by any authority this year was caused by the Act reorganising local government, an Act passed by the Tory Government in 1972?

Mr. Ross

I am well aware of that, because I represent a constituency which has suffered very much from the reorganisation—a reorganisation for which we never asked. We now have three councils when we should have one. But that is not the point now.

The figures supplied to us in Committee made it clear that there would not be a great burden on the ratepayers if the money were repaid in 18 months to three years. Therefore, I support the suggestion that it should be repaid over 18 months or two and a half years. The figures quoted are not unreasonable. I ask the House to support the Opposition amendments and those in my name.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers' Department (Mr. Arthur Davidson)

Perhaps I may reply to the amendments in the order in which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) moved them. The amendments moved by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) were closely linked—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one amendment has been moved Amendment No 5. The others are being discussed with it. Whether I shall allow them to be moved afterwards is a matter for me.

Mr. Davidson

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I shall discuss the other amendments in the order in which they were discussed previously.

Amendments Nos. 5, 7 and 11 would greatly shorten the time available to councils to recover the amount of a rent loss certificate. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury made clear, they would require a council to recover the necessary amount, normally before 1st April 1977, although the Secretary of State would have power to extend the period to 1st April 1978, subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

I fully appreciate that in most cases the necessary increases in rates or rents for the recovery of the certified rent loss will be very small. The hon. Gentleman referred to the table supplied in Committee by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, which makes that clear. The hon. Gentleman was right to draw that conclusion from it, but under the Bill the authorities concerned have absolute discretion to recover as soon as they wish. They do not have to recover over the five-year period, but can recover in a much shorter period. The Government's discussions with the local authority associations left the clear impression that most of the authorities likely to be affected want the whole thing put behind them as speedily as possible.

Mr. Raison

In that case, why give the power to spread the payment over five years?

Mr. Davidson

I shall come to that.

Our conclusion is as follows. First there is no need to impose a rigid timetable on the local authorities. Secondly, the amendments would go against the principle that this Government have always followed of allowing a discretion to responsible councils.

It would be impracticable to operate the time limits provided in the amendments. Nobody can foresee all the circumstances of a particular case. There might well be appeals stretching well into 1976. The court procedure preferred by the Opposition would be likely greatly to lengthen the period. The Opposition amendments ignore the wishes and practicalities of local government in exactly the same way—and I do not wish to be contentious—as the Opposition ignored them in the Housing Finance Act. There is no obligation on councils to extend the period to five years. They are responsible bodies, and they will, no doubt, note what the hon. Gentleman said. They have to face their electorates. The vast majority of them will no doubt, try to collect the money within as short a period as possible.

Amendment No. 11 seeks to remove the discretion of the Secretary of State to extend the recovery period on application by a council. We see no justification for circumscribing this power. It is nonsensical to think that a Secretary of State—certainly the present Secretary of State—might abuse his discretion. It would be in no one's interests to do so. It makes sense to provide a useful fallback discretion of the kind provided in the Bill in case in any particular area the burden of recovery should prove to be heavier than it is desirable to impose on the tenants in these difficult times.

In those circumstances, whilst I appreciate the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman's case, I must ask the House to resist the amendments.

Amendment No. 8 is designed to restrict the recovery through rent increases of the amount in a rent loss certificate to the area to which the certificate relates. The choice now provided in the subsection which the amendment seeks to delete would apply where local government reorganisation had incorporated a former defaulting council as part of a larger successor council's area. The obvious case is that of the Clay Cross Urban District.

I appreciate the strength of the argument put forward by the Opposition here and in Committee in support of this amendment. They are fully entitled to their views. It is a respectable point. However, those arguments illustrate once again the area of difference between the two sides of the House. We believe that local authorities should be allowed to decide for themselves how they carry out the duties and functions placed upon them. We do not regard them as either agents or tools of the Government. The approach that this Government have given to local authorities is to regard them as bodies responsible to their own electorate and, therefore, best able to take the right decisions for their areas.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

I am interested to hear of that independence of local authorities. Will the hon. Gentleman pass this on to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is trying to blackmail those counties which will not fit in with his plans to go comprehensive?

Mr. Davidson

If I entered into argument on that matter I should be quickly ruled out of order.

Perhaps I should point out why we have returned to local authorities the responsibility for fixing rents for their dwellings instead of giving that responsibility, as previously to non-accountable bodies. The hon. Gentleman said that he was glad that there was provision in the Bill making it clear that any losses dealt with by the Bill should be made good by the local community. We propose, therefore, following on from that, that the recovery should be the duty of the local authority responsible for the area to which the rent loss certificate relates. That being so, we consider it better to leave the decision as to the actual area from which the certified sums shall be recovered by increased rents to the council concerned.

Our proposals allow the council complete freedom to restrict the area of recovery to that of the former council concerned, if it wishes. If not, recovery can be spread over the whole of the area. The local councillors have to face an election in the area from which they are recovering rents. I refer to the area of the previous council and to the area where there was no rent loss certificate. Doubtless, being sensible bodies, they will bear that strictly in mind.

Mr. Raison

Will the hon. Gentleman say how the areas to which the rent loss certificate does not apply can possibly be described as the communities which benefited from late implementation? That was the criterion put forward by the Secretary of State. How can it apply to those people where the rent loss certificate does not apply?

Mr. Davidson

That will be a matter for the local authorities. Clearly, the local authorities will seek to recover the sums, in most cases, from the local community most intimately affected.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight will not expect me to deal with his amendments in detail since they cover the same ground as those moved by the hon. Member for Aylesbury.

The third group of amendments deals with the recovery of the amount in a rent loss certificate to the area to which a certificate relates, where any part of that amount is to be charged to the general rate fund. I do not think that I need deal with those amendments in detail. The same points arise. Once again, it is left to the discretion of the local authorities. They are sensible people. They must face the electorate. The Bill does not force them to collect from an area other than the area which originally was most intimately affected. No doubt they will bear in mind everything said by the hon. Gentleman. We feel that the council should have complete freedom to recover sums from the area for which it is responsible. We do not see any necessity to restrict that freedom.

In all the circumstances, whilst I fully appreciate the sincerity and the feeling which inspired these amendments, I must ask the House to resist them.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Cecil Parkinson (Hertfordshire, South)

We have listened with great interest to what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary. We well understand why he gave fumbling, slightly inept replies on this group of amendments. We well understand his embarrassment at having to read that kind of brief.

In explaining the Government's approach to this problem, the hon. Gentleman said that the Government took the view that local authorities should have complete freedom of action and should not in any way be influenced or interfered with by the Government. However, that does not match up to the remarks of the Secretary of State last week, when he said in Manchester that the party was over and that the Government would have to insist that local authorities adjust their rents. In addition, in his Budget speech the Chancellor said that a committee of representatives from local authorities and the Government should be set up to discuss the question of local authority expenditure, which is another way of saying that the Government are not happy to leave this matter to the local authorities nor to leave control of local authority programmes entirely in local authority hands. Incidentally, the Secretary of State said that the party was over at one of the most expensive end-of-party parties ever mounted.

The Parliamentary Secretary pretended that as the Government were concerned not to interfere with local authorities he was not prepared to accept our amendment. I think that was a poor argument which he put over in an uncharacteristically poor way.

With this group of amendments the Opposition made the mistake of taking the Attorney-General at his face value and believing what he said. In his speech today he said that the feeling behind the legislation was that those who had benefited should now pay. He also spoke about wanting to wipe the slate clean as quickly as possible. In this group of amendments we say that a five-year collection period is far too long. The Attorney-General seems to agree with that as he wants to wipe the slate clean quickly. We say that five years is not quickly. It is too long a period. The period should be shortened. We say that April 1977 is long enough.

In Committee the Under-Secretary said that at the time the legislation was drafted his Department had no idea of the sums involved. He referred to the famous list of 18 councils concerned and said that in 14 of the cases the whole arrears could be cleared off by a one-off 2p rate. The Under-Secretary, in his characteristically frank way, said that he had not seen those figures before. He was surprised by them. We say that when the Government drafted the legislation and chose the five-year period they were not aware, by their own admission, of the small sums involved. Now that the Government know what the sums are, the period of five years is obviously far too long. We agree that the slate should be wiped clean, but let us not take five years to do it when the sums involved are obviously small.

The second group of amendments embodies what the Attorney-General said about letting those who have benefited now pay. If the Government believe that, they should accept the restriction that is proposed. The Government seem to think that most of the councils involved will do what we want to make them do. We suggest that the councils should not be left with that option. We should embody in the legislation the spirit enunciated by the Attorney-General, that those who have had the benefit should pay.

On this occasion I prefer the instinct of the Attorney-General. We want to see the slate wiped clean, and wiped clean quickly, and we want the people who had the benefit to pay. Acceptance of this group of amendments would deliver what the Attorney-General said he wanted. Frankly, I think that the Under-Secretary gave a most unsatisfactory answer to the debate.

Mr. Lawrence

Once again a thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed Minister came to the Dispatch Box and, in a flat, dull tone, tried to obscure the essential evil of the Bill and this clause in particular. The clause, unamended, is absurd and patently unjust. It shows what follows from the despicable lack of principle which is shown in the Bill.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite speak of justice as though they have the sole right to claim justice on behalf of the Labour Party throughout this land. What justice is it to people who have not benefited in any shape or form from the advantages of not paying their rents to fork out the excesses which have been made as a result of the Bill? There is not the beginning of a gesture of justice to people who came from areas outside that covered by Clay Cross.

What justice is there in extending the period of payment to five years? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that it is a matter of discretion for the local authorities, but they must be allowing that period of time for those local authorities which wish to punish people who do not subscribe to the Labour creed, because we all know that irresponsible councils—Clay Cross is one—will happily indulge in a five-year extension rather than pay the money over a shorter period.

The evil that follows should be clear to everybody. If a council is in default to the extent of £120,000 as of last year, after five years that money, at 12 per cent. to 15 per cent. rates of interest, will be considerably reduced in value because of the borrowing that it will have to make over the five years to make up that value. With interest at about 15 per cent. the additional money which will have to be borrowed by any council to make up a deficit of £120,000 five years earlier will amount to £75,000. That means that that council will have lost the equivalent of just under £200,000. That is one of the evils that follows having an extended period of five years for repayment.

But there is more. We all know that we are not inflating now at 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. a year. We are inflating at 20 per cent. a year That means that after five years at 20 per cent.—and Heaven help us if it continues, but it might be higher than 20 per cent. in the next year or so—the value of that £120,000 will be nearer £240,000. Therefore, we are talking about a change in the value of money over five years nearer to £300,000 or £400,000 than the £120,000 which is the default at a given date.

Mr. Swain

I should like to give the hon. Gentleman au example of a Conservative-controlled council, now absorbed by North-East Derbyshire, which, 12 months before the take-over, had a balance of £100,000. The council spent that £100,000 on a prestige civic centre which, within six months, fell down and is now costing the ratepayers of North-East Derbyshire £40,000 to repair, plus the interest on the borrowed money.

Mr. Lawrence

No doubt the hon. Gentleman is intending to signify dis- approval of the misuse of money in that way. I do not know to which council he is referring, but I do not wish to go into the merits of that argument, even if I knew them. The hon. Gentleman is expressing disapproval. How much more disapproval ought he to be expressing about this clause? Even the dimwitted—of course, I do not suggest that he is in any sense dimwitted—realise that £120,003 value in 1974—

Mr. Swain


Mr. Lawrence

—will be nearer £400,000 value in 1979.

Mr. Swain

Rubbish. Ask Roger Foster.

Mr. Lawrence

There is talk about injustice. But who will make up the difference? The ratepayers, if not the taxpayers, will be asked to make up that difference. We are assured that the taxpayers will not be asked to make up that difference, so it must be the ratepayers of the area covered by Clay Cross. [Interuption.] I appreciate that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) does not like the line of argument that I am pursuing. That is why he continues to heckle and try to interrupt, but he ought, perhaps, to pay attention. He is intensely disturbed at the injustice of the example which he gave. Therefore, he ought to be intensely disturbed at the injustice of the example that I am giving. In the end the ratepayers will have to pay the difference between £120,000 and £400,000, will they not?

It is not just a question of the ratepayers paying. It may be that the local authority was planning to set aside some money for a health clinic or some of the social needs of that very part of the country that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East represents and claims is underprivileged. If that kind of money has to be spent on this kind of procedure, the authority will have that much less to spend on social needs. So the injustice will be visited not only upon the hon. Gentleman's constituents, but on the constituents of all hon. Members who represent areas where this ridiculous measure is enforced.

It is unjust that this measure should be extended beyond the bounds of those who have benefited from the failure to pay the increased rents, and it is unjust to people who will otherwise be expected in the course of five years to pay out more money or to suffer losses as a result of it. That is why we have put down amendments which would have the effect of shortening the period in a way which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) pointed out, would cause nobody any harm, except possibly the Clay Cross councillors who are the prime beneficiaries of this measure and to whom it is totally, utterly and completely directed.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Percival

My hon. Friends have demonstrated that the Government's case is hopeless, as devoid of merit as it is of logic. Let me remind the Minister of some of the points they have made in the hope that even yet the Government may see the light of day.

The period allowed, we say, is too long. It is five years, starting at the earliest on 1st April 1976 and in some cases not until 1st April 1977. It is said that, without a measure like this, there will be burning resentment in the breasts of many who feel that they are being hard done by. But the very passing of the Bill will cause resentment to many others who will have to pay up for faults which were not theirs.—[Interruption.] Does it never occur to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain), who keeps grunting away, or to the Minister, that that is inevitable? The Bill will cause bitter resentment to rent and ratepayers who will have to pay more because someone for whom they did not vote defied the law.

Mr. Swain

If I was treated with contempt by the Tories in North-East Derbyshire and I did not disturb them, I would not consider that I was doing my job on behalf of the people who elected me—a majority of 10,500.

Mr. Percival

That may be so. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will do his duty as he sees fit. But I hope that he will concede that there may be two sides to the argument. I accept that the Bill will put some bitterness to rest, but he would do well to accept that it will also cause bitter resentment and great unfairness. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see that, he is not prepared to look at the other side of the penny. What is the point of spreading the resulting unfairness and resentment over five, six or seven years? The Minister's speech showed that there is none.

I accept what the Minister said, that the aim can be achieved more quickly under the Bill. I do not know whether he also meant to say that it can be done more quickly as a matter of fact, but that is obvious too. Now that we have a list of the amounts in question, it is apparent that if anyone spreads the collection over five years the amounts collected on the rent or rates each year will be peanuts. It is clear that it will be no hardship to anyone to collect in the period specified in the amendment. This is certainly so in the light of the provision in another amendment that the Secretary of State can extend the period for another year, to 1st April 1978, in special circumstances.

Anyone prepared to face facts must admit that three years from now must be sufficient time to collect these amounts, which would still be very small if spread over two years. The Minister says that it can be done more quickly, both because the law allows—if he did not concede that it can be done more quickly because of the amounts involved, I think he should—and because the Government want to do so. Let us accept all that. Why then give this long extra period?

The Minister says that our proposal is against the principle of allowing discretion to responsible councils. In fact, what we propose would involve neither insult, detriment nor difficulty to any responsible council. But the Government's lengthy period would allow too much latitude to irresponsible councils. That follows from their own argument and shows how threadbare it is.

I observed no answer from the Minister to our proposal that rent increases should be limited to the area where the deficit arose, except that local authorities should be allowed to exercise powers in their own way. Will he not recognise even at this late stage that his own colleagues, including the Attorney-General, have said that that is not enough, that those who benefited must bear the burden? Having enunciated that principle so often, they should give effect to it. Clause 2 as it stands allows councils to ensure that the burden falls on people who did not benefit and provides that it may fall on many more people.

These arguments will not do. The paucity of the Minister's reply is further convincing evidence of the merits of the case made by my hon. Friends, all of

whom I now invite to vote for the Amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 237.

Division No. 204] AYES [7.38 p.m.
Adley, Robert Gorst, John Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Aitken, Jonathan Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Miscampbell, Norman
Alison, Michael Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Moate, Roger
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Grant, Anthony (Harrow C.) Monro, Hector
Arnold, Tom Gray, Hamish Montgomery, Fergus
Atkins, Rt. Hon. H. (Spelthorne) Griffiths, Eldon More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Awdry, Daniel Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Morgan, Geraint
Banks, Robert Grist, Ian Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Beith, A. J. Grylls, Michael Morris, Michael (Northampton S.)
Bell, Ronald Hall, Sir John Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morrison, Hon. Peter (Chester)
Berry, Hon. Anthony Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mudd, David
Biffen, John Hampson, Dr. Keith Neave, Airey
Biggs-Davison, John Hannam, John Nelson, Anthony
Body, Richard Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Neubert, Michael
Boscawen, Hon. Robert Hastings, Stephen Newton, Tony
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Havers, Sir Michael Nott, John
Boyson, Dr. Rhodes (Brent) Hayhoe, Barney Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Braine, Sir Bernard Heseltine, Michael Page, Rt. Hon. R. Graham (Crosby)
Brittan, Leon Hicks, Robert Pardoe, John
Brotherton, Michael Higgins, Terence L. Parkinson, Cecil
Bryan, Sir Paul Holland, Philip Pattie, Geoffrey
Buck, Antony Howe, Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Penhaligon, David
Budgen, Nick Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian
Bulmer, Esmond Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Peyton, RI Hon. John
Burden, F. A. Hunt, John Pink, R. Bonner
Carlisle, Mark Hurd, Douglas Prior, Rt. Hon. James
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Raison, Timothy
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rathbone, Tim
Channon, Paul Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Churchill, W. S. James, David Rees-Davies, W. R.
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jenkin, Rt. Hon. P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Renton, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Hunts)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jessel Toby Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Clegg, Walter Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Ridsdale Julian
Cockcroft, John Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rifkind, Malcolm
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W.) Jopling, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cope, John Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Cordle, John H. Kaberry, Sir Donald Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cormack, Patrick Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Royle, Sir Anthony
Costain, A. P. Kershaw, Anthony Sainsbury, Tim
Critchley, Julian Kilfedder, James St. John-Stevas, Norman
Crouch, David King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Scott, Nicholas
Crowder, F. P. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Kitson, Sir Timothy Shelton, William (Streatham)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Mrs. Jill Shepherd, Colin
du Cann, Rt. Hon. Edward Knox, David Shersby, Michael
Durant, Tony Lane, David Silvester, Fred
Eden, Rt. Hon. Sir John Langford-Holt, Sir John Sims, Roger
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Latham, Michael (Melton) Sinclair, Sir George
Elliott, Sir William Lawrence, Ivan Skeet, T. H. H.
Emery, Peter Lawson, Nigel Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Eyre, Reginald Le Merchant, Spencer Speed, Keith
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lester, Jim (Beeston) Spence, John
Fairgrieve, Russell Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Ian Sproat, Iain
Finsberg, Geolfrey Loveridge, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.) Luce, Richard Stanley, John
Fookes, Miss Janet McAdden, Sir Stephen Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fox, Marcus McCrindle, Robert Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fraser, Rt. Hon. H. (Stafford & St) Macfarlane, Neil Stokes, John
Freud, Clement MacGregor, John Tapsell, Peter
Fry, Peter Macmillan, Rt. Hon. M. (Farnham) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Tebbit, Norman
Gilmour, Rt. Hon. Ian (Chesham) Madel, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thatcher, Rt. Hon. Margaret
Glyn, Dr. Alan Mates, Michael Thomas, Rt. Hon. P. (Hendon S.)
Godber, Rt. Hon. Joseph Mather, Carol Townsend, Cyril D.
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Angus Trotter, Neville
Goodhew, Victor Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tugendhat, Christopher
Goodlad, Alastair Mayhew, Patrick van Straubenzee, W. R.
Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Walters, Dennis Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Viggers, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Wainwright, Richard (Colne V.) Wells, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wakeham, John Whitelaw, Rt. Hon. William Mr. Adam Butler and
Walker, Rt. Hon. P. (Worcester) Wiggin, Jerry Mr. W. Benson.
Wall, Patrick Winterton, Nicholas
Armstrong, Ernest Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Moyle, Roland
Ashley, Jack Garrett, John (Norwich S.) Murray, Rt. Hon. Ronald King
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N.) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Noble, Mike
Bagier, Gordon A. T. George, Bruce Oakes, Gordon
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Ginsburg, David O'Halloran, Michael
Barnett, Rt. Hon. Joel (Heywood) Golding, John O'Malley, Rt. Hon. Brian
Bates, All Gould, Bryan Orbach, Maurice
Bean, R. E. Gourlay, Harry Ovenden, John
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N.) Graham, Ted Owen, Dr. David
Blenkinsop, Arthur Grant, John (Islington C.) Palmer, Arthur
Boardman, H. Grocott, Bruce Park, George
Booth, Albert Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Parker, John
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. Arthur Hardy, Peter Parry, Robert
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Harper, Joseph Peart, Rt. Hon. Fred
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Pendry, Tom
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W.) Hart, Rt. Hon. Judith Phipps, Dr. Colin
Buchanan, Richard Hattersley, Rt. Hon. Roy Prentice, Rt. Hon. Reg
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hatton, Frank Prescott, John
Callaghan, Rt. Hon. J. (Cardiff SE) Healey, Rt. Hon. Denis Price, C. (Lewisham W.)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.) Heffer, Eric S. Price, William (Rugby)
Campbell, Ian Hooley, Frank Radice, Giles
Canavan, Dennis Horam, John Rees, Rt. Hon. Merlyn (Leeds S.)
Cant, R. B. Howell, Denis (B ham, Sm H.) Richardson, Miss Jo
Carter, Ray Hughes, Rt. Hon. C. (Anglesey) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Mark (Durham) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Castle, Rt. Hon. Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Roderick, Caerwyn
Clemitson, Ivor Hunter, Adam Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Coleman, Donald Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rooker, J. W.
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Greville Roper, John
Conlan, Bernard Jeger, Mrs. Lena Rose, Paul B.
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Ross, Rt. Hon. W. (Kilmarnock)
Corbett, Robin John, Brynmor Sandelson, Neville
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sedgemore, Brian
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Selby, Harry
Crosland, Rt. Hon. Anthony Kaufman, Gerald Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Cryer, Bob Kerr, Russell Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S.) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Shore, Rt. Hon. Peter
Cunningham, Dr. J. (Whiteh) Lambie, David Silkin, Rt. Hon. John (Deptford)
Davidson, Arthur Lamborn, Harry Silkin, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.) Lamond, James Sillars, James
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Lead bitter, Ted Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C.) Lee, John Small, William
Deakins, Eric Lever, Rt. Hon. Harold Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lomas, Kenneth Snape, Peter
de Freitas, Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Lyon, Alexander (York) Spearing, Nigel
Delargy, Hugh Lyons, Edward (Bradford W.) Stallard, A. W.
Dell, Rt. Hon. Edmund Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stewart, Rt. Hon. M. (Fulham)
Doig, Peter McElhone, Frank Stott, Roger
Dormand, J. D. MacFarquhar, Roderick Strang, Gavin
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mackenzie, Gregor Strauss, Pt Hon. G. R.
Duffy, A. E. P. Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hon. Dr. Shirley
Dunn, James A. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.) Swain, Thomas
Dunnett, Jack McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton W.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Madden, Max Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Eadie, Alex Mahon, Simon Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E.)
Edelman, Maurice Mailalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Edge, Geoff Marks, Kenneth Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Marquand, David Tierney, Sydney
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Tinn, James
English, Michael Marshall, Jim (Leicester S.) Tomlinson, John
Ennals, David Mason, Rt. Hon. Roy Tomney, Frank
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Urwin, T. W.
Evans, John (Newton) Meacher, Michael Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mellish, Rt. Hon. Robert Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Faulds, Andrew Mendelson, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W.) Millan, Bruce Ward, Michael
Flannery, Martin Miller, Mrs. Millie (Ilford N.) Watkins, David
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Watkinson, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Molloy, William Weetch, Ken
Foot, Rt. Hon. Michael Moonman, Eric Weitzman, David
Ford, Ben Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wellbeloved, James
Forrester, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Morris, Rt. Hon. J. (Aberavon) White, James (Pollok)
Whitehead, Phillip Wilson, William (Coventry SE) Young, David (Bolton E.)
Whitlock, William Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Willey, Rt. Hon. Frederick Woodall, Alec TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, Alan (Swansea W.) Woof, Robert Mr. James Hamilton and
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch) Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. David Stoddart
Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: No. 6, in page 2, line 32, after 'or', insert: '. where more than one council held such dwellings on that date,'.—[Mr. Kaufman.]

Amendment proposed: No. 8, in page 2, line 39, leave out subsection (3) and insert: '() A council shall perform their duty under this section by a general increase of the

rents of those of their housing revenue account dwellings in the part or parts of their area to which the certificate relates; and a council may make any such increase notwithstanding section 111 of the Housing Act 1957 (charges for local authority's houses)'.—[Mr. Percival.]

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 237.

Division No. 205.] AYES [7.52 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet Knight, Ms Jill
Aitken, Jonathan Fox, Marcus Knox, David
Alison, Michael Fraser, Rt. Hon. H. (Stafford & St) Lane, David
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Freud, Clement Langford-Holt, Sir John
Arnold, Tom Fry, Peter Latham, Michael (Melton)
Atkins, Rt. Hon. H. (Spelthorne) Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lawrence, Ivan
Awdry, Daniel Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Lawson, Nigel
Banks, Robert Gilmour, Rt. Hon. Ian (Chesham) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Beith, A. J. Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bell, Ronald Glyn, Dr. Alan Lloyd, Ian
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Godber, Rt. Hon. Joseph Loveridge, John
Benyon, W. Goodhart, Philip Luce, Richard
Berry, Hon. Anthony Goodhew, Victor McAdden, Sir Stephen
Biffen, John Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert
Biggs-Davison, John Gorst, John Macfarlane, Neil
Body, Richard Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) MacGregor, John
Boscawen, Hon. Robert Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. M. (Farnham)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Grant, Anthony (Harrow C.) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Boyson, Dr. Rhodes (Brent) Gray, Hamish McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Braine, Sir Bernard Griffiths, Eldon Madel, David
Brittan, Leon Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Brotherton, Michael Grist, Ian Mates, Michael
Bryan, Sir Paul Grylls, Michael Mather, Carol
Buck, Antony Hall, Sir John Maude, Angus
Budgen, Nick Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bulmer, Esmond Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mayhew, Patrick
Burden, F. A. Hampson, Dr. Keith Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Carlisle, Mark Hannam, John Miscampbell, Norman
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Moate, Roger
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hastings, Stephen Monro, Hector
Channon, Paul Havers, Sir Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Churchill, W. S. Hayhoe, Barney More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Heseltine, Michael Morgan, Geraint
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hicks, Robert Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Clegg, Walter Higgins, Terence L. Morris, Michael (Northampton S.)
Cockcroft, John Holland, Philip Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W.) Howe, Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Morrison, Hon. Peter (Chester)
Cope, John Howell, David (Guildford) Mudd, David
Cordle, John H. Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Neave, Airey
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, John Nelson, Anthony
Costain, A. P. Hurd, Douglas Neubert, Michael
Critchley, Julian Hutchison, Michael Clark Newton, Tony
Crouch, David Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Nott, John
Crowder, F. P. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Dodsworth, Geoffrey James, David Page, Rt. Hon. R. Graham (Crosby)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jenkin, Rt. Hon. P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Pardoe, John
du Cann. Rt. Hon. Edward Jessel, Toby Parkinson, Cecil
Durant, Tony Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Pattie, Geoffrey
Eden, Rt. Hon. Sir John Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Penhaligon, David
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Jopling, Michael Percival, Ian
Elliott, Sir William Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Peyton, Rt. Hon. John
Emery, Peter Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner
Eyre, Reginald Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Prior, Rt. Hon. James
Fairbairn, Nicholas Kershaw, Anthony Raison, Timothy
Fairgrieve, Russell Kilfedder, James Rathbone, Tim
Fell, Anthony King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Finsberg, Geoffrey King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.) Kitson, Sir Timothy Renton, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Hunts)
Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Tugendhat, Christopher
Ridsdale, Julian Speed, Keith van Straubenzee, W. R.
Rifkind, Malcolm Spence, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Viggers, Peter
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Sproat, Iain Wainwright, Richard (Colne V.)
Ross, William (Londonderry) Stanbrook, Ivor Wakeham, John
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stanley, John Walker, Rt. Hon. P. (Worcester)
Royle, Sir Anthony Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Wall, Patrick
Sainsbury, Tim Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Walters, Dennis
St. John-Stevas, Norman Stokes, John Weatherill, Bernard
Scott, Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Wells, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Whitelaw, Rt. Hon. William
Shelton, William (Streatham) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Colin Tebbit, Norman Winterton, Nicholas
Shersby, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Silvester, Fred Thatcher, Rt. Hon. Margaret
Sims, Roger Thomas, Rt. Hon. P. (Hendon S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sinclair, Sir George Townsend, Cyril D. Mr. Adam Butler and
Skeet, T. H. H. Trotter, Neville Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McElhone, Frank
Ashley, Jack Evans, John (Newton) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N.) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mackenzie, Gregor
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Faulds, Andrew Maclennan, Robert
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W.) McMillan Tom (Glasgow C.)
Barnett, Rt. Hon. Joel (Heywood) Flannery, Martin McNamara, Kevin
Bates, Alf Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Madden, Max
Bean, R. E. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mahon, Simon
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N.) Foot, Rt. Hon. Michael Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ford, Ben Marks, Kenneth
Boardman, H. Forrester, John Marquand, David
Booth, Albert Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Garrett, John (Norwich S.) Mason, Rt. Hon. Roy
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maynard, Miss Joan
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W.) George, Bruce Meacher, Michael
Buchanan, Richard Ginsburg, David Mellish, Rt. Hon. Robert
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Golding, John Mendelson, John
Callaghan, Rt. Hon. J. (Cardiff SE) Gould, Bryan Millan, Bruce
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.) Gourlay, Harry Miller, Mrs. Millie (Ilford N.)
Campbell, Ian Graham, Ted Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)
Canavan, Dennis Grant, John (Islington C.) Molloy, William
Cant, R. B. Grocott, Bruce Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Carter, Ray Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Morris, Rt. Hon. J. (Aberavon)
Cartwright, John Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland
Castle, Rt. Hon. Barbara Harper, Joseph Murray, Rt. Hon. Ronald King
Clemitson, Ivor Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Noble, Mike
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) Hart, Rt. Hon. Judith Oakes, Gordon
Coleman, Donald Hattersley, Rt. Hon. Roy O'Halloran, Michael
Concannon, J. D. Hatton, Frank O'Malley, Rt. Hon. Brian
Conlan, Bernard Healey, Rt. Hon. Denis Orbach, Maurice
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C.) Heffer, Eric S. Ovenden, John
Corbett, Robin Hooley, Frank Owen, Dr. David
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Horam, John Palmer, Arthur
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H.) Park, George
Crosland, Rt. Hon. Anthony Hughes, Rt. Hon. C. (Anglesey) Parker, John
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Mark (Durham) Parry, Robert
Cunningham, Dr. J. (Whiteh) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Peart, Rt. Hon. Fred
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pendry, Tom
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.) Hunter, Adam Phipps, Dr. Colin
Davies, Denzil (Llaneill) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Prentice, Rt. Hon. Reg
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C.) Janner, Greville Prescott, John
Deakins, Eric Jeger, Mrs. Lena Price, C. (Lewisham W.)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Price, William (Rugby)
de Freitas, Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey John, Brynmor Radice, Giles
Delargy, Hugh Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rees, Rt. Hon. Merlyn (Leeds S.)
Dell, Rt. Hon. Edmund Jones, Barry (East Flint) Richardson, Miss Jo
Doig, Peter Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dormand, J. D. Kerr, Russell Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kilroy-Silk, Robert Robertson, John (Paisley)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lambie, David Roderick, Caerwyn
Dunnett, Jack Lamborn, Harry Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Lamond, James Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Eadie, Alex Leadbitter, Ted Rooker, J. W.
Edelman, Maurice Lee, John Roper, John
Edge, Geoff Lever, Rt. Hon. Harold Rose, Paul B.
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Litterick, Tom Ross, Rt. Hon. W. (Kilmarnock)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lomas, Kenneth Sandelson, Neville
English, Michael Lyon, Alexander (York) Sedgemore, Brian
Ennals, David Lyons, Edward (Bradford W.) Selby, Harry
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Shore, Rt. Hon. Peter Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E.) White, James (Pollok)
Silkin, Rt. Hon. John (Deptford) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Whitehead, Phillip
Silkin, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Dulwich) Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Whitlock, William
Sillars, James Tierney, Sydney Willey, Rt. Hon. Frederick
Skinner, Dennis Tinn, James Williams, Alan (Swansea W.)
Small, William Tomlinson, John Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Tomney, Frank Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Snape, Peter Urwin, T. W. Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Spearing, Nigel Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.) Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Stallard, A. W. Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woodall, Alec
Stewart, Rt. Hon. M. (Sulham) Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Woof, Robert
Stoddart, David Ward, Michael Wrigglesworth, Ian
Stott, Roger Watkins, David Young, David (Bolton E.)
Strang, Gavin Watkinson, John
Strauss, Rt. Hon. S. R. Weetch, Ken TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Summerskill, Hon. Dr. Shirley Weitzman, David Miss Margaret Jackson and
Swain, Thomas Wellbeloved, James Mr. James A. Dunn.
Taylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton W.)

Question accordingly negatived.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Percival

I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 3, line 6, leave out subsection (5) and insert: '() On the application of a council to whom this section applies the Secretary of State, if satisfied that they have recovered all except a negligible part of the sum which it falls to them to recover, may by statutory instrument make an order authorising them not to recover that part; and any such order shall be subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

With this we may discuss Government Amendment No. 13.

Mr. Percival

The purpose of the amendment is to add some safeguard to the power of the Minister to let people off amounts that should be recovered but have not been recovered. The way in which we thought we might best provide the necessary safeguard was by agreeing that it could be provided by order. In Committee we said that it should be provided by order subject to the affirmative procedure. We had in mind that if it were done the House would know what was happening and there would be no queries that might be taken to court whether the Minister had exceeded his powers. We thought that that would be the best way of satisfying all interests. We agreed, however, that it might be a rather weighty procedure for a small matter and, therefore, in the amendment we have changed from the affirmative to the negative procedure.

By Amendment No. 13 the Government have come some way to meet us. I am far from saying that we are satisfied that the amendment goes far enough, but I am glad to be able to say that I think it goes some way towards meeting the sort of considerations that we had in mind. As there are other stages at which matters like this can be dealt with—of course we would hope that the Minister might even now consider whether he might go a little further than Amendment No. 13—and because we have before us matters of much greater interest and importance to which I am sure the House wishes to proceed, I do not propose to move Amendment No. 12. I say in advance that if Amendment No. 13 is moved formally we shall accept it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I thought that the hon. and learned Member was moving Amendment No. 12.

Mr. Percival

I was moving it, but whilst I am on my feet I beg to ask leave to withdraw it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Very well.

Mr. Kaufman

I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 3, line 9, at end insert: (5A) If the Secretary of State gives a council an authorisation under subsection (5) above, it shall be his duty, as soon as may be after the end of the year in which he gave it, to lay before each House of Parliament a statement of the amount which the council have recovered and of the amount which he has authorised them not to recover". I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) on the neat manoeuvre which he has just conducted. I am grateful to him for accepting the amendment. We are seeking to move in the direction which he requested in Committee. I cannot assure him that we shall move still further.

Amendment agreed to.

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