§ 11.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
I beg to move,That the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1976, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
The amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and a number of his hon. Friends is not selected.
The order is described in great detail in the report laid with it, and, therefore, I shall not go over it in great detail, particularly as we have only a limited time for our debate.
The basic purpose of the order may be summarised as being to authorise rate support grants of £882.8 million to local authorities in Scotland in 1977–78 and to make additional grants of £52.6 million and £6.38 million for increased costs affecting expenditure in 1976–77 and 1975–76 respectively. The rate support grants constitute the largest single source of local authority income, and, therefore, I need not emphasise the importance of the order.
850 The order is being laid against a general economic background which is familiar to the House, and I need not elaborate on it. That background has been explained very thoroughly to the local authorities in Scotland on a number of occasions. For example, the February 1976 White Paper on public expenditure stated that the substantial rate of expansion in recent years in local authority manpower and in local spending could not continue, and that any increases in individual services had to be offset by reduced levels of provision in other services.
This was by no means the first intimation to Scottish local authorities of the need for restraint. In November 1974 the new authorities were asked, in preparing their budgets for 1975–76, to have regard to the very difficult economic circumstances which would prevail, and to avoid new commitments which would result in extra expenditure in 1975–76. Authorities were also asked to ensure that any increases in staff complements on reorganisation were justifiable. Subsequent circulars reinforced this advice, confirming that the restraint required in 1975–76 would have to be continued in subsequent years. The rate support grant settlement for 1976–77 was, therefore, related to a level of relevant expenditure lower than authorities would have wished, but nevertheless a higher level of expenditure—and indeed a larger grant—than in previous years. At that time local authorities were asked to regard the 1976–77 relevant expenditure figure as a ceiling on the assumption that in future years it would be reduced, and to avoid any staff increases.
I give that rehearsal of events because I want to make it absolutely clear that there can be no question of the order for 1977–78 coming as a great surprise to local authorities. They were given every 851 indication that for the next year we would be producing an order which was justified in terms of the February 1976 White Paper. Before that, other warnings had already been given.
It might be worth while if I were to tell the House something about the way in which local authority expenditure in Scotland has increased in real terms in recent years. The increase in the gross domestic product between 1971–72 and 1975–76 on a Great Britain basis was only 6 per cent. But the total public expenditure in Scotland in those four years increased by 20 per cent. and the local authority expenditure relevant for rate support grant increased by 31 per cent. in real terms. The gross domestic product rose by 6 per cent. and local authority expenditure by 31 per cent. in real terms in those four years. Even in an economic situation less stringent than at present, it would not have been possible to allow such a rate of increase in expenditure to continue. It is unrealistic to expect it to do so, given the growth we have had in these years in the gross domestic product.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
Is not there a moral or ethical as well as a financial problem here? Many of the functions of local authorities have been legislated on to them by the Government. If the finance has been withdrawn, how can the Government expect them to keep those functions going?
I will come to that point, although it is not particularly relevant to the argument I am using now, which is that there has been a very considerable increase over the period in real expenditure by local authorities.
The relevant expenditure that was used as the basis of the rate support grant for the year 1976–77 was not agreed by the local authorities, but they were asked to budget within the figures on which the grant that year was based. I am sorry to say that they budgeted for £47 million in the current year more than the relevant grant figure.
I explained in the most explicit terms to the local authorities, at a meeting with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in July this year, that if they were not able to get their current year's 852 expenditure below the budgeted figure and somewhere nearer the figure on which the grant had been based, they were likely to face considerable problems of reduction of expenditure in 1977–78. I am sorry that, despite that plea—and I am not laying the blame on any particular authority—I got a very small response indeed—only possible savings of £2 million in the current year. I believe that the actual savings will, however, be more than that. Even at this late stage, I want to say that the more the local authorities are able to get their current year's expenditure down within the guideline figure, the less difficult it will be for them to deal with the position in 1977–78.
I turn now to the relevant expenditure which has been fixed for 1977–78. The main point is that in real terms it is higher than the relevant expenditure fixed for 1976–77, on which the current year's rate support grant was based. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this. I have seen comments suggesting that the basis of the grant for 1977–78 is a level of expenditure less than that which was the basis for 1976–77. That is not so. Far from cutting the figure in the 1976 White Paper for 1977–78—I am again referring to expenditure in real terms, taking into account adjustments in the value of money—I have increased the base figure for 1977–78 by switches from other parts of the expenditure programme, including capital expenditure programmes, by about £29 million. Therefore, while it was true that in the White Paper it was expected that the base level for 1977–78 would be rather less than that for 1976–77, it is, in terms of the order that we are debating, slightly more. It is £6 million more than the figure for 1976–77, and then it is revalued to bring it up to current prices. That means that the base figure, with loan charges added, is very considerably higher than the base figure for 1976–77.
The other thing that I want to say at this stage about the relevant expenditure on which this order for 1977–78 is based is that I am asking local authorities to keep within guidelines which are related to that relevant expenditure. I am not asking local authorities to cut below that figure. Therefore, I am not asking local authorities, for 1977–78 taken as a whole, to cut their expenditure for that 853 year below the figure on which the 1976–77 rate support grant settlement was based. It is admittedly below the figure for which they budgeted for the current year, but that is because they budgeted for the current year beyond the figures included in the grant for the current year.
I turn to the question of the rate of grant. The rate of grant has been decreased in the current year by 4 per cent. However, at 68½ per cent. it is still, by any kind of historical standards, a very high rate of grant indeed. It is the highest level of grant that we have ever had except in 1975–76 and 1976–77. In the last year for which the previous Conservative Government were responsible, the rate of grant was 68 per cent., and that was on a different expenditure base. There have been certain adjustments in expenditure since then.
If we were comparing like with like, a 68½ per cent. grant for 1977–78 is actually 2 per cent. higher than that of the last year of the previous Conservative Government, 1974–75. Therefore, I do not want to listen to a whole lot of lectures from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) or any other hon. Member about an allegedly unprecedentedly low level of grant, because it is higher than it has ever been in any year of Tory Government and higher than it was in 1974–75.
In 1975–76 and 1976–77, under the present Labour Government, we very considerably increased the level of rate support grant percentage. To some extent that was to take care of particular problems arising from local government reorganisation and from high levels of inflation. However, the figure at 68½ per cent. is still, by any historical standards, very high indeed.
Again, contrary to popular belief, the average domestic rate burden as a percentage of earnings has been going down over the last few years. The ordinary domestic ratepayer is under the misapprehension that he is paying as a percentage of his earnings more and more every year in rates. It is just not so. Taking rate payments as a percentage of average weekly manual worker earnings in Scotland in 1971–72 the figure was 4 per cent. In 1976–77, the current year, it is down to 3.2 per cent. Therefore, it is not true that we are putting a greater 854 and greater burden on the domestic ratepayer. In recent years, under the present Government, the figure has come down very substantially. I hope that some of those points will enable the House to get these matters into some kind of perspective.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not being selective in using figures. Does he recall giving me an answer last month in which he said that the burden of rates per head of population in Scotland in 1972–73 compared with 1976–77 had gone up from £42 to £86? Is he saying that the net wages of manual workers have more than doubled in the past four years?
§ Mr. Millan
Yes. I am saying that as a percentage of weekly manual earnings the rate burden has gone down. I have given the figures from 1971–72. I can give all the figures over the years, and the percentages. In other words, wages have gone up more rapidly than rate increases. I have the figures for England, too.
I also make the point that the domestic rate burden in Scotland has in recent years been slightly less than it is in England and Wales. Again, there is no justification for the claim that Scotland is in some way suffering when compared with England. If the local authorities stay within the expenditure guidelines for 1977–78—which, I repeat, in real terms are slightly up on 1976–77 and not a reduction as many seem to believe—the average increase in rates will he about 15 per cent. This is not simply a Scottish Office figure. It is one which is agreed by COSLA and was included in the document COSLA distributed to all hon Members about a week ago.
I agree that there will be some areas, and Strathclyde is one, where even when they keep within the guidelines, the increase, for particular reasons relating to those areas, will be considerably higher than 15 per cent. I have been over the figures for Strathclyde, and I accept that it is making every effort to keep to the guidelines. I applaud it for that. Even so, it will have a bigger increase. It is also true, therefore, that there will be other parts of Scotland where local authorities, keeping within the guidelines, will be able to have rate 855 increases which are less than 15 per cent. The figure I have quoted is one which applies on average over the whole of Scotland, and it is not a Scottish Office figure. It is a figure agreed with COSLA. It is also a figure which compares with the figure quoted for England, and it is one which takes account of the fact that we in Scotland do not have balances to be carried forward to cushion rate increases in 1977–78.
In comparing Scotland with England it has to be remembered that so far as there are balances in England they have not been contributed by the Government but by the English ratepayers who paid more in rates than the local authorities spent. The reduction in 1977–78 of the Scottish grant is by 4 per cent., while the English figure is 4½ per cent. The rate support grant in England and Wales for 1977–78 will be 61 per cent., compared with 68½ per cent. in Scotland. I make these points because it has been alleged that in some way Scotland is being treated in a worse fashion than England and Wales. That is absolutely untrue. The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) is shaking his head. The rate support grant in his constituency is considerably higher than 68½ per cent.
There are some detailed points to make before dealing with general matters. I have increased the domestic rate element from 27p in the £ to 31p in the £ to moderate the increases for the domestic ratepayer. Incidentally, in 1977–78 there will be no increase in the domestic rate element in England and Wales. Dealing with offshore oil-related expenditure, there is a further increase in the element of grant from £4.9 million to £7.3 million. That was introduced by the Labour Government. I propose to review the present arrangement for this "extraordinary expenses" portion in the light of the past two years' experience.
§ Mr. Millan
I would give way to the hon. Gentleman, but we have only a limited amount of time. I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in these matters, but if he has an opportunity to take part in the debate I shall try to answer his points when I reply.
856 I shall make one or two other points about the detail of the order. We have tilted a little the percentage of grant paid to district councils. I was unable to obtain agreement between the districts and regions in COSLA because the district councils took one view and the regional councils another. The way indicated last year was, we thought, on balance unfavourable to the district councils, and the proportion going to district councils in the current year has been increased by about 10 per cent., which is a slight redressing of the balance. I do not pretend that it is more than that. It means overall that the percentage of the grant taken by district councils will be greater in 1977–78 than it will be in 1976–77. Furthermore, there are provisions for 1977–78 about cash limits roughly on the same basis as in the current year.
I wish to deal with two main points. The first relates to the effect of this settlement on services for 1977–78. I have not attempted to provide detailed guidance on how local authorities should reduce their expenditure, because they do not wish me to do so. I have discussed this matter at considerable detail with them, and they prefer that I should deal with the matter on the basis contained in the order.
Secondly, in terms of the effect on services and generally, I accept that this is a tough settlement for local authorities. I have never pretended that it would be otherwise. I accept that it will mean that hard decisions will have to be taken by local authorities about their services. I hope the House will keep the matter in proportion. I have already said that the figure of increase in local government expenditure in real terms over the four years 1971–72 to 1975–76 is 31 per cent. If in the next year we ask local authorities to freeze expenditure or reduce it slightly, I do not believe we shall find that this will lead to the collapse of local authority services. Next year we shall still provide services at expenditure which, by historical standards, is high indeed and compares favourably with what we were doing only a couple of years ago.
Although I recognise that there are difficulties with local authorities, I do not accept some of the extravagant claims made to the effect that this order will 857 mean the end of local authority services. The only way in which that could happen would be if local authorities were to accept the advice given by many leaders of Conservative groups in local government—for example, in Strathclyde—to go in for an indiscriminate slashing of services all round, resulting in appalling cuts in services. I am interested to know whether the hon. Member for Cathcart with his great enthusiasm for cutting public expenditure, will support that approach this evening. If that happens, services will collapse, but given the maximum amount of restraint, although tough decisions will have to be made by local authorities in the next year, there will be no question of services being arbitrarily damaged, as some critics have suggested.
I pay tribute to the local authorities for the way in which most have faced the task of keeping expenditure within the limits I have laid down. The fact that so many find this difficult is a reflection of the fact that in the last few years we have got used to considerable improvements each year with a great deal of additional expenditure. I accept that much of this comes from legislation, but the Government have not been passing legislation in the past couple of years adding to the burdens on local authorities. We do not intend to do that in the present difficult economic and financial situation. When we have been used to a situation in which every year people expect more expenditure, even just to get on to a plateau, to freeze expenditure, is very difficult.
The same general observation applies to local authority manpower. It is indisputable that in recent years local authority manpower has considerably increased every year. Even between May 1975 and March 1976, in a period when the Government had in the most explicit terms asked local authorities not to increase manpower, there was an increase of about 18,000 in the number of local authority employees in Scotland. If one excludes teachers, police officers and firemen—I accept that it was right that teachers should be recruited to get teaching standards up to accepted limits—the number of general local government full-time employees increased between May 1975 and June 1976 by 9,000, from 858 139,000 to 148,000. The indications are that that is levelling off.
However, the exaggerated claims about redundancy should be set against the fact that until recently local government staffing was on a high rising trend. I repeat the point I have made on numerous occasions, that although I do not exclude the possibility of redundancy altogether—I accept that that may be necessary in certain areas in particular circumstances—I believe that the bulk of the problem can be dealt with by the use of recruitment policies, by natural wastage and, in some cases, by early retirement.
In summing up, may I say that obviously this is a tough settlement from the local authorities' point of view. It has given me no pleasure to ask local authorities to accept it. But, given our general economic situation, it is a fair settlement. Its effects, in some respects, although they will be serious enough in terms of rate increases in some areas, have been grossly exaggerated. I commend the order to the House.
§ 12.8 a.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I shall try to be brief because time is short and the Minister spoke for some time in a one and a half hours' debate. Hon. Members will want to speak on what is undoubtedly a catastrophic order, despite what the right hon. Gentleman said.
The Secretary of State put up a very poor case. He said that local authorities should not have been surprised about the 4 per cent. reduction. After the meeting on 22nd November, Sir George Sharp said:A number of us went into the meeting anticipating a slight reduction in the percentage, but to have been told that it was being savagely cut by 4 per cent. was something none of us expected.That is the general picture we get from local authorities. The Minister said that the percentage was larger than in the Conservative Government's years in office but a point which he significantly omitted was that in every Conservative year from 1970 to 1974 there was an increase—65½ per cent. to 66 per cent. to 66½ per cent. to 68 per cent. It was a general percentage increase because we thought it right to change the burden from rates to taxation.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
I deplore the effects of the Government's cut as much as the hon. Gentleman does, but will he admit that the percentages he mentioned relating to the Conservative Government apply to a much lower base? Would the hon. Gentleman care to mention any Conservative Government which managed to give a rate support grant as great as 68½ per cent.?
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not accept that. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the greatest expansion in public services made in the interests of the Scottish people occurred when the Conservative Party was in office. I had the pleasure of being in office in one of those years when there was a dramatic increase in social work services rather than the restrictions on cash imposed by the present Government.
The Minister said that people are not paying more as a percentage of income in rates. He must have picked very selective figures. He spoke only of manual workers' average earnings, and he talked about particular areas, but the fact is that, according to his own figures given to me last month, the amount of rates paid per head of population in Scotland has more than doubled in four years, and the amount paid per household has increased from £65 to £123, that is, almost double in four years. It should be recognised also that it is a question not just of incomes but of disposable incomes, and the increased tax percentages imposed by this Government mean that the proportion of disposable incomes taken by rates has increased substantially.
We are concerned about the order for four reasons. First, it will have serious consequences for Scotland, its people and its industry. It represents simply a transfer of revenue collection from taxation to the rates at a time when there is mounting evidence that rate levels are passing the point at which people and industry can afford to pay.
We read in the papers that on Tayside rates arrears of £2 million are still outstanding, despite efforts to get the money in, and debt recovery action is to start tomorrow. Strathclyde has a greater problem because burdens have soared and when this further substantial increase 860 takes place it will mean a considerable reduction in the number of jobs available and in the number of commercial enterprises. Moreover, with an enhancement of domestic derating, there will be a greater burden on industry and commerce, and for every factory and shop which closes there will be more burden to be carried by the others.
I hope that the Secretary of State will take into account the particular difficulties in Glasgow, where the chamber of commerce is concerned about a likely increase of about 40 per cent. in the rates burden, which will have a catastrophic effect on jobs in Glasgow, especially when that increase comes on top of other higher costs, including the removal of REP and the rise in national insurance contributions.
The Minister has been short-sighted in his order. If, as he says in the White Paper, the object is to restrain public spending, he is in fact taking no action to ensure that public spending will be restrained. He has taken Pontius Pilate's attitude, washing his hands, cutting the Government grant, and saying "You must try to reduce public spending". But there is no guarantee that public spending will be cut. There is nothing to prevent local authorities from simply increasing the rates burden.
I believe, and my party believes, that it we are to have a measure of this kind there is need for the Government themselves to fix a limit to the percentage rate increases charged by local authorities. The Minister has given some advice about, for example, what can be done in staff recruitment. He may be aware that there was a shake-out at the time of the reorganisation in 1973. A lot of people retired voluntarily then, and the amount of voluntary wastage is now limited for that reason.
What worries us in addition is that the cut in grant is far more serious that it seems, because inflation will be worse than we expected. The Chancellor is now taking about 15 per cent.—the indications are that that may be an underestimate—and the increases will not be fully covered.
Second, there is the problem of debit balances, which the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities dealt with very thoroughly in its representations. Third, there are inescapable commitments which are the result of capital spending in 861 previous years. Fourth, there will undoubtedly be a greater demand on local authority services, with the possibility that more children will stay on at school because of lack of employment, plus the certainty that there will be more hardship to be dealt with by social service departments, as well as the fact that we have more elderly people whose needs must be cared for.
I want some assurances about the elderly. Will the Under-Secretary of State responsible for health and social work assure me that they will be protected? Inevitably, one of the easiest cuts to make—they are being made now by some local authorities—is a cut in the home help service for the elderly. It is short-sighted to make that cut. It does not save money in the long term.
In these circumstances, bearing in mind that this order will have a serious effect in Scotland, where we have a serious economic problem already, what is the right course to take? There is the traditional argument that if we do not pass the order there will be no cash for the local authorities. We should like some clear assurances from the Minister. Will he review the order in the event of inflation being much worse than is anticipated? Is he willing to consider the possibility of imposing limits on rate increases?
There is no doubt that this order is a total condemnation of the Government's disastrous policies which have brought about a situation in which the Government have virtually run out of money and in which we now face unemployment and misery. Ratepayers will suffer enormously because of the Government's failure to act on the economy in time, and one consequence is this appalling order.
The Minister adopted a complacent attitude in his speech today. He should appreciate that the order will do great damage and cause great hardship. It will undoubtedly add to the catastrophic level of unemployment in Scotland.
§ 12.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
The Secretary of State produced a large number of impressive figures about the increases in local authority expenditure and staffing over the last four or five years. I do not disagree 862 with those figues, but we are deluding ourselves if we do not recognise that part of the blame for those increases rests in this Chamber.
I spent a considerable part of my time in the Library during the last interminable debate, and I can tell the Minister that in the course of the last three Sessions the Government have produced and passed 180 Acts. That leaves aside Bills sponsored by private Members and other private legislation. Many of those Acts have had an effect on the obligations, duties and staffing of local authorities, and some of the Acts are explicit about that. I served on the Committee that considered the Community Land Bill. The Explanatory Memorandum to that legislation makes the explicit statement that total staff increases resulting from it will beof the order of 12,000 in local authorities in England and Scotland.The fact that we have not achieved that number is due to our miserable record in implementing the Act. But it was our intention. We did not hesitate to require staffing increases in local authorities when we brought forward that Act.
The blunt truth is that local authorities are creatures of statute. There is not a single thing that they do without Parliament passing a law to say that they must do it or that they may do it, and as soon as a law is passed that says that a local authority may do something, we can be certain that an hon. Member will stand up to say that they should do it.
It is not just through legislation that we affect local authority staffing and expenditure. In the Library this evening I had a look through the six green box files containing circulars issued by Ministers. Since 1st October no fewer than 33 separate circulars have been issued to local authorities by the Scottish Office. The prize must go to the Under-Secretary of State for the Scottish Office who during those two months, in the midst of the most acute crisis in local government finance that this generation has ever known, sent, for chief executives to read, no fewer than three circulars about what local authorities should be doing to prepare against a nuclear attack.
It is not enough to blame the Government. There is not an hon. Member who could lay his hand on his heart and say that he has not at any time during the last 863 12 months written to his local authority to make a complaint or suggestion that would involve that authority in greater expenditure. If there has been an unacceptable increase in local authority expenditure, we are largely to blame. If it is true that local authorities are now spending too much and taking on more than the country can afford, let us accept the implications of that and legislate. Let us take off some of the obligations we have piled on them during the past two decades. The cuts envisaged in the order cannot be met if local authorities are to fulfil their present functions.
My right hon. Friend repeatedly contrasted the level of expenditure he approved last year with the level of expenditure he is approving for next year. He said that there was no cut. The real decision faced by local authorities is how to reconcile the money they will have this year with the money they spent in the past year. That involves a massive reduction and a threat to their functions.
The Lothian Regional Council met yesterday. I have been unable to receive details of the decisions taken, partly because the local newspaper is in dispute, but I have seen the options the council considered. The options, never mind the decisions, are sufficiently distressing. In education they involved reducing staffing levels and increasing the mileage that children had to walk to school from two to three miles before qualifying for a bus pass. In social work the options were to reduce the home help service by 5 per cent. and to reduce support to voluntary playgroups. Even in a service so basic and non-controversial as the police force, the suggestion was that vacancies should not be filled and that there should be a 10 per cent. cut in vehicle mileage, though I do not know how the police can cut mileage by 10 per cent. when they are in hot pursuit of a criminal.
I recognise that these are cuts in increases that we had four years ago. We have more teachers and more home helps and, no doubt, police vehicles do more mileage than they did four years ago. Nevertheless, they are real cuts which will cause difficulty and hardship.
I have received information on one decision taken yesterday. The Council decided to close the Citizens' Rights Office, which is supported as an urban 864 aid project in my constituency to assist in the counselling of welfare claimants. That office will now close within a matter of weeks. I cannot think of a more classic illustration of the truth that when public expenditure is cut it is the poor and the inarticulate who suffer first. Those who are most vulnerable and least likely to complain are the ones who suffer first. The irony is that they are the people we are supposed to represent.
In my constituency there is a high proportion of elderly people. The area social work team that operates from the centre of my constituency has within its boundary 25 per cent. of all the retired persons in Edinburgh. These are the people who will suffer from the cut in the number of home helps, even if it is a cut in the increase of four years ago.
This weekend I received a deputation from a residents' association which expressed concern about the marked decline in the cleansing service. The people who live in city centres and in dense residential areas, in drab urban streets without amenities, are the ones who will suffer when environmental services start to decay as a result of the lack of money.
I have served on a local authority. I say that with some humility, as many hon. Members have served for far longer than I did, but I did not come to this place to set my hand against so much I fought for as a councillor. That brings me to what we must do tonight.
I have two observations to make. First, we are considering the largest single element of public expenditure in Scotland. What we decide tonight will have the most profound effect on the level of public services in Scotland for the coming year. It is outrageous that we should have to consider the order in a truncated debate lasting for one-and-a-half hours, with barely half an hour left for Back Benchers, at the fag end of the last debating day of the term, after midnight.
Secondly, we have been told that we cannot amend the order. Hon. Members who have been to the Table Office and the Public Bill Office in the past fortnight will be aware that we cannot amend it. It has been suggested to me and my colleagues over the past week by Ministers that we cannot oppose the order. If we oppose it, we are told, there will be no money for local authorities. That 865 statement is based on a logical fallacy. We are not saying that we are against a Scottish rate support grant order. We are saying that we are against this Scottish rate support grant order.
Leaving that aside, the logic of what we have been told is that we cannot amend the order and that we cannot oppose it. What control does that leave this Chamber over what orders the Government may choose to introduce? It is high time that this Chamber reasserted some of its control over the Executive. I believe that we should make a start tonight by rejecting the order, which achieves simultaneously the remarkable feat of bringing about unacceptable cuts in local services and unacceptable increases in local taxation. I propose to divide the House at the end of the debate, and I hope that many hon. Members will join me.
§ 12.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
The Secretary of State did not, as far as I recall, make reference to the fact that the increase order was based on the assumption that inflation would be about 7 per cent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is now talking of a rate of 15 per cent. and the possibility of a rise even beyond that figure. Who can doubt that that will take place? It is an important factor for local authorities, which have to budget ahead.
Nor do I think that the comparisons that the right hon. Gentleman made between Scotland and England and Wales were quite fair. I shall not argue about whether the Scottish figures are higher or lower, but I must remind him that there have been two valuations in Scotland compared with only one in England. For that and other reasons, I do not think it is possible to make comparisons between the English and Scottish systems.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the local authority in my constituency was receiving the highest rate of grant. I do not deny that. But it is for a simple reason, and it is unfair to make that kind of reference. The reason lies in the needs formula. It is because of the poverty of the area. We have a ratio of persons over 65 of one in four as against one in eight on the mainland, and the local authority has many other problems. At the same time, we have huge 866 areas without a secondary school. The Scottish Office has recognised the need in principle.
I make no apology for the Western Isles being in receipt of a very high level of rate support grant. Their greater poverty is the reason why they are faced with even more severe problems than other areas of Scotland have.
Before 1973 it was impossible for the local authorities in Scotland to rate for the balances, and that is another factor which places them at a disadvantage compared with the English local authorities.
I join the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) in his protest against the time allowed for a speech on this vital matter for Scottish local authorities, and I also am surprised that, apart from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), only three Scottish Tories are interested in this subject.
§ 12.28 a.m.
§ Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)
I shall not go over the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). I accept them all. In the short time we have for this debate, I shall make only two points.
First, I shall take part in the revolt against the Government and vote against the order. Like my hon. Friend, I am fed up with being a rubber stamp for confidential negotiations in which I, as a Member of Parliament, have taken no part. I ask that in future, if hon. Members are to have the final say on the level of the rate support grant in Scotland, we shall have open negotiations and open government, and do away with confidentiality.
Not only are we, as Members of Parliament, complaining about this confidentiality and the fait accompli with which we are faced. Most of the members of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities are also complaining because unless Councillors are on the working party or the various negotiating committees they do not know what has been negotiated. They, too, are faced with a fait accompli. If in future my right hon. Friend does not want a Back Bench revolt he must see that we get open government and that negotiations are carried on in the open, with Members of 867 Parliament participating, if, at the end of the day, we have to take the final vote.
My second argument relates to the actual distribution of the rate support grant. Arising from what I understand to have been a confidential proposal of the working party on local government finance, the districts' share of the RSG will be allocated to them on the basis of a weighted population with special allowances for density of population. This is a new element in the RSG. Because we are now using density of population, rich Tory and SNP areas such as Bearsden and Milngavie, Eastwood and East Kilbride, will have an advantage over poor Labour areas such as Cumnock and Doon Valley, Dunbarton, and my own district of Cunninghame. Because of this change in the negotiations and using part of the formula based on density of population, areas like my own district will suffer.
I realise the thinking behind it. If we use density of population, Glasgow must benefit. No matter how it is calculated, density of population will always benefit Glasgow because, even with a falling population, it has some of the most densely populated areas in the United Kingdom. I do not mind subsidising Glasgow and its Labour supporters, but I object to my own people in the Cuninghame district subsidising the Tories and SNP supporters in East Kilbride, Bearsden, Eastwood and all the other areas peripheral to the urban centre of Glasgow.
I ask my right hon. Friend to change this element and to realise that in areas like the Cunninghame district, because of an Act of Parliament, we have, in addition to traditional industrial towns and villages which are running down at present, areas such as the Kilbirnie Hills, which are moorland areas with no financial advantage to the local authorities, and we have island areas such as Arran and Cumbrae which might be attractive but which are expensive to service. Because we have these large areas with very low total populations, our density of population is reduced and we get a reduction in RSG.
If these negotiations had been carried out in public, this change to using density of population as one of the elements in 868 calculating the RSG would never have been allowed. That is why I shall be taking part in the revolt against the Government tonight.
§ 12.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
It is not my contention that the extent of Government assistance to local authorities is unreasonable in present circumstances. What is arguable is the way that it is applied, which in many respects is unfair.
The rate support grant system formula is, after all, only marginally clearer to the ordinary person than some of the more esoteric forms of Eastern religions. Certainly it is no clearer to the ordinary man in the street. What is more, it is very difficult for Members of Parliament to criticise it, because we do not understand it, and a great many people in local government do not understand it, either.
What is relatively clear is that the new formula devised by the Government takes away from the rural areas and gives to the urban areas. In the case of the Highlands area, part of which I represent, the loss has been calculated to be about £2.25 million a year.
What is equally clear and equally inexplicable is that the basis of the system seems to be unrelated to any kind of United Kingdom system or pattern, and that is particularly odd because the Government are engaged in introducing a devolution Bill, the basis of which is that there should be the same standard of grant and the same treatment throughout the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) asked a question which was designed to compare the Borders with Powys, in Wales, two areas that are similar in size and population. The populations are 99,000 and 100,000, and the areas are much the same, at 1,154,000 for the Borders and 1,250,000 for Powys. Yet gross expenditure on Government grant is 75 per cent. in the case of the Borders and 85 per cent. for Powys. All other things appear to be equal. Why is there this distinction?
My area has been recognised for a long time by Governments as requiring development. The Highlands and Islands Development Board was set up by the Labour Government in 1967. Yet 869 the projected protected rate of 147p, which is the estimated rate for the region, has been boosted by the rate support grant reduction of 16p and the redistribution of 7p. If the Government's objective remains, as it was with their predecessors, to equalise rates at some rough line by producing some sort of formula, that is fine, but we must face the fact that there is no equivalent level of standard of service. The Government must regard that as unsatisfactory. The Minister should take another look at the formula which has been agreed. In theory it is fine, but in practice it puts a heavy burden on the rural areas which are least able to bear it.
Why are road lengths excluded from the rate support grant calculations? The Government have sought to give general support to local authorities in times of expenditure restriction. But I complain bitterly that the rural areas which the Government claim to wish to develop are being squeezed and denied support by a method which the Labour Party, when in opposition, criticised when it was used by the Conservatives. That is most unsatisfactory.
§ 12.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
I shall be brief, especially in view of the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). Most of us, however, wish to make our views known on this issue and to show clearly where we stand. This is the first time that I have spoken on the subject of local government, so I must have been moved a great deal to embark upon this complex subject.
There seems to be a curious myth, which is being perpetuated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) and even by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is that we can solve the problems of expensive local government by sacking one or two highlypaid administrators.
§ Mr. Buchan
It might help morale, but it is a myth which we should not seek to perpetuate, even in the course of interjections such as that. The truth is that the kind of cuts which will be demanded as a result of this measure will make a massive inroad into the services 870 provided. It might affect one service or a dozen services, and it might mean one service going altogether.
It is nonsense to suggest that the problem lies with highly-paid officials in town halls. That is the charge that we hear continually, but it is lodging the issue. The issue is that local government gives the direct service and carries out the wishes of the House in the sectors, for example, of education and social services.
§ Mr. Buchan
As my hon. Friend says, it does so for the poor. The rich do not require assistance. They can buy what they need or want. It is the poorest section of the community that is to be hit. Local government has many devoted officials who receive few thanks but who have the task of implementation.
I have been disturbed by the loss of morale of local councillors in Scotland. Many good councillors tell me that they will not stand again. That is because of the vicious distortions by the Press and certain politicians about councillor's allowances. There are at least three councillors in my area who lose heavily. Councillors can no longer accept the continual Press distortions.
The regional and district councils have been in existence for a year and a half. The councillors say that they have discussed only what to cut, not what should be done. That has not been good for their morale. When that happens, it is not healthy democracy.
I listened to the humbug of the hon. Member for Cathcart. He must be honest enough to say, if he wishes to cut rates and taxes, that he is demanding greater and greater cuts in services. We could do with a little honesty, whatever section of pondlife it may come from.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
If we are to have grant reductions of this sort because of the serious situation in Scotland, I accept that there must be substantial cuts in local authority spending.
§ Mr. Buchan
Perhaps they would be welcomed by the hon. Gentleman.
What is now taking place must be set against the background of the real economic climate. I do not blame the 871 Government for the crisis, although I blame them for some of the measures that they have taken to deal with it. For example, it is nonsense to think that by sacking people in local government we shall boost labour in manufacturing industry. That is not true. There is no mechanism to redirect such resources, and we all know it.
We have the choice of sacking people or of increasing the rates. A rate increase has been suggested for the Strathclyde Region which is a good region. It has been dragged into the debate by the SNP for party political purposes. The SNP does not choose to run an election in the Strathclyde Region or elsewhere on independence. Its slogans are attacks on Strathclyde. In many ways it is one of the best local councils I have met. That is the view of many who have been closely involved in these matters.
The problem is that rates are an unfair system of taxation. National taxation is fairest. A time of increasing economic difficulties for the country and for individuals is precisely the wrong time to alter the balance by increasing rates. That is the economic argument why the balance should not be changed.
I ask my right hon. Friend to think again. I have enormous respect for him but I sometimes think that he does not always feel close to local government. I wish that he could feel closer to it as it is the sector of government that carries out the demands that are made by the House.
§ 12.44 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to put me out of my misery about balances and enable me to sleep tonight. It has been said that it has not always been possible to rate for balances. We may be speaking about different things, but when I was in local government in Aberdeen we used to run a rates reserve fund. We ran a surplus to be used for various purposes in future years. Either I acted illegally for a number of years as a local councillor or we are speaking of different things when talking about balances and rating reserves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) rightly emphasised the responsibilities that the House 872 places on local authorities. What has not been mentioned is the ongoing effect that Government decisions directly have on capital expenditure. Every time that capital expenditure is approved, there follows a revenue cost. Insufficient account has been taken of this. This situation has reached the point of absurdity.
Yesterday the Labour group on the Grampian Regional Council pressed very hard that five nursery schools which have been built in the region should be opened. The local authority says that it can open only one of the schools, to which it can transfer staff, but that four nursery schools will remain closed because it cannot afford to staff them.
Are there any other examples of this throughout Scotland, and how often will it be repeated in the coming year? The Grampian authority could very well open the nursery schools, because I do not believe that the public expenditure cuts could have had their effect so quickly. It is the tip of the iceberg and it illustrates the problem. There is no point in the Government sanctioning a great public capital expenditure programme and boasting about all the capital expenditure they have authorised when they do not recognise that there is no point in, for instance, having buildings if they cannot be staffed. Because of this decision, a large number of children cannot attend nursery school. As I said in a speech on the Barber cuts, it is always working-class children that suffer. I hope that my right hon. Friend will recognise this and take appropriate action.
§ 12.47 a.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) in his reference to what he suggested was the sport of councillor-bashing. If the Scottish Press continues with its campaign, the result will be that people will be unwilling to run for public office.
I want to ask one question which I have raised before as a matter of special pleading. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on whether he ought not in the new year to consider with his officials giving a definite directive to the new town of Livingston? My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie)—who is on the Front Bench—and I are 873 bothered about the whole issue of Livingston. I realise the difficulties attached to special pleading, but the fact is that this new town is unique because of its size and the stage it is at. The way in which it is consuming the resources of Lothian Region worries the whole region, including my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook).
For what it is worth, I shall support the Government tonight. I think that it must be done. We are borrowing from abroad. No more may be said about them. Perhaps I may in the same breath ask forgiveness for wondering how my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who does us the great courtesy of being present for this Scottish debate, can in the light of this measure support the expense of the Assembly. I leave it at that.
§ 12.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)
Last week representatives of the Strathclyde Regional Council came to see hon. Members to express their apprehensions about the cuts that were envisaged in the rate support grant. I think that those councillors will be a deal happier tonight. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State merits the congratulations of all Members on saving the hundreds of jobs at the Marathon shipyard.
Where did the £13 million come from? Was it plucked out of the air or from savings? I have badgered the Government about their policies for redevelopment and the revitalisation of Scottish industry. For the first time we see that they are serious in their intention to revitalise industry in Britain. Marathon is a triumph for my right hon. Friend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), with his usual perception, hit the nail on the head when he said that the present trouble was our fault, that we made the decisions, and so we had 13.5 per cent. inflation, 1½ million unemployed, massive overspending of £11 billion, a balance of payments deficit of £2 billion, interests rates of 15 per cent. and virtually no growth. That is why my right hon. Friend has had to take the action he has taken on the rate support grant. He had no option.
874 My hon. Friend and some others are going to rebel against the Government tonight. They are entitled to do that, in a democratic assembly, but where will the local authorities get their money? The rate support grant does not deal simply with next year. There is current expenditure to be met to April 1977. If my hon. Friends defeat the order, they will put the local authorities in considerable trouble. There is no point in rebelling in these circumstances. My hon. Friends will make the difficulties of the Strathclyde and Lothian councillors a sight greater than they are now, and they will get worse.
Whatever policies we may have pursued six months, 12 months or 18 months ago, those options are no longer open. We have only one way to go. Today's decision on Marathon is an indication that we may be going the right way. There is no point in talking about reflation now. The other way, the siege economy advocated by some of my hon. Friends, would make the position of the Strathclyde and Lothian councillors very much worse than it is or will be under this order. My advice to my hon. Friends is to vote with the Government and try to do what is possible to improve the proposals in the order.
Having said all that in support of the Government, I must say that I am particularly worried about housing. When we start rebuilding there is always a shortage of carpenters, joiners, plumbers and bricklayers. When we halt the construction industry we halt the training of apprentices, who are vital to the future of the industry. I ask the Government to have another look at industry. Transport is an essential part.
If we are to revitalise, I do not want the transport grant to be mixed up in the rate support grant, as the old block grant was and subject to the constant erosion of special pleading. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be specific in identifying the money allocated to public transport.
I urge my right hon. Friend, having done a splendid job for Marathon, and the workers employed there, realising the difficulties of our colleagues in Strathclyde, Lothian and the other regions, to use his best endeavours to increase where possible the rate support grant for the deprived areas of Scotland.
§ 12.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
I am opposed to the decrease in the grant because it will mean a decrease in people's living standards. I speak as one who in the past has not been entirely uncritical of certain aspects of local government spending. I make no apologies for referring again to the cheap home loan scandal involving highly paid executives in the Central Region, which covers part of my own local authority. I spoke out at the time, and have done so since. Those people, highly paid and in responsible positions, deserve no sympathy from me or the public, who have to foot the bill for their breaking of the law.
But to keep the matter in perspective I must add that the money involved in such abuses is a drop in the ocean of local government expenditure, most of which is essential spending on the social services. We must differentiate between the minimal extravagance and the vast bulk of local government expenditure which is absolutely necessary.
Local authorities are now being asked to cut back their spending programmes to such an extent that they are in danger of being unable to fulfil some of their statutory duties. Obviously, those who will suffer are those most in need, such as the old, who depend on social services such as meals on wheels, luncheon clubs, home helps and so on. The disabled are dependent on assistance for alterations to their homes to make life easier—for example, ramps for wheelchairs. Young people in education—not just formal education, but in the wider aspects of education such as leisure and recreation—will be affected.
There is also the threat of redundancy hanging over the heads of many local government workers. It is not good enough for the Secretary of State or for anyone else to say that these proposals can go through without massive redundancies taking place. Such redundancies are inevitable if the proposed cuts go ahead. According to trade union representatives, who are closer to the situation than either the Secretary of State or myself, massive redundancies will affect their members.
I have seen some of the options before the Central Regional Council, part of which comes into my constituency. It 876 has some very painful decisions to make between redundancies and trying to maintain services of even minimum standards.
The whole Labour movement throughout the country, not just in this House, has always believed in municipal Socialism and involvement in local government in order to redistribute a fair amount of wealth and opportunity in favour of those who are most in need. The advances and achievements which have been made in the past half century are in danger of being dismantled. Those who are now speaking out and being critical of the Government in this respect are not only a militant minority but responsible people who have given a lifetime of service in local government.
An increase in public or local government expenditure is not intrinsically evil. I want to see more public and local government expenditure. But we shall not get it with the silly policies advocated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). We shall get it only by convincing the Treasury that it has the wrong economic strategy because it is not Socialist enough. For example, we should not throw away good, profitable public investment in BP shares.
By decreasing public investment and public expenditure we shall be going contrary to the manifesto on which we were elected. I shall continue to fight not for a siege economy, but for an alternative Socialist growth economy. That is why I shall vote against the order.
§ 12.53 a.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
This is an appalling hour of night at which to have such an important debate. I hope that the Leader of the House will note what has been said and that this time next year he will arrange for this important debate to be taken at a better time for Scottish Members.
The one point that we must get across to the Secretary of State is that the cuts will be considerably more severe and unpleasant than he seems to realise. That is certainly the view of the local authority associations. Indeed, all those who have been to see us believe, whether rightly or wrongly, that the right hon Gentleman does not realise the seriousness of these cuts and their effects.
This unhappy chapter started at the beginning of the new local government 877 set-up with the guidelines which were drawn up on which these grants are still being based, albeit at a year or two years' remove. The guidelines—the best which could be devised at the time—were not specific. They were not carefully calculated. Indeed, they were very much in the nature of a guesstimate. Guidelines were the original source of the trouble and the reason why the first rate support grant orders turned out to be much less accurate than one would have hoped. Built upon that there is mounting inflation and the great difficulties that have arisen.
It is no use the Secretary of State just saying that because he warned local authorities about this they ought to have been able to deal with it. It is true that he has been warning them. We have seen the warnings in the Press. But it is not as easy as that for one who is running a local authority, particularly an authority without much experience, to make these tremendous sea changes quite suddenly and as quickly as has been requested.
The Secretary of State cannot underestimate the fact that, whether by accident or for some other reason, he has not made sufficient allowance for inflation in the calculations. The local authority associations have complained that they were given an allowance of 7 per cent. for inflation in a year in which it turned out to be running at an annual rate of 10.9 per cent., and the authorities are carrying the difference.
Many Acts of Parliament that have been introduced by previous Governments and even by the present Government cannot be undone. Local authorities are forced to provide more expenditure and more people to fulfil the provisions of those Acts. Everyone has been encouraging local authorities to get extra police, for example, and they have been able to get some in the last year or two. But it all costs money. The local authorities have a legitimate case. They feel that they are not able to reverse the ship as quickly as the Secretary of State has requested.
Then there is the National Insurance Surcharge. Local authorities never expected that. The Government introduced that out of the blue. Just as it affects industry very seriously, the 2 per 878 cent. surcharge on the employer's contribution affects local government, which is very labour-intensive as we all know, in exactly the same way. Allowance has not been made for that, either. All of this is piled upon us now.
Having said all that, I hope that all hon. Members will realise that the Secretary of State has no option but to bring before us this measure. His Government have so failed in their economic policy that they have run out of money and cannot afford to give a better order than that before us. The Secretary of State is in the unhappy position of having to put this across to us and the local authorities, and we must feel doubly sorry for him in what he is having to do because he knows that he would very much rather not do it.
Here my sympathy rather evaporates. Labour Members below the Gangway—if in this case that is the right way of describing them—have been talking grandly about a revolt tonight. If this was something that had been done over their dead bodies, I would have some sympathy. However, they are turning on their own Government when it is they who have been pressing the Government all the time that they have been in office to overstep the mark, to increase the rate of inflation, to reflate the economy, to spend more on everything and to increase public expenditure.
It is the Left wing that has been asking for this all the time. The result of what they have done—they have been very successful—is to lead the Government into the runaway inflation which has led the Secretary of State and his colleagues into the deeply unhappy situation in which they now find themselves, and it has led all their local authority friends into the position of having to face a rate support grant order much less generous than anyone would have wished.
Hon. Members who are thinking so grandly of their consciences tonight and of revolting against their own Government ought to have a care for the fact that they have put the Government where they are. It is very largely their fault that the Government are there. If hon. Members had half the decency that they should have, they would support the Secretary of State tonight in his unpleasant task. If they do not do so, they will be 879 going against everything that they have forced the Government to do. The Secretary of State has an unenviable task and is giving local authorities a very difficult task. Unfortunately, the incompetence of the Government gives them no option.
§ 1.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Millan
That was a particularly equivocal speech, even from the Opposition Front Bench. However, at least tonight we have got the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on record as saying that he is in favour of major cuts in public expenditure at local authority level. I suppose that it is some little advance to have that on record.
As to the timing of the debate, I am sorry that because of the loquaciousness of the English and the Welsh, the debate came on rather later than I would have wished.
I make the point that it is important from the point of view of the local authorities that we approve this order tonight. It would put the local authorities at a considerable disadvantage if the order were not effective before Christmas. That is why it is before us tonight. Perhaps my hon. Friends will have that in mind when they come to vote.
If by any mischance or miscalculation the order were not approved, I am afraid that the £60 million which the local authorities are due to receive under the increase order could not be paid. We are to begin these payments in January. Without the order the local authorities will not get the money.
§ Mr. Buchan
In the event of the order being rejected tonight, we would expect my right hon. Friend to introduce an even better order in January.
§ Mr. Millan
If my hon. Friend is expecting me to introduce an even better order, he is being rather optimistic. We have considered all these points in proposing the settlement. To delay the order will simply do damage to local authorities.
It is not true, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has said, that the Government have continually placed
§ obligations upon local authorities. I accept that local authorities carry out obligations which are largely imposed on them by this House. But we have been careful in recent years to limit considerably any additional obligations on local authorities.
§ Mention might have been made of my statement on 5th November about considerable changes in procedures for dealing with, for example, educational building projects for local authorities. These will considerably reduce the amount of staff time involved at local authority and Government level. There are a lot of other things I could mention, given time, to demonstrate that we are seriously attempting to disengage from a number of procedures in which we are involved so as to save staff time.
§ I do not accept that the order will lead to massive reductions in services. My hon. Friends have referred to the police. The police staffing figures for the past year are interesting. In the period between May 1975 and June 1976 the number of policemen in Scotland rose from 11,900 to 12,800. It is absurd to argue that unless we have constant increases the whole of the service will collapse. I do not accept that as a serious statement of the position.
§ We know that there is room for economy in local authority expenditure without damaging services. I do not pretend that all of the economies over the next year can be made painlessly. The local authorities have never said that to me. Equally, they have never said that there are no areas of local authority expenditure where certain economies cannot be made without causing considerable damage.
§ Of course the order has to be taken in conjunction with the economic background. In other situations I should like to produce a more generous order. A number of painful decisions have been taken by local authorities in difficult circumstances. Equally—
§ It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business):—
§ The House divided: Ayes 66, Noes 19.881
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[1.10 a.m.|
|Archer, Peter||Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bates, Alf||Bishop, E. S.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Harper, Joseph||Rowlands, Ted|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Snape, Peter|
|Buchanan, Richard||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Stallard, A.W.|
|Campbell, Ian||Judd, Frank||Stoddart, David|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Kaufman, Gerald||Strang, Gavin|
|Coleman, Donald||Kerr, Russell||Tinn, James|
|Cowans, Harry||Leadbitter, Ted||Tomlinson, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||McElhone, Frank||Urwin, T. W.|
|Cryer, Bob||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Dalyell, Tam||MacKenzie, Gregor||Ward, Michael|
|Davidson, Arthur||Marks, Kenneth||White, James (Pollok)|
|Deakins, Eric||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Mendelson, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Woodall, Alec|
|Eadie, Alex||Moyle, Roland||Woof, Robert|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Freeson, Reginald||Roper, John||Mr. Joseph Ashton and|
|Golding, John||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Lambie, David||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Buchan, Norman||MacCormick, Iain||Watt, Hamish|
|Carmichael, Neil||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Selby, Harry|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Mr. Denis Canavan and|
|Henderson, Douglas||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Mr. Robert Hughes.|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Thompson, George|
|Question accordingly agreed to.|
|That the Rate Support Grant (Scotland)Order 1976, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved.|
|That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr.Stoddart.]|
|Adjourned accordingly at twenty-one minutes past One o'clock.|