HC Deb 07 December 1981 vol 14 cc592-675

Order for Second Reading read.

4.4 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

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

It is now eight years since the House had before it the legislation which became the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. That was the most radical reorganisaton of local government that Scotland had known. It replaced more than 400 local authorities with 65, reflecting in a more logical and systematic way the tasks of local government in the second half of the twentieth century. By and large, the system that we set up then has worked satisfactorily, and it is to the credit of all concerned in local government that they have adapted so quickly and energetically to the new structure, despite the continuing economic difficulties that have bedevilled us under consecutive Administrations since 1973.

Before we came into office we said that we saw no need for a further full-scale reorganisation of local government. Our objective is, rather, to refine the present structure, and that is the main purpose of the Bill. Our priorities are twofold. On the one hand, we must build on the work of our predecessors—and not least, incidentally, our predecessors on the Opposition Benches, who put through the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966—in bringing more discipline into the system of local government finance to ensure that due priority is given to the Government's economic objectives and the needs of industrial, commercial and domestic ratepayers. On the other hand, we must clarify responsibility for the various functions of local government by reducing concurrent functions to the minimum. These are the main objectives of the Bill.

I should like to express the thanks of all hon. Members to Lord Stodart of Leaston, who chaired the committee that looked into this matter, and all who served on his committee. Although, of course, everyone cannot agree with all their recommendations, the report has, I think, been very well accepted. I am also grateful to them for meeting the somewhat tight timetable that I imposed upon them. They did extremely well to complete their work within a year. I know that it involved a great deal of time and hard work on their part to do so.

Part I of the Bill deals with the rating system, including one alteration which I propose in the powers that I was given earlier this year to protect ratepayers against excessive and unreasonable expenditure.

Part II deals with most of the recommendations of the committee of inquiry into local government in Scotland, under the chairmanship of Lord Stodart of Leaston. Part III makes a number of detailed improvements in the planning system. Part IV deals with a variety of minor miscellaneous improvements. I shall now comment on each of these parts before asking the House to approve the Bill.

I start by commenting on clauses 1 and 2. These clauses give the Government a new power to help ratepayers. The background to this was, of course, gone into at great length last Session and this resulted in the House approving certain new powers for the Secretary of State. These powers have now been used during the summer, and have proved to be effective in curbing spending which was excessive and unreasonable. There is no need, therefore, for any further new measures this year, but there is one respect in which the present powers can be substantially improved from the point of view of ratepayers.

At present, the Secretary of State is empowered, with the approval of Parliament, to remove a particular amount of grant from an authority, but to give that authority an option either to let that sum return to the Treasury or to give an undertaking to return that amount to its own ratepayers. When this was introduced, it seemed to me to be a fair choice. It was hard to imagine any rational authority doing other than returning the money thus removed from it to its own ratepayers. However, it appears that both I and most of the ratepayers involved greatly overestimated the reasoning powers of some of the councillors involved. With the single exception of Renfrew district council, which gave its ratepayers a refund, all the councils chose to pay back to the Government the forfeited money.

We are flattered that the councils considered the Government to be so worthy of their support, but it seemed hard on the ratepayers, many of whom were already suffering great hardship in trying to meet the frightening rate increases that the councils concerned had imposed upon them. I have no doubt that I shall have the warmest support of all ratepayers in asking for the small addition to last year's powers contained in clause 1. It will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that any savings on expenditure imposed upon an authority in future will be returned to that authority's ratepayers.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The Secretary of State is not telling the whole truth about the Stirling district council. I put forward a reasonable proposal to the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the council. That proposal would have allowed him to restore the rate support grant in full and would have allowed the council to carry over some money to the financial year 1982–83, and, therefore, to reduce the rates for that year. Why did the Secretary of State reject such a simple and reasonable proposal, which would have helped the ratepayers of Stirling, including himself and myself?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman's concern for the ratepayers in his constituency is most touching, particularly as he has warmly supported a rate increase of over 100 per cent. in West Stirlingshire. The hon. Gentleman's proposal would not have returned the money to the ratepayers in the year in question. That is what the ratepayers are concerned about, and that is what this measure will now do as necessary in future. I hope, therefore, that I shall be able to count on the hon. Gentleman's full support in the Lobby tonight. Certainly ratepayers in his constituency will be watching to see whether he gives it.

Clause 2 follows logically from the change by prohibiting the use of borrowed money to offset a rate reduction made under clause 1. It is similar to the prohibition of the use of borrowed money to offset a grant reduction provided for in section 18 of the 1981 Act. I hope that it will now be clear that this is a wholly desirable change from the point of view of ratepayers and an entirely desirable improvement, even for those who disagree with the whole principle of the 1981 power.

Therefore, it would be surprising if, as I understand it, the Opposition were to vote against the Bill tonight. They should be thinking very hard about what they ought to be doing. If they vote against the Bill, there can be only one explanation—that their top priority is the prevention of any easing of the burden on ratepayers. If so, the antagonism that they have already aroused, because of the actions of Socialist councils in putting up the rates, will be as nothing to the fury that will come thereafter. Ratepayers of all political persuasions will be watching to see whether their Members vote for the Bill.—[Interruption.] It will be rather more difficult for hon. Members who are not here. Nevertheless, hon. Members will be carefully watched. Ratepayers will know what to do if they find their representatives voting against a power which ensures that money taken off them by the council is returned to them.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) has often deployed an argument, which is freely bandied about in these debates, that this will lead to the end of local democracy and that we might as well forget it and go home. However, I was interested to see that the right hon. Gentleman may be having a few second thoughts. I read with interest an article in The Scotsman of 1 December which was a portrait of the right hon. Gentleman and his views on the subject. The words at the beginning of the article are relevant: Recently reappointed as shadow Scottish Secretary, Mr. Bruce Millan is preparing for another major battle with the Government over council spending levels, and in particular the latest proposed powers for the control of rates increases. Mr. Millan believes that an unprecedented crisis has arisen over the relationship between local and central Government and is of the view that there are more acceptable ways of influencing local government expenditure. When Secretary of State for Scotland during the Callaghan Labour Government, Mr. Millan had his own spending battles with councils. By cutting the rate support grant by 4 per cent,. he forced councils to make spending reductions they found unpalatable, and big cuts were also made in the number of council employees. He explains"— as indeed he might; this is the good bit— under successive Governments local authority expenditure had gone up sharply, and in the two years to 1976 there was an exceptional increase, particularly because of local government reorganisation. In those two years spending had increased in real terms by 20 per cent …obviously, that situation could not continue. Those are the words of the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members, in listening to them, might think that they are irrelevant to today's debate, because he was referring, after all, to local government expenditure increases in real terms of 20 per cent., and the right hon. Gentleman has given no support whatever to any of the measures that I have had to take to prevent local government over-expenditure in the past year. Yet the items that I laid before the House in the summer, which the House approved, showed conclusively that the councils concerned had incurred increases of considerably more than 20 per cent. in those cases. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's argument, that this destroys local government initiative, and so on, is a pack of nonsense, and he must know it. If he were in the same position, I am sure that he would have found it necessary to take action—and he knows it.

No authority is affected in any way by these powers unless it takes the extreme and deliberate step of planning expenditure which is declared by the House to be excessive and unreasonable. This power is not aimed at all authorities. It is not even aimed at all overspending authorities. They have complete democratic freedom to put through their policies, strike their rate, and be judged by their electors for doing so. Only those who go far beyond this, to the severe disadvantage of their ratepayers—and, incidentally, doing serious damage to other more sensible local authorities—are directly affected by this power. I am confident that it will be warmly welcomed by ratepayers throughout Scotland and will be of help to them in facing difficult rate burdens.

Clause 3 contains a provision to allow for the derating of plant and machinery. The problem which this has been introduced to overcome has arisen because of technological change since the original statutes were framed. Since such change will continue to affect these provisions in future, I have chosen to seek an order-making power and to leave the details to be presented to Parliament later.

The present statutory definition of lands and heritages in Scotland which are subject to valuation for rating has remained largely unchanged since the turn of the century. Because of this, plant and machinery outdoors is fully rated, whereas if the same plant were inside a building it would usually be free from rates. In England and Wales no such arbitrary distinction is drawn. The anomaly is, therefore, to the disadvantage of Scottish industrialists. It puts a heavy burden on the oil and petrochemical industries in particular, and could act as a serious disincentive to industrial development in Scotland.

I therefore intend to use the powers sought in the Bill, as soon as they are available to me, to make an order derating external plant in Scotland broadly to the same extent as similar plant is derated in England, and thus to restore the broad equality of treatment between concerns situated on opposite sides of the border and between industries with their plant indoors or outside. We have started discussions on these proposals with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and other interests and we shall have further consultations on the detailed provisions that will appear in the order. In advance of those consultations it would not be right to speculate on what the arrangements will be or how they will affect the rate burden in particular authorities or industries.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

Has the Secretary of State made any calculations of the effect that would have on the rates in Orkney and Shetland?

Mr. Younger

We have made calculations on the effects, and we are in the process of trying to agree those calculations with COSL.A. We are certainly considering the effect on Orkney and Shetland. As we are in the middle of consultations, I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will expect me to go further than that at the moment.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

One of the areas that is likely to be affected is Fife. Will the Secretary of State say how a local authority embarking on capital intensive projects of a petrochemical nature can plan its expenditure in the next year or so without the detailed information that he should give as soon as possible?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate that point. The hon. Gentleman is correct. The right way to deal with the matter is to consult the local authority associations. I assure him that we are proceeding with those consultations as fast as we can, and we shall make announcements as soon as possible so that everyone knows where they stand.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Will the Secretary of State explain why he arrived at that decision in the absence of any global calculation about the impact on the oil industry and on ratepayers? The matter will, of course, affect my constituents in Caithness.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman will probably agree that another important consideration is that Scottish industry and industry coming into Scotland should not be disadvantaged compared with similar industries south of the border. The hon. Gentleman may, therefore, agree that the right procedure is for the Government to try to deal with the matter by putting forward a proposal and then discussing it with those affected. That is what we are doing. I believe that is the right way, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no unwarrantable delay.

The measures in part H underline our determination to improve the accountability of local authorities, on this occasion by cutting down duplication and overlapping of services and reducing concurrent functions to the minimum. It was satisfactory that the Stodart report as a whole met with such widespread approval. That confirms our belief that the review that we promised in our manifesto was needed. There have inevitably been points on which either districts or regions, individually or as a group, have taken issue with the committee, but the response from local authorities, both in their own right and through the region and district policy committees of the convention, has been positive and constructive. I am grateful to them for that.

The detailed provisions reflect the Government's decisions on the report, which I announced to the House in June. Given the general welcome that my statement received when we debated it in the Scottish Grand Committee in July, I do not wish to add much to what I said then about the broad principles. However, I shall amplify a few of the detailed provisions which put flesh on the bones of the June statement. The major changes proposed in the present structure are in industrial promotion, tourism and leisure and recreation. It is no coincidence that those are three activities of local government where criticism and controversy about concurrent functions has been most marked.

Industrial promotion is a matter on which I have not felt able to go all the way with the majority view of the Stodart committee. The effect of clause 5 will be to concentrate on region and islands councils' powers to undertake industrial promotion. I emphasise, however, that it will not affect the powers of all authorities to provide factories or buildings, and all, including districts, will still be free to advertise their factories throughout the United Kingdom.

Regions and islands councils will, of course, be free to engage in promotion throughout the United Kingdom. To do so overseas, they must have my express consent or operate within any general consent or code of practice that I may issue in the future. That is in line both with the main Stodart report and the note of reservation by Professor Bradley and Mr. Bell. I have repeatedly explained that concentration is vital if we are to have a more effective promotion effort, and, in regard to overseas promotion, it will enable me to ensure that the effort is properly co-ordinated.

I intend to operate my consent-giving powers for overseas promotion with a light hand, and the code of practice that the clause empowers me to prepare, in consultation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, will enable me to set the guidelines which I hope will allow authorities operating within them to proceed without any further consent from me. My objective will be to leave the maximum flexibility for individual initiatives within those guidelines. Where I am asked for permission to go beyond them, I shall wish to give such permission, unless there is an important reason against it.

It will be clear from clause 5 that districts will retain a wide range of important powers. They will be able to acquire and develop land, build factories, provide mortgages for industrial purposes and, within the United Kingdom, advertise all those services. Moreover, in relation to promotion, they can still encourage industrialists in their area to undertake further development and can, under the terms of the clause, contribute financially, or as participants, to promotion with the United Kingdom or overseas organised by the Secretary of State or a region.

Districts will therefore have considerable scope for enterprise in industrial development, despite the changes in promotion powers. Overall, our objective has been to streamline promotional activity. At the same time, by retaining the powers available to local authorities in industrial development, we have ensured that districts as well as regions are properly equipped to reap the harvest fruits of promotion effort, be it by the provision of factories or by financial assistance to developers. I believe that those proposals will be warmly welcomed in the districts.

Clause 8 gives effect to the next major change that we have proposed—that district and islands council have sole responsibility for tourism functions. I described my proposals in our debate in the summer. They have not changed, and I do not intend to add anything now.

Clauses 11 to 16 deal with leisure and recreation. They implement the Stodart recommendation that leisure and recreation powers should be concentrated on district councils, but they go much further. The Bill revises the present powers and duties of local authorities in relation to leisure and recreation, which are based on much obsolete and outdated legislation and have been much in need of revision. The clauses were published last summer in draft in our consultation document on the civic code, but I felt that they were more appropriate in the present Bill than in the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill.

In connection with my proposals for leisure and recreation, and for tourism, I have qualified the complete transfer of responsibility to districts by conferring on regions a power to contribute financially to projects of special significance or benefit to their area. These specific powers are necessary because in general it seems desirable, if concurrency is to be reduced, that local authorities should not be able to exercise their general powers to incur expenditure on a function that is the express statutory responsibility of the other tier. This principle is set out in clause 4.

I come now to part III and the changes that the Bill makes in town and country planning and listed building procedures. These changes are contained in clauses 32 to 44, schedule 2 and part of schedule 3. A number of the changes stem from the Stodart report. Others result from discussion between the Scottish Development Department and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The Government consider that the planning system is basically in good heart and that it copes well with the increasingly complex task of reconciling competing demands and priorities. For that reason, many of the proposals in this part of the Bill are aimed at achieving more effective and efficient procedures without altering radically the basic statutory framework within which planning authorities operate. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act included a number of significant relaxations of the central Government's control over the details of planning arrangements. The planning proposals in the Bill relate mainly to the powers and duties of local authorities and seek to make improvements in four main areas.

First, there are changes to the procedures for preparing and bringing into effect structure and local plans which have the function of guiding development. Secondly, the Bill includes changes to the procedures for dealing with applications for planning permission and listed building consent. Thirdly, there are improvements to the procedures for taking action against breaches of planning control. Fourthly, the Bill makes some limited adjustments to the allocation of planning functions between regional and district planning authorities in the two-tier areas.

I apologise if at first sight the Bill appears to make a large number of small changes in a system which is already complex enough. I hope, however, that our consideration of the detail of these changes in Committee will show that, as a whole, they refine planning arrangements so that in practice planning authorities will be able to operate simpler and more flexible procedures, which are essential if planning is to be, as we intend, the servant and not the master of economic regeneration.

Part IV deals with a variety of matters which I suggest do not require detailed explanation at this stage, but which no doubt we can go into in detail in Committee and on Report. However, I single out clause 50, which gives councillors in Scotland the right to choose between the receipt of financial loss allowance and attendance allowance for the performance of an approved duty. This choice is already enjoyed by councillors in England and Wales by virtue of a provision in the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. In deference to the wishes of the convention at that time, the provision was not extended to Scotland. The convention, however, now wishes a similar facility to be available to councillors in Scotland, and clause 50 gives effect to it.

The Bill as a whole, therefore, is a tidying up and refining exercise. Part I builds on the provisions enacted last year. Parts II and III follow from the recommendations of the Stodart committee and the experience of operating local government under the new system. Since the Local Government Act 1973, we have had local government legislation in 1975, twice in 1978, in 1980 and in 1981. This year, Parliament will consider not only this Bill but also the major Civic Government (Scotland) Bill which has started its passage in another place. I hope that after these enactments have been approved by Parliament, we shall be able to tell local government that the legislative changes consequent upon the major reorganisation are complete and that we can enable it to get on with doing its job in Scotland.

4.33 pm
Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

I am sure that the Secretary of State's closing words will have a very hollow ring for local authorities in view of this Government's record in their dealings with local authorities over the past couple of years or so.

The Opposition, of course, oppose the Bill because of clauses 1 and 2, with which I shall deal later in my remarks. First, however, I want to deal with some of its other provisions. It is a long Bill, and some of it is incomprehensible, especially the schedules. Therefore it will be necessary to consider the Bill carefully in Committee, and I hope that the Government will not be unwise enough to rush into the Committee stage too early before we have had an opportunity to have appropriate consultations with the local authorities.

I shall not comment on part III, dealing with planning. That will have to be scrutinised in Committee.

Part IV deals with various miscellaneous matters. Like the Secretary of State, I welcome the change of view of COSLA about councillors' allowances. I only regret that clause 50 as it appears in the Bill was not included in the 1980 Act. But that was not the Government's fault. It was because COSLA said specifically that it did not wish to have that clause. The new clause will give councillors a choice of attendance allowance or financial loss allowance. It brings them into line with councillors in England and Wales, and it is a sensible provision.

The other provision in that part of the Bill which I mention is clause 45. We oppose it because it would give the Lands Tribunal for Scotland the opportunity to exercise a discretion to grant even more excessive discounts on council house sales than are normally provided for in the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act. We consider it completely unacceptable that a discretion of that kind should be given to the Lands Tribunal.

I wish to comment on a number of clauses in that part of the Bill which deals with the Stodart committee recommendations. I begin with clause 5. I am glad that the Government rejected the majority recommendation of the Stodart committee which would have excluded district councils from both industrial provision and industrial promotion. The Bill provides something of a compromise, but in terms of the districts' powers it is still far too restrictive. To give districts the opportunity to engage in industrial promotion but then to say that, if they are to advertise at all, they must advertise only specific industrial sites or premises owned by them is ludicrously restrictive. That cannot be acceptable to the districts, given the vast interest that many districts take, quite legitimately with today's levels of unemployment, in industrial promotion and provision.

Incidentally, the definition of "promotion" extends to carrying on correspondence. Presumably a district would not even be able to carry on correspondence about industrial opportunities in its district, which is an absurdity, unless it fell within the very restrictive provisions in the Bill. We shall have to look at that in Committee. However, having criticised the Secretary of State on a previous occasion—a criticism that I do not withdraw—I am glad that there is at least provision in the Bill for a code of practice affecting overseas visits that I hope will take care in practical terms of some of the difficulties that I saw in the original provisions.

Clause 6 deals with the countryside. I mention it only because of the very complicated schedule. Schedule I will require detailed consideration, because it is not clear on first reading whether the Government have it right, and there are a number of very important matters that, again, will be fruitful sources of discussion in Committee.

Clause 8 deals with tourism. The Secretary of State knows that it is a controversial decision to put the matter basically in the hands of the districts. The clause demonstrates how difficult it is to make a neat distinction between districts and regions by providing for area tourist organisations and by providing that a district council may be directed by the Secretary of State to co-operate. On an earlier occasion, the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped that that power of direction would not be necessary. But it is not possible to get tourist provision going satisfactorily if some district council is brought kicking and screaming into the area tourist organisation. Some of the regions are unhappy about what is provided here, and again it will have to be looked at in Committee.

We are all anxious to avoid concurrency where we can. But, if it has some disadvantages in terms of overprovision and duplication of provision, it has certain advantages of flexibility as well, and we do not want to lose that in providing what on the face of it is a very neat division between one level of authority and another.

Similar problems arise on clause 11 and the succeeding clauses on leisure and recreation. I notice that the Government have drafted these clauses in a different way so that concurrency appears not to be excluded completely. Even so, I am not sure how the Government have provided for what they said they wanted—to safeguard the position of community centres which often are used as part of the education department of a regional council. We were assured that there would be no question of the forcible transfer of community centres to districts. It is not clear, although it may become clear in Committee, how the clauses on leisure and recreation and clause 30, dealing with the transfer of property, taken together, protect the interests of community centres.

Those are the matters that I want to discuss in connection with Stodart. Basically, there is no great political division of opinion, but tricky issues still have to be settled if districts and regions are to have the right structure. I hope that the Government will show some flexibility in this connection in Committee, although that is something that they rarely show in other respects.

I come now to part I. Before I deal with the controversial items in clauses 1 and 2, let me deal with clause 3. I fully understand, as I am sure do most hon. Gentlemen, the problems of those industries in Scotland that are rated for plant and machinery. That does not happen south of the border. Thus, a company pays more in rates on an installation in Scotland, compared with one in England or Wales, even after industrial derating. Clearly, that disincentive to industry should be removed, if possible.

Large sums of money are involved here, although the Secretary of State did not mention that. As I understand it, if we were to adopt the English formula for the exclusions from rating, it would mean that a rateable value of no less than £31 million would be excluded from rates in Scotland. That represents a rate income of nearly £27 million. So we are dealing with substantial sums. Unless the Government make a contribution, or unless the Government pick up the bill—if they really want to help industry, that is what they should do—the burden will fall on the rest of the ratepayers in Scotland, including other industrial ratepayers. That is absolutely unacceptable.

If the anomaly is to be removed, it should be done at the Government's expense, not at the expense of the ratepayers, about whom the Secretary of State was weeping his usual crocodile tears this afternoon. However, the financial memorandum to the Bill makes it clear that the Government do not intend to put a penny towards the removal of the anomaly, because the financial memorandum contains no provision to that effect. It is all to be done by redistribution to the rest of the ratepayers in Scotland. That is the key issue in clause 3.

For some areas, for example the Central region, Falkirk district and Orkney and Shetland, the loss of income would be prodigious, if no other adjustments were made—and I accept that some other adjustments would have to be made. If the English provisions had applied in the current year 1981–82 and no other adjustments were made, the rate poundage in Orkney, as I am sure the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will be delighted to hear, would have gone up by 97p, and the rate poundage in Shetland would have gone up by 44p. That is the scale of the problem. In the Central region, it is about 6p in the rate, if no adjustments are made. Clearly, such a burden is unacceptable. It is no good the Secretary of State's saying "Once this goes through, we shall have discussions with the local authorities". Discussions have already taken place. Before we agree to clause 3, we want to know what the Government intend to do. We do not want to be told that there are to be further discussions.

Mr. Douglas

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the decision to site the cracker at Moss Morran was held slightly in abeyance by Esso Chemicals. Is he also aware that the decision was taken for tax and rating purposes, and that the project will come to fruition? Discussions must have taken place, and assurances must have been given to the company. Thus, there is a potential loss of revenue to Fife. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

Mr. Millan

Certainly, I agree. I understand from the discussions of the Minister in the Department of Industry with the company, and from the press reports following those discussions, that the company was assured that everything would be all right. I am delighted that those projects are proceeding. Successive Governments have worked very hard for that, but we should remember that if those arrangements are to be acceptable from the rating point of view, much rating revenue that would have come to Fife will not be forthcoming. We want to know the Government's intentions in that connection. They are very generous with ratepayers' money. The Secretary of State complains about local authorities being generous with ratepayers' money, but he is being generous with the money of the rest of Scottish ratepayers. I repeat that we are unwilling to accept that.

We oppose clauses 1 and 2, because they represent a further tightening of the screw on local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman said something about rates, but he did not actually tell us anything. He never does tell us anything about rates, if he can help it—nor, indeed, about anything else. So I shall fill out some of the realities of the rating prospects for 1982–83. If my forecasts are wrong, no doubt I shall be told so at the end of the debate.

Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement. So did the Secretary of State for the Environment, and so did the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is almost impossible to believe, but the Scottish statement was even more obscure than that of the Chancellor. Certainly, it was more obscure than the full information that was given about England and Wales. It is interesting to read exactly what was said for England and Wales, and ask why, if the information was made available in that case, it could not be made available for Scotland, and why it was not made available today in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It is no wonder that both the Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman last week talked about the information gap, the confusion that arises from the inability or unwillingness of the Secretary of State to come clean with local authorities and the House, and say exactly what he intends regarding the rate support grant for 1982–83. The line given to us was that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last week was a tremendous concession to local authorities, that a good deal of extra money was being made available to them next year, that if only everyone behaved sensibly there would be no need for severe cuts next year, and that ratepayers would all live happily ever afterwards with moderate rate increases. We have heard what the Secretary of State has said before about moderate rate increases, and we know the reality of the past couple of years.

The Secretary of State for the Environment said that the cash limit—different terms are now used, so that it is difficult to make comparisons—for 1982–83 in England would be 2 per cent. more in cash terms than the actual local authority budgets for England in the current year. That is 2 per cent. in cash terms. However, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, in real terms, the figure that he was allowing for 1982–83 in England would be 4 per cent. down, compared with local authority budgets for the current year. We have not been told those figures by the Secretary of State. He gave a cash limit for next year of £2,450 million. All that we can do is to compare that figure with the budget figures for the current year.

I understand that the original budget figures for the current year, brought up to present-day prices, are about £5 million more than £2,450 million and that the figure is about £2,455 million. Even if the savings in Lothian and elsewhere are taken into account, local authority expenditure in the current year will be almost exactly what the Government are providing, in cash terms, for next year. Therefore, in practice, there is no allowance for inflation. Not for the first time, the Government are cheating. Indeed, they have cheated every year.

The Secretary of State spoke about substantial implications for reductions in local authority expenditure. Why does he not tell us what he is looking for from local authorities, in real terms, in 1982–83? Is it 4 per cent., or more than that? In my opinion, he is looking for considerably more than 4 per cent., in real terms, in 1982–83. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman will not get it. However, the balance that he does not get will be paid for by the ratepayers for whom he continually expresses such grave concern.

Even the figures given by the Secretary of State for the Environment included completely artificial inflation figures. They included an average inflation figure of 5½ per cent. for next year. Does any hon. Member believe that average inflation in local authority expenditure in 1982–83 will be 5½ per cent.? That is what the 4 per cent. for wages and the 9 per cent. for other costs mean. That even contradicts the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, made the same day. Does any Conservative Member believe that inflation can be reduced to 5½ per cent. for local authorities in 1982–83? If inflation does not fall to that figure, and if there is a cash limit of £2,450 million, the 4 per cent. reduction in real terms will be considerably more than that next year.

There is no hope that local authorities will be able to budget for only £2,450 million next year. What is more, the right hon. Gentleman knows that. Why does he not admit it? He knows that there is no way that that figure can be met. At best, the gap between what the Government will pay grant on and what local authorities budget for next year may be not much larger than the considerable gap in the current year. However, even if local authorities freeze expenditure there will be a substantial gap, and there can be no doubt about that.

Of course, the Secretary of State will not come clean. He is very interested about what happened in 1976 and so on. Why will he not tell us what will happen in 1982–83? That is what we are interested in. There will be a gap in expenditure and, therefore, all the talk about £1,300 million extra being provided is so much hog wash. In addition, the Secretary of State has reduced the rate of grant by 2.5 per cent. He mentioned what happened in 1976 and the 4 per cent. reduction in grant. However, he forgot to mention that in the immediately preceding years, the rate of grant for Scotland had increased by 7 per cent., to provide for local government reorganisation and that even after the 4 per cent. reduction, the figure was still 68.5 per cent., compared with the 64.2 per cent. that the right hon. Gentleman is providing for next year. If the right hon. Gentleman were to return to 68.5 per cent., Scottish local authorities would jump for joy. That is the reality.

As the Secretary of State knows, the 2½ per cent. reduction will, by itself, put 8 per cent. on to the rate burden of every ratepayer in Scotland next year. When one adds to that the normal provision for inflation, the fact that penalties of £50 million are being carried forward to next year for 1980–81 and 1981–82, and the fact that there will be a substantial increase in rents, it is inevitable that there will be a very large increase in rates in 1982–83. Again, we have not been told the rent figures for Scotland, although the Secretary of State for the Environment told us that rents in England would increase by £2.50 per week.

I do not know the exact figures, because we do not have all the information on which to base our calculations. However, the Secretary of State must have some idea of the rate increases for next year. We remember his record two years ago. He told us that there would be only moderate rate increases and that no one should worry, but the rate increases amounted to 32 per cent. Last year, he said that the rate increases in 1981–82 would be less than they were in the previous year. He said that they would be moderate, yet they turned out to amount to 36 per cent. Therefore, we take the right hon. Gentleman's forecast about very moderate rate increases for 1982–83 with a considerable pinch of salt.

Mr. Younger


Mr. Millan

I have not yet finished with the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be astonished if next year's rate increases are less than 20 per cent. In many areas, they will be considerably more than that. The right hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in the Labour Government's record. Before he intervenes, I should remind him that, compared with the 32 per cent. and 36 per cent. increases that the ratepayers of Scotland have suffered in the past two years under this Government, in the last two years of the Labour Government domestic ratepayers faced a total increase in rates—over the two years taken together—that fell within single figures.

Mr. Younger

As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, those rate increases were much higher than I forecast because certain local authorities deliberately and pointedly vastly increased expenditure. As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, I could not have been expected to forecast that, for example, the Lothian region would overspend by £60 million. That is just one authority. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not asking me to aid and abet such authorities, as he has done.

Mr. Millan

We know why such increases have taken place during the last few years. The Secretary of State, by direct and indirect means, has substantially cut Government assistance to Scottish local authorities. Therefore, the increases that Scottish ratepayers have suffered in the past two years are almost exclusively the Secretary of State's fault. It is about time that he owned up to that. If he cannot own up to what he has done in the past two years, why does he not intervene again and give us the forecast for 1982–83? Why does he not tell us that? Of course, the right hon. Gentleman remains silent, just as he remained silent during the previous two years about the expected increases and pretended that they would be very modest and moderate. They were not modest and moderate and they will not be so in 1982–83.

We must also consider what was done by the Secretary of State in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981. Even without the Bill, the Government already have unprecedented powers of control over Scottish local authorities. Under the 1981 Act they have the power to impose penalties, which they used in the case of six authorities, and which involve a reduction of grant. There are no powers in Scotland for supplementary rating. In addition, the power to borrow to meet a deficit, which might have been available to Scottish local authorities, was taken away by the 1981 Act.

As we made clear when debating the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, the Government have interfered far too much in the democratic rights of elected local councillors. Even without the Bill, local democracy has undergone the most severe Government attack that it has ever experienced. I am glad that the Secretary of State read my interview in The Scotsman. I hope that he read it all and will pay some attention to it. When I said that local government faced an unprecedented crisis, it was no more than a statement of absolute truth. The local authorities and the general public alike take that view.

The crisis in local government has arisen because, unlike earlier Governments who have legitimately taken a view about the contribution that they will make to local services, this Government have acted in an unprecedented manner by trying to dictate to local authorities what contribution the local authorities will make through the rates to their own local services. Once that happens local authorities simply become the agents, the creatures, of central Government, with no independent decision-making powers. The Bill takes that process even further.

I am glad that the proposal for referendums has been dropped. the Secretary of State forgot to mention that. Because of opposition by some English Tory Members there will be no referendums in England because the Government could not have got such a proposal through the House. It is not even clear whether the Bill for England and Wales will come before the House. I should be delighted if it never did. I should be delighted to dispatch this Bill to the same limbo. I should even be prepared to sacrifice some of the useful clauses on Stodart because they could be recovered later. Clauses 1 and 2 are offensive. There is no justification for them. It is said that they are needed because the Lothian region did not pay the money back to the ratepayers, but last year's Bill did not provide that it should do so.

The Secretary of State wanted a political victory by forcing the Lothian region, and one or two other councils, to pay back money to ratepayers. Unfortunately, since he acted politically, Lothian acted politically. The only sufferers are the Lothian ratepayers. According to the Secretary of State, he set out to protect the Lothian ratepayers, but £30 million has been lopped off their services and they have received no money back.

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman considers that to be grossly unfair. I agree, it is a tremendous injustice—but he can put it right. Nothing in the present legislation prevents the right hon. Gentleman, if he is so worried about the Lothian ratepayers, from giving that £30 million back now. Why does he not give it back?

Mr. Younger

I do not have the power.

Mr. Millan

The right hon. Gentleman has the power under the 1981 Act to give the money back to the ratepayers.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

To the council.

Mr. Millan

Precisely. The Secretary of State has the power. The Secretary of State has tried to reduce expenditure in the Lothian area in the current year. There is an agreement to do that. If the money is paid back to the council, and if it is not paid back to the ratepayers in the current year, it will not disappear. Ultimately it will go back, by way of adjustment next year, to the ratepayers.

The Secretary of State has powers under the 1981 Act if he wants to exercise them. I am not recommending that he does that. He also has power to control the rates in the Lothian area in 1982–83. It is indisputable that under the Act the money could be paid back to the council now. If it is paid back and expenditure in the current year meets the Secretary of State's requirements—as it is bound to do—the money will be available to the Lothian ratepayers as an offset against the otherwise crippling burden that they and other Scottish ratepayers will have to meet in 1982–83.

If I were a Lothian ratepayer I should take a dim view of a Government who said that they set out to protect my interests and then reduced my services and failed to ensure a financial adjustment either in the current year or in 1982–83.

Mr. Younger

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Millan

If the Secretary of State is about to tell us that he will give the money back to Lothian council for adjustment to its ratepayers in 1982–83, I shall be delighted to give way.

Mr. Younger

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have no powers so to determine. If I return the money to the council that is where it will go—to the council. The right hon. Gentleman must not give the false impression that there would be any guarantee by me or anyone else that the money would go to the ratepayers. We all know from the council's record that it would spend the money. The right hon. Gentleman must be fair. He knows that the money was for spending and that, because of our action, it was saved from being spent. I hope that he will state clearly whether he supports Lothian region's decision not to return the money to the ratepayers last year. Does he support that or does he not? That is what the reatepayers want to know.

Mr. Millan

I shall put a proposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I shall answer because the interests of Lothian ratepayers are at stake. The right hon. Gentleman has an agreement with the Lothian council that £30 million will be taken from its spending in the current year. It is a firm agreement. The right hon. Gentleman has no evidence that Lothian council will go back on that agreement. I assume that he can check that again with the council. Let us assume that the right hon. Gentleman receives assurances from the council—as I am sure that he will—that decisions to reduce spending in the current year will be adhered to. The money that he has taken from the Lothian ratepayers could be repaid to the Lothian council in the current year. There is nothing to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from doing that. If he did that, the money would be available as a large offset against the rate burden that the Lothian region and ratepayers will bear in 1982–83.

The only argument concerns a reduction in expenditure. There is no reason why penalties imposed on the Lothian region and elsewhere, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said earlier, should not be paid back to the councils now, if they give the necessary assurance to the Secretary of State that the money will not be spent within the current year. The money will be available for the ratepayers in 1982–83. That is indisputable.

Mr. Younger

With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure that he does not wish to mislead anyone, but that money would not be available to the ratepayer unless the Lothian regional council decided to make a special payment back to its ratepayers. Nobody can tell whether it would do that. It had a chance to do that, but openly decided not to. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman supported the council in that decision.

Mr. Millan

The Secretary of State is evading the question. If the money were paid back to Lothian council now there is nothing in legislation to prevent the money being paid back to Lothian ratepayers. If it were not paid back, it would be like any other balance in the hands of a local authority.

Mr. Younger

The money would be spent.

Mr. Millan

The Secretary of State could get an assurance that the money would not be spent. Even if it were spent next year, it would not have to be rated for. It will be rated for in present circumstances because the Lothian ratepayers have been swindled out of £30 million by the right hon. Gentleman. There is no reason why he should not give that money back now. The Bill is phoney in that respect.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Edinburgh, South)


Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman seems to be disaffected in many other directions. Perhaps on this occasion he is rising to help me, but I shall not take the risk. I have almost come to a conclusion. As I say, I shall be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support as presumably he is a ratepayer, although not in Lothian region. The hon. Gentleman, if he is defending the interests of his constituents and ratepayers, should put every pressure on the right hon. Gentleman—he can do so during his speech—to ensure that the money is paid to the Lothian ratepayers.

Mr. Ancram

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood that it was a convention of the House that if a right hon. or hon. Member referred to a Member of the House—the right hon. Gentleman has just given me instructions—the hon. Member referred to was given a chance to respond.

Mr. Millan

I referred to the hon. Gentleman only because he kept bobbing up and down in his seat.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

The right hon. Gentleman who is addressing the House has the right to decide whether he gives way.

Mr. Millan

I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As a Lothian ratepayer for whom the right hon. Gentleman professes so much concern, I ask him again the question that is worrying Lothian ratepayers. Did he, as the Shadow Secretary of State, support Lothian regional council in its decision not to give back the money to the ratepayers?

Mr. Millan

I supported the Lothian region, as I would support every local authority in Scotland, on the principle that it is for local authorities to make decisions about the rates and not for the Secretary of State for Scotland. I shall support every local authority that takes the view that rates are a matter for determination by it. As soon as rates are determined, as they will be under this Bill or they would be under the English Bill—which is now in some sort of limbo—by the Secretary of State or central Government and not by local authorities, local democracy is lost, because one of the basic responsibilities of local authorities is to make such decisions. I have made the point about the pay-back to the Lothian ratepayers. I hope that they will understand that they are being swindled out of that money by the Secretary of State. There is no reason why he should not pay back the money now.

Clauses 1 and 2 represent a further attack on local democracy. We also remember the Secretary of State's promises when introducing the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill that we would not have to worry about the matter in the case of responsible local authorities. He said that only a few authorities would be affected. The fact is that every local authority in Scotland is affected by a clawback of expenditure for the current year. The Secretary of State is taking £50 million from Scottish local authorities collectively. Each one of them, whether in breach of his so-called guidelines or not, will pay a penalty in 1982–83. The Secretary of State's protestations then, as are likely in this case, that all he wished to do was to look after the interests of the ratepayers in a few authorities, and that ratepayers generally must not worry, turned out to be completely false.

There were not even the rudiments of consultation with the local authorities about the Bill or last week's announcement. COSLA has been treated with absolute contempt. The rate support grant settlement, which is supposed to be a matter for negotiation, was announced in a written answer to the House.

Mr. Younger

That is misleading.

Mr. Millan

It is not misleading.

Mr. Younger

It is untrue.

Mr. Millan

If it is untrue, the Minister will no doubt explain to us how the local authorities were informed about last Wednesday's—

Mr. Younger

They were offered a meeting.

Mr. Millan

The local authorities were offered a meeting for this week. They heard about the announcement when they read the newspapers on Thursday morning. There was no attempt at negotiation. The decision was taken to reduce the rate of grant and to lay down the total cash limit for 1982–83 without consultation with the local authorities.

The local authorities in Scotland, like the local authorities in England, have during the past two and a half years been treated with absolute contempt by the Government. Just as the protestations that the right hon. Gentleman used to make about local democracy and more decentralisation of decision-making have been set aside, so the principles of local democracy have, during the past two and half years, been treated with absolute contempt by the Government. Because of the contemptuous attitude demonstrated towards local authorities and the unfortunate ratepayers who have had to pick up the unprecedented mass of bills during the past two years, and because of our dissatisfaction with and opposition towards that, we oppose the Bill.

5.16 pm
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)

I followed closely the arguments of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan). I agree with one point in his speech—that there is much to be said for the Bill abolishing concurrent jurisdiction between regions and districts. I shall concentrate on that later in my speech.

I congratulate the Government on bringing forward the Bill and especially my predecessor, now Lord Stodart, on the dedication and hard work that he put into his report, which is typical of the thoroughness with which he has been associated in my constituency for a long time.

I wish to deal briefly with one matter that has been omitted from the Bill—the establishment of all-purpose authorities in the cities of Scotland. I do not believe that the problem will go away. The Stodart committee was allowed to consider the request by districts for all or most-purpose status, but its recommendations had to be consistent with fully maintaining the viability of the regions. It came to the conclusion that, in terms of population and resources, the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee were fully capable of discharging the functions exercised at regional level.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Hear, hear.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees, because I understood that there was considerable support from not only Edinburgh but the other cities in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman has confirmed that.

In Edinburgh's case there are strong demands for such a proposal, on the ground that it has the character and status of Scotland's capital. Glasgow is the industrial and commercial capital of the West of Scotland, as well as being a viable regional centre. Aberdeen and Dundee have problems that are quite different from the rural areas that surround them.

There were essentially two reasons why the Stodart committee rejected the call for legislation to allow all or multi-purpose status for the cities. First, the committee considered that it might have an adverse effect on the viability of the regions. Secondly, it considered that after the major upheaval of five years ago a further reorganisation might have an unsettling effect. It seems that the second reason carries more weight than the first. As Edinburgh district council made clear, the disbandment of Lothian region could readily be completed by relating West Lothian to the Central region, and Midlothian and East Lothian to the Borders region.

That could have been done, but at a time when the Government are considering bringing forward a Green Paper—which I understand will be published soon—on the options for rating reform, which no doubt will lead to another major upheaval, they do not wish to have a major reorganisation in local government. However, the matter will not go away. Support for all-purpose status will gather as the years continue. Before 10 years have passed, legislation may have to be introduced. I merely mention the matter so that the Government may note it.

That brings me to a second issue, which is not fully dealt with in the Bill, and that is the activities of the Scottish Tourist Board in promoting Scottish tourism overseas. At present the Scottish Tourist Board is not allowed to promote Scotland overseas, as the British Tourist Authority is responsible for the function and the Government are naturally and properly anxious to avoid excessive expense or duplication. For instance, it would be crazy to have a British Tourist Authority office in New York and a Scottish Tourist Board office nearby.

However, the Scottish Tourist Board believes that the occasional visit overseas by one of its members would greatly assist promotional activities. The Highlands and Islands Development Board already has the privilege. From time to time one of its members can take part in an overseas visit, and that facility works satisfactorily in the interests of the Highlands and Islands when an important event takes place. The freedom is extremely valuable.

The British Tourist Authority may argue that if a similar concession is given to the Scottish Tourist Board other United Kingdom tourist authorities may also ask for it. However, the principle has already been breached in the case of the Highlands and Islands Development Board. I hope that a formula can be devised whereby, when the British Tourist Authority is promoting an important Scottish venture, it will take the advice of the Scottish Tourist Board and enable a member to attend and give the best of his expertise and experience. Such a practice would have many advantages.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Stodart committee on page 55 are particularly strong. Paragraph 150 states: We are … convinced that the distinctive attractions of Scotland and its high dependence economically on tourism merit a separate promotional effort abroad. We are in no doubt at all that this can best be done by the Scottish Tourist Board. Indeed such an extention of the Board's powers is clearly logical when the Highlands and Islands Development Board already has them and uses them with such success. We recommend very strongly, therefore, that the Scottish Tourist Board should be given overseas promotional powers in its own right". I understand why the Government cannot go as far as that, but I hope that they will urge the British Tourist Authority to take into account the great authority of the Scottish Tourist Board in Scotland, the headquarters of which borders on my constituency, so I feel entitled to mention the matter.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would leave the question whether the Scottish Tourist Board should be involved solely to the British Tourist Authority

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We cannot have two bodies doing the same job if we wish to avoid duplication and expense, but I hope that the British Tourist Authority will make full use of the views, expertise and experience of the Scottish Tourist Board.

My third point concerns lighting. The strength of the Bill is that it removes duplication in many fields. Duplication of responsibility for leisure and recreation has certainly been removed. The fact that the facility of the Hillend skiing slope is to come under the control of the district will be warmly welcomed in Edinburgh. There have been complaints that the district has not had sufficient responsibilities, so the additional responsibility will be a great advantage.

The Stodart committee suggested, in paragraph 181, that it would be sensible for regional councils to control lighting facilities, and there may be an omission from the Bill. The committee recommended that control of public lighting be vested in regional councils. It wished to have one clear responsibility so that there would not have to be separate electrical departments, but the matter is not dealt with in the Bill. Clause 87 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill deals with the lighting of common stairs and allows districts to provide and maintain lighting in common properties. If the Government reject the Stodart recommendations that lighting should be under one tier, it may mean separate electrical departments in regions and districts, which the committee wished particularly to avoid.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

The hon. Gentleman talks about the importance of ski slopes and leisure and recreational activities. He will have seen the prominent story in The Scotsman about the Tory group's decision to find £7.5 million at the Government's dictate. These savings are likely to mean the closure of tennis courts and swimming baths—indeed almost the total abolition of the leisure and recreation department. What is the hon. Gentleman's attitude to that?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The Stodart committee dealt specifically with the issue of the region having the discretion to contribute funds to vital projects and recommended that it would be highly advisable for members of the regional council to be on management committees. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that that point will also be considered when we are dealing with the Bill. If we are both selected for the Committee, no doubt the hon. Gentleman and I can discuss the matter.

There has been, and will be, much discussion about clause 1. I very much welcome the Bill, and particularly clause 1. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act made it clear that, in practice, the Secretary of State had the power to restrict the rate support grant where he had decided that expenditure was excessive and unreasonable and the House of Commons had passed an order or orders. However, he was not in a position to protect ratepayers, as was seen last year by the ratepayers of the Lothian region. The Secretary of State wished for £30 million to be returned to them, but through the vindictiviness of the Lothian region Labour group and its bad political judgment the sum was not returned.

The money could have been returned to the ratepayers. The normal method for owner-occupiers to pay rates is by 10 monthly instalments. Had a revised rate poundage been decided on by the region at some time during the year, the remaining instalments could have been adjusted so that the total rates for the year would be consistent with the reduced rate poundage. That would have meant substantially smaller payments for ratepayers for the remaining months of the year.

Some ratepayers, although not many, pay in a lump sum. They could have had a refund. Similarly, for those who pay in two lump sums, the second payment could have been reduced by an appropriate amount. Other ratepayers are tenants of the local authority, new town development corporations or the Scottish Special Housing Association and pay combined rates and rent to the district council or housing authority, which could have adjusted the combined payments for the remainder of the year. In the event, the Lothian region ratepayers did not have the £30 million returned to them.

I have no difficulty in supporting clauses 1 and 2. They will give protection to ratepayers. Parliament is the protector of the freedoms of the people. In a conflict between the rights and freedoms of local government and the rights and freedoms of citizens the Government are entitled fully to weigh the balance and, where necessary, to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens.

5.29 pm
Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) emphasise the importance of all-purpose authorities. He rightly said that the matter would not go away. I wish that it had been dealt with in the Bill. I also have some sympathy with his comments about the representation abroad of the Scottish Tourist Board.

The Government are displeased with some local authorities in Scotland, England and Wales. Certainly, staffing levels have risen enormously and some authorities have been extravagant. Some authorities have taken on things that they cannot handle. However, we must remember that local authorities have remained far closer to their financial targets than have the Government. We are all suffering because of the Government's failure to control their expenditure. We must also remember that the explosion in local authority staffing levels dates from the reorganisation of local government by a Tory Government, and is also the result of the continuous flood of legislation from the House and innumerable directions and circulars from St. Andrew's House and Whitehall. While Government expenditure has been rising, local authority expenditure—in real terms—has been falling.

The Bill is yet another Bill of some 60 pages. Whatever the explanatory memorandum states, it will increase expenditure on staff. As usual with modern Bills, it is unnecessarily complicated and goes into the most fiddling details. I recommend the House to examine clause 18, which deals with how the fee of the public analyst should be decided, and also clause 22 which confers upon island or district councils the right to equip fixed or moveable public conveniences and charge for them. I was under the impression that they could do that already, and that it was not illegal. The provision of public conveniences is a growth industry in Orkney and Shetland. Perhaps it is a question of charging being included as an alternative to the privatisation of public conveniences. As a final, nice point, the clause includes a definition of a public convenience. It is a little late in the day to tell the human race what a lavatory is, but what Governments do never ceases to surprise me.

In spite of all the detail, the root causes of the trouble of local authorities are not touched upon in the Bill.

The root causes are, first, their relationship with the Government, which is not clearly defined; secondly, the failure to abolish one of the tiers and have all-purpose authorities; and, thirdly, the lack of any sensible method of local government finance. The Bill does nothing about that. Until we have a sensible system of finance which makes the great majority of the ratepayers responsible for most of their authority's expenditure, we shall never have efficient or responsible local government.

The Bill allows local authorities to propose expenditure, but gives the Secretary of State—subject to the approval of the House—the right to disallow it. Surely that must be a most unsatisfactory way to go about any business. As a local authority is neither allowed to raise a supplementary rate nor to borrow, how on earth is it to proceed? We give local authorities the right to decide that something is necessary. They presumably know more about it than does St. Andrew's House. But then the Secretary of State can tell them to stop the project. He does not tell them how, but simply that they must stop. That is not a sensible way to do things.

It is not sensible to allow local authorities to prepare their budgets and then throw a spanner into their works. A definition of their powers is required, together with a clear reformation of their methods of finance. That can no longer be purely through the rating system. It is a grossly unfair system, about which industry rightly protests. More and more quite rich people are excused from paying full rates. Yet we do nothing about that fundamental matter.

As the Secretary of State is aware, my local authorities are gravely concerned about their financial future under two heads. First, Shetland will suffer under the recommendation that a greater proportion of available funds should be allocated to the resources element of the rate support grant and that there should be discrimination between the island authorities, to their detriment. Secondly, there is the question of industrial rating.

Shetland, with its scattered population and outlying islands, is notoriously an expensive area to serve. No doubt some economies can be made. However, if there is to be a change in the system and money is removed to the needs element, that will be serious for Shetland. It adds to the uncertainty faced by all local authorities.

Clause 3 could be a devastating blow to Orkney and Shetland if it means that there will be a severe loss of rateable value through a new rating of machinery and plant. That may be carried through without the authorities being told in time what is intended. Although the Secretary of State said that he was consulting local authorities, he should give the House an estimate of the difference that that change will make. I am told that it will make a great difference to rating. Whatever the ultimate solution, surely he should tell us now his estimate of what it will cost Orkney and Shetland.

Clause 3 must impose some additional expenditure on the Government, but I see nothing in the financial memorandum about that. I find that worrying. Is it proposed that the whole of the diminution in rates should be thrown on the local people of Orkney and Shetland, or is it proposed that it should be paid for by other sources? If the changes are carried through, and Sullom Voe and Flotta are substantially derated, the Government will have greatly increased their taxes on the oil industry, while local authorities suffer a drastic reduction. The increased central taxation on oil will be given as a reason for oil companies resisting any renegotiation of their local undertakings for compensation. It does not appear to me that oil companies are seriously impoverished. Special charter flights are flying from Orkney to Aberdeen so that the wives of oil workers can do their Christmas shopping. That has not endeared Occidental Oil to the local people in Orkney or to the shopkeepers.

The Government have fundamentally altered the taxation of oil, to the detriment of local authorities. Further elevating the extra tax on oil will be another serious blow to local autonomy, due simply to the fact that the Government have lost control of their expenditure. The local people of Orkney and Shetland should not be penalised for the expenditure that they have undertaken in connection with oil, not for their advantage but for national advantage. Nor should the rules regarding rating be changed in the middle of the game without compensation. I ask the Secretary of State to tell us what figures are involved and what proposals he intends to discuss with local authorities.

I turn to what is now called concurrence—the overlapping of functions. Will the Minister tell us the meaning of clause 5? I understand that it does not mean that an island authority cannot use oil revenues to take shares in a company. They have been doing that, although admittedly under private legislation. I hope that the Government will explain what effect the clause will have on the rights of island authorities to promote and share in business. There is overlapping, not only between local authorities but between local authorities and public authorities in the promotion of agriculture, industry and tourism. Is that affected by the Bill? I do not think that it is, but the matter should receive some attention.

My last point relates to planning. I am amazed to hear the Secretary of State of a Tory Government say that the planning procedures are excellent. I do not know if they have ever examined the planning forms. They drive people crazy. The planning procedures with their emphasis on zoning and their complication were misdirected from the start.

If the Government are sincere in their desire for local government economy, they should relieve local authorities of some of their obligations to produce structure plans and to keep them up to date. What happens when an extremely important matter arises, such as possible uranium mining in Orkney? If that is forbidden by the structure plan, what happens then? It is not ruled out. A public inquiry must be held and there is no conclusion even then. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State to look at structure plans again.

On the matter of planning, there have been representations from the district councils of Kyle and Lochaber, Inverness, and Badenoch and Strathspey about planning and building controls. I believe that reason is on their side. On the subject of planning, 10 district councils with smaller populations and rateable values than Inverness have responsibility for planning as well as building control. I believe that building controls should be a matter for district councils and that most districts, at any rate, should be the planning authorities. I am told that the present arrangements between the districts and the Highland regional council have not worked too well. In addition, there is a new scheme for capital grants to local youth and community organisations which will hit rural areas extremely hard.

Altogether, I consider this a disappointing Bill. It does not deal at all with the real root troubles of the relations between central and local government. It does not deal with the fundamental matter of finance. It does not give my constituents the vital information about what will happen to their rates if there is a change in the rating of machinery and plant. I do not believe that the Bill will contribute anything to the better government of this nation, and it will complicate matters further when—goodness knows—they are complicated enough.

5.42 pm
Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I listened, as I always do, with great care to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Referring back to the original local government reorganisation legislation, I recall the points that he made then about finance being more important than structure. I had hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman came to his peroration this evening he would tell us what the Liberal Party intended to do about the Bill tonight. Will Liberal Members support it, or will they vote against it?

Mr. Grimond

I can answer the hon. Gentleman now. We shall vote against it.

Sir Hector Monro

That is even more interesting. It seems surprising that the Liberal Party wishes the ratepayers of the Lothian region to continue to face the attack on them by their local authority, as has happened in the past year. It seems strange that the Liberal Party should support the Socialists—the few of them that are here—in attacking the Bill. I had hoped to hear more policy from the Liberal Party.

I had hoped to hear some policies from the SDP. Unfortunately, nobody from that party is present. I had hoped also to hear some policy from the SNP, but no Member of that party has attended the debate. It seems to me that those parties that make so much play of their interest in local government have taken singularly little action to participate in a debate that is so important to Scotland.

This is an important Bill. It is unfortunate that, because part I contains a number of valuable clauses to help the ratepayer, the extremely important parts deploying the Stodart report recommendations have been somewhat submerged, particularly in the speech of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) who opened for the Opposition today. I believe that the Stodart report is an extremely welcome addition to our knowledge of local government in Scotland. It was compiled by a committee chaired by Lord Stodart of Leaston, a wise parliamentarian with great experience of the Scottish Office. That is why many of his recommendations are so valuable, although I do not agree with every one of them. By and large, however, the report represents an important step forward.

I think that a fairly substantial transitional period must be allowed—I am sure that my right hon. Friend has this in mind—for functions to be transferred from region to district, or vice versa, because it will not be an easy process. I shall refer later to some of the problems that I foresee. I believe that this applies particularly to the clarification of finance.

It is most important that the value of the Stodart report should not be submerged by the rating issue becoming paramount in the debate.

I find it difficult to understand why Labour Members oppose the Bill, when the whole tenor of part I is to assist the ratepayer. I cannot understand why the Labour Party is so against ratepayers being assisted. Indeed, it is astonishing that, so far as I can understand, all of the Opposition parties are against a Bill that should help the man and woman in the street to pay their rates each year.

We all want major rates reform, and we look forward to the proposals that will be introduced in due course. Until that time comes, however, it is our duty as Members of Parliament to assist in every way to alleviate the burden imposed upon ratepayers by councils that press on without any regard to the consequences. The damage has been there for all to see.

Here I speak from an unbiased position, as the three authorities in my constituency have had above-average success in keeping rates down. Indeed, they are among the lowest in Scotland. I hope that new industries wishing to come to Scotland will bear in mind that mine is an area of low rates and therefore advantageous to them. The stories that one hears about what has happened to valuations and the rates paid on them in the Lothians and in Glasgow, however, fill one with horror. It is no wonder that shops are closing, left, right and centre, which is entirely contrary to the Conservative desire to help and promote small business men.

I must tell my right hon. Friend, quite frankly, that I am glad that there is no referendum proposal in the Bill. I certainly felt that it would be unnecessary in the South-West of Scotland. Indeed, I think that throughout Scotland it would not have added to the ease of determining the rates each year. It might have added just a little too much complication.

I therefore welcome part I. I emphasise that good councils with a responsible attitude to expenditure have nothing to fear. If councils are irresponsible, the Secretary of State should have the right to step in and return some of the money to the ratepayers. I hope that ratepayers will bear in mind that they can express their disapproval of irresponsible councils in the appropriate elections.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow as much time as possible for local authorities to reach conclusions about the rates. I appreciate the difficulties that both he and they face in this respect. The time scale for the rate support grant and capital allowances and for local authorities to bring in their own budgets is relatively short for such a complicated matter. I am sure that the greater the length of time that my right hon. Friend can allow, the more likely local authorities will be to reach satisfactory conclusions.

Part II deals with the Stodart proposals. Many of the issues that arise are basically Committee points, but some should be aired in principle. The Stodart report advocated that responsibility for tourism should go to the districts—with, of course, an input through the area tourist organisations. This is very much the approach of my regional council. The Dumfries and Galloway tourist association is independent, but has a regional input, a district input and the input provided by the Scottish Tourist Board itself.

I was interested to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) about the promotional activities of the tourist board outside Scotland. This matter has been examined by many people, including Stodart. I welcome my hon. Friend's suggestion that the British Tourist Authority should liaise even more closely with the Scottish Tourist Board on overseas promotion. Hon. Members wish to see the best value for money from the expertise that exists within the tourist board in Edinburgh.

I am worried and perplexed about the proposed change from the status quo. I am aware that districts vary enormously in size and population and that their tourist attractions also differ. Annandale and Eskdale would say that Gretna Green is an exceptional international tourist centre, and one can talk in terms of scenic beauty or fine sporting facilities such as those for skiing at Hillend in Edinburgh.

Tourism has to be seen as bringing people from outside into a region to spend holidays and to visit the attractions. Care must be taken to avoid losing the ability to attract tourists into a region by concentrating on the idea that a district should be the centre for organisation. Tourism, and the attraction of tourists, is not so much an organisational problem as one of finance. A splendid arrangement can be provided, as in Dumfries and Galloway, but it can operate effectively and efficiently only if there is a sufficient input of money from local authorities and the tourist board. I shall wish to examine this issue carefully in Committee.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right in his approach to industry. The promotion of industry is crucial to Scotland. In the South-West there is a fine industrial development committee that works well with the Scottish Development Agency, the Scottish Economic Planning Department and the districts. I hope that my right hon. Friend will find an opportunity to take a special initiative in areas where unemployment, as in parts of my constituency, has reached 20 per cent. This is a matter of co-operation. It is necessary to have confidence in the ability of local authorities to work together to promote industry. I applaud my right hon. Friend's idea of a code of practice.

I find my right hon. Friend's recommendation on recreation and leisure, taken in the main from the Stodart report, more difficult to make a subjective judgment upon. There is the danger of making what is already a complicated position even worse. Sports enthusiasts and many voluntary clubs and organisations have begun to make some sense of the present situation. If that situation is changed without achieving significant improvement, there will be no thanks to those responsible in the Palace of Westminster.

The problem relates basically to education, through which channel most sporting facilities in Scotland have been provided, backed by the local authorities and by the Sports Council, which has been such a success. Districts have also played their part. I give as an example the two districts in my area. Nithsdale has an enthusiastic sports council of its own. Annandale and Eskdale district has provided a magnificent sports field at Annan for soccer, rugby and athletics.

There is need to view the matter in the context of the use made of school facilities. I am talking in national terms. New schools should be designed so that their sports and community facilities can be used as much as possible outside school hours. I recognise the problem of the janitor, his time off and his overtime, which he must have, but throughout the United Kingdom there are some fine athletics facilities that lie idle at weekends and holidays due to lack of enthusiasm and drive by the authorities.

I accept the difficulties of schools in providing staff. In that case, voluntary committees should be established to take over the responsibility. I do not wish to become too involved in what the Bill seeks to achieve. Many of the facilities are based on educational resources, yet that situation is to be changed. A duty is to be placed on districts to look after the facilities.

A staffing problem also arises at community centres. The staff are often provided by the education authority. Under the Bill, the issue of free standing community centres will go to the districts. I wonder whether the "Sport for all" theory that has been projected for years will become complicated if no one knows where an approach has to be made to use a facility. I hope that this matter can be resolved in Committee in terms that are as black and white as possible. At the moment, the issue of who will be responsible for what seems to be a singularly grey area.

One warning has to be sounded. It would be wrong to give the impression that our discussions on the provision of sports and recreational facilities and voluntary organisations mean that new people will be responsible and new money available. People should not be allowed to get into such an optimistic frame of mind. We need to see the best use made of what is available and careful planning of what will be provided in the future.

In replying to the debate my hon. Friend may care to allay the concern that has been featured in the press about the possibility that resources for village and other rural facilities will be taken over by urban aid. That would be thoroughly reprehensible. Any such idea should be killed as soon as possible.

I find clause 17, which relates to flood warning, difficult and surprising. Those who will warn the public about floods are the police in their radio cars. The arrangements established in Dumfries, which floods two or three times a year, work well throughout the region. If responsibility is handed to the river purification board, the same degree of co-ordination will be required. Whatever happens, it will cost money, which again comes out of the regional kitty.

I shall comment briefly, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland did, on clause 18 under which responsibility for the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act 1956 goes to district councils. That seems rather strange, because it is working admirably under regional control where there is such close liaison between the consumer protection departments and food and drugs control. We need a stronger case than we now have to change after five relatively satisfactory years.

I spoke at some length on planning in a recent debate on unemployment and deployed how we could dramatically increase private house building. I shall not go over that again. However, the point brought out so clearly in the Stodart report about areas such as the Highlands, the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, which are general planning authorities, needs careful attention. There is no doubt that there is some feeling that planning is a little remote from the local issues, which it is mostly about.

When the reorganisation Bill was originally drafted in the early 1970s, I was keen that all districts should have planning powers. I have not changed that view. However, I know that my region carefully considered the Highlands solution of what is virtually a joint committee and felt that that solution would not be an advantage at this stage. That is because there are so many district councillors who are regional councillors, but who may not always be so. It might then be valuable to have a much closer liaison in the form of a committee structure, which would give a greater district input into planning.

My last point concerns part IV, the sale of council houses, which has not been mentioned to any great extent in the debate. It is manifestly right that we get on with selling council houses. It is unacceptable that certain councils are dragging their feet over the sale of houses to tenants who are desperately keen to own them. Delays of more than a year are not acceptable. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to persuade councils that are taking far too long and using every sort of excuse, whether shortage of staff or something else, to get on with it.

This is a valuable Bill and although it is being attacked by the Opposition on the rates issue, it includes an enormous number of valuable proposals to help run Scotland efficiently and effectively. Why on earth the Opposition should vote against the Bill I cannot understand.

6.3 pm

Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

It is the height of humbug for Ministers and Conservative Members to rant on in the House and in Scotland about rate increases as if they had nothing to do with them. Scottish ratepayers and everybody else are well aware that a high proportion, if not the majority, of rate increases in recent years have been a direct consequence of cuts in the rate support grant imposed by the Scottish Office under the present Government. The Scottish Office record on local government in recent years has been appalling. I cite a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland by the convener of a local authority in my constituency: The indications are that if the council projects a realistic figure for inflation and maintains its existing level of services next year, the 1982–83 Budget is likely to exceed the cash guidelines by at least £2 million and possibly a great deal more. The present levels of services are already the result of successive cuts over the past few years and the Council believes that it cannot ask the public to accept any further reductions. The convener continues: The council views this situation most seriously and wishes to represent strongly that to improve the authority's cash guideline to the Council for 1982–83 so that the Council can sustain the present reduced level of service without the necessity of having to levy a massive rate increase next year. The council is so concerned about its financial position that I have been instructed to seek an urgent meeting with you to discuss this problem. I do not know whether that meeting took place. The letter was from not the amiable John Crichton—the so-called "rabid red leader" of the Lothian regional council—but the highly distinguished and unquestionably Conservative convener of the Borders regional council—Major Jock Askew.

The letter illustrates the length to which the financial strangulation of local authorities has progressed in Scotland under the present Conservative Government. The consequences of that financial strangulation have been appalling for local services, local authorities and, not least, for the ratepayers because the rates have been increased.

Mr. Rifkind


Mr. Home Robertson

I want to get on. The Minister will have ample time at the end of the debate, and other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

The Bill takes central interference in local affairs one unjustifiable stage further. I find it difficult to express in parliamentary language my feelings about what the Secretary of State has done to local government in Scotland. The Government have mounted an unprecedented attack on Scottish ratepayers by cutting the rate support grant in successive stages. At the same time, the Secretary of State has spun such an elaborate web of deceit round his activities that people believe that councillors, rather than right hon. Gentleman, are responsible for the consequences of his actions. That aspect of the Government's activities is downright despicable.

The Government's actions have led otherwise reasonable people to pick up the wrong end of the stick throughout Scotland. I am sure that hon. Members who represent the Lothian region will have received letters from various representatives of the Ratepayers Action Group Executive—the so called "RAGE" group. That group has called on hon. Members from the Lothian region to support the Secretary of State's attempts to make life even more difficult for Lothian ratepayers.

The Bill does not take account of the rate support grant cuts which have already occurred. It begs the question of what on earth will happen to local services and how they can be protected by councillors or anyone else. The people who are calling for restrictions on the way that local authorities have to finance themselves are the same people who complain loudest about the cuts in local authority services—for example, those imposed in my constituency by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

There is a long list of cuts which have been imposed throughout the Lothian region and Scotland as a result of the packages imposed by the Secretary of State—cuts in education such as a reduction in the number of teachers available in primary schools and elsewhere. Other examples include the closure of libraries on Saturdays, the closure of swimming pools, cuts in finances for community councils, and so the list continues.

The argument in favour of the Bill put by the "RAGE" group relies heavily on the dangerous assumption that the Secretary of State for Scotland is reasonable. There is abundant evidence that he has been anything but reasonable in the way that he has taken advantage of the powers he obtained through the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981. For example, a local authority which he singled out for punitive treatment under the Act's provisions was the East Lothian district council in my constituency.

The East Lothian district council now has fewer staff than its predecessors before local government reorganisation. Even in the view of Conservative councillors on that council, it is nowhere near as profligate as suggested by the Secretary of State. Indeed, it is not profligate at all. Nevertheless, he has meted out this treatment and forced the council in a rather squalid horse-trading exercise to cut back on its services throughout the district. That has done great harm to many of my constituents. What adds insult to injury is that are they having to put up not only with these cuts in services, but with massive increases in rates which have been caused, partly, I confess, by the ineptitude of Lothian regional council, but largely and, for the most part, by the activities of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The Government have certainly made a fine job of confusing the issue about rates, and the Secretary of State was at it again today. He was talking about the £30 million that he has pinched from the ratepayers of Lothian. I recently attended a meeting in Haddington of ratepayers' groups in East Lothian. I can tell the Secretary of State that ratepayers' groups and the ratepayers are well aware of who has the £30 million that he has deducted. The Secretary of State has got it. He has pinched that £30 million from the ratepayers of the Lothian region. I do not understand why on earth he does not make it available to the regional council so that it can use the money to the advantage of the ratepayers. It is total humbug for the Secretary of State to carry on this ludicrous argument that it is all someone else's fault and that he had nothing to do with it. The Secretary of State did it personally.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the hon. Gentleman, as a Lothian Member, think that the regional council was right not to give back that £30 million to the ratepayers, as it had the power to do?

Mr. Home Robertson

Lothian regional council wanted to improve the services in the area and rated accordingly. That may or may not have been the right thing to do. The Secretary of State for Scotland decided that that was excessive and unreasonable. Some people may agree with him and others may not, but he took the money out of the budget of Lothian regional council and he cannot get away with the suggestion that anyone else took it. He took it away. If he wants to give it back to the ratepayers of Lothian region, let him do so.

Mr. Younger

indicated dissent.

Mr. Home Robertson

I see that the right hon. Gentleman does not. I am glad he has made that clear. That is helpful.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman must know that I have no power to give money back to the ratepayers. I wish that I had. That is the power for which I am asking in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support us.

Mr. Home Robertson

This kind of thing does not make sense. The Secretary of State is interfering in local accountability and democracy. He is taking money from the budgets of councils halfway through the year and trying to pass the blame on to somebody else, but he is not fooling anyone. He is no friend of ours.

The Bill will cause a dramatic advance and increase in the control of Scottish local affairs from St. Andrew's House and, ultimately, from Whitehall. It will take the existing crisis in Scottish local democracy one stage further. If anyone wants to see how much the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to interfere in local affairs, he need look no further than the explanatory and financial memorandum. That states that the Bill strengthens the Secretary of State's powers to take selective action against authorities … supplements the Secretary of State's present powers to reduce the level of rate support grant … allows the Secretary of State discretion to consider different categories of expenditure in proposing reduction of rate or of rate support grant … prohibits an authority from borrowing to offset the effect of rate reduction … provides that the Secretary of State may, by order, alter the definition of plant and machinery liable to valuation and rating. So it goes on. The Secretary of State can change the rules during the year regardless of the effects on local authorities, local accountability or local democracy. In effect, the Secretary of State will be able to dictate what services will be provided by local authorities. He will have the power to set the rate, and the local authorities will have no discretion at all. He will be what I have already described on an earlier occasion as an unelected third tier of local government in Scotland.

Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

Has the hon. Gentleman taken note of the comment in the explanatory and financial memorandum: Any reduction will be subject to approval by the House of Commons of a report submitted by the Secretary of State"? Surely, therefore, the Secretary of State is subject to some elective control.

Mr. Home Robertson

Not Scottish elective control. We also noticed that when the Secretary of State proceeded against various local authorities in Scotland earlier this year.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Selective control.

Mr. Home Robertson

Selective control. It is highly selective—some would argue that it is politically selective—regardless of the effects on ratepayers in he areas in question. Local accountability has gone out of the window. It will be subject to three-line Whips in the House, which does nothing to protect or improve democracy or local accountability or any other sort of accountability.

It is self-evident that the ratepayers have had an extremely rough time while the present Government have been in power. It is also important to note that councillors in Scotland have had a very rough time. They are being overruled and manipulated at every turn. I am talking not just about Labour councillors. I have already quoted what the leader of one Conservative-controlled council has had to say on this issue. This has happened as a result of a confrontation which has been engineered by the Government.

As a result of all this, Scotland will lose good councillors and good conveners in local authorities all over the country, right across the board, and not just Labour councillors. We have had two cases in East Lothian district in the last month of respected and competent conveners of committees resigning because they do not see why they should carry on being rubber stamps for the Scottish Office.

There is not much joy in being a local councillor at the best of times, but at times such as the present, when local authorities are being asked to carry out the Secretary of State's dirty work and compelled to betray their electorates, the situation becomes intolerable. I hope that the Secretary of State is aware of the demoralising effects that his activities produce on local authorities.

While talking about councillors, I should like to comment on community councillors. Community councillors also have statutory duties. Community councils in the small communities in Scotland, in the former burghs and in the rural areas, have a statutory duty to ascertain, to co-ordinate and to express the views of their communities both to local authorities and to public corporations, and to the Government when requested. Scant attention is being paid to the opinions of community councils. Many councils have made representations to their Members of Parliament about this matter. They also made representations to Lord Stodart. On page 78 of his report, he said: We detected in the evidence from community councils a good deal of frustration about their lack of powers, and the scant attention which was paid to their views by regional and district councils. Several councils sought more specific powers to perform functions of local significance, especially in the fields of leisure, recreation and amenity. Others urged that regions and districts should have a duty to consult them about matters affecting the community, and planning in particular was mentioned in this context. There was concern too that regions and districts need only contribute to the running costs of community councils if they feel so inclined". It is a pity that the Secretary of State has not seen fit to say anything constructive in the Bill about the functions of community councils. It is also a pity that the Government have not been prepared to face the urgency of providing adequate funding for community councils as such councils have statutory duties, to which I have already referred. The duties have been imposed by Parliament, but they still have to rely on discretionary grants from local authorities, which are themselves being subjected to intolerable financial pressures by the Government.

I wrote to the Minister not long ago appealing to him to consider central funding for community councils. I am sorry that, in his reply, he did not feel able to say something more constructive. This matter ought to be debated in Committee.

Part IV of the Bill refers to the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980. It is obviously wrongly titled. There is ample evidence that it does less to create tenants' rights than to create ghettos of local authority accommodation in parts of Scotland. I have an interesting report from East Lothian district council. The report makes it clear that the sale of council houses, which the Bill is seeking to accelerate, is leading to a rapid sale of larger houses and houses in high amenity areas. It is also leading to an alarming reduction in the local authority housing stock in some of the smaller rural communities in my constituency.

The existing legislation is doing enough damage. It would be more responsible of the Secretary of State to hesitate before accelerating council house sales any further. He should be aware of the long-term damage that he is doing. Many of my constituents, such as young married couples who want to get their first homes, will have to make do with rented council accommodation in some of the least attractive parts of my constituency.

Mr. John MacKay (Argyll)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the logic of his argument is to send letters to council tenants who are thinking of buying their council houses in his constituency telling them not to do so, but to look to the private sector for their houses? That would make more housing available for others on the waiting list. Otherwise, the hon. Gentleman is talking the sort of humbug that he has been denouncing for the past 20 minutes.

Mr. Home Robertson

I do not follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I would certainly advise anyone who wanted a private sector house—it would be hypocrisy for me to quarrel with people who wanted their own private houses—to buy or build in the private sector, where they are perfectly at liberty to do so. The Secretary of State is indulging in asset stripping, which simply means that the most attractive houses in the local authority housing stock are disappearing. The best housing is going out of the local authority pool. In future, young couples will have to make do with second best. That is intolerable.

Mr. John MacKay


Mr. Home Robertson

I am sure that the hon. Member will have an opportunity to speak later.

The tidying-up clauses in the Bill—which for the most part are based on the recommendations of the Stodart report—are, broadly speaking, helpful. However, at best they are only tinkering with the problems created by two-tier government.

The Bill is hopelessly misdirected. It will compound the financial damage and central Government interference that already exist in Scotland. We need a proper reappraisal of the whole of local government and the two-tier system. I have a certain amount of sympathy with what has been said about the desirability of one-tier local authorities. I go further and say that it should be considered not only for the cities but for areas outwith the cities, though that is a much broader issue.

The Bill will not do much to reform the rating system. At best, it is only tinkering with it. I would rather do away with the rating system altogether. I look forward eagerly to the Government's proposals for scrapping and replacing that system with something fairer. In the meantime, all that we have in the Bill is more fooling around with derating particular sectors of industry.

The industry with which I am involved has already been derated. In the Bill, the Secretary of State seeks to derate parts of the oil industry. He might well be sorely tempted to derate the brewing industry. Somebody else might want to derate grouse moors.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

How about derating lawyers' offices?

Mr. Home Robertson

My hon. Friend suggests derating lawyers' offices. I see a gleam in the eye of the Under-Secretary of State the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) at that suggestion. The Bill will reduce the rating income of particular local authorities, whether in oil or agricultural areas—or even in areas where lawyers' offices are to be found.

The Bill will achieve nothing for the long-term improvement of the rating system and it will not help to make local authority finances fairer. Instead, it will increase the alarm, despondency and confusion among ratepayers in Scotland as well as among local authorities. The Secretary of State has done great harm already, and I wish that he would stop now.

6.25 pm
Mr. Michael Ancram (Edinburgh, South)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). We spent many happy years at school together. Whether I have listened to him for five or 20 minutes, I have always been left in a state of bemused uncertainty as to what he meant, but I have, somehow, a feeling—and I cannot explain why I have it—that the hon. Gentleman is an expert at mirror talk, and that he really means almost the precise opposite of what he says. Knowing him and his background, knowing where he lives, and that the ratepayers in his area are making the same representations to him as mine are making to me, I think that today we have had another example of the hon. Gentleman saying the opposite of what he meant.

Over the past week the hon. Gentleman has shown considerable alacrity in moving around the Chamber. He used to sit in the back row among the Scottish Tribune group, but the other day I found him, rather to my surprise, sitting among the Liberal and SDP Members. I wondered whether he was testing out the water. Today I find him sitting in the place that is usually occupied by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The hon. Gentleman is obviously wishing to keep his options open. Bearing in mind the state of his party, I cannot say that I blame him.

This is a wide-ranging, multi-faceted Bill. It is difficult to deal with a whole principle in a complicated Bill such as this. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to answer some of our questions and to assure us that this egg of a Bill is not a curate's egg.

Clauses 1 and 2, dealing with rating matters, have received much comment today. It is almost unbelievable that the Government have found it necessary to legislate on those matters. Once the Government had been empowered last year to cut expenditure, it was surely beyond the belief of any hon. Member, certainly of any Conservative Member, that there could be a council—even a Labour council—anywhere in Scotland which would prefer to give the money which had been cut from its expenditure to the Government, whom it professed to detest, rather than returning it to the ratepayers.

It was a travesty of natural justice, if not of political common sense, that Lothian region failed to give back to the ratepayers of the region the £30 million that the Government had rightly cut from its expenditure. It was an arrogant and petulant display of contempt for the ratepayers. It will not be forgotten by the ratepayers of Lothian region in the coming regional elections. It was, in effect, a statement from the Labour Party in the region which said to the ratepayers "We do not need you, we do not care about you, if it does not suit us politically to do so".

Local government autonomy—of which the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) made so much—must depend on local government exercising responsibility. The reason why the Government had to act last year was that various councils in Scotland had shown that they were incapable of exercising that responsibility, and it remained the duty of central Government to protect ratepayers from politically motivated over-expenditure. It is worth remembering that Parliament supported them in that respect. Once the Bill had passed into law, the Government were justified in expecting, given that a cut in expenditure had been made, that local government would make it good to the ratepayers. Indeed, one council in Scotland—a Labour council—did so, but Lothian region and others preferred to use ratepayers as political footballs, and we could not allow that to continue any longer. For that reason I and my hon. Friends support the Bill.

Earlier in the year, Opposition spokesmen were in a quandary as to whether to support councils such as Lothian or to speak up for the ratepayers, many of whom voted for them. They wittered, they whined, they refused to be drawn—the right hon. Member for Craigton refused to be drawn again today—they muttered responsible and concerned noises about the ratepayers, and then they turned their backs on them and on their concern when what they were saying was ignored by their councillors. At least today the mask is off and the position is clear.

I was fascinated to hear the right hon. Member for Craigton describe what the Government are doing, in trying to ensure that the money is paid back to the ratepayers, as offensive. Offensive to whom? Certainly not to the ratepayers. When he made it clear that the Opposition will vote against the Bill tonight, he was in effect saying that they will vote against the ratepayers as surely as if they were ratepayers in Lothian or Dundee. There is no fudging that, and there is no hiding behind talk of local government autonomy. Tonight the vote is stark. The question that the Opposition have to ask themselves is whether they believe that the savings that are made by councils should benefit the ratepayers. Clearly, from what the right hon. Member for Craigton said, they do not. That deliberate and cynical vote against ratepayers in Scotland should be seen for what it is. The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) may laugh, but the chips are down when the Opposition are prepared to let the ratepayers, many of whom are financially vulneralbe, go to the wall. I hope that there will be no more talk from Opposition Members about their being concerned about people or protecting jobs. Tonight they will be voting against that. They will be putting politics before any of those concerns.

Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)

I apologise to hon. Members for intervening in a Scottish debate, but I should like to draw to the attention of my hon. Friend and Opposition Members the fact that the SDP and the Liberal Party have no representatives in the Chamber. I know that Liberal and SDP Members have intervened during the debate, but it should be placed on record that they are not in the Chamber now.

Mr. Ancram

Members of the Scottish National Party should also be added to the list. They have not shown up today when we are debating a major Scottish issue.

It was interesting that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetlend (Mr. Grimond) declared that his party would vote against the Bill. In my region, the Ratepayers Action Group Executive organisation, which wrote to all local Members asking them to vote for the Bill on behalf of the ratepayers, will be interested to know that the Liberal Party, which professed so much concern for ratepayers, is prepared to vote against the interest of ratepayers tonight. The Government have no alternative but to take these steps in pursuit of the principle that guides conservatism—that ratepayers must be protected.

There are many smaller points on which I should like the advice of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Home Robertson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because all that drivel about Conservatives protecting ratepayers must be challenged. Will he come clean on why the rates have risen as they have? Have not the cuts in rate support grant imposed by the Government played an enormous part in the increase in rates? Also, have not the Government filched £30 million from the ratepayers of Lothian?

Mr. Ancram

I shall not answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and others have tried slowly and simply to explain it to him. If they have not been able to do so, I doubt whether I shall succeed.

Mr. Home Robertson

Where is the money then?

Mr. Ancram

The money is coming out of the rate support grant. The hon. Gentleman knows that the council had the choice last year, under statute, of giving that money back to the ratepayers or of giving it to the Government with whom it professed to disagree. It is unbelievable that it chose the latter. As a Lothian ratepayer, I would have preferred to have given that money back to the ratepayers than to have seen the levels of expenditure that have existed in Lothian, which have not gone very far towards improving services, but which have gone a long way towards increasing the number of jobs in Lothian region. The ratepayers would have spent it more sensibly than the Lothian regional councillors.

I come now to one or two more specific points on which I should be grateful for my hon. Friend's advice. Clause 8 deals with tourism, and here I declare an interest as the part-owner of a caravan park. The right hon. Member for Craigton was correct in saying that the Government have got themselves into a difficulty, because there is no single rule that can be applied across Scotland on tourism. Obviously, as an Edinburgh Member, I welcome the fact that the Edinburgh district council will be in charge of tourism for the city. That city is a tourist attraction in itself, and it is right and proper that the district council should be able to organise tourist activity within it. Equally, I give the example of the Border regional tourist board, which is beginning to work, because it is of sufficient size to work. Were it to be broken up into smaller units of the four districts involved it might not be so effective. Will the co-ordinating factor in the Bill be used in a discretionary way to make sure that the effective tourist authority within each area is suitable to the needs of the area?

My second point relates to clause 18 and the question of consumer protection, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). It appears that certain anomalies will arise under the proposals in the Bill, where, if we are not careful, we shall be creating duplication and more manpower and jobs than we have at present. I understand in particular—it may be a. slight variation of the chicken and egg argument—that the equipment used by the weights and measures people, who will remain within the regional site anyway, is the same equipment as will be used in the part that is now to be transferred to the district. Where there is now one single expertise and one set of equipment, it will have to be duplicated. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not keen on supporting anything that will unnecessarily increase manpower in local government.

My third point relates to clause 32 and structure planning. It appears that the Bill will simplify that, although I should like my hon. Friend to confirm it and to give an assurance that genuine public concern will be taken into account. How will the clause affect the present position in Edinburgh? The Secretary of State is still considering the structure plan that was submitted just over a year ago, which includes the whole question of housing need. At the same time, the Secretary of State has ordered a number of inquiries to be held on green belt areas, some of which are within my constituency, where I understand the reporter is requiring of the district planning authority evidence of housing need. I understand that he is, therefore, caught between two stools because he cannot do the one until the other has happened. I hope that that, and the duplication of effort that it is causing, might give my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary reason to consider sisting these inquiries, at least until a decision has been made on the structure plan. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure me about it.

I turn, finally, to a subject that my hon. Friend would be surprised if I did not mention. It is the possibility of creating an all-purpose authority for Edinburgh. I shall not detain the House for long on it, because I have spoken about it on many other occasions. It is disappointing that the Government do not recognise in the Bill the damage that is being done by the present local government system to the city of Edinburgh. Amenities are moving out, people are following them, and we see a slowly emptying city centre.

Edinburgh is in danger of becoming a capital city without status and with a decreasing base of population. It is a slow but sure movement. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who represents an Edinburgh constituency, will realise how concerned I am to stop it. Before the Bill is passed, the Government ought again to consider Edinburgh's status with a view to making it an all-purpose authority, recognising once and for all its position as the capital city of Scotland. I shall try to help the Government to give Edinburgh that recognition, and I welcomed the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who gave qualified support to a move in this direction.

All in all, I welcome the Bill. It is a step in the right direction. At last ratepayers in my region and across Scotland can see that the Government have their interests at heart. I hope that the House will support the Bill.

6.43 pm
Mr. Norman Hogg (Dumbartonshire, East)

The Government seem determined to introduce major legislation on local government at every opportunity. We see it again tonight. It appears that the provisions in the last major piece of local government legislation are not enough and that the Secretary of State wants even more powers. That is consistent with his attitude throughout the time that he has held his high office. He has taken every conceivable opportunity to extend his powers at the cost of democratic local government.

Clause 1 adds to the powers that the Secretary of State has already to reduce the rate support grant. Local authorities will be required to reduce the rates regardless of their assessment of what is necessary for the communities that they represent. The legislation provides for the reimbursement of ratepayers, as we have just heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) explain.

I am concerned that the Conservative Party has abandoned any pretence that it defends local government and, more importantly, the principles of democracy. This Government have abandoned that pretence steadily throughout their term of office, and it is extremely worrying that they no longer uphold local democracy, which was a very strong principle of theirs in the days when they included amongst their supporters in the House hon. Members who had had distinguished service in local government.

Clause 2 prohibits borrowing to offset a rate reduction. It compounds the charge that I have levelled against the Government that they are telling local authorities what to do and intend to go on doing that.

Clause 3 is an order-making power. There may be a case for the Government's proposal. I am conscious that in Committee on last year's Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill hon. Members argued that there should be derating for plant in Scotland in the same way as it is given in England and Wales other than to buildings. There is a prima facie case for it.

A company in my constituency has its Scottish plant rated, whereas its plants elsewhere are derated. I have received a number of representations from the company. It points out that it received certain benefits when it came to Scotland. By siting its activities in a new town, it was the recipient of an extremely attractive package of incentives. However, all that has now been cancelled out by the high rates bill which it has to meet but which it does not face in England and Wales. The company pays about £132,000 in rates in Scotland, whereas it pays only £40,000 for a similar plant in Wales. There are very large sums at stake, although I am the first to agree that the plant in question, which is in Cumbernauld, does not compare with a plant such as BP's at Grangemouth. Recently I was supplied with some estimates prepared by people who know a little about local government finance. I am advised that if there were to be full derating of plant in Scotland the cost to the local authorities would be £30 million.

That leads me to my second worry about clause 3. Although I recognise the arguments advanced for derating plant, at the same time the Government have to accept responsibility for the resulting very significant shortfall in the income of local authorities. The House must be told what it means for Central region and Falkirk district, which have the big petrochemical complex at Grangemouth.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) posed a specific question to the Secretary of State about what would be the shortfall of cash to the local authorities in his constituency, but he did not get a clear answer. That is hardly good enough. If the Secretary of State is persuaded that this is an area in which legislation is appropriate, he must be able to sustain that with some sort of argument. The only argument is the financial one. There must have been some investigation of what this would mean for those local authorities. It is not for me to speak for Orkney and Shetland, but the right hon. Gentleman asked a very pertinent question and a reply would be appropriate. I hope that the Minister will give a satisfactory reply both to that and to my question about Central region and Falkirk district.

I worry about the £30 million that will go adrift if effect is given to the order, because that loss will be compounded by the Government's present policies. I recall the statement in the House last week when the mini-Budget proposals were published and we saw what they meant for the rate support grant in Scotland. If we add the 2½per cent. that is going adrift as a consequence of the Government's economic measures, and if we take account of what may be lost to local government if the order-making power in clause 3 is ever effected, the consequences for local government are not insignificant.

According to the explanatory and financial memorandum, The provisions relating to the valuation of plant and machinery … and any orders made thereunder, will not lead to any increase in public expenditure, although orders may be made which will lead to a redistribution of the rates burden. It is not often that Governments are as clear as that. The implications of that statement are clear. If orders are made under clause 3, domestic ratepayers will have to foot the bill—and not just domestic ratepayers, but other commercial ratepayers, too. That is bad news for some Scottish constituencies, which already face serious difficulties arising from the never-ending economic blizzard into which the Government have plunged them.

It is irresponsible of the Government to bring in legislation of this nature without being certain what it involves. Instead of hectoring and lecturing local authority representatives in the way that some hon. Gentlemen have done today, and instead of coming here with half-cooked legislation and off-loading problems on to councils—of which this is another example—it would be better to give specific information about what the clause mean and what its implications are for the district and regional authorities that contain Scotland's major industries.

This is a far-reaching Bill and it affects manpower. Unfortunately, it is not possible to follow all the arguments that have been advanced by other hon. Members, because of the width and scope of the Bill, but I want to say a word about its manpower implications. Perhaps at this point I should declare an interest, in that I am the parliamentary adviser to the National Association of Local Government Officers. The implications for manpower are greater than would appear at first glance. Although the Stodart proposals cover a wide range of functions, none is in the mainstream of local authority functions. Therefore, there is a temptation to say that there are no serious implications for local authority manpower. However, it does have such implications because of the scale of what is proposed.

Any redistribution of function in local government is, of course, a redistribution of people, because local government is labour-intensive, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South never ceases to remind us. One cannot have services without having people. It is in the very nature of services that they are staffed, manned and organised by people. Thus, any redistribution of services means transferring staff from one authority to another.

Local government officers have considerable experience in this regard. Major reorganisations of local government took place both in Scotland and in England and Wales in the mid-seventies. That was a smooth operation. It was greatly to the credit of our Scottish local authorities and to their employees that the reorganisation was effected so successfully. However, that was due to a large extent to the existence of the Staff Commission for Scotland. That commission was headed by Mr. Fraser, the former right hon. Tom Fraser, who for many years was a distinguished Member of the House, serving for the constituency of Hamilton. He brought to the Staff Commission for Scotland his wide experience of many years in public life. Indeed, he served in the Cabinet. Local government officers had great confidence in him and felt certain that their interests were being properly looked after.

It is extraordinary that, although local authorities are to undergo some reorganisation, there is a proposal in clause 52 to wind up the Staff Commission for Scotland. [Interruption.] It has been brought to my attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that no Minister is present in the House. That is unfortunate, when matters are being discussed to which I hope a Minister will address himself in winding up the debate. I cannot believe that an English Opposition Whip and the Secretary of State's beagle can be called spokesmen for the Government. I hope that the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State will draw this matter to the Minister's attention when he returns.

Mr. Pollock


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) seems to be under the misapprehension that the Whip is not a Minister.

Mr. Hogg

You have properly advised me in that respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are having a debate that involves a Department of State, the Scottish Office, yet we do not have present a Minister from that office. Should you not suspend the sitting until such time as a Minister returns?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) will catch my eye in due course, in which case he can make his own speech.

Mr. Pollock

While the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) is on the subject of party representation in this debate, would he care to comment on the fact that, after about three hours of debate, the House has now been graced with the presence of one Member of the Scottish National Party?

Mr. Hogg

I am not sure that even the presence of one Member of the Scottish National Party brings us to a state of grace.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

I doubt whether the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, (Mr. Hogg) East could define an appropriate state of grace. Perhaps he would kindly note that I am a casualty of British Rail.

Mr. Hogg

I pride myself on always knowing what a state of grace is, because since childhood I have carefully considered the scriptures.

As I was saying, local government officers have considerable confidence in the Staff Commission for Scotland, and now they are faced with another reorganisation. The Commission helped to iron out many of the problems that faced local government in 1975. It brought an independent mind to the problems. Its reputation among local authority staffs was one of fairness and good will. The Bill disposes of the commission, but more serious and worrying is the fact that it makes no provision to deal with the vacuum that will be left after the disappearance of the Commission.

The Bill's view of the problem is, to say the least, naive. Clause 29(1) says that the officer shall be transferred into the employment of the second local authority: Provided that, as regards any transfer in respect of which the first local authority is a regional council and the second local authority might be any of the district councils in the region, the authority which is to be the second local authority shall be determined jointly by the regional council and district councils; but they shall take into consideration any preference expressed by the officer concerned. There is no provision for arbitration. I can foresee circumstances in which a local government officer and the authorities concerned cannot reach agreement on his transfer and there is no means whereby the difficulty can be resolved. Although the Government do not recognise that problem, they recognise that there could be difficulties between authorities. Clause 29(4) gives authorities a right to go to arbitration. Therefore, on the one hand, the employing authorities will have means at their disposal to reconcile difficulties between them, but, on the other there will be no mechanism for reconciling difficulties between authorities and their employees.

We should not disband the Staff Commission for Scotland, but should keep it in existence to deal with the Stodart proposals. If, having given effect to the Stodart proposals, the Government were to say that there was no longer a case for the Commission, I should accept that. The need for it will have vanished. However, that need has not yet vanished, because the Government are bringing forward measures that will have a profound impact on local authority staffing.

The Bill is bad news for ratepayers and is not the good news that Conservative Members have endeavoured to persuade us that it is. It represents simply another attack on local government. It is bad news for local government employees, because it deals with their employment and takes away safeguards to which they have long become accustomed. The Bill changes well-established practices and procedures for dealing with staff. That will have a detrimental effect. In addition, it will add to the burdens of ratepayers because of what will happen with regard to commercial and industrial rating.

Above all, the Bill mounts a serious assault on local government democracy. The foundations of local government are built on the elective principle, and that is being undermined by the Bill. Local elections, manifesto pledges, thought-out local plans and programmes are all to be subject to a central diktat. Whatever Conservative Members may have said about local democracy or freedom of choice—I seem to remember that they once attached great importance to such slogans—is now exposed as empty rhetoric.

The Government have no principle or underlying philosophy, save that which serves the discredited and destructive economic policies that they have pursued for two and a half years. Local government is now being sacrificed to that end. There are hon. Members who will not stand for that, who will stand up and be counted in defence of local government, and who will ensure that the Bill will be resisted in Committee line by line and that opinion will be mobilised in the country. At the end of the day we shall be supported by the electorate.

7.3 pm

Mr. John McKay (Argyll)

Until the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) went into overdrive towards the end of his speech I thought that it was quite good. His speech was particularly good for someone who, according to the The Sunday Standard, had never wanted to be a Member of Parliament. However, I noticed that he added quickly—just in case the Militant Tendency reads The Sunday Standard—that he had every intention of fighting like blazes to stay a Member of Parliament.

Mr. Maxton

I gather that it was the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) who made that remark, not my hon. Friend.

Mr. McKay

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is dissociating his hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East from his wife's remark. If so, it might cause trouble for the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East when he goes home at the weekend.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East said that the Labour Party in Scotland would mobilise support in the country and fight the Bill line by line, but it has not managed to assemble many of its 44—or perhaps 42—Members to take part in the debate. If any of my hon. Friends care to walk through the Library now, they will probably find several Scottish Labour Members reading the Bill and scribbling like fury so that they can make speeches before the debate is over.

It is hard to believe—the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) still cannot understand it—that any local authority and ordinary body of men would opt to give money back to the Secretary of State when told that they must either give back £30 million to the Secretary of State or return it to the ratepayers. That was the choice that confronted the Lothian regional council. Of course, we are not dealing with a normal body of men in Lothian region, because they chose to give the money back to the Secretary of State. Not only today, but during Scottish Question Time, the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian has failed to understand that the Lothian region had the option of giving the £30 million back to its ratepayers, but it decided that it would prefer the Secretary of State to take back the money.

In the first part of the Bill the Secretary of State takes powers to deal with something that—even in his wildest dreams—he probably did not contemplate. I refer to the fact that a local authority should deliberately choose to deprive its ratepayers of £30 million and prefer to see it returned to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Home Robertson


Mr. McKay

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is going to tell me that he now understands what happened.

Mr. Home Robertson

The hon. Gentleman is almost as dense as his colleagues. He suggests that Lothian regional council gave the money to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State took the money from the council. The right hon. Gentleman has got the money. What has he done with it?

Mr. MacKay

Whether it is "took" or "gave" is somewhat irrelevant. The point is that the Secretary of State told Lothian region that he could take back the £30 million or the council could give it back to its ratepayers. The council chose to allow the Secretary of State to take it back. "Taking" or "giving" is irrelevant. Lothian region preferred to see £30 million returned to the Scottish Office than to its ratepayers. If the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian checks, he will discover that Renfrew district council, when given the same choice, decided to give the money to the ratepayers, not to the Secretary of State. It was prepared to take the wise way out. I do not suppose that Renfrew district council liked the option any more than Lothian council, but it at least had the gumption to realise that it was better to give the money back to the ratepayers than to give it to the Secretary of State, as Lothian did.

It is sad that we should have a Bill with such a first part and that we should have had the other Bills. It is sad, because the Bill has been introduced against a background of local authorities using their power to play at national politics and to campaign and work against the central Government. Every Government must decide on the level of both current and capital local authority expenditure. No Government have opted out of the broad decisions that have to be made. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State read extracts from speeches made by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) that underlined that point. No Secretary of State—whether he be Secretary of State for Scotland or for the Environment—can opt out of making broad decisions about what local government is allowed to spend. My right hon. Friend reminded the House, by quoting from the right hon. Member for Craigton, that the previous Labour Government controlled local government expenditure in exactly the same way as this Government are controlling it.

Of course, local authorities complain. They complain today and they complained in the past. Most of them know that they must live within the guidelines set by the central Government. Most of them realise that they are creatures of the House and of the Government. The complaints by some local authorities about the central Government interfering in local government fall on stony ground when I read about the type of resolutions passed by some Scottish local authorities. For example, some local authorities have decided that they are responsible for defence and can declare nuclear-free zones. It is time that they realised that that is interfering. Whether or not one approves of the policy, that is the preserve of the central Government. If defence is not the preserve of the central Government, what is?

Some authorities go even further. One local authority in Dundee is obsessed with trying to conduct its own foreign policy, finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli war on the side of the Arabs. The protests that the central Government should not interfere would be more soundly based if some Labour-controlled councils were not busy passing resolutions on defence and foreign affairs and sending ambassadors to the PLO, as Dundee has. Such councils are taking action on matters which are the preserve of the Government, whatever their colour.

The next time a local authority complains about central Government interference—all Governments must interfere in local government expenditure—it should look in the mirror of its own minutes and ask what it is doing interfering in defence and foreign affairs.

I was involved in local government and I am sorry to see the central Government taking more powers, but that is because of the behaviour of some local authorities.I am afraid that my right hon. Friend has no alternative but to ask the House to give him the powers that he seeks in the first part of the Bill.

It is a pity that that part of the Bill is included. It shows that local government is acting outwith its normal convention and relationship with the central Government. It is also a pity because it obscures the rest of the Bill, which contains important reforms which will help regional and district councils to carry out their functions and help the electorate and ratepayers to understand who is responsible for what. It will mean that they will not be left confused about concurrent functions which are the responsibility partly of one authority and partly of another. It was sensible to promise in our election manifesto to set up a committee to examine that matter. The report, which was delivered to us speedily, has fully justified the setting up of that committee.

The Stodart report recommends that most functions should be exercised by one authority or another. There might be disagreement, not just across the House but among hon. Members on the same side of the House, about which authority should excercise a particular function, but there is no disagreement about who should deal with the compound functions.

Five Members of the House gave evidence to the Stodart committee. They were the hon. Members for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) and myself. The hon. Member for Dundee, West and I were the only Members to give oral evidence to the committee. I gave mine with the Argyll and Bute district council. Its delegation was led by Mr. Frank Spears, the chairman, and Mr. Michael Gossip the chief executive. It is gratifying that most of our arguments were accepted by the Stodart committee and the Government and put into the Bill.

Tourism is particularly important to my constituency. Lord Stodart's recommendations on tourism are implemented in clause 8. The evidence by Argyll and Bute and Strathclyde regional council to the Stodart committee was that it would be best if tourism were the responsibility of the district council. The Scottish Tourist Board took a contrary view at the time. The Stodart committee and the Government wisely decided not to accept the board's view, but to accept the other evidence.

Tourism is desperately important in my constituency. About 10 per cent. of the bed nights spent in Scotland are in my constituency. The area is a dominant force in Scottish tourism, yet we were being submerged in an unmarketable commodity called Strathclyde. Hon. Members representing Strathclyde will be the first to agree that Strathclyde does not exactly fit the holiday poster image that we want to encourage people to come on holiday, especially when we are trying to attract people to a place so obviously part of the Highlands as Argyll. I welcome the Government's decision to make tourism the responsibility of the district council. In the last year or two years, Strathclyde has accepted de facto that tourism should be a district council function. The Bill makes that legal.

Part III of the Bill deals with planning. I am pleased that the highway authority has not been given power of direction on planning matters. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State no longer has that power in relation to trunk roads. It would be wrong to allow regional councils that power of direction on their roads. I am certain that observations by the trunk roads authorities and the regional roads authority to the planning committee will be taken into account. Planning permission will not lightly be given to schemes which run counter to the recommendation of the roads authorities unless there is good reason. In my experience, in many cases there are good reasons, or other planning reasons, to put aside the objections of the roads authorities.

The Stodart report does not agree with me about the structure plan. I shall examine closely the part of the Bill that deals with structure plans. I am not convinced that the regional council and the Secretary of State should have call-in powers on planning applications. I do not see the need for both to have such powers. It would be better if the powers were exercised by my right hon. Friend, who, I am sure, would exercise them wisely and not often. I do not see why the powers should be exercisable also by the region.

I shall study that part of the Bill carefully because the draft structure plan by Strathclyde for Argyll will involve difficulties. The majority of planning applications will be counter to the draft structure plan. That will make life complicated. There are reasons for that which I shall not examine in detail, but we should be careful about the powers and restricted use involved in structure plans. In Argyll—I imagine in all rural areas—planning cannot be done in the desk exercise manner of normal structure plans.

The Argyll and Bute council and I made two points with which the Stodart committee did not agree. Therefore, they are not included in the Bill. The first is a small matter involving registration. We believe that registration should be a district rather than a regional function. It is interesting to note that Strathclyde agrees with us. I shall pursue that matter in Committee.

The second matter relates to the position of Argyll and Bute within the Strathclyde region. Neither I nor the council wish to belittle the efforts that Strathclyde has made in Argyll. In many respects, services have been improved, especially in the landward area, compared with what they were before reorganisation. It is equally true that the rate bills in Argyll are considerably larger than they were prior to reorganisation.

Most of the major projects were taken over by the region from the previous authorities. Some have been undertaken by Strathclyde alone, and I pay tribute to it for that. It has undertaken water schemes on islands such as Tiree, which the old water board could not have considered financially. It has built ferry terminals at Gigha and Iona with the help of money from the EEC. It also deserves a big pat on the back for having decided to upgrade four-year schools in Lochgilphead, Islay and Tiree—it proposes to do the same in Tarbert—to six-year schools. That will he of considerable benefit to the communities involved, especially island communities.

It is only right to pay tribute to Strathclyde for the way in which it has accepted its responsibility for the whole district, not just Argyll and Bute. I wish to read what I said to the Stodart committee, because that puts my point of view briefly: Despite considerable expenditure on roads, piers, schools and water, the Region remains very unpopular. The public do not consider that Argyll should form part of Strathclyde—a region rightly dominated by Urban members and Urban problems. Argyll comprises about half the geographical area of Strathclyde but has nowhere near half the population. I note the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie). Therefore, perhaps I should say that it is a bad habit to call the district "Argyll". One should always call it Argyll and Bute.

I went on to say: The view which is widely held in Argyll and Bute is that local government would be improved, made more efficient, and less remote if there was only one tier of Local Government in Argyll and Bute. The District feels itself an entity of sufficient size, geographically if not in population terms, to be an all-purpose Authority. This public feeling has been strong since 1974, and if anything has increased over the years. I can see no evidence that the feeling is likely to wane. That is the most important part. I cannot see any evidence that the feeling that we do not fit properly into Strathclyde is likely to wane.

Interestingly enough, that was the point made by the Stodart committee. The report said that Argyll and Bute "compelled our attention." Paragraph 33 of the report states: We recognise the force of the arguments"— put forward by myself and Argyll and Bute district council. The report goes on: The district, with its many distinctive features which we have described, lies somewhat uncomfortably within Strathclyde. To put it at is simplest, we can see that it does not 'fit'. On the other hand, we cannot fail to note the very real benefits that the district has gained from its association with the region. The problem faced by the Stodart committee before it decided against any change was that the financial position of an authority with such a small rate base as Argyll and Bute district council would be considerable. However, I still believe that local government is about not just money, but acceptance by the people who live in a district of an identity between themselves, their area and the local government. We do not feel that we have with Strathclyde.

If I am selected to serve on the Committee—one does not have to be good at arithmetic to work out that I probably shall be selected—I intend to table an amendment along such lines in order to have a proper debate on the subject, because it is important to my constituents and to some of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire.

I have a postscript about clause 51. The Government intend to disband two committees. One is the fisheries committee, set up under the hydro-electric board powers and later given powers under the electricity Acts. Originally, the committee was concerned with hydroelectric schemes and their impact on fisheries. The fact that we still have important salmon fishing in rivers used for hydro-electricity power is partially a tribute to that committee's work. Other countries, where hydroelectricity has been pushed forward, have not been so careful with their fisheries. Consequently, the salmon and sea trout do not run their rivers in the way that they do in rivers worked by the hydro-electric board.

The hydro-electric board no longer builds dams, so perhaps, on the face of it, the fisheries committee has outlived its usefulness, but during the years it has moved to another role—considering the effects of large estuarial and open-coast power stations, especially those run by the South of Scotland Electricity Board. It has undertaken the work involved in checking, considering and organising the research into the effects on fisheries of the warm water that comes from those power stations. Whether they are nuclear, oil or coal-powered stations, the effects are much the same. They still release water at a higher temperature than the sea. Some hon. Members may know that that is not too difficult round the coast of Scotland.

The estimated cost of the committee in 1979, which I suppose our colleague who is so against quangos would imagine it to be, was £1,800, which is not an enormous amount of money.

Mr. Rifkind

Too much.

Mr. MacKay

The interesting thing is that it is possible for the inspector of salmon fishing—

Mr. Ernie Ross

The Minister said "Too much".

Mr. MacKay

The hon. Member for Dundee, West will be amazed to learn that I also heard my hon. Friend's comment. If the inspector of salmon fishing requires an assistant to undertake the work of the committee, I hazard a guess that that will cost a little more than £1,800 a year.

There are six members of the committee, including two biologists—Dr. Ted Needham, who is active in fish farming and is perhaps known to some hon. Members, and Dr. Peter Barnett of the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory in my constituency. They oversee the research about the effect of heated water being released into the Clyde estuary in places such as Hunterston. The committee highlighted problems of chlorine discharge and air gas supersaturation that had been unsuspected by either the south of Scotland Electricity Board or the Clyde river purification board. It is doubtful whether river purification boards have the necessary knowledge and manpower to replace the committee.

For example, the committee is commissioning a study in Boddam, Aberdeenshire, about the effect that the heated effluent from Peterhead may have on wood-boring marine animals, which would have a severe effect on the hulls of wooden fishing boats. That should interest my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock).

I pose the question to my hon. Friend tonight—although I do not expect an answer—that I shall pose in Committee: why should that body be abolished when it seems to have useful work to do and can do it fairly cheaply?

I make that reservation, but I welcome the Bill. The two principal parts of the Bill are to be welcomed. The part that implements the Stodart committee's recommendation should be welcomed by most hon. Members. I welcome the other parts, but with some sadness in my heart that once again we must bring forward legislation to control local authorities which seem to feel that political dogma should be put before the interests of their ratepayers.

7.29 pm
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

One thing that can always be guaranteed after a speech by the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) is that the sale of copies of Hansard will go up. With the number of constituents that he manages to name in each of his speeches I am sure that he manages to sell a few more to each of them in person.

I wish to take up a few points that he made, especially that of local authorities interfering in what he termed national issues such as defence. When he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) will defend the district council's attitude towards Palestine and the Palestinian movement.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that local authorities should have nothing to do with defence. Only last week in the Western Isles his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State overrode a local authority decision and public opinion for what he called defence interests to extend the airport for NATO purposes. Does he believe that Dumbarton district council is not entitled to a say in whether extra nuclear weapons should be sited in the area? Regional authorities are by an Act of Parliament given specific duties for defence. They are the civil defence authority.

Mr. John MacKay

They should carry them out.

Mr. Maxton

Many are not prepared to go through the current sham of civil defence in a nuclear war. It is astonishing to hear the hon. Gentleman say that local authorities should carry out those duties, when he supports his right hon. Friend in an attempt to cut back local expenditure. Conservative Members should perhaps be grateful for that saving in expenditure.

Mr. John MacKay

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the councils which take that view of defence do not do so because they wish to save their ratepayers money or because of strict planning considerations. They wish to play against the House on matters concerning the defence of the realm, a responsibility which the people have entrusted to the Government. This Government, like the previous one, have decided that we should participate in NATO and make our own nuclear defence contribution.

Mr. Maxton

If I stray too far down that path, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will begin to worry.

Responsibility for civil defence is given to local authorities by central Government, but many authorities believe that in the event of a nuclear war the civil defence facilities that they could offer would be a meaningless farce. They would save the lives of only a few—possibly only the regional officials who would be down in the headquarters to carry on government afterwards. If the hon. Gentleman thinks seriously about the matter, he will realise that the provisions are a farce and that local authorities are entitled to take that view.

The Bill is yet another nail in the coffin of local government in Scotland. In their manifesto the Government pledged that local government would be returned to the people after the centralised Labour Government of between 1974 and 1979. They pledged to free local democracy and give local government the freedom to choose. When the Government introduce Bills to control local finance, they argue that they should interfere as they provide a portion of the money. That may be fair enough, but they have also introduced other Bills to control local government. The Tenants Rights, Etc (Scotland) Act took away local authorities' ability to control their housing policy. The Education (No. 2) Act took away their ability to control completely their education policy. The Government are eroding local government power not only through finance but also by direct legislation.

As a result, rates are increasing massively, not only in the so-called spendthrift Labour controlled authorities. In the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart), in the district of Eastwood the average domestic rate payment has risen by 79 per cent. since the Government came to power. In another local authority close to Glasgow—surprisingly, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg)—which can hardly be said to be Labour controlled, Bearsden and Milngavie, it has gone up by 79 per cent. In the Tayside region it has gone up by 89 per cent.—the same increase as in the Strathclyde region. Although no action has yet been taken against Strathclyde, many Conservative Members would consider it a spendthrift Labour-controlled authority, with all the faults that they attribute to such authorities.

Bearsden and Milngavie has the highest average domestic rate payment per household in Scotland. I accept that it is a wealthy area. Eastwood, again a wealthy area, has the second highest. One problem for both districts is that they are far too small to carry out the proper functions of a district council. I hope that the Committee will deal with the Wheatley proposal, from which the reorganisation of local government in Scotland came. The services in the suburban areas around Glasgow feed on the Glasgow ratepayer. Rutherglen park, a large park in the Eastwood district, belongs to and is paid for by the Glasgow district council and its ratepayers.

It is time that we came back to the Wheatley recommendations and brought Bearsden and Milngavie, Eastwood and one other authority, whose name I cannot think of at the moment, into the Glasgow district, which should include all those who work and live in the surrounding areas. The areas that are pure dormitories for the Glasgow working area should be included in the district.

If the Under-Secretary serves on the Committee he will persuade his hon. Friends not to accept the proposal. Eastwood is the most Conservative area certainly in the West of Scotland, and he knows that if the provision went through, his electors would not return him at the next election. However, the proposal makes sense, and I hope that my hon. Friends will pursue it in Committee.

The Minister and his hon. Friends shed crocodile tears for the poor ratepayers in Scotland who have to pay out extra money, which goes to spendthrift local authorities who waste it. The phrase "excessive and unreasonable" is actually included in the legislation.

We would not object so much if the Government set an example to local government when forcing cuts on it. They should examine their own tax increases and expenditure. The figures show that in Scotland the average family man with two children on average income has, since the Government took office, suffered a rise in his tax bill from 41.9 per cent. to 46–8 per cent. of his income. His rates bill has risen from 2.3 per cent. to 2.6 per cent. of his income. The Government are grabbing more money while condemning local government for raising rates.

Last December the Financial Times said that if the Government followed the example of local government in controlling expenditure, the country might not he in such a mess. Government and Scottish Office expenditure has risen faster than local government expenditure. It is too much for Government Ministers to say that local authorities are nasty and rotten because they have raised rates. If the Government wish to do something about the unfair burden of rates by spreading them over the population as a whole, the Opposition might consider that favourably. They cannot claim that the rates burden is unfair because of local government. Local government does not decide whether there should be a rating system. The increase in rates is lower than the increase in Government taxation. The Government must seriously consider that matter.

The Government fail to appreciate that, to some extent, the cuts that they are forcing upon local government expenditure are forcing up Government expenditure. As a result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement last week, the average council house rent may rise by £2.50 per week. Many council tenants are unemployed because of the Government's economic policies, and many more may become so in future. They cannot afford the increase. They will apply for a rent and rate rebate, which will come from the national exchequer. Therefore, national expenditure will rise. The rent and rate rebates have the lowest take-up of all social security payments. Many people who cannot afford to pay the increased rate will find themselves in arrears and perhaps even evicted. Other organisations such as the social work departments will have to help them. That transfers the expenditure from the district authority to the regional authority. Thus, there is a roll-on of expenditure.

We know that further cuts will be forced upon local authorities, which will cause redundancies in local government work forces. Glasgow district council claims that it will have to declare 1,000 redundancies. We understand that the Government will probably allocate only £75 million to Glasgow instead of the £102 million that it requires for its housing capital expenditure programme. That will cause a roll-on effect in private industry. Building companies will have to declare redundancies because they will not have work from local authorities. Many private companies depend on local authorities for their bread and butter money, upon which they build to make their profits. Far from saving public money, the cuts will force local authorities and private companies to declare redundancies. The Government will have to pick up the tab for that through unemployment and social security benefits. It is time that the Government learnt about the correlation and interconnection between public and private expenditure, which is so closely entwined that the Government's economic theory based on a separation of the two is complete and utter nonsense.

If the Government continue on their present path, there will be unpleasent consequences for Glasgow. The leader of the council, Mrs. Jean McFadden and the treasurer, Mr. Bob Gray, claim that Glasgow's total budget of £298 million will have to be increased by £45 million simply to keep pace with inflation and to maintain services at their present levels. Services have already declined to levels that many people consider unacceptable. To raise the £45 million the council will have a choice of either increasing council house rents by 60 per cent.—which would push many tenants into the hands of the Government—or increasing rates by 50 per cent., which the Government would consider to be unacceptable. It could follow both courses. I believe that the council is working towards a 24 per cent. increase in both rents and rates. As it does not wish to put a higher burden on council tenants or ratepayers, it will have to cut £8 million from the service budget, resulting in about 1,000 redundancies. There will be a severe reduction in weekend cleaning in the city's streets. Some public toilets will be closed and standards of security in the city's museums may be endangered, causing risk of theft. Less grant will be available for the arts. The Mitchell library and other lending libraries will suffer reduced hours. Some public halls may be closed. The Bill refers to leisure activities provided by local authorities. If the cuts continue there will be no leisure activities.

The ratepayers and electors of Glasgow will face a dismal future if the Government insist on cuts of this kind and if they have the power to ensure that local authorities implement them. This is a disgraceful Bill and I shall take considerable pleasure in voting against it.

7.50 pm
Mr. John Corrie (Bute and North Ayrshire)

Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), I welcome the Bill. I am surprised that he did not manage to welcome parts of it, because he spends a good deal of his summer holiday on the island of Arran in my constituency. Much of the Bill affects rural areas and will in small ways help the running of local authorities in areas such as Arran.

In many ways it is a great shame that the Stodart proposals are overshadowed by clause 1, which I accept is contentious, but they are no less important. I shall therefore concentrate on some of them. I had hoped that there would be some consensus on much of the rest of the Bill—something that is fairly rare in the House—but it seems that that is not to be. Every Opposition Member who has spoken so far has opposed the Bill, although we have not yet heard how SNP or SDP Members feel about it. Perhaps we shall hear from them before 10 o'clock.

Mr. MacKay

Or perhaps we shall not.

Mr. Corrie

Or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) says, perhaps we shall not.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

The hon. Gentleman may hear from the SNP, but he will certainly not hear anything from the SDP, other than what my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said earlier and what I have said on many occasions, which is that we do not like the Bill.

Mr. Corrie

I thank the right hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) for clarifying the position.

It is fair to say that disquiet has been expressed on both sides of the House about the results of reorganisation. I say quite openly that if I had been in the House during the period 1970 to 1974 I should have fought very hard for a one-tier authority for Bute and Ayrshire, with its common interests and common problems. There is little in common between a crofter on the isle of Arran and a city dweller in the centre of Glasgow, except that both are in the same region and pay the same rate poundage. There is certainly no comparison in the services that they receive. One gets all, while the other gets nothing. One thing is clear, however. The escalating costs of local authorities are caused partly by reorganisation. The blame for that lies with both major parties in the House, because there was a change of Government and the reorganisation spanned both periods of office.

I have heard it said that there are mutual benefits to be derived from the presence of cities in a large administrative area. After eight years of reorganisation, I can assure the House that my constituents in Largs, Bute, Cumbrae and Arran are hard pressed to find any. They believe that it is not the regions that live off the prosperity of cities, but the other way round. I constantly hear constituents whose rate bills have quadrupled since 1973 complaining that this is because we went into Strathclyde and they have little extra to show for the higher rates. Most of the criticism has been directed at Strathclyde, because of its sheer size and diversity of interests. Other, smaller regions have worked reasonably well. I pay tribute, however, to the work of the councillors and officials of Strathclyde. They have done a remarkable job in running such a large region and have always been enormously helpful when I have raised problems with them.

It is no use looking back, however. The Stodart report suggests that there should be no change to all-purpose or most-purpose authorities, and the Government have accepted that. Indeed, I think that most people accept that it is too soon for yet another upheaval in local government. Circumstances might have been different if there had been a Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh. Changes might have taken place.

The Government have accepted more than 60 of the Stodart committee's conclusions and the House should welcome at least some of them. There were certainly some grey areas, which needed clearing up, in industry, tourism, planning and leisure and recreation. I shall comment on the treatment of some of those matters in the Bill.

First, I agree that it would have been wrong to deprive district councils of their powers to provide factories and mortgages for industral purposes or to change the powers at present available to them for industrial development. In the struggle to promote employment, districts should have every incentive available to them to promote their areas. I therefore ask the Minister whether districts, in conjunction with regions, will be able to promote outside their areas—for instance, by being part of a delegation in promotion ventures if invited to do so by regional councils. I accept that regions, in conjunction with the SDA, should undertake overseas promotion. That should be carefully co-ordinated, especially as it will simplify the work of the new "Locate in Scotland" unit, because it is from overseas that we must seek to attract new jobs.

I pay tribute once again to Cunninghame district council, which has worked untiringly to get the enterprise trust going in Stevenston, providing both financial help and manpower assistance. That effort is now bearing fruit. Thanks to the work of the district officers, many new jobs have come to the area.

In general, however, I am apprehensive about district councils alone having comprehensive responsibilities for leisure and recreation functions and for countryside matters where applicable. Two points arise here. I assume that there will have to be a large shift in resources from regions to districts to help pay for such facilities. Leisure and recreation will be among the biggest growth areas in the next 20 or 30 years. Whether we like it or not, whichever Government are in power—and I emphasise that—there is bound to be a large number of people unemployed, and they must have something to do.

Secondly, what will be the position with regard to marine nature reserves along the coast? I can find no mention of this in the Bill. Will this continue to be a regional responsibility, or will the districts have some authority to deal with it?

Mr. Maxton

The Bill refers to nature reserves.

Mr. Corrie

The Bill mentions nature reserves on land, but I could find no reference to the marine areas. I therefore wonder whether the reference to nature reserves on land is intended to cover marine areas as well.

Clause 13 refers to contributions from district councils for the maintenance or improvement of harbours for sporting or recreation purposes. Unfortunately, the clause states only that they "may" contribute. I wonder what incentive there is for such work to be undertaken. One of the fastest growng sports in the West of Scotland is that of sea angling and sea fishing. Numerous small harbours along that coast, particularly on the islands, are desperately in need of repair due to storm damage. Will those small harbours receive help as a result of the Bill? The improvements are becoming urgent as storm damage wears the breakwaters away.

That leads naturally to the subject of tourism. We must be careful to get this right. With changes in society, tourism should have become one of Scotland's biggest growth industries. Admittedly we have all the disadvantages in terms of weather, but that must be made up by good organisation to encourage people not only from overseas but from the rest of Britain to come to Scotland for their holidays.

In that context one can accept a pyramid of command, with the British Tourist Authority in conjunction with the Scottish Tourist Board promoting Britain abroad, while the Scottish Tourist Board sells Scotland within Britain itself. The promotion of tourism calls for enormous cooperation between districts, regions, tourist officers and hoteliers to get it right, because every district is competing against the districts alongside it, although they must also depend upon one another to pass tourists through. There may therefore be much duplication of expenditure between districts if there is no collaboration in selling package and touring holidays. Is the Minister satisfied that the kind of co-operation that there has been in the past year will continue?

What will happen to regional staff who lose their jobs? Will redundancies be the responsibility of the region, or of the district? Will there be a major adjustment of funds between the regions and the districts, as the regions will clearly have more and more responsibility?

Many people from the regions ask why the regions should contribute anything to projects over which they will have no control. Here again, incidentally, I think that tourism in the Highlands has been such a tremendous success because of the amount of work done by the Highlands and Islands Development Board in coordinating it.

There are many smaller matters upon which it is worth commenting. Clause 19 takes away the power of a region to contribute towards the expenses of community councils. There seems to be total disillusionment among community councillors about their use or worth in many areas. Apathy has taken over to a great extent because community councillors feel helpless in their attempts to do anything that does not cost money. It is time to examine the situation. Most of the councillors work on a non-political basis and try genuinely to help the community.

On the lighter side, one never ceases to marvel at the sort of things for which we legislate. Clause 24 provides for clocks for public purposes. Provision is made to maintain, illuminate or remove such clocks, having made provision for them. Who has been looking after the clocks for the last eight years if legislation is now required for this purpose? This is perhaps a timely reminder of the incredible amount of legislation of all kinds that passes through the House.

Clause 26 gives powers to provide and maintain roadside seats on any footway, perhaps for weary councillors after they have been given yet more legislation to digest.

I welcome the Bill, which has much to support and commend it. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll said in relation to clause 51 about the abolition of fisheries committees. These have done good work on hydro-electricity development. I have recently seen figures for the runs of salmon in the river Dee in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang). In the early 1960s, 12,000 fish a year were running up the river. The effects of disease meant that by the 1970s the figure was down to 300. However, thanks to the work of the fisheries committee, the number of salmon running through the hydro dam each year is now again into the thousands. This is perhaps a point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and I will return in Committee.

Part I undoubtedly gives the Secretary of State more power to take selective action against authorities when he is satisfied that their plans encourage excessive and unreasonable expenditure. It must be a surprise to many people outside the House to know that an Act of 1966 is to be amended. This will no doubt please ratepayers, who will receive a repayment under the Bill. There is an urgent need, however, to change the whole system of raising local government revenue and to get away from the inequities of the present rating system. Until that change is achieved, there will be no relief for hard-pressed ratepayers. Legislation must be introduced as soon as possible. The Bill goes some way to help. I welcome it for the reasons I have given.

8.2 pm

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) said that there was much about the Bill that he commended. There are few Opposition Members and few people in Scotland who agree. Combined with the actions taken nationally by the Government, this Bill means that working people will pay more for less. Living standards are chopped yet again. The Bill is intended to give the Secretary of State more powers to take away the powers of democratically elected local authorities. There is very little in it for working people.

The government are raising prescription charges, dental charges and national insurance contributions and cutting social security in real terms. The highest paid are hit least and the people at the bottom are asked, at the end of the day, to pay the bill. The roots of the Bill lie in the failure of the Government's economic policy and the determined attempts of the Prime Minister to carry on cutting public expenditure whatever the consequences. As recently as last weekend, a further group of economists indicated that if she continues on that course the country will slide further and deeper into crisis.

The Bill means the destruction of local democracy and the government of people at local level by remote control rather than by democratically elected men and women. If the Bill is passed, local government will become nothing other than a rubber stamping by the Scottish Secretary of decisions dreamt up by an unelected, unrepresentative Civil Service heirachy in the Scottish Office that seems determined to grab power from democratically elected local authorities.

By introducing the Bill the Secretary of State is announcing that he and his civil servants know better than councillors who are not only elected democratically by their constituents but in most cases live in the wards affected by their decisions. They live in the wards that they represent, unlike the Secretary of State and his civil servants. Those councillors are best placed to express the needs of their areas. They know how much should be spent and what should be the level of rates.

The advice given to the Secretary of State shows that there is little need for the Bill. None of the elected organisations wishes to see it. Nor does COSLA. The Secretary of State was advised by his civil servants. In a written answer on 19 October the Secretary of State informed me that 18 deputy secretaries and undersecretaries in the various Scottish Office departments who advised him on the Bill had been educated at fee-paying schools. The Civil Service Commission has just published the results of last year's recruitment programme. They show that 60 per cent. of the successful applicants for the administrative class were graduates of either Oxford or Cambridge. These two universities represent only 5 per cent. of all university graduates. Fifty per cent. of all places at Oxford and Cambridge go to pupils from fee-paying schools. The same report shows that 50 per cent. of all successful applicants were educated at fee-paying schools. This shows the type of advice on which the Bill is promoted.

The dominance of the product of fee-paying schools in the top ranks of the Civil Service means that it is highly unlikely that these people know or understand the lives of ordinary people. I challenge the Minister to ask the Secretary of State to say whether he and his fee-paying school friends in the Scottish Office know better than district councillors, democratically elected, how often bins should be emptied and how long people should be forced to remain in houses that require modernisation but cannot be modernised because of cuts in rate support grant. This is essentially what the Bill is about. People who know nothing about the needs of the average Scottish family exercise even greater power over the life of that family.

Many hon. Members have referred to the Stodart report. The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) mentioned that both he and I gave both written and oral evidence to the committee. I am only sorry that some of the evidence given by the Dundee district council and myself has not been used as guidance on what to include in the Bill. I support the comments by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) that the cities at least—this certainly applies to Dundee district authority—should become most-purpose authorities. I support those hon. Members who argue that this proposal might be introduced in Committee.

Prior to regionalisation, Dundee corporation provided far more effectively for the needs of the people of Dundee. Since regionalisation, Tayside region has been determined to drag down the level of services provided by the previous corporation, which it had established over many years, to the unacceptable level that exists in Tory-controlled burghs that make up the Tayside regional council. If an effort had been made to bring the burghs up to the level of services provided by Dundee corporation and to continue to improve services, no one within the Dundee district would have complained too much. All that has happened is that while Dundee provides almost 50 per cent. of the rates, very little has been provided in return to the Dundee district by Tayside region in terms of the extension of services. Before I gave evidence to the Stodart committee I contacted many community councils in my area and only one supported the existing arrangements. Although they have a non-political makeup, they reflect the areas that they represent and many are Tory-controlled areas. However, they supported the idea of the Dundee district authority being a most-purpose authority.

The Dundee district council, including the Tory opposition, unanimously opposed the existing arrangements and highlighted the shortcomings that exist in the present arrangements and structure. I hope that we shall be able to discuss that in Committee and hear from the Government that they intend to do something about it this year.

One argument advanced by the regional council of which we were conscious was that if the Dundee district were removed from the Tayside region, it would no longer be viable as an authority. The Tayside region has a population which is 10 times greater than Shetland, the Orkneys or the Western Isles and each of those councils is able to administer its own education and social work services. The Tayside region, with Dundee withdrawn and becoming a most-purpose authority, would remain a viable unit.

The industrial development powers will be withdrawn to some extent from the district council and given to the region. Like many hon. Members, I disagree with the Government's decision to adopt that part of the Stodart report and to vest in the regional council the major responsibilities for industrial development. I am concerned about clause 5, which allows regional councils to carry out industrial promotion. That will prove disastrous for Dundee because the powers will pass into the hands of the Tories in the Tayside region. I argue that the Tories have no concern for the plight of the Dundee people, who are savaged by an unemployment rate of over 15 per cent. The region will use the new powers to attract incoming industry away from Dundee and into the Tory heartland of Tayside, and that will simply help to accelerate the deindustrialisation of Dundee.

I can cite the experiences of my Labour colleague, Bill Roberts, when a member on the Dundee district council responsible for industry and development, in his attempts to ensure that the Tayside region was fair to Dundee in its industrial promotion work. It reached the stage where we both had to visit the SDA and the SEPD to ensure that the Dundee district authority's industrial development unit was concerned and involved in and informed of the Tayside region's work on promotion of industry in the area. With its special development area status, the Dundee district council is better placed than the region to explain the existing skills, experiences and situations in Dundee. That is not just our opinion; the National Plan for Scotland in 1966 recognised the special factors relative to Dundee as a manufacturing centre on Tayside. I hope that at some stage during the Bill's passage we shall be able to convince the Government that the powers should be returned to the district authorities.

There is little support for the Bill in Scotland. The Secretary of State knows full well that COSLA is adamantly opposed to the Bill and put its finger on why local government has become an obsession with the Government. Its critique of the Government's economic policy stated: Local authorities are not prepared to be made the scapegoats for Central Government as it attempts to deflect responsibility for the failure of its economic policies. The French Socialist Government are embarking on a programme to devolve power back to the French people through local government. That matches the needs and enthusiasm of the people. If our Government were more determined to give that power back to localities, the Scottish people would respond enthusiastically.

The Bill will do nothing for the serious unemployment in Scotland and Dundee. In a written parliamentary answer, the Scottish Office Minister responsible for industry informed me that on 12 November 1981, 937 young people aged 18 and under registered as unemployed at the Dundee job centre had never experienced employment. He told me that there were 18,271 young people under 18 in the same situation throughout Scotland. In that same answer he told me that Dundee unemployment had increased, from May 1979 to November 1981, from 8.4 per cent. to 15.4 per cent.—an increase of 85.7 per cent.

I can think of no better reason for voting against the Bill. It is a despicable measure that will create even poorer services at a local level, more unemployment and the greatest friction between local and central Government that we have seen for many years. I am sure that many hon. Members will gladly go into the Lobby tonight to defeat the Bill.

8.14 pm
Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

In many ways this has been a most remarkable debate. It has included accusations from the Opposition of Conservative Members being confused and of talking humbug. I hear a faint echo of that pathetic cry still coming from the few Opposition Members still here.

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) was particularly scathing. I felt that if I had ever heard a parliamentary kettle calling a parliamentary pot black, it was when I heard his speech.

It is interesting to note that the tapes tonight showed that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was greeted by Labour jeers. I do not think that you were in the Chair at that time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I assure you that if there were any jeers, they were few.

I am not surprised that the Opposition have seen fit to impose a three-line Whip to get their so-called supporters anywhere near the Lobby at the appointed time. It is remarkable that one Opposition Member told us that Scottish Labour Members were ready to mobilise the whole of Scotland to join them in their outrage. We have heard pretty halfhearted outrage today.

I was pleased to have an assurance that the Bill, in conjunction with the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill, will be the last part of the Government's legislative programme on local government reform. The only qualification that I make to that welcome is that the Government should reconsider their attitude towards the status of Moray and its district council.

The Government will recall that submissions were made to Lord Stodart suggesting that Moray might be given most-purpose status. Indeed, that point was given a sympathetic hearing in the report—I am referring to paragraph 29—when the committee said: We have examined Moray's case with care. The nub of it is that, if any district in Grampian is to be given all- or most-purpose status, Moray is the logical choice since it has 'the population, skills, resources and all other requirements to meet such a role'. Moreover, its withdrawal from Grampian would be likely, among all the constituent districts, to have 'least effect on the overall viability of the region'. Given the experience of the islands authorities, it can certainly be contended that Moray could `go it alone'. In general, however, it does not seem to us that Moray's circumstances—be they geographic, demographic, economic or social—so distinguish the area from the great majority of other districts as to justify most-purpose status. In other words, Moray appeared to win the argument, but, unfortunately, it was not thought feasible to allow it the status that it sought. I recognise that it is unlikely that the Government will rethink the matter at this late stage. It is a decision that I have to accept with some reluctance.

I move from that request to some clauses of the Bill. Clause 5 deals with industrial promotion. I am pleased that district councils are to be engaged in industrial promotion—although it is a somewhat limited role that the Government intend to assign to them—but I am a little puzzled by the operation of industrial promotion at district level. If I read clause 5 correctly, it seems that within its own area a district council can undertake any activity conducive or incidental to such promotion. Outside its own area, either in another part of the United Kingdom or abroad, it can only advertise or help in funding a larger project.

Looking at the definitions appearing later in the clause, we find that "promotion" includes various things, including, in subsection 4(c), what is called "carrying on correspondence." That is where I am a little puzzled. Will the Minister say whether that means that a district authority is not entitled to correspond with a potential developer outwith its area? If that reading is correct, it would seem to be a rather bizarre dividing line to draw. It also puzzles me how such a divide could be effectively enforced. Perhaps we can explore this question in greater detail in Committee. I should like the Government to try to answer this query at a convenient time.

Clause 8 deals with tourism. Here I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) about the promotion of Scottish tourism abroad. We certainly do not want to encourage duplication of effort, but if the British Tourist Authority is to take the lead in promotion abroad, I hope that we shall regularise the extent of Scottish Tourist Board involvement in any such ventures. Perhaps that should also apply to any local authority whose area may be particularly affected by a promotional scheme.

I am very pleased that the Government have seen fit to help the viability of district councils by giving them a clear role in discharging tourism functions. Perhaps I might correct one observation by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), who listed various people who had given evidence to the Stodart committee. Inadvertently, I am sure, he omitted to refer to the final two names on the list—my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) and myself. We both met the chairman in London.

In regard to the tourist functions, my reading of clause 8 suggests that what the Government are trying to do is to expand what I might call the Highlands and Islands Development Board model to other parts of Scotland, which would entail a strong involvement and direction by the Scottish Tourist Board. At this stage I am not entirely sure that this is necessarily the universal way forward for every district.

By all means let the Scottish Tourist Board be actively engaged with the British Tourist Authority in overseas promotion, but let us be careful that we do not take steps that would needlessly involve the Scottish Tourist Board in national promotion, where its role might not be so effective. For example, with the tourist industry in Moray, the trade is definitely primarily based on the United Kingdom. I accept that the Scottish Tourist Board could be an effective umbrella for any kind of scheme empowered under clause 8, but at the same time there is at least the prospect that if the Scottish Tourist Board took too dominant a role it could, perhaps, get forward planning horribly wrong.

If not enough tourists are coming from other parts of the United Kingdom, it does not necessarily follow that the answer is to look abroad to replace those tourists. It may simply be a question of improving the marketing arrangements. I am by no means convinced that the Scottish Tourist Board will have a monopoly of wisdom about that. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give us an assurance that the intention of clause 8 is that we are to have only a certain degree of control from the Scottish Office, after consultation with the Scottish Tourist Board. Indeed, I suggest that the Secretary of State should consider using such powers as clause 8 would give him as default powers only. If the district authority in question shows itself unable to work effectively with local tourist interests, by all means let the Scottish Office step in—

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

Liven it up.

Mr. Pollock

—but I hope that it will not be too keen to come forward to draw up the schemes proposed in clause 8.

I hope also that we shall be told by the Government whether they interpret clause 8 as being wide enough to allow a promotional levy to be imposed if that were thought desirable by the various tourist interests involved. I trust that the clause will allow local authorities that have expertise and good ideas about promoting tourism to form joint liaison committees, with the responsible end of the trade free from unnecessary interference from the Government and willing to work with the Scottish Tourist Board, but not necessarily under it.

Clause 19, which deals with an entirely different matter—the powers of local authorities to assist community councils—is of some importance in Scotland. Regional authorities are no longer to be authorised to make any kind of financial contribution to the workings of local community councils. I wonder whether that is a wise move. From my experience, certain community councils feel very frustrated by their lack of financial teeth. Some see themselves as surrogate royal burghs and are locked in almost permanent conflict with the new type of local authority structure, which they have never liked, since they wanted the old burgh structure to remain.

Mr. Foulkes

Name names.

Mr. Pollock

If the Government take away any possibility of the regional council providing funds the problem will be exacerbated, because the community councils will feel even more dependent upon the district authority, which they too often regard as their enemy. Will my hon. Friend tell us the reasoning behind the clause?

Mr. Home Robertson

Does the hon. Member agree that it would be more appropriate for community councils to be financed by the Government rather that by local authorities, since they are statutory bodies with statutory duties?

Mr. Pollock

I am not necessarily persuaded by that observation. Certainly the Government could make a contribution, but the important point is that we do not want the money to come only from district level, which is often the level with which the community councils are in conflict. However, these matters can be explored at some length in Committee by those who are selected to serve. I dare say that I may be among them.

I wish the Government well in what they are trying to do. It is unfortunate that many sensible measures in a very good Bill have been overshadowed by the rather phoney attack on the early parts of the Bill from the rump of the Labour Benches, but I am sure that the people of Scotland will realise the value of the measure, which can do only good.

8.32 pm
Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The most important aspect of the Bill is part I. The rest of it may be interesting, but it is largely wrapping around the essential package that the Government are proposing in the Bill to curb the powers and wherewithal of local authorities. The Bill lacks one thing—honesty about the true purpose of the Government's intention.

Mr. Foulkes

Like the Government themselves.

Mr. Craigen

The Bill purports to help ratepayers, but it will do exactly the opposite. In his speech, the Secretary of State talked of completing the legislative changes set in motion by the reorganisation of local government in the last decade to enable the Government to get on with the job. What job does the Secretary of State have in mind for the local authorities? Is it to close down more schools in the evening, so that youth clubs, old-age pensioners and other groups are unable to meet? Is it so that libraries may be closed more frequently during the week, or that swimming pools may be closed in the morning? Is it to raise rents yet again by £2.50? Is it to raise rates? Obviously, there is no intention to reduce the rates in line with the increases in the cost of living.

One purpose would seem to be to produce more redundancies within the local authority sector. I was astounded by the reply that I received the other day from the Secretary of State for Employment that redundancies during the first nine months of 1981 were almost as great as the total number of redundancies in Great Britain in 1979 and 1980. That is the measure of the employment problem.

If the Government want to do something to help the local authorities in Glasgow, let them reduce the present high level of interest rates. The city treasurer in Glasgow, Councillor Robert Gray, who is one of my local district councillors, points out that a 1 per cent. variation in interest rates would save Glasgow £1,750,000. That is the sort of attack that we should like from the Government. An attack on interest rates would considerably help local authorities now.

It has been pointed out that Glasgow needs £45 million next year to maintain services without any improvements. The city authorities have been looking at various retrenchment measures on existing services. I understand that they have devised a scheme that could reduce expenditure by £7 million or £8 million—a 5 per cent. cut—without any compulsory redundancies. However, on the basis of £38 million that they would still have to find, there would be a 40 per cent increase in rates. If that £7 million or £8 million saving could not be made, there would be a 50 per cent. increase in rates. If that saving were spread, there would be a 28 per cent. increase in rent levels and a 28 per cent. increase in rate levels in the city.

All that is in addition to the many pressures that most families are having to face. We are talking not simply about rent and rates. Their disposable incomes are being reduced constantly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Only last week he announced that there is to be an increase in employees' national insurance contributions. We know that there is to be de-indexation for those who do not pay national insurance contributions because they are not in jobs, but their unemployment benefit is to be reduced. Apart from rent and rates increases, the prices of gas and electricity have risen. The cost of living generally has risen under this Government.

The Secretary of State referred to the previous Conservative Government's reorganisation of local government having reduced the number of authorities to 65 as though it was a great master stroke. I suspect that this Administration, with their financial policies, will go down in history as the Government who reduced local authorities to corporate local quislings. Councillors can be elected and can occupy seats in the council chambers, and only as long as they do what the Secretary of State tells them will they be able to do anything. That is serious.

Mr. Foulkes

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State was afraid to accept a challenge from me to appear at a public debate in Tarbolton in his constituency during the by-election to defend his policies on local government? He was unable to be present and, as a result, I am glad to say that the Labour candidate won.

Mr. Craigen

Few of us can keep up with my hon. Friend in his efforts to be the Scot of the Year, but nothing surprises me about the Secretary of State for Scotland.

If the Government intend to run Scottish local government as badly as they are currently running the central Government, we have much to fear. Let us look more closely at the guidelines that the Secretary of State keeps talking about, because they are now becoming almost mandatory. How does the Scottish Office implement the detail of the guidelines? That is important. The local authorities may fix their rates, but the Secretary of State has the power to fix lower rates. The right hon. Gentleman may amend the rate that a local authority has fixed. If he does, the local authority may have to conduct a re-rating exercise with all the consequential costs that would involve.

It was interesting to hear the Secretary of State say that the Stodart review was one Tory election promise which had been kept. It must be one of the few, because many folk are wondering what happened to all the talk about incentives and tax cuts that they heard before the general election. We have had tax increases, but we have had precious little incentive, other than the fact that more people are now out of work. I do not regard the Government's promise as an essential matter in the great vista of what is required in Scottish local government.

I make one comment on the Stodart report, and it relates to the proposal to transfer the powers and duties under the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act 1956, with certain exemptions. Most consumer organisations are completely opposed to the suggestion in clause 18. The administration of legislation relating to food standards, advertising and labelling is an integral part of trading standards legislation. The change will require many retailers to seek advice from two authorities—the district and the regional authorities. Trading standards legislation requires the use of expensive sampling, testing and analytical facilities. We shall end up with a duplication of functions. Moreover, there is no evidence that most people in the field regard the existing procedures as all that unsatisfactory.

The Government seem determined to screw up Scottish local government as much as they have messed up the management of the United Kingdom economy.

8.42 pm
Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)

I refer first to clause 8. I cannot understand why my right hon. Friend has decided to shift the control of tourism from the regional councils to the 37 district and islands councils, bearing in mind especially the efficient way in which most of the regional councils have been carrying out their tourism function.

I draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members to the example of Grampian council, because it covers my constituency. Grampian has one of the largest tourist areas as it stretches right up into Moray. In this connection, I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) that the district councils would be at an advantage in handling tourism. The regional council has the operation in being, and it is ludicrous now to propose having 37 district councils running tourism, with the additional staff that would be required. At a time when we are trying to cut the cost of local government, we are introducing a measure that will greatly increase the number of staff and result in a loss of efficiency.

Bearing in mind the number of regional councils that have built up the strength of their tourism in the years since reorganisation, it would be quite wrong to transfer responsibility for it. I should like to know why my right hon. Friend feels it necessary to take away the powers from the regions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn said that he would like to see the Scottish Tourist Board take more interest in what was going on, in liaison with the British Tourist Authority. If that is the true position, the Scottish Tourist Board has one or two lessons to learn. In one of its recent reports it said that there were no castles in the Grampian area. There are more castles in Grampian than in any other county in Scotland. The same Scottish Tourist Board said that there were no golf courses in Fife. I ask the representative of the Scottish Tourist Board to tour Fife to see some of the well-known golf courses there.

My right hon. Friend should reconsider the proposal to transfer tourism from the regions to the districts. What is proposed would be a retrograde step. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have a second look at the matter, and it would not be a bad idea for him to take the example of Grampian in doing so.

I suggest that a drafting amendment be made in Committee to clause 10, which makes islands and district councils responsible for the provision of caravan sites in accordance with the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, although they will retain their powers to provide sites for gipsies. Might I suggest that we do not refer to the travelling people as gipsies? It would be most welcome if the term "gipsies" were removed from the Bill and replaced by the words "travelling people".

Clause 18 was mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen). I entirely agree with some of his comments. It is clear that the dual responsibility between the region and district will cause considerable confusion. The Scottish Consumer Council and the Retail Consortium said in a memorandum to Members of Parliament that it would mean that the organisations controlling the marketing of food would increase from 12 regions and islands to 62 regions, districts and local authorities. The consumers and the shopkeepers or factories would not know where they stood.

I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the clause. The present system of enforcement has been built up as a national co-ordination mechanism, using the Local Authorities Co-ordination Body on Trading Standards and the Scottish Food, Agriculture and Medicines Joint Liaison Group. That has greatly assisted in the whole question of food standards and inspection of food. The provisions in the Bill will cause great problems for consumers.

The current system of food standards, labelling and advertising under the control of the larger local authorities has existed for many years and is much preferable to what my right hon. Friend proposes. Moreover, that would be in line with what is done in England and Wales. That is better than having a separate arrangement for Scotland. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will give these matters further consideration.

8.49 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian) will acquit me of discourtesy in not having been here for the opening speeches. I had a long-arranged official visit in my capacity as science spokesman to Newcastle polytechnic. That polytechnic had gone to great trouble, and I did not wish to cancel my visit.

I wish to comment on clauses 4 and 6, to address myself quietly to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and to put the problem this way. When I was first elected as a Member of Parliament, there were complaints in 1962 and 1963 from South Queensferry, Bo'ness and Linlithgow in the northern part of the West Lothian constituency, that those areas did not have many of the new schools, community centres and many other facilities that they thought were their due. The reason was simple. Any approach to the old West Lothian county council—a good county council—simply met with the same response. Jimmy Boyle and Peter Walker, the then convener, asked what they could do. They pointed out that, given the coming of the British Motor Corporation, they must provide houses, schools and drains and concentrate all expenditure on making provision for BMC at Whitburn, Blackburn, Bathgate and round that area. That is the background

I shall ask a general question about clauses 4 and 6. Given that background, is it right that local authorities—I shall not wander into the wider issues—that have spent all that money should not be consulted about the disposal of assets? In 1967, major road improvements were undertaken, including the re-alignment of the B792 between Guildyhaugh toll and Blackburn, two major interchanges outside the British Leyland plant and a bridge and dual carriage way on the A8. They were all constructed for the then BMC.

The construction of a new sewage works at Blackburn was necessary, caused to a major extent by the British Leyland plant, the population expansion and the accompanying ancillary industrial development. A new pumping station had to be provided at Mosside, Blackburn and a link sewer was laid from the British Leyland plant to that pumping station and, thereafter to the sewage works. Houses were erected at Murrayfield, Blackburn, principally to accommodate the Glasgow overspill population and incoming workers to the British Leyland plant. Major site works had to be undertaken in advance of house construction. New distribution pipes for the water supply to the British Leyland plant had to be laid. Special waste disposal arrangements had to be made for the plant. That plant and the population expansion necessitated improvements to the cleansing depot at Blackburn and the construction of a refuse incineration plant. Because of the population expansion in the area two new primary schools and two new senior secondary schools were built at Blackburn and other schools were built at Whitburn and Bathgate. In addition, 120 acres of the Whitehill estate were built at the direct instigation of the Board of Trade.

Those are the details. I hope that the Secretary of State will pay attention, because I must extend the argument from the particular to the general. Should drains laid, sewers constructed, pumping stations planned, waste disposal units worked out, homes built, schools inaugurated, roads renovated, site works excavated, cleansing depots opened, refuse incineration revised and tunnels tunnelled be considered as of no account, in the sale of assets when, to a greater or lesser extent the expense for such items has fallen on local ratepayers?

I do not wish to wander on to the problems of Linwood, but the same issue can be raised in relation to what has happened in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). Therefore, the problem is not unique. I am grateful for the Secretary of State's courteous attention because he can shorten my speech if he is prepared to answer the following question. Is the Scottish Office prepared to make available to the Comptroller and Auditor General's Inquiry and to the Audit Department—as I understand the Department of Industry and British Leyland are—any papers that it holds? This is not the occasion to taunt the Secretary of State if he is not prepared to answer, but it would be extremely courteous of him to comment. If he is prepared to follow the Department of Industry—which, I understand, has given its promise today—and British Leyland in giving full access to Scottish Office records to the Comptroller and Auditor General, that would be a great step forward.

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I appreciate that he would have given me notice of that question if he had had time. I shall examine what he says carefully and give him an answer as soon as possible.

Mr. Dalyell

That is a reasonable reply. Access by the most heavyweight auditors in the public service is of great importance.

What must be understood from that carefully worded speech last Monday is that whatever might be taken out of it, and no matter which phrases are quoted out of context, the feeling this weekend in Bathgate was intense. The Secretary of State nods his head. He can understand that the air must be cleared.

In a reply the Under-Secretary of State for Industry said: BL has made the decision to sell its tractor interests, and a purchaser has been identified, on a commercial basis, and it would not be appropriate for the Government to be involved. I dispute that philosophy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton was deeply involved in the affairs of Linwood and Bathgate. Since when has there been a change in policy? I am not sure that it is entirely a party matter, but an important policy decision is involved.

In the terms of the Bill the local authorities who have given so much money might say that, even if it were unrealistic for them to be consulted, at least the Government, as guardians of the public purse, should be consulted. I received a reply from the Department of Industry which stated: Government funding of BL is provided for the company's investment and restructuring programmes generally. Details of other public investment in BL tractor production—for example, by way of regional development grants—are not available except at disproportionate cost. It is for the company to reveal the amount of investment in any particular activity, and the improvements which this has provided."—[Official Report, 26 November 1981, Vol. 13, c. 445–6.] Local authorities are trying to gain some estimate. Mr. David Morrison of the West Lothian council and his predecessor now retired, Mr. John Calder, have given me reasonably accurate figures. Is it really possible, with all the information available to Government, that there cannot be a fairly rough estimate of how much public money has gone into a major plant? There is a strong feeling that the people who have contributed most are the British taxpayer and the people of the area. Surely in the corpus of knowledge in the Scottish Office there must be some rough idea of how many millions of pounds have been poured into the plant.

That brings us back to last Thursday, a week ago. I was genuinely taken aback when, courteously, my right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton and I waited until a certain point in the Secretary of State's speech when we simply said "Leyland". The Secretary of State went on, having not heard me properly, to say "Mr. David Andrews, whoever he may be."

That revealed that apparently the Scottish Office had no proper consultation on a matter of vital industrial interest. If the Secretary of State made a slip of the tongue and if we had the wrong end of the stick, let us be told. If there were consultations I should welcome an interruption now because I should like the matter to be cleared up. If there were consultations between the Leyland top management and Ministers, or their most senior advisers, before the events of Friday week, let us be told, because that would be helpful. I should give way immediately to the Under-Secretary if he wished to put us right.

I am slightly alarmed that I am not being asked to give way because I have asked a fairly simple question that should be answered. I interpret the absence of a reply as an indication that Scottish Office Ministers were not in contact with the top management at Leyland. That point must be brought to the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Audit t epartment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), the longest—serving Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee since the war, with whom I discussed the matter in some detail, said that it was the job of the Audit Department to follow the scent of public money wherever it may lead. Not only dribbles but vast amounts of public money are involved. We are talking not about some minor institution but about what Lord Ryder called only two years ago one of the jewels in the Leyland crown. No one complains about the quality of the product.

The Secretary of State for Industry said today, in vexed terms, that I should not have made the speech that I did. From the accounts of what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, he took my remarks slightly out of context. We are dealing with complex issues, so I suppose that no politician can complain about being taken slightly out of context, but I worded my speech with considerable care and it was not as apparently was made out by the Secretary of State for Industry. He talks about ordinary commercial transactions. Surely some say in "ordinary commercial transactions" is due to those who have coughed up much of the money. In this case local government has coughed up much of the money.

I asked the Secretary of State today whether he has given any encouragement to British Leyland as part of the privatisation policy of Her Majesty's Government to prepare parts of British Leyland vehicles as packages for sale in optimum condition. The right hon. Gentleman replied that My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Industry said in his statement of 26 January 1981 announcing the Government's approval of BL's 1981 corporate plan, that the Government supported the BL board's intention of creating viable businesses and of attracting private capital into them. That situation has not changed. It has also long been BL's policy to dispose of its mainstream businesses, and we agree with this policy. If the Government believe that the tractor building operation by the only remaining British-owned, volume tractor producer is not a mainstream business—[Interruption.] I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) if he wishes to intervene. Throughout these agonised days, as a former convener of a major motor works, he has been extremely helpful to me.

Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that when the corporate plan was put to Government and accepted, built into it—so a denial of knowledge is no good now—was the disposal of Bathgate?

Mr. John MacKay

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I attended the debate until about 8 o'clock, at which time I went out to dine. When I left the Chamber we were discussing the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Bill. I do not seem to have returned to that Bill. We are miles away from its clauses.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. It is a wide open debate on the Second Reading. I am listening very carefully and I hope that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will relate his speech to the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Dalyell

I have not been out to dine. Quite frankly, the problems of British Leyland are more important than my dinner.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is due to speak at 9.5 pm. If the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) believes that major factory closures, apparently undertaken without the prior knowledge of Government, are not matters of immediate and desperate concern to local authorities, who have put in vast amounts of their own money and attracted vast amounts of Government money, is not pertinent to the Bill, all Opposition Members would disagree with him. We believe that the relationship between local authorities, industrial payments and the disposal of assets, leading to unemployment rates of nearly one in four—[Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Argyll laughs. At my surgery in Armadale on Saturday, and again when I spent many hours at a sale of work in Bathgate in the afternoon, person after person expressed his worries to me. They are the same worries as are expressed about Linwood, Coventry and many other areas. It is those worries that lead me to raise the subject in such detail, a matter for which I make no apology.

9.5 pm

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) knows, I, too, am interested in British Leyland, as in my constituency I have the Albion truck plant. The points that my hon. Friend made in his characteristically persistent fashion are extremely relevant to the state of West Central Scotland, to the local authorities there and to everyone else who lives in the area. He need make no apology for raising the matter.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who took the problem seriously and said that he would reply in writing soon. I look forward to seeing the answer. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman believes that it is a major issue, whatever may be the attitude of the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) and of some of his hon. Friends.

I recognise that in a way this has been an anti-climatic day for members of the Stodart committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When the sheep have stopped baaing, I shall explain exactly what I mean.

The members of the committee have laboured long and hard to produce a worthwhile report full of interesting and relevant recommendations, but inevitably those recommendations have to some extent been swept away by the pressure of argument about the first part of the Bill, which has roused justified anger throughout Scotland, particularly among those connected with or knowledgeable about local government. The anger has been heightened by the disastrous financial prospects for local government which have become all too clear in the past few days. A grim and dreary winter lies ahead, and the responsibility for that lies squarely on the desk of the Secretary of State.

We shall not have time in this debate to deal with all the Stodart recommendations in detail, although I hope that there will be time to do justice to them in Committee. I wish to mention only one or two, even if in somewhat shorthand form. My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) referred to clause 18, which deals with the transfer to district authorities of certain powers under the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act 1956. From the lobbying and the meetings the Minister will be aware that there is already a lively debate on the issue and that a broad alliance, if I can call it such, of the Scottish Consumer Council, the Retail Consortium and the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, has come together to persuade hon. Members—on what is not really a party issue—that the proposals in the Bill do not make sense.

I accept the prima facie case against splitting weights and measures, trade description and food labelling, which are to remain with the region, from food and drugs matters. Despite the fact that Stodart recommended it, it is not clear that the realignment makes sense and will lead to improved efficiency and economy. I give notice that we shall look at the matter in considerable detail in Committee.

Clause 45 deals with a fag-end from the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act. Again, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton made clear, in Committee we shall vigorously oppose the suggestion that there should be a transfer of discretion from local government to the Lands Tribunal. We do not like the machinery and we do not like the concept in the Act, but leaving that aside for the moment—if we accept that it is on the statute book—the job of the Lands Tribunal is to expedite conveyancing or to arbitrate if there are disputes. It should not be invited, as a judicial body, to take on board the discretion allowed to local authorities under the Act to vary the amount of discount in special cases. That is another departure from the powers that should lie with local government. We shall want to examine that matter in great detail.

The points about the rating of outside plant, provided for in clause 3, have been well made. I expect that the Minister will think about them. No doubt the Under-Secretary also will have something to say. We do not object in principle to the idea that the apparent anomaly between England and Scotland should be eradicated and that rating of outside plant should be put on the same basis as it is south of the border. Paragraph 9 of the explanatory and financial memorandum states: The provisions relating to the valuation of plant and machinery (Clause 3), and any orders made thereunder, will not lead to any increase in public expenditure, although orders may be made which will lead to a redistribution of the rates burden. In plain English, that appears to mean that the Government intend that the shortfall—in some areas it will be a considerable shortfall—from the derating of outside plant and machinery will fall upon the remainder of the ratepaying community, whether industrial or domestic. That is wholly and universally unacceptable to every area that will be affected. The Government must reconsider, or they will create—yet again—a genuine financial crisis in local government.

I wish to raise a matter that is not included in the Bill, although I had hoped that it would be. As far back as 13 January this year, the Minister said that he was considering whether the quinquennial revaluation should take place in 1983 and whether he should use his powers under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981. He said that he would let us know in a matter of weeks or, at most, months. We have now reached a farcical stage. The staff in the assessor's department have no idea whether they should be doing the essential work that should be in hand if the quinquennial revaluation is to take place. The Minister coyly shelters behind silence and refuses to explain the position.

I understand that the Conservative Party may have made pledges about rating reform that it will find hard to implement. However, the Minister must tell us what is happening with the quinquennial revaluation, and he must do so this year. I would like him to tell us now. Otherwise, the assessor's department will be left in a hopeless state of confusion through no fault of its own.

I wish to deal with one or two of the points made in the debate. Obviously, there will be a series of debates in Committee on the proposals for attracting industry and the intention that that should be left to regional councils. I recognise the caveat about the building of advance factories and the advertising of factories of which regional councils are the landlords. The provisions as drawn are restrictive and will lead to a great deal of annoyance, irritation and frustration, especially in the larger district councils in Scotland. It is a persistent theme of the Government's local government legislation that there is a far too restrictive concept. Even the regions, if they wish to be active in that area, must ask the Secretary of State for his permission. That is a "Big Brother" attitude that we can do without. The Secretary of State, in one of his unhappy lapses into phrase-making, said that he hoped that local authorities would reap the harvest fruits of promotional activities. We all wish them to reap the harvest fruits, but their chances of doing so will be limited if we put them into the straitjacket that is presently envisaged.

Exactly the same point about restrictions arises on clause 8, which deals with tourism. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) said that he understood that we could not go as far as Stodart suggested and that it would be impossible to give more Scottish voice to the promotion of the tourist industry abroad. In Committee, we shall ask exactly why we cannot give impetus to the selling of Scotland in the tourist area. The same point arises in relation to the Locate in Scotland Bureau. I hope that I am right in assuming that the Secretary of State is currently fighting hard to ensure that the Scottish Development Agency's offices in North America will survive in coming years.

These are issues which will arise and to which we shall wish to return. I say right away—I make no apologies for doing so—that part I of the Bill worries the Opposition most. It is another example of the Government's overwhelming enthusiasm and ability to restrict, curtail, cabin and confine local government in Scotland. Local government will be pushed into a position where its room to manoeuvere and independence will be radically restricted.

I can remember—perhaps it is a sign of increasing age—the themes of yesteryear when Conservatives were the great champions of local democracy and independence. Sometimes we heard rather pompous speeches about local councils being peopled with sturdy Hampdens and independents. While Conservative Members recognised an unfortunate insistence by people to vote Labour in Scotland, at least they had the courage of their convictions to say that people had a right to elect local representatives to control local affairs. That is rhetoric that, understandably, we seldom hear from the Conservative Benches today. There was just a whisper of it from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West—a faint echo in the distance—when he spoke of the "freedom of the people" It is extremely difficult to deal in that type of rhetoric in view of the provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981 and the Bill before the House today. There is no more important area of democracy than local government.

Attempts were made—the Secretary of State was at it again tonight—to suggest that the 1981 Act dealt with relaxations of control. That is an empty farce, brass neck of the most perverse sort. Local authorities have been told that they will have greater freedom to allow the sale of methylated spirits and to charge more for cremations. There are a few minor and archaic matters of that type. On the other side, the local authorities have been stripped of all the essential financial powers that mark local democracy if local democracy is to mean anything. Despite the laughter and frivolity of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), I believe that part I of the Bill is a further example of the arbitrary, damaging and essentially unnecessary legislation that has been foisted on local government by this set of Ministers.

I shall examine the origins of part I of the Bill, because that is relevant to what we are considering. It has, of course, its typically amending legislation. It is an opaque piece of legislation in which complexity has been piled upon complexity. Its origins are in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act and the power which the Secretary of State took to claw back, at his whim, from the rate support grant of any local authority during the course of the financial year. The trouble was that the grand design unveiled in that legislation was unworkable.

At a very late stage in the Bill—on Report—the Minister came hurrying forward with two important provisions which he had forgotten in his confusion when the Bill was originally cobbled together. It was only on Report that the power to reduce the rate poundage and a block on borrowing powers to make up a shortfall were introduced. If it has worked at all—and in a sense the Minister is right in saying that it has—it has been at enormous cost to the fabric of local government and to trust between central and local government and to the great disadvantage of the ratepayers. It worked only because of the late patching by the Minister on Report.

Having got it together in a kind of way, the Secretary of State and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State the hon. Member for Pentlands were not satisfied. The great machismo exercise of being beastly to local government demanded more. We had the flirtation with the referendum. The Secretary of State will recall that he told COSLA that he had made up his mind to go ahead with the referendum in Scottish legislation, presumably as some kind of back-up power for the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act. Then, as we all recall, the universal opposition throughout the Scottish community drove him from that position. He turned, he scuttled and he ran—and the referendum died the death. Conservative Members may laugh, but that is exactly what happened.

Having scuttled from the referendum, the Secretary of State then came up with the mechanism included in part I of the Bill. This has been presented to us as a technical change, a tidying-up mechanism about which we should not get too excited—merely a matter of forcing a repayment to the ratepayers. That is how it is presented, but the Secretary of State is taking power directly to set the rate poundage for an individual local authority despite the opposition of elected local councillors who wish a different rate policy to be followed.

One may argue about individual cases and whether councillors are right or wrong. One may argue that if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or any other hon. Member had been a councillor on a specific local authority, a different decision would have been reached. That is a legitimate area for dispute. But if I or anyone else in the position of a local councillor would have done something different, it is no excuse—indeed, it is a total non sequitur—to say that local government should therefore be overridden by the central Government and that, merely because the Government disagree with what local councillors are doing, they should destroy the power of local councillors to act responsibly in the name of the electors to whom they are responsible. Yet that is what we are invited to contemplate in this legislation.

I find it almost impossible to understand how some of the speeches that we have heard in the course of this long debate could possible have been made. Early in the debate, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) told us that part I of the Bill was a measure to protect ratepayers, and that theme has been constantly reiterated by other Conservative Members. Let us consider the protection involved and what the results of its operation have been and are likely to be.

I take one example. It is not the only one. If the present Ministers continue in office, there will probably be more. Let us assume that a local authority has not paid back to the ratepayers money forced from them due to a threatened clawback in rate support grant. We have been told that the failure to pay back to the ratepayers is morally indefensible and politically reprehensible. Indeed, in a recent debate, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), the chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, described it rather picturesquely as "robbery". In a sense, I am prepared to accept that term, because the proceeds of robbery, if such it be, are now in the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

During the debates on the miscellaneous provisions legislation and subsequently, the local authorities were told that they had the choice of paying or not paying back to the ratepayers. That was specifically defended as part of the Government's plans. They then made the great mistake of exercising that choice in a way that Ministers did not like, and it was promptly taken from them.

But it was not a choice. The choice was represented by the hon. Member for Argyll, who sometimes seems not to know the meaning of the English language, as paying back to the ratepayers or to the Chancellor. There was no choice about paying the Chancellor. The Chancellor viciously clawed the money from them. He removed it forcibly from the local authority and has kept it in his Treasury. It has not been left with the local authority at all. Our contention is that if it is morally reprehensible that the £30 million has not been paid back, it is for Ministers to ensure that it is repaid, perhaps in terms of next year's rate support grant, to Lothian or to any other authority in that position. It is nothing less than hypocrisy to suggest otherwise.

I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced by the Government. The real reason, it seems, why the Government will not pay back the money in their possession is that the wicked and irresponsible councillors of the Lothian region would promptly spend it on services in the interests of the ratepayers. The Government may dispute that that is wise. They may disapprove of such action by the Lothian region. I should have thought that there were ways round the problem if they were so worried. To take things at their worst, from the Government's view, what would happen if the £30 million was wasted on keeping nursery schools open, keeping bus fares low or improving social work services?

The "unfortunate" Lothian ratepayers are told that they would be forced to have better services for £30 million. The offer by the Government, as a means of protection for the ratepayers, is that they will not get the payment in their pockets or the services for which they have paid. They will be left with nothing. Yet the Government have the cheek to say that they are protecting the ratepayers. The Government have the money. They should make it available, perhaps for lower rates next year or for better services. In either respect, the ratepayers of Lothian or any other authority would then be getting something. As it is, they are being robbed by the Government.

I wish to deal with one other definition of the term protection of the ratepayers. The cry is heard that during the last two years rates have spiralled by amounts above 30 per cent. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton made that basic point self-evident, a piping cry was heard from the Secretary of State for Scotland "Whose fault was that?" I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman. It was the right hon. Gentleman's own fault. Those high rates have been forced on Labour, Conservative, and independent authorities by his unreasonable guidelines and by the fact that he has been constantly cutting, in a manner that cannot be justified, the level of support for local authority services in Scotland.

Looking at the signs and portents for the year ahead, there is nothing to be complacent about. It is difficult to compare figures because of the difference in the accounting base. It is, however, known that no proper provision has been made for inflation. It is known that local authorities will face clawbacks from last year and the previous year for times when the books are closed and the money has been spent. It is known that the rate support grant is coming down by 21½ per cent.

I know of no responsible or impartial person who does not accept that, due to Government policies, a third year of very substantial rate rises will be forced upon local authorities by the Government, whose supporters have the cheek to prate about the protection of the ratepayers. The hon. Member for Pentlands comes forward with bland and sometimes, I am afraid, weasel words. He was reported in the Glasgow Herald as saying that if local authorities moderate their expenditure, guidelines can be achieved without any problems. I stress the words "moderate" and "without any problems". No one believes that. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman, to be fair to him, believes it either.

I notice, for example, that Mr. Fitzgerald, the chairman of COSLA and a well-known member of the Conservative Party, drew attention in the same newspaper to the situation in Tayside—a Conservative-controlled authority. Mr. Fitzgerald rightly said that Tayside had tried hard to obey the Government's dictates and guidelines. Looking at the news that is now known, he had to say, sadly, that Tayside will find things very difficult indeed. Mr. Fitzgerald is to be congratulated on his mastery of the understatement. It will be very, very difficult indeed.

I refer to the Edinburgh district council because it has already been referred to by more than one hon. Member. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West said that he was glad that the district council would get responsibility for more recreation facilities under the Stodart provisions. Why should he be glad? On Saturday The Scotsman stated that a private agreement had been reached among Conservative councillors and that £7½ million would have to be cut next year in order to meet the targets forced on the Secretary of State by the Treasury. According to The Scotsman, which is probably well informed, the cuts will be found "in leisure and recreation". For example, the shopping list includes the almost complete closure of the King's theatre, cutting 33 per cent. of the festival grant, closure of the Commonwealth pool except for afternoons, the virtual ending of all putting and tennis, the closing of half a dozen libraries and the loss of about 400 jobs.

We hear that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South is worried about his home town's capital city status. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) told us that leisure and recreation would be the biggest growth industry. Under Tory control of the Edinburgh district council, which is whipped on by the financial prejudices of the Secretary of State, leisure and recreation will be almost killed if the propositions are put into effect.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that no decision has been made to close any facilities in Edinburgh? All that is under consideration is a variety of options, and no final decision has been made.

Mr. Dewar

Goodness gracious me! If we had more time I would invite the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West to give me his selection from the hit list—the shopping list—that has been drawn up. Many of the targets will be victims of what has been enforced by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on his constituency in Edinburgh.

I accept that there can be difficulties in local authority terms for any Government, and that any Government, have a right to vary their contribution. However, I do not believe that what we are now seeing can possibly be justified. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) abused us for being half-hearted in our opposition and incited us to be outrageous. That is not sensible advice. I prefer to try to win with the argument and he should not try to tempt us to desert rational argument for outrage. If that is what he wants from the Opposition he is a very unwise man.

Within the House rules, in Committee, on Report, and on Third Reading, we shall protest that the Government are enforcing high rates and poorer services on local government. That can be put right, but I must warn Conservative Members that the damage being done to the structure and morale of local government is very real. Local government will become irresponsible if it is stripped of its essential power to rate to meet local needs and to answer for that to the electorate. That is the crux of local democracy and is exactly what has been struck at by the legislation.

The problems could be prevented if Conservative members had the smeddum to stand up for their principles and what they believe in. However, I am afraid that we shall not see that. They could dissuade Ministers from their thrawn and determined attempts to damage local democracy in Scotland. I hope that they will do that before it is too late.

9.33 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

There are 59 clauses in the Bill and four schedules. To judge by the Opposition speeches during the debate, it would appear that they are more or less happy with at least 57 of the clauses and all four schedules. Their hostility, opposition and indignation have been directed at one modest little clause. The House should remember what this modest little clause is about. It will do something that others have striven to do—unite the parliamentary Labour Party. Not only will it unite the Labour Party but it will take the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties with it. This modest little clause provides that if money is raised from the ratepayers, and if the local authority is unable, because of a decision by this House under existing legislation, to spend that money the money will go back to the ratepayers. If the Opposition had their way they would be able to insist that in certain circumstances the money went to the Government and the Treasury instead. That is the implication of clause 1. Nothing that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and his hon. Friends have said to obfuscate the issue conceals that basic fact.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) is often said to be an aspirant Treasury Minister. I never expected him to be aiding the Treasury in this Parliament in the way in which he and his hon. Friends appear to wish to do.

The hon. Member for Garscadden said that his proposals are logical if one wishes to defend local democracy. I simply say to him that he reminds me of something that was once said about Sir John Simon—that he has a logical mind: he starts from a false premise and unerringly moves to the wrong conclusion.

I shall deal in more detail with the case made by the Opposition against clause 1, but I begin by addressing certain remarks to what is, arguably, the much more important part of the Bill—part II, containing the provisions dealing with the recommendations of the Stodart committee.

The Stodart committee's recommendations were widely accepted by the public and the bulk of local authorities. It is very much in the interests of all concerned that my noble Friend Lord Stodart will be able to take part in the debates in the other House on the recommendations that he and his colleagues, from all parties and all parts of Scotland, have put forward.

As has been mentioned during the debate, the basic proposition that has been put forward by the Stodart committee, and accepted by the Government, is that the various areas of concurrency that exist, and have existed in the local government structure since the reorganisation of local government, should, for the most part, be removed and the responsibilities concentrated in one or other areas.

One matter about which a substantial number of hon. Members have spoken is industrial responsibility, industrial promotion and industrial development. The House will be aware that while the Government accepted the vast majority of the Stodart recommendations, we did not think it right to accept the recommendations on industrial development, because the vast majority of district councils have been doing an excellent job on industrial development, and as a consequence the work that they have been doing has been recognised as important to their local economy. The Government do not wish to do anything that would in any way inhibit local authorities from carrying on with their industrial development work.

Mr. Dalyell

When talking about industrial development, may we take it that the Minister has the authority to say that on the Leyland issue the Scottish Office will open its files to the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Rifkind

I am replying to a debate on the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Bill, and I intend to confine my remarks to the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."' I know that most hon. Gentlemen may not be terribly interested in the Bill, although they have decided to oppose it tonight, but—

Mr. Foulkes

Oh, come off it.

Mr. Rifkind

—that is the matter to which I intend to reply.

The one significant area for which the districts will no longer have responsibility is the promotion of industry overseas. I think that the vast majority of people who have considered this matter will accept that there would be a risk of substantial confusion if representatives of both regions and districts were overseas promoting the same cause, thereby confusing potential investors, without any legitimate interest in the local Scottish economy.

The hon. Member for Garscadden said that the requirement to obtain consent from the Secretary of State for overseas promotion by regions could lead to serious problems. I give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that has been given before. This requirement for consent will be applied in the most flexible and reasonable fashion. It is not meant to be an inhibition on promotion overseas by regions. It is, rather, intended to ensure the proper co-ordination of their activities, and that is in the interest of the regions and of the Scottish economy as a whole.

The question of tourism has been raised by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) and for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). The Scottish Tourist Board already can, informally, through negotiations and discussions with the British Tourist Authority, achieve what my hon. Friends have sought and thereby be involved in overseas activities. But it would not be possible to give the sort of specific power envisaged to the Scottish Tourist Board without giving comparable powers to the English and Welsh tourist boards. While that might be desirable in the view of some people, it would be a much more radical change, involving the likely departure of the British Tourist Authority, and that is not something to which some hon. Members have properly addressed their attention.

My hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) and for Edinburgh, West made a familiar case for seeking all-purpose or most-purpose status for the city of Edinburgh. It has been acknowledged by the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), and by my hon. Friends the Members for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) and for Argyll (Mr. McKay) that there are other parts of Scotland that seek a similar change in the responsibilities of their own local authorities. The very fact that we have had these suggestions from several hon. Members representing different parts of Scotland, illustrates the conclusion that the Government themselves came to when we determined the criteria of the Stodart committee. We decided that it would be impossible to give serious consideration to the creation of an all-purpose authority unless one were prepared to consider again the complete reorganisation of local government, so shortly after the first.

As a former member of the old Edinburgh town council when it was an all-purpose authority, I freely concede that Edinburgh—and, no doubt, other cities—could, if it so determined, properly fulfil all the responsibilities of an all-purpose authority. I have no doubt that Edinburgh and Glasgow in particular could fulfil that administrative function. It may also be a possibility for other areas and cities.

Hon. Members on each side of the House have to recognise that one could not conceive of the retention of the existing regions if the cities, which for many of them are the heart of their areas, were removed from those regions. I accept that certain of my hon. Friends from the city of Edinburgh might view with some equanimity the possibility of Lothian council relinquishing its regional functions. I am sure that they will also accept that it would not be a proper basis from which to embark on another reorganisation of local government. Therefore, we had to conclude—and I hope that the House will agree—that this was not a proper basis on which to consider a substantial change.

Mr. Maclennan

The Government are apparently shortly to produce a consultative paper on the financing of local government and are reviewing the whole question of rates. Why are the Government repeating the mistake that was made in the 1970s of considering the reform of the financing separately from the structure of local government? Would it not make more sense to go into these things at the same time?

Mr. Rifkind

There is a theoretical attraction in the idea that somehow one can produce a massive study and document and reform both the structure and financing of local government simultaneously. There is no reason in principle why one should not hope to be able to do that. However, the hon. Gentleman himself should appreciate that they are two separate issues. Conclusions on structure do not necessarily determine the proper financing of local authorities. While there is no objection in principle to the matters being considered simultaneously, there is equally no necessity to do so, and I certainly do not believe that progress on one should be delayed to consider the other.

The Government have fully accepted the Stodart committee's recommendations on recreation and leisure. Most hon. Members accept that often concurrency of responsibility for recreation and leisure has led to an unnecessary and undesirable competition between regions and districts, each offering comparable services to the locality in a way that does not make the best use of the resources. That has created problems. The concentration of leisure and recreation in one authority is a principle that has been widely accepted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, the right hon. Member for Craigton and several other hon. Members referred to the problems of community centres and education. The Government have approached this matter in a flexible way, and community centres—particularly those that involve community education—will continue to have the involvement of regional councils. We fully appreciate that where there is an education or social work content in the activities of a community centre it is right and proper for the region to continue to be involved.

Several hon. Members referred to clause 3 and to the provision to allow for the derating of external plant and machinery. I emphasise that clause 3 is not a decisive clause in itself. It simply provides an order-making power for the Secretary of State, and any order would require the affirmative resolution of both Houses.

As my right hon. Friend said, we are involved in discussions with the local authorities concerned, with industry and with other interested parties. I freely accept that if the decisions were implemented in a bald fashion, with no other changes taking place, there would be substantial financial problems for a small number of authorities in which a large proportion of the premises are situated. To some extent these authorities might benefit from an increase in their resources element entitlement, but that would not in itself solve the problem to which the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) and others referred.

As the hon. Member for Garscadden appreciated, there are various ways in which one could consider dealing with the problem, either by rearranging the problem within the industrial sector—if one wished to preserve the industrial to domestic ration of rating liability—lor by other ways that are presently under consideration. The Government have come to no firm conclusion at this stage on the proper way in which one should pursue the matter. I assure the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) that we do not intend to come to a conclusion or to present an order to the House until all the other implications of such a change are fully known and understood.

Mr. Dewar

I accept that there may be a number of ingenious permutations whereby the load can be distributed among the other ratepayers. We want a clear commitment that a large part of the burden will be carried by the Exchequer, and not placed on the ratepayer.

Mr. Rifkind

We are dealing with an anomaly within the rating system. In removing an anomaly, only in certain circumstances would it be appropriate to expect the national Exchequer to finance something that resulted from the distribution of rating liability among the authorities. We shall have further opportunities to consider this matter.

Mr. Douglas

If I understand the Under-Secretary correctly, he bases his case on the removal of an anomaly. I suppose that the Government, in removing that anomaly, base their case on a certain principle. Is that principle that no local authority that has gained revenue from industrial premises will suffer loss of revenue as a result of the Government's decision to ameliorate rates in relation to the petrochemical developments?

Mr. Rifkind

I am not able to give the specific and unqualified guarantee that the hon. Gentleman seeks, but we accept that one cannot simply derate the premises and do nothing else. There must be other consequential changes to ensure that the problems identified by the hon. Member for Dunfermline do not arise.

Mr. Millan

The Minister has said that there are a number of different ways of dealing with the derating question, but in the explanatory and financial memorandum there is no provision for any Government contribution. We have been asking today whether there is to be a Government contribution.

Mr. Rifkind

I have already said to the right hon. Member that because we are dealing with an anomaly of distribution of rating liability within the local authorities, it is highly improbable that there will be any Government contribution. [Interruption.] Labour Members quote from the Bill, which says that there will be no Government responsibility, and then they express astonishment when I confirm that fact. Labour Members take some persuading, even when something appears on the face of the Bill.

I deal next with the rather predictable remarks of the right hon. Member for Craigton about the announcements on rate support grant that were made last week. He suggested that the high rates increases that we have seen over many parts of Scotland in the last year have been the consequence, not of any local decisions taken by high-spending local authorities, but entirely of Government policy on the rate support grant.

Mr. Millan

indicated assent.

Mr. Rifkind

The right hon. Gentleman confirms that view.

I have some very interesting information for the right hon. Gentleman. If he were correct, it would require some explanation. When we compare what has happened in the last year to the rates in the various regions with what has happened in the major cities that dominate those regions—and in three of the four regions there is a different political control of the major city compared with that of the regional council—we see some dramatic differences.

In Grampian region, controlled by the Conservative Party, the rates increase for the current year was 11.9 per cent. In Aberdeen, the major city of that region, controlled by the Labour party, the figure was 43.5 per cent. In Lothian region, controlled by the Labour Party, there was a rates increase of 49.3 per cent. In Edinburgh, the major city of that region, contriolled by the Conservative party, the rates increase was 15.4 per cent. In Tayside, a Conservative-controlled region, the rates increase was high, at 36.4 per cent., but in Dundee, the major city of that region, controlled by the Labour Party, it was 150 per cent.

The only part of Scotland where the rates increases in the region and in the major city of the region were comparable were Strathclyde and Glasgow, where in both cases the rates increases were 37 per cent.—and both are controlled by the Labour Party. Therefore, there is the extraordinary coincidence that although they are both under the same Government, both under the same rate support grant and both have the same grant percentage, at the end of the day the rates increases are virtually double in Labour-controlled areas.

Mr. Dewar

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is playing with the statistics in order to get out of a difficulty? If he takes into account such matters as council house rent policy, for example, he will get a very different picture and part of the explanation that he is seeking. Does he really challenge the universal view of local government in COSLA, irrespective of political persuasion, that the Government have been putting a totally unreasonable squeeze on local government finance? To deny that is to fly in the face of the full facts and all experience.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman cannot escape the fact that he has just heard, which is that in every Conservative-controlled authority the rates increases were less than half those of the Labour-controlled authorities.

When the hon. Member for Craigton gave his celebrated interview with The Scotsman a few days before the rate support grant settlement was made, he was asked what he would do if he were Secretary of State dealing with high-spending local authorities. He was asked: How would the former Scottish Secretary of State set about the task of ensuring that local authority spending did not jeopardise the Government's overall economic strategy? The right hon. Gentleman replied: Central Government must try to persuade councils to work within certain parameters". Very good, we all try to persuade them. The right hon. Gentleman was then asked what happens if persuasion does not work. He was candid, and said: Central Governments already have effective weapons which they can use to try to influence the level of council spending, like reducing the percentage of rate support grant. Last Monday the right hon. Gentleman advised us to reduce the percentage grant. On Wednesday we accepted his advice, and on Thursday he complained about it.

Mr. Millan

That is, of course, absolute rubbish.

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question that I asked earlier today? The response that the Government get from local authorities depends more than anything on the reasonableness of the request that they make. What we have been saying for the last two and a half years, and what we are now saying, is that the Government have made unreasonable demands of local authorities and that they are in no position to meet them. That is why we are getting these massive rate increases. Will the hon. Gentleman therefore answer the question that I asked him this afternoon?

South of the border, local authorities in England are being asked to reduce their real expenditure by at least 4 per cent. next year. I believe that it will be nearer 7 per cent. What is the reduction that the Government are demanding of Scottish local authorities in their real expenditure in 1982–83? Will he at last come clean and tell the House?

Mr. Rifkind

The right hon. Gentleman is anxious to avoid commenting on his own recommendations given two days before the Government accepted his advice. He cannot escape that consequence.

When we are dealing with the decision of the Opposition to vote against clause 1—[Interruption.] I am dealing with the Bill, which is not what the right hon. Gentleman is interested in—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. It is convenient if the Chair can hear something.

Mr. Rifkind

When, last year, we provided for local authorities the right to reduce their rates as an alternative to losing rate support grant, we were told by the Opposition that this was an unworkable policy and one that could not be achieved. Yet we found that one local authority, Renfrew district council—a Labour authority—repaid £1 million to its ratepayers and as a consequence did not lose a penny of rate support grant.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Rifkind

No. I am sorry. If the right hon. Member for Craigton had not taken five minutes to make an intervention, I should have had time to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

We now face the situation that about £30 million which could have gone back to Lothian ratepayers, and which would have been worth not less than £43 to every ratepayer, was not paid. As a consequence, Lothian regional council has to accept the sole responsibility for that decision.

Labour Members have argued that the basis of their opposition to clause 1 and the requirement to reduce rates in the interests of the ratepayer is their defence of local democracy. They argue that they believe in local democracy and that that is why they ask the House to vote against these measures. It is rather ironic that today of all days, when they put forward proposals in favour of local democracy, should be the day when a local candidate of the Labour Party, chosen by his local party, has been repudiated on the diktat of the party leader in party headquarters.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Rifkind

I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman about that.

Mr. Dewar

I had no idea that the Minister was so desperate to find a diversion from the facts. He has three minutes. Will he answer my right hon. Friend's question? He must know the answer. He can give it in a short compass. What is the real reduction that has been demanded in local authority spending for next year? We demand to know.

Mr. Rifkind

Last year, when we said what the relevant expenditure would be for 1981–82, we also said that for 1982–83 there would be a further 2 per cent. cut. The effect of last week's announcement is that we are not proposing that further 2 per cent. cut. The Opposition have seen the figures, and they may wish to bear them in mind.

We are delighted that the Labour Party, the Liberals—

Mr. Douglas

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to mislead the House by suggesting that in England there will be a cut and that in Scotland there will not be?

Mr. Rifkind

We are delighted that the Labour Party, the Liberals, the Social Democrats and perhaps the Scottish National Party will be voting against clause 1, because the country will know, as the House knows, that it is not the other 57 clauses that concern them. So determined are they to ensure that ratepayers will not benefit when a local authority cannot reduce its expenditure that they will march in a solid phalanx against these measures.

We are delighted to put forward the proposals, which will benefit the ratepayer, which will be popular in Scotland, and which will be recognised as a real contribution to helping the problems of the hard-pressed ratepayer. I am happy to commend the Bill to the House.

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

The House divided: Ayes 301, Noes 244.

Division No. 15] [10.00 pm
Adley, Robert Cadbury, Jocelyn
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Alexander, Richard Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Ancram, Michael Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)
Arnold, Tom Chalker, Mrs.Lynda
Aspinwall, Jack Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Atkins, Robert(PrestonN) Chapman, Sydney
Atkinson, David(B"m"th, E) Churchill, W.S.
Baker, Kenneth (St. M"bone) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, s'n)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Banks, Robert Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Clegg, Sir Walter
Bell, Sir Ronald Cockeram, Eric
Bendall, Vivian Colvin, Michael
Bennett, Sir Frederic(T'bay) Cope, John
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Cormack, Patrick
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Corrie, John
Best, Keith Costain, Sir Albert
Biffen, Rt Hon John Cranborne, Viscount
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Critchley, Julian
Blackburn, John Crouch, David
Blaker, Peter Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Body, Richard Dickens, Geoffrey
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dorrell, Stephen
Boscawen, Hon Robert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bottomley, Peter (W"wich W) Dover, Denshore
Bowden, Andrew du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Braine, Sir Bernard Dunn, Robert(Dartford)
Bright, Graham Durant, Tony
Brinton, Tim Dykes, Hugh
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brooke, Hon Peter Elliott, Sir William
Brotherton, Michael Emery, Peter
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Eyre, Reginald
Browne, John (Winchester) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Bryan, Sir Paul Faith, Mrs Sheila
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Farr, John
Buck, Antony Fell, Anthony
Budgen, Nick Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bulmer, Esmond Finsberg, Geoffrey
Burden, Sir Frederick Fisher, Sir Nigel
Butcher, John Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles MacKay, John (Argyll)
Fookes, Miss Janet Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, M.(N"bury,)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fox, Marcus McQuarrie, Albert
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Madel, David
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Major, John
Fry, Peter Marland, Paul
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Marlow, Antony
Gardner, Edward (S' Fylde) Marshall, Michael(Arundel)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mates, Michael
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Glyn, Dr Alan Mawby, Ray
Goodhew, Victor Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Goodlad, Alastair Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gorst, John Mayhew, Patrick
Gow, Ian Mellor, David
Gower, Sir Raymond Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Millen, Hal(B"grove)
Gray, Hamish Mills, Iain(Meriden)
Greenway, Harry Mills, Peter(West Devon)
Grieve, Percy Moate, Roger
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds) Monro, SirHector
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, Ian Morgan, Geraint
Grylls, Michael Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Gummer, John Selwyn Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hamilton, Hon A. Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mudd, David
Hannam, John Murphy, Christopher
Haselhurst, Alan Myles, David
Hawkins, Paul Neale, Gerrard
Hawksley, Warren Needham, Richard
Hayhoe, Barney Nelson, Anthony
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neubert, Michael
Heddle, John Newton, Tony
Henderson, Barry Normanton, Tom
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Onslow, Cranley
Hicks, Robert Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Page, John (Harrow, West)
Hogg, HonDouglas (Gr'th'm) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hooson, Tom Parris, Matthew
Hordern, Peter Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Patten, John (Oxford)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G"ldf"d) Pattie, Geoffrey
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Pawsey, James
Hunt, David (Wirral) Percival, Sir Ian
Hunt,John (Ravensbourne) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Irving, Charles(Cheltenham) Pink, R. Bonner
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pollock, Alexander
Jessel, Toby Porter, Barry
JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Proctor, K. Harvey
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Raison Timothy
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Rathbone, Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kitson, Sir Timothy Renton, Tim
Knox, David Rhodes James, Robert
Lamont, Norman Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lang, Ian Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Langford-Holt, Sir John Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Latham, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm
Lawrence, Ivan Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lee, John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
LeMarchant, Spencer Rost, Peter
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Royle, Sir Anthony
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lewis, Kenneth(Rutland) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Loveridge, John Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Luce, Richard Shepherd, Richard
Lyell, Nicholas Shersby, Michael
McCrindle, Robert Silvester, Fred
Macfarlane, Neil Sims, Roger
MacGregor, John Skeet, T. H. H.
Smith, Dudley Viggers, Peter
Speed, Keith Waddington, David
Speller, Tony Wakeham, John
Spence, John Waldegrave, Hon William
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walker, B. (Perth)
Sproat, Iain Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Squire, Robin Wall, Sir Patrick
Stainton, Keith Waller, Gary
Stanbrook, Ivor Walters, Dennis
Stanley, John Ward, John
Steen, Anthony Warren, Kenneth
Stevens, Martin Watson, John
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wells, Bowen
Stokes, John Wheeler, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Whitney, Raymond
Tapsell, Peter Wickenden, Keith
Taylor, Teddy (S' end E) Wiggin, Jerry
Temple-Morris, Peter Wilkinson, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Thompson, Donald Wolfson, Mark
Thorne, Neil(IlfordSouth) Young, Sir George(Acton)
Thornton, Malcolm Younger, Rt Hon George
Townend, John(Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Tellers for the Ayes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Anthony Berry and Mr. Carol Mather.
van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Abse, Leo Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Adams, Allen Deakins, Eric
Allaun, Frank Dempsey, James
Anderson, Donald Dewar, Donald
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dobson, Frank
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dormand, Jack
Ashton, Joe Douglas, Dick
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Dubs, Alfred
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Duffy, A. E. P.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Dunnett, Jack
Beith, A.J. Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Eadie, Alex
Bennett, Andrew(St"kp"tN) Eastham, Ken
Bidwell, Sydney Edwards, R. (W"hampt"n S E)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Ellis, Tom(Wrexham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro) English, Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ennals, Rt Hon David
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Evans, John (Newton)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Ewing, Harry
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Faulds, Andrew
Buchan, Norman Flannery, Martin
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell Ian Ford, Ben
Campbell-Savours, Dale Forrester, John
Canavan, Dennis Foster, Derek
Carmichael, Neil Foulkes, George
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Cartwright, John Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Cohen, Stanley Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Coleman, Donald George, Bruce
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cook, Robin F. Golding John
Cowans, Harry Graham, Ted
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot" g) Grant, George(Morpeth)
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Crowther, Stan Hamilton, James(Bothwell)
Cryer, Bob Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Hardy, Peter
Dalyell, Tam Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Davidson, Arthur Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(L'lli) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Haynes, Frank
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Heffer, Eric S. Park, George
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Parker, John
Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Parry, Robert
Home Robertson, John Pavitt, Laurie
Homewood, William Penhaligon, David
Hooley, Frank Pitt, William Henry
Howell, Rt Hon D. Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Howells, Geraint Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hoyle, Douglas Prescott, John
Huckfield, Les Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Race, Reg
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Radice, Giles
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Richardson, Jo
Janner, Hon Greville Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Allan(Bootle)
John, Brynmor Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Robertson, George
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Rooker, J.W.
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rowlands, Ted
Kerr, Russell Ryman, John
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Sever, John
Lambie, David Sheerman, Barry
Lamborn, Harry Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Leadbitter, Ted Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Leighton, Ronald Short, Mrs Renée
Lestor, Miss Joan Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silverman, Julius
Litherland, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Lyon, Alexander (York) Snape, Peter
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W) Soley, Clive
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Spearing, Nigel
McCartney, Hugh Spriggs, Leslie
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stallard, A.W.
McElhone, Frank Steel, Rt Hon David
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stoddart, David
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Stott, Roger
McKelvey, William Strang, Gavin
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Straw, Jack
Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
McMahon, Andrew Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
McNamara, Kevin Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McTaggart, Robert Thomas, Jeffrey(Abertillery)
McWilliam, John Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Magee, Bryan Tilley, John
Marks, Kenneth Torney, Tom
Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Martin, M (G'gowS'burn) Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Watkins, David
Maxton, John Weetch, Ken
Maynard, Miss Joan Wellbeloved, James
Meacher, Michael Welsh, Michael
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert White, Frank R.
Mikardo, Ian White, J.(G"gow Pollok)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Whitehead, Phillip
Miller, Dr M.S.(E Kilbride) Whitlock, William
Mitchell Austin(Grimsby) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen) Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Molyneaux, James Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W"shawe) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O"shaw) Wilson, William (C"try SE)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Winnick, David
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Woodall, Alec
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Woolmer, Kenneth
Newens, Stanley Wright, Sheila
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Young, David (Bolton E)
O"Halloran, Michael
O"Neill, Martin Tellers for the Noes:
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mr. James Tinn and Mr. Joseph Dean.
Palmer, Arthur

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).