HC Deb 30 June 1981 vol 7 cc703-49 3.54 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment towards this House of Commons, the latest example being his failure to honour an undertaking to the House in respect of the compulsory transfer of Greater London Council dwellings. The motion arises from the decision announced by the Secretary of State for the Environment to transfer compulsorily the ownership of 53,428 houses from the Greater London Council to the London boroughs of Brent, Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham and Waltham Forest. Every one of the nine parties—the Greater London Council and the eight boroughs alike—is opposed to the order. It is extraordinary that the Secretary of State should persist in a massive property transfer to which the donor and the recipients are equally opposed. His insistence on proceeding with it is in itself a serious matter. However, that is an issue that could have been dealt with by the conventional procedure of the Opposition praying against the transfer order.

It is the manner of the transfer and the manner in which the Secretary of State has chosen to conduct himself toward the House of Commons in regard to it that have led us to table this censure motion on the Secretary of State. We censure not only the high-handed and ill-advised act of policy but the misleading manner in which he has behaved towards the House. He made a commitment to the House which he has wilfully disregarded in a manner that brings him and his office into disrepute.

When the right hon. Gentleman informed the House on 31 March of his decision to compel the transfer of these houses, he was questioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown), among others. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to my hon. Friend for the untiring manner in which he has persisted in pursuing this matter on behalf of his constituents and Londoners generally. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked by my hon. Friend about the attitude to the proposed transaction of Sir Horace Cutler, who at the time was the leader of the GLC, he replied: I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. If Sir Horace should ask me to withdraw this compulsory order, I should, of course, be prepared to do so."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 157.] The Secretary of State cannot possibly have meant that it was in response to the wish of Sir Horace as an individual that he was willing to withdraw the order. To decide the future of £1 billion worth of public assets according to the whim of one person would have been frivolous and irresponsible even by the right hon. Gentleman's idiosyncratic standards. He must have intended that answer to refer to a decision by the GLC. Indeed, there is good evidence for that. However, the right hon. Gentleman has taken up three different positions towards the solemn commitment of the House that he has now betrayed.

The right hon. Gentleman's first line of defence was offered when my hon. Friend and I asked him to withdraw the order in accordance with his pledge. He said at a meeting in his room in the House that the statement was being wrenched out of context. He claimed that it had been an off-the-cuff response to the question put by my hon. Friend, which the right hon. Gentleman complained had hurt his feelings. That was a pretty thin explanation. It was contradicted by a letter sent on the right hon. Gentleman's behalf by Mr. G. W. Moseley, second permanent secretary at the Department of the Environment, to Sir James Swaffield, director-general and clerk to the GLC, on 18 May. The letter stated: In view of your correspondence with the Department at that time about the terms of transfer, when announcing his decision to the House on March 31, the Secretary of State thought it right to remind your Council that it could still withdraw its request under section 23, subsection (3) before he made the order. The pledge was not an extempore remark made to an individual questioner but a carefully thought-out offer to the council. But the council never had a chance to consider this offer, since the order was not made until 2 April and was not capable of being withdrawn until after that date. The Greater London Council, under Conservative control, never met to consider it, although it had briefly considered the matter before the order was made and before it had had an opportunity to study the text of the Secretary of State's remarks.

We now have a third version of what the Secretary of State intended. Last week, following the announcement that this debate was to take place, journalists began to make inquiries about its subject— conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment They were understandably perplexed as to which of the Secretary of State's multifarious wrongdoings was being singled out for censure.

The most assiduous investigator was Mr. George Clark, political correspondent of The Times. Last Friday he reported remarks of mine on the record and then proceeded to quote the views of certain unnamed Conservatives. Mr. Clark is a journalist of high integrity who would not attribute views for which he did not have good evidence, and it is clear that he had been provided with authoritative guidance. I quote from his report in The Times: Conservatives said last night that…When Mr. Heseltine referred to Sir Horace Cutler and said he would be willing to respect his wishes, it was in the definite knowledge that Sir Horace would never make a request for the Order to be withdrawn. If that is true, it is absolutely outrageous, for it means that the Secretary of State made a commitment to the House which he knew at the time that he made it to be utterly meaningless. To have done that is to have treated the House with the utmost contempt. When he speaks in the debate, the Secretary of State must give us an explanation. If he did not mean this pledge, why did he make it? If he meant it, why did he not honour it?

When he made his announcement on 31 March, the Secretary of State claimed that he was fulfilling the recommendations of the Herbert Royal Commission in 1960. But that Royal Commission did not recommend the transfer of properties by compulsion. The Cullingworth inquiry, set up in 1970, positively rejected compulsion. It said: any suggestion that reluctant boroughs should be compelled to take over GLC housing cannot be countenanced. Nine orders have been made under section 23 of the London Government Act 1963. All the others have been agreed between the boroughs and the Greater London Council. This is the first to use coercion. Let me make it perfectly clear that, if the Secretary of State persists with this order, these law-abiding local authorities will all comply with it.

When he made his statement, the Secretary of State insisted that this was the policy of the then Conservative-controlled GLC and that the council under Conservative control was entitled to see that policy brought to a satisfactory conclusion. It is a curious approach to his duties, as a senior Minister of the Crown, that the Secretary of State should regard it as his responsibility to ensure the fulfilment of election pledges by a particular majority on a particular local authority. In any case, the Tory GLC election manifesto for 1977, which it has been my grim duty to read, makes no mention of compulsory transfer, and a resolution carried by the GLC in 1970, when the Conservatives were last in power at County Hall, specifically resolved that the council will later submit further proposals for transfers to be agreed with the London Borough Councils. The chairman of the Greater London Council housing committee at that time was one Sir Horace Cutler, to whom the Secretary of State three months ago did or did not make a solemn pledge, as the case may be. But we know that the terms of the transfer order were and remained unacceptable to the Tory-controlled GLC, and presumably to Sir Horace Cutler, right up to 7 May, when the Conservatives lost control. We know it because Sir James Swaffield, director-general of the GLC, acting on behalf of Sir Horace Cutler, told the Secretary of State so. He wrote to the Department of the Environment on 24 February. I quote two passages from his letter of that date: The Council"— the Conservative-controlled council— therefore requests that the draft order should be amended to contain an assurance that the Government will guarantee the availability of capital authorisations in future years at levels that are fully sufficient to enable the Council to fulfil its formal obligations under the Order. The Council therefore requests that the draft order should be amended to contain an assurance that any increase in the Council's revenue expenditure caused by the terms of the order…shall not lead to penalties with regard to grant related expenditure. Unless the two amendments requested can be included, the order as at present drafted does not place the Council in a financial position to accept the terms. Those were the amendments requested of the Government by the Conservative-controlled GLC. Neither was made. Sir James therefore wrote again on 10 March, once more asking for those amendments to be made. Once more he was rebuffed. The position, right up to the end of Conservative control of the GLC, was summed up in an internal GLC note dated 3 June written by Mr. N. F. Stonefrost, comptroller of finance of the GLC. He said: It needs to be added that, much as the last Council desired the transfer of the housing stock, it did not formally support any terms of the order because of the principles involved in the two financial factors considered in this brief. Mr. Stonefrost is, of course, a public official of great distinction. I met him in his office at County Hall yesterday, when he authorised me to quote his documents and confirmed that as being the position.

Therefore, the terms of the order were unacceptable to the Conservative-controlled GLC. Its failure to ask for their withdrawal was an act of crude partisanship and a final wanton betrayal of the electorate with whose finances it was entrusted.

When Labour won control of the Greater London Council, it immediately asked for the withdrawal of the order. This means that the opening words of the order— Whereas the Greater London Council has requested the Secretary of State for the Environment to provide by an order under section 23 of the London Government Act 1963"— now stand as a lurid falsehood. Certain assurances were offered in a letter from the Department of the Environment dated 11 June, but the assurance on rate support grant— on GRE assessment, the Department will shortly put to the Grants Working Group a paper on the manner in which the GLC's responsibilities for transferred stock shall be brought into account"— has been dismissed by one knowledgeable official as "not worth a penny". On capital allocations, the assurance read: so far as is consistent with the national constraints on available resources, the Secretary of State expects to ensure that your authority has sufficient resources to carry out its responsibilities arising from both compulsory and voluntary transfers. Not only is that alleged assurance dependent on unquantified restraints, not only could it mean that the availability of money for these purposes would leave no money available for any of the GLC's other housing activities, not only does it depend on the uninsurable hazard of accepting the Secretary of State's word for it, but it is contradicted by the following categorical statement made by the Secretary of State in the House on 31 March: The GLC has made requests of me…but the terms of the requests that it has made would assume that I am able to give commitments about the housing investment programme allocations for years to come. That is quite without precedent and I cannot do it."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 155.] So the Secretary of State's statement of 31 March completely detracts from any weight that there is in the assurances given in the letter of earlier this month.

The financial implications of the compulsory order are immense. The GLC will be required to bring the properties up to an acceptable standard, the so-called 10-point standard, within 10 years. The cost is estimated by the GLC at £200 million. The boroughs think that it may well be more. There will be other costs as well, costs to the boroughs that the GLC will be expected to meet. The GLC's comptroller of finance tells me that it is impossible to calculate how great those costs will be, but they are sure to run into many millions of pounds. They could include the cost of new offices and depots where those used by the GLC are situated in boroughs other than those named in the order, as well as of meeting the need to make sure that facilities are properly sited.

There will be new computers and computer programmes for rent accounting and staff pay. There will be the absorption of GLC staff into the staffs of the boroughs concerned. These requirements will be costly. Lewisham estimates that simply to reconcile its own bonus schemes with those of the GLC will take two years to work out and cost at least £160,000 in salaries and wages.

The requirements will be complicated. Working hours and pay differ for the GLC and the receiving boroughs. They can cause trouble. In three authorities where agreed transfers have taken place industrial action has been taken by workers on issues directly related to transfer. They can have ludicrous consequences. Hackney, for example, is expected to accept 20 GLC gardening staff for estates maintenance without any of the equipment that they need to do their job.

The GLC housing department was deliberately run down under the Conservative majority. The records kept by the department are so inadequate that in one borough that received GLC houses voluntarily the Conservative-controlled council decorated a house before it discovered that the GLC had already sold it.

There will be appalling problems in reconciling the rents paid by the new tenants with those already paid to the borough councils. The GLC tenants at present pay much higher rents than those paid in at least some of the boroughs and they will not go on tolerating that. Yet getting some equity into the rent system will be particularly difficult for Lewisham, Hackney and Lambeth, which will be increasing their tenancy numbers under the order by 40 to 60 per cent.

Mr. Martin Stevens (Fulham)

Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing that it is perfectly fair for adjacent neighbours to pay different rents provided their houses are owned by different authorities, but that it suddenly becomes inequitable if the houses are owned by the same authority?

Mr. Kaufman

It is not perfectly fair when neighbours are paying different rents to different authorities, but it is utterly unacceptable when they are paying them to the same authority.

All of the costs that I have mentioned are certain to lead to an increase in public expenditure at a time when the Secretary of State is ordering local authorities to cut their spending. Mr. Stonefrost, the comptroller of finance of the GLC, yesterday wrote to me a letter in which he said: The terms of the Order (Schedule II) set out for each of the eight Boroughs the amounts deemed to be spent each year on the maintenance and management of stock to be transferred from 1.4.82 onwards. In all cases, the amounts to be spent exceed in real terms that level of expenditure which the Council hitherto has itself decided to spend on the maintenance and management of its dwellings. Some of that expenditure will have to be covered by the Greater London Council, which does not want to transfer the houses. Some will have to be covered by the boroughs, which do not want to have the houses transferred to them.

These expenditure increases could push all the authorities into the penalty zone of the taper, if they are not there already. The authorities will also have to put up with the abuse of the Secretary of State for the overspending of money that he is forcing them to spend and that they do not wish to spend.

Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

There is a little cant in the right hon. Gentleman's complaint about overspending. The right hon. Gentleman has listened to persistent statements from the new leadership of the GLC, which is pushing up expenditure in favour of municipal bus manufacturing plants and subsidising bus fares and street theatres at the expense of the Royal Opera House, without saying a word and now he is complaining about the one element of increased expenditure that might be of some benefit to people—bringing their houses up to standard.

Mr. Kaufman

Far from complaining, we are in favour of the expenditure. What we are not in favour of is the Secretary of State's forcing the expenditure and then penalising the local authorities for carrying it out.

The upheaval that the order will bring about will cause problems to the tenants affected and will cost money both to the tenants and to the ratepayers of the receiving boroughs and those in the rest of the GLC area.

How does the Secretary of State sum up the end product of his handiwork? Always a dogged and dedicated humorist, he declares that the transfer will lead to more effective housing management in London."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 154.] What the Secretary of State is doing was never envisaged by those responsible for the Local Government Act 1963, whose provisions he is now misusing and distorting. He is stripping the GLC of almost all its remaining houses, yet the Ministers who carried through the Act saw for the GLC a major and continuing housing role. The Conservative Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government at that time told the House: But we do accept that the Greater London Council will continue with the duties of helping in the redistribution and rehousing of the people of London, and we accept that for that purpose a pool of varied accommodation, fairly widely distributed over the area, is essential."—[Official Report, 10 December 1962; Vol. 669, c. 160.] The Housing Minister at the time confirmed this, when he said later: we are talking of what could be a growing pool because at the moment the L.C.C. is building at a rate of 4,000 to 5,000 dwellings a year, and the G.L.C. will be adding to its stock at, we hope, at least as fast a rate".—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 19 February 1963; c. 306–7.] The Minister who gave that commitment was the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), now Secretary of State for Industry. The right hon. Gentleman was the Housing Minister who played a major part in foisting tower blocks on long-suffering tenants all over the country. The present Secretary of State for the Environment is not permitting any council dwellings of any kind to be built. What a rake's progress it has been—from high rise to low rise to no rise in 20 years! Now the Secretary of State for the Environment is breaking the commitment given by his predecessor in 1963 at the same time as he breaks the word that he gave to the House on 31 March this year.

Treating the House with contempt is nothing new for the right hon. Gentleman. Many hon. Members will remember how in 1973, as Minister for Aerospace and Shipping, he was rebuked by the Select Committee on Science and Technology in a report on the subject of Tracked Hovercraft Ltd. The right hon. Gentleman had made a statement in reply to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) which led the Select Committee to say in its report to the House: Mr. Heseltine's answer to Mr. Stoddart's Question on 12th February was therefore untrue. At least on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman had the grace to apologise. Since then he has made something of a habit of making statements that are not strictly true. The difference is that he no longer apologises.

In February last year, announcing his housing investment programme allocations for 1980–81, the right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that he had cut the allocations by 21 per cent. Only persistent questioning revealed that the cut for local authorities was in fact 33 per cent. He was at it again last December, when he announced HIP allocations for the current financial year. This time he pretended that the cut was 15 per cent. Only further questioning disclosed that it was nearly twice as much, at 27 per cent.

Of course, it is not always the right hon. Gentleman's fault. Sometimes he has trouble being reported accurately. In the debate on the rate support grant order on 16 January last year he uttered the first of the long series of threats that he has made to local authorities, and said that his motivation for action would be clear from the restricted number of authorities affected and from the speeches and decisions that they have made". That was the corrigendum that appeared at column 1877 of Hansard on 17 January 1980. Somehow, in the original Hansard report, the reference to the speeches was left out. It was reinserted only thanks to the watchfulness of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett). During that episode the Secretary of State had to be pulled up when he sought to improve the occasion still further by talking of giving instructions to Hansard.

No wonder the Secretary of State has found it safer not to make oral statements at all but to resort to written answers, as on that notorious occasion last November when in the dying moments of the Session he smuggled out a written answer about his curiously-named consultative document on council house rents. He was compelled to withdraw on that occasion, too—but only the document and only for a week. The rents have gone up all the same and to the highest level ever. The alleged consultation was revealed as a complete sham.

Therefore, it is not surprising that, on the most famous occasion in his career, the Secretary of State abandoned words altogether and resorted instead to physical action. He never seems to pause for thought. He never asks himself whether what he is doing is right. He is now embarking on a most serious confrontation with local government by threatening unprecedented penal legislation.

Last week, Councillor Ian S. McCallum, the Conservative chairman of the Conservative-controlled Association of District Councils, sent the Secretary of State a letter which said: You will remember that at the last meeting of the Consultative Council I urged you not to proceed with your proposal to introduce new legislation this Autumn to impose further controls on local authorities' powers. This has since been confirmed by our Policy Committee in the light of the apparent intention to restrict the powers of local authorities to levy rates according to their judgment and to substitute the judgment of the Secretary of State. I believe it is only right that I should make it clear to you straight away that our Policy Committee are wholly opposed to what they understand this legislation is to involve; that the restriction is going beyond normal financial controls and entering the constitutional arena. That is a solemn warning which the Secretary of State should heed.

There is still time for the Secretary of State to reform. There is still time for him to keep his word to the House and withdraw the compulsory transfer order. There is still time for him to abandon the planned further penal legislation against local government. There is still time for the right hon. Gentleman to avoid having attached to himself the grim and painful words written in another context by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: His honour rooted in dishonour stood, And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

4.24 pm
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

The House will want me to start—

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

And finish.

Mr. Heseltine

The House will want me to start with the specific issue of the transfer of houses from the Greater London Council to the London boroughs. The history is well established in the minds of most right hon. and hon. Members.

The Herbert committee of 1960 pointed to the advantages of unifying public housing provision at the borough level of local government. I take the view that that was a sound policy judgment. It avoids the need for overlapping authorities providing virtually identical services and it places responsibility with that authority most clearly identified with local needs—in this case the London boroughs.

The Conservative-controlled GLC in 1977 embarked on a policy of achieving such a result using powers placed on the statute book by the London Government Act 1963. The previous Secretary of State—the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore)—approved such a policy, albeit with the caveat that such transfer should be on a voluntary basis. The negotiations thus proceeded on a bipartisan basis and 160,000 houses, representing about three-quarters of the GLC stock, are being voluntarily transferred to 50 London and district councils under this process. Of those 50 authorities, 18 London boroughs are Conservative-controlled and six are Labour boroughs. That left only 53,400 houses when the eight remaining London boroughs failed to join in discussions about voluntary transfer.

In the spring—on 19 May—of 1980 the GLC formally approached me with a request that I should use the powers for compulsory transfer that had also been on the statute book since the 1963 Act and that had been left there since then by all Governments of both parties. I recognise that at this moment I was being asked to move away from the bipartisan approach, but it was the clear view of the GLC that this should happen and the existing law made provision for it.

There followed a long period of consultation about the desirability of such a move and about the terms of possible transfer. The matter was taken to the courts and they ruled that the proposed consultation period was not unreasonable. Even so, the consultation period was extended for the third time and I had to use my powers to ensure that the process of consultation was fair. For example, I insisted on the GLC carrying out detailed surveys of its stock in order to establish the condition and the liability attaching to that stock.

The House will understand—and it is crucial to what was to come that it should understand—that at this stage when I was consulting about the terms of a possible compulsory order, both sides—the GLC and the London boroughs—were negotiating in their best and different interests. In such circumstances, the London boroughs wanted high compensation and the GLC wanted to keep the terms of compensation to the most reasonable levels possible.

In the last resort I had to decide what to recommend to Parliament. As a matter of Government policy, I decided to proceed with the compulsory transfer of the properties.

I announced that to Parliament by way of an oral statement on 31 March. Taking the best advice available to me, I determined what I took to be a fair settlement for both sides and encompassed those terms in the order which I made on 2 April.

I now come to that part of the parliamentary proceedings on 31 March which gave rise to the motion today. In summary, my oral statement was the conclusion of a protracted period of negotiation in which both sides understandably fought their corner in their best interests. At no time did the GLC waiver in its determination to see the policy through but, like the boroughs, it argued about the terms. It would have been surprising if it had not as it had spent four years trying to bring the policy to fruition.

The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) asked me the following question in Parliament. I make no apologies for quoting it in full because it is crucial to an understanding of what has happened. It is interesting and typical of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) that he did not quote the hon. Member's words. The hon. Member asked: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that when, in May 1980, the Secretary of State was asked by Sir Horace Cutler to transfer the stock, Sir Horace was not aware of the enormous costs involved? Since Sir Horace has found out those costs he has asked the Secretary of State not to transfer the properties. The Secretary of State had that letter in February. He knows that that is the case. He is misleading the House. He knows that Sir Horace is aware that the cost factor over the 10 years will be £1,000 million or more and is now saying that the Secretary of State is wrong to carry out this proposal. Why does the Secretary of State persist in rebuffing Sir Horace by putting this burden on the people of London? Those words led to the reply that I gave, and as I listened to the hon. Gentleman on 31 March I knew that he had completely misunderstood the position. He had completely misrepresented the views of Sir Horace Cutler. Virtually every part of his question contained serious errors and misjudgments.

The simplest reply that I could give, which I did, was: I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. If Sir Horace should ask me to withdraw this compulsory order, I should, of course, be prepared to do so".—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 157.] It was obvious to everybody at that time, and it is obvious to anyone who has read Hansard in context, and not in the way that the right hon. Member for Ardwick sought to read it, that my reply cannot be taken out of context of the question of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch.

I was saying that if Sir Horace Cutler had now discovered, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, enormous costs of which he had been unaware, as the hon. Gentleman said, and if Sir Horace had discovered that the whole basis of his four years' work was ill-founded and based on inaccurate facts, he had only to ask me to withdraw the order.

It follows that if Sir Horace's facts were wrong, he had only to ask me to withdraw, because the facts upon which Sir Horace had been working were the facts upon which I had been working. Therefore, if Sir Horace's facts were wrong, my facts were wrong, and I should have wanted to reconsider the situation. There is no other reasonable interpretation of what I said.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)


Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)


Mr. Heseltine

There is no other reasonable interpretation, unless one takes the words wholly out of context and seeks to present them as meaning something quite different.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Before the right hon. Gentleman diverts his entire speech, in his customary fashion, into a totally irrelevant byway, will he say whether he accepts that there is a distinction between a Labour Government accepting that a willing GLC should be allowed to transfer its properties to a willing borough and what he is now doing, which is compelling an unwilling GLC to transfer properties to an unwilling borough?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman is assiduous in listening to what I say. He will remember that about 10 minutes ago I made precisely that point in one sentence as opposed to about six.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

The right hon. Gentleman has just given us an elaborate reinterpretation of what he said in the House, but it is not what he actually said.

Mr. Heseltine

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman does not use his words lightly. Doubtless he will seek to intervene in the debate. I can only tell the House what I said and the context in which I said it. The House will make its own judgment in the Lobbies about whose interpretation is correct.

As I said, Sir Horace made no such discoveries that persuaded him to ask me not to transfer the properties. There has been an attempt to mislead the House on this matter. I accept absolutely that what the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch said on 31 March he said in good faith as a consequence of misinterpreting a letter written to the GLC as part of the negotiations to which I referred earlier. That should also be considered in the context of the letter of 24 February which, if it were the only letter he saw, could give the hon. Gentleman the impression which led him to ask his questions.

But I can in no way dismiss so lightly the antics of the right hon. Member for Ardwick, whose performance I find characteristically contemptible. The right hon. Gentleman disagrees with the policy, and that is his legitimate right. But he has sought to make the narrowest of party points without making the slightest attempt, so far as I am aware, to check with Sir Horace whether what I said was true or not.

I can help the right hon. Gentleman further, because I have checked. I shall now read a letter from Sir Horace Cutler, dated 22 May. That date is significant. It was the day after the right hon. Gentleman came to see me to raise these ill-founded allegations for the first time. That was two months after I first made the statement which is now the subject of our debate, and it was three weeks after the order came into operation. Despite the vast catalogue of complaints about which we have heard today, the Opposition decided not to pray against the order.

I must weary the House with the views of the man whose opinion is central to the debate because they are the views of the man whom I was supposed to misrepresent.—[Iterruption.] It is no use Labour Members now trying to escape from the hole into which they have dug themselves. The whole basis of the debate was the hon. Gentleman's allegations that I had misrepresented Sir Horace Cutler. The only person who can know what Sir Horace Cutler believed is Sir Horace Cutler. I can therefore well understand the fact that Labour Members do not want to listen to what is coming next. This is what Sir Horace said: I have seen the Parliamentary reports on the exchange in the House of Commons on 21 May 1981 about the Greater London Council (Transfer of Land and Housing Accommodation) (2) Order 1981. Reference was made to the attitude of the GLC to this proposed Order during the earlier months of this year. In that context, of course, I note that in the brief debate following your statement on 31 March it was stated that I asked you not to transfer the properties. At no stage was this the case". I hope that those hon. Members who lightly bandy around charges of misleading the House will have the grace to admit that for whatever reason, and however much misunderstanding there might have been, the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch was not right in suggesting that that was the position. Sir Horace made it quite clear that: At no stage was this the case". There is also the question of the letters quoted—again, selectively—by the right hon. Member for Ardwick. The second part of Sir Horace's letter deals with those. He states: Reference was also made to the letter sent to your Department by the Director-General of the GLC on 24 February 1981. That letter did contain the sentence: 'Unless the two amendments requested can be included, the Order as at present drafted does not place the Council in a financial position to accept the terms'. However, I believe it is essential for that sentence to be seen in the context of a long negotiation on terms, during which all parties were seeking to secure the best outcome for themselves."—

Mr. Dobson

But not for the tenants.

Mr. Heseltine

The letter continued: In the event, the final decision on the Order was yours. What anyone reading that letter might not have realised was not only was it part of a process of negotiation but that the terms of the Order which you announced to Parliament on 31 March were different to those in the draft Order about which that letter was written. The terms were different in ways that to some extent assisted the boroughs and in others the GLC. Moreover, on the particular points that concerned us on block grant and capital allocations you were able to help us in part with our concern. But as I say the letter of 24 February was in itself a negotiating letter and not in any way intended to suggest that the Order should not be made". I have no hesitation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in saying to you that in this matter I have treated the House with the high regard that it is entitled to expect of any Secretary of State. I sometimes feel that the right hon. Member for Ardwick would profit from spending rather less time lecturing others about standards of which he is so careless.

The most extraordinary feature of the motion is that it is drawn on such a narrow part of our work in the Department of the Environment. What it reveals most clearly is that the Opposition would rather devote one of their precious Supply days to a narrow personal attack on me than debate any of the serious policy issues that affect us. So deeply do the Labour Opposition resent the range of areas in which we are now showing results to replace their failure that all that is left to them is personal abuse and personal attack.

Perhaps I may make one claim. In attacking me there is at least one issue on which the whole Labour Party is totally united, and it is a devastating indictment of the Labour Party. I doubt whether there is a single policy issue of which the same can be said.

In asking for the confidence of the House—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heseltine

There will be plenty of opportunity for hon. Members to say what they want to say.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick, to flesh out a meagre case, raised a whole range of policy issues on which he disagreed with the Government. It is, therefore, not unreasonable that I should say something about the range of activities in which the Department of the Environment has been involved.

I took over a Department in which for over five years there had been an almost total absence of political will and decision. I understand that the most absorbing and challenging task for the Ministers in the Department of the Enviroment was to arrange an appointment to see the Secretary of State. The mind boggles as we look back at the image of those five ministerial boxes of unanswered questions that he took home at night and the five ministerial boxes of unanswered questions that he brought back the following morning.

There was year after year of good intentions and vacuous indecision. The then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar, wanted to introduce an improved system for the distribution of rate support grant, but the high-spending Labour authorities would not have it. He wanted to deal with the land problem. All we had was the derisory Community Land Act. We are now revealing through the land registers where the real scandal of land lies. It lies in the thousands of acres of unused and underused publicly-owned land in the inner cities with which we are now getting to grips.

The then Secretary of State wanted to relax the general development order to improve the planning machine. but he got the judgment wrong and had to abandon the attempt. It was left to us to sort out the mess. He paid lip service to the heritage, but forgot to do anything about the. Grange, Temple Bar and Barlaston Hall, which were left to deteriorate. I am sure that he cared, or said that he cared, about conservation, but the 3,000 sites of special scientific interest were left without ministerial scrutiny. This same negative approach has commended itself to the right hon. Member for Ardwick who has taken his place.

We have heard a lot today about the interests of council tenants. We heard a lot about that when Labour was in Government. But it took the Conservative Government to enact a tenants' charter, giving security and status. It was left to us, after all the talk, to reform the scandal of the direct labour organisations. The right hon. Member for Ardwick says that he believes in home ownership, but it was left to the Conservatives to produce legislation under which a quarter of a million council tenants have applied to buy their homes.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the housing problems of inner city areas, yet no man carries a heavier personal responsibility than he carries for denying those who seek homes the opportunity of a shorthold tenancy. If the Opposition do not like our shortholds, how can they square their consciences with five years' of abject failure even to agree on proposals to publish about the private rented sector?

The right hon. Member for Ardwick makes much of his concern for the House. He has even written a book entitled "How to be a Minister" in which, on page 95, he describes his approach to the making of a winding-up speech. These are his words: Your final paragraphs should be grandiloquent even if almost meaningless. The right hon. Gentleman is in the process of converting one sentence into a life's work.

I ask the House to reject the motion.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Huddersfield, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If this had been a court of law, it would have been quite proper, after the letter from Sir Horace Cutler had been read to the House, for the defence to submit that there was no case to answer.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. This is the House of Commons.

4.46 pm
Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, East)

I have listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman)—I nearly called him my right hon. Friend the Member for the London borough of Ardwick, so great is his mastery of the intricacies of London local government—and I associate myself with everything he has said.

I have also listened to the Secretary of State for the Environment's contemptible attempt to defend his conduct in the House on 31 March. What he said then was, clearly, that if Sir Horace Cutler asked him to withdraw the order he would do so. Because of that, the Opposition did not pray against the order. We realised that the Labour Party would gain control of the Greater London Council and that the council accordingly would ask the Secretary of State to withdraw the order. We assumed that as he was an honourable man—indeed, a right honourable man—he would do so. He did not do so; that is why we did not pray against the order, and that is why the transfer is going through.

The Secretary of State's only attempt to defend himself was to try to put the soft quivering mental state of Sir Horace Cutler between him and the bullets coming from the Opposition and also to say that he was not dishonest on 31 March but merely incompetent, because he was unable to convey to the House the meaning of what he intended to say. Anyone who looks at the record will see that he deliberately misled the House on that occasion, whether because of dishonesty or incompetence, and that led to the order not being prayed against.

There is a considerable ground for transferring the control and management of housing estates in London to local people so that they can be managed better by people who understand them, provided that three conditions are met. These conditions are that there should be coordination among the Government, the Greater London Council and the London boroughs to ensure proper financial provision so that the London boroughs are not asked to shoulder an unbearable burden. Secondly, there should be a good mobility scheme. Thirdly, the GLC should remain substantially in the housing business. It is not clear to me that these conditions are being met under the proposals that are being forced on London by the Secretary of State.

The financial worries centre mainly on the capital provision that is being made. There is provision for the GLC to bring houses up to an acceptable standard over a 10-year period. The Greater London boroughs want most of that work to be concentrated in the first of the 10 years so that tenants will quickly have good conditions in their houses.

We already note, however, that the Greater London Council housing capital allocations are being cut. Failure by the GLC to meet targets laid upon it will lead to its having to pay penalties to the London boroughs, which will mean more difficulty in bringing the houses up to a proper standard. That does not bode well for the responsibilities to be undertaken by the London boroughs, particularly the borough of Lewisham—and I represent about 20,000 inhabitants of GLC properties in my constituency.

In any case, the sums allocated to the transferred estates are based purely on guesswork. There has been no real survey of the condition of the properties to be handed over to provide a basis for calculating the sums needed for the capital programme. Above all else, the London boroughs want a proper sample survey of the property to be handed over so that a proper calculation can be made of the capital sums required so that they may be applied to the maintenance and care of the property.

Absolutely no provision is made in the financial estimates and the rate support grant for the borough councils to undertake the vast cost of assimilating the various housing policies of the GLC with their own housing policies to produce an overall and uniform standard of council house care. This means that failure is inevitable in meeting the financial burdens to be placed upon the shoulders of the London boroughs. Indeed, I would say to my constituents that the terms and conditions being imposed by the Government will mean the creation of slums by the thousand in London, possibly within a few years, as a result of the totally inadequate financial provision. As all Opposition Members know, council estates can be converted into slums if they are not properly looked after.

I turn to the mobility scheme. I should have thought that a good mobility scheme would be close to the Secretary of State's heart, as he is no doubt a dedicated believer in industrial efficiency. He probably wants people to move to where the new industries are to be developed. I believe that work should be taken to the workless, rather than their having to pursue the work but nevertheless, if people wish to move to maintain their standard of living and to find new jobs, obstacles should not be placed in their way by an inadequate mobility scheme imposed on Londoners. I shall not go into details as there is not time, but there is a general consensus among the Secretary of State's officials, the GLC and the London boroughs that the present mobility scheme is wholly inadequate.

Finally, the GLC should be left in the housing business in a substantial way. By virtue of its role as a strategic authority for London and its central position, it is the only local government body which can induce an element of flexibility in the solution of London's housing problems, which are massive and will remain so for many years to come. Flexibility is an essential element in dealing with those problems. It would also help to bolster up the inadequate mobility scheme. Already, constituents of mine living in GLC houses and wishing to transfer to other parts of London are being rejected on the ground that the GLC owns no houses in the parts of London to which they wish to move.

I turn to a group of problems on which the Secretary of State has been almost entirely silent. At no time has he taken the initiative in discussing what is to happen to the employees of the GLC in the transfer which may take place. No great enterprise will succeed unless the people expected to carry it out are not only content but see a future for themselves in carrying it out. There is a grave danger that the whole transfer will be devilled by industrial relations problems due to the cavalier attitude taken by the Secretary of State towards the industrial relations problems involved in the transfer.

I raised this matter with the Secretary of State when he made his announcement on 31 March. At that stage, he was relying entirely on the staff protection order and the London housing staff commission to solve the problems. The staff commission, however, can work only within the terms of the staff protection order. It is powerless outside those limits. We have now had three years' experience of the operation of that order and also the first wave of housing transfers within London. Several grave defects have been revealed in the order. The Secretary of State promised on 31 March: of course I shall keep an eye on it—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 1, c. 160.] —meaning the problem of industrial relations. In the faint hope that that is not another promise to be lightly brushed aside—I see that it probably is, as the Secretary of State is now leaving the Chamber—I put these points forward for consideration by the Under-Secretary of State.

First, the boroughs say that the best way to solve the problem of transfers with the minimum cost is for ownership of the houses to be transferred to the London boroughs but for their management to remain with the GLC on an agency basis. Immediately, however, a snag arises under the staff protection order, in that its protection provisions run from the day on which the transfer order is signed and comes into force. This means that the agency arrangements might outrun the period of protection set out in the protection order, so that when the agency provision comes to an end the employees concerned will have no grounds for protection under the order. The protection order should therefore be amended to ensure that it operates from the date on which the agency arrangements come to an end.

Secondly, the compensation regulations do not cover young employees on short service, identified as those with less than five years' service. In these days of 2½ million unemployed, rising steadily to 3 million, and a Government unable or unwilling to take any action to stem that rise, young men and women such as these are just as likely to wish to cling to their jobs as their more established colleagues with the London boroughs, and, if they lose their jobs, their sense of loss is scarcely less acute. This, too, must mean that the compensation regulations under the staff protection order should be amended.

There is no compensation under the regulations for loss of bonus, for example. As a result, employees transferred to the City of Westminster have been faced with a demand that their earnings be cut by 25 per cent. Other examples include the mobile caretaking teams employed by the GLC, involving between 500 and 600 employees. The boroughs, by and large, do not have such teams. There are therefore no comparable terms to them to enjoy when they go to the receiving London borough.

Bromley and Sutton, for example, took over mobile caretaking teams from the GLC in the first wave of transfers. Against union advice, a number of those employees signed new terms and conditions of service with the boroughs of Bromley and Sutton. Within 18 months, those who had signed the new terms and conditions of service were sacked. The only ones to survive were those who took the union's advice and did not sign. Other boroughs have taken on these mobile teams on an agency basis only. They will not have them on a permament basis. They are due to start phasing them out on 1 August this year, so the teams will eventually be left out on a limb.

There are therefore plenty of problems to be solved under the provisions of the staff protection order and the compensation regulations. The staff protection order should also be amended to allow staff seconded to the London boroughs on an agency or any other basis to return to the GLC at a later stage if it is necessary to secure protection for their employment prospects.

All my proposals are for amending legislation for which the Secretary of State is responsible to the House, so he must take action. He has rejected the first step that he should take, but I hope that he will reconsider it. He should see a deputation from the trade unions to discuss amending the legislation. I trust that on this occasion he will stand by the promise that he gave me on 31 March to keep an eye on the problems and will not follow the practice of lightly breaking a promise, as he did his promise to withdraw the order if the GLC asked that that should be done.

5 pm

Mr. Den Dover (Chorley)

I agree with the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) about the need to transfer housing down to the lowest local level, but I do not agree that the GLC should continue to be a major housing authority. We heard something of that this afternoon. There was the Marshall inquiry. There is the need to have a strategic authority such as the GLC. However, that goes against the role that the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Although the Secretary of State needs no support, having made his statement, I am pleased to defend him against the wholly unwarranted accusations of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), who has left the Chamber.

Mr. Dobson

He is still in the Chamber, unlike the Secretary of State.

Mr. Dover

I object to the fact that the Opposition say that the Secretary of State, by his clear statement on 31 March, wished to stop the GLC having its way. He made it absolutely clear that Sir Horace Cutler and the Conservative-controlled GLC had four or five weeks before the election to let him know whether it wanted the order withdrawn. Correspondence has been quoted today, but it does not show that the Conservative-controlled GLC was against the spirit of transfer. It shows only that it was against certain financial details of the provisions. That is significant.

The Opposition are frustrated by my right hon. Friend's success. There was no difference of opinion between the Conservative-controlled GLC and the Government. Their policies were absolutely in line in three main areas. First, the Secretary of State gave council tenants—in the GLC area, in new towns and throughout the country—the right to buy their accommodation, whatever the local authority felt. That was a marvellous innovation and followed hard on the heels of Sir Horace Cutler's "sale of the century", when thousands of tenants took advantage of the opportunity to buy and look after their accommodation.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

What good is that to the 16,000 people on the waiting list in Hackney, who have no reasonable chance to purchase their own property?

Mr. Dover

They have at least the opportunity to buy. Our policy is to have rented accommodation for those unable to buy, such as the elderly and infirm, but sitting tenants are able to buy at large discounts.

Mr. John Heddle (Lichfield and Tamworth)

The answer for the 16,000 people on the waiting list in Hackney is that the Government introduced realistic shorthold provisions in the Housing Act that are being frustrated by irresponsible policy statements by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), which are stopping private landlords, housing associations and so on in Hackney providing private rented accommodation that those people would dearly love to have.

Mr. Dover

I entirely agree.

The GLC attempted to transfer dwellings with a large measure of success. Dwellings have been transferred not only to Conservative-controlled London boroughs. A large number have also been transferred to Labour-controlled London boroughs.

From 1968 to 1971, I had the privilege of being a London borough councillor with the London borough of Barnet, which was for ever trying to get its houses from the GLC. It had earlier transfers from the London county council, which had been a great success. They were older properties, and the housing revenue account benefited thereby. Over the past few years, Barnet has agreed with the GLC major transfers of housing stock, which was first-class for the borough's residents and also had the effect that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East pointed out: it gave local control and consistency in rents. Residents have better local knowledge of housing conditions.

Mr. Moyle

The hon. Gentleman completely misunderstood me. I hope that we can have consistency in rents, but no money is provided so that the London boroughs can achieve that without getting themselves into the penalty box. While we are at it, would it not be a good idea if we had some London Conservative Members in the Chamber to defend the Secretary of State's misconduct in London?

Mr. Dover

I reject that comment. I am an ex-director of housing construction with the GLC, so I have close knowledge of the matter. The Conservative-controlled GLC had detailed and protracted discussions with London borough councils, which led to acceptable conditions being established. We have heard of the large transfers that have taken place. Why are the eight Labour-controlled London boroughs unwilling to see through the transfer in the interests of their residents?

The Secretary of State's policy on direct works is in line with that of the Conservative-controlled GLC. For the first time, direct works provisions will be openly accountable. Before I took up my position in April 1977, the GLC produced its own valuations without independent checks on whether they were correct. I brought in outside accountants shortly after my entry and made sure that we had independent valuations by outside quantity surveyors on sites where I felt that the figures were not absolutely correct. Before long, it became apparent that we were making a loss of £2 or £3 million a year on a turnover of £15 to £20 million.

On my recommendation, the GLC immediately decided to halve the direct works department. The rolling programme would not be 5,000 new houses a year and modernisation of estates longer than that but only about 1,000 new houses a year, so it made sense to reduce the department. By voluntary severance and natural wastage it was possible to reduce the staff from over 3,000 to about 1,000. There was then not too much of a loss, but since I left in June 1979 the loss has been about £6 or £7 million a year on a turnover of only £6 or £7 million a year. The percentage loss has increased from about 15 per cent. or so to about 100 per cent.

What should the Labour-controlled GLC do? Should it continue to wind down the department, finish off the contracts and say "Sorry. We do not need new housing or an enormous modernisation programme, and the last thing that we want is a direct labour organisation that is inefficient compared with private enterprise and on independently assessed accounts."? However, Mr. Livingstone and his colleagues want to recreate and build up London community builders, which is in direct confrontation with the Government. It is also directly opposed to our position and policies on this important subject. We want properly accounted direct works departments. Indeed, we want to see them making a return on the capital employed in them. That is the target that we have set for such departments.

Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is crucial that the Labour-controlled GLC should think about giving value for money to the ratepayers who have to fork out for such activity?

Mr. Dover

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That is what direct works departments should do. Indeed, that is also what housing in general should do. The Secretary of State has ensured that the thousands of millions of pounds of housing subsidies—which we cannot afford and do not need—have been markedly reduced in the past two years. He is now saying that direct works departments will have to pay their way and give value for money.

I offer the following challenge to Mr. Livingstone. Will he have the courage of his convictions and wind up the direct works department? Will he let out the work to private contractors? Indeed, we have heard that there is a £100 million programme of modernisation work before the transfer of assets will take place. Or, on the other hand, will Mr. Livingstone take the stupid course of building up London community builders? From my inside knowledge of local authority direct labour organisations all over the country, I guarantee that that will lead to enormous losses, to supplementary rates and to great deficits on the housing revenue accounts. The Opposition would support such policies, but the Secretary of State does not support them. He wants to see value for money in housing, and local control by the transfer of assets to local individuals and the London boroughs. I support those measures and therefore it has given me great pleasure to speak in support of the Secretary of State.

5.11 pm
Mr. Ronald W. Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) observed that only the Minister was present out of the 52 Conservative Members who represent London constituencies. My right hon. Friend was not wrong to make that observation. It is not unreasonable to ask that some of those Conservative Members should be in the Chamber. I do not know why they have had to rely on the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Dover) to debate London matters.

If the hon. Member for Chorley wishes to discuss his tenure of office when he was a paid servant of the GLC, I shall be happy to join him in the Chamber at any time. That period was disastrous and the appalling performance when he left office was a little unsavoury. Normally I should not say such things, but since the hon. Gentleman has put himself in the front line I am happy to oblige him.

In an extraordinary way, the Secretary of State attempted to get himself out of the penalty box by putting me there. He said that I should not have asked my question. If I had not asked my question, he would not have given me an answer. He seemed to say that if he had not given me an answer we would all have been happy and everything would have been all right. There is an extraordinary contortion in that argument.

I shall take the right hon. Gentleman through the story, although I had not intended to do so. About 10 hon. Members intervened before me during the debate on the right hon. Gentleman's statement. All the Secretary of State's bureaucrats had an opportunity to write him a statement. He need have made no mistake.

He knew about the letter of 24 February. He knew that it could be misinterpreted and he knew that we had already held meetings and discussed the matter. Therefore, his bureacrats could have written exactly what he needed to say. He could have put in all the caveats, statements and offers, and written a letter.

The Secretary of State said: In May 1980 the Greater London Council requested me". I waited for him to explain where the change was. However, he did not. When he concluded he made no offers and merely made a bald statement. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) would intervene and probe him further. I waited, but the Secretary of State still refused to come clean. After about 10 interventions I decided to ask him whether he remembered the letter of 24 February. I had to put my question succinctly, but it centred on the letter of 24 February. I drew out what was in the letter.

The Secretary of State could have done one of two things. He is an experienced parliamentarian and knows how to operate. He then said that I had got everything wrong and that I had misinterpreted the letter. He could have been right. If so, he could have explained. He was well briefed and could have said that, although I had got everything wrong, he would explain why the letter of 24 February was not right. However, he did not do that. He got up and made a simple statement. He said: I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. If Sir Horace should ask me to withdraw this compulsory order, I should, of course, be prepared to do so."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 154–7.] That is a simple statement of fact and an offer.

The Secretary of State tries to pretend that he thought I had got everything wrong. If he was merely trying to help, he could have included several caveats. He could have said that if Sir Horace wrote to him within two days he would withdraw the order. He could have said that if Sir Horace or the council thought that things were wrong they could go to him and he would discuss the matter with them. He could have said that he would give them until a certain time if they wished to see him. He did not say any such thing; he did not impose any constraints.

Later my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) asked whether that promise would hold good after 6 May. The Secretary of State could have answered straight away. One simple word would have been sufficient. He could have said "No". Did he do the honourable thing, which he was already twisting on? He could have said "No", but he did not. He gave a long story and said that efforts had been made for 20 years. He said that the policies would be pursued by the GLC. He concluded by saying that my hon. Friends and I should wait to see what happened before making forecasts about the policy that would be pursued. He did not say "No". He did not rebut the argument that after 8 May he would receive a letter.

It is no good the Secretary of State pretending that this is a cut-and-dried issue and that I have got things wrong while he has got things right. It is no good his thinking that everything has gone wrong for us. It has not. When he replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood, he compounded his felony. He could have said "No, it will not last because I have no intention of receiving a letter." I submit that he stands condemned if only for that one day, 31 March. It is offensive that the right hon. Gentleman should have corrupted his Department as well.

Mr. Dickens


Mr. Brown

I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman has read the letter of 18 May. If he had represented a London constituency he might have seen it. That letter was sent to Sir James Swaffield. The letter did not say that in response to an irresponsible question by a Member of Parliament the Secretary of State said that he would be prepared to withdraw. The letter did not say that. It states: However, in view of your correspondence with the Department"— that is the 24 February letter— at that time about the terms of transfer, when announcing his decision to the House on 31 March, the Secretary of State thought it right to remind your Council that it could still withdraw its request under Section 23(3) before he made the order. The Secretary of State did not answer two things. Why not? He did not talk about Sir Horace Cutler. Mention is now made of "your council". The letter states before he made the order". The right hon. Gentleman did not say that to me. He did not say that he would withdraw if the application was made before he laid the order.

Therefore, the Department is deliberately twisting. Where is the statement? I searched for it again. I had hoped that the Secretary of State would show me where the statement contained the words allegedly contained in his letter of 18 May.

The letter stated: However, in view of your correspondence with the Department at that time about the terms of transfer, when announcing his decision to the House on 31 March, the Secretary of State thought it right to remind your council". When did he do that? I do not believe it is right for the Secretary of State to sit smirking when he could have shown where he said that in his statement. He knows that he did not.

It is sad that I should have to talk in this manner. I have a regard for the Secretary of State. His behaviour, however, has been reprehensible. It was incumbent upon him to explain at the Dispatch Box if I had got the matter wrong. He did not say that in his speech. He did not offer to withdraw, on submission, if it was done before he laid the order. He stands condemned by that part alone.

We have always thought Sir Horace Cutler a bit of a comedian. We have had good value from him over the years in GLC debates. I do not object to the fact that he is wheeled in now at the death to say something about things of which he knew nothing when he was in charge. I am sure that he knows nothing about them now that he is not in charge. It is interesting to see what he says.

The Under-Secretary of State was helpful to me when I was trying to get information from the Greater London Council at the time. I was continually in touch with the director of disposals, as he was called. The hon. Gentleman helped me to get something but he had to fight hard to get it. It took months. This is the great man who is wheeled up to me to tell me what a great guy he is and what he meant. If the Secretary of State is prepared to accept what Sir Horace says, why does he not tell the House why Sir Horace deliberately withheld the document "Housing Strategy Appraisal 1981–83"? Why did he not say that when it was deliberately made impossible for hon. Members to get the information?

I shall explain one of the reasons. Page 99 of the document deals with difficult-to-let dwellings. It was estimated that there were about 100,000 difficult-to-let properties in London of which, it states, 30 per cent. were in inner London alone. As my beloved borough of Hackney has to take back 17,800 of these properties, it must have the maximum amount of difficult-to-let properties. Why should he consider therefore that Hackney wants them back in the terms he offered them? Sir Horace could have been as forthright when in office as he appears to have become out of office. He could have published the document. Before the right hon. Gentleman takes matters at Sir Horace's word, I want to know more. I should like to probe him further about why he did the things he did when he was in office.

I turn now to the argument about the cost. I have had an exchange of letters with the Under-Secretary of State pointing out that he cannot be right when he told me that the amount of money that would have to be paid had been worked out, under the system, at £1,268 per unit. I drew his attention many times to the fact that this could not be right. Why does he think that these difficult-to-let flats, of which Hackney has a majority, are difficult to let? Because they are in good order and only need £1,268 to be spent on them? Does he imagine that this is the only reason that people are turning them down? The flats are turned down because it will cost a fortune to put them in good order. To be informed that the cost will be only £1,268 per unit for the 17,800 properties that will come to Hackney is a disgrace. He knows that it is a disgrace.

To emphasise what I mean, I have raised in the House the case of Benfleet Court, consisting of 29 properties that are 16 years old. The sum of £270,000 had to be spent on the roofs. The contract had been finished and agreed. I was brought into the matter by the tenants because it was an absolute disgrace. We had meetings on site, as the hon. Gentleman knows. We spoke about it. It was finally agreed that the council would undertake further work. The hon. Gentleman wrote to me saying that he had raised the matter with the chairman of the housing committee, George Tremlett. He kindly sent me a copy of the reply by George Tremlett in which he said: It was made clear to Ron Brown at the site meeting that they"— the building problems— had not been overlooked". That was not true. Otherwise, there would be no point in my intervention. That is why three months had elapsed without anyone doing anything. They had been overlooked. He went on to say: all this work has been listed and the contractor is remedying the things that are his responsibility, or for which the Council has agreed to pay. A few items of ordinary building maintenance are being attended to by the Housing Department's Maintenance Branch. That sounds easy. The sum of those so-called few items is £15,000, or £500 a unit. On a basis of £500 a unit, how can the hon. Gentleman tell me that the cost involved in all these difficult-to-let properties that we shall get back is only £1,268? How can he say that if half that sum is for a few items on a contract of £270,000 for 29 properties that are only 16 years old?

The figures on which the Secretary of State has been working are not correct and cannot be correct. He knows that they are not correct. This is why the GLC was concerned and wanted to pull out of the exercise. The GLC knew it was faced with an enormous cost if the proposal was approved. The Secretary of State is well aware that the last thing that the GLC wanted was to have a survey of its properties. Forced by his Department even to think about it, the council only wanted 1,000 properties to be involved. By the strong action of the Under-Secretary of State, the GLC was forced to accept that another 4,000 should be surveyed, making a total of 5,000 properties. He tries to pretend that the GLC was anxious to help. It was not. It did not want to know the answer. When it finally got the answer, the 24 February letter became obvious because it recognised that it could not stand the burden of the cost in terms of money and, above all, the penalty box in which it would find itself.

I turn finally to the issue of mobility. The hon. Gentleman said to me: As for mobility, the arrangements in this and in the previous orders provide sufficient scope for tenants who need to move". Time and again I have written to the Minister raising individual cases as an example of what is happening. I should like to read a GLC reply, dealing with a case, dated 29 May 1981: You are no doubt aware that as a result of the Transfer of Estates, the Greater London Council no longer has any property available for letting in the Waltham Abbey area". That is a very desirable area where many people want to live. But property is not available. The hon. Gentleman is aware that Waltham Abbey will not offer any properties. If he says that it will offer properties, I simply ask why it did not do so before. I could have produced a trunk full of letters. I have another dated 29 May, which states: You, of course, realise that the Greater London Council has no property in the Upminster area"— it was Waltham Abbey before; now it is Upminster— consequently Mrs. Lowe can only be considered for property in that district within the scope of the Mobility Scheme and that an offer will be made when the opportunity arises". It is unlikely that the opportunity will arise for her.

When the right hon. Gentleman tells me and other hon. Members that the mobility scheme is all in order and will work from 1 April 1982, that is not true and he knows that it is not true. Every hon. Gentleman can produce the sort of letters that have been quoting.

There are two elements in this matter. The Secretary of State has given the House an unequivocal undertaking that is not hemmed in by "ifs" and "buts" or time. I am asking him to honour that undertaking. He has received the letter for which he asked and has sought for the order to be withdrawn on grounds that are not political: the first is because implementation will be impossible. Secondly, the cost factor is enormous and we do not know the figure. It is thought to be £450 million. If I am in the House in five years' time, I believe that the figure will be the £1,000 million to which I referred in my question to the right hon. Gentleman. Thirdly, the scheme is incapable of being used for mobility of the people in my constituency and in London generally.

I hope that the House will agree that the Secretary of State's conduct was a disgrace on that occasion. He gave an undertaking and I believe implicitly that he meant what he said. I urge him at this late hour to come to the Dispatch Box and tell us that he thinks there was a misunderstanding, that it can be misconstrued and that he proposes to withdraw the order.

5.32 pm
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

I do not know what Mr. Tremlett said to Sir Horace Cutler or what Mr. Livingstone said about the Secretary of State. To be honest, I am not greatly concerned. Anyone listening to the debate could be excused for thinking that we are in Hackney council chamber rather than in the House of Commons.

Today's Order Paper contains the motion Conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment". I do not propose to discuss the details of correspondence that may have passed between the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I prefer to deal with the few words comprising the heading of the motion—the conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment. I propose to speak on the motion as it affects my constituents.

My constituents have a deep and abiding reason to be grateful to my right hon. Friend, especially those who live in local authority dwellings. For reasons with which I shall not weary the House, the New Forest district council was the only Conservative council that was unwilling to sell houses to sitting tenants. Many of my constituents had waited for years for a Conservative Government to fulfil the pledges that the Conservative Party has made for many years and which were repeated at every opportunity at the last general election—that those tenants in my constituency who have lived in their houses for some years, specifically in the New Forest district council area of my constituency, would have the opportunity to buy their homes. I made the promise to fight for that opportunity for them at the last election, and my right hon. Friend has done everything that I could have wanted him to do on their behalf. I take this opportunity, as I properly should, to defend my right hon. Friend against an attack on his integrity.

Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)

I reinforce what my hon. Friend has said. In my constituency no fewer than 1,200 people have applied to buy their council houses and so far that right has not been given to them by the Socialist local authority. I am in correspondence with my right hon. Friend's Department in the hope that he will intervene on my constituents' behalf to see that they get their rights under law.

Mr. Adley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. With his diligence and the determination of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to uphold the law, my hon. Friend's constituents can rest happy in the knowledge that in due course the rights which should have been conferred on them by Parliament will be conferred on them by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

My right hon. Friend said that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) was making a narrow personal attack. My right hon. Friend sounded surprised. Who in the House is more narrow and who is more likely to launch a personal attack on anybody and everybody than the right hon. Member for Ardwick? The truth is that the motion is two things. First, it is merely a diversion by the Labour Party to distract attention from its permanent state of internecine warfare, much in the way that the Soviet Union, to distract its people's attention from famine and want, launches vitriolic attacks upon the People's Republic of China. Secondly, it is a naked vehicle being used by the right hon. Member for Ardwick to further his ambition to rise within the Labour Party hierarchy. We know that there is no one on the Left to whom the right hon. Gentleman will not kow-tow, that there is no hook on which he is not prepared to hang himself, and that there is no role that he is not prepared to take up to secure his preferment within the Labour Party.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham and Heston)

That is not very good.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) managed to rise to his feet yesterday, so perhaps it is too much to expect him to do the same today. If he would like to do so, I should be more than happy to give way, but I realise that the effort might be too much.

A former Member for Wanstead and Woodford, who was in the House some 30 years ago, once said of a former Member for Barking "He is not as nice as he looks". No one would say that about the right hon. Member for Ardwick—he is.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend mentioned the sale of council houses and the tenants' charter. The Government, and my right hon. Friend as the agent of the Government, have given council tenants a once in a. lifetime opportunity to escape from the bondage of permanent local authority tenancy. There is nothing that the House of Commons could have done more quickly and certainly to achieve that objective. My right hon. Friend referred to the private rented sector. The attitude of the right hon. Member for Ardwick to the private rented sector is on the record. He wishes to abolish it.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

I am finding that many erstwhile Labour voters who voted Tory are bitterly disappointed that they cannot afford to buy the homes that were promised to them. We find in the London suburbs that that has caused a great deal of disappointment, not joy, among those who now have the right to buy. I agree that the dream of many of them is to own their homes, but they have discovered that they cannot afford to do so.

Mr. Adley

I assume that the hon. Gentleman will support the Government in their determination to fight inflation and will be delighted that interest rates here are falling as they rise in most other countries in the free world. That will do more to bring down the cost of mortgages and money and will allow more of his constituents to buy their homes.

My right hon. Friend has some interesting ideas on the heritage and architecture which I doubt have even occurred to the right hon. Member for Ardwick. My right hon. Friend referred in passing to city centre land and the hoarding of land that has taken place in the last two generations, mainly by public bodies. I do not know whether he is yet in a position to release details of land holdings. When he does, I have no doubt that he will shock and surprise many people with the details that he discloses. I do not doubt that he will help the country to reverse a persistent trend which we all reject, namely, that more and more agricultural land is taken up for development in the absence of opportunity to redevelop land in the city centres.

Mr. Heseltine

I am following my hon. Friend's contribution with great interest. I answered a parliamentary question last Friday and listed the result of the first 27 registers of inner city sites, which show that there are over 1,500 sites of over one acre of unused and underused land. The total land covered by the 1,500 sites is 15,000 acres.

Mr. Adley

That is an astonishing amount of land. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for taking the opportunity to make that known. It is a tragedy that the media often concentrate on trivia. That information is of the utmost significance to urban development and rural protection. I hope that when the survey is completed my right hon. Friend will make a statement to the House rather than provide a written reply. Perhaps I should mildly criticise my right hon. Friend for choosing to announce such good news in a written answer.

Another matter which should be discussed en passant in this brief debate is the need for reform of our rating system. I do not propose tonight to offer solutions. However, for many of my constituents it is a matter of great urgency. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for deciding to tackle the problem. One point on which the right hon. and absent Member for Ardwick and my right hon and present Friend the Secretary of State will agree is that the increasing Government control over local government that has taken place in the last 50 years is unlikely to be reversed. In my constituency at least there is a voluble demand for something which would have been unthinkable some years ago. I refer to a block grant allocation by the Government to local authorities and the removal from local authorities of the power to raise finance through local rates. I do not mention the subject lightly. It is controversial. However, that appears from my correspondence to be the single most popular option.

The debate provides a welcome opportunity for me to jump to the defence of my right hon. Friend against a wholly predictable, personalised and unnecessary attack upon his integrity. My right hon. Friend will know that I am no sycophant of Conservative Ministers. However, one reason why my right hon. Friend sometimes is accused of not being universally loved and adored by everybody in the Conservative Party is that he is intelligent, articulate, thoughtful and provocative. For all those reasons I commend my right hon. Friend to my parliamentary colleagues and to the House. I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends enthusiastically to reject this unpleasant and unnecessary motion.

5.45 pm
Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

It is noteworthy that not one Conservative Member from London has, to use the expression of the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), jumped to the defence of the Secretary of State. We heard a speech from one of the silliest members of the House of Commons, the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington, that well-known refugee from Bristol. We heard occasional interventions from the hon. Members for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) and Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), but London Conservative Members are significant by their absence. That is no surprise.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Gentleman has just made a personal attack. Perhaps he can explain how it was possible to fit six Members of Parliament into five Bristol constituencies after the last redistribution.

Mr. Davis

One thing is certain—the people of Bristol found it impossible to fit in the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington.

The Secretary of State decided not to answer the charge today but to brazen it out. He is an extremely conceited man. I suppose that there is an excuse for his conceit because he follows the maxim of Disraeli—that every man has the right to be conceited until he is successful. The Secretary of State has a long way to go.

In his defence today the right hon. Gentleman put up all sorts of Aunt Sallies and knocked them down but refused to answer the charge of substance against him. He failed to explain why he made the statement. He gave the convoluted excuse that he acted on the spur of the moment. One can infer from that that he made a rash reply to a question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown). However, my hon. Friend completely demolished that argument in an outstanding speech in which he tore the Secretary of State's case to ribbons.

To whom did the statement apply? That is the question that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to answer. Was it simply to Sir Horace Cutler or was it to the GLC? If it was to the latter, the right hon. Gentleman does not have a leg to stand on. It was a flimsy case at best and it was utterly demolished by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch.

What detailed investigation took place in relation to Hackney? That is the area most seriously affected. What investigation was made of the defective GLC properties in my constituency? The Secretary of State spoke of the range of areas where the Government were showing results. The fact is that he does not care a tinker's cuss about the 16,000 people on the waiting list in Hackney.

Mr. Heddle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davis

No. Other hon. Members wish to speak. I should be fair to them.

I make no apology for dealing with certain constituency matters because they are relevant. I relate my remarks only to Hackney, Central—part of Hackney as a whole. The large Trowbridge estate has been found to be structurally defective, not only its tower blocks. It is so structurally defective that the GLC chairman of the housing management committee informed me that it would cost £15 million to attempt to put right the structural defects in that single estate.

If the work goes on, what is to happen to the hundreds of people directly affected? Does that form part of the right hon. Gentleman's calculations? Are the people to be temporarily transferred? What is the cost of that? Do the figures include any compensation for the loss of quiet enjoyment of their tenancies?

It is significant that, although the Labour GLC before the last Conservative GLC gave undertakings that it would not only investigate but start work on the Trowbridge estate, nothing was done in the four years of Conservative rule. The Conservatives reneged on the promise and decided to do nothing.

However, it is not only the Trowbridge estate. There is also the Nightingale estate, another block dominated by tower blocks, where hundreds of families are living in what I can only call an environmental disaster.

Another GLC estate is the Gascoyne estate. It is now seriously contemplated that that estate will have to be demolished. Hundreds of people will be affected. In the Wyke estate further serious structural defects have been established. To its credit, the Conservative GLC took action to put that right and to compensate people. I applaud that action, and it is only fair to say so. However, there are still problems on that estate, and hundreds of people are involved. The Kingsmead estate is an area of despair for many people. I do not know how many millions of pounds it would cost to put it in order. The Morningside estate, an old estate, is another that is in substantial decay.

What guarantees do the Conservative Government give to the Hackney council that they will underwrite the costs of putting right these estates—if that is possible—in just one part of one London borough? What certainty is there that the estimate of £450 million for the eight London boroughs will be accurate? In my opinion, the eventual figure will be not double that amount, not even triple, but far in excess of even that. Morever, who will pay it? At the same time that Hackney is singled out as a spendthrift borough, the right hon. Gentleman is imposing unendurable burdens on Hackney and he continues to say that he will wash his hands of Hackney and does not care about its problems. I care about the problems, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch, because we are confronted with them week after week in our surgeries and in our mailbags. The right hon. Gentleman is a disgrace to his office because he shows utter contempt for these serious, human problems.

The right hon. Gentleman's response, incidentally, when he was told about the costs of £450 million, was that it was peanuts. What about £1,000 million or £1,500 million? Will that still be peanuts? What is the reliable estimate at present? I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us a reliable estimate of the cost of dealing with the present problems in London.

The principle underlying the transfer is based on wholly bogus reasoning, and is in conflict with the Department of the Environment's own declared principles. It separates the development function from the management function. That in itself must be a rebuke to the Government's own philosophy of trying to achieve comprehensive housing authorities. That will not happen. What we shall have is a complicated structure for repairs and improvements—matters which vitally affect the tenants who should be consulted about them. Yet the Department contemplates no provision of what needs to be done, how the process will be carried out, and within what timescale.

We have witnessed a further unsavoury episode in the ministerial rake's progress of the Secretary of State. He compounds overweaning ambition with quite extraordinary arrogance and unutterable incompetence. In my view, the right hon. Gentleman has not only misled the House: he has misled his own side, and, to make matters worse, he has not even got the guts to make an apology.

5.55 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Huddersfield, West)

It has been said by many speakers that there is a shortage of London Members on the Conservative Benches, almost implying that we who live in or represent constituencies in the North are not entitled to be here to discuss the affairs of our capital city. My qualifications are that I stood for a London constituency at the last general election. Moreover, I was here on the earlier occasion when this subject was first argued. However, if for no other reason, I would be here to defend a Secretary of State against what I consider is an unfair, unjust and undignified attack.

This personal attack on a Secretary of State is simply a move by the Opposition to give themselves a further opportunity to debate the problems of London. It is an unworthy move. Indeed, it is a scandalous intrusion on parliamentary time to attack someone personally when that attack could have been made in letters, particularly at a time when there is so much important business that: the Opposition themselves would wish to attack.

You have grumbled and you have been unfair—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I try not to interrupt when an hon. Member says "you" once, when I think that he does not really mean me, but when he goes on saying it, I get persuaded.

Mr. Dickens

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. Hon. Members opposite—to whom I was alluding—have attacked the Secretary of State. That attack is unfair, because I believe that he has done more for tenants—municipal tenants, and tenants in new towns—than probably any Secretary of State in the history of Parliament.

The Government introduced the tenants' charter and we have tried to allow council tenants to buy their houses. Many council tenants—including many in Hackney to whom I have spoken, particularly elderly tenants—say, "I only wish that we had had this chance to buy our council house or flat when we were younger, because we have paid for it three or four times over." Keeping the same people over generations in a property does not release it. That is an old argument, and I shall not go into it.

I wish to compliment the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown), because he does a good and dedicated job, and looks after his constituents awfully well. Now, I draw the sword. After the letter was read by the Secretary of State, I hoped that the hon. Member would do as his brother Lord George-Brown did in another place and say that he had made a mistake. Instead of that, he entered into the attack on the Secretary of State. I believe that if we were in a court of law, the letter from Sir Horace Cutler would have led the bench to say that there was no case to answer. That is sad. I felt that the answer given on the spot—it should be remembered that it was an on-the-spot answer—was very fair. I also thought that the Secretary of State's earlier explanation of the intention of that answer was crystal clear.

I support the Secretary of State. The Opposition have been most unfair in their personal attack on a right hon. Member of the House. We on the Conservative Benches, whether we represent London or any other constituency, are entitled to be here to resist what we feel is an unfair attack on one of our Secretaries of State.

5.59 pm
Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

I bring the House back to the central issue of the debate—the contempt that has been shown by the Secretary of State over a considerable time for the whole principle of local autonomy and local democracy.

It was characteristic that in his reply to my intervention, the Secretary of State gloried in the fact that he had devoted one sentence to the issue which I regard as central—whether it is desirable for him to use his powers to transfer houses from the Greater London Council, which wishes to retain them, to a local authority which does not wish to receive them. One would think that the Secretary of State would have devoted more than one sentence to that issue. He revelled in the fact that that was all that he had said about it. The House will return to this issue of local autonomy because we know from his utterances that he is contemplating further inroads into the principle of local government democracy.

I accept that Parliament should retain control over the central direction of the economy, but that is not the issue here. It is not even the issue in most of the areas in which the Secretary of State has taken powers to override the wishes and judgment of local authorities in relation to the needs of their areas.

The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) made many references to the fact that some hon. Members had left the Chamber. He has now left the Chamber. He said that one of the greatest achievements of the Secretary of State was that he had enabled local authority tenants in the New Forest to buy their houses—with a view, no doubt, to selling them as second homes in five years' time, at great expense to the local community, undoubtedly to the benefit of themselves, but against the judgment of the New Forest local authority, which is under Conservative control.

I do not think that the Secretary of State would suggest that that authority was blinded by political prejudice when forming the judgment that it was unwilling to sell local authority houses because that would be contrary to the interests of the local community. The Secretary of State has overriden the judgment of that authority—albeit a Conservative authority. In the order that we are principally debating he is overriding the judgment of both the newly-elected Greater London Council and the local authorities to which the houses are being transferred.

In my area, the Conservative-controlled Merton borough council was not unwilling to receive the houses being transferred by the GLC. There was a political affinity with the last GLC and a mutual desire to reach a satisfactory arrangement to enable a smooth transfer. The consequences of that transfer have been quite appalling. There was a long industrial dispute due to the differences between the terms of service for the staff employed by the GLC housing department and the staff employed by the Merton borough council. There were substantial changes in the levels of rents and services provided by the two authorities.

However, I accept that those problems could be overcome by good will on both sides. Nevertheless, although that good will existed, the tenants undoubtedly suffered substantially. Far worse, there were immense troubles because the GLC gave assurances that certain work would be carried out which Merton borough council did not feel it was committed to carry out. The GLC was reluctant to honour its commitment. Those difficulties arose despite the fact that both authorities wished the transfer to take place.

To contemplate the transfer of properties from the GLC, which is anxious to retain them, to a local authority which does not wish to receive them because it believes it to be more important that the GLC retains its role as a strategic housing authority, is to disregard the essential principles of local authority and the essential structure of local government, which provide for local electorates to choose a council to conduct their affairs in the way that it thinks fit.

The essential ingredient of the GLC housing stock that has proved immensely valuable—as I have repeatedly discovered during the 17 or 18 years that I have been involved in London housing—has been the opportunity for mobility within the whole of the South-East. People were able to move from Merton to Hackney, from Hackney to retirement homes on the South coast, or to GLC estates in different parts of London. That enabled families to come together and people to move because of jobs. That structure has been wilfully destroyed by Sir Horace Cutler, with the connivance of the Secretary of State. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) was Secretary of State for the Environment, we accepted that it was legitimate to permit local authorities that wished to transfer properties between themselves to do so. But to impose transfers is unjustified and disgraceful.

In the Secretary of State's conclusion of his speech, characteristically not having dealt with the arguments and the criticisms directed at him, he referred to his pride in the achievements of his Department during his period of office, and to the failure of the Labour Government to carry through any satisfactory policies. While I should have preferred the Labour Government to do even more in housing, I know that throughout the years from 1975 to 1979 an average of 85,000 local authority houses were built each year.

The Secretary of State has not challenged the estimate of the Select Committee on the Environment that the probable number of starts in the public housing sector will be 31,000 in 1983–84, and lower than that in the period up to then. He has not challenged the Select Committee's assessment that there will be a shortfall in housing stock of 500,000 homes by the end of his term of office, if he is allowed to remain in office throughout the term of this Parliament. He has given no credit to the substantial and valuable legislation introduced by the Labour Government—for example, the Rent Act 1974, which provided security for furnished tenants and prevented them from being exploited by the Rachmans who dominated that housing area, the Housing Act 1974, the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976—

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)


Mr. Douglas-Mann

I said that I would finish in two minutes. The Minister will have an opportunity to speak later.

There was also the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 which, although introduced as a Private Member's Bill, was given time by the Labour Government. It has proved to be a most valuable protection against most intense hardship. It would never have been introduced under a Conservative Government.

Above all, the Labour Government will be remembered for the continued production of houses for those who needed them. This Government will be remembered for their failure to do anything comparable. They will go out in disgrace.

6.7 pm

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann), who is Chairman of the Select Committee. He knows that I have not been wholly uncritical of the Secretary of State for his responses to the Select Committee, both oral and written.

It gives me the greatest pleasure, however, to rise today to support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman)—he has gone out again; he comes and goes like a busy little bee—was well down to his usual standard. He used his usual discreet charm when moving the motion. My right hon. Friend referred to books that had been written by the right hon. Member for Ardwick, but what about some of the books written about him—for example, a book by Mr. Joe Haynes called "The Politics of Power" about the lavender paper and the Honours List, and the whisky flowing across No. 10? That was very exciting. It is the sort of style and standard we expect from the right hon. Gentleman, and we were not disappointed today.

The conduct of my right hon. Friend during his period of office has been extremely satisfactory. I compare it with the appalling record of his predecessor. I have jotted down a few examples at random. My right hon. Friend has put enterprise zones onto the statute book. They are now working. I do not remember that being opposed by the Labour Party. I do not remember the Labour Government doing anything about enterprise zones when they were in office. I regard it as the most important planning move for many years. It has brought a great deal of hope to a great many people.

The Wildlife and Countryside Bill is currently passing through the House. I know that it is not a wholly uncontroversial Bill, but what did the Labour Government ever do about wildlife and countryside? I cannot remember any Bill on that subject being introduced by the Labour Government.

What about assured tenancies? We have not yet heard the view of the Labour Party on that. However, my right hon. Friend has put such a measure on the statute book. He created the urban development corporations. Some hon. Members are serving on them and many of them believe that they should have been set up years ago. The nettle was grasped by my right hon. Friend.

Another example is the changes that have been made by the general development order. When the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) was responsible for housing and construction he tabled an order. However, the then Labour Government did not have a majority in the House so he had to withdraw it. My right hon. Friend has put an order on the statute book and it is now operating. There have been changes that will minimise the restrictions on planning that hitherto applied to many citizens who wished to improve their houses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Dover) referred effectively to direct labour departments. When the right hon. Members for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) and Brent, East were in office they were always talking about improving the efficiency of direct labour departments but nothing ever happened. No Bills were introduced. When a proposal was put forward it had to be withdrawn because the Liberal Party would not support it. That was the end of that. It fell to my right hon. Friend to put legislation on the statute book and to frame a new and proper procedure for the regulation of direct labour departments.

A further example is land registers, to which my right hon. Friend referred in an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley). The 27 registers that my right hon. Friend required to be published by local authorities reveal that the 1,640 sites in the areas concerned amount to 15,249 acres. That is land owned by public authorities that should be built on It is a scandal that it was necessary for my right ion. Friend to enact legislation to get the registers drawn up. That should have been done years ago and every hon. Member knows it.

My right hon. Friend rightly took powers to require local authorities to dispose of that land if they do not do so voluntarily. I hope that he will not have to use them. I hope that the land will be disposed of voluntarily by the authorities, but I am not encouraged by their past behaviour. The land has been available for many years. It could have been disposed of voluntarily during that time. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be watching the local authorities that he listed on Friday like a hawk. If nothing happens, he can use his powers of direction to get the land on the market and some houses built upon it, or whatever is the appropriate development for the particular site.

I have given some examples of the way in which my right hon. Friend has taken specific action. His conduct has been completely satisfactory and has shown that devotion to his office which I believe him to hold. I shall give some examples of the sloth of his predecessor. When the previous Labour Government were in office the Department of the Environment had a bad record for incompetence, delay and muddle. Many hard words have been spoken in the debate, including some by Labour Members. I have no hesitation in using the words sloth, muddle and incompetence.

I shall give one or two examples. The Community Land Act 1975 was a disaster. Many Conservative Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hove, (Mr. Sainsbury) and myself, sat up for many hours night after night to oppose that measure when it was passing through the House of Commons. We said that it would not work. We said that it would be a disaster. We said that it would waste money. We said that it would produce no land for building. We were right in all those respects. The Act was a waste of money, a waste of time and a waste of resources. No land was produced in the end. It was a failure. Similarly, the Land Commission, which was introduced by Richard Crossman, was in his own words "a total failure". That description or one very much like it appeared in his memoirs.

There are other examples of the conduct of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. Mr. Anthony Crosland was assisted by the right hon. Member for Ardwick between 1974 and 1975. I remember the right hon. Gentleman saying in Committee in 1975—this was his great contribution to the housing debate—that he did not mind how much he embarrassed the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He claimed that he wanted to embarrass him as much as he could by spending as much as he could. There was a problem because he did not ask the Chancellor whether that was also his view. Along came the International Monetary Fund and the housing programme was cut. By that time the right hon. Gentleman had moved to the Department of Industry, so he was out of the way.

Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, North)

That, too, had a bad record.

Mr. Latham

Indeed, I shall produce some more examples of the incompetence of Labour Ministers in control of the Department of the Environment. Under part IV of the Community Land Act they took power to deal with the "scandal" of empty offices. These were offices held empty by wicked speculators. Draconian powers were taken compulsorily to confiscate the empty office blocks at low prices to enable them to be let so as to deal with the "scandal".

I wonder whether the House knows how often those powers were used. The answer is that they were never used. There was a great fuss about them when they were put on the statute book. They were never used because by the time that they appeared the situation had changed and there was no great speculative threat. The time of Parliament was wasted and nothing was done subsequently.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, and I had a happy time in the Committee that considered the Location of Offices Bureau in 1977. The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar came forward with a new proposal. When the bureau was set up in 1963 its purpose was to get offices out of London. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that offices should be brought back into London.

Mr. Heddle

It was a U-turn.

Mr. Latham

No, it was not a U-turn. It was a V-turn or a W-turn. The right hon. Gentleman thought that he gave powers to the bureau to go to foreign countries to sell the opportunities available in London and to bring offices into the capital. The chairman of the bureau went abroad. There were to be exhibitions and attempts to sell our office accommodation in London. I have nothing but praise for the chairman's efforts.

However, there was a problem. The statutory powers had not been drafted properly. The Department discovered to its embarrassment that there were no powers to spend money overseas and that the money had been spent illegally. It was getting around to putting that right when the Labour Government went out of office. My right hon. Friend took office and abolished the bureau. That was typical of the muddle of the previous Labour Government.

The House will remember the performance of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar and that of the right hon. Member for Ardwick on planning matters. When my right hon. Friend took office he found a pile of structure plans sitting in his in-tray. Some of them had been there for years. Between the passing of the 1968 Act and May 1979, 25 structure plans had been approved. Since May 1979 my right hon. Friend has approved 34 more structure plans. My right hon. Friend has not been prepared to do nothing while the structure plans sit in the in-tray and become mouldy. In part he reached decisions on structure plans to enable him to make progress with the planning basis for Britain. That is the decision-making that we need from him.

The previous Labour Government established many useless quangos. There was the Construction Exports Advisory Board. It met on umpteen occasions and its decisions did not amount to a row of beans. It was abolished by the same man who set it up two years after its establishment. There was the great triumph of the British Urban Development Services Unit, which was better known as BUDSU and not very well known at that. That organisation was set up by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). What a triumph it was to be. It was to be an agency of Government which, on a commercial basis, would allow us to export all our expertise in developing new towns to the Arabs, the Venezualans and heaven knows who else. There was plenty of publicity and BUDSU soon had a staff of 13. Two years later this commercial venture was abolished. It had achieved about £40,000 in revenue and had received £500,000 in expenses. That was a typical example of the efficiency, or lack of it, of my right hon. Friend's predecessors when running the Department.

From time to time hon. Members such as myself have criticised my right hon. Friend. That is what we are here for and he knows it. However, if it is a matter of comparing my right hon. Friend's conduct and his record with those of his predecessors, I have no hesitation in saying that more energy has been expended, more decisions made and more effectiveness shown in the past two years than throughout the lifetime of the previous Labour Government.

6.19 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I join my right hon. and hon. Friends in condemning the Secretary of State's conduct. I always condemn his conduct. It is usually so appalling that as a Labour Member I should consider myself to be drawing money under false pretences if I did not condemn what he was doing. Having been at the scene of the crime, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman gave the commitment referred to. He issued no caveats at the time. They were invented afterwards and cobbled together between the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Horace Cutler. That is only part of the contemptuous attitude that the right hon. Gentleman has displayed. That applies not only to the House but to figures generally. Indeed, there is a rumour flying about that his favourite reading is a book by Mr. Huff called "How to lie with statistics".

On the subject of the GLC, the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, also seems to be afflicted with an inability to get the figures right. During environment questions recently, when he was asked a question about the number of empty dwellings held by local authorities in London, he quickly paraded the empty dwellings held by Labour boroughs. Because of his own incompetence or that of his officials, he was not able to tell the House that the GLC, under Sir Horace's command, had a total of no fewer than 6,000 properties empty at that time. Obviously the contempt for the House and the contempt for figures spread from the Secretary of State to the Under-Secretary.

What is more important is that the Secretary of State betrays a contempt for his responsibility for ordinary people, and he certainly displays a contempt for his responsibility for housing in London. He has been responsible for the absolute devastation of London's housing programme.

In 1975, there were 24,000 public sector starts in Greater London. In 1980, the first year for which the Secretary of State is really responsible, the number of starts had fallen to 4,000. The most recent set of figures that I obtained showed that the GLC's forward contribution to building new dwellings was a total of 35—not 35,000, but 35. That was the expected contribution from this great strategic housing authority.

In presenting misleading figures to the House, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) referred, when announcing the HIP allocation, the Secretary of State claimed that the cut was 15 per cent. For outer London it was 31 per cent. and for inner London 41 per cent. Secretaries of State, within your recollection Mr. Speaker, used to be judged on the extent to which they protected and looked after the services for which they were responsible. It now appears that the way to get promotion and adulation in the eyes of the Prime Minister is to be able to say at a Cabinet meeting "Please, Miss, I have devastated the housing programme" or "Please, Miss, I have devastated the education programme"—or the social services programme or the health programme or anything that gives any benefit to ordinary people.

House building figures are at their lowest, not since the Prime Minister came into office but since she was born. That shows how far housing provision has fallen under this Secretary of State and this Government.

The Secretary of State referred to other important housing measures that he had introduced. Those important measures took up one-third of the total words in his Department's response to the first report of the Select Committee on the Environment on housing expenditure. These new initiatives which the Secretary of State said were so important have produced, on the Department's own figures, 7,000 dwellings since they were introduced. To put that in perspective, I remind the House that there are about 20 million dwellings in this country. The pathetic product of all the special measures about which the Secretary of State has boasted is 7,000 dwellings out of 20 million.

The Secretary of State also referred to the boroughs and the GLC struggling to protect their interests. It is clear that the GLC was not struggling to protect the interests of its tenants, who are the most important people. There is am estate in my constituency called the Ossulston estate, which is owned by the GLC and contains about 500 flats. Rehabilitation of that estate has been promised by the GLC for the last four years. There are more than 200 empty flats, some of which have been empty for more than three years. I am glad to say that the new GLC is starting work in rehabilitating those flats this year. The tenants there want that work done. They do not relish having, from April next year, the Camden council as their landlord and the GLC doing the building work. That is very disturbing for them.

Those tenants want better transfer arrangements than those that the Secretary of State is giving. They do not believe that the GLC will have the money to complete the work, and they are not sure that the money available will be spent on this estate. They are not sure that the necessary funds will be passed to Camden, and there is no protection for them during this transfer period.

It is clear, from a survey that has been conducted, that these tenants look forward to becoming tenants of the Camden council, much maligned though it is. They want to be real tenants of the Camden council—not, as they would be under this sloppy system, living for the next decade in a half-way house, as is envisaged in the ridiculous order that the Secretary of State still defends.

6.25 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Bolton, West)

I start by reminding the House what the debate is about. We are not, as some Government Members would have us believe, debating my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). What we are debating and what Members on the Conservative Benches are anxious to divert attention from—I cannot say that I blame them—is the conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment", who is no longer present.

In particular, we are debating the right hon. Gentleman's conduct towards the House, the latest example of his failure to honour an undertaking to the House in respect of the compulsory transfer of GLC dwellings. This debate could, of course, as the Secretary of State acknowledged, have been wide-ranging. After all, there are many areas in which the Secretary of State's conduct has been such as to justify a censure motion.

The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) mentioned the Wildlife and Countryside Bill. He mentioned it with pride, but that is one area where the Secretary of State has so mismanaged the business of the House as to offend everyone and make the Bill virtually worthless.

We could justifiably have concentrated on many aspects of the Secretary of State's policies. We could have concentrated on house building levels, the Government's rent policy or the Secretary of State's attack on the principle of local government itself, an attack which is alarming even Tory county councillors, who have not formed themselves into a so-called "Suffolk group" to defend themselves against the Secretary of State.

The fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick chose to concentrate his remarks on the compulsory transfer of houses is not because we are not censorious of the Secretary of State's other conduct but because the Secretary of State's contempt of the House on his matter has been even more blatant than usual.

When the Secretary of State spoke earlier today, in an extraordinary speech, he proved the point of this motion. He proved that he does not care about the issues for which he has responsibility. We are not criticising the Secretary of State simply for forcing the transfer of houses from an unwilling donor to an unwilling recipient. We are not criticising him simply for failing to give guarantees to the GLC that even the previous Conservative majority in County Hall demanded. We are not criticising him simply for attacking the role of the GLC as a housing authority, ignoring its important strategic role, particularly on mobility.

As well as those important and legitimate criticisms, and the fact that again the Secretary of State is trying to say that he knows better than anyone else and has no faith in local government, there is the point raised earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick, which was not satisfactorily answered by the Secretary of State—the way in which he is willing to do favours for his political cronies and the way in which he has tried to mislead the House.

The Secretary of State was anxious to make light of the problem. He claimed that the row was a storm in a teacup and that the transfer of these houses was no different from all the other transfers that have taken place. He gave us a mini-history lesson and argued that there had been a bipartisan policy on transfers. In particular, he mentioned the other orders that have gone ahead.

It is true that in 1974 the Labour Party considered a policy of transfers and worked out a package whereby voluntary transfers might be possible if other items were included in the package. For example, voluntary transfers might be possible if targets on house building in London were met and if targets on home improvements in London were met. The package was important because over the last few years, with the Conservatives in control at County Hall, those other targets have not been met. When we talked about voluntary transfers, council house building in London was running at 21,000 houses a year compared with 5,000 last year. Had the Tories at County Hall continued to build homes, this transfer would not have had such serious effects as it is having now.

The Secretary of State insisted earlier on putting this order in the same category as all the others before. It is simply not true to say that it is the same. Which other order involves compulsion? The answer is "None". This is the only one, and it involves compulsion from the Secretary of State to both sides. He is forcing the GLC to relinquish those houses and he is forcing the boroughs to accept them. That has never happened before. So much for his claim that these orders are like all the others and so much for his claim that he believes in the rights of local government.

The debate raises some serious matters. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick raised some fundamental housing points which the Secretary of State chose not to answer. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will at least try to give us some answers to some of those points, because there is an unsatisfactory position.

The houses which are being compulsorily transferred are going ahead when proper arrangements have not yet been made to guarantee the GLC sufficient funds to carry out the work and the commitments which are required. I ask the Minister whether he will give an assurance—for what his assurances are worth—that sufficient funds will be available, because both the present and the previous administrations at County Hall agree that the Government have refused to give the essential guarantees.

It is no use the Secretary of State coming to the House today and waving a piece of paper from Sir Horace Cutler saying that he was satisfied with the terms of the agreement. He cannot use a letter which Sir Horace Cutler wrote after the local elections and after he had ceased to be leader which says that he was satisfied.

I believe that we would be wiser to rely on the information of the comptroller of finance at County Hall, who, as my right hon. Friend said, says that the Tory council decided on the transfer of housing stock but did not formally support the final terms of the order. The Secretary of State tried to say that when Sir Horace Cutler had been arguing about terms, he was arguing as part of the negotiating procedure. This minute and this statement refer to the final terms. I believe that Sir Horace is indulging in one of the Secretary of State's favourite tricks of rewriting history, as we heard earlier today.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will say something about the houses which have been transferred under voluntary arrangements. It is true that those houses will not enjoy the priority claim on the GLC housing funds, as they are not subject to the same agreement on repairs. As the Secretary of State is reducing the funds available for housing, their chances of reaching a satisfactory condition are diminishing further every time the Minister announces another housing cut, which seems to be frequently.

I hope that the Minister will also deal with the fundamental problem of what the Secretary of State was saying on 31 March. The Secretary of State mentioned that earlier. All that he said in giving what I believe is his fourth version of the events did not clarify the issue; it merely confused it further. One thing which we can be sure of—I do not believe that even the Secretary of State would doubt it on this occasion—is what Hansard actually says. It states that the Secretary of State said: If Sir Horace should ask me to withdraw this compulsory order, I should, of course, be prepared to do so."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 157.] No one doubts that that is what the Secretary of State said—an offer was made.

What is still not clear is to whom the Secretary of State was making the offer. Was he making the offer to the leader of the GLC, who happened to be Sir Horace Cutler, or was he making the offer to Sir Horace Cutler, who happened to be the leader of the GLC? If he was making it to the leader of the GLC, surely the offer must still stand. However, the Secretary of State has told us that the offer does not stand. Therefore, the offer must have been made to Sir Horace Cutler personally and not because he was leader of the GLC.

The House has a right to know on what grounds the Secretary of State intends to make policy at the request of one individual. What the Secretary of State meant was that he would accept a request from a Conservative leader but not from a Labour leader. I cannot see why he cannot admit that tonight.

That interpretation is confirmed by what the Secretary of State said later on 31 March in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser). He asked the Secretary of State whether that offer would still hold good after the local elections on 6 May. The Secretary of State did not say that an offer had not been made but said that the House should wait and see what happened before making forecasts about the policies which would be pursued.

We have conclusive proof that the Secretary of State was acting in a political way. He has looked at the transfer of houses only from a political viewpoint. One thing is clear. He has not looked at the problem in the context of the housing needs of London. He has not considered the problem of mobility and the failure of the Tory GLC's mobility scheme. It is incredible that, given all the housing problems in London, the Secretary of State can concentrate his attention only on transferring houses compulsorily from the GLC to the London boroughs.

One of the few logical explanations for the Secretary of State's behaviour is that perhaps he thinks that the issue is a useful diversion to distract attention from the main problems. It is clear that he does not like talking about the main problems of London.

Mr. Adley

I have listened to most of the debate, in which convoluted charges have been going back and forth. What is the alleged advantage to the Conservative Party if my right hon. Friend had done what the hon. Lady accuses him of doing?

Mrs. Taylor

Some of us are suspicious of the ultimate aim of the Minister and whether the Government wish the GLC to remain a housing authority at all. Many claims have been made by Conservatives that the GLC should cease to be a housing authority. Some have said that the GLC should cease to exist. I believe that the Secretary of State is moving in that direction.

It is a useful diversionary tactic for the Secretary of State if he can create a row about this matter so that he does not have to talk—

Mr. Heseltine

I am not doing anything.

Mrs. Taylor

That is right. It is because the Secretary of State is doing nothing constructive that he has to divert attention and fiddle while other problems arise.

The Secretary of State does not want to take notice of the fact that 242,000 people are on the waiting list in London. Those are up-to-date figures. Waiting lists are increasing by 20 per cent. a year. The Secretary of State does not want to realise that more than 100,000 new applicants come on to waiting lists every year because his Government are not providing housing in London.

Waiting lists are now getting longer, and new applications are increasing. But, not content with selling off council houses, thereby reducing the chances of those on the waiting lists, the Government have savaged spending on housing in London. They have cut the GLC's housing investment programme from £182 million in 1980–81 to £95 million in 1981–82—less than half what the Tory GLC thought was necessary. The London boroughs have suffered in the same way.

The result is that council house building in London has virtually stopped. This year, when there are nearly 250,000 people on the waiting lists and more than 100,000 new applications for council houses, only about 2,000 public sector houses will be started in London. That compares with a figure of 15,000 public sector starts in the worst year when Labour was in Government. It is no wonder that the Secretary of State tries to divert attention from that problem, because he is doing nothing about it.

The right hon. Gentleman's priorities are very clear. His policy is quite straightforward. He will sell and transfer council houses, but he will not build them. By concentrating his attention on those, the right hon. Gentleman is creating more problems for the people of London. We are concerned about the length of waiting lists in London and about the lack of council house building. The right hon. Gentleman should show some concern about those problems as well. Instead, he is diverting attention from them by selling and transferring council houses. We want him to build council houses, which is why we condemn him tonight.

6.41 pm.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)

I can sum up most of the Opposition speeches with the words "Do not confuse us with facts. Leave us to our assertions." The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) decided not to hear my right hon. Friend say categorically that this order was different because it was not voluntary. He said that firmly. The hon. Lady did not bother to listen, and the rest of what she said compounded the fact that she did not take the trouble to listen to what my right hon. Friend said very clearly on more than one occasion.

I cannot remember a more feeble or futile way in which the Opposition have used their time. The debate started with the well-known gramophone record of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), with his attack on the HIP figures. He knows full well that he was wrong then and that he is wrong now. He does not, or cannot, understand that capital receipts play a part in the HIP figures. Since he is fundamentally wedded to opposing the rights of tenants, and for tactical reasons, he ignores these facts whenever he puts a charge to my right hon. Friend.

Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition could not even put his name to the usual form of motion to reduce my right hon. Friend's salary. At least that might have attracted some pure monetarists on the Conservative Benches with the chance to save money. Instead, the Opposition have tried this rather foolish tactic which in racing terms I would describe as a sham, by malice out of ignorance.

Let me demonstrate each of those words. It is a sham because the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady have at least made clear that the issue of transfers, which is apparently of such importance, has been submerged in a welter of political accusations. As my right hon. Friend said, it was to mask the fact that the last Government did precisely nothing in the housing sector—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, they did. They cut the capital allocation available at the behest of the IMF.

The Opposition have displayed against my right hon. Friend deep malice which is wholly undeserved. Had he been politically motivated--and on this issue there are plenty of opportunities to be politically motivated—which he was not, he would not have taken 10 months to reach his decision. There was massive consultation on the terms.

The House should not take that assurance from me. It should take it from the GLC minutes signed by Gladys Dimson—who for her is in pretty mucky company—Tony Hart and John Carr, which states: Nevertheless, following an intensive period of consultation with the eight boroughs". That gives the lie to all that has been said about rushed consultations.

Mr. Dobson

Will the hon. Gentleman read out the two preceding and two succeeding sentences as well?

Mr. Finsberg

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman was listening. However, I was refuting the charge about consultation. If I wished, I could read the full text of Sir Horace's letter, but I do not propose to do that yet again. The object of the debate has been to denigrate my right hon. Friend and to impugn his honour. You, Mr. Speaker, have not been unfortunate enough to be here all the time, but in the limited time that you have been present—of course, Mr. Speaker is deaf to these matters—the House knows that that attempt has not been successful.

The reason is quite simple. The right hon. Member for Ardwick and his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West do not understand London. They are part of Labour's North-West mafia, which operated against London in the last two Labour Governments. Labour Members who interrupted to say that few London Conservative Members were present did not need an answer, because the charge was made by Mancunians and Lancastrians.

The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) is on the Opposition Front Bench. The Opposition dare not let him loose, because he is an exceptionally honourable man. If I have harmed the hon. Gentleman in his selection process, I apologise, but I shall continue to pay him tribute as an honourable Right-wing member of the Labour Party.

Both today and in the last few months the right hon. Member for Ardwick has sought to stake his claim for a humble—if I dare use that word about him—place in the new hierarchy of Socialism. If he understood London, he would know that away from the public platform most political figures believe in the borough structure which the Herbert report urged, and few have a good word for the housing management of the GLC under whichever political control.

The third leg of my charge was that of ignorance, and that is the easiest charge to prove. The right hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of not honouring his word when he said on 31 March that if Sir Horace asked him to withdraw the order, he would. Between 31 March and 1 May Sir Horace did not, and from the letter of 22 May it was quite clear that he never intended so to do.

Labour Members make much of letters written by servants of the GLC. That may be GLC policy under Labour. Under the Conservatives, officials carry out elected members'policies. That was part of a negotiating process. Few Opposition Members have had the opportunity of being in commerce and negotiating. They may negotiate the block vote, which is the antithesis of democracy, but they do not understand the process of democracy. Even an elementary knowledge of parliamentary procedure would have helped the Opposition to understand that what they were asking for was no longer possible after the order came into effect.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The Minister said that what we were seeking was not possible after the order came into effect. What would be the Minister's reaction to a new joint application from the GLC and the London boroughs for an annulment of the order, or for a new order to reverse its procedures, if not on houses at least on land?

Mr. Finsberg

I do not propose to indulge in hypothetical considerations.

There is one angle that is far more important than any we have so far discussed. There are few in the House who will disagree that the tenants are very important in this issue. By that I mean the actual tenants, not the London-wide organisation which is political and unrepresentative. On this issue I am not concerned with the views of Labour Members of Parliament, Labour councillors or Labour county councillors—views which ossified in 1964.

One London borough sought the views of the GLC tenants within its area. That was Camden in June 1978. Of those who voted, 67 per cent. were in favour of transfer to Camden. On the Ossulston estate mentioned by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson), 184 voted in favour and 62 against.

Mr. Dobson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Finsberg

No. I quote from page 94 of "How to be a Minister": Always give way to interventions early on in your speech. This will enable you to refuse to do so later on. I have given way three times.

Mr. Kaufman


Mr. Finsberg

I accept the advice of the master whose book I not only borrowed from the Library but actually purchased. To the author I give way.

Mr. Kaufman

I hope, since both the Minister and the Secretary of State have quoted from my book, that they bought separate copies.

Mr. Finsberg

I cannot answer for my right hon. Friend. I will use all my power to persuade him to purchase it.

Whose bright idea was it to poll the tenants of Camden? It was the idea of the chairman of Camden housing committee, a certain Councillor Kenneth Livingstone. The Labour Party does not warn its Front Bench of the facts. What did this certain Councillor Livingstone do? He moved his office into the housing department to take over full-time direction of policy. The report containing the wishes of the tenants hardly saw the light of day, because the tenants gave an answer that was wholly different from what he expected.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Finsberg

It was under the chairmanship—

Mr. Dobson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister's description of what happened on this occasion is misleading the House.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The argument about misleading the House could be advanced by the hon. Member if he were speaking after the Minister; it is not a point of order.

Mr. Finsberg

It was under the chairmanship of Councillor Kenneth Livingstone that Camden's stock of empty properties started to climb to its present level of between 2,000 and 3,000. That started long before any financial cuts by the Conservative Government. He was so incompetent that his colleagues did not keep him as chairman of the housing committee.

I suggest that this debate has never been seriously pursued by the Opposition. It is part of a sustained campaign against my right hon. Friend just because he runs rings round them time and again. I am proud to serve as a member of his team.

The right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) is normally a very nice chap but he got it wrong, perhaps because he is no longer on the Front Bench.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

He is.

Mr. Finsberg

He is no longer a senior member of the Front Bench. It changes so quickly.

The Opposition prayed against the order but withdrew the prayer five weeks later to adopt a dirtier approach. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, East said that my departmental officials say that the mobility scheme is inadequate. My officials follow ministerial policy, and Ministers do not take that view.

The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) spoke of the condition of properties in Hackney. The survey was taken on the basis of 765 dwellings in Hackney. I cannot split the survey between the two parts of Hackney. It represents 8 per cent. of repairs costing more than £3,000, amounting to £8.1 million, and 92 per cent. required repairs costing less than £3,000, amounting to £13.8 million. That total is well within the figures we have spoken of. Having answered the hon. Gentleman, I believe that far from deserving censure, my right hon. Friend deserves approbation.

Mr. Moyle


Mr. Clinton Davis


Mr. Finsberg

I ask the House not merely to reject the motion—

Mr. Moyle


Mr. Speaker

Order. It is clear that the Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Finsberg

I hope that the House will reject the motion, not merely with the contempt it deserves but with derision—

Mr. Moyle

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Finsberg

—for the sort of case that has been brought forward. The Opposition have huffed and puffed. They have failed to make any case against my right hon. Friend. They do not like my right hon. Friend because he hits them where it hurts politically. They sit there, hoping to find ways to trip him up.

What has happened today is clear. My right hon. Friend began the debate for the Government side by exposing the weaknesses of the Opposition. I believe that the House will wish to reject the motion.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 311.

Division No. 235] [3.43 pm
Adams, Allen Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Allaun, Frank Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Ashton, Joe Lyon, Alexander (York)
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert McTaggart, Robert
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Marks, Kenneth
Buchan, Norman Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & p) Meacher, Michael
Campbell-Savours, Dale Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Canavan, Dennis Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Carmichael, Neil Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Morton, George
Cryer, Bob Park, George
Cunliffe, Lawrence Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Prescott, John
Dempsey, James Race, Reg
Dixon, Donald Radice, Giles
Dubs, Alfred Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Duffy, A. E. P. Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Eadie, Alex Sheerman, Barry
Eastham, Ken Short, Mrs Renée
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Skinner, Dennis
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Soley, Clive
Evans, John (Newton) Spearing, Nigel
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Spriggs, Leslie
Forrester, John Stoddart, David
Foster, Derek Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Foulkes, George Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Graham, Ted Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Grant, George (Morpeth) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Winnick, David
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Woodall, Alec
Haynes, Frank Woolmer, Kenneth
Homewood, William Wright, Sheila
Hooley, Frank Young, David (Bolton E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Tellers for the Ayes:
Lamond, James Mr. Ernie Ross and
Leighton, Ronald Mr. William McKelvey.
Adley, Robert Braine, Sir Bernard
Aitken, Jonathan Brinton, Tim
Alexander, Richard Brooke, Hon Peter
Ancram, Michael Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Browne, John (Winchester)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Buck, Antony
Banks, Robert Budgen, Nick
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Chapman, Sydney
Berry, Hon Anthony Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Blackburn, John Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Body, Richard Clegg, Sir Walter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cockeram, Eric
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Colvin, Michael
Bradley, Tom Cope, John
Costain, Sir Albert Mellor, David
Crouch, David Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Dewar, Donald Moate, Roger
Dickens, Geoffrey Molyneaux, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Montgomery, Fergus
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Morgan, Geraint
Durant, Tony Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Dykes, Hugh Myles, David
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Neubert, Michael
Eggar, Tim Newton, Tony
Eyre, Reginald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fairbairn, Nicholas Onslow, Cranley
Fairgrieve, Russell Page, John (Harrow, West)
Faith, Mrs Sheila Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Fell, Anthony Pawsey, James
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Percival, Sir Ian
Finsberg, Geoffrey Peyton, Rt Hon John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Pollock, Alexander
Fookes, Miss Janet Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Forman, Nigel Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Proctor, K. Harvey
Freud, Clement Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Garel-Jones, Tristan Rathbone, Tim
Glyn, Dr Alan Rees-Davies, W. R.
Goodhew, Victor Rhodes James, Robert
Goodlad, Alastair Rifkind, Malcolm
Gow, Ian Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Grist, Ian Shelton, William (Streatham)
Gummer, John Selwyn Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hamilton, Hon A. Shersby, Michael
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Silvester, Fred
Hawkins, Paul Sims, Roger
Hayhoe, Barney Skeet, T. H. H.
Heddle, John Speed, Keith
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Speller, Tony
Hicks, Robert Spence, John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Squire, Robin
Howells, Geraint Stanbrook, Ivor
Janner, Hon Greville Stanley, John
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Steel, Rt Hon David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stevens, Martin
Kaberry, Sir Donald Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
King, Rt Hon Tom Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Knight, Mrs Jill Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Lang, Ian Stokes, John
Langford-Holt, Sir John Stradling Thomas, J.
Latham, Michael Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lawrence, Ivan Thompson, Donald
Le Marchant, Spencer Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Wainwright, R. (Colne V)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Ward, John
Loveridge, John Wheeler, John
McCrindle, Robert Whitney, Raymond
MacKay, John (Argyll) Williams, D. (Montgomery)
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Winterton, Nicholas
McQuarrie, Albert
Madel, David Tellers for the Noes:
Mather, Carol Mr. Den Dover and
Mawby, Ray Mr. Christopher Murphy.
Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Division No. 236] [6.59 pm
Abse, Leo Booth, Rt Hon Albert
Adams, Allen Boothroyd, Miss Betty
Allaun, Frank Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)
Anderson, Donald Bradley, Tom
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, Joe Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Buchan, Norman
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Callaghan, Rt Hon J.
Bidwell, Sydney Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Canavan, Dennis Janner, Hon Greville
Cant, R. B. Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Carmichael, Neil John, Brynmor
Carter-Jones, Lewis Johnson, James (Hull West)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cowans, Harry Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Craigen, J. M. Kerr, Russell
Crowther, J. S. Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cryer, Bob Lamond, James
Cunliffe, Lawrence Leadbitter, Ted
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Leighton, Ronald
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Dalyell, Tam Litherland, Robert
Davidson, Arthur Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McCartney, Hugh
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Deakins, Eric McElhone, Frank
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McKelvey, William
Dempsey, James McMahon, Andrew
Dewar, Donald McNally, Thomas
Dixon, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Dobson, Frank McTaggart, Robert
Dormand, Jack McWilliam, John
Douglas, Dick Magee, Bryan
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Marks, Kenneth
Dubs, Alfred Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Dunnett, Jack Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Eadie, Alex Maxton, John
Eastham, Ken Maynard, Miss Joan
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Meacher, Michael
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
English, Michael Mikardo, Ian
Ennals, Rt Hon David Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Evans, John (Newton) Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Ewing, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Faulds, Andrew Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Field, Frank Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Fitch, Alan Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Flannery, Martin Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Newens, Stanley
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Ogden, Eric
Ford, Ben O'Halloran, Michael
Forrester, John O'Neill, Martin
Foster, Derek Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foulkes, George Palmer, Arthur
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Park, George
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Parker, John
Freud, Clement Pendry, Tom
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Prescott, John
Ginsburg, David Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Golding, John Race, Reg
Graham, Ted Radice, Giles
Grant, George (Morpeth) Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Grant, John (Islington C) Richardson, Jo
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Haynes, Frank Robertson, George
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Heffer, Eric S. Rooker, J. W.
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Roper, John
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Home Robertson, John Rowlands, Ted
Homewood, William Ryman, John
Hooley, Frank Sever, John
Huckfield, Les Sheerman, Barry
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Torney, Tom
Short, Mrs Renée Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Silverman, Julius Watkins, David
Skinner, Dennis Wellbeloved, James
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark) Welsh, Michael
Snape, Peter White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Soley, Clive Whitlock, William
Spearing, Nigel Wigley, Dafydd
Spriggs, Leslie Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Stallard, A. W. Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Stoddart, David Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Stott, Roger Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Strang, Gavin Winnick, David
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Woodall, Alec
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Woolmer, Kenneth
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Wright, Sheila
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Young, David (Bolton E)
Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen) Tellers for the Ayes:
Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Mr. George Morton and
Tilley, John Mr. Allen McKay.
Tinn, James
Adley, Robert Colvin, Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Cope, John
Alexander, Richard Cormack, Patrick
Alton, David Corrie, John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Costain, Sir Albert
Ancram, Michael Cranborne, Viscount
Arnold, Tom Critchley, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Crouch, David
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dorrell, Stephen
Banks, Robert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dover, Denshore
Bendall, Vivian du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Durant, Tony
Bevan, David Gilroy Dykes, Hugh
Biffen, Rt Hon John Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Biggs-Davison, John Eggar, Tim
Blackburn, John Elliott, Sir William
Blaker, Peter Eyre, Reginald
Body, Richard Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fairgrieve, Russell
Boscawen, Hon Robert Faith, Mrs Sheila
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Farr, John
Bowden, Andrew Fell, Anthony
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Braine, Sir Bernard Finsberg, Geoffrey
Bright, Graham Fisher, Sir Nigel
Brinton, Tim Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Brittan, Leon Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Brooke, Hon Peter Fookes, Miss Janet
Brotherton, Michael Forman, Nigel
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Browne, John (Winchester) Fox, Marcus
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Bryan, Sir Paul Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Buck, Antony Fry, Peter
Budgen, Nick Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Bulmer, Esmond Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Burden, Sir Frederick Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Butcher, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Cadbury, Jocelyn Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Glyn, Dr Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodhart, Philip
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Goodhew, Victor
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Goodlad, Alastair
Chapman, Sydney Gorst, John
Churchill, W. S. Gow, Ian
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Gower, Sir Raymond
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Greenway, Harry
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)
Clegg, Sir Walter Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Cockeram, Eric Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Grist, Ian Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Grylls, Michael Miscampbell, Norman
Gummer, John Selwyn Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Hamilton, Hon A. Moate, Roger
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Monro, Hector
Hampson, Dr Keith Montgomery, Fergus
Hannam, John Morgan, Geraint
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mudd, David
Hawksley, Warren Murphy, Christopher
Hayhoe, Barney Myles, David
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neale, Gerrard
Heddle, John Needham, Richard
Henderson, Barry Nelson, Anthony
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Neubert, Michael
Hicks, Robert Newton, Tony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Normanton, Tom
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nott, Rt Hon John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Onslow, Cranley
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hordern, Peter Page, John (Harrow, West)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Parris, Matthew
Howells, Geraint Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Patten, John (Oxford)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hurd, Hon Douglas Pawsey, James
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Percival, Sir Ian
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Peyton, Rt Hon John
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pink, R. Bonner
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Pollock, Alexander
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Porter, Barry
Kaberry, Sir Donald Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Kershaw, Anthony Prior, Rt Hon James
Kimball, Marcus Proctor, K. Harvey
King, Rt Hon Tom Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Knight, Mrs Jill Raison, Timothy
Knox, David Rathbone, Tim
Lamont, Norman Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Lang, Ian Rees-Davies, W. R.
Langford-Holt, Sir John Renton, Tim
Latham, Michael Rhodes James, Robert
Lawrence, Ivan Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Lee, John Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rifkind, Malcolm
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Loveridge, John Rossi, Hugh
Luce, Richard Rost, Peter
Lyell, Nicholas Royle, Sir Anthony
McCrindle, Robert Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Macfarlane, Neil St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
MacGregor, John Scott, Nicholas
MacKay, John (Argyll) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Shelton, William (Streatham)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McQuarrie, Albert Shepherd, Richard
Madel, David Shersby, Michael
Major, John Silvester, Fred
Marland, Paul Sims, Roger
Marlow, Tony Skeet, T. H. H.
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Speed, Keith
Marten, Neil (Banbury) Speller, Tony
Mather, Carol Spence, John
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Mawby, Ray Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Sproat, Iain
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Squire, Robin
Mayhew, Patrick Stainton, Keith
Mellor, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanley, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Steel, Rt Hon David
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Steen, Anthony
Stevens, Martin Waldegrave, Hon William
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Walker, B. (Perth)
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Stokes, John Waller, Gary
Stradling Thomas, J. Walters, Dennis
Tapsell, Peter Ward, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Warren, Kenneth
Tebbit, Norman Watson, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Wells, John (Maidstone)
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Wells, Bowen
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Wheeler, John
Thompson, Donald Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South) Whitney, Raymond
Thornton, Malcolm Wickenden, Keith
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wiggin, Jerry
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Trippier, David Winterton, Nicholas
Trotter, Neville Wolfson, Mark
van Straubenzee, W. R. Young, Sir George (Acton)
Vaughan, Dr Gerard Younger, Rt Hon George
Viggers, Peter
Waddington, David Tellers for the Noes:
Wainwright, R. (Colne V) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Wakeham, John Mr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

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