HC Deb 16 December 1991 vol 201 cc69-88

'.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the council tax relates to the ability to pay of those liable to the tax.

(2) As a result of the duty established under subsection I, the Secretary of State shall undertake a study of the circumstances in which people occupy and acquire their dwellings and how this relates to the level of the liability under the council tax.

(3) Pursuant to the study undertaken as a result of subsection 2, the Secretary of State shall take whatever measures are necessary including introducing new or regional valuation bands or ensuring that the tax is directly related to persons' income.'.—[Mr. Wallace.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I lbeg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 4—Ability to pay (Scotland)

'. (1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the council tax relates to the ability to pay of those liable to the tax.

(2) As a result of the duty established under subsection 1, the Secretary of State shall undertake a study of the circumstances in which people occupy and acquire their dwellings and how this relates to the level of their liability under the council tax.

(3) Pursuant to the study undertaken as a result of subsection 2, the Secretary of State shall take whatever measures are necessary including introducing new or regional valuation bands or ensuring that the tax is directly related to persons' income.'.

Mr. Wallace

New clause 2 goes to the crux of the council tax. The test that one should apply to that tax will be crucial and—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is too much sedentary noise.

Mr. Wallace

I am glad to note that this new clause is attracting so much attention from those on the Government Front Bench.

The test of whether the amount charged to an individual is related to that person's ability to pay should be applied to any tax. I cannot honestly say that paying taxes is something that one would put down as a recreation in "Who's Who" or something that one did with a spring in one's step. However, in a civilised, democratic society it is recognised that paying taxes is one of the responsibilities that one must bear as a citizen. That obligation is bearable and tolerable only if the tax which one is asked to pay at central or local government level is seen to be fair.

There was never any question of fairness in the community charge—the poll tax. It was never suggested that that tax should relate to one's ability to pay. At the outset, when the poll tax started on its parliamentary procedure in 1986—when we legislated for Scotland—a virtue was made of the fact that almost everyone would pay the same, bar those who would qualify for a rebate, and even they had to pay 20 per cent. of the poll tax.

The fact that everyone had to pay was justified on the ground of promoting accountability. However, by the time the poll tax reached its dying embers, even the pretence that it made local authorities more accountable was dispensed with, especially as just a small proportion of the revenue was raised by the local authorities themselves. In the Shetland part of my constituency, the poll tax for this year is 93p. It is difficult to be accountable to the electorate for 93p.

The poll tax was unfair in principle, and it was perceived as such. Those who benefited from that tax were also unhappy, because they thought they should make a fair contribution. Ultimately, those factors have led to the demise of the poll tax. However, we do not believe that the council tax offers much more fairness, if fairness is measured by how that tax relates to a person's ability to pay. We believe that property taxes, by their very nature, tend to be unfair.

Although, at first sight, there may be a rough and ready correlation between the size of a property and a person's ability to pay, there can be no direct correlation between the size and cost of a property and the income of those who occupy it.

Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)

The academic understanding—it is not a party political figure—is that there is an 80 per cent. correlation between the size of a property and a person's ability to pay. That correlation was also accepted under the old rating system. The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that, in some cases, there may not be such a correlation, but he is overstating his case.

Mr. Wallace

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I did say that it was a rough and ready correlation. I shall cite examples of people in different circumstances who would find that the value of the property they own, or perhaps rent, does not necessarily relate to their income.

Some people may inherit a property. Given the expansion in home ownership in the 1980s, and even allowing for the tragic repossessions of the early 1990s, I suspect that that will be an increasing phenomenon. Some of those properties may not be particularly large, but they may be of great value in certain areas. Such a property may be a family's only means of acquiring affordable property in their home area.

People may buy or rent a property and live in it for most of their lives. If that property is situated in an area where the value of property rises sharply, as happened in the south-east and in the north-east of Scotland, a family may find themselves in a high capital value property that does not match their income.

It must also be remembered that some people rent their homes, often in high capital value, inner-city areas of London or Edinburgh. The very fact that they have rented may show that they cannot afford to buy, but their council tax will be dictated by the capital value of the landlord's property. When the poll tax was introduced, many people whose rents had incorporated an element of their rates suddenly found that they then had to pay the poll tax in addition. Much injustice arose because of that, and I wonder what will happen as a result of this further change in local taxation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) has often mentioned, both in Committee and in the Chamber, people in tied housing. Those in agricultural areas in particular may occupy valuable properties despite the fact that their incomes are relatively low. Manses and vicarages in many areas can be of considerable value, yet the clergy are not, by any stretch of the imagination, among the better-paid members of our community.

7 pm

When Mr. Speaker retires at the next general election, I wonder how many of those who may wish to take his job will be reluctant to take the Chair—I do not mean the traditional symbolic reluctance—knowing that they will occupy the most expensive tied house in the country. Mr. Speaker's income is not too bad, however, and that may be an extreme example.

Last week, I received a telephone call from a constituent whose husband is in employment but not earning a significant wage. The lady concerned is confined to her house, is in receipt of a disability allowance and is currently applying for a mobility allowance. Under the present system, because of her husband's income, she does not qualify for a rebate. Even with a poil tax of £2, she pointed out that the system was basically unfair.

I accept that, to the Government's credit, an amendment has been made so that houses that have been converted for disabled people will be put in a lower band, but if they are already in the lowest band, those concerned will receive precious little, if any, relief. Because of their disabilities, those people will be unable to earn a worthwhile income, yet they will not qualify for the same discount as people living alone.

Property prices fluctuate, and people living side by side in properties that are almost identical from the outside may have very different incomes. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) hit the nail on the head in 1990, when he said: What isn't right is the disparity between someone living alone living next to three or four earners". That applies particularly to people who live in London and the south-east. A widow in a family home acquired 40 years ago may live next door to a two-income couple. The houses will be valued at the same amount by the local estate agent but the widow could almost certainly not afford that house on the open market and, when she and her husband were just starting out in the housing market, they could not have afforded to buy it as their first option.

In many areas, property is priced out of reach of traditional occupiers. They may have to work or stay in the area for family reasons, but the council tax may price them out of their family homes. What may be true in London and the south-east is equally true in areas such as Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Cambridge.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Does not my hon. Friend's comment reinforce the fact that, in the current crisis, people may be forced out of their homes in a market that will not bear extra property? They will not be able to sell the property at any price, so they risk losing their home and being unable to pay the tax.

Mr. Wallace

My hon. Friend strikes a note that is all too true in so many cases. People are caught no matter which way they try to go.

We shall have an opportunity to explore the matter further in the next debate on valuation bands, and tomorrow we shall have an opportunity to discuss changes in discounts. However, any changes can improve fairness only at the margins. It is also likely that any such changes, while improving fairness, will nevertheless increase the administrative costs of the tax. Our new clause will oblige the Secretary of State regularly to face up to the issue of ability to pay and, ultimately, to work toward a system in which the tax is directly related to a person's income.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

I am having some difficulty in following the argument. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing for a local income tax, which is perfectly fair, he should have tabled a new clause on that. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends may have tried to do that in Committee, but they could have tabled a new clause for discussion now. This new clause says that there will be a property tax called the council tax and that the income of the person or persons living within a property will somehow be taken into account. The Government and the Labour party considered that option, but it becomes so complicated that it is impossible to operate. Is the hon. Gentleman arguing for a local income tax or a property tax based on income?

Mr. Wallace

If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) had read the list of new clauses and amendments——

Mr. Maxton

I have.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Gentleman says that he has, but he obviously has not. Had he done so, he would have seen that amendments Nos. 1 and 2 tabled by me and my hon. Friends argue for a local income tax. The amendments were not selected—I do not wish to criticise Mr. Speaker—but it is important to put the record straight. The new clause seeks to push the council tax in the direction of a local income tax. The hon. Member for Cathcart suggests that a property-based tax, specifically the council tax—there is not much difference between Government and Labour proposals—is incapable of being transformed into a fair tax that relates to people's ability to pay. People will judge the Labour party's proposals and the council tax on the basis of that admission.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

The hon. Gentleman seeks to argue that, whatever is done to help people's ability to pay under a council tax, it would not be as fair as a local income tax. Indeed, he sought to table an amendment on that basis. Was the amendment on local income tax based on——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss an amendment which is not before the House and which Mr. Speaker deliberately did not select. Let us return to the new clause before us.

Mr. Wallace

I am sure that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) is sufficiently ingenious to put his question under another guise, and I await his doing so with interest.

We want the Government to write into the Bill measures that will oblige them to move towards a tax that is directly related to persons' income. That would be tantamount to a system of local income tax. I make no apology for that. It was the policy of the Liberal party and the SDP before the Liberal Democrats were established. The Liberal party has espoused such a policy since its submission to the Layfield inquiry in 1976. As a first step, we would require the Inland Revenue to produce a computer tape of one fifth of all taxpayers in each Inland Revenue area. The Secretary of State may be able to do that in a worthwhile fashion if he were trying to follow the duties imposed on him by the new clause.

Information relating to postal codes and the taxable income of a sample of taxpayers could be recorded and sent to local authorities. That would get rid of one red herring—the idea that town hall snoopers would be able to find out everyone's income. The system would be anonymous. Each February and March, shortly before the local elections, authorities would be required to set local income tax rates to meet their commitments.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wallace

I think that the hon. Gentleman should be allowed to have another go.

Mr. Hughes

My question relates specifically to what the hon. Gentleman has just said. Is it based on the work done for his party by Philip Truscott, or on the significantly understated figures that his party has been trying to use in an attempt to portray its policies in a rosier light?

Mr. Wallace

I expected a Conservative Member to ask that question. As hon. Members will have read in The Times, Mr. Truscott has initiated actions against my party, which are now the subject of legal proceedings in the High Court and which will be vigorously defended. It would not be proper for me to say more about the matter, which relates to copyright.

What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that the press release that accompanied the publication of our figures set out fully and unequivocally the premises on which they were calculated. The figures for Wales, which were issued separately, were somewhat different from those calculated by Mr. Truscott—for the very good reason that we would wish to use the same proportion of revenue generated by local taxation as the Government. Mr. Truscott did not do that, as was spelled out in the press release.

We believe that the additional amount of some £300 million could be more than covered by the savings that would result from the change from poll tax to local income tax. The Labour party's estimate is £1.8 million. The Conservatives were wildly wrong when they said, before the introduction of the poll tax, that it would amount to £200 per person: people have found that out to their cost. I will not accept any criticism of our estimates from Conservative Members; that is sheer humbug.

Each payer of local income tax would be sent details of what he would be required to pay over the coming year. Once authorities had set their rates, the average would be calculated, the standard rate would be deducted and, at the end of the year, an adjustment would be made. If a local authority had spent responsibly and was able to provide a rebate, that would be brought home to taxpayers. If it had overspent and would require more money, that too would be brought home to them. As we all know, the end of the tax year falls in April, a few weeks before the local elections. Surely the system that we suggest would drive home to voters the accountability of their elected councillors.

Mr. Bowis

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that 85 per cent. of the cost of local government comes from central taxation, which is based on ability to pay? There is a 25 per cent. discount for single-person households to allow for the lower incomes received by such households, and a sliding scale of rebate—from zero to 100 per cent.—for those on low incomes. Surely the only people who could benefit from the hon. Gentleman's proposals are those who could afford an accountant to help them to dodge the system.

Mr. Wallace

I do not accept that. We shall debate the discount system tomorrow; the amendment that we have tabled would increase the amount from 25 per cent. We shall also debate the banding system. Although that will help to make the council tax fairer, we do not believe that it will entirely relate what is paid to the ability to pay.

Let us make no bones about it: the poll tax had its winners and losers, but on a very unfair basis. The local income tax is bound to have its losers—not least as a result of the poll tax that preceded it—but it is underpinned by fairness. It relates what is paid to the ability to pay. As I have said, no one likes paying tax, but a semblance of fairness makes it much more acceptable.

An equalisation system would have to be built in, so that low-income areas would not be faced with vast bills while wealthy areas received small ones. In previous debates, I have sometimes thought that Conservative Members were trying to apply equalisation grants arranged under the poll tax system to a local income tax system, without making any of the necessary adjustments. Every system of local government finance—be it council tax, the tax proposed by Labour, the poll tax, the old rating system or our proposed local income tax—has the appropriate equalisation arrangements built into it.

7.15 pm
Mr. Martin M. Brando-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

Let us assume that the Liberal Democrats can come up with a good equalisation scheme. Where will that leave the accountability that we all seek to preserve, to ensure that local democracy can function properly? If 85 per cent. comes from central funds, local government will be blown out of the water.

Mr. Wallace

Every system involves an equalisation scheme. I do not recall its being suggested, when the poll tax was introduced, that such a scheme would undermine a system that the Government hoped would lead to greater accountability.

Mr. Maxton

I think that we should clear up the question of the 85 per cent. from central funds. It is true that 85 per cent. is controlled by central Government, but that is a very different matter. Non-domestic rates are paid locally, although control and distribution takes place at the centre.

Mr. Wallace

That is an important point. We also want to allow local authorities more control over local business rates. We have made no secret of that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) said in Committee, we want the balance to shift: we want national taxation levels to fall as local authorities become more responsible for raising revenue in their areas. The equalisation grant would then become proportionately smaller, which would lead to far more local accountability.

Conservative Members may ask what we would do about capping. We believe that the most effective local income tax cap would be a fair voting system. It is the electorate who cap authorities in a democratic society. Even according to the figures that the Government recently published for Scotland, local income tax rates would be relatively low. Because the Government have been afraid to grasp that, the poll tax lingers on. When the new system is introduced, local authorities will be rigorously capped simply because the Government will not introduce a fair voting system.

We believe that the only criterion for a tax should be whether it is related to ability to pay. The rates failed on that ground, and were therefore abolished; the poll tax never even pretended to be fair, and it had to go as well. Unless the new clause is accepted, the council tax will fail for the same reason.

Mr. Douglas

Generally, I support new clause 2, but I want particularly to refer to new clause 4, which deals with Scotland.

I do not want to offend the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), but the Scottish National party has no problems about copyright in its proposals for a local income tax—they are all our own work—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) seems to find this funny.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

You have to laugh.

Mr. Douglas

Life must be hard on the Labour Front Bench these days——

Mr. Maxton

My hon. Friend might be a Minister soon.

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman should not count his chickens.

My fellow party members and I met Scottish Office Ministers and the Secretary of State for the Environment to talk about local taxation, which must not only approximate to the sum to be collected: it must be exactly equivalent to what should be raised either from the poll tax or from the council tax. I hope that I have the agreement of the House at least to that.

In Scottish terms, we are talking of about £800 million. Adam Smith, whose views should hold some sway over the Conservative party, held that taxes should be related to ability to pay. Hon. Members think not in terms of random samples of the public but about themselves—how do they pay their taxes? I know no one who pays taxes out of capital, with the possible exception of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn). He might have to sell some of his capital assets to pay his taxes, but most people would not. The touchstone of ability to pay is that people pay tax out of income.

We understand that in Scotland it would cost about 4p in the pound to collect £800 million—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) keeps shaking his head so hard in disagreement. he will fall off the Bench, but if he wants to intervene I should be happy to allow him to do so.

Mr. Maxton

To judge from questions that I have asked the Government, even with the £140 reduction, the highest figure for Scotland would be about 7.5p.

Mr. Douglas

Perhaps there is something to be said for standard tests in arithmetic. I have done my best to calculate, based on the £800 million figure. We calculate what can be raised for 1 p and multiply that by three or four to arrive at the relevant total. The hon. Member for Cathcart accepts the Government's figures, apparently having none of his own. I do not claim absolute accuracy for mine, but I am willing to allow an independent authority to examine them. No matter how we raise the money, we are aiming at the same global sum. The arguments are about how to raise it while relating the tax to ability to pay and keeping it cheap to collect.

I have already said that the tax will raise £800 million, and it will cost £80 million to collect. Of course it will not be possible to collect 100 per cent. of that money, but the collection costs will stay the same. If that is not crazy, I do not know what is.

I do not seek to disparage the Liberal Democrats' proposals, but we suggest that once a year, on 1 January, people should declare their residence so that local authorities could relate that to their tax-collecting base. National insurance numbers could also be given at the same time. Local authorities could then plug the information directly into Centre One, Scotland's computer system. That would involve no additional overheads, and no need to go into benefits or to examine discounts. This may be an underestimate, but I believe that it could be done in about three months——

Mr. Maxton

indicated dissent.

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman is at it again; it must be Christmas. Perhaps it will take four months, or even six.

Conservative Members may ask about accountability. Nationally speaking, the standard rate of tax governs accountability. The Government have made great play of reducing that standard rate and if they form another Government it is likely that they will try to bring the rate down to 20 per cent. Indeed, if we reach the next Budget, there will be great pressure on the Chancellor to reduce the standard rate by 1p—a great signal of accountability.

Mr. Barry Porter

The element of choice.

Mr. Douglas

Perhaps; at any rate, it is a sign of national accountability. If, say, an authority in Fife wanted to raise the local income tax from 3p in the pound, the national average, to 6p or 7p, what a signal for accountability that would be! The Government should recognise this. The only reason why we cannot have a local income tax is that the Government, aided and abetted by the Treasury, are afraid to give up direct control of fiscal policy. They are all Keynesians now.

Mr. Bowis

I realise that the hon. Gentleman does not speak for the Liberal party, but he is supporting a Liberal new clause. One of the main arguments advanced on ability to pay was the return to the rate equalisation system. Rate equalisation means that those in high rateable value areas subsidise those in low rateable value areas. Someone, irrespective of income, who lives in a higher value property has to pay more for the property because of the higher bands, and now it is proposed that he pay a surcharge for rate equalisation. How would that help ability to pay?

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman is trying to make me defend an argument that I am not using. In Scotland, we would look for some refinement of the grant-aided expenditure reviews carried out as between local authorities and the Scottish Office. It is not perfect but it is used by the Government in Scotland as a level playing field for services. They are prostituting that by using it for capping purposes. The Minister does not understand that and that is why a Scottish Office Minister should be present. The Government are taking the techniques that have been honourably agreed between local authorities and the Scottish Office for grant-aided expenditure purposes and are using them to create a level playing field so that all authorities provide equal standards of service.

7.30 pm

We do not suggest a one-off immediate reform of what is in place. If Labour comes to office and the hon. Member for Cathcart is a Minister—God help Scotland if he is—what will happen in June or July 1992? Labour intends to return to the rating system. How people will greet that! It will take two to three years for Labour to introduce its fair rating system with safeguards for those who cannot pay. That is a noble concept, but why should we have to go through all the paraphernalia of bureaucracy? Thal is not needed in Scotland, and it is certainly not needed to collect the equivalent of 93p in the pound for Shetland.

The Scottish average is 14 per cent. and other regions such as Lothian would have to collect more than that. Smaller regions—and the island councils examplify this—have a higher average, and if they want to collect an equivalent amount of revenue they could levy a much lower rate of income tax. I know that I am not carrying the whole House with me on this argument, but I am sure that the Minister understands it. I do not want to wrong-foot any civil servant, but we have offered to have discussions with the Scottish Office at civil service level and put our experts with theirs to clarify the amount that a Ip local tax would raise in Scotland. The hon. Member for Cathcart was right to say that there are differences over figures.

There are no Labour Back Benchers in the House, but I am not trying to score political points from that. Unless local authorities are to be asked to collect a much higher proportion—20 to 25 per cent.—from the domestic sector, we are going through a farcical procedure. The Conservative proposal for a local community tax or the Labour proposal for so-called fair rates would impose considerable burdens. Time does not permit me to go into the ramifications of the unfairness of the Government's proposals which strain at trying to allow for ability to pay in their discount system of 25 or 50 per cent. That has no real relationship to ability to pay, but tries to give that impression. Many issues will be raised in the coming election, but there is an overwhelming case for discussing the suitability for Scotland of a local income tax related to ability to pay. Such a tax would be fair and cost effective and would make all local authorities, irrespective of their size, accountable.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I rise with some trepidation in a debate on local government. I cannot pretend to be an aficionado of local government finance and perhaps it is a little significant that there are almost more officials in the officials' Box than there are Members in the Chamber. It is an arcane and difficult subject and we have to deal with it in an incredibly short time. Therefore, I shall merely seek to state what the position could be for my constituents in north-west London when they pay their council tax bills in the spring of 1993.

The new clauses tabled by the Liberal Democrats are typically vague. They speak of matching the system to an ability to pay, but exactly how that is to be achieved is in no sense spelled out. Although the Liberal Democrats prefer a local income tax, I doubt whether my constituents would. They are taxed enough already.

When considering the ability to pay, the Government have assumed that the people of London and the south-east are rich and can easily afford to pay the levels of council tax that will be set. I wish to disabuse them of that simplistic notion. They should bear it in mind that unemployment has risen in the south-east and in London relatively faster than in any other part of the country. The available statistics show a very real squeeze on living standards for my constituents in outer London.

On Second Reading, several of my plain-speaking hon. Friends dealt with those matters. Most notable were my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who is in his place. In an interesting letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South, the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities wrote abut council tax, London and national banding. Those are issues of great importance when considering ability to pay. The letter is dated 11 December and with my hon. Friend's agreement I shall quote from it. It states: In the Second Reading debate, you drew particular attention to the size of mortgage repayments in London. It is true that on average, people in London are borrowing three-quarters as much again to purchase houses as people in the North, … This fact, however, should be looked at in the context of the relative incomes of purchasers. That is fine if they are still in employment. The letter continues: House buyers in London are borrowing an average of 2.36 times their gross income, while those in the Northern region borrow 2.08 times their income. Borrowing as a multiple of income is only 13 per cent. higher in London than the North, in contrast with the almost 75 per cent. differential in size of mortgage. It must be remembered, however, that the figures are being taken for London as a whole. They include low-value property in places such as Stepney and Bethnal Green and Bow, and in many others. In outer London, however, property values are immeasurably higher. The treasurer of the borough in my constituency has calculated that two thirds of households will be paying more under the new system because they will move into band E or above—in other words, properties with a value of over £88,000.

In my constituency, we were extremely glad to have the poll tax. It was a system which brought great accountability. It undoubtedly helped to enable the Conservative party to regain control of the borough council in the spring of 1990. My party won four seats from the Liberal party and one from Labour, and thereby achieved a clean sweep of all the wards in the constituency. There was no evidence in my neck of the woods—Ruislip-Northwood—that the poll tax was unpopular. There were some anomalies and some things to be put right, but the tax itself were not unpopular. It certainly matched the ability of people to pay in a way that the new system does not.

The figures in the massive family expenditure survey produced by the Central Statistical Office, which was published on 6 December, show that the fares and travel costs of a London family are £12.18 a week, compared with £6.19 for the midlands and £4 for the north. For places in outer London, such as Ruislip-Northwood, travelling or commuting costs are infinitely higher than the average figure.

The figures incorporate housing costs in London. Most of my constituents are owner-occupiers, and the London outgoings of £61.28 are nearly twice those of the people of Northern Ireland, on £33 a week. They are significantly higher than the national average of £48.02. Only 18 per cent. of Londoners have finished paying their mortgage compared with nearly a third of householders in Wales. In Scotland, the figure is 15 per cent. When the part of the United Kingdom that I represent is compared with Wales, which has a preferential banding, again it is worse off.

I do not commend the Liberal new clauses, and I certainly could not vote for them. I wish, however, clearly to put it on the record that much as I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his ministerial team well—I hope that the new council tax does away with many of the unfairnesses, injustices and anomalies of the old poll tax—I do not believe that for Ruislip-Northwood it will match ability to pay as well as the old poll tax did. I speak only for my constituency, of course.

7.45 pm
Mr. Barry Porter

As I so often do, I start by saying that I had no intention of speaking in this debate. I cannot compete with my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) on the percentages and anomalies that he presented to us.

I know that the old rating system was unfair. I remember that when I first bought a house in 1965 the rates were about £1 a week. They were jolly unfair, but I did not care because the weekly outgoing was not very much. This debate is essentially about how much is to be paid at the end of the day, not about anomalies and unfairnesses. Arguments that are based on whether we should have rates, income tax or the new council tax are irrelevant, because the relevant consideration is how much an individual pays at the end of the day, and that must depend on what the local authority spends.

I remember a Labour finance chairman of the local authority of which I was a member who was not dissimilar to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in appearance, attitude and politics. He would have had a fit if he had had to put tuppence on the old rate. In fact, he did not have to do so. I can recall that if at that time the Government of the day, whether Tory, Labour or, in odd dreams, even Liberal, had suggested some restriction on local expenditure, we would have accepted that. We have gone wrong in the past few years because local authorities have not accepted that advice. They have not accepted that there should be a limit to local authority expenditure, with the result that capping has had to be introduced. It would have to be introduced again if we had an Administration of a different colour, which is highly unlikely. It is the refusal of local authorities to accept that there should be restrictions on local authorities that is the problem, not methods, fairness or amounts.

It has been said already that people in Wandsworth did not concern themselves over much with the community charge because it did not cost them anything. I lived happily in Westminster and I did not care much about the charge because it cost me very little. People in the Wirral cared a great deal because their authority spent a great deal on many things that many of us considered to be entirely unnecessary. The people in the Wirral paid about £500 and I paid about £30. That is a jolly good thing!

The new council charge is an attempt to be fair, and I think that it will probably work. It is only a variation of what the Labour party is saying about rates. I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is entirely right to have a system of banding. I hope that he will be able to ensure that correct valuations are made in the appropriate time, and I am told that he will be able to do so. I believe him, as I have always believed him. In the end, however, everything will depend on what local authorities spend, and on what, and whether they are prepared to be reasonable. If authorities are prepared to be reasonable, the people will be reasonable with them.

I suggest that the House should reject this silly new clause.

Mr. Maxton

I shall not take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter). I have known him for a considerable time, having been at university with him, but I was surprised to hear you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, call him as Barrington.

I cannot ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the new clause——

Mrs. Ray Michie

That is a surprise!

Mr. Maxton

It may be a surprise, but I cannot invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the new clause because of what it contains. It suggests that there should be a council tax—in other words, a property tax—with, presumably, discounts, a banding system and, somehow, an ability-to-pay mechanism. Such a system would create an administrative nightmare that would go beyond the poll tax and, to be honest, the council tax. Therefore, I cannot ask my hon. Friends to support the new clause.

Liberal Members suggest that the new clause is a first step to local income tax. I cannot, therefore, ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support that.

Mr. Bellotti

It appears that the hon. Gentleman is supported by only one other member of his party. I am wondering whether any more Labour Members will appear in the Chamber.

Mr. Maxton

Only one of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends was present during the previous debate for most of the time. I do not see why my right hon. and hon. Friends should enter the Chamber to listen to Liberal debates any more than Liberal Members should come to listen to Labour debates.

I am not prepared to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support local income tax. I shall briefly explain my reasons for taking that approach. First, the Scottish National party and the Liberal party have suggested that such a system is practicable. There may come a time when it is practicable to introduce local income tax, but we have not yet reached it. If we are to have local income tax, the Inland Revenue—both the SNP and the Liberals have admitted that it will have to collect the tax—will have to know in which local authority every taxpayer resides. That means that whether the tax is collected each week or month through salary or over one year on one basis throughout Scotland, and then allocating moneys to local authorities, a local authority will need to know where individual taxpayers live. The simple fact is that the Inland Revenue does not know where every individual lives because that is not part of its tax records.

Mr. Douglas

I was going to use a harsh word and say that the hon. Gentleman displays his ignorance, but let me put it more euphemistically. He displays his total lack of knowledge of what the Inland Revenue knows. It knows where taxpayers live and has their national insurance numbers. I admit that there is a difficulty in relating that information closely to local authority areas.

I explained the Scottish National party's proposals, and I am sorry for taking up time now. Under our proposals, one would be asked to disclose where one lived, which would be for the whole year, and one's national insurance number, and that information could be fed to the Inland Revenue in Scotland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Douglas

You are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If that point defeats the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), there is not much that I can do.

Mr. Maxton

It does not defeat me. The Inland Revenue does not know where people live; that information is not part of its computer system. As the Inland Revenue computerises, that will be part of its information, and the system could be changed, but it will take a considerable period to reach that stage. The simple, harsh reality that the people who propose a local income tax are not prepared to accept is that, at this time, such a system is not practical. They do not want any form of council tax or fair rates, so they would have to have 100 per cent. Government funding. That is what the Scottish National party suggested for Scotland for 12 months, with all that that means for control over local government expenditure, leaving financing entirely to central Government. My party is not prepared to accept that.

In principle, I see nothing wrong with taxing the use of property. The proposal is for a tax not on property but on the use of a property. Other services are taxed, and there is no reason why property should be exempt. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said that the only taxation principle is one based on ability to pay. I disagree. That is one criterion by which one judges a tax, but by no means the only one.

One criterion by which one judges a tax is its spread across people. One has to find a variety of ways of raising money, locally and centrally, and there is no reason why property should not be included in the basket of taxes that pay for services locally and nationally. That is one of the great weaknesses of the poll tax. There are tax benefits on the ownership and use of property but no tax on that ownership and use—we give mortgage tax relief, we do not have capital gains tax on the sale of properties, and we do not tax use. In principle, that is wrong.

A tax should be visible to the people paying it and to the body to which it is paid, whether it is a central Government or a local government tax. Local income tax would be collected not by a local authority but by the Inland Revenue. It would become part of the overall tax bill. The Liberal Democrats suggest a hare-brained scheme whereby everybody pays the same poundage on a local income tax and the money is redistributed. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that the poll tax in part of his constituency was 93p in the pound. Presumably, that means that the Liberal Democrats would have a local income tax of 0.00001 per cent., or something of that nature. But people will not be pleased if they have to pay it all to get back a lump sum.

Mr. Wallace

There will be interest.

Mr. Maxton

That is interesting: there will be interest; that is fine. What about my constituents in Glasgow who pay, say, 4p in the pound but find that they will have to pay 7p or 8p in the pound and make up that difference by writing a cheque for a lump sum payment? Will they have to pay interest on that as well, to make up for the other interest?

The Liberal Democrats' scheme is hare brained and will not work. A local income tax collected in that way would not provide accountability. More particularly, if it were collected as one would hope—so that each local authority had its own rate and the money were collected on a monthly basis with the money owed to the Inland Revenue, which would be a fair way of doing it—it would not have visibility.

The hon. Member for Wirral, South had a small exchange with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), whom I shall not call the Member for Nowhere, as the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) described him. We were told that the Treasury objected to control over any level of income tax being taken from it—far from it. In my view, a local income tax gives considerably greater power to the Inland Revenue and central Government, in two ways. First, an authority that collects the tax can say, "We will not collect that amount for you." Secondly, the figures which we have on the rate of local income tax do not take account of rebates.

At present, everyone is liable to pay the poll tax. Under the council tax, everyone will be liable to pay the council tax. Under our fair rates system, everyone who is an owner or occupier will be obliged to pay and will be rebated—under the law, central Government will refund money to those people. Under a local income tax, those who are not liable to tax pay nothing, so the rebate system does not operate. The tax burden is placed on those who pay. If it is not, there is a reliance on central Government making up the difference, paying more to local authorities and, therefore, giving more power to them.

The simple fact is that a local income tax system is unworkable. It gives central Government greater power over local authorities. In principle, it is not visible and it is not workable. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends not to support it.

Mr. Portillo

Much though it pains me, I agreed with much of the critique of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) on local income tax. But I shall begin with the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), who quickly passed over the ability to pay and how it related to council tax. I remind him that, under the council tax, we propose that rebates of up to 100 per cent. should be available for those on low incomes—so, of course, we take account of the ability of the poorest in society to pay.

We propose a tax that will need to raise only 15 per cent. of local authority spending in England, 12 per cent. in Scotland and 8 per cent. in Wales. The balance of those items has to come from national taxation. The national taxation which provides those funds is based largely on the ability to pay. on profitability and on other factors. I remind the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that we are limiting the incidence of the tax so that those in the highest-value properties will never have to pay more than three times as much as those in the lowest-value properties in any one area and that we are taking account of the number of people in each household—something of which I know that, within the limits of the scheme, he approves.

Happy was my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) who started his speech by saying that he was not an aficionado of local government finance—a very fortunate position in which to find himself. My hon. Friend and some of his colleagues were afraid that we would return to the sorts of bills that our constituents faced under the rating system. That would be intolerable. We recognise that the rating system had to go because of its manifest unfairness and because some people faced enormous bills because they happened to live in high-value properties and did not have the income to go with it.

That is why the council tax sets out on a different basis. First, it sets out to collect less money than the rates did from local taxpayers. Secondly, it has a limitation in that those in the most valuable properties shall never pay more than three times as much as those in the least valuable properties. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland mentioned Mr. Speaker and the Speaker's house. How wise we are, therefore, to have the top band at £320,000 and how wise we are in general to set the bands in such a way that we shall not ask people to pay disproportionately higher bills. I repeat that if people are on low incomes they will come within the rebate system which is payable up to 100 per cent.

If I may say so, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood was slightly confused about what he called the preferential bands in Wales. The existence of different bands in Wales means that people there reach the top band of payment earlier than people in England; or, to put it another way, there are fewer people in the lower bands in Wales, so I am not sure that those who have to pay will see the scheme in the same light as my hon. Friend.

8 pm

Mr. Wilkinson

Before my hon. Friend moves on, may I say that what exercises us is not so much the differentiation between the highest and the lowest but the fact that nearly all our constituents are in the top three or four bands. That is the problem. In my constituency, the humblest council house—if one can use that expression—would be valued at, at least, £88,000 which would put it into band E.

Mr. Portillo

I understand my hon. Friend's point, although what he said during his speech proved why the solution to that problem—if it is a problem—is not to introduce a regional banding system. He said that there was a tremendous variety of prices in London, which is true. There is also a tremendous variety within each region and if one substituted a regional banding system, one would be saying that there should be lower rates of tax in the areas with the highest property values, which might well also be the areas of highest incomes and of the greatest wealth, and that there should be higher rates of tax in the lower property value areas. That would be very difficult for my hon. Friend or for anyone else to explain.

My objections to a local income tax are largely the same as those of the hon. Member for Cathcart. I believe that there would be immense disquiet if we were, in effect, to appoint a Chancellor of the Exchequer in every town hall. The control of the level of income tax and of fiscal policy should rest with central Government, not local government.

The hon. Gentleman was right to say that we should have a variety and a spread of taxes. In general, the taxation system should lie so thinly and be so well spread that it does not distort economic activity more than is absolutely necessary. That means that we must have different types of taxes, each at as low a level as it is possible to achieve. Therefore, I do not accept that all taxes should be based on income. Value added tax, for example, is based not on income but on what people spend. Some taxes will be based on income, some on profit, some on property and some on what one spends. Such a variety of taxation is appropriate and is found in most countries.

The naivety with which the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National party tabled the new clause is pretty alarming. Hon. Members on the Standing Committee witnessed an hilarious debate lasting two hours in which the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) attempted to explain how a local income tax would work. On the question of equalisation—with which we have also dealt today—even he said with what I thought was stunning naivety: The equalisation process is not something that we see central Government undertaking. It would be undertaken by local authorities in concert. The idea that local authorities would decide between themselves who would subsidise other local authorities is breathtaking. The hon. Member for Eastbourne went on: We have published details—they are publicly available—of the actual rates that would have been in place in every constituency this year had a local income tax been introduced."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19 November 1991; c. 89–91.] However, Mr. Philip Truscott—the researcher from Surrey university who has been alluded to already in this debate—said that the party had significantly understated the likely level of local income tax bills and that he wanted the party to withdraw the figures. He said that if the system were introduced, bills would have to be significantly higher than those suggested by the Liberal Democrats.

The Opposition have significantly understated the bureaucracy that would be required. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) again mentioned the Inland Revenue. I repeat that at present the Inland Revenue does not hold the home addresses of the vast majority of taxpayers. That database would have to be increased and that would involve substantial bureaucracy. As I understand it, the Liberal Democrats are asking employers to keep track of where employees live day by day and, by contrast, the hon. Gentleman is proposing that there should be an annual register for local income tax. Under his proposal we do not get away even from the need for a register of every taxpayer.

Mr. Douglas

Is the Minister saying that Centre One in Scotland does not know the names and addresses and national insurance number of income tax payers? I want this on the record. Is he suggesting that his present proposals do not require a register or a list?

Mr. Portillo

Certainly, the council tax does not require a register, and I reiterate that the Inland Revenue holds only a limited number of home addresses and to extend that database would take some years.

Mr. Maxton


Mr. Portillo

I sense that the House wants to come to a conclusion.

The reason why the Liberal Democrats hanker after a local income tax—they have put it on record before and have done so again this evening—is that they wish to increase the proportion of taxation that is raised locally. The only way in which they can see that happening is to introduce a local income tax and to hand over tremendous power to Chancellors of the Exchequer in town halls. We do not propose to increase the proportion of taxation which is raised locally because we believe that the proportion that is currently raised locally—it is now about 15 per cent. in England, 12 per cent. in Scotland and 8 per cent. in Wales—is appropriate. For that reason, the council tax is the appropriate instrument for raising the sum of money that needs to be raised from local tax payers.

Mr. Wallace

I know that the House wishes to move on, so I shall reply briefly to what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, in concert with the Minister. It is not always a reliable rule of thumb, but we can usually assume that we are right when the two Front Benches agree and we are faced with a genuine alliance of British politics between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The attempt of the hon. Member for Cathcart to argue against a local income tax was uninformed when he suggested that the Inland Revenue could not compile a list. Any senior Inland Revenue official would say that if the political will was there, it could be done and that it could be done efficiently and quickly, certainly within six months to a year. The hon. Gentleman then suggested that the Inland Revenue would perhaps not carry out the task. I do not know whether he was suggesting that there was incipient anarchy or whether he had merely lost his place in his notes. He also suggested that it was not visible, but then proceeded to complain about its high visibility in terms of either a rebate or a requirement to pay.

To put to rest the Minister's concerns, I can tell him that many countries operate an end-of-the-year tax return system with a form to be filled in. That would also be the case for any system of tax benefits or tax credits that we wished to implement. Indeed, it might be very much in people's interests to fill in that form, because it could remove much of the burden on small businesses.

I dealt in an intervention with the Minister's point about the figures mentioned by Mr. Philip Truscott and I am sorry that the Minister could not depart sufficiently from his speech to take that correction into account. Even according to Government figures, the rate of local income tax in my constituency would be 0.1 per cent. in Orkney and nothing at all in Shetland. Therefore, the figures are even less according to the Government than according to Mr. Truscott. Members of both Front Benches—especially the Government Front Bench—appear to be afraid of the genuine exercise of local democracy. Given a proper and fair proportional system of voting in local authority elections, there is no need to fear the will of the people. In a democracy, local control over a vast number of areas is desirable. It is worth remembering to trust the people. The Government are never really prepared to do that.

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

The House divided: Ayes 21, Noes

Division No. 27] [8.09 pm
Alton, David Kirkwood, Archy
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Maclennan, Robert
Beith, A. J. Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Salmond, Alex
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Stephen, Nicol
Carr, Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Cartwright, John Wallace, James
Douglas, Dick Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Fearn, Ronald Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Alex Carlile and Mr. David Bellotti.
Johnston, Sir Russell
Kennedy, Charles
Aitken, Jonathan Chapman, Sydney
Alexander, Richard Chope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Churchill, Mr
Allason, Rupert Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)
Amess, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochtord)
Amos, Alan Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Arbuthnot, James Colvin, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Arnold, Sir Thomas Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Ashby, David Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Aspinwall, Jack Cormack, Patrick
Atkins, Robert Couchman, James
Baldry, Tony Cran. James
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Batiste, Spencer Curry, David
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bellingham, Henry Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bendall, Vivian Day, Stephen
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Devlin, Tim
Benyon, W. Dickens, Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Dicks, Terry
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dorrell, Stephen
Blackburn, Dr John G. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Dover, Den
Body, Sir Richard Dunn, Bob
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Durant, Sir Anthony
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dykes, Hugh
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Emery, Sir Peter
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bowis, John Evennett, David
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fallon, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Favell, Tony
Brazier, Julian Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bright, Graham Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fishburn, John Dudley
Burns, Simon Fookes, Dame Janet
Burt, Alistair Forman, Nigel
Butler, Chris Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Butterfill, John Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Forth, Eric
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Franks, Cecil
Carrington, Matthew Freeman, Roger
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda French, Douglas
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Fry, Peter
Gale, Roger Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Gardiner, Sir George MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gill, Christopher MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Maclean, David
Goodhart, Sir Philip McLoughlin, Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Madel, David
Gorst, John Malins, Humfrey
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mans, Keith
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maples, John
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marlow, Tony
Gregory, Conal Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grist, Ian Maude, Hon Francis
Ground, Patrick Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Grylls, Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hague, William Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mills, Iain
Hampson, Dr Keith Miscampbell, Norman
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hannam, John Mitchell, Sir David
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Harris, David Monro, Sir Hector
Haselhurst, Alan Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hawkins, Christopher Moore, Rt Hon John
Hayes, Jerry Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Morrison, Sir Charles
Hayward, Robert Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Heathcoat-Amory, David Moss, Malcolm
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Neale, Sir Gerrard
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Needham, Richard
Hill, James Nelson, Anthony
Hind, Kenneth Neubert, Sir Michael
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hordern, Sir Peter Nicholls, Patrick
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Norris, Steve
Hunt, Rt Hon David Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hunter, Andrew Page, Richard
Irvine, Michael Paice, James
Irving, Sir Charles Patnick, Irvine
Jackson, Robert Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Janman, Tim Pawsey, James
Jessel, Toby Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Porter, David (Waveney)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Portillo, Michael
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Price, Sir David
Key, Robert Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Kilfedder, James Rathbone, Tim
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfleld) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Kirkhope, Timothy Rhodes James, Sir Robert
Knapman, Roger Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Roe, Mrs Marion
Knowles, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knox, David Rost, Peter
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rowe, Andrew
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Latham, Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Sackville, Hon Tom
Lee, John (Pendle) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sayeed, Jonathan
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lord, Michael Shersby, Michael
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Trippier, David
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Trotter, Neville
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Speed, Keith Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Speller, Tony Viggers, Peter
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Squire, Robin Walden, George
Stanbrook, Ivor Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Waller, Gary
Steen, Anthony Ward, John
Stern, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stevens, Lewis Warren, Kenneth
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Watts, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wells, Bowen
Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian Wheeler, Sir John
Stokes, Sir John Whitney, Ray
Sumberg, David Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Sir Teddy Wilshire, David
Temple-Morris, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Winterton, Nicholas
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wood, Timothy
Thorne, Neil Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Thornton, Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Thurnham, Peter Younger, Rt Hon George
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Tellers for the Noes:
Tracey, Richard Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. John M. Taylor.
Tredinnick, David

Question accordingly negatived.

Forward to