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Duration Of Part I Of Act

Volume 21: debated on Monday 5 April 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

`(1) The provisions of Part I of this Act shall cease to have effect at the expiration of one year from the date on which it comes into force unless extended by order of the Secretary of State made by statutory instrument

(2) No statutory instrument containing such an order shall take effect until it has been approved by resolution of the House of Commons.'.— [Mr. Oakes.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

New clause 2 is short and would simply limit the duration of part Ito 12 months from the date on which the legislation comes into force, giving the Government an opportunity to renew part I by statutory instrument approved by the affirmative procedure of the House.

There are three principal reasons why the Opposition want to discuss the new clause in the House. First, the Secretary of State himself, the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services and the Under-Secretaries of State have repeatedly, on Second Reading and throughout the Committee stage, referred to this as an interim measure. The Opposition believe that if it is to be enacted at all, it should be enacted as interim legislation. At the penultimate sitting of the Committee, the Minister made it clear at that late stage that the Government intended to operate clauses 1 and 2 retrospectively. Because of that, the Opposition wanted the House to have the opportunity to debate what the Committee did not have the opportunity to debate as a result of that extremely late intervention by the Minister.

5.15 pm.

Ministers have continually said that this is interim legislation. It is detested by all local authority associations. They would be mollified a little if they knew that the Government would treat the legislation as being an interim measure.

Our second reason might interest Conservative Members, if they were here in sufficient numbers to be interested. They often express concern about reform of the rating procedure, on which the Government introduced a Green Paper. The final date for representations to be made on the Green Paper was 31 March this year. The Minister—indeed, all Ministers—continually tell the country that they intend to act on the rating system. If they intend to do something, why are they introducing this measure as primary legislation for all time? Our new clause will strengthen the arm of those who want something done about the rating system, as it will give the Government only 12 months to operate the Act—by which time, presumably, they will have done something about the Green Paper and put proposals before the House to deal with the reform of the rating system.

Thirdly, throughout the Committee stage we were presented with a kaleidoscope. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) has left the Chamber, as the matter is apposite to Bedfordshire. Matters changed from week to week, and the Government changed the Bill from week to week. The issue of Bedfordshire is apposite to clauses 1 and 2. We believe that it is wrong for the Government to have introduced retrospection in primary legislation, which is intended to remain for all time. Were the legislation intended to be interim, we could understand that, but the House should not allow the Government to introduce retrospection in primary legislation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) will speak about clause 4 and part II which are intimately connected with part I. During the weekend, we witnessed an international shambles created by the Government. Members of the Committee were not surprised, as a permanent shambles was presented to us by the Government. We understand that there is likely to be a major change to clause 4, which in itself was a major change to the original Bill, which in turn was a change to the Local Government Finance (No. 1) Bill. In such circumstances, it is wrong for the House to pass part I as primary legislation. The Government should at least partly rectify the position by saying that this is interim legislation, that it is for only one year and that the House will have the opportunity annually to review it.

I rise briefly to support the new clause. As the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) has said, we are here stepping into very dangerous and uncertain waters. I certainly do not wish to explore the Bedfordshire case at this point, but it highlights the fact that unanticipated events have occurred even during the passage of the Bill. If it can happen in Bedfordshire, it can happen elsewhere and it is clear that other problems may crop up that even the Government have not anticipated or expected. In that situation, it seems sensible to review the application of part I annually.

The right hon. Member for Widnes referred to the situation as a kaleidoscope. That is a colourful term, but I should have thought that the present situation for local government was more like a switchback, with considerable ups and downs and some very nasty turns and bends, not to mention jolts, for some local authorities. It would therefore be sensible for Parliament to review this major change. The removal of the right to levy supplementary rates, which has existed for many years, is a major and extremely important change that should not be lightly made, and it is right that it should be reviewed annually. I therefore support the new clause

It seems to me that in Committee we covered, if not exactly this ground, at least very similar ground, as well as what I might describe as allied ground. In other words, the new clause represents yet another attempt by the Opposition to prevent the Government from banning supplementary rates.

This is in no way a temporary expedient. Reference has been made to the comments on Second Reading of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services. I see no contradiction whatever between the two statements. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said:
"In all it is an important measure to carry us forward to the next stage which will follow the consultation we have now begun on the reform of local government finance itself."—[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 58.]
It is in that context that we must see the total ban that the Government intend to impose on supplementary rates.

I assure the House that this measure is not intended to avoid the need for the fundamental reform of the domestic rating system to which we are committed. As the House knows, consultation on this finished at the end of last month. We must now consider the results of that consultation. The ban on supplementary rates and precepts is an interim measure, at least in the domestic sector, pending our proposals for the reform of the domestic rating system. In the commercial and industrial sector, in which rates may well remain for the foreseeable future, the ban is likely to continue.

I think that I have explained to the House why we oppose some of the arguments advanced in favour of the new clause in relation to our proposals for rating reform.

The real reason behind our banning of supplementary rates was stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on Second Reading, when he said:
"What the House clearly has to face, and what is at the centre of the controversy about so much of local government today, is that parts of local government are determined to scrap the traditional relationship between central Government and local government whereby local government recognised and accepted the right of central Government to set the level of local expenditure."—[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 49.]
Last year, a situation developed in which 30 local authorities levied supplementary rates. That was something of a novelty, and the Government are not prepared to allow it to continue.

In further justification of our decision to abolish supplementary rates, I must point out yet again that they have never been allowed in Scotland. We have come to the conclusion that ratepayers in England and Wales have the right to seek the protection of the Government from the depredations of irresponsible local authorities, as large numbers of ratepayers have done in the past six months. Our objective in banning supplementary rates and precepts is to give ratepayers that protection and to prevent hasty and ill-considered increases in spending after the financial year has begun and both domestic and non-domestic ratepayers have made their financial plans for the year.

I repeat that there is nothing temporary about the measure that we propose to abolish supplementary rates. Therefore, I must ask the House to reject the new clause.

All that the Minister has really said in reply is that in the vocabulary of Her Majesty's Ministers "interim" means "permanent" and "permanent" may mean "interim". In the words of a famous comedian, there is no answer to that. There is no point in debating the matter further. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House on the new clause.

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

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 262.

Division No. 118]

[5.25 pm


Abse, LeoCohen, Stanley
Allaun, FrankConlan,Bernard
Alton,DavidCook, Robin F.
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCowans, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Ashton,JoeCraigen, J. M. (G'gow, M' hill)
Atkinson,N, (H' gey,)Crowther,Stan
Bagier, Gordon A.T.Cryer, Bob
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cunliffe,Lawrence
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Cunningham, DrJ.(W'h'n)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDalyell, Tam
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Bottomley, Rt HonA.(M'b'ro)Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)
Bradley, TomDavis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Bray, Dr JeremyDeakins,Eric
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Brown, R. C. (N' castle W)Dewar,Donald
Brown, Ronald W. (H' ckn 'yS)Dixon,Donald
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Dobson,Frank
Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Douglas,Dick
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't 'n& P)Dubs,Alfred
Campbell,IanDunn, James A.
Canavan,DennisDunwoody, Hon MrsG.
Cartwright,JohnEastham, Ken
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stolS)Edwards, R. (W'hampt'nS E)

Ellis, H.(NE D'bysh're)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Evans, loan (Aberdare)Neill,Martin
Evans, John (Newton)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fletcher,Ted (Darlington)Pendry,Tom
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPenhaligon,David
Foster,DerekPrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Foulkes,GeorgeRace, Reg
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)Radice,Giles
Freeson,Rt Hon ReginaldRees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Garrett, John (NorwichS)Richardson,Jo
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRoberts,Allan(Bootle)
Ginsburg,DavidRoberts, Ernest (HackneyN)
Graham, TedRobertson,George
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Robinson, G. (CoventryNW)
Hamilton,James (Bothwell)Rooker, J. W.
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Harrison, RtHon WalterRowlands,Ted
Haynes, FrankSandelson,Neville
Heffer, Eric S.Sever, John
Hooley,FrankSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Howell, Rt Hon D.Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Howells,GeraintSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Snape, Peter
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasSpearing,Nigel
Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Stallard, A. W.
Johnston,Russell (Inverness)Stoddart,David
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Stott,Roger
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Strang, Gavin
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldStraw,Jack
Kilfedder, JamesA.Summerskill,HonDrShirley
Kilroy-Silk,RobertTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Lamborn,HarryThomas, DrR.(Carmarthen)
Leadbitter,TedThorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
Lestor, MissJoanTinn, James
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)Torney,Tom
Litherland,RobertVarley, RtHon Eric G.
Lofthouse,GeoffreyWainwright,E. (DearneV)
McCartney,HughWalker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
MacKenzie, RtHonGregorWellbeloved,James
McTaggart,RobertWhite, Frank R.
McWilliam,JohnWhite, J. (G'gowPollok)
Magee, BryanWhitehead,Phillip
Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS)Willey,RtHon Frederick
Maynard, Miss JoanWilliams, Rt Hon K(S'sea W)
Meacher, MichaelWilson,William (C'trySE)
Mellish,Rt Hon RobertWinnick,David
Miller, DrM.S. (E Kilbride)Wright,Sheila
Mitchell,Austin (Grimsby)Young, David (Bolton E)
Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Tellers for the Ayes:
Moyle, Rt Hon RolandMr. Allen McKay and Mr. George Morton.
Newens, Stanley


Aitken,JonathanArnold, Tom
Alison,Rt Hon MichaelAtkins,Robert(PrestonN)

Baker,Kenneth(St.M'bone,)Gow, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Grant, Anthony (HarrowC)
Banks,RobertGray, Hamish
Bendall,VivianGreenway, Harry
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Griffiths,E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)
Berry,HonAnthonyGriffiths,Peter Portsm'thN
Best, KeithGrist, Ian
Bevan, DavidGilroyGummer,JohnSelwyn
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHamilton, Hon A.
Blackburn,JohnHampson, DrKeith
Bonsor,SirNicholasHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Hawksley,Warren
Boyson,Dr RhodesHeddle,John
Brinton,TimHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)Hooson, Tom
Browne, John (Winchester)Hordern,Peter
Bruce-Gardyne,JohnHowe, Rt Hon SirGeoffrey
Bryan,Sir PaulHowell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk)
Buck,AntonyHunt,David (Wirral)
Burden,SirFrederickHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Butcher,JohnJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Cadbury,JocelynJessel, Toby
Carlisle, John (Luton West)JohnsonSmith,Geoffrey
Carlisle,Kenneth(Lincoln)Jopling,Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulKershaw,SirAnthony
Clark, Hon A. (Plym 'th, S'n)King, Rt Hon Tom
Clark, Sir W. (CroydonS)Kitson,SirTimothy
Clarke,Kenneth(Rushcliffe)Knight, MrsJill
Cormack,PatrickLawrence, Ivan
Costain,SirAlbertLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Cranborne,ViscountLee, John
Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)Lester, Jim (Beeston)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLloyd, Ian (Havant& W'loo)
Dunn,Robert(Dartford)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Durant, TonyLoveridge,John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLyell,Nicholas
Eggar, TimMcCrindle,Robert
Emery, Sir PeterMacfarlane,Neil
Fairgrieve,SirRussellMacKay, John (Argyll)
Farr,JohnMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fell, Sir AnthonyMcNair-Wilson,M. (N'bury)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMcNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)
Fletcher,A.(Ed'nb'gh N)Major,John
Fookes, Miss JanetMarshall,Michael(Arundel)
Forman,NigelMarten, Rt Hon Neil
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMates,Michael
Fry, PeterMaude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gardiner,George(Reigate)Mawby, Ray
Garel-Jones, TristanMaxwell-Hyslop,Robin
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMayhew,Patrick

Mills, Peter (West Devon)Shepherd,Richard
Moore,JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)Speller,Tony
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Myles, DavidStewart,A.(E Renfrewshire)
Needham,RichardStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Neubert,MichaelStradling Thomas,J.
Newton, TonyTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Thompson,Donald
Page, Richard (SW Herts)Thorne, Neil (IlfordSouth)
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilThornton,Malcolm
Parris,MatthewTownend,John (Bridlington)
Patten, John (Oxford)Trippier,David
Pawsey, Jamesvan Straubenzee, SirW.
Percival,Sir IanViggers,Peter
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnWaddington,David
Pink, R.BonnerWakeham,John
Porter,BarryWalker, B. (Perth)
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Prior, Rt Hon JamesWaller,Gary
Proctor, K. HarveyWard,John
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWarren,Kenneth
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWatson,John
Rhodes James, RobertWells,John(Maidstone)
Rifkind,MalcolmWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWhitney,Raymond
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Wickenden,Keith
Rost, PeterWilkinson,John
Royle, Sir AnthonyWilliams,D. (Montgomery)
Sainsbury, Hon TimothyWolfson,Mark
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.Young,SirGeorge (Acton)
Scott,NicholasYounger, Rt Hon George
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Shaw,Michael (Scarborough)Tellers for the Noes:
Shelton,William (Streatham)Mr. Peter Brooke and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Shepherd,Colin (Hereford)

Question accordingly negatived.