Considered in Committee
[MR. HAROLD WALKER in the Chair.]
I beg to move,
It may be of help to the Committee if I explain the Government's position on the procedure motion and the clauses before us. We intend to proceed today with all the clauses up to clauses 161 to 163 and schedule 21. We shall not be moving the other clauses thereafter because we feel that those clauses will require further debate. However, I shall be moving clause 164 and schedule 22. Clause 164, as amended, will be the clause necessary to complete the Bill.That the order in which the remaining proceedings in Committee of the whole House on the Finance Bill are to be taken shall be Clause 37, Schedule 7, Clause 39, Clauses 41 to 44, Clause 46, Clauses 54 to 56, Clause 67, Clauses 138 to 146, Schedule 12, Clause 149, Schedule 14, Clause 150, Schedule 15, Clause 151, Clause 153, Schedule 16, Clause 154, Schedule 17, Clause 155, Schedule 18, Clause 156, Schedule 19, Clause 157, Schedule 20, Clauses 158 and 159, Clauses 161 to 163, Schedule 21, new Clauses, Clause 38, Clause 40, Clauses 47 to 53, Clauses 57 to 66, Clauses 68 to 137, Clause 148, Clause 152, Schedules 8 to 11, Schedule 13, Clause 164, Schedule 22 and new Schedules.
Question put and agreed to.
Time For Payment Of Corporation Tax By Certain Long-Established Companies And Building Societies
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The purpose of the clause is to standardise the rules relating to the date at which corporation tax is payable. After a transitional period, corporation tax will, in all cases, be payable nine months after the end of the accounting period for which it is chargeable. As the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) knows, there have been a number of publicised cases with potential tax avoidance in this area and that is one reason why the change has been made.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 7 agreed to.
Close Companies: Meaning Of "Associate"
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The purpose of the clause is to amend the definition of "associate" that is used when determining whether someone has a material interest in a close company, and as it applies in the case where a trust is involved. In practical terms, the proposed changes will affect two areas of tax only—the approved employee share scheme legislation and close company interest relief on loans taken out by employees to buy shares in their companies. The changes have been made principally in connection with the former Their effect is to relax the rules that determine eligibility to participate in an approved share scheme.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Authorised Unit Trusts
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
This clause and the next three modify the tax treatment of the income and capital gains of unit trusts. They do not change the substance of the existing treatment. The purpose of the modifications is to take account of the new regime for unit trusts provided by the Financial Services Act 1986.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 42 to 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The clause is designed to improve the effectiveness of the business expansion scheme for film production companies. Film production is already a qualifying activity, but to meet the conditions a company must have engaged in film production throughout the three-year qualifying period. In future, a company will qualify if it is engaged throughout the period either in the production of films or in the distribution of films produced during the period. The change will apply to shares issued on or after 17 March. I hope that this change will be of assistance to the industry.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 54 to 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 67 increases the maximum amounts of retirement relief from £.100,000 to £125,000. The increase in the maximum amount is yet another example of the Government's continuing policies to assist small businesses and unquoted trading companies. In particular, the clause will provide encouragement for business men to plough back profits instead of investing for retirement by way of' other savings. We have increased the figure above indexation. The proposal will he a major help for entrepreneurs.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 67 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 138 and the following seven clauses make minor and technical adjustments to the stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax provisions, including adjustments that are necessary to accord with definitions in the Financial Services Act 1986.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 138 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 139 to 146 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 12 agreed to.
Securities, Other Business Property And Agricultural Property
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 149 and schedule 14 provide for shares in a company dealt in on the unlisted securities market to be treated for inheritance tax purposes like shares in companies that have a full stock exchange listing. They also increase the rate of business relief for substantial minority holdings in unquoted companies. In addition, they introduce minor changes to the treatment of agricultural relief. I hope that they will commend themselves to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 149 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 14 agreed to.
Clause 150 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Maintenance Funds For Historic Buildings Etc
I beg to move amendment No. 44, in page 151, line 6, at end add—
The amendment proposes to insert a new subsection into new section 57A which provides an exemption from inheritance tax in respect of the charge arising from the death of a person who has an interest in possession in settled property if within a specified period of that death, the property is put into a heritage maintenance fund. Subsection (4) specifies a number of situations in which the new exemption is to be denied to prevent exploitation of the exemption. The new subsection covers a further situation where manipulation could otherwise occur. I want to explain the provision that is amended. Clause 50 and schedule 15 make two changes to the rules that provide exemption from inheritance tax from endowment property put into a trust known as a maintenance fund to support qualifying heritage property, commonly historic houses. First, there is an exemption from inheritance tax in respect of the charge arising on the death of a person who has an interest in the possession in settled property if within a specified period of that death—generally two, but in some cases three years—the property is placed in a heritage maintenance fund. Secondly, consequential changes have been made to the rules governing tax changes when property entering a maintenance fund from an interest in possession trust leaves the maintenance fund for non-heritage purposes. The revised rules will apply irrespective of whether the property entered the maintenance fund from an interest in possession trust under the new facility or under the existing exemption facility. Changes are to take effect from Budget day. The purpose is to encourage more people to put heritage property into maintenance funds. That has been difficult to encourage in the past. I am sure that everyone will agree that that is a worthwhile objective.'( ) If the value of the property when it becomes held on the trusts referred to in subsection (1)(b) above is lower than so much of the value transferred on the death of the person referred to in subsection (1)(a) as is attributable to the property, subsection (2) above shall apply to the property only to the extent of the lower value.'.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 15, as amended, agreed to.
Acceptance In Lieu Waiver Of Interest
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 151 inserts a new subsection into section 233 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984. The new subsection allows property offered in lieu of inheritance tax to be accepted on terms providing that the tax will cease to carry interest from a date earlier than the date when the property is formally accepted if the acceptance of the property is based on its value at that earlier date.We very much hope that this clause will enable us to retain more works of art in this country and in our galleries. As hon. Members will be aware the acceptance-in-lieu system recently enabled us to acquire Constable's "Stratford Mill". I hope that the House will welcome the proposal as it has been welcomed by the art world in general.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 151 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Nomination Of Disposals And Appropriations
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 153 and schedule 16 provide for the establishment and operation of a crude oil nomination scheme for petroleum revenue tax. Under the scheme, a participator in an oilfield may nominate proposed sales at arm's length of crude oil that he has produced himself and proposed appropriations of transfer of such oil to associates for refining purposes. The nomination is to be made within two business days to the Revenue—in practice, the oil taxation office.As the House may know, the scheme has been introduced in response to developments in the oil market that have enabled participators to pick and choose with hindsight which of a range of contracts and prices should form the basis of their PRT liabilities. There is provision for modifications to be made to the scheme by regulation, thus enabling it to be adapted to meet any significant change in the market.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 153 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 16 agreed to.
Clause 154 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 17 agreed to.
Clause 155 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 18 agreed to.
Clause 156 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Relief For Research Expenditure
I beg to move amendment No. 50, in page 162, line 12, after 'purpose', insert
'which, subject to subsection (IA) below, are'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 51.
The new relief for oil-related research expenditure set out in schedule 19, specifically excludes expenditure on exploration and appraisal. It achieves this by excluding any expenditure for purposes specified in section 5A(2) of the Oil Taxation Act 1975, namely exploration and appraisal activities in the territorial sea and the continental shelf. It was also intended that the new relief should exclude onshore exploration and appraisal expenditure but, following the Finance Act 1975, onshore expenditure is no longer included in the section 5A(2) purposes. The two amendments therefore ensure that the objective of excluding all exploration and appraisal expenditure from the scope of the new relief is achieved, by deeming, for the purposes only of this provision, the territorial sea to include also the United Kingdom.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 51, in page 162, line 21, at end insert—
`(1A) For the purposes only of subsection (1)(d) above, any reference in section 5A(2) of this Act to the territorial sea of the United Kingdom shall he taken to include a reference to the United Kingdom itself.'
Schedule 19, as amended agreed to.
Clause 157 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 20 agreed to.
Clauses 158 and 159 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Regulation Of Financial Dealings
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
I have a question about clause No. 161. It seems that the definition of foreign currency in that clause excludes the ecu. Why is that?
The ecu is not in itself a foreign currency.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 161 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 162 and 163 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 21 agreed to.
Clause 38 disagreed to.
Clause 40 disagreed to.
Clauses 47 to 53 disagreed to.
Clauses 57 to 66 disagreed to.
Clauses 68 to 137 disagreed to.
Clause 148 disagreed to.
Clause 152 disagreed to.
Schedules 8 to 11 disagreed to.
Schedule 13 disagreed to.
Clause 164 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Amendments made: No. 52, in page 176, line 28, at end insert—
|`1983 c. 28.||The Finance Act 1983.||Section 7(4).'|
No. 53, in page 177, leave out lines 14 to 18.
No. 54, in page 177, leave out lines 32 and 33
No. 55, in page 177, leave out lines 46 and 47
No. 56, in page 177, leave out lines 56 and 57
No. 57, in page 178, leave out lines 19 to 147.
No. 58, in page 181, column 3, leave out lines 28 to 38.
No. 59, in page 181, column 3, leave out lines 44 and 45.
No. 60, in page 179, line 43, column 3, leave out `Sections 511 and' insert 'Section'.
Schedule 22, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported, with amendments; as amended, considered.
Charge Of Income Tax For 1987–88
I beg to move, To leave out Clause 20.Congratulations are in order on the way in which you conducted the Committee stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know how many words per minute you uttered, but I am sure that the speed exceeds most records and perhaps it should be checked for the "Guinness Book of Records". We went rather quickly through many technical or unexceptional clauses in the Finance Bill and it is not necessary for us to comment at length upon them. However, I should like to make one small point. In the final version of the Finance Bill, clause 58 was left out. That clause spoke about the Inland Revenue's response to Lloyd's of London and it caused Lloyd's underwriters severe anxieties because it looked as if the Inland Revenue would be more assiduously after them than before. One can only express regret—I shall leave it at that—that the clause was left out of the Bill. Over the last few weeks, I seem to have done endless reading on the Budget and the Finance Bill. A comment in an article in the New Statesman of 13 March seems to sum up the whole debate that preceded the Budget and the debate itself on the Finance Bill. The comment fits the Chancellor rather well. It says:
In the run-up to the Budget and during the debate on the Finance Bill, the Chancellor and the Government conducted a successful propaganda operation and diverted the attention of the victims, many taxpayers, at the right moment. Far from the presentation in the Budget that most taxpayers would be better off as a result of that Budget and the changes in the Finance Bill, we know that that is not the case. Those on average and below-average incomes will find that the 2p off the standard rate of tax on or after 18 May, depending on their pay, will make virtually no difference to the proportion of their incomes taken in tax and national insurance contribution. Much as I hate to keep reminding the Financial Secretary of the extremely detailed and most useful answers to my written questions, I am afraid that I must do so. I received a written answer on 27 March, which occupied a number of pages from column 311 onwards and it makes the Government's position on tax and national insurance quite clear. The tables show for 1978 to 1987–88 the proportion of income taken in tax and national insurance contributions from those on half average earnings, currently £113 a week, from those on three quarters of average male earnings, that is to say £170 a week, and from those on average earnings. Most of those people have suffered a substantial increase in the tax take. That substantial increase ranges from about 4 per cent., but it is sometimes even higher. It is only when we move on towards the end of those pages of tables and look, for example, at a married man with two children who earns 700 per cent. of average male earnings—that is someone earning £1,500 a week this year—that we see that in 1978–79 the proportion of his income that was taken in tax and national insurance contributions was 58 per cent., but that it has now fallen to 48 per cent. That is a 10 per cent. fall, which is a huge drop for those whose incomes are well above average. However, the average taxpayer or someone on below average incomes is now paying more in income tax and national insurance contributions as a proportion of his gross earnings, in terms of the Financial Secretary's figures. I am sure that he read the parliamentary answer most carefully before he signed it and allowed it to go forward in his name."The art of the successful pickpocket lies in diverting the victim's attention at the right moment."
Would not the hon. Lady's case have greater credibility if it were not for the fact that she is now seeking to remove clause 20 from the Finance Bill? If that clause is removed, she will injure still further those on average incomes whose champion she claims to be.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has been following the argument. The point is that even the changes proposed in the Finance Bill, which we are now finally considering and voting on, will make virtually no difference to the proportion of income taken in tax and national insurance contributions last year and this year.To help the hon. Gentleman, I shall give those figures. Before the changes in the Budget, or rather in the Finance Bill, a married man with two children who is on 50 per cent. of average earnings would find that 16·7 per cent. of his gross earnings were taken in tax and national insurance contributions. Assuming the changes that we are discussing, in this financial year 16·6 per cent. of his gross earnings would be taken in tax and national insurance contributions. Therefore in proportional terms, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman understands, there is virtually no change.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
No, I would like to continue my argument. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have plenty of time to study the matter.
No, I shall not give way. I wish to continue. I have already made it perfectly clear that if one is talking about the proportion of earnings taken in income tax and national insurance contributions, the figures are all there.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. Apart from the percentages to which she has referred, has she not overlooked the fact that many millions of retired persons will benefit from the 2p drop in the standard rate of tax? National insurance contributions do not come into that calculation.
I was going to consider such matters, so I shall incorporate my answer to the hon. Gentleman into that. The question I was asked just now—
Answer the question.
The hon. Gentleman should not be so impatient. The point that I was making was that withdrawing the 2p cut, or abandoning the changes that the Government have proposed, would make little difference to most earners who pay tax and national insurance contributions. If one makes those changes, and especially if one requires the higher rate taxpayer to make a fairer contribution to the Exchequer than he or she has been making during the past eight years, we shall use those resources, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well is our policy, to raise pensions by £8 a week for married pensioners and by £5 for single pensioners. We shall also ensure that a heating allowance of £5 per week is paid from December to the end of March to all pensioners on supplementary benefit.All that would be far more beneficial to the majority of pensioners than 2p off the standard rate of tax. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if I take as an example—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is completely out of touch with the way in which most people live. In my constituency, for example, 4,000 pensioners are on supplementary benefit, and a heating allowance during the winter months would be far more beneficial to them than 2p off the standard rate.
If the hon. Gentleman does not understand, I suggest that he goes away and does some homework on that matter.On tax, a Conservative Member mentioned from a sedentary position the increase in earnings after tax and national insurance. I should like to point out to Conservative Members that the poorest wage earners have seen only a 2·9 per cent. increase in their real earnings between April 1979 and April 1986. However, the top earners have seen a 21 per cent. increase in their post-tax earnings.
Where is the evidence and what is the average?
The evidence is the Treasury's own analysis. I think that the average is about 8 per cent. However, it is an extremely distorted average figure—[Interruption.] The average is certainly not 21 per cent. The Financial Secretary had better study the tables that are provided by the Treasury. Perhaps he simply put his name to them, or glanced at them without giving them any consideration. The increase is 21 per cent. for the top earners and for the lowest earners it is 2·9 per cent. For the median of earnings—which is not quite the average—the increase is about 9 per cent. However, many people have seen only an extremely small increase in their real earnings. Furthermore. under the present Government, the top earners have increased their share of post-tax income from 12 per cent. to 17 per cent. Again, those are the Government's own figures.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
No, I have given way two or three times already and I do not want to prolong this debate. I have just explained to the hon. Gentleman—
No, I shall not give way. I shall tell the hon. Gentleman all over again in case he does not understand the point. If one considers those earning anything from 700 per cent. to 2,000 per cent. of average male earnings, one finds a substantial drop in the proportion of tax and national insurance that is taken from their gross earnings.
No, I shall not give way. I have discussed the proportions and spelled out the tables. I suggest that before the election, the hon. Gentleman goes away and reads the appropriate columns from the Official Report of Friday 27 March. Perhaps then, unusually, the hon. Gentleman will tell his constituents the truth about taxation under the Tories. I can assure the House that Ministers and other Conservative Members most certainly do not.We have seen the direct tax burden increase on those on below average incomes, and we have also seen indirect taxation increase during the past eight years. Those taxes hit the poor disproportionately. Currently, the poorest 10 per cent. of households—those on just £3,500 a year—pay nearly one quarter of their incomes—23 per cent.—in indirect taxation. However, the richest 10 per cent.—those on more than £28,000 a year—pay only one sixth of their incomes—16 per cent.—in indirect taxes. The doubling of VAT that occurred under the previous Tory Government has hit the poorest households hardest, and it continues to place a heavy burden on them. Should we have the misfortune to have another Tory Government, we know that their hidden manifesto proposes to extend VAT on food, children's clothing and other items. It would not be the first time that the Chancellor has done that. He has already extended the base for VAT—for example, by charging it on take-away food. We know that that is what the Government have in mind and, indeed, that is a consequence of their commitment to the internal market of the EEC. Therefore, I am not surprised that the Prime Minister prevaricated on the issue in reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party during Prime Minister's Question Time the other day. 4.30 pm In the past eight years the tax system has been deliberately distorted to make those on average and below-average incomes pay for the tax cuts of the rich, whether through direct or indirect taxation. That is the truth of the matter. Every examination of what has occurred, and even the Government's answers to questions, show that to be the case. This year's Finance Bill makes changes in inheritance tax which in a full year will cost £170 million, but the Government choose to boast about a special tax relief for the over-80s on which they can afford to squander all of £10 million. That shows clearly where the Government's priorities lie. We have tabled the amendment simply to give us another opportunity to attack the Government's record on taxation and to show the public the truth of the matter before polling day.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that I am replying.We have taken the opportunity of this debate to show the public that they have been paying from their pockets for the benefit of the few. The Government will squander billions of pounds, as they already have done, to benefit those on £1,000 or £2,000 a week, while those who have little more than that to live on a year are paying through the nose to line the pockets of the rich.
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) has drawn the attention of the House to new clause 20 and I should like to make some brief remarks which point in entirely the opposite direction from those which she has just been making.The duty of the Treasury—it is one to which I hope the Treasury will return in coming weeks when the House returns after the election—is to provide the greatest possible stimulus to the economy by the adroit use of taxation reform. From the point of lightening the administration of the tax system the Government should also head towards extreme simplification of the tax system for its own sake. I should therefore like to repeat a recommendation which I made at an earlier stage in our discussion of this clause. We should be moving now towards a single rate of tax on all incomes. We should end the anomaly arising from the impact of national insurance on earned income which has the effect of providing a higher rate of tax on earned income than is normally charged on investment income. We must treat women as entirely separate persons for tax purposes in future. I should also particularly like to repeat my recommendation that we should end higher rate tax altogether. In this way the Government would be adding to the incentives of investors to take risks which would add enormously to the profitability of companies and to the activity of the economy. It would also serve quickly to increase the total yield of tax rather than the reverse. My recommendations, therefore, would lead to a situation in which everyone would gain and nobody would lose.
This short debate comes at an opportune time. First, I must comment on the curious way in which democracy sometimes operates in this House. The sight of the Treasury Bench defeating large sections of its own Bill is an amusing end to this Parliament. I only wish that we could dispatch Finance Bills and many other Bills as speedily as we have done this afternoon. It is a great pleasure to see Ministers defeating large sections of their Bill in order to dispatch the House to the country to fight the general election.If we in the alliance had been framing the Budget we would not have proceeded to make a 2p cut in income tax at this time. For that reason we have consistently voted against it and will do so again today. Since the publication of the Red Book and the Chancellor's Budget statement we have reviewed all our public expenditure commitments and have published the outcome today. Hon. Members will no doubt obtain details of that extended review in due course. I shall say a few words about our expenditure commitments in the light of the amendment to delete the 2p cut in income tax. One of the most striking aspects of the Government's Budget forecasts and the Red Book was the scale of the fiscal adjustment and the amount of revenue available to the Chancellor in forthcoming years. It was much higher than had been anticipated by many, certainly until just before the Budget and even on the eve of the Budget. The Red Book showed that there were substantial forecast funds and we must take the Treasury at its word. The forecast was that the funds were in the region of £3 billion for 1988–89, £5 billion for 1989–90, £7 billion for 1990–91 and £9 billion for 1991–92. Our view, which we expressed during the Budget debates, is that any available funds should be devoted to helping those who have been hit hardest by the recession and to building up the long-term strength of the economy and industry. In our review we have sought to achieve those ends. For that reason we have proposed a package of almost £5 billion to help ensure that the long-term unemployed can obtain work. The long-term unemployed are the section of our community who have been hit hardest by the economic recession and we give them top priority in our expenditure proposals. We propose several tax cuts to give an incentive to employers to take on more labour, in particular by cutting employers' national insurance contributions in assisted areas, by providing tax incentives to encourage wider share ownership and more investment in industry, and by extending the Government's proposals for profit sharing which were included in the Finance Bill, but which the Government have dropped as a result of the general election. We would change the form of their profit-sharing proposals, but, as I said in our earlier debates on the Bill, we support the principle that the Government have outlined in the Bill. In addition, we believe that the funds available should be used to help those who are in dire poverty at the bottom end of the income scale, particularly families with children and the long-term unemployed. We propose a substantial increase in expenditure over the next five years to help them and to improve education, health, industry, overseas aid, the arts and the Home Office. Understandably, people will ask how we would finance that increase in expenditure. Our plans imply an increase of some £4 billion in borrowings over five years. Before hon. Members on the Conservative Benches start crowing too much about that, we would have borrowings at a lower percentage of gross domestic product than the Government have had for the majority of their term of office, so it would hardly be an excess of spending. The borrowings we suggest, compared either historically or with any other country in the Western world, would be a very modest increase. Those borrowings would be necessary to underpin the growth in industry and the economy and to build up the health and education services, which people want to see improved and strengthened. That could be done without restoring the 2p cut in income tax proposed by the Government. Our proposals have been carefully costed and would be achievable over the coming five years. We would not reverse the 2p cut, but we believe that the Government were wrong to embark upon that road when over 3 million people are unemployed, waiting lists in hospitals are growing and schools do not have the equipment or resources to give children a proper education.
The House is following the hon. Gentleman's argument with great interest, but neither I nor some of my colleagues can understand why, the hon. Gentleman having said that his party would not restore the cut, he voted against it.
Our judgment is that the Government should not have embarked upon this road when many people are unemployed and the education and health services should be upgraded. In the light of the figures in the Red Book and the forecasts by Ministers, it is quite clear that we could achieve the objectives we have set without restoring the cut in income tax. One of the alliance's aims is to stop the sharp reverses in policy which have taken place, when one party has reversed the proposals of another party on taxation and other matters.
As the Red Book was published on the day of the Budget, why did the hon. Gentleman vote against the tax cuts in March but decide in May that his view is different?
The Minister knows how long it takes the Government to go through their detailed expenditure proposals and come to a conclusion. No other party in opposition, including the Conservative party, has ever costed its proposals, had them reviewed by Coopers Lybrand and published the full figures, as the alliance has today, in order to make it clear to the country that at least one party in opposition provides a credible alternative to the Government and can carry out its pledges. That is clear from the proposals published today.We could have easily come back within 24 hours of the Budget statement and the publication of the Red Book and, off the top of our heads, made a decision about what we would do, but the alliance wanted to act responsibly and to review the expenditure proposals in the light of what the Government have done. We have completed that review and the findings have been published today. We can achieve our priorities and targets within the expenditure outlined in detail in the proposals and without restoring the 2p cut in income tax. We have no desire to increase the burden of income tax on people beyond what is necessary to achieve the targets we have set. It is credible and desirable that we should achieve both those objectives. For that reason I am sure that we will gain much support, because undoubtedly the country wants to see the education and health services improved and the jobless cared for. People do not want taxes to be raised more than is necessary. I hope that the vote tonight will be the last chapter of the Finance Bill proposals. We shall go into the election campaign with a fully costed programme which, I am sure, will gain the support of the electorate.
The speech of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) was characterised during its closing moments by a claim that it was an example of the credibility of the Social Democratic party. I do not know what the fate of the hon. Member for Stockton, South will be when his speech is read in the Official Report tomorrow morning by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins). but in so far as the hon. Gentleman may be an official Treasury spokesman for the Social Democratic party, that is not a position he is likely to hold should he be re-elected in the next Parliament.His speech was one of the most breathtaking speeches to which we have listened in the House. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong when I assert that he is an official Treasury spokesman for his party. If I have got that wrong, I will gladly give way. The hon. Gentleman said that he was opposed to the reduction of 2p in the pound income tax, but that, the proposal now being before the House, he will not vote against it. The characteristic courage of the Social Democratic party was shown in the hon. Gentleman's act of heroism in the closing stages of the Parliament when he led us to believe that he will abstain. No one from the Government wishes to misrepresent the Social Democratic party, and if I have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman and he will take his courage in his hands and vote in favour of my right hon. Friends who sit on the Treasury Bench, I shall gladly give way. On the other hand, he may vote with his former colleagues in the Labour party. I fully understand that he has not yet been cured of the disease from which they still suffer, because he is wearing his red tie today and he was the supporter of a Government who borrowed where they dared not tax and printed when they could not borrow. The hon. Gentleman said that he proposes a mere £4 billion extra borrowing. The hon. Gentleman did not say, either to the Chief Secretary or to the Finance Secretary, what would be the effect upon interest rates of that extra borrowing. He did not tell the House, although he had the opportunity to do so, what would be the consequences for interest rates or extra Government expenditure because of the interest the Government would have to pay on their loans. Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will remember that the late Lord Butler described the Liberal party as a band of visionary missionaries with neither vision nor mission. The hon. Gentleman has climbed into bed with the Liberals and I hope that he will make many more speeches before the House rises.
I wish to oppose the Opposition's proposition that clause 20 should be deleted from the Bill, but before I do so I want to make one comment on a remark made by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) about other parts of the Bill. I am sure that he would not feel that it would be right for the House to pass major pieces of legislation on important subjects for the Government without any scrutiny, and that is why we took the view that we did on those clauses today. But let me assure him that the Government propose to reintroduce all those provisions which have had to be left out of the shortened Finance Bill as early as possible in the next Parliament.When we debated the 2p reduction in income tax in the House less than two weeks ago, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) accused the Government of showing judgment
in choosing to reduce income tax. It is his judgment and the judgment of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) which is mistaken, both in what the hon. Member for Dagenham said then and in choosing to highlight the clause again today. I can assure the Opposition that the clause could never be regarded as cynical. We have always stressed our determination to reduce the basic rate of income tax with a target of 25p in the pound. This move this year is entirely consistent with that—open, plain, right and popular, and not to be reversed, as the Labour party would do. Therefore, I am delighted that our major debate at this stage is on this clause. Nothing underlines the difference between the Conservatives and all other parties on tax policies more, and the country now has the opportunity to make the choice. Let me briefly restate why we believe that it is right to take action to reduce the basic rate of income tax. The basic rate of income tax is the marginal rate for about 95 per cent. of all taxpayers. Therefore, reducing the basic rate of tax directly improves the incentives for some 21 million taxpayers. It allows them to keep more of the rewards of their own efforts. It is good for incentives and motivation, and the British economy benefits. If those lower tax bills feed through into lower pay settlements, there will be a directly beneficial effect on employment. On the other hand, the Opposition's attitude is clear. They believe in high taxes for their own sake. They believe that allowing people to keep more of their own money is—they used this phrase in the previous debate—"givIng money away", not giving it back. The Opposition see the tax system as some great engine of social change, penalising those who aim to better themselves and their families. They do not recognise the language of incentives, effort or motivation. They recognise only the language of egalitarianism and interference. They are only happy when they are spending other people's money for them. They do not recognise the moral benefits to the family arid the practical benefits to the economy of enabling people to keep more of what they earn to spend as they consider right and appropriate. The extent to which we have won this ideological argument was demonstrated by the extraordinary attack on the Budget by the hon. Member for Dagenham in the previous debate on this clause, and the hon. Member for Thurrock was at it again today. True, the hon. Member for Dagenham did at times imply—as did the hon. Member for Thurrock—indeed, he stated, that the Opposition did not think that we were right to give priority to reducing income tax. But that was sotto voce. Those were the muted passages in both speeches."as mistaken as it is cynical"—[Official Report, 29 April 1987; Vol. 115, c. 332.]
The Chief Secretary cannot be allowed to get away with that sort of nonsense. He knows that it is nonsense. We have made our priorities clear inside and outside the House. We have made it clear that our priority is to raise child benefit and pensions, and, indeed, the tax burden on those on well above average incomes will be increased. That is only fair and we are looking for fairness. To suggest that there are no social priorities and no priorities for jobs is utter and complete nonsense and the Chief Secretary knows that.
But the thrust of the hon. Lady's speech today, and that of the hon. Member for Dagenham the other week, was to accuse us of not having cut tax enough. The hon. Lady was trying to say that we had not succeeded in cutting tax enough. Only sotto voce, and only when pressed, do they concede that they will raise taxes. The hon. Lady knows perfectly well that we are not just talking about taxes on, in her own words, the better-off. Her proposal today to restore the 2p tax cut means an increase in taxes on most people and certainly an increase on taxes on all taxpayers. Therefore, the thrust of the Opposition's onslaught is not that we are cutting taxes but that we have apparently not cut them enough. That is an almost unbelievable position for the Opposition to take, given their tax and spending policies.I can only assume that the Opposition are taking that position for one reason: to accuse us of not being successful enough yet in cutting income tax was, in their judgment, more likely to receive a better response from the country than to tell them what Labour would do. It is just about the most convoluted position for the Opposition to take up than I can imagine and it will fool no one. Let me face the charge head on. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I have often made clear, we wish and intend to do more to cut income tax, which is in itself an acknowledgement that we have not yet done enough. That is in no small part due to our success in, and the priority that we have given to, reducing that other burden, the level of public borrowing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) referred. That was another inheritance from Labour that we had to tackle first. It is interesting to observe that, with current levels of Government expenditure, if we had had borrowing at today's prices at the same unsustainable rate as we had under Labour in 1975–76, there would be hardly any need for income tax. Under Labour today, we would have had all three much higher then they are now—Whigher spending, higher taxes and higher borrowing, and, of course, higher interest rates too.
Why does the Minister not deal with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) about the burden of indirect taxation, which has been substantially increased in eight years of Tory Government? Why does not he answer the point, repeatedly made, about what the Government would do, if re-elected, about those items which are at present not subject to VAT—children's clothing, food and so on? Is not it clear that any re-elected Tory Government are likely to take action that would mean that millions of people would suffer as a result of those items being subject to VAT?
I was dealing with a separate point, but let me come to that directly. We have made our position on VAT clear on many occasions. The Opposition are making the most extraordinary charges in order to try to make their claims credible and they are failing.Let me quote from a letter from the hon. Member for Dagenham to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor the other day:
If the Opposition do not know that VAT is handled by Customs and Excise, not the Inland Revenue, it demonstrates how incredible their charge is. Let me come directly to the hon. Gentleman's other point on indirect taxes. What is also clear is that for a person whose real earnings—that is, after inflation—are the same as they were in 1978–79, which is a perfectly fair test to take, taxation today is much lower than it was at all income levels. For example, a married man on half average earnings in 1978–79, whose earnings have gone up in line with prices, would pay tax and national insurance contributions of 12·9 per cent. under our regime now, instead of the 16 per cent. that he paid in 1978–79. Because that is in real terms and includes prices, it takes account of VAT. But that is not all that matters. What is much more important—this is the point that the hon. Member for Thurrock is constantly missing—is the increase in earnings that people have been able to achieve under the Government. That is why the hon. Lady's figures were not relevant. The most telling comparison of all is—this is the real comparison, including the increase in earnings and the tax changes—that the real take-home pay of the man on average earnings has risen by 21·5 per cent. under this Government. I am surprised that the hon. Lady did not know that, but that is the fact. That compares with the tiniest increase under the last Labour Government of 0·6 per cent. which is well under 1 per cent."It is common knowledge among higher levels of the Inland Revenue that a team of five senior officials from the Policy Division are working on the extension of VAT to goods currently exempt, including both food and children's clothes."
The figures that I used were the Treasury's own figures taken over the years 1979 to 1986. The 21 per cent. increase was for the highest decile only. The Treasury must make up its mind which are the true figures and which are the false figures. It is clear that the true figures are the ones that the Government find most uncomfortable.The right hon. Gentleman made his little joke about the collection of VAT, but he did not answer the question. If the EC Commissioners recommend imposition of VAT on food and other zero-rated items would a Conservative Government accept that recommendation? Yes or no?
On the first point, the hon. Lady is quite wrong. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary replied to certain specific questions that she asked. The two sets of figures that I have put before the House are the relevant ones—the difference in tax burden for people whose real earnings have remained the same as they were under the Labour Government and, above all, the difference in real take-home pay. The 21·5 per cent. increase is in the real take-home pay of the person on average earnings.As for any recommendation that might come from the European Community, that is hypothetical because we do not know what the Commission will recommend so the hon. Lady's question is on a par with the ludicrous final question that the hon. Member for Dagenham put to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. The income tax cuts proposed by the Government will appear in pay packets from 17 May onwards. A married man with average earnings will be £3·87 per week better off and a married man on half average earnings will be £1·59 better off. Those increases in take-home pay will come into effect at the end of this week, but the hon. Members for Thurrock and for Stockton, South wish to prevent that. A reversal of the Government's proposals would have two consequences. First, there would be chaos in companies. Many employers with computerised payrolls will already have run their monthly pay for May and many others will have calculated pay in advance on the basis of a 27p basic rate, so it would not be possible to ask them to reverse the tax cuts at this stage. Secondly, therefore, and much more important for the country, employees would receive the tax cuts only to have them clawed back. That is what the Labour party, the Liberal party and the SDP are saying. They intend to claw back the increases in pay resulting from the tax cut. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stockton, South cannot get away with this. He has been wriggling throughout proceedings on the Finance Bill about the position of the SDP and Liberal parties on clause 20 but he has said that he intends to vote against clause 20.
The hon. Gentleman acknowledges that. Plainly, if the SDP and Liberal parties succeeded in their intentions today, employees throughout the country would receive the tax cuts at the end of this week only to have them clawed back.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it all ways. If he votes against our proposal today he will be relying entirely on Conservative votes to ensure that the tax cuts appear in employees' pay packets. The consequence of a vote for the Opposition parties on 11 June would be not just a clawing back—that is, a 2p increase in income tax—but in the case of the Labour party much higher taxation to finance huge increases in public expenditure. The hon. Member for Dagenham has been no more successful than his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in stemming the torrent of commitments from his colleagues, so a vote for Labour is a vote for higher taxation and borrowing, leading yet again to the familiar spiral of high inflation and deteriorating economic performance which typified Labour economic management in the 1970s.As the speechof the hon. Member for Stockton, South has shown, the SDP and the Liberals want it all ways. The hon. Gentleman gave a most tortuous explanation in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark). There is a saying that even though a dog has four legs it cannot move in two directions at once. The hon. Gentleman has only two and he endeavours to move in two directions all the time, but the electorate will not be fooled. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the Red Book and the fiscal adjustment in future years because, in so doing, he showed the strength of the economy built up by the Government. I remind the House, however, that those are forecasts and they will come about only with the continuation of our economic policies and our prudent management. To judge from what the hon. Member for Stockton, South has said, typically again the SDP and the Liberals are making huge spending promises without economic policies to produce the necessary growth. It is clear that they, too, are on the side of higher taxes and higher spending financed by higher borrowing when they are forced to come clean about it. I agree with the Opposition in one respect at least. This proposal is the centrepiece of the 1987 Finance Bill and it continues our firm progress down the path towards lower taxes for all taxpayers. Next week, the effect of these reductions and the higher tax allowances will start to be felt in pay packets. The young married police constable will be £3·07 per week better off, the train driver £3·61 and the average manual worker in the water industry £355 better off. That is not a cynical pre-election bribe.
What is it then?
We have made our tax objectives clear throughout. It is not a bribe. It is the dividend of eight years' prudent and sound economic management—the same prudent and sound economic management which allowed us to reduce borrowing to 1 per cent. of GDP and to increase our spending in priority areas by £4·75 billion this year.That is the prospectus on which we shall fight the election, not the fictions dreamed up in Walworth road and laced with recurring Labour nightmares about their period in office. Our prospectus has already redynamised the British economy after years of failure and it allows me to offer the House the following assertion which, as we have learnt from today's debate, no other party can offer. The next Conservative Government will seek to reduce the basic rate of income tax to 25p as soon as we prudently can. This clause is strong evidence of our ability to achieve that aim in the next Parliament and I urge the House to pass it today.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 157, Noes 253.
Division No. 163]
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Alton, David||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Anderson, Donald||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Deakins, Eric|
|Ashton, Joe||Dewar, Donald|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dixon, Donald|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosemary||Dormand, Jack|
|Barron, Kevin||Dubs, Alfred|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Beith, A. J.||Eadie, Alex|
|Bell, Stuart||Eastham, Ken|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Edwards, Bob (Wh'mpt'n SE)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fatchett, Derek|
|Blair, Anthony||Faulds, Andrew|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Boyes, Roland||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Foster, Derek|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Caborn, Richard||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Freud, Clement|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gould, Bryan|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Cartwright, John||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hardy, Peter|
|Clarke, Thomas||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Coleman, Donald||Haynes, Frank|
|Conlan, Bernard||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Corbett, Robin||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Craigen, J. M.||Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)|
|Crowther, Stan||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Howells, Geraint||Radice, Giles|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Randall, Stuart|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Redmond, Martin|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|John, Brynmor||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Robertson, George|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Rogers, Allan|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Lamond, James||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Litherland, Robert||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Loyden, Edward||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McCartney, Hugh||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKelvey, William||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Soley, Clive|
|McWilliam, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Madden, Max||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Martin, Michael||Strang, Gavin|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Straw, Jack|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Taylor, Matthew|
|Michie, William||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wainwright, R.|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Welsh, Michael|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Nellist, David||Wilson, Gordon|
|O'Neill, Martin||Winnick, David|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Woodall, Alec|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Patchett, Terry||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Pike, Peter||Mr. Ron Davies and Mr. Sean Hughes.|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Adley, Robert||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Colvin, Michael|
|Alexander, Richard||Conway, Derek|
|Amess, David||Coombs, Simon|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Cormack, Patrick|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Corrie, John|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Couchman, James|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Batiste, Spencer||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Benyon, William||Dover, Den|
|Best, Keith||Durant, Tony|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Dykes, Hugh|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Eggar, Tim|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Blackburn, John||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Favell, Anthony|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Fletcher, Sir Alexander|
|Bright, Graham||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Forman, Nigel|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Browne, John||Forth, Eric|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Franks, Cecil|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Butterfill, John||Freeman, Roger|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Fry, Peter|
|Carttiss, Michael||Gale, Roger|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Chope, Christopher||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mather, Sir Carol|
|Gow, Ian||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Greenway, Harry||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Gregory, Conal||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Merchant, Piers|
|Ground, Patrick||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Grylls, Michael||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John S||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Moate, Roger|
|Hannam, John||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Harris, David||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mudd, David|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Murphy, Christopher|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Newton, Tony|
|Hayes, J.||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hayward, Robert||Norris, Steven|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Onslow, Cranley|
|Heddle, John||Osborn, Sir John|
|Henderson, Barry||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Hickmet, Richard||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Hicks, Robert||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Pawsey, James|
|Hirst, Michael||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Holt, Richard||Pollock, Alexander|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Porter, Barry|
|Howard, Michael||Powley, John|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Price, Sir David|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Raffan, Keith|
|Hunter, Andrew||Rathbone, Tim|
|Jackson, Robert||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Renton, Tim|
|Jessel, Toby||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Key, Robert||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Knox, David||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lang, Ian||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Latham, Michael||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Shersby, Michael|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Silvester, Fred|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sims, Roger|
|Lester, Jim||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lightbown, David||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lilley, Peter||Speed, Keith|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Speller, Tony|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spencer, Derek|
|Lord, Michael||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Squire, Robin|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Steen, Anthony|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Stern, Michael|
|Maclean, David John||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Madel, David||Sumberg, David|
|Major, John||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Malone, Gerald||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maples, John||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Marland, Paul||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Marlow, Antony||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Thorne, Neil (llford S)|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wheeler, John|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Whitfield, John|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Trotter, Neville||Wolfson, Mark|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Wood, Timothy|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Woodcock, Michael|
|Walden, George||Yeo, Tim|
|Walker, Bill (T'side N)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Waller, Gary||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wardle, C. (Bexhill)||Mr. Michael Portillo and Mr. Michael Neubert.|
|Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
Question accordingly negatived.
Occupational Pension Schemes
Amendment made: in page 23, line 20, leave out clause 34.— [Mr. MacGregor.]
Employee Share Schemes, Etc
Amendment made: in page 124, line 10, leave out schedule 5.— [Mr. MacGrregor.]
Bill read the Third time and passed.
Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill Lords
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
I have to advise the House that Mr. Speaker has selected new clauses 1 and 2. Not moved.
Postponed Confiscation Orders
I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 35, leave out 'section 3(5)' and insert `subsection (5) of section 3'.
With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 5.
Hon. Members who served on the Committee that considered the Bill will recall that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) were displeased by the use of the words "retransmittal" and "retransmit" in clauses 2 and 3. I admitted that I too found the words distasteful and undertook to consider whether the drafting could be improved without undermining the intention. This group of amendments is designed to remove the controversial words in clauses 2 and 3 and make minor consequential amendments. Hon. Members will see that the terminology employed in the amendments is "transmit". This probably does not go as far as the hon. Member for Garscadden would like, but, as I explained in Committee, "transmission" is the normal term for the handing over of proceedings from one court to another.I commend the amendments to the House.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 2, in page 3, line 37, leave out
`retransmittal of the case to'
'case is transmitted under that subsection by'.
No. 3, in page 3, line 37, after 'Court', insert 'of Session'.— [Mr. Lang.]
Assessing The Proceeds Of Drug Trafficking
I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 4, line 29, after 'accord', insert
In Committee the hon. Member for Monklands West (Mr. Clarke) moved an amendment to allow the prosecution or the defence to move for the High Court to remit a question of exceptional complexity to the Court of Sessions. I admitted that I saw force in the argument and undertook to look at the matter again. I have now done so and this amendment will give effect to the hon. Gentleman's proposal. If the amendment is agreed to by the House, in addition to the court so deciding, the prosecution or the defence, or both, will be able to move the court to remit where they perceive the point at issue as one that ought properly to be resolved by the Court of Session.',or on the application of the prosecutor or of the person (or on their joint application),'
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 5, in page 4, line 31, leave out 'retransmit' and insert 'transmit'.
Inhibition And Arrestment Of Property Affected By Restraint Order Or By Interdict Under Section 12
I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 12, line 4, leave out 'such'.This is a drafting concession in response to remarks made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 12, line 39, after 'order', insert
'or, in relation to that property, under section 12 of this Act'.
This is a simple drafting amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 21, line 19, at end insert:
Clause 26 allows the Court of Session to order compensation to be paid where, inter alia, a person has suffered substantial loss or damage as a result of anything done in relation to various orders made by the Court of Session under the Bill, such as those for the restraint of assets or the realisation of property. However, new clause 13, which was added to the Bill in Committee, inserted a new section 24A into the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, which allows orders made in Scotland to be enforced in England and Wales. It is therefore conceivable that someone could suffer a loss as a result of something done by the High Court in England and Wales. This amendment allows compensation to be ordered in such cases by adding section 24A of the 1986 Act to the list in clause 26.',or by virtue of section 24A of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (recognition and enforcement in England and Wales of orders and functions under this Part of this Act)'.
Amendment agreed to.
Order In Council As Regards Taking Of Action In Designated Country
I beg to move amendment No. 9, in page 26, line 26, leave out 'enforcement of confiscation orders' and insert 'taking of action'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12.
Hon. Members will recall that in Committee we inserted a new clause, now clause 32, dealing with the enforcement in a designated country of confiscation orders made by the High Court. However, following discussions that the Home Office has held with several countries, we now realise that the clause, as drafted, will not be sufficiently flexible to cater for the various types of agreement that may be reached. This group of amendments effects the necessary changes to make the clause more flexible.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 10, in page 26, line 27, after 'country', insert
'in consequence of the making of a restraint order or of a confiscation order'.
No. 11, in line 29, leave out 'of the enforcement of' and insert
'arising out of action taken in that country with a view to satisfying'.
No. 12, in line 30, leave out 'in that country'.— [Mr. Lang.]
Insolvency Practitioners Dealing With Property Subject To Restraint Order
I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 31, line 26, after 'construction', insert
'the reference in subsection (2)(a) of that section to a permanent or interim trustee in a sequestration shall be taken to include a reference to a trustee in a sequestration and'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 14.
These are simple technical amendments to Clause 37, which provides protection for insolvency practitioners to deal with property subject to a restraint order when they have reasonable grounds for believing that they are entitled to do so. These amendments simply make transitional provision to protect, respectively, trustees in sequestration and official receivers in bankruptcy proceedings commenced before the recent reforms in bankruptcy law in the 1985 Act and the Insolvency Act 1986 before these came into force.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 14, in page 31, line 29, leave out from 'manager' to 'the' in line 31 and insert 'of.— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
Offence Of Prejudicing Investigation
I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 36, line 2, leave out from beginning to "a" in line 5.
With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 15, in page 36, line 1, leave out from 'trafficking' to (a) in line 5, and Government amendment No. 21.
I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Member for Glasgow, Gascadden (Mr. Dewar), in anticipation of his amendment, which is within this group, that we are able to accept the principle of his amendment. I hope that he will not take it to heart if I tell him that his amendment makes for unfortunate drafting. He does not have the same access to the services and advice of parliamentary draftsmen as I do, and I hope that he will agree that the two manuscript amendments in my right hon. and learned Friend's name will make for more effective drafting of the offence in clause 42, which does meet the point that he makes.
Perhaps I could detain the House for just a moment. Obviously, I am grateful to the Minister for what he has said. This is a comparatively minor matter, but it is of some practical importance. We were talking here about an offence and when it should be possible to proceed—what the trigger point should be. I think that the amendments which we moved in Committee raised a perfectly sensible difficulty.5.30 pm I am grateful that the Minister has seen fit to meet that point with his manuscript amendments. There are many things that my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) and I might have said if the Minister has not been in such a reasonable frame of mind. That shows that there is reward for the virtuous. I hope that it concentrates the Minister's mind in the next few minutes. After that, I trust that his state of mind will be entirely irrelevant.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 21, in page 36, line 5, leave out "the investigation" and insert
"an investigation into drug trafficking".—[Mr. Lang.]
Offences Relating To Controlled Drugs Fines
I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 37, leave out lines 36 to 40 and insert
The amendment relates to a rather odd passage between the Under-Secretary and myself during the Committee stage. Hon. Members who were involved in earlier stages of the Bill will remember that we are putting on the statute book a very complicated series of provisions, which will allow the courts to impose a sentence of imprisonment in drug trafficking cases—probably substantial, and rightly so, given the current trend of legal opinion and sentencing policy. In addition, the Bill allows for forfeiture and confiscation based on the assumed profits of a course of drug trafficking on the part of the accused. It is a draconian power, by any standards. I must stress that, as it is an important part of my argument for amendment No. 16. It is assumed that any assets that have been acquired during the six years before the point at which the court is considering a confiscation order have been acquired illegally in the course of drug trafficking. That assumption must be rebutted if any assets are not to be potentially subject to the forfeiture order. It is against that main point of the Bill that we deal with what is now clause 44, which strikes me as an odd clause. It puts forward the possibility of offences relating to controlled drugs, and the imposition of fines for those offences. It has been proposed—and I put this to the Minister—that an individual might appear in the High Court, or certainly might be indicted, and, having been sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment, might then be subject to a confiscation order, and he or his family might be left with no assets of any kind. Moreover, clause 44 contains the assumption that the court may impose a further fine if it considers that appropriate. It seems remarkable that someone who has suffered the major penalties that I have described should suddenly find himself the subject of a further fine. I consider it a strange proposal for two reasons. We have gone to great trouble to put on the statute book the confiscation and forfeiture provisions, and in doing so we have repealed the provisions for a fine which we put on the statute book only 18 months ago. We are doing that because it was said, or at least clearly implied, that the Government felt that a fine was not really an appropriate way of approaching the problem; if someone was going to prison, to add a punitive fine was something of a legal nonsense, and it would be much better to go for confiscation and forfeiture. On the whole, I sympathise with that argument, arid I have given it broad support. However, it seems a bit de trop then to turn round and, having substituted the machinery of confiscation and forfeiture, to reintroduce in clause 44—if not by the back door, at least by a side door—the principle of fines in cases involving drugs. I do not see the use of that—here I come to the specifics of the amendment—if we are also going to have a confiscation order. The Under-Secretary—I believe it was him; my memory is reasonably good—was very forthcoming, as he often is. Indeed, sometimes I think that he is too forthcoming for his own good. He shows a touch of naivety occasionally. He described to me exactly the reason why the Government want the clause on the statute book. I did not like that reason, which is why I put down my amendments and why I wish to pursue the matter in debate. The Under-Secretary said that I had misunderstood the position. Let me paraphrase, I hope fairly, what he said. He gave an example in which a person accused and finally convicted of drug trafficking was given a 10-year sentence. We were to assume that his assets were £200,000, that there was consideration of a confiscation order, but that when it came to the point, the presumption was rebutted for some portion of those assets. Let me repeat an example that I used in Committee. Suppose that the drug trafficker could prove that £20,000 of shares that he held in company X had come to him indirectly from the will of his old aunt Euphemia, whose reputation in relation to drug trafficking was beyond reproach. He had therefore clearly rebutted the presumption that all of his assets had come from drug trafficking, and the £20,000 could not therefore be the subject of a confiscation order. In such circumstances, the man would receive a 10-year prison sentence and £180,000 would be the subject of a confiscation order. However, his family would have saved from the wreck the £20,000, because they had been able to establish that it had nothing to do with his histDry of crime. The Minister said, I thought rather doubtfully. that it would be possible to put such people in a catch 22 by using clause 44 and fining them £20,000. Although the offender had managed to use that tightly-drawn loophole, rebut the presumption and save some money from the confiscation order, he could then be told, "Your endless ingenuity, my man, has done you no good. I hereby fine you £20,000." If that is the theory on which we are being invited to put this power on the statute book, it does not seem to me to do much for the legal system or the courts. The more that I have thought about the matter, the more I have come to the conclusion that it would be better to do without it. I am not suggesting that clause 44 should go entirely. That might be going too far, and I am as anxious as anyone that the courts should have adequate powers to deal with cases involving controlled drugs. The effect of amendment No. 16—at least, I hope so; I am always a little nervous about my own drafting—would be to leave the courts, in cases relating to controlled drugs, with the power to impose fines. I feel that that is perfectly reasonable. However, it would be made clear that those fines could not be imposed when there had been a confiscation order under clause 1(1). This is not a wrecking amendment. If it were, it would not have been selected. It is not even an attempt to undermine the intentions of the Government. It is a perfectly reasonable amendment. I accept, and indeed support, the confiscation concept. I also think it right that, when there is no confiscation order, the courts should have the power to fine. However, I do not think that they should say, "We will get you with a gaol sentence and hit you with a confiscation order, and when you manage to avoid some of the consequences quite properly by using the legal machinery on the statute book, we will finally get you with a catch-all fine provision." That seems to be going too far. That is why I tabled amendment No. 16, and I hope that the Government will consider it favourably. The amendment would not in any way damage the power of the courts to deal properly and severely with drug offences. It merely makes it clear that the provisions and powers in clause 44 will not be available where a confiscation order has been imposed. There is the power to impose a fine under clause 1(1), but we object to the use of clause 44 and are attempting to strike at it in a way that I hope I have made reasonably clear`it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so may impose a fine but such a fine shall not be imposed if an order under section 1(1) of this Act is being made'.
Perhaps I was too forthcoming in our debate in Committee on what was then clause 41. I remember it well. Referring in Standing Committee to subsection (5), the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said :
The hon. Gentleman then asked for "a fairly lucid explanation", after which he said:"I have read that only three times, but re-reading it has only added to my confusion."
However, in the next column he said:"I must be getting tired and old."
We have today covered much of the ground that was dealt with in Committee, and the hon. Gentleman has said nothing new to persuade me that we should remove the discretionary power of the High Court to impose a fine in addition to a compensation. order. I do not anticipate that this power will be used, except on rare occasions, but, as the considerations underlying the imposition of a confiscation order and a fine are quite distinct, there is no reason in principle why they should not be combined, if the High Court sees fit. A confiscation order is designed to remove the profits that the trafficker has gained from his illegal activities and to deprive him of assets that he should not have. A fine is, in general, a penalty that may be imposed as a punishment without reference to any profits made from the offence. Clause 1(3) ensures that if, exceptionally, the High Court decides to impose both a confiscation order and a fine, it must take account of the provisions of the order in determining the amount of the fine. The general requirement, that fines must take account of the offender's means, also applies. There is, therefore, no danger that the offender will be asked to pay more than he can afford. Apart from removing the High Court's discretion to impose a fine as well as a confiscation order, if it sees fit, the amendment also removes the requirement to impose the profit-related fine on drug traffickers that was introduced by the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. This provision came into force on 30 December of that year, and by September 1986 it had been used on seven occasions. It will remain useful as an alternative to a confiscation order in the case of those traffickers who have derived some profit from their crimes but who have no extensive history of trafficking. This special type of fine relates to the profits of crime, but only from the crime or crimes of which the offender was convicted. I expect the courts to continue to use such fines in appropriate cases. This amendment is technically defective. It fails to address the consequences for the general scheme of the Bill that would follow, if it were accepted. Clause 1(3) would become redundant if the House accepted the amendment, and it would be impossible to make sense of clause 44(2) that refers to paragraph (a), which the amendment would delete. Therefore, for technical reasons and for important reasons of principle, I urge the House to reject the amendment."Yes, I now begin to see the intensity of the pursuit."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 28 April 1987; c. 136–38.]
I am not surprised by the Minister's reply. He said that in Committee I said that I must be getting tired and old. It must have been what the Minister said that did it, including the arguments that he used then that have been rehearsed again briefly this afternoon. Did I understand the Minister to say that the power to fine under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985 will remain on the statute book and that it will be available as an alternative to the power to confiscate?
Section 193B of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975 that was inserted into that Act by section 39 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act is re-enacted by this clause.
I am grateful to the Minister. I see that the Minister's mind is made up, but his arguments are not convincing. He says cheerfully and with insouciance that the courts will impose a fine only when the accused is in a position to pay it. But the accused will be in prison if he has been convicted of a serious drugs offence, and his chances of being able to pay the fine, except in the circumstances that I have described, in which some assets have been left, despite the confiscation order, will be very few. We are piling penalty on penalty, and it does nothing for the system of which this House is the guardian.5.45 pm I am not content to let the matter rest there, but at this stage I have no other practical option. We shall be interested to see how useful the courts find these powers. If my suspicions are justified, they will turn out to be lumber in the basement of Scotland's statutes, to which reference will seldom be made. That argument will be settled by experience. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Disclosure Of Information
Amendment made: No. 17, in page 50, line 27, leave out `above'.— [Mr. Lang.]
Minor And Consequential Amendments
I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 67, line 35, at end insert—
`The Contempt Of Court Act 1981 (C 49) …
(1) In section 15 (penalties for contempt of court in Scottish proceedings) after subsection (5) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
"(6) For the purposes of section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 (release on licence of prisoners serving determinate sentences) a penalty of a period of imprisonment imposed for contempt of court shall be treated as a sentence of imprisonment within the meaning of that Act."
(2) Section 15, as amended, shall have effect as regards any penalty imposed before as well as after the coming into force of this paragraph.'.
In a sense, this is a victory by default for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). The amendment meets the point that I anticipated that he would have spoken to in Committee on his amendment, but out of courtesy, in view of the shortness of time on that occasion, he did not move it. It is a technical amendment, but it is necessary to correct an anomaly in the present law in relation to Scotland alone, whereby prisoners are excluded from review or from grant of licence for early release on parole if they are serving a single sentence of imprisonment for contempt of court, or a sentence of imprisonment for contempt of court that is consecutive to an ordinary sentence of imprisonment. The amendment returns this aspect of the operation of the parole scheme to that which was originally intended and brings the law of Scotland into line with the current position in England and Wales. I believe that the amendment will meet with all-party support and I commend it to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister. It is a sensible amendment. The amendment that was not reached in Committee, for a variety of practical reasons, was well-founded. As he has introduced a small reform that will improve the working of the parole system, I intend to provide the Minister with a number of excellent suggestions, backed by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and a very large number of other people on the Parole Board for Scotland, that would greatly improve the working of the parole system. However, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not allow me to do that now. Therefore I promise the Minister that either from that side of the House or, if we are not fortunate enough to form the next Government, in other circumstances, we shall pursue those suggestions. For the small improvement that has been tendered, I am prepared to thank the Minister, even though my thanks are somewhat muted.
Amendment agreed to.
Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. Lang.]
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that earlier this afternoon Mr. Speaker kindly said that he would look again at the selection of amendments. I have not heard from him, but I imagine that he has advised you about whether he has reviewed the selection.
At the commencement of consideration of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill I announced to the House that Mr. Speaker had selected the new clauses. I recall calling the hon. Gentleman's name, but he was not in his place when we began our proceedings on consideration.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.
Family Law Reform Bill Lords
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
New Clause 1
Powers Of Court To Make Orders For The Protection Of The Children Of Persons Cohabiting Or A Child Of Either Of Them
`(1) Where on an application for an order under this section the court is satisfied that the respondent has used, or threatened to use, violence against the person of a child of either the applicant, respondent, or both of them and that it is necessary for the protection of any such child that an order should be made under this subsection, the court may make the following order, that is to say an order that the respondent shall not use, or threaten to use, violence against the person of a child of either party to the application, or both of them.
(2) Where on an application for an order under this section the court considers that it is essential that the application should be heard without delay, the court may hear the application notwithstanding—
(3) Where on an application for an order under this section the court is satisfied that there is imminent danger of physical injury to a child of the applicant, respondent, or both of them, the court may make an order under subsection (1) above notwithstanding—
(4) The power of the court to make, by virtue of subsection (3) above, an expedited order under subsection (2) above may be exercised by a single justice.
(5) An expedited order shall not take effect until the date on which notice of the making of the order is served on the respondent in such manner as may be prescribed or, if the court specifies a later date as the date on which the order is to take effect, that later date, and an expedited order shall cease to have effect on whichever of the following dates occurs first, that is to say—
(6) An order under this section may be made subject to such exceptions or conditions as may be specified in the order and, subject in the case of an expedited order to subsection (8) above, may be made for such terms as may be so specified.
(7) The court in making an order under subsection (1) above may include provision that the respondent shall not incite or assist any other person to use, or threaten to use, violence against the person of a child or either or both of them.'— [Mr. Sims.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to take the following: New clause 2—
Supplementary provisions with respect to orders under section ( Powers of court to make orders for the protection of the children of persons cohabiting or a child of either of them)—
'A magistrates' court shall, on an application made by either the man or the woman in question, have power by order to vary or revoke any order made under section (Powers of court to make orders for the protection of the children of persons cohabiting or a child of either of them) of this Act.
(2) Rules may be made for the purpose of giving effect to the provision of section (Powers of court to make orders for the protection of the children of persons cohabiting or a child of either of them) of this Act.
(3) The expiry by virtue of subsection (5) of section (Powers of court to make orders for the protection of the children of persons cohabiting or a child of either of them) of this Act of an expedited order shall not prejudice the making of a further expedited order under that section.'.
New clause 3— Powers of arrest for a breach of an order under Section ( Powers of court to make orders for the protection of the children of persons cohabiting or a child of either of them)—
(1)`Where a magistrates' court makes an order under section ( ) of this Act which provides that the respondent shall not use violence against a child of the applicant, respondent, or of both of them, the court may, if it is satisfied that the respondent has physically injured the child as aforesaid and considers that he is likely to do so again, attach a power of arrest to the order.
(2) Where by virtue of subsection (1) above a power of arrest is attached to an order, a constable may arrest without warrant a person whom he has reasonable cause for suspecting of being in breach of any such provision of the order as is mentioned in subsection (1) above by reason of that person's use of violence.
(3) Where a power of arrest is attached to an order under subsection (1) above and the respondent is arrested under subsection (2) above—
(4) Where a court has made an order under section 16 of this Act but has not attached to the order a power of arrest under subsection (1) above then, if at any time the applicant for that order considers that the other party to the marriage in question has disobeyed the order, he may apply for the issue of a warrant for the arrest of that other party to a justice of the peace for the commission area in which either party to the marriage ordinarily resides; but a justice of the peace shall not issue a warrant on such an application unless—
(5) The magistrates' court before whom any person is brought by virtue of a warrant issued under subsection (4) above may remand him.'.
I am conscious of the pressures of time and I shall speak briefly.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in my place in the Chamber when the debate on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill began. I am astonished that I did not hear your remarks. The first thing that I heard was the Minister's name being called.
Order. I have told the hon. Gentleman—I hope that I do not have to repeat it—that I drew to the attention of the House the fact that Mr. Speaker had reconsidered and had selected the new clauses. I called the hon. Gentleman's name. He was neither within my sight, nor did he respond. We cannot go back now.
The brevity of my remarks in support of the new clause indicates that there is special business in the House and does not detract from the importance of the proposal.The House will be aware that, under the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates' Courts Act 1978, a woman who is suffering violence or whose children are suffering violence can apply to the court for a protection order, provided that the man causing the violence is her husband and that the children are a product of their marriage. No such facility is available to a co-habitee in respect of herself or her children. If a man inflicts violence upon a woman with whom he is living, and upon their children, that woman is unable to apply to the courts simply because the couple are not married and the children are illegitimate. It seems to me that the Bill provides us with an appropriate occasion on which to remedy that defect. My right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will be aware that the Justices Clerks Society and the Magistrates Association wrote to the Lord Chancellor's Department suggesting that illegitimate children should receive the same protection as the children of a married couple and that this Bill provides the ideal opportunity to ensure that that happens in future. I understand that the Lord Chancellor's Department suggested that the Bill was not the appropriate vehicle for the introduction of the facility, because such a provision would fall outside the long title of the Bill. Indeed, the House may recall that in Committee I tabled a new clause to deal with the matter which was ruled out of order. I therefore discussed the matter with the Justices Clerks Society which produced the present new clauses. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will agree that they meet the objections as they are confined to the children of co-habitees and do not refer to the co-habitees themselves. They thus appear to fall within the long title of the Bill. I very much hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will appreciate my point—that this would be a valuable extension of the law to offer protection to illegitimate children. After all, the object of the Bill is to remove most of the disadvantages that illegitimate children suffer at present. Despite my short speech and the pressures of business, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will feel able to accept the new clauses.
I support the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims). It is unfortunate that, owing to the circumstances in which we are to deal with the Bill, it cannot be given more careful consideration. In particular, we shall not be allowed the opportunity to say that clause 27 should not have been included. It is an abomination, and in including it, we shall be legislating a lie. That ought to be said before the Bill is passed.
I, too, very much regret the inclusion of clause 27. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. I understand that he intends to alter some of the more obnoxious aspects of the Bill and that he may be tabling manuscript amendments to do that. We thank him for that, but we still do not like clause 27.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General is well aware of the grave concern felt by many people in the House and outside that page 1 of the Bill, makes it clear that the principle of clause 1, and, indeed, the general principle of the Bill should be:
To most of us in the House, that principle is not tenable. The principle of marriage deserves every support because it is under attack from every quarter. Unless we can sustain marriage and keep good family relationships, the whole of our society is bound to suffer. I know my right hon. and learned Friend, and feel sure that those words are not his. Surely, anyone outside the House would be concerned to learn that Parliament was considering introducing legislation to the effect that marriage should have no effect in law on relationships. I beg my right hon. and learned Friend—"Parents not being married to have no effect in law on relationships."
Order. The fault may be mine, but I find it difficult to understand the relevance of the hon. Lady's remarks to the new clause.
If I am out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall certainly not repeat my remarks later. I took my cue from my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and perhaps I was wrong to do so.
The hon. Lady has beaten me to the punch. Has she concluded her remarks?
I was about to conclude by suggesting to my right hon. and learned Friend that he take note of what has been said and, indeed, that he take action on it.
I, too, shall be protective of the time of the House.The subject dealt with in the new clause was discussed on Second Reading but not in Committee, where the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) were not called for debate. While I think that it is perfectly proper for the hon. Gentleman to bring these matters before the House again, I believe—and I suspect that this may be the Government's view—that the Bill is not the appropriate vehicle for the change that he suggests. As promised, I considered the matter carefully after Second Reading and concluded that the arguments advanced by the Solicitor-General on Second Reading were essentially sound. I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that the Bill is a vehicle to give illegitimate children legal protection equal to that now enjoyed by legitimate children. But it is not true to imply—I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows this—that such youngsters now have no remedy in English law. There is a remedy, and the amendments are concerned with the question of precisely where that remedy lies. Although I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, I do not feel that this is the right way to deal with the matter. If I may try your patience for a second, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) was being a little naughty when she said that the words
embodied the principle of the Bill."Parents not being married to have no effect in law on relationships."
It is in the Bill.
The hon. Lady made the point that the Bill says that. As was patiently explained in Committee, that is said in the margin note which does not form part of the law of the land. Unfortunately, the margin note is in shorthand, which does not convey the Bill's real intent. It is not true to suggest that the Bill is intended to undermine the institution of marriage. It is unthinkable that the Solicitor-General would bring forward a Bill to undermine the institution of marriage. I cannot conceive of such a thing, and the hon. Member for Edgbaston is naughty to suggest it.
The hon. Gentleman has just said that this is an inaccurate description of the Bill. Surely, if it is inaccurate, we should put the matter right and make the position clear. I am merely saying that that is what the Bill says as a general principle and, like the hon. Gentleman, I feel that that cannot be right. I am not trying to be naughty. I can be a lot naughtier to much greater effect. I am merely suggesting that it might be wise to straighten this out.
I am sure that the hon. Lady and I can agree that the margin note is clumsy.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) for giving us the opportunity to consider the issues raised in the new clauses put forward by the Justices Clerks Society with, I think, the support of the Magistrates Association. It would not have been possible to listen to what my hon. Friend had to say without feeling sympathy for the object that he sought to serve—to secure for illegitimate children the same protection by way of intervention by court order, if necessary taken speedily and summarily, that is available under existing legislation to legitimate children.The new clauses seek to amend the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates Courts Act 1978. That Act was based on a Law Commission report in which, rightly or wrongly, the view was taken that the new jurisdiction proposed for magistrates courts should be limited to married couples. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst knows, the main content of the Bill is concerned with the implementation of the Law Commission's recommendations contained in two reports dealing with illegitimacy that have been produced in recent years. I have to say—rather reluctantly, I must confess—that it is the Government's view that it would be better that the Law Commission should be involved in any exercise entailing substantial amendment to the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates Courts Act. My hon. Friend's suggestion will be put to the Law Commission's family law team, which intends to review this aspect of the law in the near future. I can offer that hope and reassurance. I ask the House to resist these new clauses on the ground that to make the suggested change at this stage would be premature and at odds with the majority of the Bill's provisions, which are the result of careful consultation. The Law Commission's recommendations have been made as a result of extensive consultation with organisations and people with special interests. No such consultation has been carried out on the proposals in the new clauses. I think that it might be wise to do so. I doubt that I would accede to the advice that I have received if I did not know that the matter will be immediately referred to the family law team and that it intends at an early stage in the near future to review it. I fear that I have to advise the House not to accept the new clauses. Since the new clauses bear on the Bill's scope, it would be sad if I were not able to respond to the observations of my hon. Friends the members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight). I shall deal first with the description of the provisions in clause 1. In Committee, my hon. Friends the Members for Edgbaston and for Lancaster made clear their anxiety that no provisions should go forth from the House that might be seen to cast doubt on or to devalue the importance attached to the institution of marriage. Of course, in that regard, there is nothing between my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, who introduced the Bill, myself, any Conservative Member and any other hon. Member. The principle contained in clause 1 is simple. There shall be a new rule of construction—the presumption of illegitimacy when construing a relationship between any two people—the father or the mother—is to be irrelevant. We are talking about the consequences in law of the fact that there has been an illegitimate birth. That is expressed in clause 1, which states:
relationships are to be construed without regard to the marital status of the parents at the time of the child's birth. That lawyer's language is necessary to pave the way for the Bill's main provisions which are designed to relieve illegitimate children from the sins—if one likes to put it that way—of their fathers or their mothers. The Law Commission took the view after careful consideration, and it is the Government's view, that, whatever one may think about the rights and wrongs of engendering children whose birth will be illegitimate, it is wrong to take it out on the children, in the sense that they are subjected throughout their lives to handicaps imposed by law. I understand that the margin note—"unless the contrary intention appears"
can create the impression about which my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston is so naturally and properly anxious. I agree that not everyone who sees the margin note is likely to read the clause and not everyone who reads the clause is likely, on a first reading, to understand it. I offer this reassurance: I am prepared to give an undertaking that, when the Bill is printed as an Act, that shoulder note and, with it, the corresponding entry in the index relating to clause 1 will be deleted and the words "general principle" alone will be substituted. That will show that clause 1 contains the general principle of the Bill. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston for having drawn our attention to this matter. It strikes a chord. Perhaps we should have seen it earlier. With her accurate eye for this kind of thing, my hon. Friend has done the House a service. If she is content with that, perhaps we can proceed. The question is whether we intend to continue taking out on illegitimate children the circumstances of their birth. The whole thrust of this part of the Bill is that we will not do so. I should like to say something about clause 27, which has been raised. Whatever view one may take and whatever view Parliament may take in future about whether, and if so in what circumstances, artificial insemination by whatever means may be permitted in law—no doubt, we shall take those decisions after consultation has been completed on the Warnock committee's report—the clause simply says that any child who is the result of a birth that is the result of artificial insemination by donor shall not carry for the rest of his or her life the handicap in law of illegitimacy but shall be treated for all purposes in law as the child of the mother and the child of her husband, provided that the husband has consented. That is all that it does. It says nothing about the circumstances under which AID may be permitted in future. In those circumstances I hope that the House will consider that it would be an omission had a Bill dealing with the consequences of illegitimacy said nothing at this stage. Much remains to be debated about the rest of the Warnock report, but that is the purpose of including this provision."Parents not being married to have no effect in law on relationships."—
Is it not the case at the moment that any child born to a couple who are married to each other is automatically assumed, perhaps sometimes wrongly, to be the child of that couple at law? It was our understanding that the position at law now is exactly what clause 27 will bring into law; therefore, it puzzles us why it is in the Bill.
Whether a child is a legitimate child or an illegitimate child is a matter of law. It is a matter of status conferred by law. The entry in a birth certificate is evidence but is not conclusive evidence of which status is appropriate. One of the matters that I fully understand causes anxiety to certain hon. Members is that clause 27 has the consequence that an entry in a birth certificate shall not reveal the scientific facts. The other side to that aspect is that a birth certificate at present contains only that which Parliament has said it shall contain. In other words, the column headed "Father" in a birth certificate is intended to provide a space for the entry of that person who, by the definition that Parliament has imposed, constitutes the father. If clause 27 is enacted, that definition will be enlarged. I do not believe that this is really at the head and forefront of what we have to decide.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend confirming that henceforth, on a birth certificate, it will be possible for the name of the man who is the husband of the child's mother to be entered as the father, which may be untrue, and that therefore, we might be legislating for a lie?
I do confirm that. However, I do not confirm the consequences that my hon. Friend says will follow, because what will be entered in the birth certificate in those circumstances will be consistent with what Parliament has authorised to be entered. As a matter of practice, it is well recognised that, in many cases where a child has been born as a result of artificial insemination by donor, the child's name is entered in the birth certificate as the child of the mother who gave birth. That is a matter of practice. Nor is it possible in most cases for that to he detected. Where the medical advice to couples who are infertile has been to continue to have sexual intercourse with each other after artificial insemination by donor has taken place, it will not he possible to determine from which father the conception has taken place.My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that, if "father" is interpreted as meaning the father in wedlock of a child, there will be some deception, I suppose one could say. However, we have to look at whether there is some irregularity at law. If Parliament has so defined "father" in the context of a birth certificate, all that will be entered is the name of the person that Parliament has ordained shall be entered. I respectfully say that this should not be at the forefront of the argument. The argument centres around whether artificial insemination by donor should be permitted at law and, if so, under what circumstances. As to that major issue, Parliament will have the opportunity to express its view at a later stage, as I have already indicated. The clause merely says that if and when there is birth as a result of AID, the resulting child—and after all, it is the child we ought to have regard for primarily—shall not carry the handicap of being illegitimate in the eye of the law.
I shall not yield to the temptation to react to all the points that have arisen as a result of the wide-ranging debate on my new clause, save to say that I made my own views on clause 27 clear in Committee and that I in no way resile from them. I am naturally disappointed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General does not feel able to accept the new clauses but I am grateful for his helpful and sympathetic comments. In the light of his comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the new clause.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.We have carefully considered the Bill in Standing Committee and again today and I believe that I would be wearying the House if I were to do more than formally move its Third Reading.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.
Local Government Bill
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
Power To Provide Financial Assistance Forprivately Let Housing Accommodation
I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 1, line 17, leave out clause 2.
With this we may take Government amendments Nos. 2, 5, 16 and 19.
There was a short delay before I moved the amendment because I was transfixed with new clause 1, which I believe has been withdrawn. That threw me into temporary confusion. I assure the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that I had no intention of confusing anybody, particularly as I have written a special limerick for the anniversary of Edward Lear's birthday in 1812, which was not a good year for Napoleon. I was ready to read my limerick but, lo and behold, the clause has been withdrawn. If possible I will try to fit in reading it on Third Reading as I would not like to deprive the House of hearing it. It is in good heart and I am sure will be critically enjoyed by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) who has just resumed his seat on the Labour Front Bench. I trust that he is better and that the debate will not worsen his health in any way but will bring about his revival.In the circumstances, the Government have decided not to proceed with the housing provisions of the Bill in the present Session of Parliament. The first three amendments delete those provisions, and the other two are consequential. However, we intend to reintroduce in the new Parliament the provisions in clause 2 to give local housing authorities an explicit new power to give financial assistance in connection with the provision of privately let housing. We also intend to reintroduce the provisions in clauses 3 and 4 that require the Secretary of State's consent for the exercise of this or any other power by local housing authorities or county councils to provide financial assistance or a gratuitous benefit in this connection, except in the circumstances set out in clause 3. The need for consent will be made retrospective to 6 February this year as it was in the present Bill. The new Bill will, like this Bill, also provide that any transaction entered into after 5 February in contravention of the requirement for the Secretary of State's consent will be void. Meanwhile, we intend to continue to issue general consents and special consents for individual projects submitted to us where appropriate. These consents will be issued as if the new Bill were in force. We shall ensure that general and special consents already issued continue in force. My Department will be writing to all the authorities affected drawing their attention to this announcement to prevent any further misunderstanding.
I certainly do not wish to deprive the Minister of the opportunity of letting the House and the country hear his doggerel. I have had a preview of it and although it might not make its way into "Palgrave's Golden Treasury", I hope that the good people of Brent and elsewhere are entertained by it in the dog hours of this Parliament.We do not oppose the amendments that the Minister has moved. Whether the clauses are resurrected depends upon the outcome of a contest on 11 June. It is not our view that in government we would resurrect the clauses. In any event, it would be conducive to poor administration if the clauses were introduced in their present form because we showed in Committee that the scheme of controls is, in principle, so draconian that a whole string of general and specific consents would be required to make it remotely operable. While the officials, who will not have much to do in the next three and half weeks, are preparing the briefs for incoming Ministers, they may wish to consider how, as an exercise in good government, the powers could be improved. The statement by the Minister that this Administration in its closing weeks will continue to operate as if the Bill had been passed, is touching on the arrogance with which we shall charge the Conservative party during the election and it does not make for good administration. We also pointed out in Committee that, although the Government had said that the powers under clauses 2, 3 and 4 had been introduced ostensibly to provide new powers for local authorities, their effect was actually to secure new controls on local authorities and to undermine the imaginative scheme for new housing that Sheffield and other authorities had pioneered. I believe that we are dealing with amendments that delete clause 7:
That deletion is welcome."Land held by public bodies."
I should like to be part and parcel of the obsequiousness on certain sections of the Bill and to make the point that at least on this occasion I arrived, although a little late, in time to take part. On the previous occasion when the three of us—the Minister, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and myself—were supposed to be performing in another place—not down the corridor, but somewhere else altogether—thanks to British Airways I arrived 20 seconds too late, having been up from 4·45 am. Therefore, I am glad to be here. I am interested in the doggerel that we may hear. I recall a recent cartoon in the New Statesman where a sign on a house door said, "Beware of the Doggerel". I hope that that does not apply to us.On the matter of the housing provisions, I ask the Minister to address himself to one point. If those sections of the Bill are to disappear, how will he stand up to a legal challenge in the weeks ahead for those local authorities that may wish to drive through those provisions? By the very nature of the powers that the Minister is trying to take under that section, he assumes that there are local authorities whose attitude to those financial measures about housing are not those of the Government and which may wish to take advantage of that gap. If there is to be no statute dealing with that at this time, I fail to see how the Government can maintain the 6 February retrospective date in the face of legal challenges that might come. I hope that the Minister will address himself to that. On the early clauses about creative accounting, the Minister knows that my party has certain difficulties with the text. Nevertheless, it is accepted that something has to be done about those authorities that have gone to extremes. Therefore, it seems a pretty fair bargain that we opt out of the housing clauses but leave the early clauses in. Therefore, we raise no objection to what has been proposed today.
The early clauses—clause 1 and schedule 1—validate a decision made by the Government last July about which we said we would legislate. I believe that midnight on 22 July 1986 was the date. We took action in February for another line of action we wished to take and we said that we would put that into law. We did not state when we would do that; we just said that we would. The date of 22 July is now validated in the Bill and we wish to put it on record that, because of the pressure of time and the constraints of other activities of which we are all aware—the political marathon on which we are now entering—we cannot put the other date into law in this Bill. However, we are putting it on record that we stand by what we said. I am advised by our lawyers that that is perfectly legitimate.
Amendment agreed to.
Consent Required For Provision Of Financial Assistance Etc
Amendment made: No. 2, in page 3, line 6, leave out clause 3.— [Dr. Boyson.]
Consents Under Section 3
Amendment made: No. 5, in page 4, line 43, leave out clause 4.— [Dr. Boyson.]
Land Held By Public Bodies
I beg to move amendment No. 15 in page 7, line 34, leave out clause 7.
With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 17 and 18.
These provisions are also the victims of the circumstancess to which I referred casually earlier. The House has a great deal of business to attend to this week and I shall not delay it with improvements to the land register system, important though such improvements undoubtedly are in the long run. However, I put it on record that we shall reintroduce provisions along these lines in the new Parliament.
I have been waiting for a chance to discuss this for a long time. I am certainly not going to delay the House, but I want to put something on record. This clause raised my hopes that at long last something was going to be done about a problem that my constituents have faced for a long time; the problem of gipsies. The gipsies that concern my constituents in the area south of the river in Leeds—I live there—are not real gipsies. They have a lot of money and one sees the television sets and cars without taxation that they have.The Government responded quickly about a year ago when down in the south of England the television cameras discovered the problem in a different respect. I remember saying in the House then that we had had that problem for 25 years. However, people are not really concerned about the so-called inner-city areas south of the river in Leeds. People do not write to the papers in the same way. There is a problem as to who owns the land and I receive telephone calls when I am in London asking what is going to be done about it. The officer at Leeds city council who attends to such matters is an overworked man. He does what he can. However, on the day before polling day last week, 30 caravans came into my area. An argument then raged over who owned the land. When the Government introduced this amendment as a response to the southern problem, at least there would be a speedy way of learning who owned the land. It is now very difficult for my constituents and me to learn to whom the land belongs. It might take us a week and a visit to the High Court to find out. 6.30 pm I raise this matter for the record and I know that the problem affects Manchester. Some of my hon. Friends have spoken to me today and told me that the problem affects other parts of the country. Down in Hunslet—which has been part of my constituency for 24 years—and in Holbeck which is now in Leeds, Central, but was in my constituency and is where I live, the problem is obvious. We must do something about it. We must do something about the smell and the articles that are left when these people leave. I believe that the Minister is aware of the problem. He will be aware of what happened in Fryent way, which I believe is in his constituency. Indeed, I used to know that area very well. The problem there caused a rumpus. However, if the people in Fryent way could see what we have to put up with, the rumpus would have been 50 times louder. South Leeds has put up with enough. When the Leeds corporation decided that the camping sites had to be spread around the city, there was a terrible outcry. It is all very well for the south of the river to have the lot. As I have said, the River Aire is about the size of the Rhine and the Vistula put together when it comes to getting something done. Very few middle-class people live south of the river. Therefore, it is all very well for the camps to be on the south of the river, as long as the camps are not on their doorsteps. I have made this intervention to make a point. We can play games about which party will be in power after the election. However, whatever party is in power, I will chase this matter. We have had this problem to my knowledge for 25 years. We must do something about it. We must assist the real gipsies and the real Romanies. However, south of the river we have endured enough of the others, who frighten old ladies, knock on doors, rob and do not pay taxes. The whole of the city of Leeds must bear the burden. Indeed, the whole of the country must bear this burden. I want an answer on this point. I have spoken to my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. We must do something about this problem. In a way, I am glad that the outcry in Leeds came from up north of the river. A consultation document proposed that new gipsy encampments should be sited in that area. My goodness, that proposal shifted them. If they had had half the trouble up north of the river that we have had south of the river over the years, something would have been done. We cannot take action on a narrow political basis. We must take action in recognition of the real problem. I know Fryent way and the outcry that was created there. I can offer the Minister a solution to the problem. All the senior officers on local authorities, the permanent under-secretary at the Department of the Environment and the deputy secretaries should be made to live in the areas where these problems occur. At the same time, the architects who built some of the houses should be pulled out of goal—where I would have put them a long time ago—and made to live in those areas. My goodness, if that happened they would shift fast enough. In my final five or six years-plus in this House of Commons, I will be talking about gipsies every day until something is done about the problem. I hope that the Minister will give me a sweet little response even in advance of the election.
As usual, I tried to discover whether I would be in order. I was given advice from my hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches, from hon. Members on Conservative Benches, from the Chair and from behind the Chair. In my last few days before my retirement from this House, I thought that I would go out with a clean bill of health. I decided to consult all my hon. Friends on how to approach this subject. The advice that I was given was to go for an Adjournment debate on my subject. However, when I went to Mr. Speaker's Office, I discovered that I had to go through a procedure that I had been through before. I was suddenly told that the Minister responsible would not play on the Adjournment. So I thought that the best thing to do was to find another approach. Sure enough, I found a solution. After all the advice, I discovered that I could get in in the debate on Government amendment No. 15, despite the advice of some of my hon. Friends.The amendment applies to clause 7 entitled:
The Local Government Act 1974 created many problems and made many mistakes. It produced local government reorganisation and we have had headaches ever since the 1974 Act was passed. When I had an opportunity to speak about the matter several years later, I stressed that the problem was compounded in 1983. I stressed that the Opposition did not compound the problem. Rather, the Government of the day, who began the mistakes, compounded them. We now end up with the child that the Government conceived, nurtured and developed through local government reorganisation and that child, I believe, is called the metropolitan county council. The Conservative Government conceived those councils, nurtured them and developed them until they were 10 years old and then they strangled them and got rid of them. The Conservatives created the problems in 1974 and 10 years later they strangled the product of those problems. By strangling the metropolitan county councils, the Government removed a level of representation that the Government had constructed. In doing so, they imposed liabilities on several district councils that those councils had not expected to encounter. What happened? Responsibilities fell on those district councils that those councils had not envisaged when they were set up in 1974. The councils were confronted with those responsibilities. The metropolitan county councils were selected for abolition while other county councils remained. When it suited the Government they did not get rid of the councils, but when things were going against them they abolished them. So, after abolition, the Government decided to carry out a marvellous privatisation job. Everyone will know that I have tabled early-day motions on this point. I have had consultations with Ministers, I have met residuary body chairmen and I have been like a ping-pong ball going from one side to the other. I was told that it was not the responsibility of the residuary body and then that it was not the Minister's responsibility. I have 152 signatures to my motion—and that figure may have increased today—and only one opponent. I have been through that process and only five minutes ago I spoke to the Minister responsible for removing land, accommodation and a beautiful building in Wakefield about which I am very concerned, I will fight for that site after I leave the House. Like an old Yorkshire terrier, I will not let go. I may not be a Member of Parliament, but I will be there. Even if I cannot send a direct letter in a pre-paid envelope, my message will come via another method. It will work on the triangle. I will not let go until county hall belongs to the people who owned it in 1898. I believe that there is a ten-minute job on this debate and I have always been peculiar on time. However, I want to refer to comments made about county hall. I have this calendar."Land held by public bodies."
Can we see the picture?
Yes, isn't it beautiful? However, the Under-Secretary of State should see the picture of the entrepreneurs. That is a much better picture. The notes attached to the picture state that the site could he sold as a hotel. That is a beautiful picture. I shall pass it round as the Minister is so interested. On the front page it says:
It does not say that that was a mistake. It goes on:"The present County Hall was built as headquarters of the former West Riding County Council and was opened in 1898. It was used by that council until local government reorganisation in 1974."
What a marvellous description. What is free about the Government selling it to private enterprise? It goes on to say that it has"Since 1974 it has been used as the headquarters of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council. County Hall was built to the winning design of James Gibson and Samuel Russell, architects, of Gray's Inn Square, London. In their own description the architects describe the style as free English style."
That is a good description for someone like me from Yorkshire. It goes on:"distinctly English detail. The interior building was finished to such high standard and some of the internal fittings such as the letters of the committee room doors, the elaborate light fittings and switches and some of the plaster work is in the style of art nouveau fashionable at that time."
The name West Riding has been taken from us and the Government are now taking this West Riding building. That is an imposition on the people of the West Riding. I decided to look up details of what I could say about Wakefield. The date of this quotation is 1841, before the county hall was built. It says about the area in which county hall is built:"Some of the corridors have dados of green and yellow tiles featuring the West Riding County Council in motion. At the top of the main staircase there are murals in the classic European tradition. There is also much ornamental work symbolising the dates and functions of the former authority, and heraldic work embracing the towns and boroughs of the old West Riding."
That was written 60 years before the county hall was built."On an eminence `tis built as each visitor knows, Where the mercantile Calder's expansive stream flows, Its streets are well cornered, lengthy spaces and wide, And its buildings are of true architectural pride."
That was written by a chap called Thomas Brown and I agree with it. The Minister's mate cannot turn up, because he is fighting for his seat. He told me that he could not be here until the Adjournment. Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to take part in the debate. I hope that the Government will look again at county hall and at the land there and conduct a proper appraisal for the benefit of the ratepayers in west Yorkshire."The birds sweetly chant their melodious strain, To traverse the beautiful walks we have found And enjoy the rich prospects that ere may be found."
On clause 7 about land held by public bodies, we have heard two speeches about areas in Yorkshire. My right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) may recall that he was the first Member of Parliament with whom I had active contact when I was a student at Leeds university. I know his great city well and I know how, in a sense, it is socially divided between north and south. I share his great concern about the impact of so-called gipsies upon the communities south of the river. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points made by my right hon. Friend.6.45 pm My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) made what I suppose may be his valedictory speech in the House. I share his anger about one of the many consequences of the abolition of the metropolitan councils. That abolition desecrated the temples of democracy, the principal county halls of the great counties, including London and west Yorkshire. I know the county hall in Wakefield. It was built for the operation of local democracy, not to serve Mammon but to serve a higher idea and ideal.The whole country is offended by the idea that that building, which reflected the self-confidence of the west riding at the time that it was built and demonstrated the area's ability to govern itself without too much reference to Whitehall, should now be sold for a mess of pottage to the highest bidder. If this Government are re-elected the hall will never again be used for its proper purpose. Not even this Government would seek to sell off our cathedrals or abbeys, although I dare say that they will come close to it if they are re-elected. However, they are only too happy to strip away the powers of local people. There is no better or more tangible example of the way that they are doing that than the forced sales of county halls. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield is correct when he says that he will not let this one go—even if he is not in this House. As my right hon. Friend has made his valedictory speech in the House, it is appropriate for me to record the debt of gratitude that all my right hon. and hon. Friends owe to our right hon. Friend for his unique contribution in helping to maintain the Labour Government between 1974 and 1979. That Government governed well without, for some time, any visible means of support. They managed to pull off that magical trick not least because of the activities of my right hon. Friend. It is fortunate that there is a 30-year rule, because I have heard about parts of the role played by my right hon. Friend. The stories defy the imagination and perhaps should best be left under wraps. Suffice it to say that he maintained a majority for the Government for over five years. That is to his lasting credit. I hope that in the spirit of goodwill in which we have approached this Bill the Minister will take the chance now to announce that he will reprieve county hall.
The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) rightly took the opportunity presented by these clauses and amendments to bring to the attention of the House the problems that obviously exist on the south side of Leeds and from which his constituents are suffering. I do not have knowledge of that area, but if the right hon. Gentleman would speak or write to me I shall be delighted to see what can be done to help.For a while the right hon. Gentleman lived near to me. The Fryent way area is in my constituency. It has suffered terrible destruction and there has been uproar. The problems have occurred south of the river in Leeds and north of the river in Brent. I am aware of the problems that arise, and before or after the general election I should like to write or speak to the right hon. Gentleman to see what can be done. I have considerable sympathy with one of his points, that the people who made the decisions should live in those areas. That applies to many of the tower blocks in London, including those in my constituency. One rarely sees the architects who get the prizes for that sort of thing living on the 17th floor and trying to get a lift that works, either to take them down or to enable their aged parents to get up. It would be a good thing if not only the people who built them but the people who gave permission for them to be built and the people in architectural magazines who give them the prizes, knew the old saying about the toad knowing where the harrow cuts. That would give them experience of what the people who live there have to suffer. I know the strength of feeling of the right hon. Member for Wakefield and his loyalty to his county and to Wakefield, which he has served for so long at borough and county level, and now in Parliament. Indeed, I know the county hall there. In fact, I knew it when Sir Alec Clegg was the chief educational officer in Yorkshire. He will be known to all right hon. and hon. Members. Although he and I were on different wings of the educational spectrum at that time—[Interruption.] I must not divert or be misled by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), otherwise we shall be discussing the future of Blackburn Rovers again. At least Burnley football club has now saved itself, and the prayers of all Lancastrians here were answered by the saving goal in the Birmingham match last Saturday—[Interruption.] Yes, if they had 14,000 every time they would be back in the first division and leading the League.
If the power of the Minister's prayer will save Burnley, will he save Sunderland on Thursday?
The hon. Gentleman should not give me such unpleasant thoughts.
It is probably fitting to raise that matter, because I believe that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker are, like myself, a Methodist lay preacher, so this is the right time for the hon. Gentleman to bring this to the attention of the Chair, as well as myself as the Minister at the Dispatch Box.Returning to Yorkshire, I was paying tribute to the late Sir Alec Clegg. On the educational spectrum, he was a discovery method man, when I wanted traditional education, and at his request I regularly put my case on Saturday mornings to the head teachers of Yorkshire's primary and secondary schools. I also know Lancashire county hall well. I did years of research there during school holidays, when I was researching Lancashire's economic history. The right hon. Member for Wakefield has seen myself and my colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) and has written to us about the Wakefield county hall in the West Riding. The residuary body has put that splendid building up for sale. Incidentally I especially enjoyed the poem by Thomas Brown which the right hon. Gentleman read to the House. Wakefield has put in a bid for that building but no decision has yet been made about it. When the right hon. Gentleman saw my hon. Friend and me about this matter he brought to our attention the fact that it is not only the sale that is important; the way in which the building is maintained is important also. We have passed that fact on to the residuary body. Obviously, the matter is not a temporary one because the building is the pride of the area and whoever takes on the building must be able to maintain it. It would be a disaster if such a unique building were destroyed. I appreciate the strength of feeling shown by the right hon. Member for Wakefield on this matter. He has always been courteous to me, even to a Lancastrian from the other side of the Pennines. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, local government servants have served his father, myself, and indeed the right hon. Gentleman. I can say no more about that now, but I shall pass on everything that he has said this evening.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) is of Wakefield and I am of Leeds and, in a sense, ne'er the twain shall meet, but we are both part of Yorkshire.I visited police headquarters the other day. I ask the Minister to consider that a great deal of money could be saved for the police department. I believe that this point has been made before. However, as someone with an interest in the police, I know that step would save money. Perhaps that means that the Treasury will consider it with greater interest and sympathy than it would otherwise do.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. We are aware of that matter and it has been passed on. There is a police need and one cannot say more than that there will be serious consideration which could be influential on that decision.I end by saying to the right hon. Member for Wakefield that this is probably the last time that I shall reply to him in this House. I should like to pay tribute to him for his long service, and not necessarily only for keeping the Labour party in government between 1974 and 1979 which, towards the end, was a great achievement. Nobody can say that the right hon. Gentleman is not a character who knows and speaks his own mind. I say "character" in the best sense of that word. If the House became merely a collection of men who—I do not mention Whips here because there can be characters among Whips as well; in fact, at least one of my hon. Friends has been a Whip and is still a character, after leaving the Whips' Office, just as he was before—but if the House became a collection of individuals who simply said yes and no when told to do so, and who did not come here to represent the feelings of the people among whom they have been born, this place would be worse than it is. Therefore, on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, I should like to pay a genuine tribute to the right hon. Member for Wakefield, whom we shall miss.
Amendment agreed to.
Land Held By Public Bodies
Amendment made: No. 15, in page 7, line 34, leave out Clause 7.— [Dr. Boyson.]
Amendment made: No. 16, in page 7, line 43, leave out Clause 8.— [Dr. Boyson.]
Amendments Of Part Viii Of The Local Government, Planning And Land Act 1980
I beg to move Government amendment No. 7, in page 9, leave out lines 21 to 26.
With this, we shall take Government amendment No. 10.
It gives me considerable pleasure to move this amendment because when the Bill was in Committee, there was good feeling, as there was on Second Reading. I said then that we would look most carefully at the two amendments that had been tabled by the Opposition to see whether we could absorb the intention behind them so that they could become part of the Bill and, indeed, strengthen it.In Committee, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) proposed an amendment to section 80A(1), which was offered as a direct and honest attempt to improve the drafting of the Bill. I appreciated the fact that those amendments were either probing or improving amendments throughout. I have examined their proposals carefully—and they were genuine proposals in which there was no Trojan horse. They were simply attempts to improve the Bill. Therefore, I am happy to bring that amendment forward myself and to commend it to the House. Indeed, so good is the amendment that I should like the House to accept a similar change in the wording of section 80(1) to ensure that the two provisions remain on all fours with one another.
Indeed, there is no Trojan horse in this amendment, which started life as amendment No. 3 in Committee on 12 March. This part of the Bill is so technical and obtuse that if there had been a Trojan horse, none of us would have spotted it.We are grateful to the Minister for taking account of the points that we made and are glad that he has brought forward the amendments.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move Government amendment No. 8, in page 12, line 15, leave out 'In section 78(1)(a)' and insert
'(1) In subsection (1)(a) of section 78'.
With this, we shall take Government amendments Nos. 9 and 11.
If one can go forward in the same spirit of co-operation, I should like to move this amendment. In Committee, the Opposition put forward a two-part amendment and I should like to commend both elements of it to the House, although I promised previously to consider only one. Therefore, I am happy to spell out that directions may be amended or revoked, and that a direction-making power carries with it a power to amend or revoke. It will do no harm to spell that out as was requested by the Opposition.On reflection, I have concluded that Opposition Members were right to suggest also that in an area as technical as valuation, prior consultation would be desirable. Therefore, I invite the House to accept an amendment to that effect.
As the Minister has made clear, this matter was raised in Committee on what was amendment No. 34, and debated on 17 March. Again, we are grateful to the Minister for looking carefully at what we sought to say and for introducing the amendments in this way.Obviously, consultation is of great importance to local authorities and their representative associations. The powers contained in clause I are potentially wide-ranging in effect. They deal with deferred and advance purchase schemes, of which much has been written in the press. We acknowledge that within the scheme in the Bill the regulation is bound to be technical and complex, but precisely because of that it is important that, wherever possible, local authorities should have the opportunity to he consulted about regulations before they are introduced. Last July the Secretary of State announced his intention to take powers to regulate advance and deferred purchase schemes by legislation on or after midnight, 22 July 1986. Local authorities have been acting as if that was law, prudently taking account of the prospect of legislation. Although we had serious reservations about the operation of clause 1, given that authorities have already acted as if it were law, we believe it would add to uncertainty if we sought at this stage to block clause 1 and its attendant effects. We are glad that, as a consequence of discussions yesterday, we have been able to improve the way in which the Bill will operate for local authorities.
With the leave of the House I shall reply. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) referred to clause 1, which is linked with schedule 1 on which we had conversation yesterday. As this afternoon we have had poetry by Thomas Brown from the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison), in reply I must quote my doggerel, particularly as today is Edward Lear's birthday and I have the "Oxford Book of Light Verse" with me:
There once was a doctor of Brent,
Who said: "Some Councils have spent
Far too much. If alas
This amendment should pass,
I offer that to the House in the spirit in which we conducted our proceedings in Committee.We should all have great cause to lament."
With the leave of the House I shall reply. I should make it clear that that piece of doggerel was prepared for an amendment which, in the event, we did not move. I think that the Minister would be upset if the House took its advice on the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 9, in page 12, line 20, at end insert—
'(2) Subsection (2) of that section (power to vary or revoke directions) shall be omitted.'.
No. 10, in page 12, leave out lines 39 to 43.
No. 11, in page 13, line 50, at end insert—
'6. In section 85 of that Act (supplementary provisions for Part VIII), after subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsections—
"(1A) Before giving any direction under section 80(6A) or 80A(5) above the Secretary of State shall consult such associations of authorities as appear to him to be concerned and any authority with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable.
(1B) Any power of the Secretary of State to give directions under this Part of this Act shall include power to vary or revoke a direction given in exercise of that power.".'.—[Dr. Boyson.]
Land Held By Public Bodies
Amendment made: No. 17, in page 14, line 1, leave out schedule 2.— [Dr. Boyson.]
Amendments made: No. 18, in title, line 1, leave out 'Parts VIII and X' and insert 'Part VIII'.
No. 19, in line 2, leave out
'to authorize and regulate the provision of financial assistance by local authorities for certain housing purposes'.—[Dr. Boyson.]
Order for Third Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.I am grateful to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) for bringing to the attention of the House the fact that my doggerel was linked with an amendment that was withdrawn. I would hate to have torpedoed the Bill at the last moment. Gratuitous humour is always somewhat dangerous and I am grateful for his help. Clause 1 and schedule 1 of the Bill, as amended, contain provisions to prevent authorities using advance and deferred purchase schemes to avoid the Government's capital expenditure controls and store up major financial liabilities for the future. I announced in Committee details of the exemptions from the provisions in the Bill. All authorities in England and Wales will be able to use deferred purchase schemes to finance one project each, up to £3 million in cost, beginning in any one period of five consecutive years. We shall make the necessary regulations as soon as possible after Parliament reassembles. In addition, all authorities will be able to continue to carry out their "building under licence" and "improvement under licence" housing schemes. Without this exemption, a number of housing projects were likely to be prevented or at least delayed in the period before Royal Assent. For this reason, we decided that the exemption should be backdated to 23 July 1986, the date on which these provisions of the Bill come into effect. The remainder of the Bill deals with education pooling. First, there is a technical amendment to the provision which allows for an adjustment between England and Wales. Then we have a provision to allow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to recalculate allocations from the advanced further education pool for 1981–82 in the manner originally intended. These provisions are uncontroversial and have the agreement of the local authority associations and of all parties in the House. This is a short Bill, and it gives me pleasure to commend it to the House.
In early October last year, the Secretary of State for the Environment made a speech at the Conservative party conference which was the only one that failed to achieve a standing ovation.
So did I.
The hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Norris) also made a speech which failed to achieve a standing ovation. I did not know that he had much in common with the Secretary of State, but I am glad that he at least has that in common. [Interruption.] Perhaps he is talking about the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Bristol, West."]—and, indeed, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave). Those two certainly received standing ovations, but I was talking about their boss, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who failed to receive a standing ovation. I remember because I had the painful pleasure of listening to his every word on television—something that I shall not repeat next year.In that speech the Secretary of State promised to introduce a mountainous local government Bill which would privatise almost every local authority service; introduce major provisions to outlaw contract compliance even in respect of ensuring fair wages and equal opportunities for women and ethnic minorities; strengthen the powers of the local government ombudsman; and do everything mentioned in this Bill. Nine months later the mountainous Bill has turned out to be a little pimple. Even the heart of the Bill has now been removed, apart from clause 1. The Bill left Committee on 2 April. If the Government had had any confidence or faith in it, it could have passed through this House before Easter and through the other place in the condition in which it left Committee. It is now a truncated measure. The Minister was right to say that we supported clauses 5 and 6 which dealt with the arcane aspect of the operation of the further education pool. All of us have at least discovered that there is a rolling process to cap the pool—a further sign of the way in which the Department of Education and Science murders the English language in its regulation of the education system. I have already put on record our attitude to clause 1. The Secretary of State referred to his hope that Harrogate would not go the same way as Haringey on deferred purchase schemes. Our research shows that the reverse is true; that Haringey has a long way to go before it reaches the indebtedness that Harrogate has achieved in building various conference centres. Its assets to debt ratio, which the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with his banking background, tells me is a good indicator, is far more unsatisfactorily geared than Haringey's. We acknowledge that, for the reasons I have spelt out, not the least of which is to remove uncertainty, it is better that clause 1 should be on the statute book than not.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
Diplomatic And Consular Premises Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.The Bill concerns the acquisition and disposal of diplomatic premises in the United Kingdom. It would meet four separate needs. First, it would prevent missions from setting up offices in sensitive parts of the capital; for example, near the Palace of Westminster or the royal palaces in the Mall area. Secondly, the Bill would deal with the problem of empty former diplomatic premises by acquiring title to them and then selling them. Thirdly, the Bill would allow diplomatic status to be removed from premises which are being misused. Fourthly, the Bill would allow the Government to retaliate in kind if an overseas Government insisted that we move from existing premises or withheld consent for the acquisition of new premises. Those powers would bring the United Kingdom into line with the laws and practices of many other countries, including the United States of America. The Government regard the powers in the Bill as being fully consistent with their obligations under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. The Government consider that the Bill is a modest but useful measure. I commend the Bill to the House.
I have no wish to delay consideration of the Bill or the House's progress on other more contentious issues. The Opposition will give a fair wind to the Bill, none of whose provisions are of any contention. The Bill will tidy up a grey area and, in that sense, it is useful and should be welcomed. I refer only to the situation that may arise if England and Wales were to impose the poll tax according to the model proposed for Scotland. The provisions of the Vienna convention mean that diplomatic premises do not attract normal rates or local taxes, but notional payments are made by the Government on behalf of the diplomatic premises in lieu of rates. Many newspaper headlines over the years have referred to the failure of Governments to pay their rates.The question may arise, if the poll tax were introduced in England and Wales, as to what amount would be paid by embassies. Would the amount be levied on the total number of diplomats accredited to the mission? Would all diplomatic premises attract the poll tax in an equal quantity? Would the missions be reduced by proportionate amounts so as to avoid increased taxation by the Government on their behalf? Have these matters, such as those in the Abolition of Domestic Rates etc. (Scotland) Bill, been left indeterminate for the bureaucratic jungle and a nightmare to catch up with after the event?
I appreciate the support of the lion. Member for Hamilton (Mr. George Robertson) for the Bill which, as he said, is a modest but important step in the right direction towards clearing up a grey area. I am delighted that the hon. Member has turned his mind to problems which may occur after the election. The hon. Gentleman is nothing if not honest about the prospects of his party winning a majority in the coming election. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Scottish Bill which, we hope, will pass through the House in the next two days and which provides for the continued application of rates to office premises; therefore, consular premises will continue to be assessed for rates. However, diplomatic missions will pay only that element of the rates from which they are deemed to derive benefit under a net-back systetn. The question of what will happen when the poll tax is introduced is, of course, one for further consideration.
Question put and agree to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd].
Further proceedings postponed, pursuant to Order [this day].
Diplomatic And Consular Premises Bill Money
Queen's recommendation having been signified—
That, for the purpose of any Act resulting from the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred under that Act by the Secretary of State.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
Diplomatic And Consular Premises Bill
Considered in Committee; reported, without amendment, read the Third time and passed.
Fire Safety And Safety Of Places Of Sport Bill Lords
Consideration of Lords amendments to Commons amendments.
New Clause 1
Entertainment Licences: Removal Of Certain Exemptions
Lords amendment: No. 1, in line 1, leave out from beginning to "the" in line 3.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the amendment to the Commons amendment.
With this amendment we will consider Lords amendment No. 2.
I should be grateful for the assistance of my hon. Friend on three points. First, should there not be an "or" at the end of the last line of the amendment, so that it will read correctly? Secondly, is the removal of the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket intended to be temporary? Thirdly, would this mean that the Theatre Royal would be in the same position as a private club, which my hon. Friend will remember are in a special category? I have in mind, for example, the Queensway ice rink which does not have to have adequate provision for first aid facilities, particularly for the St. John Ambulance Brigade and others to carry out their important tasks, because the people who attend those places are considered to be in a separate class, unlike employees and the general public. Can my hon. Friend give me guidance on those three points?
My hon. Friend has raised three points. As to "or", I do not know, but I hope that he is wrong. As to whether it is temporary, that depends on the Government's legislative programme in the next Parliament or thereafter, but clearly there is an anomaly and I am against anomalies. As regards private clubs, the law is highly complex, as it is for the Theatre Royal, Haymarket which comes into a group of premises which are covered by such extraordinary things as licence of the Crown and letters patent, so I shall not give a comprehensive or even considered reply to my hon. Friend from the Dispatch Box today. However, he has raised an important and interesting point, about which I shall write to him.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to.
Housing (Scotland) Bill Lords
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.This is a consolidation measure which consolidates certain enactments relating to housing in Scotland and incorporates amendments to give effect to certain recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission. Apart from those amendments the Bill makes no change in the existing law. The Bill has been considered by the Joint Committee on Consolidation of Bills, and it will be recollected that its proceedings were reported to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body). The Joint Committee said that there was no point to which the attention of Parliament should be drawn, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.— [Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendments; read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.
Representation Of The People
That the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) (No. 2) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 30th April, be approved.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
Terms And Conditions Of Employment
I beg to move,
This is the sixth occasion on which the House has been asked to extend the powers of the Employment Subsidies Act 1978 which are due to expire on 30 June 1987. The order extends the provisions for a further 18 months, which is the maximum length permitted by the Act. Three schemes are currently operated under the Act—the young workers scheme, the new workers scheme and jobshare, formerly the job splitting scheme. However, the young workers scheme closed for applications on 31 March 1986 and it is expected that all payments due to employers under this scheme will have ceased by 30 June 1987 when this order expires. The new workers scheme, which is a replacement for, and a development of, the young workers scheme, was announced by the Chancellor in his Budget statement on 18 March 1986 and commenced on 1 April that year. If this order is not approved, my Department will be unable to accept new applications under the new workers scheme or jobshare after 30 June 1987. The new workers scheme has two important and related aims—to encourage more job opportunities for under-21-year-olds at realistic rates of pay, and to complement YTS. We believe that young inexperienced people will continue to be at a disadvantage in securing jobs if their pay is not only consistent with that paid to a more experienced, older worker, but moreover represents an inordinate progression from YTS training allowances. By encouraging employers to pay realistic rates of pay to young people we can contribute to the reduction of labour costs and so help employers to improve their competitiveness. In this way, employers will be better able to expand their businesses and create more job opportunities for both young and older workers. For jobs starting on or after 1 June this year, the new scheme conditions announced on 6 May will apply. The scheme will only be open to 18, 19 and 20-year-olds who are in their first year of employment. In addition, the wage ceiling for 18 and 19-year-olds will be raised by £5 to £60 gross a week. The wage ceiling for 20-year-olds will remain at £65 gross a week. Proof of YTS completion will no longer be necessary and we believe that this will remove what was a major source of discontent to users in the first year of the scheme. Where all the conditions of the scheme are met. Employers will continue to receive £15 a week for up to 52 weeks in respect of every full-time permanent job supported. We anticipate that these important changes will encourage employers who are already using the scheme to use it again, and those who have previously been unable or unwilling to take advantage of the scheme to look at it afresh. In this financial year we hope to support well over 25,000 jobs for young people under the scheme. The job splitting scheme was introduced in January 1983 to help employers provide part-time job opportunities for unemployed people by encouraging more flexible working arrangements. From 1 April 1987 the scheme was relaunched by me in Manchester as jobshare and some changes were made to the eligibility rules and to the grant given to employers. Those changes were announced to the House on 6 April 1987. Jobshare allows employers to create new part-time jobs by three methods. First, it divides an existing full-time job, in addition to the holder of the full-time job being split. Those eligible to be recruited are people claiming at unemployment benefit office, under notice of redundancy or leaving a particular Government scheme but who have not been employed since. The second method is to create two new part-time jobs. Eligibility in this case is confined to people leaving particular Government schemes who have not been employed since. The third and final method is to combine regular overtime hours of up to 10 employees to create a new part-job. Those who can be recruited under this method are the same as for the first method that I have described. Under the job-splitting scheme, the Department of Employment provided a grant of £840 to meet an employer's administrative and training costs. The Department has increased this grant to £1,000 for those employers participating in jobshare. The grant is paid in three instalments—£500 when the application is approved, £200 at the end of 26 weeks and £300 at the end of the year. We continue to believe that jobshare can provide a number of potential long-term benefits to participants. For example, higher productivity, particularly in areas of routine work, more flexible use of working time, improved job satisfaction, lower staff turnover and absences, and cover for off-the-job training. It encourages employers to devise more flexible working patterns through a better utilisation of manpower, greater efficiency and improved competitiveness, thereby helping to reduce unemployment. It also offers employers an opportunity to build up a pool of trained labour to meet the future expansion of their companies. The advantages of jobshare for individuals will, of course vary according to their circumstances. Not everyone necessarily wants a full-time job and this scheme provides scope to tailor part-time jobs to an individual's needs. Although a job splitting scheme ran for over four years, its take-up was limited and only about 250 people were on the scheme at any one time. Recent research showed a lack of awareness amongst employers about the scheme. It is hoped that the changes that have been made under jobshare, combined with increased marketing, will achieve more positive results. My Department expects to approve 1,000 application under jobshare this year. I commend the Order to the House.That the draft Employment Subsidies Act 1978 (Renewal) (Great Britain) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 6 May, be approved.
Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Employment Subsidies Act 1978 (Renewal) (Great Britain) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 6th May, be approved.
Parliamentary And Other Pensions Bill
That Standing Committee A be discharged from considering the Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill and that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
Consumer Protection Bill Lords
That Standing Committee D be discharged from considering those provisions of the Consumer Protection Bill [Lords] which have not been considered by that Committee and that those provisions be committed to a Committee of the whole House, and that the Chairman do now report to the House those provisions of the Bill, the consideration of which has been completed by that Committee, and that on being reported from the Committee of the whole House, the Bill, including those provisions reported from the Standing Committee, may be taken into consideration as amended without any Question being put.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
Business Of The House
That, in respect of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust Bill [Lords], Notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
That, at tomorrow's sitting, the provisions of paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 54 (Consolidated Fund Bills) shall apply to proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill as if the Second Reading of the Bill stood as first Order of the day.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
That a sum, not exceeding £59,571,457,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to complete or defray the charges for Defence and Civil Services for the year ending on 31st March 1988, as set out in House of Commons Papers Nos. 192, 227, 238 and 369.—[Mr. Norman Lamont.]
Bill ordered to be brought in upon the foregoing resolution by the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. John MacGregor, Mr. Norman Lamont, Mr. Ian Stewart and Mr. Peter Brooke.
Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill
Mr. Norman Lamont accordingly presented a Bill to supply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year ending on 31 March 1988 to appropriate the supplies granted in this Session of Parliament, and to repeal certain Consolidated Fund and Appropriation Acts: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 116.]
Youth Unemployment (Rother Valley)
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]
I am pleased that Members on both Front Benches have got through the business and reached the important matter of my Adjournment debate.As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, well know, the Rother Valley constituency is in the heartland of south Yorkshire—a once thriving industrial region which helped to create the wealth of this nation but which has not reaped the benefits of that wealth, as is plain to see when one looks around the area today. Most of the constituency is in the Rotherham and Mexborough travel-to-work area, which has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Britain and where more than 45 per cent. of those out of work have been jobless for more than a year. Of the three parliamentary constituencies in the Rotherham metropolitan borough, Rother Valley has the lowest percentage recorded unemployment, but when one considers the percentage share of youth unemployment in each of the seven wards a grim picture is painted of the lives of many young people. In Thurcroft and Whiston ward, 33·1 per cent. of the unemployed are under the age of 25. In St. John's ward, the figure is 33·4 per cent., in Anston and Woodsetts and in Brinsworth, Catcliffe and Treeton it is 33·6 per cent., in Maltby 33·8 per cent., in Kiveton Park 35·3 per cent. and in Aston, Orgreave and Ulley 35·6 per cent. There is a total of 2,149 registered unemployed under the age of 25. In January this year, the total number of unemployed in the constituency was 6,297, of whom 43·5 per cent. were long-term unemployed, so 2,756 people had not had a job for more than 12 months. As youth unemployment accounts for a good 30 per cent. of the total, it is clear that many hundreds of young people have not had a job for a considerable time. Those figures include only registered unemployed. They do not include the many hundreds of young people on youth training schemes and community programmes within the borough. The main reason for the high levels of unemployment is the rundown in the regional and local economies. The 1981 census listed the Rother Valley constituency in the top 50 with the highest level of manufacturing industry, but many small manufacturers have been hit by the worsening state of the economy in the past eight years. Compared with 1978–79, manufacturing investment in the region is down by £190 million. It is clear that the local economy has suffered greatly when this is combined with high interest rates, the fall in manufacturing output and increased manufactured imports, and companies have not been able to take on young people as trainees or apprentices in what was regarded as the normal way in the 1960s and 1970s. Two of the region's largest industries—steel and coal—which were once a major source of job opportunities for young people, have also suffered catastrophic reductions. Since 1979, two coal mines in the constituency have closed and thousands of jobs have been lost in neighbouring mines as a direct result of Government policy towards the coal industry. Sad to say, only yesterday a further 200 job losses were announced at Treeton colliery in my constituency which is to be reduced to a single face colliery. That means not just the loss of 200 jobs but the loss of 200 future job opportunities for young people. There has also been a massive reduction in the Sheffield and Rotherham steel making and engineering works in the past 10 years. That has greatly affected the job opportunities for young people. I remember that when I came out of secondary modern school in 1962 I was offered a craft apprenticeship with the National Coal Board or a job in the steel works. There are no such opportunities for any of the young people now. The Government's response has not been to seek to arrest the decline. Instead, regional aid has been cut so that there was £37·4 million less in 1985–86 than in 1978–79. With that amount of money being taken away from the region, we have not been able to create or hold job opportunities for young people. There has. however, been some investment in the constituency. There has been massive investment in Maltby colliery as a result of the Labour Government's "Plan for Coal" which was agreed in 1976, but there are fewer people working there now than when I was employed there before the 1983 general election. It is all very well to say that millions, or even billions, of pounds have been pumped into the coal industry in capital investment, but in terms of job creation the result may be negative rather than positive. Nearly half the people working at Maltby colliery have transferred from neighbouring collieries which have closed. In the past four years, not one young person has been taken on at the mine, although at one time it played a major role in employing young people in the area and one went there only if there were no other jobs in the local economy. Indeed, it was the lack of opportunities for young people that created the 1984–85 miners' strike, but the Government failed to listen, and by shutting their ears to what the mining communities were saying they allowed the situation to get worse. The Government's answer to the high level of unemployment among young people has been the introduction of training schemes—initially the youth opportunities programme, then the youth training scheme and now the job training scheme—but the majority of young people remain unemployed after going through these schemes. The latest available Manpower Services Commission figures show that of those finishing or leaving youth training schemes in the Rotherham area between April 1985 and April 1986, only 17·9 per cent. found jobs with the employer with whom they had trained, despite the Government's initial assurances that the proportion would be far higher, 14 per cent. found jobs with other employers and 3·8 per cent. found part-time jobs. A further 7·8 per cent. went on to other youth training schemes, 2·7 per cent. went on to full-time education courses and 47·5 per cent. became unemployed. The Government have failed to face the fact that jobs once held by permanent employees are being carried out by a succession of young people on Government training schemes while permanent jobs for young people disappear. Training schemes are not the answer to the problems of young people in Rother Valley in finding work. Schemes may be the answer for some young people, but they are an obstruction for others. In many parts of my constituency jobs being done by young people on Government training schemes were done five years ago by 16, 17 and 18-year-olds. People should not say that training schemes are there for work experience. They are stopping people getting jobs in my constituency. While some young people in the constituency are taking part in good youth training courses run by charities like Community Industry and by the local authorities, there is no way in which they can compete with the skilled people who are being made redundant. It is often forgotten that when there are redundancies many experienced people are thrown on the dole queues. In the borough of Rotherham itself, for every job vacancy there are 68 people in the dole queue to take it up and many more not registered who are also looking for work. The majority of young people in my constituency have been the victims of the Government's cynical economic experiment, which has failed both nationally and regionally. It is no good Ministers at the Dispatch Box or Tory Members talking about efficiency and making people stand on their own two feet. What chance does a 16-year-old school leaver from a family that is already disadvantaged because of unemployment have of ever being able to stand on his or her own two feet in such circumstances as I have described in many households in my constituency? Last July, over 2,800 young people aged 16 left schools in Rotherham borough; 89 per cent. of them did not have a proper job. In other words, in July of last year over 2,400 young people were unemployed straight from school. Most of them are on training schemes although a few have got jobs. When we consider the hundreds of young people at comprehensive schools throughout the constituency who will be eligible to leave at 16 and who will be coming on to the dole queues and training schemes in July of this year, we see that the problem is getting worse. The Government cannot claim that this has come as a surprise. Yet in the eight years during which we have watched the problem develop, the Government have not attempted to find a solution. They should have made an education allowance to 16-year-old students in comprehensive schools to enable them to benefit from further education without feeling that they were a burden on already disadvantaged families. My experience of my surgeries and of my postbag is that people are resentful of the fact that no education allowance is made to help their children get further education. As a consequence, children leave school at 16 to look for money from supplementary benefit or from training schemes. The Government have singularly failed to prevent young people going on the dole queue or into training schemes by not providing an education allowance. On 11 June, thousands of young people will be voting for the first time. The few whose families have benefited from the tax cuts made by the Government over the last seven years will no doubt support Tory candidates. I am not so sure about those whose time has been wasted on the dole queues. I hope that the voices of that majority of young men and women will be heard rejecting the Government's policies, which have left many areas like my constituency with a gaping hole instead of opportunities for young people to get jobs and lead normal lives. Because they cannot find work, many young people cannot get married and lead the sort of life that most people in these communities have lived for generations. The Government have failed to do anything to stop the growing tide of youth unemployment in my area and in the surrounding regions. I hope that on 11 June people will decide that no longer will they have a Government who are prepared to let young people waste their lives as is happening in Rother Valley.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) on his success in securing this debate and on providing an opportunity for us to discuss youth employment. I have listened carefully to what he has said. I think I can start my reply by making three points on which I hope we will be in a fair measure of agreement.First, I fully accept that the hon. Gentleman's constituency lies in an area which faces problems of industries in historic decline—like mining and steel—which make the task of adjusting to new world market conditions more intractable and painful than in many other areas. The overall unemployment count in the Rotherham and Mexborough travel-to-work area of 22,929 and the rate of unemployment at 21·9 per cent. put that beyond debate. Secondly, unemployment hits young people—new-comers to the labour market—particularly hard and it must therefore continue to be the highest priority to improve their prospects of jobs. Thirdly, while youth unemployment has its features which require a specific response, the job prospects of young people are very much influenced by wider economic developments and Government measures. Young people will therefore benefit from the progress we are making in creating the conditions for faster economic growth and from the new jobs which are being created. I shall return to these wider matters if time allows, but I should first like to say a little about changes in the levels of youth unemployment. My main point is that nationally there is a clearly marked downward trend. In January 1986 there were 187,000 claimants aged under 18; this year there are 25,000 fewer. Over the three years to January 1987, if we look at total unemployed young people aged under 25, there is a reduction of 127,000, from 1,259,700 to 1,132,700. Of those unemployed young people aged under 25 there has been a fall of over 80,000 in the past year to January and over 120,000 in the last two years. The unemployment rate for the under-25s is now 18 per cent.—lower than the EC average of 21 per cent., and much lower than Italy at 35 per cent. or France at 24 per cent. These encouraging trends, I have to say, are not so clearly established in the Rother Valley area. But there is some progress. In the Rotherham travel-to-work area the number of unemployed people aged 18 and under fell by over 400 between January 1986 and January 1987, and in the wider region of Yorkshire and Humberside there were about 8,000 fewer unemployed people aged under 25 in this year compared with last. I very much hope these changes point to further improvement. Further progress depends not on the Government alone, but the Government have their part to play. They have to continue particularly with their investment in young people, both to improve their employment prospects and to provide a skilled work force for the future of our industry. I would like now to outline some of the specific measures we operate for our young people. At school level, it is the aim of the technical and vocational education initiative to prepare young people for the world of work by increasing the relevance and practical content of the curriculum, developing motivation, initiative, and problem-solving skills, providing work experience, and establishing links with local employers. As hon. Members know, TVEI began on a pilot basis in 1983 and experience of the pilots was so encouraging in terms of the enthusiasm of teachers, parents and children alike, that we took the decision last year to extend the scheme into a national initiative, from which all 14 to 18-year-olds in maintained schools will be able to benefit. We shall be spending some £900 million on the national scheme over the next 10 years. TVEI is, of course, voluntary, and Rotherham was one of the tiny minority of mainly Labour-controlled local education authorities which opted not to take part in the pilot phase. I am glad to say that it has now submitted a proposal for a three-year preparatory phase with a view to subsequent participation in a full extension. I hope for a successful conclusion of discussions so that TVEI will begin in Rotherham in September 1987 and the local authority will be able to take up the £5·25 million offered to enhance the education of its children. A large and growing proportion of our young people are now being helped by YTS. A third of a million young people are now currently training on YTS; without YTS many of them would be unemployed. YTS is playing a central role in helping young people to gain skills, work experience and qualifications which increase their self-confidence as young adults and give them a better chance of employment. By giving young people the opportunity to train in the particular skills that are needed today—in new technology, for example—YTS is helping to bridge the skills gap which has bedevilled our industry for so long; and in helping industry to gain the skilled and enterprising young people it needs, we are helping industry to thrive and to create the jobs of the future. Every 16 and 17-year-old unemployed school-leaver is now guaranteed a place on a YTS scheme. This means that no one under 18 need remain unemployed. This is an outstanding achievement of which the Government and providers of training can be proud. The Government are demonstrating their commitment to youth training by spending £1,000 million a year on YTS. Employers have been prepared to make a substantial and growing financial contribution because they recognise the benefits that YTS brings. Nationally, about 60 per cent. of YTS trainees find employment soon after leaving, and many stay on with the same firm as regular employees. But there are bound to be regional variations in the picture, depending on the buoyancy of local labour markets. The employment pattern in Rother Valley is obviously very difficult and this is reflected in below-average numbers of trainees finding work, although their situation is showing signs of improvement. The introduction of the new two-year YTS programme last year means that the young people of Rother Valley are now enjoying a longer period of high quality training with more practical work experience and off-the-job training. I have every hope that these substantial imrovements in the YTS training programme will result in a significant increase in the number of YTS trainees who move directly into work. If young people are to take advantage of the opportunities on offer, they need realistic and well-informed careers guidance. The work of the local authority's careers service is crucial in all this. The careers service plays a central role in YTS recruitment: eight in ten recruits enter via the careers service. The Government fully recognise its role and the extra burdens which high levels of youth unemployment have placed on its staff. We will be continuing to support directly over 1,000 posts in local authority services. The careers service in Rotherham will benefit by 11 posts—close to a third of its total complement. Our range of employment and training measures continues beyond YTS to provide help to young people seeking to improve their job prospects. The new workers scheme is there to assist job seekers under 21 by providing financial assistance to employers who engage young people at rates of pay which reflect their relative inexperience. In the Rotherham-Sheffield area, 765 people were benefiting at the end of March. The community programme also provides participants with improved employment prospects, at the same time yielding direct and tangible benefits to the community. Places in the Rother Valley are organised in part by the Sheffield and district area office and in part by the Derby area office of the Manpower Services Commission. The Rotherham and district share of provision in the Sheffield area totals some 3,370 places; 3,029 places were filled at the end of April this year. Some 65 per cent. of entrants are under 25. For those young people who suffer lengthier unemployment, measures are in place to provide them with motivation and skills to compete effectively for jobs as the economy grows. Earlier this year we announced that we were stepping up the restart programme to include people unemployed over six months and to provide further interviews at six-monthly intervals. We also announced an extension of the new job training scheme with the aim of giving nearly a quarter of a million people a year a better chance to compete for the increasing number of job vacancies through quality training lasting an average of six months. Under restart arrangements in the Rotherham-Sheffield area some 28,346 people had been interviewed and 89 per cent. of those had been made a positive offer; 1,924 had entered restart courses and 107 had been accepted for job start allowances. Job clubs have been extremely successful in helping the unemployed. There are 16 job clubs in the Rotherham-Sheffield area. Some 368 people have been participants and 180 have gone into jobs, while a further 48 have gone into the community programme. We are also actively encouraging enterprise and self-employment. Since 1979 the number of self-employed people in the United Kingdom has risen from 1·9 million to over 2·6 million—an increase of 37 per cent. About one in nine of the labour force is now self-employed. The self-employed option is therefore one which needs to be held out to young people. Of course, only a few will be equipped and ready to start work on a self-employed basis, but it would be a denial of the enterprise in our young people not to alert them to the opportunities. Through the enterprise allowance scheme and in many other ways we are ready to foster an enterprise culture. The EAS has been very successful. In the Rotherham-Sheffield area close to 4,000 people have entered the scheme since August 1983, and at the end of April this year 1,376 were currently benefiting from the allowance. The director of Rotherham enterprise agency reports a high level of interest in business start-up among young unemployed people. He estimates that approaching 50 per cent. of all his clients fall into the 18 to 25 age group. There is a small business club affiliated to the enterprise agency with a core membership of 40 with at least 20 members who are 25 or under. The agency also has three workshops in different parts of the borough offering small starter units to small business. At each location approximately 40 per cent. of the tenants are young business people in this same age group. The view of the director is that more young people would seriously consider self-employment as an option if similar work space was more readily available. The South Yorkshire regional co-ordinator of the newly formed Prince's Youth Business Trust—the PYBT—shares this view about the level of interest in business among young people. During the first three months of operation eight out of a total of 85 bursary applications received from young people have had Rotherham postal addresses. It is not, of course, much use having a full range of employment, training and enterprise measures if they are not properly marketed so that those who are eligible for and in need of help are fully aware of what is available. Through our "Action for Jobs" campaign, therefore, we have made every effort to bring the schemes to the notice of those who might benefit by participating or by providing opportunities. The campaign has been extremely successful: over 5 million people have picked up copies of the booklet "Action for Jobs", which gives an easy-to-read guide to over 30 programmes available to help people to get work. This is an excellent programme. Assistance to economic development in the Rother Valley is not, of course, a matter solely for my Department, and considerable help is being given from elsewhere. Since 1979, under regional selective assistance arrangements, some £8,379,000 has been made available to Rotherham and a further £12,780,000 has been provided to the Rotherham development area since 1984. Rotherham enterprise zone, which opened in 1983, has successfully attracted 74 firms employing about 2,000 people. Traditional industries have, I agree, been contracting, but other sources of employment are available. I have already referred to jobs created in the enterprise zone. Other jobs are being created. A multi-million-pound development at Park Gate, Rotherham, is under way and scheduled to create several thousand job opportunities in the near future. A new store in Dinnington for Leo's Supermarkets will shortly provide 300 jobs. Now that there are five jobs in services for every two in manufacturing it is especially encouraging to see the creation of new opportunities in the service sector in the hon. Member's constituency. It is also encouraging to report that the number of vacancies notified in the year ending March 1987 to Rother Valley jobcentres was some 17 per cent. up on the previous year and that a comparison on the same basis shows placings up 14 per cent. The stock of unfilled vacancies was up to 364, as against 217 a year earlier, which is a 68 per cent. increase. In a short debate such as this it is difficult to describe fully all that is being done to help young people in the Rother Valley. I hope, however, that the hon. Gentleman is clear that this Government are as concerned as he is to ensure worthwhile opportunities for young people in Rother Valley. I have described what our particular measures are doing and will continue to do to help. Young people now have opportunities for training, way beyond those of earlier generations. These, together with the progress that we are making in creating a climate for new jobs, in economic growth and in defeating inflation, provide their best guarantee of better job prospects.
I wish at once to express my appreciation to my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government for coming in to reply to this debate. I know that, as this Adjournment debate deals with the green belt and its importance to Hertfordshire, my hon. Friend will be most sympathetic, because in his constituency a piece of green land would be defended with the same vehemence and enthusiasm as the Alamo has been defended against marauding Mexicans. I like to think that my hon. Friend will give a sympathetic response to the requests that I shall be putting forward concerning the green belt of Hertfordshire.This is, of course, in some ways a rerun of the debate in December 1985, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) replied. At that time I had in the Chamber with me my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), and I am very glad to see here my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who I know is another champion of the green belt. I have to point out to the Minister that only a couple of months ago there was another Adjournment debate in the House on the green belt in Hertfordshire. That was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones). I want to make it absolutely clear and to emphasise that in Hertfordshire every single Member of Parliament is desperately concerned about, and supportive of, the green belt and the need for it to be maintained. When I last spoke on this subject I touched on the county structure plan and made various remarks such as that, of the 1,072 individual responses received in connection with the structure plan, only 50 indicated a desire for development taking place. All the rest wanted Hertfordshire to remain the pleasant green county that it is at present. I must confess that there is concern that the county structure plan currently before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will open the doors for further development, and a further covering of concrete for the county of Hertfordshire. In the past, the Government have been most supportive. When the green belt has been under attack and appeals have been lodged, they have supported each of the local authorities that have, one by one, defended it against the proposals. My own area of south-west Hertfordshire is now under attack. The M25, a very busy motorway, runs through the middle of it. To the north-east, we have the town of Watford, a growing vigorous area. One or two industrial centres have been set up, notably in Croxley park. That has brought much industrial activity into the area. We also have a train service which, despite the criticisms that are made of London Regional Transport and British Rail, is very efficient, and transports literally tens of thousands of commuters down to the City every day. It is a very popular area. However, with that popularity comes pressure. Just to the north of my area is the "golden triangle", which is currently subject to a proposal for development which, again, will cover it in concrete. While it will be several months before the planning appeal is heard in February 1988, I should nevertheless like to register with my hon. Friend the Minister the concern felt throughout the county that that stretch of land between St. Albans and Watford may be allowed to fall into the hands of the developers. The original circular on the green belt made the position very clear. It said that it was there to check the growth of a large built-up area. From my point of view, that is very important. Several towns and villages in my area are separated from each other only by a thin strip of green land. If that thin strip were allowed to be "logically" developed, we should find that the growing tide of concrete and asphalt coming up from London would flow on remorselessly, and we should no longer know where Hertfordshire began and London ended. The other purpose mentioned in the original circular was to preserve the special character of a town. I feel that a village in my constituency, the village of Bovingdon, is under attack. It is a pleasant village with a small infrastructure, which certainly cannot accommodate additional properties. Yet the structure plan suggests that it should be the recipient of a settlement. I believe that "settlements' are merely a means of getting around the present barriers and protections provided by the green belt. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will bear in mind that, while "settlement" sounds all very well in theory—as though a pioneering experiment will be taking place—it merely means the destruction of a typical piece of Hertfordshire by the planners. When I attended a meeting in the village hall just over a year ago, the room was packed, and everyone there was violently against the idea of Bovingdon being destroyed. I hope that that message is clear, and that it is received not only by my hon. Friend the Minister but by his Department. I know that it will be faithfully transmitted when the opportunity comes. I am sure that the answer to our housing problems—and there are such problems—is not to expand London or to cover everything with concrete, but to concentrate on some of the problems of our inner cities, and to try to rebuild and modernise areas that have been allowed to go to rack and ruin. There is a natural temptation to turn away from the difficulties of inner-city areas, and to take the so-called softer, green target of Hertfordshire as the answer to our problems. However, I know from experience that merely releasing a few parcels of land will not bring down property prices in Hertfordshire. Although some people say that we should relax the planning regulations a little and be more flexible in our approach, the only way to bring about a sizeable or even a modest reduction in land prices — and therefore property prices — in Hertfordshire is to release vast tracts of land, literally flooding the market and, in doing so, destroying the environment. Let me draw my remarks to a close by making an impassioned appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister to go to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and tell him that the structure plan before him must be tailored to the needs of Hertfordshire, so that we may preserve our green belt and we do not destroy our villages. In that way, I am sure that we shall create an environment that we can hand on to our children and grandchildren, and of which we can be proud.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for listening to the debate, and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) on initiating it.The green belt in the Hertford and Bishop's Stortford area is being considered by the Department of the Environment under the revised county structure plan procedure. I believe that, as my hon. Friend has said, the plan is now in the red box of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It contains a recommendation, or agreement, that a green belt be put around the sown of Bishop's Stortford. I know that that has been refused by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in the past, and considerable resistance has been shown to putting a green belt around every town and making it extend further and further north into the county of Hertfordshire. But Bishop's Stortford has suffered the deprivations of the agreement by the Department to permit the expansion of Stansted airport. Mercifully, it will take only 8 million passengers per annum in the initial phase; it will not be the very large airport that was initially envisaged. Within three months of the decision having been taken, applications had been made to build houses in the Bishop's Stortford area. If they had been accepted, they would have doubled the size of the town. Some of the major construction companies applied for permission to build 15,000 houses in Bishop'S Stortford. They have an organisation that is constantly lobbying the Department, because they need permission to build houses to satisfy the housing demand. My right hon. Friend has to strike a balance between those pressures and the need to preserve the environment. The county structure plan does exactly that. I urge my hon. Friend to approve the county structure plan before the election. If, however, he does not agree with the county's recommendations, I ask him to postpone his decision until after the election, when proper discussions can be held with him. His intererests are now focused on Brent, North, which I expect him to win for the Conservative party, rather than on the green belt around Bishop's Stortford. The issue is extremely important in my constituency and in Hertfordshire generally. All that my hon. Friend has to do is to agree to the county's proposals. If he did so, we should congratulate him. I believe that he has the interests of Hertfordshire at heart because he listened to Hertfordshire's pleas when it was being murdered last October by the proposed rate support grant settlement. He took our representations seriously, saw the injustice of the proposals and modified them. He did not remove entirely the penalties on Hertfordshire, but he reduced from £16 million to £10 million the amount of money that had been taken away from Hertfordshire. That represented a sensible balance with which we could live. The county structure plan provides a sensible balance. We are against wholesale development in Hertfordshire, but the electorate in my constituency has expanded in the last five years from 67,000 to 76,000. My constituents do not therefore adopt a curmudgeonly attitude to development. Nevertheless, the constituency needs the instruments with which to control development sensibly and to pay proper regard to the environment. The county structure plan provides for a certain amount of development in designated areas and it reflects the development that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment asked us to accommodate within Hertfordshire. However, development must be controlled; we must ensure that environmental issues are looked after. I ask my hon. Friend to take the county structure plan out of the Box of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and tell him that all he has to do is to sign it and issue it. I hope that he will do that in the next 24 hours.
The debate is taking place at only two hours' notice, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) on taking this opportunity to raise the green belt issue, which is so important to our constituents. Concern about the green belt is felt not only in Hertfordshire but also in west and south-west London. My constituents in Twickenham, Teddington, the Hamptons and Whitton greatly cherish the green belt that successive Governments have upheld, but none more so than this Government, who, since 1979, have doubled the quantity of green belt in the United Kingdom, and even added to it around London. The green belt acreage now equals that of the Principality of Wales.There is particular concern in my constituency about land that belongs to the Thames water authority. It lies to the west of Hampton village and contains two disused reservoirs. It borders Hanworth, in the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) and also Kempton and Sunbury in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins). On several occasions, all of us have expressed concern to Ministers in the Department of the Environment. Never in all my experience have I met as much strength of feeling about an environmental issue as I have met about this one. There have been 750 letters of objection to the proposed theme park on the site. I chaired two public meetings, one in July and one in September 1986, each of which was attended by between 500 and 600 people. At the end of July 1986 I presented a petition to the House that contained 2,200 signatures. An Adjournment debate was also held on this question on 14 November 1986. The concern continues. This development would create an immense increase in traffic, pollution of the atmosphere and, above all, loss of open land that de facto, though not officially, is green belt land. The London borough of Hounslow, where most of the land is situated, intends to declare in its west area plan that this is green belt land. That plan was the subject of a public inquiry in February. I gave evidence to it and supported, as a Conservative Member of Parliament, the Labour-controlled local authority of Hounslow. The area is used by those who live on all sides of it for walking and sport and for the enjoyment of the grass, trees and wildlife. Once again I support the proposal that it should become green belt land. When the Government consider the inspector's report on the west area plan of the London borough of Hounslow, I hope that they will declare that it is to be a green belt area. I cannot ask my hon. Friend the Minister to make a decision now. I am perfectly well aware that he is unable to do so until he has studied the inspector's report. However, I ask him merely to assure me that he has taken note of my points and that they will not be overlooked when the inspector's report is considered. I hope that he will declare that this is a green belt area, as that should pave the way for the refusal of the monstrous application on which a public inquiry is to be held next October.
I endorse all that has been said about the importance of the green belt. I represent a constituency in south-west London where there is enormous pressure for the development of available land. My constituency has the fourth lowest level of unemployment in the country, with the result that there is great pressure for housing and other forms of development. Inevitably, planning decisions require the judgment of Solomon.We greatly welcome the presence of the green belt, but we are deeply concerned about those areas that lie just outside the designated green belt. My constituents are very concerned about the fact that decisions have been overturned on appeal against the recommendations of the local planning committee. According to the recent district council results, the Conservatives have been returned in the same numbers as previously. The borough council has a solid Conservative majority, which demonstrates the confidence of local people that decisions on sensitive matters are well taken. I know that the people of Surrey, South-West would also want me to convey to my hon. Friend the Minister the fact that they warmly welcome the initiatives that are being taken to encourage inner-city developments. Inevitably, where green field sites are available — especially in attractive areas — they will be the developers' first choice. However, it is welcome news that 45 per cent. of new development last year took place on re-used land. That is extremely encouraging. Those of us who have spent time in inner-city areas will know how important it is to revive them and to encourage people to develop sites there rather than eroding the vital green lungs around London. In a previous Adjournment debate I raised the matter of Stockstone quarry, and I would ask my hon. Friend the Minister to consider the difficulties there seriously. What is happening is an abuse of natural justice and a misuse of our planning controls. On the basis of a 1952 planning consent, attempts have been made to use the quarry as the site for dumping massive amounts of waste from the London area. The contractors, A and J Bull, are now appealing against the conditions set out by the county council. I have written to my hon. Friend asking him to consider this matter, because it involves grave questions of principle and precedent for other green belt areas. Like my hon. Friends, I welcome the extension of green belt land. As Conservatives, we are particularly concerned with the conservation of our environment. In this, the year of the environment, there is a strong feeling among my constituents that the green belt plays a vital part in our quality of life. I appreciate this opportunity to join my hon. Friends and to represent the views of my constituents.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to reply to the debate. I think that all the minor details will be better looked at at leisure because of the importance of the issues.I am delighted to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg), in whose constituency I have been privileged to speak. I must not refer to his family as being in the Gallery, but I believe that somewhere they are listening to the debate. Having talked to my hon. Friend many times, I know of his intense interest in green belt policy. He has often talked about the beauties of the Bury district and the revival, from time to time, of its football team. We have talked, too, about the beauty of the Rossendale valley, from which I come. Part of that valley, which is now a green belt area, was destroyed by the industrial revolution, but attempts are now being made to revive it. I know of my hon. Friend's wisdom on this matter and have often talked to him about the green belt in his constituency, in my constituency and in the constituencies of other hon. Members. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) on introducing the subject of green belt policy. As we have found this evening, there is continuing concern about pressures for the development and the future of the green belt. As we are heading for a general election, I welcome the opportunity to set out clearly the Government's policy and position on the green belt. Green belt policy in England has been one of the most successful and popular of our planning policies. Unlike some others, it has not been affected by changes of fashion or even by fluctuations in economic and social forces. The pressures for development around our cities have increased steadily since the war and made it all the more important to preserve a belt of open countryside around them, and by resisting development in the green belts we shall be helping to redirect investment back into the inner cities, where it is most needed. I am grateful for the strong support of my hon. Friends for the way in which this Government have protected our green belts. It is worth reminding the House that the area of approved green belts referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) in his impressive speech has more than doubled since 1979. I am sure that you would agree with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you were allowed to speak, that that is an astounding success of the Government which should be known by everyone the length and breadth of the country. On recent measurements, the green belt now covers 4·5 million acres—an area almost equivalent to the size of Wales. Approved green belts now cover something like 14 per cent. of England. I also remind the House of the answer which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) on 2 April this year, which will be known to many hon. Members here tonight. That reply showed that the area of approved green belts has increased from about 1·8 million acres in 1979 to 4·5 million acres. It provided details for each of the 15 green belts in England. For example, London's approved green belt has increased in size from approximately 750,000 acres to 1·2 million acres. That for the west midlands area has also increased. I have no doubt that our green belt policy was instrumental in the revival of Toryism that we saw there last week. The people of the west midlands saw that we wanted not only to revive industry but that we wanted people to look out from their houses and towns on the green belts surrounding them. The good and prosperous life is part of our party's philosophy. The same is happening in towns such as Nottingham, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent. Our planning system is based upon the principle that each case must be considered on its merits. This applies in green belts as elsewhere but inside a green belt there is a general presumption against inappropriate development. The policy on controlling development in the green belt, which was first set out in its present form in 1955, is that approval should not be given, except in very special circumstances, for the construction of new buildings or for the change of use of exising buildings other than for a very limited range of purposes. Those are agriculture and forestry, sport, cemeteries, institutions standing in extensive grounds and other uses appropriate to such areas. I shall deal with the specific matters raised by my hon. Friends. I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West for raising the matter. I think that I first met my hon. Friend in Workington in 1979. I spoke on the first day of the election campaign. My hon. Friend fought a hard fight in that constituency. The tide was heavily against him there, and we were all delighted when, after losing that seat, he stood for and won Hertfordshire, South-West. We are delighted with all that he is doing for the green belt in that area, and I assure him that I shall put his message across to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and come back to him on the details. This is almost a naval debate. We have two Royal Navy ties present. My hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), and for Twickenham are both Royal Navy. Had I known, as chairman of the British Legion in north-west London, I too would have worn my naval tie. The only thing is that it has no green in it, and would therefore not have been as fitting as it might be to a debate on green belt policy.
I join my colleagues, in that I represent the Royal Naval School at Haselmere.
That just shows the calibre of hon. Members who are linked with the Royal Navy. It is astonishing that, of the small number of hon. Members present, there is such great representation of the Royal Navy. The green waves and the green belt go together. We have stopped building for the open seas, apart from oil rigs which have been useful to this country, but we are building in our preservation of the green belts.
Is my hon. Friend aware that my constituency includes a greater length of the bank of the River Thames than is within the entire area of Greater London?
I must confess that I was not aware of that, but I shall be aware of it from now on. I shall ensure that that fact becomes known to one and all, particularly all.My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford was a schoolmaster—we share an interest in that—and for a time was the director of the Aberdovey Outward Bound school. Outward Bound courses make the right use of the green belt, bringing up children with a knowledge of it. I am grateful for the tributes that my hon. Friend paid to me and to others—if I may say so in this frank debate, they were justified—for the help that we gave with the rate support grant. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's popularity in his constituency. The fact that 9,000 people have hurried into that constituency in a few years is a walking tribute—or should I say running tribute, after the marathon at the weekend—to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend asked some questions about the green belt. I shall ensure that Ministers in the Department of the Environment, which I am privileged to serve, are aware of everything that he said. Undoubtedly, they will get in touch with those responsible in his area about the green belt proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, who is also from the Royal Navy, is noted for music and, occasionally, skiing, at which he is sometimes successful, although he has fallen down, but that happens to all of us. The fact that he carries on is a tribute to his standing in all ways. For a long time, my hon. Friend has been one of Britain's greatest exponents of green belts. His constituents and those of all my hon. Friends should be grateful for their work. I trust that they are worthy of the hon. Members who represent them and defend their interests. I was delighted to hear of the good borough results last week in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley). Undoubtedly, they were a tribute to her efforts and defence of the green belt in that area. It is impressive at this stage of this Parliament, when many of us would like to get away to our constituencies, that, instead, we are considering the much more important issue of the preservation of the green belt. The difference between the Government and the Opposition is shown by the number of Conservative Back Benchers who wished to put across messages and who have thought about this matter—although some did not speak—and by the empty Opposition green Benches. If people have to decide at an early election, as I am told they will, how they should vote, they need only look from the Strangers Gallery—I must not look to see how many people are here or involve them in the debate—at the crowded Conservative Benches and the empty Opposition Benches. They will know that the Conservative party is concerned above all to preserve Britain's standards in every way, including its geography, green belt, prosperity and moral standards. There is no doubt that if the people note that, the Conservative party's triumph in the general election will surpass even the great triumph of the 1983 election. It will be something of the past compared with the great future. There is no doubt that, because people know that Conservative Members stand for the green belt, they will flock to the polls to support them. We look forward to that day in four weeks' time when we see the Conservative green Benches in the House populated even more than the Opposition green Benches.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-six minutes to Nine o'clock.