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Levy On Port Privatisations

Volume 175: debated on Monday 2 July 1990

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

That provision may be made for a levy on disposals of securities of companies to which the undertaking of a harbour authority is transferred and companies which control such companies and for the payment into the Consolidated Fund of payments of levy, interest on unpaid levy and penalties in respect of levy.—[Mr. Lilley.]

11.18 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Notices of amendments were given to Standing Committee E on the Finance Bill and they relate to the two resolutions, the first of which has just been disposed of. Will it be in order to discuss any of the new clauses, which are clearly relevant to the debate? Are the new clauses the property of the Committee until it makes a decision and reports to the House? I think that I know the answer to my questions, but, naturally, I seek your confirmation and guidance. If we are excluded from debating these matters, the House is being outrageously dealt with by the Government.

The hon. Gentleman is interpreting the advice that has been given to me, which is that it would be in order to discuss the matters to which the motion applies.

11.20 pm

I shall endeavour to respond to some of the points raised but not answered on the previous motion. I shall be as brief as possible because I know that the House does not want to keep itself from its bed.

The Government have tabled six new clauses to the Finance Bill to provide for a 50 per cent. levy on the proceeds of the privatisation of trust ports. The House will be aware that two trust ports—the Tees and Hartlepool port authority and the Clyde port authority—are seeking to turn themselves into companies by means of private Acts of Parliament. The Government welcome that initiative because we see considerable benefits from early privatisation which will remove unnecessary restrictions on the way in which the port businesses can be developed, allow ports to develop their assets and give them a more flexible capital base while exposing them more fully to the disciplines of the market. The Government believe that privatisation will increase the efficiency of the trust ports and lead to a better service to port users.

The trust ports are owned not by the Government but by the state. It must be for Parliament to decide who should benefit from the proceeds of sale. In the Government's view, a proportion of the proceeds should go to the Exchequer. The clause provides that this proportion should be 50 per cent. It is a matter of judgment what the right proportion should be. In making their decision, the Government have tried to be fair to all the parties involved, including the ports and the Exchequer.

Will the only deductions from the capital raised by the flotation be the 50 per cent. taken by the Government, or will tax be levied on top of that?

Tax will apply to the proceeds in the normal way, but the levy will be a cost to be deducted in calculating any capital gain, which will be liable to capital gains tax. Therefore, the capital gain left after the levy will bear the burden of capital gains tax.

What proportion of the total proceeds will be left with the successor companies?

Clearly the proportion will be somewhat less than 50 per cent. How much capital gains tax is required will depend on the capital gain and the companies' ingenuity in reducing the capital gains tax that they pay.

A moment ago the Minister said that the ports were owned by the state. What is the state in this context? If it is not the Crown, can he explain any basis of English law in which there is something called the state which can own ports?

It was the courts which used the term "owned by the state". It is not a term that we have added to their vocabulary. It comes from the vocabulary of the courts.

It is a matter of judgment to decide what is the right proportion that should be taken in the form of a levy. In making their decision, the Government have tried to be fair to all parties, including both the ports and the Exchequer. We had to take into account several factors. Factors which suggested a higher Exchequer share included the need to safeguard the interests of the taxpayer, who has contributed to the development of the trust ports, albeit on a relatively modest scale; and the need to ensure a level playing field between the newly privatised trust ports and ports already in the private sector. Allowing the trust ports to keep the majority of the proceeds would give them an unfair commercial advantage over ports already operating privately.

There were several arguments in favour of a lower Exchequer share. They included the desirability of rewarding the initiative shown by authorities such as the Tees and Hartlepool and the Clyde port authorities of introducing private Bills; the benefits of early privatisation; the need to retain an incentive for other trust ports to seek privatisation; and, of course, the ports' intention to use some of the funds to invest in new developments and develop their existing assets.

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend again. If the proposals are accepted—this is of fundamental importance to the privatisation of the two ports—there will be no incentive for any other port to follow in their footsteps. Secondly, there will be no proper reward for the two companies that so bravely went forward where others feared to tread. Thirdly, benefit will be lost to the peoples of the Clyde and Teesside, who would otherwise have benefited, because in both instances the ports will have to go to the markets in London for their flotations if they are to make a real profit. That will be a disaster for my constituents and for the constituents of Clydeside Members.

My hon. Friend is unduly pessimistic. I am surprised to find that he has an ally in the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I do not accept my hon. Friend's suggestion that the ports will have no incentive to privatise. They will retain 50 per cent. of the funds.

Of course. The receipts will be subject to capital gains tax. That has always been the position and it is not being altered. We are merely reducing the net assets that will be liable to taxation.

The incentive to privatise is not only to retain funds from the issue. The ports have made a strong case—I consider it to be a convincing one—that they are hampered by the present deeds and structure of their make-up. They wish to have a private company structure and to be freed from the limitations that are now imposed on the activities in which they can engage. They would not desist because the money that they obtain will be somewhat less than previously was estimated. It seems not unreasonable that we would take 50 per cent. of the proceeds. I recall that we took 100 per cent. in the case of Associated British Ports. I do not take the pessimistic view of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin).

If 50 per cent. of the assets are to be taken by the Government, that leaves 50 per cent. of the proceeds. If 40 per cent. is the higher rate of capital gains tax, is it not right that 40 per cent. of the 50 per cent. will further be taken by the Government?

I imagine that in this instance capital gains tax will be paid at the corporation tax rate rather than at the higher rate of CGT, and that is 35 per cent.

Bearing in mind all the considerations which I have outlined, the Government believe that, on balance, 50 per cent. is right. As the new clause imposes a charge, we need a Ways and Means motion such as the one which is before the House.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was critical of the Government for imposing a tax and suggested that money should be diverted to employees, local authorities and others. Without a levy, it would be impossible to divert money to any specified beneficiaries, unless the hon. Gentleman proposes to do so by a thoroughly unparliamentary means such as extra-parliamentary plunder. I shall be grateful if he enlightens the House on that score.

The hon. Gentleman asked why we withdrew the ways Ways and Means motion earlier and suggested that the Government were having second thoughts and wished to alter it. We withdrew it because we wished hon. Members to be able to go home to bed after they had been debating other matters at great length. It seemed sensible to withdraw it and then to reintroduce it. The motion was tabled on Friday and copies of it were available in the Vote Office that morning. It was published on Saturday and it could have been taken home by hon. Members over the weekend.

If the House is to be asked to pass the motion, surely it must be on the basis that the Government have specific plans to channel the revenue to the good of the employees and communities concerned. On that basis, it might be worth inviting the House to approve it. It is apparent, however, that the Government have no plans to do that. It is on that basis that I argue that it is wrong for the money to go to the central Exchequer.

If the hon. Gentleman believes that the central Exchequer should never receive any money from taxation or levies, he will be hard pressed to finance the public expenditure plans he supports.

In the clauses we have spelt out that up to 3 per cent. of the shares can go to employees, that 50 per cent. will be retained, before being subject to capital gains tax, by the trust ports. That money will be reinvested in the ports and in assets that have lain idle and undeveloped because of the restrictions imposed on the operations by the trustee status of the ports. The money will therefore be channelled automatically into the local authority areas. The other 50 per cent. will be available to the Exchequer to put to the excellent use to which the Government put public expenditure.

11.30 pm

The Financial Secretary said that he is never sure about anything and, having followed him through most of the Committee on the Finance Bill, I cannot contradict him.

For the avoidance of doubt, it would be helpful to the House if I said that the Ways and Means resolution that we are discussing will enable the Government to introduce clauses into the Finance Bill tomorrow to bring in a new tax. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps better than anyone in the House, that, in the normal way of things, the Finance Bill Committee is not allowed to put up taxes or introduce new ones. Our affairs are circumscribed by the resolutions passed in the House at the end of the debate on the Budget. To facilitate such an unusual course of events, the Government have come to the House, correctly in their terms, to get the money resolution and the Ways and Means resolution through.

The resolution does not serve any announced taxation policy—there was no word about it in the Budget speech or on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. It does not concern a new tax nor does it raise VAT or adjust the rates of income tax to secure better the revenues of the state. The resolution has been tagged on to the end of the Finance Bill to facilitate private legislation. The Labour party regards that as an abuse of the Finance Bill procedures. It is wrong that privatisation measures introduced through the private Bill procedure—technically they are not backed or opposed by the Government or the Opposition, but are subject to a free vote—should be facilitated by the Finance Bill.

The Labour party is opposed to privatisation measures, but that is not the matter under discussion tonight. We are discussing the share-out—the division of the money. The Government have argued that the trust ports belong not to the Government, but to the state. If that is so, surely it behoves the House to consider the mechanism by which the state offers those trust ports for sale. We are well aware that that mechanism is a private Bill passed through the House and the other place. The sale is governed by the decision of Parliament.

Who is in charge of the administration of the state? It is ludicrous for the Government to try to pretend that that is not a matter for them. For whom is it a matter if not for the Government? The Government must make the decision. If the state is offering the trust ports for sale and the Government are in charge of the state, surely the Government keep the money realised from the sale. That, surely, is the logical position, although it is not the one that the Government are adopting.

The Government could adopt an alternative position. They could say that these institutions are somehow in limbo—not actually owned by the state and controlled by the Government but more distant. The analogy might be with a family company that is floating on the stock exchange and raising money in the same way as would any other private company that is going public. But surely, in these circumstances, the analogy should be with a company raising extra money that would accrue to the company—and to no one else, certainly not to the Government. Those seem to be alternatives: the Government cannot say that both are true, since they are mutually contradictory. So the Government will take half the money and the other half will remain with the port companies and be subject to taxation in the usual way.

If the proposals are passed tomorrow, the tax obligation placed on the new limited companies will be the minimum 50 per cent., instead of the maximum.

My hon. Friend will bear it in mind that, in the new clauses tabled for debate by the Finance Bill Committee, the Government will take powers, subject to resolution of the House, to alter that percentage to any that they deem suitable. Fifty per cent. is only an assumption, subject to alteration at the whim of the Government.

We can go on only what the Government have told us of their intentions so far, but my hon. Friend is quite right. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) made a similar point, and he could have gone on to say that the tax treatment of the proceeds involved in this operation is bound to affect the share price. As people consider what they will pay for the Clyde or Tees and Hartlepool port authorities—we have not even agreed to pass the privatisation legislation in respect of the latter—they will inquire about the tax treatment of the institutions that they are buying. If a large amount of the proceeds revert to the Government, the value of the shares will fall; and if the whole proceeds stay with the company as if it were a private company going public, presumably the value of the shares will rise.

The privatisation process is highly unlikely to help Clyde, Tees and Hartlepool or any of the other 50 small trust ports that may end up in the hands of private capital. The private investment will come from all over the country. If there are profits—especially short-term profits—to be made from the privatisation, those profits will be dispersed all over the country, not retained as they should be, in the region in which they originated. Were successor public authorities to be created, we could ensure that the profits were retained locally.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), in the debate on the Clyde port authority, mentioned the public duties placed on the port authorities—to dredge rivers for river users, to maintain lighthouses—which thereby incur expenditure that does not necessarily generate a return. How will such duties sit alongside private sector ownership? Unhappily, I suggest. In the previous debate the Government did not say what provision they intended to cover these matters. I suspect that the Financial Secretary will say nothing on the subject tonight, but we shall press him on it tomorrow.

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Why have not the Government written that into the Bill? Obviously, they do not want liability to fall upon the new privatised ports and harbours—or whatever the Financial Secretary wants to call them. If liability does not fall on the privatised companies, where does it fall, if not upon the public purse? The poor old taxpayer may have to continue to pick up the bill for performing a duty that should rightly belong to the new privatised industry.

I share my hon. Friend's fears. Probably it would work like this: the newly privatised port authorities, which will command a monopoly when running the facilities of the port or harbour of which they are in charge, will say to the users, "The cost of dredging is this. If you want it done to a certain depth, you will each pay your share, and if you object to that, we won't do it." The days when the river was dredged for them, as a subsidy to industry along the river, will be over. The same may even be true of the maintenance of lighthouses, which people's lives depend on. The privatised port authority will say to users who require the lighthouse to be there, "You will pay the economic cost or it will not be maintained."

I remind the House that we are talking not merely about assets that pertain to the operation of a port authority—there is much more to it. The port authorities own assets that far outstrip the narrow function of running a port. Indeed, one of the arguments for privatisation is that full and proper economic use of those assets cannot be made under the current trust status, which relates solely to port operation. A limited company, a series of limited companies, or an owning company and another company that will run the port separately—allowing the owning company to get on with other economic activities—are required. In other words, they will get on with the exploitation of surplus land, because there certainly is surplus land in many port authorities.

Tees and Hartlepool port authority, as my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) knows, said in its notes of evidence that it is aware that
"The current members of the Port Authority at the time when the Act is implemented, will be responsible for setting up the companies and will of course constitute the Trust, which will be responsible for the sale.
The current members have said that the Bill will enable the business to 'have scope to develop outside the estuary, both elsewhere in the UK and in Europe, and both in the provision of port facilities and in other distribution activities.'
The current members also said again in a press statement, issued when the Bill was announced:—' The authority is determined that broadening its business scope will take place without diminishing its commitment to maintain, develop and expand the ports of Tees and Hartlepool and that direction of its activities will remain on Teesside so as to ensure that the area shares to the maximum in the benefit that will accrue"'—
I emphasise this—
from the development of its business on a broader scale."'
In other words, private status and expansion are intended, which, as my hon. Friends the Members for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and for Middlesbrough would be quick to point out, is bound to be facilitated by the existence of urban development corporations in the areas that many of the port trusts under consideration occupy. State money for economic development sits alongside new limited companies that have trading in spheres other than narrow port operations as a stated objective. The opportunity to make substantial profits on real estate speculation is considerable.

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Exmouth Docks Bill. Exmouth is a relatively small port, and it has been closed illegally. The authority applied to the House for permission to close it, but has done so without waiting for that. Exmouth's function as a harbour has been neglected, to the detriment of the immediate hinterland, because the directors want to develop surplus land for a marina and associated housing. That area has lost a valuable transport facility.

As a Member of Parliament for the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, I am not unfamiliar with such scams. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to one in another part of the country. The opportunities—and my hon. Friend gives a stark example—are considerable. I and other hon. Members must challenge the wisdom and the equity of what the Government are doing. If there is a need for a change in status for the port authorities that provide important public services, surely we should look for successor institutions in the public sector. Such institutions are quite capable of taking care of economic development functions, and of doing so in such a way that they are accountable to the local community. The social desirability and the profits of such activities are matters for the local community and not for people who happen to end up as owners of the new private sector institutions, perhaps because of their position prior to privatisation. Many people have been put in influential positions prior to privatisation by no other person than the Secretary of State for Transport, who has charge of such appointments.

The Government did not announce the new tax in the Budget. They did not announce it on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. Indeed, their first reference to the fact that they might take a share in the proceeds of the sale, other than through normal taxation—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough referred—was in a ministerial response on Second Reading of the Clyde Port Authority Bill. That was when they announced the proposed 50 per cent. take. It was on the evening prior to the Committee stage of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill.

It was clear from the answers given by the chief executive of the port authority at the Committee hearing that the level of take and its mechanism had been something of a shock. That view is underscored by the fact that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), who chaired the proceedings, tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill to reduce the percentage of the Government's take. That amendment has disappeared—[Interruption.] It has disappeared. I do not know what magic has brought that about.

The answer is simple—the Government withdrew their clause, thereby sweeping away amendments that had been tabled to it. They then retabled the clause a couple of days later.

In those circumstances, surely it would be possible also to retable the amendment—but it has not reappeared. It is probably too late as the matter is to be discussed tomorrow.

It is important that the House realises that we are considering a Ways and Means motion that will facilitate a new levy. It is not connected with corporation tax or capital gains tax. Technically, it is difficult to understand, although the objectives are clear. The levy is payable only on a disposal of securities to what is referred to as a successor company from what is referred to as a relevant port authority. In other words, the latter can be only a harbour authority that is not already a company and is not a local authority. I am assuming that if it is a company owned by the Government or local authorities, all the proceeds of privatisation flow into the right pockets anyway, and if it is a privately owned company, it could not be privatised again.

The levy is designed to apply where a non-company harbour authority transfers its trade, an undertaking by Act of Parliament, to a subsidiary in exchange for shares. In other words, the circumstances that we are expecting to pertain following the passage of the private Bill on the Clyde port trust, and that on the Tees and Hartlepool port trust, if those Bills are passed, will apply if the companies then sell the shares. The Government may say that the levy applies only where the shares are sold by the relevant port authority or its creature. The taxation of such schemes is, by necessity, complex. It will depend on the corporation tax statutes, the harbour authority, the terms of the private Act, and the scheme for transferring the trade. However, at first sight, the levy is a second non-offsetable charge to tax. Although that may not be what the Government intend, what has been published shows that that is how the scheme will operate in practice.

I trust that the hon. Gentleman will tell us what his proposals are. Assuming that privatisation goes ahead, what does he think should happen to the proceeds? Is he saying that 100 per cent. should remain with the new owners, or that 100 per cent. should revert to the taxpayer, or what?

I thought that I had dealt with that point. The Labour party's view is that if there is a need to restructure the Clyde or the Tees and Hartlepool trust port, there should be a successor—more modern, and perhaps more versatile, but a public authority in the public domain, representing the interests in the local community, and carrying on what are essentially public functions. The Labour party is voting against the private Bills—a fact that the hon. Gentleman has probably noticed. For the hon. Gentleman to say that, while we disagree with it, it has now been done and we should say what the tax treatment should be, is disingenuous. We do not think that it should have been done in the first place. Therefore, I see no point in answering the hon. Gentleman's question. I have made it clear that we believe that it should not have been done in the first place. It is like saying to somebody, "You don't believe in capital punishment, but if people have to be put to death, should they be hung or gassed?" It should not be done at all.

Order. We are getting away from the resolution before the House. I hope that we shall get back to it.

I have done my best to answer the question in my terms. I am sorry that I will not come on to the hon. Gentleman's ground, and debate the details of a matter that is wholly for the Government, not the Opposition. We do not agree with it, so we shall not join the argument about how the spoils should be shared out. There should not be any spoils. The money should remain with the local community, in a successor public authority.

This is an important matter, not just for the ports that we are discussing at the moment but for many other trust ports. Assuming that privatisation takes place—and the hon. Gentleman volunteered that that is not what we are debating—does not it behove the hon. Gentleman to make serious proposals about what should happen to the proceeds? Have not the Government come forward with an acceptable—

Order. I hope that we shall not pursue that line of debate, because I should have to rule it out of order. I hope that the House will confine itself to the motion.

I have done my best with the question. If it would help the hon. Gentleman, I can tell him that we shall be voting against the Government's proposals tomorrow, and if Tory Members on the Committee considering the Finance Bill wish to oppose them as well, perhaps because they think that the proposed tax is too high or too low—both lines are open to them—all that they have to do is to shout no when we do. I wonder how many Tory Members will do that. The hon. Gentleman does not have to persuade me to vote against the Government; he has to convince his hon. Friends and I suspect that that is a different matter.

As I understand the proposals—I know that we shall be going into more detail tomorrow, so I shall not detain the House much longer—the levy can be deducted in calculating any gain made on the sale of the shares that attract the levy. That suggests that quite large gains on the sale of those shares are expected. That brings me back to what we consider to be at the heart of the debate. Quite substantial sums—£60 million in the Hartlepool and Tees port trust and a slightly smaller sum, in the mid-£50 million range, in the Clyde port trust—are at stake. The House should take seriously the treatment of that money. We consider that the Government should establish successor public authorities that will serve the public interest rather than bolt through the private Bill procedure and, through very tacky use of the Finance Bill, facilitate a measure that will be in the long-term disinterest of the citizens whom the port authorities serve and the people of our country.

11.56 pm

I shall not detain the House long as I know that my hon. Friends wish to get on with the debate as quickly as possible, but I wish to make one important point.

The levy is a new tax on a completely new procedure for taking trust ports out of the public sector and putting them into the private sector. One could argue convincingly on both sides of the question as to whether such a levy should be made and whether it should be 100 per cent. or nil.

Two particular points concern me as a constituency Member of Parliament near one of the ports currently undergoing privatisation. First, as I understand it, the amendments to be introduced in the Finance Bill Committee tomorrow attach the levy not to the proceeds of sale but to the market value of shares. Therefore, if the ports go to the market and the market gives them a certain price which is taken to be the proceeds, they will face the levy not on the proceeds gained from the sale but on what the shares might have realised if they had been sold in the City of London.

The plan in regard to Teessideis that the port will sell its shares to local pension funds and other interested bodies so as to keep the equity and the interest in the local community.

I will give way in a moment, but I wish to finish this important point.

If the proposal goes through as currently drafted, instead of the shares being offered to the people and the pension funds of Teesside, they will be offered to the City. That is why I reject all the assurances given by the promoters of the Bill when it came before the House some time ago.

Secondly, the levy is not the end of the taxing arrangements for privatisation. The 50 per cent. levy is a straight abstraction of funds from the privatisation process. In addition, there will be a further rate of corporation tax of the order of 30 per cent. That means that approximately 65 per cent. of the possible market value of the shares will be abstracted from the flotation. Indeed, it is possible that more than 100 per cent. of the proceeds of the sale will be abstracted. It will thus have failed completely and there will be no reward for the brave local authority proposing the plan and no incentive for any other public port to go through the same process. I am profoundly disturbed by that.

I understand that the Liberals tabled some amendments to the original proposals but dropped them when the draft clause was withdrawn. As the new clause has been introduced in a slightly different form, the amendments would not normally attach to it, but it has been confirmed that the Liberals' amendments will attach to it tomorrow. The amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) and further amendments being tabled by Conservative Members will attach to it when it is considered tomorrow.

I am happy to vote for the concept of a levy on disposals for the purposes of the motion, but I am not in favour of a levy on the market value of the shares rather than on the proceeds of the sale, thus making privatisation a meaningless process. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to consider that closely because, unfortunately, I shall not have the pleasure of joining him in Committee tomorrow morning.

The concern that the hon. Gentleman expressed about the need to retain the ownership and management of a port authority in the locality is shared equally by Clydeside Members in relation to the privatisation of the Clyde port authority.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) did not satisfactorily answer the question about how much of the proceeds should be retained by the state. It is no answer for him to say that we should not undergo this process. He must face the question of the tax treatment. The only ideologically pure position for the Labour party is to abstract 100 per cent. of the proceeds of sale. That is what the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East should have had the courage to say.

I will just finish this point. The hon. Gentleman will not say that because he is a north-eastern Member of Parliament and does not want to upset the voting public around the ports on the Clyde and Teesside.

That is all very well, but Newcastle ceased to be a port some time ago. With a majority of 12,500—somewhat larger than the hon. Gentleman's—I do not have to kowtow to any interest group in my constituency, and I certainly would not do so. The point that the Labour party is making is that we do not have to say how we would deal with the proceeds of the sale of these institutions because we would not sell them at all—we would create successor authorities in the public sphere and in the public interest, something that the Conservative party seems willing to overlook.

As the Labour party does not have a view on this matter, it will obviously sit mute in Committee tomorrow and not oppose the Government or say anything further, allowing hon. Members who do not have difficulties about dealing with the tax treatment of this problem to deal with it among themselves. No doubt the hon. Gentleman and his party will sit there and say nothing.

12.3 am

I am a member of the Finance Bill Committee and chairperson of the Transport and General Workers Union parliamentary group. Under the private Bill procedure, our union submitted a great deal of evidence about the effects of the levy and proposals for the surplus income realised by the sale of the assets.

The motion is a Government attempt to provide a back-up to the proposals in new clauses 67 to 72 of the Finance Bill, which will be considered tomorrow. The Government want to provide a new, confiscatory tax on the assets realised from the privatisation of the Clyde port authority, the Tees and Hartlepool port authority and other authorities to be privatised later. The new clauses will allow the Government to implement their announcement that they intend to take 50 per cent. of the proceeds of the privatisation of any trust port.

The British Ports Federation urged the Government to introduce general enabling legislation to allow trust ports to go down the privatisation road, if they so decide. Through lack of public parliamentary time, the Government have not been able to provide the necessary facilities to allow the companies to go down that route. They have offered the private Bill procedure, and the Clyde port authority and the Tees and Hartlepool port authority are following it.

The Government's actions in the motion and the new clauses are not a million miles away from the procedures applying to the disposal of assets by local authorities. New clause 67 states:
"—(1) A levy shall be chargeable on the disposal of securities of a company which is, or has control of, a successor company to a relevant port authority if the disposal is made by—
  • (a) the relevant port authority,
  • (b) a company under the control of the relevant port authority, or
  • (c) a person constituted under a private Act the Bill for which was promoted by the relevant port authority."
  • Only 20 per cent. of the income derived from the capital receipts gained by a local authority in the disposal of its assets can remain with the authority for the use of the community, while the remainder goes to the Treasury. Under the motion, at least 50 per cent. of the capital receipts accrued from privatisation goes to the Treasury and will not be retained by the successor company for use in developing the port or in assisting the community through a development agency, the local authority or a similar body. The successor company will be prevented from using the money in the way that it would prefer.

    The Government's 50 per cent. proposal could have been influenced by arguments in opposition during the passage of the Clyde Port Authority Bill and the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. Those who presented petitions and gave evidence to the Committees made it clear that, if privatisation went ahead, the capital receipts accruing from the sale should remain with the successor companies and within the local communities, for the development of port resources and facilities and to utilise joint projects within the ports and in the surrounding hinterland. The new clause would remove that opportunity.

    Hon. Members on both sides of the House put aside their objections to the original privatisation proposals on the ground that, as the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) said, assurances had been given that resources accruing from the sales would be ploughed back into the development of the infrastructure in the local communities from which the assets had been realised. Most of the ports are located in areas where resources are required to develop alternative forms of employment and infrastructure, so one can understand the opposition to the Government's proposals. Under new clause 67, millions of pounds' worth of assets accruing from the sales may be siphoned off to the Exchequer rather than being used by the successor company or by that company in conjunction with the local community.

    When the British Transport Docks Board was privatised and became Associated British Ports, the equity value of the company was way below what the Government had estimated before the flotation price was set. The assets were completely undervalued and initially the company did not realise its true value on the open market. Under the Ways and Means resolution and new clause 67, both the Clyde ports authority and the Tees and Hartlepool ports authority may be sold on the open market at considerably less than their true market value. If their assets are undervalued, the resources coming back into the successor companies will be less than one might have expected. At the same time, the authorities will have a minimum of 50 per cent. of their supposed assets taken by the Treasury. That will undermine the long-term viability of the company and its ability to raise capital to develop the port facilities which the Government so readily suggested needed to be privatised so as to raise the finance to develop future opportunities in the ports. Those resources will be withdrawn from the ports, first by undervaluation on flotation and, secondly, by the imposition of a confiscatory tax after the sale.

    If new clause 67 is successful, it is likely that the port authority will become more of a property company and will divorce itself from its maritime industrial activities. That will damage many maritime communities on the Clyde.

    From my own personal background, history and heritage, I know a great deal about that question. My father was the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie for a number of years and I was brought up in a Clyde port community. No one seems to realise that the current capability of the assets of the Clyde port authority are to be counted not in tens of millions or thousands of millions of pounds. We are talking about hundreds of billions of pounds' worth of public assets developed over a number of years being floated off on privatisation. Moreover, at least 50 per cent. of the resources from those assets will not be ploughed back into the Clyde port communities, which are suffering from under-investment and chronic unemployment and which have been devastated in the past decade by the withdrawal of shipbuilding and associated industries. The resources accrued from those assets should be used on the Clyde, but instead they will be withdrawn from the CPA area and used by the Government, no doubt to provide tax cuts for the well-off in the run-up to the next general election.

    It is vitally important that we relate this motion to the new clauses that the Government intend to move in Committee tomorrow. When we consider what the Government intend to do in terms of confiscating huge public resources for the Treasury, we believe that we have every right to question the Government's right to raise that kind of taxation levy.

    My hon. Friend is making an important contribution to the debate. Does he accept what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said earlier—that the Government are simply confiscating the funds, that they are not earmarking them for any special purpose but simply putting them into the contingency fund where they will be absorbed without benefiting the communities involved?

    My hon. Friend is right. The Government are confiscating the resources. They are not ring-fencing them for the development of port facilities for 1992 and beyond and the pressures that will come from our European competitors in Rotterdam and the North sea ports from Germany to Portugal. The Government are not trying to use the resources to develop port facilities and the hinterland to face the situation after deregulation in 1992.

    The Government have given no indication that they will use the resources for retraining in the ports. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the past decade. Indeed, in the past 12 months thousands of jobs have been lost in port communities on the western and eastern seaboards of Britain. The Government have not sought to ring-fence the resources for training and retraining, nor the resources being ring-fenced to pay for a high-speed rail link to the channel tunnel to improve Britain's transport infrastructure. It is clear that the resources are to be cynically siphoned off by the Government for whatever short-term financial gain they think they can get in relation to the electorate.

    Worst of all, the communities concerned will lose those resources for ever. The opportunity to improve the transport infrastructure to and between ports in Britain will also be lost for at least another decade. The Government are not just being negligent—in industrial and taxation terms they are being criminally negligent as they try to implement new clauses 67 to 72 in Committee tomorrow.

    My hon. Friends will return constantly to this point and question the Government's right to take 50 per cent. of an artificial value of a port asset, even taking into account the capital gains liability, to create an effective deterrent to predators subsequent to the sale of the port and its assets.

    In evidence to the Committee on the Tees and Hartlepool Ports Authority Bill, the Transport and General Workers Union said:
    "If port authorities wish to go private, then the assets in the port should be vested in a new statutory body made up of representatives in the port area and the surrounding community, comprising employees, local residents, users of the port facilities, shipping interests, the port authority, the regional and local county council and, where one exists, a regional development corporation."
    That would seem to me—and, I assume, to Conservative Members interested in the development of their local communities and employment opportunities in those communities—to be a reasonable proposal. If privatisation is to take place, the benefits should be spread throughout the community and the resources from the privatisation should be used to develop the community's infrastructure.

    The proposal seems not dissimilar to the Government's argument on the creation of urban development corporations. They implied that UDCs would have a job to do in conjunction with local business communities, local trade unions, local authorities, and so on. When it comes to privatisation, ports will be disembowelled at the point of sale, and 50 per cent. of their assets will be dragged from them and the community, placed in the hands of the Exchequer and used for projects other than the development of the local economy. That runs counter to the Government's strategy of regenerating communities in the north-west, the north-east and other parts of Britain, such as Scotland, where because of the historical run-down of ports there is massive unemployment and much land dereliction.

    My hon. Friend will have noted the statement by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the ports are owned by the state and are not trust ports, as that was originally defined in relation to 50 or so ports. Is it not a fact that when they were trust ports they were held in trust for the local communities? Is not that the point that we are trying to convey to the Financial Secretary? Being trust ports, in the interests of local communities, the proceeds should be ring-fenced in the interests of local communities if there is to be privatisation.

    My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I do not have time to discuss the history of the development of trust ports, but they were set up to protect the interests of local communities. The subsequent development of ports had to relate to the needs of local communities. In most instances, whether they were large or small trust ports, there was a good working relationship between local communities, local authorities, chambers of commerce and other local institutions and the port for the development of programmes of activities to ensure the best use of those ports on behalf of the community and the local economy.

    Is it not also true that a successful and expanding port often means greatly increased volumes of traffic in the immediate area? Local communities have therefore carried the burden of a large amount of traffic congestion and noise, mainly from large lorries up to 38 tonnes, the maximum weight available because of port haulage. If the local community has to bear that burden, it might at least have some of the benefits arising from privatisation.

    I used to work for the Labour party in Kent, not 100 yd from the eastern docks of Dover. I know all too well the consequences of literally millions of tonnes of lorry movements a year to and from the port. In the mid-1970s, the local community argued for a levy at the port to take account of the environmental consequences for communities living near port facilities.

    The argument about the sale and confiscation of resources to the national Exchequer rather than remaining in the community is partly a response to the need to provide additional investment to improve the environment in communities near port facilities. Improvements in areas of land dereliction, transport infrastructure, and so on are related to activities of roll-on/roll-off traffic to and from ports, and require capital investment and capital resources, which could come from the sale of the ports. The sales represent a huge financial bonanza for the Government, who will guarantee those resources to themselves at the expense of the local community.

    In its evidence to the Committee examining the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill my union also said that a devolved structure which would involve the community with the successor company had an important physical asset. The union said:
    "The structure would ensure that the control of the port's assets would be securely retained in the community which had taken the major role in generating the port's assets, and because, generally speaking, ports are significant employment generators, investment in the port and its future development would have first claim on the use of its transferred assets when owned and controlled by a representative body of that kind."
    That is not a revolutionary or unique statement, but a common sense approach to the development of community infrastructures when resources become available. Irrespective of their ideological support or opposition to the sale of public assets, all hon. Members should agree that the beneficiaries of such sales should be the community in which the sale takes place.

    My hon. Friend touches on an important topic. About .£40.5 million is being taken out of the Tees and Hartlepool community and about £16.25 million is being taken out of the Clyde community. The figures may not be accurate, but money is being taken out by the Government rather than put in.

    The levy is rather like a big vacuum cleaner, sucking up resources placed on the market by a local company. There is double taxation because not only is there a 50 per cent. levy on the perceived capital value of the company but there is another tax rake-off. As the hon. Members for Stockton, South and for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) have said, in practice the 50 per cent. tax climbs to a rate of 100 or 110 per cent. That is to be imposed by a Government who say that they are the Government of low taxation, who will remove taxation from the backs of business and allow it freedom to invest and develop in the community.

    In reality, the Government cannot keep their greedy mitts off assets that have been built up in communities over more than a century. They see an opportunity to seize resources for party political purposes in the run-up to the general election. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) said, "Nonsense." I will give way if he wishes to contribute to the debate. My hon. Friends and I stayed for many hours last week to assist him in his forlorn campaign to prevent the import of thousands of tonnes of South African coal, although the hon. Gentleman's opposition to that had more to do with saving his seat than with anything else.

    The hon. Gentleman should have been looking this way. I did not say "Nonsense".

    I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) is sitting behind the hon. Member for Sherwood. Is he asleep? The hon. Member for Dover is the sleaze factor of the Conservative party in the south-east.

    He will certainly be bombed out at the next election.

    New clauses 67 to 72 are no more than a token gesture by the Government and a sop to reduce Opposition arguments against the privatisation of ports. We shall not fall for that. We start from the premise that, as a matter of principle, the ports should not be privatised. But if they are to be privatised, the resources from the sales must remain with the successor companies and the communities in which they operate. It is therefore vital that hon. Members on both sides who believe in the propriety of the House and its ability to resist manipulation by the Executive should reject the motion.

    Does my hon. Friend accept that manipulation of the House is exactly what the Tory Government have in mind? Even at this moment the Tory Whips are telephoning the sleepy brigade of the Tory majority to come in and support a closure. Not only are the Government driving the resolution through the House with inadequate information based on clauses not yet considered by the Standing Committee that is considering the Finance Bill but they are using their ruthless majority to drive it through the House.

    My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not the first time that we have been here late at night discussing legislation in which the Government are manipulating the procedures of the House for party political ends. They are continually manipulating the House. After 11 years in government they treat the House and its Members with utter contempt. As a relatively new Member of the House, I sometimes feel that the rights of Back-Bench Members, from whatever party, are cynically put aside for the purposes of the Executive to control business and the nature of the business. The Government treat the House as no more than a rubber stamp for their activities.

    I am not sure whether my hon. Friend commented on the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). Here we are dealing with an important debate which will affect the future of our local communities and certainly of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). Yet we face the possible closure of the debate.

    I cannot comment on the closure of the debate but it will not be the first time that the Government or the Conservative party have sought to use the procedures of the House to close a debate in which Opposition Members wished to speak. They have also tried to keep the hon. Member for Sherwood quiet in his opposition to ports measures that have come before the House on previous occasions.

    I cannot understand a word the hon. Gentleman is saying.

    Does the hon. Gentleman wish me to give way to him because he cannot understand what I am saying?

    I accept what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is a bit rich when hon. Members who have been in the dungeons downstairs meander in here and criticise me from a sedentary position. Some Opposition Members have spent a considerable number of hours here and have invested their whole lives in port communities and the protection of those communities. We do not lightly take lessons from rum-filled Conservative Members. If they wish to speak, let them get up and do so, but I will not be put off by sedentary comments from them.

    The position is clear. The Government are attempting to use this Ways and Means procedure to facilitate the privatisation of at least 50 trust ports in Britain. But in facilitating the privatisation—this is more sinister than the privatisation—they are gathering to themselves literally hundreds of millions of pounds of public assets which should remain in the community, to be used for the Government's own purposes and dissipated on their pet projects. The money will not be ploughed back into the community from which the resources came in the first place.

    For those reasons, Opposition Members will divide the House at the end of the debate and oppose the Government's proposals, and in the Standing Committee tomorrow we shall oppose the Government in all their attempts to gather up and steal, Dick Turpin fashion, the resources that were deployed in communities.

    12.35 am

    I am glad to be able to take up some of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). He has great knowledge of the matters that we are discussing because of his Transport and General Workers Union background and his personal experience. His contribution encapsulated a series of important arguments of which the House should not lose sight.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield talked about confiscatory taxation and then advanced an equally sound argument when he referred to the undervaluation of Associated British Ports. The Government may have brought the resolution before the House—it deals with market values—because of that undervaluation. It is a subject that will be discussed tomorrow when the Finance Bill is discussed in Committee.

    The Financial Secretary to the Treasury talked about the previous money resolution and the Ways and Means resolution that is before us in terms of retrospection and the privatisation of Associated British Ports. He talked earlier about the unfair advantage that would be given to the new ports if the proposed taxation were not to be applied. As I understand it, the taxation will not be retrospective to include ABP. Who is losing out in the new confiscatory taxation that my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield described?

    In a series of interventions in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield an effort was made by Opposition Members to draw attention to ring fencing and the sums that would be raised by the proposed taxation. The Financial Secretary mentioned under his breath when I made my first intervention that public expenditure was not beneficial to the community. It seemed that that response ended with a question mark. Public expenditure is beneficial to the community, and the Labour party is the party that seeks to increase public expenditure for the benefit of the community. The effect of the resolution will be to take money away from local communities.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield compared the resolution with local government resolutions and referred especially to housing. He is right that only 20 per cent. of receipts of council housing sales are allowed to be used by the local community.

    There are land sales as well and other assets which local authorities have to dispose of from time to time. When the Conservative party came to power, 100 per cent. of capital receipts could be utilised by local authorities for other developments in the community as long as that was approved by the Department of the Environment. There has been a reduction to 20 per cent., and the Government—these rogues—take the rest of it.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. He has demonstrated once again his knowledge of the workings of local government. As he said earlier—I have made the same point—money is being taken from local communities and it is not being replaced. There is no specific public expenditure in the areas of Tees and Hartlepool that he and I represent as a result of the privatisation that we have been considering. I am reminded of the North sea oil asset sales that have taken place over the past 10 years. About £70,000 million have found their way into the funds of the nation without being ring fenced.

    Order. It would be helpful if we were to consider one industry at a time.

    I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for bringing me back to the subject of the debate.

    The new clauses that will be considered in Committee tomorrow will not result in the ring fencing of the assets that will be subject to taxation. I am glad that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), who spoke earlier, has remained in his place. I once congratulated him on a sensible statement that he made in Committee and he produced a leaflet which contained my response. He circulated in throughout his constituency to ensure that his electorate knew what I had said about him. Therefore, tonight, I shall not extend to him my congratulations on his declared intention not to support the Government should we divide the House.

    The hon. Member for Stockton, South made an important reference to the value of the shares connected with the Tees and Hartlepool port. He said that the promoters had suggested that the port's assets would be sold to local pension funds among others. There is no guarantee about that in the Ways and Means resolution or in the private Bill.

    In the absence of guarantees on the local pension funds and local shareholders, the present board of the Clyde port authority, all of whom live close to the river, may eventually be supplanted by people who have no commitment to the Clyde and its maritime industries.

    That possibility is referred to in the Ways and Means resolution when it speaks of a levy on

    "companies which control such companies".
    The Government anticipate that the control of the Clyde port authority and that of the Tees and Hartlepool authority will end up in the hands of multinational companies elsewhere or, as the hon. Member for Stockton, South said, on the stock exchange. Those ports will then be floated and taken over by outside people. No guarantee has been given about the ability of local pension funds and local citizens to purchase shares.

    Earlier the Financial Secretary said that the shares will be sold to workers, but how does he know?

    Provision in the clauses allows for up to 3 per cent. of the shares to be sold to the workers without affecting the proceeds liable to levy.

    Up to 3 per cent. of the shares can be given to the workers without affecting the proceeds liable to levy.

    That is an interesting correction.

    We have no guarantee that any of the work force in Cleveland and the Tees and Hartlepool areas will be able to benefit from a purchase. It is clear from the new clauses that the Government intend to introduce, facilitated by the Ways and Means resolution, that directors of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority will be unable to help themselves to shares in the successor company without those shares being levied at the market value. I am not entirely sure whether that shows great confidence in the directors on the part of the Government. Is it anticipated that the directors will give themselves shares at less than the fair market value? The Government have certainly covered that possible eventuality.

    The hon. Member for Stockport, South said that about 30 per cent. corporation tax would be levied on the value of the assets. I understand from the Minister that 35 per cent. corporation tax will be levied.

    Since I made my earlier statement, I have learnt that 25 per cent.—not 35 per cent.—corporation tax will be levied. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that later.

    I am not entirely sure why corporation tax should be levied at that lower rate instead of at the rate of 35 per cent. mentioned by the Minister.

    If the resolution is passed, followed by the new clauses in Committee, the Government will take £30 million of the £60 million assets of the Tees and Hartlepool authority. On 35 per cent. of the remaining £30 million, the Government will take another £10.5 million—

    The hon. Member is misconstruing the figures. We are talking about flotation and hence about the tax on the market value of the shares, not on the existing assets. That is an important distinction.

    We have always been told that the assets are worth £58 million which will be converted into shares which will then be sold to pension funds, to the work force and to other interested parties as yet unknown. People on Teesside believe that the Government will take 50 per cent., which is almost £30 million. Assuming the figures given by the Financial Secretary tonight, £10.5 million more will be taken away, too. So, of assets worth £60 million, the Government will take £40.5 million. I am sure that, when launching their enterprise, the promoters of the Bill never guessed that that would happen.

    Given that the Government will take £40.5 million of the £60 million, how many years does the Financial Secretary think will have to pass before the port's asset base returns to what it is today? How much profit will it have to make to restore the difference?

    To make up the shortfall, is it not more likely that the port will have to sell some assets which it does not need in the short term but which it might want to retain for development in the future? The port might have earmarked surplus land for such development, but it might be told to sell the land, which has a huge market value, for housing development and so on.

    That is a valid point. There will have to be asset sales to make up the shortfall. So instead of privatisation giving Tees and Hartlepool control over its own destiny, it will lose control of it—and of its assets. That can only be to the disadvantage of the port. It will certainly make it more difficult for the port to develop as it should.

    Tees and Hartlepool handles the third largest tonnage in the country; Clyde handles the 10th largest, and has a work force of about 350. It is profitable and does not rely on Government subsidies.

    Earlier, the Financial Secretary said that privatising these ports would allow them to build on their capital bases. But we have discovered that 50 per cent., followed by 35 per cent., of that capital base will be taken away from them. The Minister said that this was a matter of judgment, and so it is, but it is strange that the Treasury can take 50 per cent. of the assets of a port authority on its privatisation—

    Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government were so eager to take the opportunity to plunder these ports that they got 172 Tory Members to vote on the private Bill earlier tonight, but that because they expected these motions to go through on the nod the number of Tory Members has gone down to just over 100 and the Government are busy telephoning around the conglomeration of soon-to-be-discarded junior Ministers asking them to come in?

    I shall follow your counsel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) along that line.

    I was interested in the statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the trust ports belong to the state. He prayed in aid the High Court. I have no idea which judgment he wished to refer to. I am sure that, even as a financial rather than a transport Minister, he must know that the term "trust port" goes back many years—certainly back to the 1930s—and was used by the Rochdale committee, which examined the nature of trust ports and their development in the 1960s. For all those years, it has been understood that such ports are held in trust for the local community.

    Even if the Financial Secretary's predictions are correct, and the ports are owned by the state, that should not give it the right to asset-strip their resources. That is the sort of activity that goes on in Stalinist economies; it is not what one would expect from a western-style democracy.

    The Financial Secretary's speech and my hon. Friend's intervention remind me of the Trustee Savings bank, which was mentioned earlier. Its assets were worth £1 billion and the Government decided not to take a single penny but allowed the £1 billion to go straight into the financial markets, into the City of London, out in more plastic cards and bigger take-over bids, with no significant benefit to the community, to the manufacturing sector or to the local community. Yet, when the Government see an opportunity to take £30 million from the Tees and Hartlepool port authority and a similar large sum from the Clyde port authority, they are there like a shot.

    One can imagine why we are debating this resolution tonight. We know of the great difficulties that the Government have in finding £3.5 billion to make up for the errors and the foolishness of the poll tax provisions and further likely expenditure requirements next year. Some £30 million from Tees and Hartlepool is a useful adjunct to raising money for that purpose.

    There are some 50 trust ports. Perhaps the Financial Secretary can give us some information on them. As a result of the Ways and Means resolution, at least £100 million will be taken out of local communities up and down the country. That is a significant sum of money which we should debate on the Floor of the House tonight.

    The Financial Secretary made a series of points in justification of the resolution. Most of them were spurious, and I am sure that he will not mind my telling him so. He said that the Treasury would take a higher share and that he thought that that was to the taxpayer's benefit. He talked of a level playing field—an interesting concept that we hear about time and again. I heard an east German business man talking of level playing fields on the television only yesterday morning.

    The Financial Secretary also talked of the unfair commercial advantage which he felt might go to the Tees and Hartlepool port authority or to the Clyde port authority. But I believe that Associated British Ports did not have to pay the 50 per cent. levy that is being imposed tonight. He also talked of a lower Exchequer share and of not penalising Tees and Hartlepool and the Clyde because of their privatisation.

    I urge the hon. Gentleman to draw his speech to a close. He is digging himself into a deep hole. He is drawing a comparison with Associated British Ports, but it paid 100 per cent., not 50 per cent. The robbery was worse.

    I am aware of the adage of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that when in a hole, one should stop digging. If I am in a hole, I shall immediately throw out the shovel.

    I am reciting the weaknesses in the arguments of the Financial Secretary when he sought to explain why 50 per cent. of the assets of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority will be taken away. He mentioned a 35 per cent. corporation tax. He was modest and sensible and I sympathised with him when he said that he was never sure of anything. I can well imagine that, in his position, that is a proper attitude to take.

    The Financial Secretary said that, on balance, 50 per cent. was about the right figure. I shall explain later why I do not believe that that is a proper and valid figure. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown), who served with me on Newcastle city council, has grown in stature since he came to the House. He is handling the Opposition's case in Committee on the Finance Bill. He rightly said that there was not a word about this new taxation in the Budget or on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. He mentioned the abuse of the private Bill procedure, to which we have referred on several occasions.

    The Financial Secretary said that privatisation of the Tees and Hartlepool and the Clyde port authorities was the wish of the companies. I must enlighten him. Until the former Secretary of State for Transport said that it was the Government's wish to take the privatisation route for the ports, the idea had never dawned upon the port authorities. It was the idea of the former Secretary of State for Transport, not the wish of the members of the boards.

    The resolution is intended to clear the way for the Government to participate, if not in the sale of the century, certainly in the bargain of the century. The taking of £30 million of the assets of Tees and Hartlepool is nothing short of the Treasury getting its sticky fingers on our assets.

    The hon. Gentleman must be patient; I have not yet begun my main speech. We are here not only to hold the Government accountable, but to probe them and to elucidate a whole series of reports from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I shall patiently build upon my speech within the rules of order and under the guidance of Mr. Deputy Speaker.

    We are witnessing the bargain of the century. The Treasury is getting its sticky fingers on £30 million of the assets of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority, which has yet to be privatised, and an additional £70 million from other port authorities, including the Clyde port authority—which we debated earlier—and other trust ports when they move from trust status to the private domain.

    I am sorry that the Minister of Aviation and Shipping, who was here earlier, is no longer in his place. He may be—

    The Minister has moved precipitately from the Front Bench to the Back Bench. He may be anticipating the events of 16 and 17 July. He may be one of those Ministers who needs to worry about his future, or—

    I am grateful for your guidance, Sir. I hope that the Minister can hold his breath long enough. According to the Minister, whom I am glad to see here, the Tees and Hartlepool port authority made a pre-tax profit of £9.2 million in 1988 on a turnover of £35.5 million. Whatever the differences that I may have with the authority, I regard that as a commendable record so commendable that the Government intend to modify their Finance Bill, through this resolution, to take a share of the spoils.

    I trust that you will pardon me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if tonight you hear a series of epithets, metaphors and possibly mixed metaphors to describe the Government's actions in relation to the Tees and Hartlepool and the Clyde port authorities. The English language is hard put to describe what has been variously called "barefaced robbery", "getting their grubby hands on the community's money"—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield—and "daylight robbery". Lawyers say that there is not much difference between "barefaced" and "daylight" robbery. They amount to one and the same thing. In this case, the robbery is both daylight and barefaced. It is an asset stripping exercise by the Treasury to deprive any successor company to the Tees and Hartlepool port authority of £30 million plus taxation.

    What hope is there for the country when the asset strippers are alive and well not only among the conglomerates and the rip-off merchants but in the heart of the Treasury? Essentially, the Ways and Means resolution will enable the Government to incorporate into the Finance Bill new clauses 67 and 68. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South has referred to them, but it is clear that if the motion is passed, those new clauses will be before the Committee tomorrow. I was intrigued by the fact that the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) did not appear on the Amendment Paper, although the hon. Member for Stockton, South has told us that they will be by tomorrow. The proposal of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight would reduce the 50 per cent. to be taken by the Government to 40 per cent. That would be a small and interesting concession.

    I hope that the Financial Secretary will tell us whether he will accept those amendments. We understand, and it has been confirmed on several occasions, that the new clauses to the Finance Bill will be tabled if the resolution is passed, and will be debated by the Committee tomorrow afternoon. If that is the case, I can only advise my hon. Friends who are serving on the Committee to block this money-grabbing exercise by the Treasury.

    Earlier, the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) asked us what the Opposition would do in a similar situation, with a similar resolution. He reminded me of the story of the general who asked Napoleon, "What would you do if you had the enemy to the left of you, the enemy to the right of you, the enemy to the front of you and the enemy to the back of you? How would you get out of that?". Napoleon replied, "I would not get into it." The Opposition would not be privatising the ports, nor having the House debate, at 1 o'clock in the morning, a money resolution that allows the Government to take 50 per cent. of the profit from the Tees and Hartlepool and other port authorities. Nor would we have a Financial Secretary trying to evade most of the points put to him.

    One can sympathise with the Government in seeking to bring such resolutions before the House and for seeking to get their hands on every penny—or every new fivepenny piece—that is going. As we read in the newspapers, even the peace dividend will not be safe in their hands and will be used, along with the money raised by tonight's resolution, to cushion another disastrous round of poll tax payments in the next financial year. Every penny, every £30 million, every £100 million and every confiscatory piece of taxation counts.

    We all know that in the short term the Ways and Means resolution is aimed at the proposed privatisation of the assets of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority. In the longer term it is also aimed at the assets of the Clyde port authority. Watching your expression with great attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not lead the House into a debate on the merits or otherwise of the Government's insistence on using private Bills for public Bill purposes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East mentioned earlier, we are not here to debate the merits or otherwise of the privatisation. Conservative Members may aid and abet a willing Government to privatise our assets through the private Bill procedure, but that is a matter for them.

    Even the Leader of the House has published a document on changes in private Bill procedures. We shall not go down that route either, but a glimpse at the reasoning behind the privatisation of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority will quickly explain why we are debating the Ways and Means resolution tonight.

    I have one question for the Financial Secretary about Tees and Hartlepool. As the Treasury wishes to acquire 50 per cent. of its assets, does it really wish the privatised authority to compete with Associated British Ports and Felixstowe, which are already privatised? Why is the port of Tees and Hartlepool being penalised compared with other ports already in the private sector? The Financial Secretary gave a somewhat oblique response when he said that he did not want the Tees and Hartlepool port authority or the Clyde port authority to have an unfair advantage. That seems rather an odd way to make that point.

    The Ways and Means resolution refers to the amounts of money that the Government will raise. The Government seem to believe that they can pass the Ways and Means resolution and take 50 per cent. of the assets of Tees and Hartlepool because many years ago they made a grant to the Tees and Hartlepool. No such grant has been made since 1980. One of the first things that the Government did when they took office was to prevent any further grants being made to the Tees and Hartlepool.

    Even the Minister for Aviation and Shipping had to accept on the Second Reading of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill on 15 March:
    "Admittedly it is a long time since such grants were paid to the THPA, and the amounts were small".
    One should pause there for a moment. I warned you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about the number of metaphors that might fly your way this evening, and we have all heard the phrase, "From little acorns mighty oaks grow". It is quite remarkable that, following small grants 20 years ago to Tees and Hartlepool to facilitate the building of certain assets, the Government boldly assert to the House that they will take 50 per cent. of all assets of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority as a result of the Ways and Means resolution. The Minister continued:
    "But the grants were paid about 20 years ago towards investment projects in the port, and some of those assets are still in use."—[Official Report, 15 March 1990; Vol. 169, c. 749.]
    It is strange that some of the assets are still in use. The Government are seeking to get not 50 per cent. of the value of those assets but 50 per cent. of all assets, which is remarkable.

    My hon. Friend will have noticed that the Minister did not touch on the allowable deductions from the 50 per cent. rate of levy. He included a long list contained in new clause 68, such as fees, commissions and remuneration paid for professional services. Given the huge sums that the Government have paid for professional services, does my hon. Friend agree that it should be more adequately defined?

    I agree with my hon. Friend. I did not want to quote chapter and verse from the new clauses, but we have noticed the reticence of the Financial Secretary, who went so quickly through his notes that I could not keep up with him in my inimitable shorthand. I hope that Hansard had a better chance to note what he said.

    The Ways and Means resolution will enable the Government not to levy on grants paid against specific investment projects or even specific assets. It will, however, entitle them to 50 per cent. of the assets of all investment projects, whether or not they were financed by the Government 20 years ago or during that period or later by the port authority.

    Between 1964 and 1980, as a trust port, Tees and Hartlepool could borrow from the Government, but since 1980 it has had to raise its finances on the money markets. The resolution makes no distinction.

    I do not want to upset my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe). We had great difficulty in Committee in distinguishing whether he was the hon. Member for Hinchliffe or for Wakefield. If I may upset his sense of humour again, may I say that, rather like the mills of God, the Treasury grinds exceeding slow, but it grinds exceeding small, though with patience it stands waiting, with exactness grinds it all? For such small sums of money, paid in investment grant so many years ago, the Treasury will gain a benefit—I should say a windfall—for the Consolidated Fund of £30 million from the Tees and Hartlepool. As I said earlier, about £100 million will flow from the other privatisation measures.

    The Financial Secretary touched on that in his opening remarks. He talked about the taxpayer and the benefit to the taxpayer. Perhaps the taxpayer should be happy; perhaps the Treasury should be congratulated; perhaps it is all part of the Government's privatisation drive; perhaps the proceeds will now be considered as the proceeds of privatisation. The Financial Secretary nods his head. Is he saying that the money that goes into the Consolidated Fund as a result of this 50 per cent. levy is part of the proceeds of privatisation? Will it be so treated in the Treasury books? Will it appear in the forecasts in the Autumn Statement as part of the privatisation proceeds? What of a local community such as Teesside? What of my constituents of Middlesbrough? What of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman)? What of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter)? What of the constituents of the hon. Member for Stockton, South? We have seen the Clyde and the Tees and Hartlepool authorities grow. We have seen the goods going in and out. We look askance at 1992 and all that that means for the port. As my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield asked, why cannot that money be retained by the Tees and Hartlepool port authority? It does not need to be privatised. Why cannot that money be made available for the whole community? Why do we need this motion?

    We hear a great deal about ring fencing and the earmarking of grants, but by abandoning the motion and then abandoning the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill we would ensure that the port authority's assets did not disappear into the maw of the Consolidated Fund but would be available to the community as a direct and easily calculable benefit.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield referred to the Opposed Private Bill Committee and told us the view of the Transport and General Workers Union. Why cannot the money be invested in better port facilities to meet the challenges of 1992? Why cannot the money be used to create useful work for the skilled work force on Teesside? Why cannot the money be used for the regeneration of Teesside, which would be a joy and pride to us all? In those circumstances, the motion would not even have to be debated.

    The Minister for Aviation and Shipping is rather ubiquitous, but he is still on the Floor of the House. On 15 March 1990, when trying to explain himself to the House, he said:
    "There is a general rule that, when assets acquired or improved by a non-Exchequer body with the aid of Government grants are disposed of, an appropriate proportion of the proceeds should go to the Exchequer."
    I submit that 50 per cent. is not an appropriate sum to be taken by the state. By any stretch of the imagination, 50 per cent. of the assets can hardly be described as appropriate.

    We are talking about 50 per cent. of the market value of the assets. The most iniquitous aspect of the proposal is that the perceived market value of the company's assets is not necessarily the sale price at flotation.

    That is an important point. In response to an intervention, the Financial Secretary said that the expenses were those associated with valuations of what was or was not the market value.

    This seems to be an odd kind of privatisation scheme. Naturally the Government are hellbent on privatisation in many ways. I heard the exchange involving the Financial Secretary when reference was made to a substantial rake-off, which was said to be well over 50 per cent. in terms of taxes. On the basis of ex-Cabinet Ministers joining the board of privatised companies to get a big fat salary—

    Order. I shall not hear the hon. Member out if he is not in order. He seems to be going far from the motion.

    No, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The burden of the debate has been about the Government taking a rake-off from these companies in taxation and so on. It has been suggested that that could amount to well over 50 per cent., based on capital gains and the rest. We now know that one ex-Minister joins the board of most privatised companies. Clearly, the Financial Secretary has not considered the matter properly. If he is the bod who is to get a job on one of the privatised port authorities, he should bear in mind that there will not be enough money for him—certainly not enough money—

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), although I suspect that the Financial Secretary has a political career ahead of him rather than a career on a board of directors. I am sure that he has great expectations as 17 July appears on the horizon.

    Let me again refer to the Minister for Aviation and Shipping, who is so ubiquitous that I cannot see him. He has drifted from the Front Bench to the Back Benches or out of the Chamber altogether. Like the competent Minister he has become, the hon. Gentleman duly reached for an appropriate fig leaf to disguise what the Government were doing and to seek to give this Ways and Means resolution some semblance of dignity and decency. On 15 March, he said that the Public Accounts Committee rightly attached great importance to the principle that, where grant money has been given to a particular enterprise, the Treasury has a right to an appropriate return on the investment. It is the House rather than the Public Accounts Committee which is debating the resolution tonight, but I will wager with the Minister for Aviation and Shipping, when he comes back to the House, and even the Financial Secretary, deep in thought as he is, that the PAC has never said that it considers 50 per cent. of an asset value an appropriate return on any investment—never mind an investment of such small proportions made 20 years ago.

    We are not talking about 50 per cent. of the disposal price or 50 per cent. of the value of the orginal investment in terms of grant. We are talking about 50 per cent. of the market value of the assets disposed of.

    That is considerably in excess of any minimal amount of grant provided 20 years ago. The Government are not getting a return on their capital; they are getting an excessive return on an asset in which they did not invest in the first place. It is called asset stripping.

    I said earlier that the Government are asset stripping in a way that would make other asset strippers blush with shame.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover referred to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. There is a clear confusion between the Financial Secretary, who is responsible for financial matters, and the Secretary of State for Transport, who is responsible for transport, and I am trying to elicit the precise difference between the two with my references to the Minister for Aviation and Shipping.

    As I said, the 50 per cent. taken by the Government as a result of the Ways and Means resolution may be described as extortionate; it can never be described as appropriate.

    The Ways and Means resolution is part of a double sleight of hand by the Government. First, it ensures that the Tees and Hartlepool port authority will be privatised under a private, rather than a public, Bill. Secondly, it ensures that the Bill cannot be described as a hybrid Bill because the Government have tabled new clauses to the Finance Bill.

    I pray in aid again not the logic of the situation, which speaks for itself, but the words of the Minister for Aviation and Shipping. The hon. Gentleman is probably right to have left the House as I do not know that my words will assist his career or the events that may take place on 17 July. On 15 March, he said:
    "If the Bill"—
    the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill—
    "were amended to provide expressly for a share of the proceeds to go to the Exchequer, it would cease to be a private Bill. There would then be the problem of accommodating it within the Government's legislative programme, to which I have already referred."—[Official Report, 15 March 1990; Vol. 169, c. 749.]
    The Minister confirmed to the House that here was a public Bill on a private Bill route which required the modification of the Finance Bill to take into account its financial provisions. If that is not a perversion of the procedures of this House, I do not know what is. 'The Minister is to be congratulated on his lucid honesty. There was nothing opaque about the Government's intention. It is simple straigthforward chicanery, and they have subverted the procedures of the House in this Ways and Means resolution tonight by treating a public Bill like a private Bill and a modified Finance Bill like a hybrid Bill.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow sat through the charade earlier this evening called the Third Reading of the Clyde Port Authority Bill. He will no doubt understand the points that I am making on behalf of his constituency.

    Extra time is for penalties, and we will have to see whether the penalty taker is up to it.

    Other trust ports might be tempted to take the privatisation route. The hon. Member for Stockton, South earlier made a valid intervention in the speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when he referred to the Ways and Means resolution and the 50 per cent. of market value that the Government will take and corporation tax of 35 per cent. on top of that. The hon. Member for Stockton, South wanted to know what incentive there would be for other ports to follow the privatisation route. Why should other ports follow that route and see the Government take their asset values by way of taxation through the impost or levy? Should they follow that route because of a vague element of competition among themselves so that they can invest in ports in Europe or buy our smaller ports in this country? Why should they follow the privatisation route once they know that the Government will take 50 per cent. of the money?

    The former Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), did not hint when he proposed the privatisation of the ports through the private Bill route that that should be achieved in such a way that the Government should have 50 per cent. of the assets.

    I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that that was not mentioned in the Budget speech or on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. The Government did not mention it when discussing private legislation and it was not mentioned when we were discussing public legislation either.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. We are considering a new tax. The Government are introducing in this Ways and Means resolution the second new tax in the past year. They have introduced the poll tax and they are now introducing this new tax on the assets of our ports.

    At least some small service has been served by this resolution. The House is entitled to know whether on each privatisation of each trust port, whether through the private or public Bill route, we are to have similar resolutions before the House; or will the new clauses to the Finance Bill to which I have referred, hopefully suitably amended by the amounts tabled by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, be repeated in Finance Bills in future? In short, are we debating a blanket resolution covering future privatisation of ports? I hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will consider those matters when he replies.

    I want to bring my comments to a close so that other hon. Members may make useful contributions to the debate. Teesside and its community will be worse off as a result of this motion if it is passed tonight. Those who work for the authority will not be heartened by the knowledge that the Government have an eye on the assets that they have built up over the years—assets not just of bricks and mortar, but of toil and sweat. The workers' investment in their workplace has been life long. They have been sadly and severely damaged by the abolition of the dock labour scheme. They will be further damaged by the privatisation of Tees and Hartlepool, and they will be undermined by this motion. I urge my hon. Friends to vote against the motion.

    1.32 am

    Hon. Members should examine the motion with great care. As occurred earlier, we have seen demonstrated, as lawyers say, beyond peradventure the way in which the Government have tried to deceive the House in how this legislative process is being undertaken. It is accepted that this is a taxation measure. A Ways and Means resolution is a common requirement of a taxation measure. As was said in a useful outline of the position, the measure was not announced in any manifesto, the Finance Bill or the Budget. There has been an attempt to slip the measure through the back door.

    Fortunately, due to the vigilance of the Opposition, the Government's ploy has been exposed. If we had depended on the Minister, we should have had virtually no information at all. Bit by bit, it was revealed that the basis of the resolution is a component not of the Finance Bill but of the new clauses that were tabled for discussion in Standing Committee E tomorrow. The Government assumed that the Committee would approve the new clauses. It is offensive and arrogant for the Government to make that assumption. When hon. Members are to consider a subject on the Whip the following week, how many hon. Members actually pick up copies of new clauses, tabled in relation to a Ways and Means resolution, to be dealt with in Committee the following week? Normally, hon. Members go to the Vote Office, as I did, and get hold of a copy of the Finance Bill. In the Finance Bill there is no information about the resolution. It is a monumental evasion of convention that hon. Members should have no information available.

    I am grateful to Mr. Deputy Speaker for saying that we could discuss the new clauses. That is an important component of our debate, and must necessarily be so. In the ordinary course of events, it would be left to the Standing Committee, which would then report to the House on alterations to the Bill, including any new clauses. However, because of the special circumstances, we have perforce to refer to the new clauses.

    The position is worse than the hon. Gentleman has described. If he had gone to the Vote Office on Friday morning and picked up a copy of the amendments then tabled, he would have found that no new clause of this nature had been tabled. If he had made further inquiries, he would have discovered that there had been one but that it had been withdrawn. Only if he had been in the Public Bill Office in the last moments of Friday would he have discovered that the Government rushed back to table the new clauses.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information. He is a member of Standing Committee E and has been taking an interest, as members of the Committee normally do. Only a tiny proportion of hon. Members are on a Standing Committee at any given time. Having a knowledge of proceedings on the Finance Bill, and knowing that the clauses were previously tabled but were withdrawn, the hon. Gentleman would naturally know more than the vast majority of hon. Members who are not on the Finance Bill Committee. The hon. Gentleman is right—it is a dodge to withdraw the new clauses and then to retable them at the very last minute on Friday. My original assertion, which the Minister disputed, that it would be extremely difficult for hon. Members to take the information home with them over the weekend is correct. Even hon. Members who were here until the last moment of Friday's sitting would have had difficulty in doing that.

    I would not go as far as that. I am saying that the Minister was certainly being economical with the truth when he maintained that hon. Members could get the information to enable them to debate the money resolution and the Ways and Means resolution, because that patently was not the case.

    New clause 68 shows the purposes for which the levy is to be used. The Ways and Means resolution gives authority for the levy to be made and new clause 68 excludes certain expenditure from that levy. If the clause is accepted by the Committee and becomes part of the Finance Act, those will be statutory exclusions and for that reason, we must discuss them. According to new clause 68(3)(a), they are
    "fees, commissions or remuneration paid for professional services".
    That is the first item, but there are three others.

    It is alarming that in opening the debate the Minister did not touch on any of those items. It is encouraging that such expenditure will require statutory approval. In a recent Adjournment debate I raised the issue of the sale of skill centres. One of the scandals about that giveaway was that Deloitte Haskins and Sells received £500,000 in fees for professional services, which included marketing and valuation services. Subsection (3)(d) of new clause 68 deals precisely with that because it mentions
    "expenses reasonably incurred in ascertaining the market value of the securities disposed of."
    That is exactly the area that was critically examined. I and many people thought that the fees paid for those professional services were excessive. The resolution in conjunction with new clause 68 encourages expenditure in such areas by giving statutory exemptions from payment of the levy. It includes costs of transfer and advertising.

    I am amazed that the Minister did not mention the expenditure that the Government have in mind. For example, is it the lavish expenditure on professional services and advertising in which the Government have been engaged? Will they put down guidelines? The Government frequently do that in all sorts of areas. When they pass primary legislation—as in this case—they issue guidelines that become almost laws in themselves to, for example, the trust ports. They are simply the instructions of a Minister to a civil servant, or from a civil servant to a Minister to say yes to the provision of guidance on the amount of expenditure that can be incurred.

    The levy is the specific provision in the resolution. There are penalties. The levy can be varied by the Minister by way of statutory instrument. That is in new clause 68. The Minister talks about the levy being 50 per cent. However, if the new clause is passed, it will be subject to the affirmative procedure for statutory instruments. That is better than the negative procedure.

    It is where one has to table a prayer in order simply to obtain time for a debate. The Minister and all hon. Members present know that in the affirmative procedure, unless hon. Members object—

    Under the affirmative procedure, unless hon. Members object, the matter can be dealt with in what is called a merits committee.

    Often few hon. Members turn up for discussions in merits committees—[Interruption.]

    Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) must not keep calling out from a sedentary position and interrupting his hon. Friend, and he knows that he must not.

    If Mr. Deputy Speaker will allow me. I was pointing out to my hon. Friend and others that the Minister had dropped to sleep two or three times during my hon. Friend's speech. I wondered whether my hon. Friend thought that it was right and proper that while he was making important points about taxation the Financial Secretary was dropping off. The Chancellor of the Exchequer dropped off to sleep and six months later he got the sack. I was being fair to the Minister. I was pointing out that he might follow in the same fashion. That is all that I was saying.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I thought that that was the drift of the interchange that was taking place. I was alarmed to find the Minister dozing off in the middle of my speech when I was making important points. It is characteristic of the Government's arrogant behaviour towards the House. The Minister made a nominal speech. He read out his brief virtually word for word. He finished it in five or six minutes, packed up and expects the motion to go through the House on the nod. The Government have had a bit of a jolt tonight. We have been exercising the vigilance that an Opposition should exercise—

    Notice being taken that strangers were present, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 143 (Withdrawal of strangers from House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw:—

    The House proceeded to a Division

    (seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You did not call a Division. No Division was called.

    The House having divided: Ayes 1, Noes 123.

    Division No. 277]

    [1.42 am


    Ashby, David

    Mr. Neil Hamilton and

    Mr. Harry Bellingham.

    Tellers for the Ayes:


    Alexander, RichardBell, Stuart
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBendall, Vivian
    Allason, RupertBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
    Amess, DavidBoswell, Tim
    Arbuthnot, JamesBowis, John
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Brandon-Bravo, Martin
    Aspinwall, JackBrazier, Julian
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bright, Graham
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
    Batiste, SpencerBrowne, John (Winchester)
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
    Beith, A. J.Budgen, Nicholas

    Burt, AlistairKnapman, Roger
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Knight, Greg (Derby North)
    Carrington, MatthewKnowles, Michael
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
    Chapman, SydneyLightbown, David
    Chope, ChristopherLilley, Peter
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Lord, Michael
    Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
    Cryer, BobMcCartney, Ian
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaMaclean, David
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)McLoughlin, Patrick
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Malins, Humfrey
    Day, StephenMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
    Devlin, TimMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Dixon, DonMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
    Durant, TonyMitchell, Sir David
    Fallon, MichaelMoate, Roger
    Fookes, Dame JanetMontgomery, Sir Fergus
    Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Morrison, Sir Charles
    Forth, EricMoss, Malcolm
    Fox, Sir MarcusNeubert, Michael
    Franks, CecilNicholson, David (Taunton)
    Freeman, RogerNorris, Steve
    Gale, RogerOppenheim, Phillip
    Garel-Jones, TristanPaice, James
    Gill, ChristopherPatnick, Irvine
    Glyn, Dr Sir AlanPawsey, James
    Godman, Dr Norman A.Redwood, John
    Goodlad, AlastairRenton, Rt Hon Tim
    Greenway, John (Ryedale)Rowe, Andrew
    Ground, PatrickShaw, David (Dover)
    Hague, WilliamShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Hampson, Dr KeithSkinner, Dennis
    Hanley, JeremySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Harris, DavidStern, Michael
    Hayes, JerryStevens, Lewis
    Haynes, FrankStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Hayward, RobertStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Hinchliffe, DavidStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Hind, KennethSummerson, Hugo
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Taylor, John M (Solihull)
    Howard, Rt Hon MichaelThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Viggers, Peter
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWiddecombe, Ann
    Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Wood, Timothy
    Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
    Irvine, Michael

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Jack, Michael

    Mr. Patrick Thompson and

    Janman, Tim

    Mr. James Cran.

    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

    Question accordingly negatived.

    rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

    Question put, That the Question be now put:—

    The House divided: Ayes 115, Noes 11.

    Division No. 278]

    [1.52 am


    Alexander, RichardBrandon-Bravo, Martin
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBrazier, Julian
    Allason, RupertBright, Graham
    Amess, DavidBrown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
    Arbuthnot, JamesBrowne, John (Winchester)
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
    Ashby, DavidBudgen, Nicholas
    Aspinwall, JackBurt, Alistair
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
    Batiste, SpencerCarrington, Matthew
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
    Bellingham, HenryChapman, Sydney
    Bendall, VivianChope, Christopher
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
    Boswell, TimCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
    Bowis, JohnCoombs, Simon (Swindon)

    Cran, JamesLilley, Peter
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaLord, Michael
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Maclean, David
    Day, StephenMcLoughlin, Patrick
    Devlin, TimMalins, Humfrey
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
    Durant, TonyMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Fallon, MichaelMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
    Fookes, Dame JanetMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
    Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Mitchell, Sir David
    Forth, EricMoate, Roger
    Fox, Sir MarcusMontgomery, Sir Fergus
    Franks, CecilMorrison, Sir Charles
    Freeman, RogerMoss, Malcolm
    Gale, RogerNeubert, Michael
    Garel-Jones, TristanNicholson, David (Taunton)
    Gill, ChristopherNorris, Steve
    Glyn, Dr Sir AlanOppenheim, Phillip
    Goodlad, AlastairPaice, James
    Greenway, John (Ryedale)Pawsey, James
    Ground, PatrickRedwood, John
    Hague, WilliamRenton, Rt Hon Tim
    Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Rowe, Andrew
    Hampson, Dr KeithShaw, David (Dover)
    Hanley, JeremyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Harris, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Hayes, JerryStern, Michael
    Hayward, RobertStevens, Lewis
    Hind, KennethStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Howard, Rt Hon MichaelStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Summerson, Hugo
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Irvine, MichaelViggers, Peter
    Jack, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
    Janman, TimWood, Timothy
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
    Knapman, Roger

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Knowles, Michael

    Mr. Irvine Patnick and

    Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

    Mr. Greg Knight.

    Lightbown, David


    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
    Beith, A. J.Nellist, Dave
    Bell, StuartSkinner, Dennis
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
    Dixon, Don

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Godman, Dr Norman A.

    Mr. Bob Cryer and

    Haynes, Frank

    Mr. Ian McCartney.

    Hinchliffe, David

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Question put accordingly:

    The House divided: Ayes 113, Noes 11.

    Division No. 279]

    [2.03 am


    Alexander, RichardBrown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBrowne, John (Winchester)
    Allason, RupertBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
    Amess, DavidBudgen, Nicholas
    Arbuthnot, JamesBurt, Alistair
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
    Ashby, DavidCarrington, Matthew
    Aspinwall, JackChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Chapman, Sydney
    Batiste, SpencerChope, Christopher
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
    Bellingham, HenryCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
    Bendall, VivianCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Cran, James
    Boswell, TimCurrie, Mrs Edwina
    Bowis, JohnDavies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinDavis, David (Boothferry)
    Brazier, JulianDay, Stephen
    Bright, GrahamDevlin, Tim

    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMcLoughlin, Patrick
    Durant, TonyMaginnis, Ken
    Fallon, MichaelMalins, Humfrey
    Fookes, Dame JanetMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
    Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Forth, EricMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
    Fox, Sir MarcusMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
    Franks, CecilMitchell, Sir David
    Freeman, RogerMoate, Roger
    Gale, RogerMorrison, Sir Charles
    Garel-Jones, TristanMoss, Malcolm
    Gill, ChristopherNeubert, Michael
    Glyn, Dr Sir AlanNicholson, David (Taunton)
    Goodlad, AlastairNorris, Steve
    Greenway, John (Ryedale)Oppenheim, Phillip
    Ground, PatrickPaice, James
    Hague, WilliamPawsey, James
    Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Redwood, John
    Hampson, Dr KeithRenton, Rt Hon Tim
    Hanley, JeremyRowe, Andrew
    Harris, DavidShaw, David (Dover)
    Hayes, JerryShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Hayward, RobertSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Hind, KennethStern, Michael
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stevens, Lewis
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
    Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Summerson, Hugo
    Irvine, MichaelTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    Jack, MichaelThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Janman, TimThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Viggers, Peter
    Knapman, RogerWiddecombe, Ann
    Knowles, MichaelWood, Timothy
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
    Lightbown, David

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Lilley, Peter

    Mr. Irvine Patnick and

    Lord, Michael

    Mr. Greg Knight.

    Maclean, David


    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
    Beith, A. J.Nellist, Dave
    Bell, StuartSkinner, Dennis
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
    Cryer, Bob

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Dixon, Don

    Mr. Ian McCartney and

    Haynes, Frank

    Dr. Norman A. Godman.

    Hinchliffe, David

    Question accordingly agreed to.


    That provision may be made for a levy on disposals of securities of companies to which the undertaking of a harbour authority is transferred and companies which control such companies and for the payment into the Consolidated Fund of payments of levy, interest on unpaid levy and penalties in respect of levy.


    That it be an Instruction to the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill that it have power to make provision therein pursuant to the foregoing Resolution.