Previous Section Home Page

Column 674

Madam Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman is beginning to take off again and is leaving the order far behind.

Mr. McAllion : Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hood : Of course I will.

Mr. McAllion : Perhaps I can bring my hon. Friend back to the motion before the House, and direct him back to schedule 7 to the Bill, which deals with appointments to the new area water boards. We find in schedule 7 that the Secretary of State has been empowered not only to appoint up to 11 members to those area boards, but to pay them such remuneration, such reasonable allowances, such compensation, such pensions, allowance and gratuities, as he and the Treasury think fit. In other words, among the sums which are required to carry out their functions in terms of the order is the function of the Secretary of State paying off his political friends by appointing them to the boards with big fat salaries, big fat remuneration and big fat allowances in return for political loyalty to him and his party.

Mr. Hood : Again my hon. Friend emphasises the vagueness of the measures. We could be talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds. We could be talking about millions of pounds. I could mention the recent fiasco--I do not want to dwell on it--of the Glasgow health board, and talk about the amounts that it has cost there. That was with one person only. There will be 12 people per board, and we do not know how much they will be paid.

I do not think that it is unreasonable for Members of the House who come here to pass legislation to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whatever Secretary of State it is in a measure such as this, what sum is involved. What will he pay the people who will be on those boards? What is wrong with asking that?

Sir Teddy Taylor : Does that hon. Gentleman accept that, if we privatised water in Scotland, as we have done in England, we should do away with all the political patronage, which I think is quite shocking? Why do we not go the same way as England and go for water privatisation? We should then get rid of all the political patronage.

Mr. Hood : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that one is better burnt than scalded. Are we being asked not to be scalded, but to be burnt? I pay twice as much in water rates for my one-bedroom flat in London as I do for my house in Scotland, where I get better, cleaner water. Yet the hon. Member for Southend, East recommends that we should go down the road of privatisation, despite all the troubles that is has brought to England and Wales. If the people of England and Wales were given the choice of going back to public ownership--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is broadening the debate. Some of the interventions are helping the hon. Gentleman in that respect, but they are not helping the Chair.

Mr. Hood : Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Pike : The resolution refers to other money. Could that reference be based on the assumption that the water authorities in Scotland will take action similar to that taken by North West Water? It does more to improve the water quality and to make profits in Kuala Lumpur than it does in the north-west.

Column 675

Mr. Hood : That is obviously a great concern.

Conservative Members have accepted that the resolution is important. There are more hon. Members discussing the resolution at 1.21 am than there have been since 3.30 pm.

Mr. Home Robertson : English Members may be flocking into the Chamber because of the implications of the resolution in connection with clause 102. It provides for the supply for use outwith Scotland. It provides for the export of publicly owned water from Scotland for sale south of the border in England. Under the resolution, discriminatory charges could be applied on water that is exported south of the border. It could be subject to directions by the Secretary of State. More money could be raised from the exported water, which would be a tax on the people of England. I might think that that was a good idea, but I am not sure that Conservative Members would agree.

Mr. Hood : I am sure that my hon. Friend heard the excellent speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and others. They made the point that English and Welsh Members should beware. They will not escape the consequences of their party in England and Wales if the Government are allowed to get away with their proposals.

Mr. Davidson : Does my hon. Friend accept that there could be yet another Conservative fund-raising event? There was discussion between officials of Scottish Enterprise and officers of the Conservative party about the possibility of piping Scottish water to England and Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) mentioned Kuala Lumpur. Given that the channel tunnel is about to be completed, the scope for the export of Scottish water to the continent is considerable. Levies could be put on that water by the Secretary of State, which could price Scottish water out of the French and German markets. That would be a decision by the Secretary of State which would affect Scottish exports, which all of us would deprecate. In my constituency, the Scotch whisky bottling industry is an important part of the local community's economy. If the whisky was to be marketed jointly with Scottishwater--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is given to overlong interventions.

Mr. Hood : I think that my hon. Friend made a good point.

Mr. Ingram : Would my hon. Friend accept some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson) and relate them to the gas pipes that currently run all over Europe ? If gas were not flowing through those pipes, water could flow in a reverse action. That could take water from Scotland as far as Siberia with some of the extensions that have been made in the gas distribution network, so we could easily find ourselves exporting water to Kuala Lumpur.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I suggest that he does not follow that path but returns more closely to the resolution.

Mr. Hood : Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for rescuing me. I was trying to work out gas and water going different ways, and gave up.

Column 676

Genuine concerns have been expressed about the power that the resolution vests in the Secretary of State. Even as hon. Members have expressed those concerns, the Secretary of State has been either studying the problem or he has nodded off. He is obviously studying the problem. I hope that, before the House rises, we may get a response. I do not think that that is unreasonable. The point that I made earlier about the appointments to the area boards and its ability to seek the power to pay remuneration, pensions and so on should be addressed. We should be given an idea of what those salaries would be.

I can remember, as I said earlier, the Tory members of Parliament who were defeated at the last election. I used to be represented by a Tory Member of Parliament when I lived in Nottingham for a few years. He was the Member for Sherwood, Andy Stewart, a farmer from Strathavon. I bumped into my former Member of Parliament, a congenial chap with whom I have quite a fair relationship. I said, "Hello, Andy, how are you doing ?" And Andy said : "I'm busy. I'm the chairman of the agricultural board." I said, "Very good, Andy, well done." One can bet a pound to a penny that the chairman of the agricultural board is paid a lot more after being kicked out by his constituents in Sherwood than he was when he was their Member of Parliament. In 1987

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. This is not the time to engage in extensive reminiscences. The purpose of the resolution is much narrower than that.

Mr. Hood : I apologise if I transgressed from what I originally wanted to say. However, there is an inference of the powers being sought by the Secretary of State in the resolution, of which I gave an example.

Mr. Gallie : Which was irrelevant.

Mr. Hood : It was not irrelevant. Such information should certainly be supplied to the Standing Committee.

Mr. Davidson : Will my hon. Friend comment on the amounts that may be payable to the officers of the water board in those circumstances and tell us his view on how that compares with the amounts presently paid to elected councillors who presently sit on the boards of water boards?

Mr. Hood rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, I must tell him that, again, this is going wide of the resolution.

Mr. Hood : Much to your disappointment, I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am coming to a close.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : Does not the hon. Member think, even as a socialist, that, if we sold our water with the same success as we sell our whisky, it would be of great benefit to his constituents and to all the people of Scotland?

Mr. Hood : I was in Athens a few weeks ago with my Select Committee, and was pleased to learn that Greece imports more Scotch whisky than any other country in Europe. I am sure that it would import Scottish water if it was available. Water privatisation and area boards are not necessary for that, when local democracy controls services. I hope that the power sought in the resolution is given to the Standing Committee, because when the Government

Column 677

are proposing measures that do not have the support of 5 or 6 per cent. of people in Scotland, it is important that they give the facts and figures to back up their argument. We have already shown that the Government's assessment of the costs of the Bill is much lower than its true cost. We suspect from our discussions tonight that they may use a water tax to meet the deficit. If the Secretary of State and his Ministers disagree, they should come up with the facts.

Mr. Home Robertson : May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to clause 73(7), which deals with charges schemes ? It says : "A new water and sewerage authority, in making a charges scheme and the Customers Council and the Secretary of State in considering whether to give approval to such a scheme, shall endeavour to ensure that no undue preference is shown, and that there is no undue discrimination."

The charges scheme will include a surcharge--a tax--that is supposedly subject to the consent of the customers council and the Secretary of State for Scotland. Is it not incestuous for the Secretary of State for Scotland to tell the new water authorities to impose a surcharge on water so that he can put money back into the consolidated fund while posing as the safeguard of the public interest in preventing water charges from going too high ? Is it not odd that he is trying to have it both ways ?

Mr. Hood : My hon. Friend makes his point in his usual excellent way. We have heard similar concern tonight, but if the Secretary of State knows the sums that he is seeking to spend, he should let the House know. If he does not know, he is incompetent and should not hold his position. I have my own views and disagreements with the Secretary of State, but I believe that he has the figures, and we should know what they are. If he cannot give them tonight, I am sure that my hon. Friends in the Standing Committee will pursue the matter.

1.33 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : As you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have reminded the House, this is a

Mr. Foulkes : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have been waiting since 3.30 pm to make a contribution. Would it be appropriate for me and my hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) and for Falkirk, East (Mr. Canavan) to be called before the Minister replies ? Is not that the normal procedure in debates of this kind ?

Madam Deputy Speaker : It is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. The Minister has been asked a number of questions and he will now have the opportunity to reply.

Mr. Ingram : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not want to come into conflict with you in any way, but I have sat through the whole of this debate. I left the Chamber briefly to get something from the Library as a result of what was said during the debate and I wanted to make a contribution in relation to that. Although I recognise your powers, I feel that there are matters that remain to be raised which the Minister should be required to answer. I would welcome your ruling on that point.

Column 678

Madam Deputy Speaker : I have ruled that it is within the discretion of the Chair. Many hon. Members have intervened and have had an opportunity --

Mr. Canavan : Further to that point of order--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. There is no further point of order on that matter. I have made the point.

Several hon. Members rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I cannot hear all points of order at once.

Mr. Canavan : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can the debate continue after the Minister has spoken?

Madam Deputy Speaker : Yes, it can.

Mr. McAllion : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If the debate is allowed to continue after the Minister has made his contribution, will he be allowed to answer the points made subsequently and to re-enter the debate at that stage?

Madam Deputy Speaker : That can be done only with the leave of the House.

Mr. Foulkes : On a different point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If the Minister is not allowed to reply, would it be possible for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in whose name the motion is tabled, to reply to the debate? My hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride, for Falkirk, West and I have points to make. It would be unacceptable if those points could not be dealt with. It looks as though the Government are trying to railroad through this rather important measure.

Madam Deputy Speaker : It is not for the Chair to decide who will speak on behalf of the Government.

Mr. Stewart : As you have rightly reminded the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is a very limited motion. May I consider first the key criticism of the motion, namely the surrender of surpluses by the water boards to the Treasury. That is a standard form provision to ensure that, where genuine surpluses are generated, they are properly available to the public sector as a whole.

In all cases, of course, the needs of the industry will have the first call on revenue.

Mr. Canavan : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Stewart : No, I want to explain the motion.

The hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) asked about the meaning of

"such sums as he may direct"

and whether the normal financial regime would include such sums. I assure her that that is not the case. They will not be a key element of a normal financial regime. The provision will deal with a wholly exceptional situation should that arise.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) asked about the possibility of the motion allowing assets owned by local authorities to be taken from them. I assure him that that is not the case. The motion contains no provision that would enable the Secretary of State to require authorities to dispose of assets.

Hon. Members have raised many other points related to the motion to which we will no doubt return as the Bill progresses through the House.

Column 679

This is a standard motion, there is nothing particularly controversial about it, and I therefore commend it to the House. Several hon. Members rose --

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling) 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 233, Noes 49.

Division No. 72] [1.39 am


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Alexander, Richard

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Beresford, Sir Paul

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bowden, Andrew

Bowis, John

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Peter

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Cash, William

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Chapman, Sydney

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Colvin, Michael

Congdon, David

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Sir Anthony

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Faber, David

Fabricant, Michael

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Forman, Nigel

Forth, Eric

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

Freeman, Rt Hon Roger

French, Douglas

Gale, Roger

Gallie, Phil

Gardiner, Sir George

Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan

Garnier, Edward

Gillan, Cheryl

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gorst, John

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Grylls, Sir Michael

Hague, William

Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hannam, Sir John

Hargreaves, Andrew

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Nick

Hawksley, Warren

Heald, Oliver

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Hendry, Charles

Hicks, Robert

Hill, James (Southampton Test)

Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)

Horam, John

Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)

Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)

Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)

Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert (Wantage)

Jenkin, Bernard

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

Kirkhope, Timothy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Knox, Sir David

Kynoch, George (Kincardine)

Lait, Mrs Jacqui

Lang, Rt Hon Ian

Lawrence, Sir Ivan

Lennox-Boyd, Mark

Lidington, David

Next Section

  Home Page