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6.15 pm

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Amendment proposed—

Richard Younger-Ross rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is a great help to the Chair if hon. Members indicate that they wish to participate in the debate because otherwise we might have swept on.

Richard Younger-Ross: I shall redress that next time I want to speak.

I shall be brief. My first knowledge of civil defence was as a boy scout. It was not so much the motto "Be prepared", which would be a good motto for civil defence, but partaking in a Civil Defence Corps exercise, that gave me an understanding of what was required to be prepared for a civil emergency.

The local authorities that I have spoken to and others that I have heard from are concerned that if the grant is fixed at £18 million and the needs of only some authorities are taken into account, there will be winners and losers. In Committee, the Minister referred to

Can he assure local authorities that their grants will not be reduced? They think that they have only just managed to secure adequate funds for the needs of civil defence.

We want the determination of grant to be upwards to recognise current needs. We do not want a "Goosey- Goosey Gander" approach that leads local authorities upstairs and downstairs; nor do we want civil defence to end up like Jack and Jill, to continue the nursery rhyme. Rather than a brown paper and vinegar solution, we need a well thought-out and exercised plan. As a country, we tend to be under-prepared for disasters. We have only to consider the problems of the railways when the wrong leaves or the wrong snow are on the line. It is important that we do not have the wrong measures in place when a disaster strikes. All authorities need to have well- exercised plans and well-trained staff and to have the funding to put their plans into effect.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): I do not want to detain the House unnecessarily. I merely ask my hon. Friend the Minister to look closely, during the time that it takes for the Bill to complete its stages here and in another place, at the work of the Staffordshire emergency planning service. It has written to me and I understand that the chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire fire authority has written to the Deputy Prime Minister. We have a wonderful record of joined-up processes to consider the whole issue of civil defence in Staffordshire. There are genuine concerns about the level of grant should there be any large-scale change to the formula on which

28 Jan 2002 : Column 66

funding is allocated. Will my hon. Friend look closely at the work that has been done in Staffordshire and consider how that can be retained without any loss of service?

Mr. Leslie: I shall look with care at the representations made by my hon. Friend's authority. Indeed, last week we announced the funding allocation for the next financial year, and we have tried to maintain the level as close to £18.6 million as possible.

Amendment No. 2 attempts to ensure that the grant can only ever increase. I reiterate that the £18.6 million—or whatever closely similar amount is determined once the estimate is resolved—is a significant increase on last year's grant. Indeed, in Committee the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) said that if I promised to provide a grant that is maintained at this year's level, most hon. Members' objections would melt away. I hope so.

The debate on the amendment echoes what was said in Committee on the flexibility powers that are given to Ministers, who will be obliged to exercise discretion reasonably. They must base decisions on relevant matters and use powers with due care and consideration. I am afraid that I must inform the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale that there are technical reasons why the amendment is severely deficient. It would have a number of perverse consequences. I tried to explain that currently, 90 per cent. of the grant is paid in September or October, and the remaining 10 per cent. in the subsequent financial year, when the moneys spent have been verified by the district auditor.

The practice of not paying the last 10 per cent. of a grant until audited accounts have been presented would be inhibited if the Government had limited powers to deduct or disallow expenditure from the outstanding balance if that expenditure proved not to be for the purposes for which it was intended. That is National Audit Office best practice, and I am advised by my officials that it would be compromised by the amendment.

Mr. Collins: I have no reason to challenge what the Minister said about the amendment's technical merits, but he will be aware that we are talking about the Minister's power to vary the determination of the grant, not about how local authorities spend money within that target. Why is it a good idea for Ministers to have the right to set a certain level of desired expenditure in a financial year and then cut that amount during that same year?

Mr. Leslie: The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger–Ross) was talking about whether a formula would create winners and losers. Of course, all formulae have that consequence; it is in the nature of allocating resources from a national to a local level. If we manage to return to a formula, we will try to make it as fair and equitable as possible and we will publish it, but it will undoubtedly create winners and losers.

The amendment is wrong in principle because it is not responsible budgeting to enshrine in statute an ever increasing grant. We need to retain the ability to make choices and decisions about public finance. Flexibility and discretion in a national strategic framework are especially important in civil defence. As the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale knows, the previous Conservative Administration steadily reduced the civil

28 Jan 2002 : Column 67

defence grant, presumably to reflect the fact that the world was more stable and secure after the cold war. It is a depressing outlook if, as he thinks, we will for ever require inexorably heightened civil defence.

An amendment in the name of a Conservative Member that is, essentially, a no-cuts amendment reminds me of my early days in politics, when the funding, or underfunding, of services was central to national debate. It is charmingly counter-intuitive. I am not sure what Lady Thatcher would say about a no-cuts amendment. Indeed, I wonder whether that particular spending commitment has been cleared with the shadow Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). Perhaps the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale might like to give a similar commitment on funding for schools and hospitals. This no-cuts approach is enlightening, and I find this new development in Conservative policy very interesting.

There are good principled and technical reasons for opposing the amendment, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Mr. Collins: I am grateful for the Minister's remarks. Without going into the byways of wider public expenditure policy, I point out that he seems determined to retain the right to tell local authorities at the beginning of the financial year, "You may spend X," and in the middle of the financial year to say, "I am terribly sorry, but you may spend a great deal less than X, and we may claw back some of that amount." We are not convinced by his argument and wish to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division: Ayes 156, Noes 257.

Division No. 142
[6.24 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Baron, John
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton–Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hammond, Philip
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr Andrew
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Pugh, Dr John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rosindell, Andrew
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Julian Brazier.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Rt Hon Charles
(Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Galloway, George
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Humble, Mrs Joan
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ruth
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Estelle
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Squire, Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Jim Fitzpatrick.

28 Jan 2002 : Column 70

Mr. Fraser Kemp (Houghton and Washington, East): The Ayes to the right 257, the Noes to the left 156

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