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I also considered some of the orders of chivalry. I am rather more interested in these historic matters than some of my supporters, including the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), might be, but it is odd that no Catholic has ever been appointed to the order of the thistle since the middle of the 19th century whenI may have got this wrongthe Marquis of
Bute, who later became a Catholic, happened to be appointed to that order. It is particularly odd when one realises that the order was created by King James II, who happened to be a Catholic. This is a peculiarity. There are all sorts of corners of our life that are as they are in discriminatory terms because this central matter remains.
I do not believe that there can be any hon. Member who does not find it odd that the Prime Minister was unable to explain why in 10 years of anti-discriminatory legislation he did not find time to add on the bottom of any one of those Bills and Catholics. The Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice), who is kind enough to be here on the Front Bench, gave a peculiar answer toin this casemy hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock when she more or less suggested that there was not any real reason to bother about all this, and that really it was not important. It is importantas you, Mr. Speaker, in your persona, as against your public office, know perfectly wellbecause it says something about Catholics that was not true to start with and is not true today, and ought not to be part of our law. This is not a passing matter; it is very important.
We must go back beyond that and consider what discrimination is about. Discrimination is about saying, I am better than you are because my views are right and your views are wrong. It is the opposite of toleration. In Elizabethan England and before that in Henrician Englandthe King was divorced not just because he had the hots for Anne Boleyn, but, more importantly, so that he could say that he had a right to it and that it could have a moral justification. He invented that moral justification and he told people that they had to believe that if they were to be citizens.
I hope that some people have thought rather carefully about our present parallel, because we are beginning to be the kind of state that is doing that again. It is saying that one has to hold certain views if one is to be a proper citizen. I want to give one example because I happen to disagree with my Church on it, so it is a good example to use. I think that it is right to remove the discrimination against same-sex couples in relation to adoption, but I also think that we should be tolerant of people who do not agree with that.
Toleration is hardit is not as easy as some politically correct people believe it to beand it is very easy to tolerate people with whom one agrees. That is a wonderful kind of toleration. It is the kindI do not think that I am leaving behind my socialist and Labour supporters when I say thisthat we have often seen from perhaps the most illiberal Government that we have had as regards civil liberties. I have always voted to the left of this Government on civil liberties matters, which is very embarrassing for me and for my constituents, who do not quite understand it. I have to explain that this Government are not willing to
understand the meaning of liberalism. Liberalism is about accepting the views of people whom one does not like and of people with whom one fundamentally disagrees. That is why I beg this House to recognise that we are going down the same route as Elizabeth and Henry VIII went down, which is to say: The state knows about these things, and if you disagree about the things that we think matter, then I am afraid that you become a criminal. That is the reality of such discrimination.
The Bill brings together the two things that matter at this moment: a removal of historical discrimination, which defaces this nation today; and a statement that in future we will be the kind of country that allows people of any denomination to conduct their Churches, institutions, religious houses and what they do according to the faith of their fathers, and not to be told by other people that secular morality supervenes and that they must accept an alien orthodoxy. This is about what Henry started and what Elizabeth did, which was to say that orthodoxy was determined not by the faith of the citizen but by the decision of Parliament and the state. That way lies totalitarianisma refusal to accept that toleration means realising that people feel passionately about important things and that in a free society they ought to be able to uphold those things. My Bill would get rid of historical discrimination and guard against the insidious future discrimination that arises from political correctness, which is itself a kind of fascism.
Mr. John Gummer accordingly presented a Bill to remove remaining legislative discrimination against Catholics; to make provision for the independence and freedom of operation of Catholic institutions; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 15 June, and to be printed [Bill 63].
That the Order of 15th January 2007 (Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:
1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.
2. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion two hours after their commencement.
3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement [John Healey.]
The provisions of this Act shall not have effect until HM Treasury and the Scottish Executive have carried out a joint evaluation of the effects of the Planning-Gain Supplement in Scotland, including its effect on agreements under section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.. [Mr. Francois.]
The new clause is designed to delay the Bills implementation until the proposed operation of the planning-gain supplement in Scotland has been jointly evaluated in a study by the Treasury and the Scottish Executive. Part of the reason behind the new clause is that although the Government have provided some detail about the operation of the proposed planning-gain supplement in England, they have given little detail about its operation in Scotland or, for that matter, in Wales.
Ministers have given at least indicative figures for England showing that when PGS is collected, some 70 per cent. would be returned to the local authority that was asked to accept the development in question, while the remaining 30 per cent. would be redistributed to the region. It is important to note that when I pressed the Financial Secretary about that on Second Reading on 15 January, he conceded that it could mean a different region, so that the 30 per cent. regional component could be spent in another part of the country.
However, we do not even have that amount of assurance about the operation of the planning-gain supplement in Scotland. The Governments policy is that the funds raised by the PGS will be collected by the Treasury, recycled to the Scottish Executive and redistributed by them in Scotland. There is therefore no guarantee that a community in Scotland that is being asked to accept large-scale development will receive any reciprocal benefit.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I am glad that my hon. Friend is pursuing the matter like a dog with a bone. He is certainly a ferocious Rottweiler. If the people of Aylesbury vale, including many of my constituents, are expected to absorb an additional 1,000 houses a year for each of the next 20 yearsmany, though not all, are willing to do thatit is cold comfort indeed for them to discover that a substantial proportion of the take of the supplement will be distributed to areas other than theirs. Up with that they are not willing to put!
Mr. Francois: I agree with my hon. Friend. I return the compliment by saying that he has long been recognised as a Rottweiler on behalf of his constituents. Long may that continue. He is right in that at least part of the money in England will not go back to the relevant locality. It could even go to a different region. However, in Scotland, to which the new clause technically relates, there is no guarantee that any of the money will go back to the locality. For some Scottish constituencies, the position will be even worse.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): I have read the Committee proceedings carefully, but I have not yet heard a commitment from the Government about the other 70 per cent. Have they made an absolute commitment not to fiddle around with the local government settlement so as to recover the other 70 per cent. merely by changing the figures, which would not require legislative interference?
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friend, with his experience as a former Secretary of State for the Environment, makes an important point. The Government have given us an indicative figure of 70 per cent. However, there is no guarantee of that in the Bill. Moreover, the Government have been somewhat vague about the mechanisms operation. Those of us who have experienced the changes in the local government funding formula in the past few years know that when they say initially that they will provide 70 per cent., they introduce floors and ceilings or resource equalisation. We would therefore start in theory with 70 per cent., but the Government could perhaps then alter the amount of grant to local authorities in lieu of that. The proposal provides few guarantees in England, let alone Scotland. My right hon. Friend was right to make that point.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman knows that the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government was concerned that 70 per cent. should remain in the local area of the development. However, does he accept that there are cases of, for example, a development occurring in one area and requiring the upgrading of a motorway junction in an adjacent area? That is one reason why it is sensible to retain the ability to spend a significant amount of money somewhere that is not in the actual local authority area of the development. The development may require money to be spent on enabling the provision of infrastructure outside the area.
Mr. Francois: I understand the hon. Ladys point, which was also made in the Select Committees report. Let me make two brief comments. First, there is no guarantee in the Bill, and secondly, the new clause relates to how the arrangements would operate in Scotland, and in Scotland there is not even an indicative 70:30 per cent. split.
As I was saying, there is no guarantee that a community in Scotland that is asked to accept a developmentperhaps a large-scale housing developmentwill receive any reciprocal benefit. In theory, a housing development in Glasgow could raise funds that would then be redirected to the Outer Hebrides.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does my hon. Friend think that the provision will apply to either Scotland or England? I understand that a good many Labour Back Benchers think that it is a very dangerous proposal.
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friend has obviously had a peek at my speech. If he allows me to develop my theme, he may hear some echo of what he has said. In fact, he is entirely right, and the same point cropped up in the Committee.
Mr. Gummer: Has my hon. Friend noticed that although we are talking about Scotland, and although when we discuss almost any Bill that does not apply to Scotland Scottish Members of Parliament are present and voting, there is hardly a single Scottish Member present today? [Hon. Members: There is one.] If there is one, there is one, but as we are here to protect Scottish Members, is it not amazing that they are not here to help us?
Mr. Francois: I am not responsible for the diary commitments of Scottish Labour Members of Parliament, who are obviously busy people, notwithstanding the fact that there are plenty of MSPs to do much of their constituency casework for them. Nevertheless, I am glad to know that we are here today to represent Scotlands interests as best we can.
Mark Lazarowicz: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, although I suspect that if he were to do his sums, he would discover that the representation of Members from Scotland in the Chamber, in terms of proportion, is greater than that of Members from England or, indeed, Wales. I am also grateful to him for pursuing, in new clause 1, an issue that I first raised on Second Reading. Does he know whether the Scottish Executive have requested the resources that the new tax would give them?
Mr. Francois: I can confirm that the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition that runs the Scottish Executive did not ask us to table the new clause, but I can also confirm that their response to the consultation was highly critical. If the hon. Gentleman will be patient for a few moments, I shall illustrate that with a few direct quotations from the document, which I hope will help to satisfy him.
Mr. Field: I know that my hon. Friend is not a partisan figure and would not wish to subject the Government to great criticism, but given the criticisms that our party faced in relation to the introduction of the community charge in Scotland back in 1989, does he not consider it rather paradoxical that Scotland is the testing ground for a policy that is likely to be highly unpopular for the very reasons that he cited earlier?
Mr. Francois: We have already heard a number of references to history this afternoon, and my hon. Friend has provided yet another. I genuinely believe that there are concerns in the Labour party in Scotland about how the arrangements might operate in practice, and I tabled the new clause partly to facilitate debate. I shall attempt to set out the detail for my hon. Friend, but his point is well made.
In England, the Government have said that the planning gain supplement will operate in addition to the established system of section 106 agreements. In Scotland, such arrangements are popularly referred to as section 75 agreements, in this case relating to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. In England, the Government have stated that in return for developers having to pay the planning gain supplement, section 106 agreements will be scaled backbut conversely, they have been less forthcoming about how the system will operate in Scotland. Perhaps via our new clause we can tease more information out of the Minister this afternoon about how the Treasury believes this will operate on the ground north of the border.
The reaction of the Scottish Executive to the proposed implementation of the PGS has, to say the least, been quite critical. In its official response to the original consultation on the proposed planning gain supplement in May 2006, the Scottish ExecutiveI reiterate that it is Labour-led and has Liberal Democrat supportcommented that the new tax was misconceived, that it would render otherwise sustainable economic developments economically unviable, that it would place extra burdens on the delivery of affordable housing and that it would act as
a break on development in most areas of the United Kingdom.
We see Section 75 agreements as a key tool in bringing improvements to accompany development at a local level and at the right time. This is, as you know, an area of devolved responsibility and we would be keen to preserve the full flexibility to design our policies on these agreements as we see fit.
In addition, the Scottish Executive specifically requested an opportunity for greater communication with the Treasury on all of this, as our new clause actually suggests. As the Executive response stated:
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