Local Government (Rate Support Grant)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The 12:00 am, 9th December 1968

Just as I say. The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends have done it time and time again. They want the luxury of saying "Cut down public expenditure" in a climate of national crisis, but they do not want the challege of saying where. My right hon. Friend says honestly that the purpose of the Order is to reduce the rate of growth. However hon. Members opposite might look at the matter, the Order makes an increase, but it is not the rate of increase that some of us would have liked. It is a control of the rate of growth. When my right hon. Friend is willing to say that, it is wrong for the Opposition to indulge in purely negative criticism.

I have here a pamphlet issued by the Political Centre of the Conservative Party which helps me to answer the question for them. On the abolition of grants it says: Government grants to local authorities have always been a contentious matter. The more Whitehall contributes to the cost of local services, the more control will be exercised by Government Departments. The experience of local authorities when the new rate support grant was settled is a telling example of this. Therefore, we must ask a question which is a corollary of the major ones I have put. Does increasing the expenditure of local authorities in the form of a grant take away the independence of councils?

What is the purpose of the argument of the hon. Member for Worcester? If he says that we should have increased the grant, he is saying that he is against the declared policy of his party, he is saying it in spite of this policy that increasing grants is a contentious matter involving control from Whitehall, which I take it he disapproves of. What is the purpose of his contribution this afternoon?