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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:40 pm on 26th July 1983.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester, Gorton 5:40 pm, 26th July 1983

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is very loyal to Mr. Tweedie. Mr. Tweedie goes on: Here in Hammersmith and Fulham … our estimates for 1983–84, recently circulated by the Director of Finance, include such items as provision for the expenditure of no less than £670,000 on 'children's play', of which £512,000 is made up as revenue estimates for the salaries and wages of those involved in the play arrangements.Surely it must be a good idea for local authorities to cut back in such areas, which are really not essential, if by so doing inflation is curbed and the currency stays sound. I wonder what the prudent and frugal councillor Tweedie would say about one council which, the week before last, laid on a special works session at a luxury hotel for 35 of its councillors and officials. They started off with a snack lunch. Their talks were later adjourned for afternoon tea. More talks, and then a buffet dinner from which they could choose seafood salad or cider fruit cocktail, followed by roulade of ham, terrine du chef and a choice of four other main dishes, each served with a choice of asparagus tips, devilled bito and goujons of sole tartare. They finished off with sherry trifle and coffee, and the meal was accompanied by various wines costing £63 a case. No doubt those refreshments assisted them in their deliberations, the subject of which was what services would have to be axed or reduced, in order to accommodate the government's latest round of cash cuts to local authorities. The local authority concerned was councillor Tweedie's Tory-Liberal-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, although, sadly, councillor Tweedie was not important enough to be invited—;just a trifle, no sherry.

The chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham's housing committee described this day, spent at the Cunard international hotel, as "a very useful exercise", and the council has found some aspects of expenditure to cut. For example, it has just started charging £5 a week for the home help service to people receiving attendance allowance, such as people like Queenie Calcott, who is paralysed in a wheelchair following a brain haemorrhage. The cost of the councillors' outing at the Cunard international hotel would pay her home help bill for two years.

That is what the debate is all about. It is not about financial control. Local authorities control their expenditure more efficiently than the Government do. It is not about overspending— none of these authorities has overspent a penny. It is about humanity, service and local democracy. The Government have spent four years trampling local democracy underfoot. They have now acquired a new supply of Lobby fodder that will tonight obediently vote, first, to put right last year's injustice and then to inflict this year's injustice. I call on my right hon. and hon. Friends to register their protest and their disgust in the Division Lobby.