Local Government

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 5th December 1986.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire 9:34 am, 5th December 1986

No, I must press on.

Many of these councils have set out deliberately to challenge the authority of the Government in the financing of their activities. They constantly plead a shortage of resources and bleat to the press and their Members of Parliament while they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on police committees.

Those of us who come from seats in the north of England know that high rates and high unemployment go hand in hand. High rates are the mother and father of unemployment. I have recently come back from the Socialist-controlled Knowsley local authority, where I met couples living in ordinary, modern semi-detached houses with three bedrooms and a through lounge who were having to pay £900 in payable rates. Is it a surprise that, because of those high rates, industry has been driven out of places such as Knowsley and parts of the north-west? We know that industry pays the same in corporation tax as in rates, when taken as a global figure. This factor has to be taken into consideration when it comes to the location of a factory or the creation of new jobs.

One of the best examples of a challenge to Government from such local authorities has to be Liverpool, a local authority that is right on my doorstep and with whose activities I am familiar. In 1985, it deliberately chose to set a budget that would bankrupt the city and make 31,000 people unemployed. I would happily give way to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on this point, because he went up there to persuade that local authority to drop its ridiculous plans, but failed. That shows that many of these local authorities do not take the slightest bit of notice of the Front Bench of the main Opposition party, and if any members of these councils became Members of Parliament they would not take any notice of the Front Bench either. There would be constant confrontation to carry out genuine Socialist policies.

Liverpool council set a budget of £255 million on an income of £227 million. To create a crisis, it deliberately refused either to make any savings or take advantage of available Government moneys. In particular, thousands of pounds available under the community refurbishment scheme for three schemes in an area about which there had been complaints about the quality of council houses were not taken up. The council also did not take £1 million of urban programme location grant given to it by central Government under the inner-city partnership scheme. Despite its so-called housing crisis, it refused money for the Eldonian housing association that would have built 143 houses, in spite of complaints from the local community. I am pleased to say that my hon. Friend the Minister aided the community and the houses have since been built.

That position was condemned at the time as an artificial creation. Archbishop Warlock and Bishop David Shepherd condemned the activities of the Labour council in Liverpool in The Times on 1 October 1985 as "a deliberately manufactured crisis". The Liverpool Echo, in its editorial, said: Let's have no illusions about who is responsible for dragging the city into this disastrous situation—all the blame lies with the Labour council, particularly its militant leaders and militant allies in the Unions. We know that the Militant Tendency has control of the Liverpool council. But they are not the people whom we worry about. The people whom we worry about are those who do not join Militant but who are its sympathisers and friends—the Trotskyist sympathisers who vote with Militant on commitees, who sit with Militant members on Labour party committees and who vote into office such people as the chairmen of local council committees and Labour party officers in constituencies.

At the root of the problem, as has been pointed out by the Liverpool Echo in its editorial, are the unions. Do not let us have any illusions. In Liverpool that means the Transport and General Workers Union, operating from its headquarters in Islington, which provides the resources and the back-up in the constituencies to those Militant and Trotskyist sympathisers, who are the root cause of many of the problems that Liverpool is facing. The former Member for Knowsley, North, Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk, wrote in his book that he was aware that his removal was planned from the headquarters of the TGWU in Liverpool. It was the activists from that union who were behind his removal. They are working on the docks. As long as such people have control of the unions in Liverpool and the council, they will continue as they have been doing to drive jobs and industry out of Liverpool. The people of Liverpool must realise that as long as they have high rates and the trouble that such people bring, they will not get new industries. They will never attack the problems of Liverpool such as unemployment and there will never be an improvement in that part of the north-west region.

Mr. Hatton has now been removed from his post as deputy leader of the Labour group in Liverpool. But has he been thrown out of the Labour party? Has he been removed from his seat? No. He has been thrown out of the Labour party nationally, but Labour councillors in Liverpool still sit with him round the table, still vote with him and still recognise him. In his place they have Mr. Tony Byrne having removed Mr. Atkinson as the leader of their group. Mr. Tony Byrne is a Trotskyist sympathiser who has gone along on the coattails of Militant for years, along with Mr. Mulhearn and half a dozen others whom the Labour party has decided, for forensic reasons and for the sake of appearances, must be thrown out of the Labour party.

Those of us who live and work in the north-west know that until the Labour party starts throwing out thousands, it will never be able to rectify the problems in places such as Liverpool. There are 47 councillors, a number of whom have been thrown out of the Labour party in Liverpool, who are awaiting appeals on orders for disqualification. If the process is dragged out long enough and if the Labour party got into power, it would be able to pay the fines of such people as it is mandated to do by its party conference and restore them to their positions of power and influence in our town halls—positions which have led to much of the disaster that we are seeing in the London boroughs and in places such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester and other authorities.