Orders of the Day — Local Government Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:42 pm on 3rd March 1987.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 8:42 pm, 3rd March 1987

The hon. Gentleman says that it is political propaganda. These are good services that the people of Ealing want and need. If the Government had not reduced the rate support grant and did not impose draconian penalty systems on local authority finance, the residents of Ealing would not now be facing an 80 per cent. rise, or whatever the increase will be, in their rates. Let us be clear about this. Local authorities which are given the choice will clearly attempt to maintain the existing level of services in their boroughs. It is wrong for them to be totally and continually castigated in this House and outside.

We have a major problem in Newham. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East summed it up in an excellent speech. There was a meeting with the Labour group, the Labour party and representatives of the trade unions on Sunday afternoon. My hon. Friend and I were there listening to our colleagues agonising over how they will meet the Government targets.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East has made the case that Newham is the second most deprived local authority area in Britain. We have the worst housing situation and the fastest growing level of homelessness in the whole of London. Yet we have been told by the Government that we have to make a 26 per cent. reduction in our rates and must reduce our expenditure by about £12 million from its current level. We are attempting to do that.

The Minister knows what the problems are. He knows from his own officials and from the indices in his Department that we are not exaggerating the position. How can the Minister honestly expect us in Newham to make the sort of cuts that the legislation will require us to make? It cannot be done without risking all the social disruption mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East. I do not expect riots on the streets of Newham, but already we have a multiplicity of deprivation in our part of east London. This will make it worse.

The Government may well say, "Why bother about Newham? After all, it is a Tory-free zone." We do not have any Tories on the borough council, but we do not propose to put up any posters at the approaches to Newham saying, "You are now entering a Tory-free zone." If one were being cynical, one could ask why the Government should bother about Newham because in electoral terms there is nothing in it for them. There is no way that the Tories will win any of the seats in Newham—Newham, South; Newham, East; Newham, North-East; or Newham, North-West.

In the name of social justice and social harmony, and in order to try to solve Newham's problems through the ballot box, through the democratic process, the Minister cannot now require us to impose the level of cuts that he proposes. Frankly, it is beyond our ability to make such cuts. He came round with us and saw the problems and I ask him again to consider the case that we made, fairly, coolly and objectively. If he does that, he will end up conceding that we have a case in Newham, and that despite everything that we have said about the Government and that they have said about us, on this occasion they will hear our case and make sure that we have the resources we need.