Orders of the Day — Rate Support Grant (Wales)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:04 pm on 15th July 1987.

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Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester 10:04 pm, 15th July 1987

I share completely the view of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) about the jargon of the rate support grant. When I was privileged to be the first-ever Secretary of State for the Environment—a position that I enjoyed immensely and that I found was one of the most exciting positions that one could occupy—the only thing that spoilt that position was having to deal constantly with the rate support grant. The only pleasure that I had in leaving that position was that I thought that at least I should never again have to deal with it. I believe that the unbelievable jargon of the rate support grant—this will doubtless cause me great difficulty in any coming negotiations—has been invented by the Treasury so that nobody can understand what is happening.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West asked me about a point about stability that was put to me when I had a meeting with local authorities in Wales last Friday at the request of the district councils. Of course, I should like planning arrangements that would give local authorities the maximum stability. In fairness to all of us who are involved in government, whether local or central, I should say that the reality is that we are happy with stability when the level of expenditure is to our satisfaction, but we are massively against stability when it is not.

One point that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) was housing problems. From previous experience I know that one of the problems of suddenly increasing expenditure on housing improvements is that the jerry builder comes in on a massive scale very quickly and a lot of bad work is done very suddenly. It would be better if such things could be organised on a more planned and arranged basis.

On the teachers' pay offer—the right hon. Member for Swansea, West said that it had been imposed—I believe that many people in the country would like such a pay increase to be imposed on them. That increase was provided by the Government and I hope that as a result of it relationships will be improved. All of us are constituency Members of Parliament and, over the years, meet teachers and visit our schools, and we have immense admiration for the great majority of teachers and for the dedicated work that they do for our children.

My hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) rightly referred to the problem of tackling surplus school places. It is not only a negative problem. As we all know from our constituency experience, the closure of any school of any description is unpopular with the parents whose children attend that school. However, we must weigh up carefully the costs that are involved in those surplus places and consider what that amount of money could do for education if it was better applied.