On my right hon. Friend's behalf, I met the leader of Haringey council on 1 February to discuss with him my right hon. Friend's proposal to set a rate limit of 2140·69p for Haringey for 1988–89.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that during the past year proposals have been considered by Haringey council to employ a number of policy assistants for committee chairmen and vice-chairmen, at a cost of £143,000, I believe? It has sponsored a gay rights week, which it has been promoting in schools — sometimes primary schools — and has wasted a considerable amount of money in other sectors of Haringey's expenditure. According to a recent statement by a former director of social services, Haringey council is now run on such strong politicised lines that ratepayers are not receiving value for money in their local services.
My hon. Friend is quite right. What is particularly preposterous is that while all this activity is going on Haringey council complains that it is short of funds for legitimate services, such as the trading standards service. Haringey council would be well advised to devote its resources to the services that are most and properly needed.
Will the Minister say whether he has any hard evidence whatsoever that Haringey council is abusing its statutory duties with regard to schools or anything else? If he does not have that evidence, will he institute an inquiry so that the good name of Haringey council can be cleared once and for all?
I shall quote verbatim from the former director of social services of Haringey council, who said of his former employer:
Working in a borough as highly politicised as Haringey could be difficult. It's hard to accept a decision to spend thousands of pounds on a festival to make a point about nuclear waste, or even £60,000 a year on a cats' home, when you have 40 child abuse cases waiting for a social worker, and pensioners eight to a room in an old people's home".
I am extremely grateful for the solicitude of my hon. Friends about the suffering of my constituents and the Tammany Hall pork barrel politics that prevail in Haringey. I welcome very much the rate capping, which has brought some relief to my constituents, but the best way in which my right hon. and hon. Friends could help my constituents would be to undo the damage that their Department did to my constituency in 1964. They should dismantle the London borough of Haringey, restore the constituency boundaries and return to the annual election of one third of the council, which would concentrate the minds of councillors enormously.
I can well understand my hon. Friend's concern, but we have an alternative remedy to propose. The community charge will being home true accountability and will enable all the residents of Haringey to take a responsible attitude to local elections and to electing a responsible council in future.
Is the Minister aware that we deplore this abuse of Question Time for the purpose of making wild, dishonest and unsubtantiated allegations about Labour councils? Is the Minister aware that today the chair of the education committee in Haringey has denounced the allegations of his hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) as being without foundation? Why does the Minister not get the facts from the authority instead of listening to petty, malicious and dishonest abuse?
I can well understand why it causes the hon. Gentleman considerable embarrassment to listen to the truth about what Labour local government is really like. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that Haringey's former director of social services is dishonest, I hope that he will withdraw that allegation.