Local Government (Functions and Powers)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th March 1988.

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Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 12:00 am, 16th March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met representatives of local authority associations to discuss the functions and powers of local government.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I frequently meet representatives of the local authority associations in the Consultative Council on Local Government Finance and on other occasions, when the functions and powers of local authorities are regularly among the topics discussed.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Why do the Government find it so difficult to accept that elected local authorities, such as are represented in these associations, should have the freedom to act on policies which differ from those of central Government? Why did the Secretary of State in his recent pamphlet about local government refer to it conforming to the national model"? Does he think that that was the ideal for which his father or brother went into local government when they became chairmen of county councils, or is that the type of Tory paternalism that he wants to sweep away with the county councils?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Many councils do not conform to the suggestions that the Government make. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand that consultation is supposed to be two-way: local councils can listen to me just as well as I can listen to them.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

Does my right hon. Friend think that the imposition of an 18 per cent. rate increase by Lancashire county council was a justifiable use of its present functions? [Interruption.] May I repeat for my right hon. Friend—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. It takes up a great deal of time if questions have to be repeated.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

Does my right hon. Friend think that it was a justifiable use of the Labour-controlled Lancashire county council's functions to impose upon its citizens an 18 per cent. rate increase?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is within the powers of the county council to fix its rate, although one wishes that it had not put up the rates in that way. I very much hope that the large amount of money that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer put back into people's pockets yesterday will not be taken out again by Liberal and Labour councils.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he is a keen supporter of elected local government and that he will go out of his way to resist turning elected local councillors into mere openers of sealed bids for what is left of local services?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am a keen supporter of elected local government and that I am looking forward to seeing many Labour councils turned out at the elections in May. Birmingham may well be one of those councils.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Birmingham is on our list. The hon. Gentleman had better get back there and do what he can, if anything, to stop that. He need have no fear but that I will be there trying to get the Conservative councils in.