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?
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.
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—
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.