I should tell the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) that the settlements made by the Labour Government were not always favourable to local government. During their latter three years in office, rate support declined by 16 per cent. in real terms. The hon. Gentleman should not criticise what, on balance, is a great effort to assist local authorities to meet their obligations.
The settlement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has presented to the House is justified because there are disadvantages in many areas of Wales that merit the support that has been given to the Principality. The amount provided by the Government is a high proportion of the total required, which means that a smaller burden will fall on the domestic ratepayer. But my right hon. Friend will be aware that the collapse of some of the industrial fabric, due to our former dependence on a narrow industrial base, has created peculiar problems. His support for rates in Wales is amply justified when compared with the support that is given to many other parts of the United Kingdom.
We are all pleased to see the amount of support that my right hon. Friend has announced for the valleys initiative. It is one of the biggest contributions that he and the Government could make to improving the fabric of life in the worst-affected parts of Wales. Does he believe that the councils will be able to make adequate provision for the initiative out of the amount that has been allocated to them under the rate support grant? I want the valleys initiative to succeed brilliantly, but I believe that the local authorities may need even more support if that is to be achieved. This goes to the nub of the problem of running local government. Such an initiative cannot be accomplished by central Government alone. It will require formidable support from local authorities and other bodies.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that the settlement is helpful, and I hope that it will enable the authorities in Wales not to levy excessive rates. On some occasions there have been excessive rates. I hope that that will not happen on this occasion because it would not be justified.