Part of Orders of the Day — Non-Domestic Rating Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 6:43 pm on 13th January 1994.

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Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon 6:43 pm, 13th January 1994

I will ensure that my good colleague has an extremely sound answer to that question.

There was a sense of deep outrage in the House. The Opposition said that this was an abuse, and that the Government were arrogant. The Opposition were so indignant that, on a measure which was announced before the Christmas recess, they imposed a one-line Whip. That was on the money resolution. The outrage was enough to impose a one-line Whip.

That one-line Whip also covered the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, to which you will not wish me to refer, Madam Deputy Speaker. That Bill, too, was sufficiently important to merit a one-line Whip. At the end of the day, 59 Members summoned up the outrage to vote against the money resolution.

Then the Opposition banged on about consultation. Where are these frustrated petitioners? Where is the Institute of Directors, which appears to loom so large and so suddenly in the perspective of the Opposition parties? The Confederation of British Industry and the Association of Chambers of Commerce demanded access. Undoubtedly, even the Archbishop of Canterbury, with his rather agreeable mixed hereditament across the river, was pressing to make representations.

There was not a squeak, not a whimper, not a hint or a sound in terms of representations. [Interruption.] I have checked with my Department. How many representations did we get? We got no representations from local authority associations, the Associations of Chambers of Commerce or the CBI during the consultation period, because they were content with the measure.

Over the past few weeks, my hon. Friend and I consulted 62 councils on the rate support settlement. All those councils know that we had a wide-ranging discussion. Indeed, some have raised matters that go beyond the SSAs. Not one council wished to raise the subject of the business rate. That is the great crisis of confidence, and it is the great problem which all councils face. It is all fiction from start to finish.