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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment 4:40 pm, 1st February 1995

The hon. Gentleman has asked me to give way "on that point" on several occasions. I want to make more progress and more than three lines of my speech would be reasonable.

The level of council tax is a decision for each authority and it will depend on the level of service that councils choose to provide, the improvements that they can make to efficiency and effectiveness and how well they can collect what they are owed. I am therefore not about to start predicting council tax levels.

I will not make such predictions because I have tried to learn from the Labour party. Last year—[Interruption.] The Opposition Front Bench spokesman should not make comments from a sedentary position because I am going to tell him what I have learnt. Last year, Labour predicted that—[Interruption.] The point may be short, but it is worth listening to. Last year, the Labour party predicted that council taxes would rise by 6 per cent. They actually increased by only 2.2 per cent. The Labour party was wrong.

Indeed, Labour was wrong just as, in three successive years, the former shadow Environment spokesman was wrong when he said that the number of teachers had fallen. He was only slightly wrong. He should have said that the number had risen. That is the difference. The trouble is that the Labour party constantly cries, "Fear!" and "Danger!"