Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 17th June 1997.

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Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon 4:11 pm, 17th June 1997

My hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir P. Beresford) is rapidly talking himself into a position on the Standing Committee that will scrutinise the Bill. Perhaps that might bring his intervention to a somewhat premature end—it is always a threat that one can use. My hon. Friend is right. We need to examine carefully the implications of both clauses. Got right, the Bill could be a great help; got wrong, it could be a silly waste of resources. It is important to ensure that the Bill does not go badly astray.

In the normal course of events, when a local authority receives a supplementary credit approval, that would raise its credit ceiling in the housing revenue account and it could be eligible for subsidy. Will the Government follow that route or will they allow extra borrowing without increasing the subsidy? The Minister pointed out that local authorities will be eligible in the SSA system for increased allocations in relation to their increased borrowing. So that must be taken into account in the overall total that authorities will get under the revenue support grant.

The Minister covered in some degree the treatment of large-scale voluntary transfer authorities. She answered a question by saying that, as far as is understood, they will be left out of this. I will not resume our argument about whether need has to carry some sort of local authority badge to be real enough.

The Bill needs concentrated exploration. It is partly a smokescreen—the whole business of capital receipts is the clothing it wears, but the substance is a conventional credit approval mechanism. It is welcome that the measure should be linked more broadly to regeneration.

I will want assurances that it will not be a licence to local authorities to start building new council houses. We will want to ensure that the maximum amount is brought in from the private sector, because that makes great sense, and we will want to examine the measure in detail. At present, we have only the most flimsy detail. Because of that and because the Bill has been portrayed as something more ambitious when it is a fairly unambitious measure, we shall vote against it tonight and I invite my colleagues to join me in the Lobby.