I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
"welcomes the Government's support for local government with its 33 per cent. grant increase in real terms since 1997, compared to a real terms cut of 7 per cent. in the last four years of the previous administration;
notes that the increase in council tax this year is set to be the lowest in over a decade at around 4 per cent. and the second lowest since it was introduced and is less than the increase in average earnings;
notes CIPFA's view that it will add less than £1 a week to average council tax bills;
further notes that the effect of the Opposition's policy to cut grant to councils and abolish capping would allow council tax to rise unchecked;
and looks forward to the report of the Lyons inquiry into local government funding which is due by the end of this year."
We have just heard a speech of breathtaking insincerity, surprising ignorance and shameless opportunism that told us a great deal about today's Conservative party. The Conservatives have conveniently forgotten their lamentable record in government and are displaying a staggering capacity for self-delusion about the responsibilities of being in government. They are playing fast and loose with the serious business of local government finance and are unforgivably trying to perpetrate a cruel deception on millions of elderly people by promising benefits that they could never deliver. Their latest electoral gimmick, for that is what it is, comes, of course, from the same individual who gave us the poll tax when his attention was last turned to local government finance. I intend to return with some relish to the Conservatives' record and their non-credible proposals.
We should put the record straight about the council tax in 2005–06. Who would have thought, after listening to Mrs. Spelman, that according to the estimates of the much-respected Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, we will see in the coming year the lowest council tax increases for 11 years and—[Interruption.] Wait for it; I have good news. Conservative Members will not like it, but they will hear it anyway. It is also estimated that that will be the second lowest council tax increase ever. Contrast that with the 16.5 per cent. increase in the last year of the poll tax, for which Mr. Howard was responsible.