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Local Taxation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 4th July 2005.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative, Lancaster and Wyre 6:20 pm, 4th July 2005

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to speak. I thought that it was important that I should do so when my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) and for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mr. Crabb) decided to allude to the record and the progress of the Liberal Democrats in coalition in that part of the United Kingdom. I thought that I could bring my experience to the House from the Scottish Parliament, where the Liberal Democrats have been in power for nearly seven years now, with the Labour party. I thought also that it might be interesting and important to translate rhetoric into reality under the Lib Dems.

Anyone with experience of the Lib Dems in power, either in a local authority or an Administration, as in Wales or Scotland, will find that that reality is different from the stated policy aims of their party. As I said to Jo Swinson, when the Lib Dems came into power with the Labour party in Scotland, one of the first things they did was to vote to increase the business rate. Under the current system they made Scotland less advantageous as a country in which to settle a business than the other countries of the United Kingdom. That shows clearly that there is a difference between what the Lib Dems say and what they do.

In neither of the coalition documents—the documents set down, first, with Donald Dewar, a former Member of this place, and with Jack McConnell, the First Minister of Scotland—did the Lib Dems ever raise the unjust system of council tax and the demands to reform it. That campaign was not part of those documents. Interestingly enough, the Lib Dems wanted to reform the voting system for local authorities. Clearly it was more important to get themselves into power first before they tackled incomes and the difficulties for people in terms of council taxes.

I represented the north-east of Scotland—Aberdeenshire—where I was under a Liberal Democrat council. Many Members may remember that during the recent general election the Liberal Democrats campaigned on local issues, including saving bus services. The Lib Dem candidate whom I faced campaigned to prevent Lancashire county council from cutting bus services, even though the council was under Labour control and it was not going to cut bus services. Under the Lib Dem administration in Aberdeenshire, school bus services were cut. There we go again. We also saw our council tax raised to a higher and higher level every year. It is important to contrast rhetoric with reality.

There is talk of free personal care. The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire laid claim once again to that, but it is important to note that the Liberal Democrats voted on two separate occasions in the Scottish Parliament against free personal care.