Bill Cash: What is more, I am trying to protect my ratepayers in respect of the very functions that would be taken from the district auditor under the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman should be a little more careful.
Bill Cash: My hon. Friend has made what I can only describe as a brilliant intervention. We are on the very pinhead of the Bill only a few miles from the constituency which I have the honour to represent. I have every intention of taking that matter up, especially as at least one hon. Member has received the most awful treatment from his constituency party. He has been kicked out on reselection—
Bill Cash: I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Schedule 1 would amend section 20 of the Local Government Finance Act 1982. It is important to understand clearly what section 20 does. It provides: Where it appears to the auditor carrying out the audit of any accounts under this Part of this Act—(a) that any person has failed to bring into account any sum which should have been so included...
Bill Cash: I am tempted to do so quickly because the hon. Member for Norwood will have interesting points to make. I should like him to refer specifically to what he thinks about the repeal of section 20, which deals with wilful misconduct. That puts Labour Members on the line. If they are prepared to repeal the provision and to allow local government expenditure to let rip, as councillors in Liverpool...
Bill Cash: Yes, indeed. I hope the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) will take into account in his summing up that some Labour authorities propose to do swaps of money to bail out other local authorities. Such action would be ultra vires. The cancer that is spreading throughout Labour-controlled local authorities needs careful investigation. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that...
Bill Cash: The hon. Gentleman says that the decision has already been taken by the auditor. He knows the true position. The auditor is responsible for examining the position and for forming a judgment. He then applies to the court, which makes the decision.
Bill Cash: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that point, because it reinforces my earlier point that the auditor must assess the position. If he comes to the conclusion that the case should go to the court, it goes to the court and the procedure continues.
Bill Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that that means that those local authorities have an absolutely clear idea about what they are doing? Every example shows that they have every opportunity to rectify their actions, because they are given warning after warning and negotiations are protracted. Does he agree that it is an absolutely clear-cut deliberate policy to undermine local democracy?
Bill Cash: Does my hon. Friend accept that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) has completed the circle for us? He has told us that trade union activity gives rise to breaches of law. Does my hon. Friend accept that it is the trade unions in Liverpool who have agreed to bail out the councillors and that that is where the problem arises?
Bill Cash: rose—
Bill Cash: rose—
Bill Cash: rose—
Bill Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that one needs go back only a few years to see cases—Tameside, Congreve and Laker Airways are examples—in which a Labour Government committed a series of unlawful acts?
Bill Cash: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Cash: The hon. Member does not like democracy.
Bill Cash: Would my hon. Friend not agree that it was open to the hon. Lady to have sought an excuse to withdraw from the Committee? Would it not be right for the hon. Lady to tell the House whether she did seek to be excused? Did the other members who were asked whether they would attend that Committee but refused do so as prescribed under Standing Order No. 117?
Bill Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not so much a question of the Labour party not being enthusiastic about serving on the Committee, as that the Labour party is deliberately ensuring that no one serves on the Committee? Furthermore, the Labour party's actions in this matter are similar to those that it is employing in other parts of the country and in relation to the debate on Friday, the...
Bill Cash: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
Bill Cash: Regarding the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), are not hon. Members incurring unreasonable cost for the petitioners by refusing to participate in the proceedings? Is not that a reason why they should resume their responsibilities? Why is it that the other hon. Members who have been nominated to the Committee have refused to take part in the...
Bill Cash: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are many occasions when our procedures are designed precisely to protect petitioners, and that many Opposition Members similarly wish to protect petitioners from time to time? It is because of the right of petition to this House, and the redress of grievance and the rest, that we have these procedures. They are precisely to protect those very people,...