Mr George Park: I agree with my colleagues who said that many hon. Members who have taken part in today's debate aimed their criticisms at the wrong target. Post office closures are one more facet in the illusion being created by the Government that they are determined to ease the burden of taxation. While the Chancellor of the Exchequer dangles the carrot of reductions in income tax, he is engaged in...
Mr George Park: Will the Minister give way?
Mr George Park: The Minister has got it the wrong way round. Did the Government say to the Post Office, "Your profits must be 4 per cent. instead of 2 per cent. and you must meet this?" From my correspondence with Ministers I have learnt that they said, "We set the targets and it is up to the Post Office to implement them." How could the Minister make representations after doing that?
Mr George Park: asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what effect he expects the text on budgetary discipline adopted at the Dublin summit will have on the spending priorities of the European Economic Community.
Mr George Park: Is it not a fact that the budgetary discipline document will do nothing to prevent agricultural expenditure from increasing as a proportion of the budget? Given the vast surplus in all farm products, is there any justification for such an increase?
Mr George Park: Will the right hon. Gentleman try to satisfy the House about the scheme's flexibility? The right hon. Gentleman just answered a question about land clearance from the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman). An application for land clearance was made in my constituency, in some parts of which there is 30 per cent. unemployment. We received a reply stating that, looking at the city as...
Mr George Park: Huh!
Mr George Park: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not know that I was the chairman of a local government finance committee for many years. I thought that I understood how local government was financed. That is why I said, "Huh!"
Mr George Park: Bearing in mind the De Lorean experience, will the Secretary of State say what the terms of reference will be for the Government-appointed director?
Mr George Park: What is the primary purpose of these reviews? Is it to save money, or to discover whether the services are adequate?
Mr George Park: asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from the local authority associations in response to his rate support grant proposals.
Mr George Park: Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State has had no support from the local authority organisations? What communications, if any, has he received in support of the proposals?
Mr George Park: Is the Minister aware that my constituency has one of those grain warehouses stuffed to the roof with food grain? My constituents cannot understand, and neither can I, why that grain should remain there when there is famine in Africa.
Mr George Park: On the question of consultation, is my hon. Friend aware that the first demands by the Government for staffing and financial information were issued to the county councils on 7 November, with a return date of 30 November? The Bill and the financial memorandum were published on 22:November. It is clear that the Government intended to go ahead, irrespective of what the county councils said.
Mr George Park: The hon. Gentleman will know from his experience of local government that the making of a rate is not treated lightly. Would he care to comment on the fact that there will be at least seven bodies with precepting powers and that, unless there is the prior consultation and agreement of which he has spoken, it would be quite easy for a local authority to have carefully arrived at a rate, only...
Mr George Park: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that similar statements were made by the Minister for Local Government about Coventry city council and that the Minister has had to apologise and withdraw his statements because they were erroneous?
Mr George Park: The hon. Gentleman should not make any assumptions; he should study his brief.
Mr George Park: Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that by the time all these quangos, joint boards and other devices are put into effect, 67 per cent. of the services now run by the metropolitan county councils will come under the Secretary of State's jurisdiction?
Mr George Park: How can the Minister reconcile that reply with the fact that at the same time in his Department applications are being turned down for derelict land clearance status, as happened in the case of Coventry?
Mr George Park: Do the civil defence responses referred to in the earlier question cover that aspect?