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Mr. Blunkett : How does the hon. Lady square what she has just said with her comments a few moments ago about how the poll tax would increase accountability? How does she square what her Government have done in terms of rate-capping Ealing and imposing a 25 per cent. reduction in its rate and the attacks that have been made by her colleagues by rate-capping a number of authorities over the past five years with the notion that those authorities that have been rate-capped and have had their expenditure and rate limits fixed by the Government are somehow to

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blame for what the Government have done? Surely accountability lies not with those authorities and their elected members but with the Government.

Mrs. Bottomley : We have made it clear that we hope we shall not have to use charge capping. For many years, local authority citizens have been desperate about their exorbitant rates. It is necessary for Government to intervene. It is not, of course, a first choice and the purpose of the community charge is to have a more direct relationship between the provision of services and payment for them.

Many other hon. Members have made distinguished contributions tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) spoke at length about his authority. We hope to simplify the way in which needs are assessed. I hope that my hon. Friend will take some reassurance from the fact that my Department earlier today discussed the issue of rural deprivation and the Association of District Councils referred to tourist resorts during this week. We are looking at all those questions and our aim is to achieve a simple and fairer system.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) referred to the London situation following on from the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton. We do not need to spell out further the importance of providing effective and efficient services. It is not a good enough excuse to say that London's problems are overwhelming and that nothing can be done. There are great contrasts between the provision of services in different areas. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has often said, efficiency should be the ally and not the enemy of compassion. The needs may be great- -and none of us would dispute that--but that is no excuse for not providing for those needs effectively and efficiently.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) referred to his local authority as one of the best councils in the land. Some hon. Members may dispute that, but once again he referred to the difficulties of success. As the rateable values have risen, he has gained less grant. The system in future will do away with that. The hon. Members for Leeds, Central and for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) referred to the position in Leeds. It was claimed that Leeds would lose £7.3 million. That is quite wrong. Leeds will save about £12 million a year because the Department of Education and Science is paying for polytechnic education. There will be £5 million extra in net terms from the Government to finance services. If it spends in line with our assumptions, rates need rise no more than 4 per cent. Mr. Fatchett rose--

Mrs. Bottomley : My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) referred to the situation in Derbyshire. It would be difficult to find a better contrast between the efficient and effective distribution of services and the wasteful and the profligate. His specific, clear and well-documented examples, put humorously, made his point powerfully.

Mr. Matthew Taylor rose--

Mr. Fatchett : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : I hope that it is a point of order and not a point of argument.

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Mr. Fatchett : Is it in order for the Minister to give information in this debate which is inconsistent with a parliamentary reply given on 12 December to which my hon. Friend--

Mr. Speaker : Order. That is not a point of order for me. The Minister must take responsibility for what she says.

Mr. Fatchett : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister is providing the wrong information.

Mr. Speaker : Order. The Minister must take responsibility for what she says.

Mrs. Bottomley : My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) also contributed to the debate. The behaviour of the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) brought a poor name to this House and his philosophy of extremism and disruptive divisiveness also gave a bad name to local government.

I appreciated the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) failed to say that next year Brent will receive £19 million more than this year. It could reduce its rates by 13 per cent. if it spent in line with inflation.

Reform of the grant system will assist accountability. The present RSG distribution is complicated and many hon. Members have complained about the difficulties involved. The basic and fundamental role of local government is to ensure the provision of services locally that are best provided locally. The task is to serve the public wherever it is best served.

The changes facing local government are wide-ranging. They are not an attack on its powers or its rights. The changes are designed to meet a constantly changing pattern of need for services in a constantly changing economic environment.

Sadly, the Opposition will oppose this final rate support grant order. They show few signs of understanding that we are moving from Government control to effective decision-making by local people, backed by local voters and the local councillors whom they elect. The real choice is a democratic choice ; a local choice. Our choice tonight is to grant £1,100 million --9 per cent. more--to local authorities. The House should support it.

Question put :--

The House divided : Ayes 257, Noes 203.

Division No.40] [9.59 pm


Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Allason, Rupert

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Batiste, Spencer

Bendall, Vivian

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Body, Sir Richard

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brazier, Julian

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Browne, John (Winchester)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butcher, John

Column 576

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Cash, William

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Churchill, Mr

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cormack, Patrick

Cran, James

Critchley, Julian

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dickens, Geoffrey

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Emery, Sir Peter

Fallon, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fishburn, John Dudley

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Fox, Sir Marcus

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Gregory, Conal

Grylls, Michael

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heddle, John

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Holt, Richard

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas

Irvine, Michael

Irving, Charles

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knowles, Michael

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman

Lang, Ian

Lawrence, Ivan

Lee, John (Pendle)

Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Luce, Rt Hon Richard

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)

Madel, David

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Mawhinney, Dr Brian

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Mellor, David

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Moate, Roger

Monro, Sir Hector

Morrison, Sir Charles

Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Mudd, David

Neale, Gerrard

Needham, Richard

Nelson, Anthony

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Oppenheim, Phillip

Page, Richard

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Patten, Chris (Bath)

Patten, John (Oxford W)

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Pawsey, James

Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

Porter, David (Waveney)

Portillo, Michael

Powell, William (Corby)

Raffan, Keith

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Redwood, John

Renton, Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Riddick, Graham

Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Roe, Mrs Marion

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Rowe, Andrew

Rumbold, Mrs Angela

Ryder, Richard

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