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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch): The hon. Gentleman has argued strongly for extra money for Glasgow, and has talked about not wanting a redistribution--a matter that I may return to when I respond to the debate. As he is reaching the end of his speech, may I ask him where he expects to get the extra funding? Will he follow his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), who, in a slip on BBC television, indicated that he would take it from the health budget?

Mr. McAvoy: I would recommend that we do not follow the example of the former Secretary of State for Scotland--the current President of the Board of Trade--who wasted £30 million of taxpayers' money on a private

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hospital. I ask the Minister--who may not have experience of the matter--to check the figures that show how much money was wasted in Scotland, never mind the United Kingdom, on the poll tax debacle. The Minister should not preach to us when there are examples of disgraceful waste in his own backyard.

Mr. Kynoch: I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman answered the question. He has given an example of a one-off cost, when what he is referring to is an on-going situation. How would he fund it year on year? Would the money come from health, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East said?

Mr. McAvoy: We will make sure that there are no more of these "one-off costs", as the Minister calls them. I can tell him that £30 million would keep Glasgow and Scottish local government going for a wee while.

8.24 pm

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate. I shall make a short speech, to allow other hon. Members to speak.

I was amazed by the introductory speech by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel), who pleaded with us not to pick on any Liberal Democrat councils and use them as examples of authorities in which there is either flagrant waste or services are not up to scratch. He went on to criticise Government expenditure and Government policy and tried to use the debate simply as a political ploy. I do not accept that. I have a list of Liberal Democrat-controlled local authorities and, if the hon. Gentleman is not careful, I shall start to read them out and describe some of the problems suffered by local people in those areas.

The hon. Gentleman said that we need better services at a lower cost. There was nothing in what he went on to say that led me to believe that his party's proposals would provide better services, and certainly not at a lower cost. The hon. Gentleman, who obviously lives in a Liberal Democrat dreamland, added that we need extra expenditure on a number of services, but gave the impression that nobody would have to pay for that extra expenditure. That is absolute and complete tosh. If there is to be extra expenditure on education, social services or any of the areas to which the hon. Gentleman referred, somebody somewhere must pick up the tab. He was dishonest, in that he was not prepared to say how much that tab would be and who would have to pick it up.

I am fortunate that I live in Ribble Valley, one of the most beautiful areas in the United Kingdom. I am also fortunate, in that Ribble Valley is a Conservative-controlled local authority. Our only problem is that we have the vast-spending Lancashire county council above us, and we must pay the brunt of our local authority council tax to that county council. I have no doubt that more will be said about that in the House on Wednesday morning.

The Liberal Democrats demand extra expenditure nationally, with the party's alternative Budget last year stating that its expenditure plans amounted to about£10 billion. That expenditure will have to be found through higher income tax. I know that the Liberal Democrats have grandiose plans, and that they want to

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introduce punitive rates of tax for those earning more than £100,000. Those rates of tax, however, will find their way down to those earning less than that amount.

We also have the delights of the local income tax to look forward to. I did not understand the hon. Gentleman's comment that the Liberal Democrats would be raising a lot from the local income tax, so that tax would come down nationally as one tax balanced with the other. I assume that, under the party's proposals, the council tax will be abolished and that the Liberal Democrats will not run the council tax alongside the local income tax. Therefore, all that extra money will have to be found.

I live in an affluent area, and local people would have to pay the local income tax. Some of the money raised in my area would have to be siphoned off to pay for expenditure in some of the poorer areas of the north-west, where there are specific problems and where extra money is needed. The Government ensure through the current system that money reaches the areas that need it. One can only imagine what sort of system the hon. Gentleman has in mind following the introduction of a local income tax.

Some people would argue that one Chancellor of the Exchequer is bad enough. But can one imagine what it would be like if we had a local Chancellor of the Exchequer in every town hall throughout the country?He would have to respond to Liberal Democrat councillors, who would be dreaming up grandiose plans for where they wanted to see tax income spent. That local Chancellor would then raise tax locally.I assume that that system would be an absolute nightmare.

Not only would we have a local income tax and other grandiose plans, but the cap that currently protects people from these technicalities would be removed. Councils could then go on a massive spending spree without any intervention from central Government, who would tell them, "Hold on. Local people need protection from those spending plans." That system would be an absolute nightmare.

Mr. Rendel: The hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to what I said about the need for greater accountability in local authorities. If local accountability is increased by means of a proper voting system, there will be no need for capping.

Mr. Evans: Good grief--are not talking about proportional representation, are we? That would enable councils to shunt off their spending responsibilities. No doubt they would try to make out that central Government were to blame--obviously, the Liberal Democrats would never be in control of central Government--while hiking up local spending. They would hide behind proportional representation, trying to gain power that was disproportionate to the votes that they were securing.It would be a nightmare.

On top of that, the Liberal Democrats would impose regional government, while signing away much of the power that we have at Westminster to Brussels. They are, of course, a federal party: they believe in a United States of Europe. That would be an absolute disaster. There would be tier upon tier of local government, hiding behind the word "democratic". The people would have to pick up the bill for all those tiers of bureaucracy, and there would be no improvement in services.

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I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Newbury did not mention businesses. For six years, I was a member of West Glamorgan county council. Before the introduction of the uniform business rate, local businesses used to trot along to the council year after year and beg it to take account of their spending plans so that the burden did not fall on them. They were trying to plan for the next 12 months without having the faintest idea how much they would have to find to pay their rates.

Many business people knew that the process was no more than a facade: they would make their pleas, and be ignored. It was like talking to a brick wall. Up would go the council and business rates--and it was particularly difficult for small businesses working on the margins to find the extra money from their profits or, if they were not making profits that year, from some other source.

The hon. Member for Newbury did not say what he would do to help small businesses. One thing that the Government have done is ensure that businesses can plan for the future: they know how much they will be charged. We must ensure that that system of rating is retained.

We know that the Liberal Democrats are big on bureaucracy. In Richmond, for instance, there are a good many extra committees: it seems to be thought that,just because meetings continue until 9 pm, 10 pm or11 pm, people in the area are being given a better deal, but we are aware that that is not the case.

Mr. Chris Davies (Littleborough and Saddleworth): Has the hon. Gentleman read the auditor's letter to Richmond council? Does he accept that what he has said is simply not true, and that the council was highly praised by the auditor?

Mr. Evans: I have also discovered that, according to the Audit Commission's January 1995 paper "Paying the Piper", £500 million of extra money could be found through savings if only best practice were followed.

Mr. Wilshire: Is my hon. Friend aware that Richmond council is pouring tens of thousands of pounds into opposing the construction of a fifth terminal at Heathrow airport, although all independent local surveys show that the majority of people support it?

Mr. Evans: I did not know that, but I am delighted that my hon. Friend has been able to share the news with the House and the nation.

The Liberal Democrats keep banging on about education. They tell the country that they will put a penny on income tax to pay for extra education services, but,as has been pointed out, they cannot guarantee that the money will be spent on education, just as we cannot guarantee that the extra £700 million or £800 million that is going to local authorities will be spent on it.On Wednesday morning I shall make an impassioned plea to Lancashire county council, asking it to follow the Chancellor's guidance, and I hope that as a result it will spend its budget on education.

The Liberal Democrats cannot even do their sums right. We need only add up all Littleborough and Saddleworth's education spending plans. Their education spokesman had to admit that the accumulated spending plans meant an increase of 2.5p, not 1p.

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