§ 27. Sir WALDRON SMITHERS
asked the Minister of Health the total of the loan debt of local authorities in South Wales and Monmouthshire?
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
At 31st March, 1934—the latest date for which complete figures are available—the net outstanding debt of 2177 the local authorities referred to was £51,934,381, of which £36,476,898 related to housing, small dwellings acquisition and trading services.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
Have any of these loans been incurred without the consent of the Ministry of Health?
§ 28. Sir W. SMITHERS
asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the large increase in loan debt in South Wales and Monmouthshire, he will refuse his permission for further borrowing for a period of five years, unless it is a matter of urgency; and, before giving his sanction for further borrowing by local authorities, will lie have regard to the probable life of the area concerned as an industrial centre?
§ Sir K. WOOD
It is my policy, in considering applications for sanction to loans, to have regard to the financial position of the authority and to the industrial prospects of the area. In the case of local authorities with high rates whose financial position is difficult, loans are sanctioned only for urgent purposes.
§ Mr. J. GRIFFITHS
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that those loans are in part due to the effect of the Government's policy upon South Wales?
§ 29. Sir W. SMITHERS
asked the Minister of Health whether he will introduce legislation to amend Section 239 of the Local Government Act, 1933, in order to ensure that whether county boroughs elect a system of district audit or of audit by professional accountants the ratepayers of county boroughs shall have the same right of inspection and objection to accounts as is at present enjoyed by ratepayers in other areas under Sections 224 and 266?
§ Sir K. WOOD
Auditors other than district auditors do not possess powers of disallowance and surcharge, and the amending legislation suggested would not, in my view, be apposite. My hon. Friend is, no doubt, aware that rights of inspection are conferred on local government electors and other persons in county boroughs as well as elsewhere by Section 283 of the Local Government Act, 1933.
§ Sir W. SMITHERS
Is it not a fact that certain local authorities have a preference for one of these methods 2178 because it avoids publicity more than does the other?