HC Deb 01 November 1938 vol 340 cc38-9
89. Mr. Lyons

asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the general apprehension felt at the increasing cost of local rates, he can now state what plans are in contemplation for bringing about stabilisation and eventual reduction in this local burden?

The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)

Local authorities have been requested to prepare and submit to me programmes covering the next five years, so as to secure that new capital expenditure is carefully planned and entered into with due regard to the general economic circumstances as well as the financial position of the local authority concerned. These returns have been somewhat delayed by recent events but are now being received. As my hon. and learned Friend will appreciate the level of the rates is primarily a matter for the several local authorities. Although increases have recently been made in many areas the general level is still below that of some few years ago.

Mr. Lyons

In view of the fact that the burden is now becoming almost intolerable in many industrial areas, will my right hon. Friend consider making some representations to all local authorities that they should not readily increase above the existing basis the present high rates throughout the country?

Mr. Elliot

The responsibility rests upon the electors who elect the local authorities.

Mr. Lyons

Notwithstanding that, will my right hon. Friend make some representations on the lines I have indicated in the interests of millions of citizens who now carry this heavy burden of rates?

Mr. Herbert Morrison

With a view to attaining the end desired by the hon. and learned Member, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the restoration of State grants to the local authorities, which have been reduced by the Government since 1931, and will he give the House some assurance that he is not contemplating the cutting and the reduction of the social services?

Mr. Elliot

I am glad to have an opportunity of doing that. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have seen to-day's newspapers. So far from thinking of cutting the social services, it is our hope to maintain them and, if possible, to expand them.

Mr. Morrison

In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House why he intimated only a few days ago that the Government were considering cutting the social services?

Mr. Elliot

I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman cannot have read this morning's "Daily Herald."

Mr. McGovern

Is the "Daily Herald" the Government organ now?