HC Deb 20 February 1941 vol 369 cc278-80
15. Mr. Denville

asked the Minister of Health whether, in the case of State assist- ance to local authorities to enable them to carry on in war-time, such assistance will be by way of gift or of loan, and, if the latter, at what rate of interest; and whether he can give details as to what has been done in other directions or what it is proposed to do?

Mr. E. Brown

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 5th September last, in which it was indicated that assistance to local authorities needing it would take the form of advances free of interest, the Government retaining the right to call for repayment after the war in the light of the financial circumstances then obtaining, both in the areas interested and in the country generally. Directions have also been issued, under powers conferred by Defence Regulation, to reduce the amount payable under county council precepts by local authorities to which advances are being made.

Mr. Denville

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman will review the situation?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Sir.

20. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the growing financial difficulties of local authorities arising from war-time circumstances and the anomalies as between one authority and another that have given rise to resentment and inequitable financial burden, in certain areas, he proposes to consider the whole problem with a view to easing these burdens and securing a greater measure of financial equality among local authorities?

Mr. Brown

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my predecessor on 21st January to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara).

Mr. Sorensen

Does the right hon. Gentleman not hold out any hope for special consideration of this urgent problem? Is he not aware that many local authorities are disturbed about the position?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member will understand that the House and the country would be against the idea of putting this matter on a local basis. It should be on a community basis.

Sir Adam Maitland

In view of the number of Questions dealing with this and similar matters which have been put on the Order Paper, would the Minister consider holding a comprehensive inquiry into the whole subject?

Mr. Brown

I do not think there is any need for that.

Sir A. Maitland

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the subject is of such importance and is so widespread that there ought to be an immediate inquiry?

Mr. Brown

That view is not shared by the Government. Consultation about this question has been proceeding between the responsible parties concerned.