HC Deb 07 April 1976 vol 909 cc411-2
11. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now make a statement on the Layfield Committee's Report.

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. I shall make a statement when the Report is published.

Mr. Ridley

Is the long delay due to the tardiness—with one notable and noble exception—of the members of the Committee, or to the Minister? Will the Minister give an undertaking that as we are to have no more than 3 per cent. pay rises there will be no increase in the rates? That would be intolerable next year.

Mr. Crosland

That supplementary question appears to go a little beyond the original Question. However, when the Report is published, no doubt the hon. Gentleman, along with other hon. Members, will have the goodness to make known to us their views on all the important matters which will no doubt have been discussed.

Mr. Christopher Price

Although my right hon. Friend has not yet published the Report he is no doubt thinking about it. Does he agree that, in a considerable period of slow or even nil growth in some services, it is important that we should have a more delicate instrument than the block grant to ensure that the Labour Government's priority policies are carried out by local authorities? Does he agree that this is the general object to be achieved when he is considering the Layfield Report?

Mr. Crosland

I seem to recognise the origins of my hon. Friend's question on this subject. He is concerned that when education targets are set for local authorities the amounts of money involved should always be spent. Whilst we want to carry out our policies, we must always search for the maximum degree of local authority freedom, and it is this balance which is difficult to discover.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Am I correct in thinking, from what the Secretary of State has said, that he does not intend to publish his own conclusions at the same time as the Report? If that is so, how long will it take for him to come to his conclusions, and when does he expect to do something about the rating system, which has been under consideration for so long?

Mr. Crosland

I cannot answer the second part of this question until the publication of the Report. The hon. Member is correct on the first part of his question. The matter is of critical importance for local government and the subject has been debated for the past 20 years. For the Government to announce hard and fast conclusions on publication would be foolish and irresponsible, and I have no intention of doing that.