HC Deb 27 June 1979 vol 969 cc419-20
5. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many circulars his Department has issued since 16 May.

Mr. Heseltine

Three circulars to local authorities have been issued by my Department.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Minister remember 13 May, when during the debate on the Queen's Speech he assured the House that no circulars would be issued unless they contained a clear statement of the financial and manpower implications to local authorities? Does he remember that the day after that he issued a circular to local authorities about the sale of council houses and flats which contained not a scintilla of detail about the financial and manpower implications of that circular? Will he stop misleading the House and start telling the truth. [Hon. Members: "Withdraw"]

Mr. Heseltine

The Government are responsible for initiating a wide dialogue with local autthorities, some in the form of numbered circulars, which I described in the answer that I gave to the hon. Member, and others in the form of circular letters—which I was not describing. I am grateful to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to what may be an absence of control over the profligacy of central Government. I shall certainly take his advice and look at the matter urgently.

Mr. Speaker

For the sake of the record, I must say that all right hon. and hon. Members speak the truth.

Mr. Temple-Morris

My right hon. Friend has spoken of the rural areas. Has he issued any circulars on the distribution of the rate support grant to those areas, bearing in mind his acknowledged concern? Is my right hon. Friend willing not only to go no further in adversely affecting the deprivation in rural areas with the rate support grant but to give some positive help by way of distribution to the rural areas?

Mr. Heseltine

I have issued no circulars on this issue. It is a matter for consultation with the local authority associations. I cannot at this stage tell the House that I shall be able to move significantly to reverse the trend of the recent years because of the time constraints. But certainly we shall not be proceeding any further in the direction chosen by the previous Secretary of State.

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