HC Deb 20 January 1982 vol 16 cc273-4
15. Sir William van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the extent to which local authority pay settlements so far agreed will affect the rate demands of these authorities.

Mr. Heseltine

I cannot know how individual local authorities will budget for wage settlements already agreed. Nor can I know what judgment they will make of forthcoming settlements. If their views of forthcoming pay settlements are excessive the Government will look to local authorities to make the economies necessary to keep within their cash spending targets.

Sir William van Straubenzee

Is it not, nevertheless, the case that restraint in wage demands has a direct effect on the eventual outcome for the hard-pressed ratepayer? Will my right hon. Friend keep that constantly before the general public?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Restraint in wage settlements will, of course, help the ratepayer. Moreover, it will actually help those employed by local government, as the more modest the settlements, the greater the number of people who will be employed.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I find that most of my constituents favour cuts in expenditure, provided that the Government set an example. They object to the Government seeking cuts in public expenditure when people such as the chairman of British Rail receive increases of 25 per cent.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only yesterday the hon. Gentleman drew my attention to the fact that a question was irrelevant. He has not even asked a question yet. He has been making a statement.

Mr. Lewis

I was following up the reply to the previous supplementary question relating to wages, Mr. Speaker. Relevant to that, will the Secretary of State ensure that Mr. De Lorean and others receiving public funds are also told to cut their expenditure?

Mr. Skinner

Sort that out.

Mr. Heseltine

I shall do my best to sort that out by referring the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I shall relate my question entirely to local government, Mr. Speaker, for very good reasons. Does my right hon. Friend agree that although local authority wage settlements have a direct relation to the level of rates, the paramount factor is the efficiency of local authorities and their co-operation with the unions in their sector? Will he give an assurance that councils such as the Macclesfield borough council, which has not increased its precept on the ratepayers of the area for four years and will not do so this year, will not be penalised by high-spending authorities, as it has been in the past?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will know, as he supported the measures that we introduced, that low-spending authorities are now not penalised as a consequence of the penalties that we have to apply to high-spending authorities.