§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)
I frequently visit the County Palatine, and I expect to make more visits in the autumn.
§ Mr. Pike
When the Chancellor next visits Lancashire, will he get away from the wining-and-dining circuit, visit north-east Lancashire, look at the difficulties of people being unable to get housing grants and of the problems that will arise as a result of the poll tax? If he meets ordinary Lancashire folk, he will find that the Government have been a disaster for Lancashire. Will he use his office to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to do something about the problems?
§ Mr. Clarke
I wine and dine on quite a modest scale in Lancashire and meet many straightforward Lancashire folk. My experience of the county is that at present it is going through an extremely successful period. East Lancashire is experiencing one of the most sustained falls 781 in unemployment that the area has known for a long time. That is likely to continue as long as the British economy is doing so well.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the people of Lancashire take a very positive view of life, as he does himself? They resent Labour Members' denigration of a county that is flourishing. The only fly in the ointment is the high level of rates that has been levied since the Labour party took control of the council. Rates have almost doubled since it took over. Apart from that, it is a super county.
§ Mr. Clarke
I agree that Lancashire is proving especially successful in attracting new investment and jobs, even in the constituency of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike). The Burnley and Pendle development corporation has been doing very good work over the past two years. The fly in the ointment in parts of Lancashire has been the excessive spending of councils, which has resulted in high rates for local industry. Even some of the councils are beginning to learn the lesson.