HC Deb 11 February 1991 vol 185 cc606-7
30. Mr. Pike

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he proposes to make an official visit to Ribble Valley when he next visits the county of Lancashire.

Mr. Chris Patten

My plans to visit the Ribble Valley are at present under review.

Mr. Pike

I am sure that they are. The Chancellor may find himself there in the not too distant future and I assure him that he will encounter widespread concern throughout the constituency about the present level of interest rates. That concern is felt by mortgage payers, industrialists and farmers, all of whom are being squeezed unbearably as a result of current Government policy. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure them that something will be done to bring down interest rates as early as possible?

Mr. Patten

Should I be required in the Ribble Valley in the reasonably near future, what I will find is, first, an excellent Conservative candidate; secondly, widespread concern about the spending of Lancashire county council; and thirdly, I am sure, a widespread understanding of the importance of getting on top of inflation, however difficult that may be in the short term.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend realise that I recently visited Ribble Valley and found the position to be just as he described it? The people there are looking forward to my right hon. Friend's visit and he will be cheered through the valleys.

Mr. Patten

I am always delighted to follow in my hon. Friend's footsteps, larger than mine though they may be.

Dr. Cunningham

Is not it typical of the Conservative party that the Tory candidate for Ribble Valley came third in the Pontypridd by-election, although he is Welsh?

When the Chancellor visits the north-west, what will he have to say to the 19,000 people who have lost their jobs in the past six months in that region as a result of the failures and mismanagement of the economy for which the present Government are responsible? In particular, what will he have to say to the 3,000 workers at British Aerospace in Preston who face redundancy and a bleak future because of the Government's industrial and economic failures?

Mr. Patten

I seem to recall that our candidate for Ribble Valley did rather better than the Opposition's candidate at his last outing with the electorate in the Neath by-election. I am sure that the work force and management at British Aerospace know that they have a much better future under a Conservative Government than they ever would have under a Labour Government, given, not least, the Labour party's plans for defence spending. I shall also be able to point to the large number of jobs and small businesses created in the north-west under this Government during the last few years, difficult though present circumstances may be.

Mr. Hind

When my right hon. Friend visits Ribble Valley, will he draw it to the attention of the people that their local education authority, Labour-run Lancashire county council, is holding back £150 million of revenue money from schools, many of which are locally managed, to the detriment of the education service? Will he also tell the people of Ribble Valley that it is time that Lancashire county council dismantled its central authority so that schools can be improved and the money put where it is needed—in the classroom?

Mr. Patten

I much sympathise with my hon. Friend's remarks. As I recall it, Lancashire county council's spending has increased by over 20 per cent. this year. Heaven alone knows where all that money is going.