HC Deb 27 January 1992 vol 202 cc697-8
30. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he has any plans to visit Blackpool.

Mr. Chris Patten

I have no plans to visit Blackpool in the immediate future.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Chancellor aware that not so long ago I met a chap in Blackpool who said to me, "When you see that Chancellor of the Duchy, tell him that I want to give him a piece of my mind: not only is the poll tax three times higher than the rates, but I have lost my job, my wife has been waiting for an operation for two years, my daughter has lost her maternity grant through this Tory Government and my son has lost his income support—so when you see the chairman of the Tory party, will you tell him that I want to meet him to discuss this matter at the top of the Blackpool Tower?"

Mr. Patten

It sounds as though the high point of that person's career was his encounter with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to tell the gentleman that he might well see me in future as I shall be returning to the town in which I was born.

Mr. Burt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some three weeks ago I spoke to the business community in Blackpool, who expressed concern about the possibility of local government reform? One thing in particular that frightens the business community is the possibility of an elected regional assembly for the north-west, with powers to tax, which would inevitably be dominated by the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, to the detriment of everyone else in the area. Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to inform the House that that is certainly not one of the options for local government reform that he is considering?

Mr. Patten

We are certainly not considering that option, which would produce a further layer of government, another regiment of politicians, another army of civil servants and even higher taxes from a Labour Government; fortunately, however, there will not be a Labour Government.

Mr. Winnick

When the right hon. Gentleman next takes the opportunity to visit Blackpool, will he refer to the fact that according to the Government's own figures which have been supplied to me, 38 per cent. of all pensioners have incomes below £70 per week? Will the Chancellor bear it in mind that Labour is determined that justice shall be done for our retired people, despite all the smears, accusations and Government lies which come daily from Tory central office?

Mr. Patten

I very much agree with those Labour spokesmen who argued in the past that we should look, above all, at pensioners' net incomes. I would point out how much better pensioners have done under this Government than under our predecessor in terms of pensioners' net incomes. I would also point out how much their savings would be clobbered by the inflation that would he unleashed by a Labour Government's economic policies.

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