§ 29. Mr. Jacques Arnold
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he next plans to visit the duchy.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Chris Patten)
I am chairing a meeting of the duchy council on 29 January and I plan to visit the county palatine on 7 March. I very much look forward to both engagements.
§ Mr. Arnold
When my right hon. Friend visits the county palatine, will he hold a meeting with tenants and perhaps point out to them that a standard rate of 35p in the pound, which was described as preposterous by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), was the rate levied by the last Labour Government?
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend is, of course, entirely correct. I believe that the last Labour Government but one put up taxes in eight Budgets. The last Labour Government put up the standard rate to 35p. The shadow Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), was a member of that Government. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary said with characteristic understatement:Dogs bark, cats miaow and the Labour party puts up taxes.
§ Mr. Grocott
Is it too much to expect that the Lord President, on one of his journeys away from the capital, will take the opportunity to apologise unreservedly to the people of this country for his gross error of judgment in imposing the poll tax? As that key area of his governmental responsibilities so far was such a monumental disaster, does he not think that people would be well advised in the weeks ahead to treat any of his judgments, prophesies or predictions with derision?
§ Mr. Patten
I shall certainly put that point to my right hon. Friend the Lord President when he comes to the 697 Chamber a little later to answer questions. Speaking for myself as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I am sure that it is a safe prediction that bills for local government services will be higher in local authorities where Labour is in control and that the standard of service will be lower.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
Would my right hon. Friend care to come to the county town of Lancaster to see how outstandingly well our schools, under local management, are spending their money now that they have been freed from an extravagant county council which never had the right priorities and always deprived our schools of the money that they should have had?
§ Mr. Patten
I very much agree with my hon. Friend that local management of schools has been a great success. It has given parents and teachers much more responsibility for running their own schools and has freed the schools from the dead hand of local education bureaucracy in many places.