HL Deb 23 February 1984 vol 448 cc846-7

3.10 p.m.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the estimated total of local government loans, et cetera outstanding at the latest available date, and what is the total annual interest payable on that debt.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the local authority sector in the United Kingdom had an estimated external debt of £36.1 billion at 31st March 1983. The interest paid on the Debt was some £4.2 billion in the financial year 1982–83.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for that information. It was a genuine seeking for information. I hope to use the figures in a debate shortly. Will the Minister not agree, in the meantime, on the basis of the figures that he has given, that he would save more money by a 1 per cent. reduction in the interest rate than by all the controversial rate capping now in progress?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I think it is understood generally that it is the central thrust of Government policy that we do everything we can to see that interest rates are brought down. Unfortunately, as the noble Lord, in particular, will know better than most, the factors are not always wholly within our control.