§ Mr. Hayes
I thank my hon. Friend for his depressing reply. It shows that Hard-Left Harlow council is yet again surpassing itself in fleecing ratepayers. Not only is its grant-related expenditure 162 per cent. above the norm, but it is spending above the norm. It is the highest rating district—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Chope
In answering my hon. Friend's question, there is good news for him in the answer that I gave to the substantive question. Harlow's £50 million deferred purchase deal is caught by the Local Government Act 1987, I think rather to the surprise of that council.
§ Mr. Skinner
Why do the Government have two sets of standards for different institutions that engage in rescheduling debts? For instance, why should local authorities—mainly Labour authorities—be hammered into the ground by the Government for entering into arrangements to provide services, while the four top merchant banks have recently been engaged with the Inland Revenue, with the connivance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to offset debt payments of, in the case of Midland bank, about £1 billion? It means that, at the end of the day, the taxpayer will have to find £875 million to bail out Lloyds, Midland, National Westminster, and Barclays banks. Why do the Government have double standards?
§ Mr. Chope
The hon. Gentleman's question would probably be much better directed to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who told the House on the Third Reading of the Local Government Bill that clause 1, the deferred purchase measure, should be on the statute book. The official policy of the Labour party then was in favour of outlawing deferred purchase.