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Local Authorities (Tender Lists)

Volume 76: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to prevent local authorities from excluding on political grounds individual companies from tender lists for contracts for council projects.

The consultation paper on competition in the provision of local authority services issued on 14 February proposes legislation to nullify the imposition of such irrelevant conditions in local authority contracts or invitations to tender. Subject to the consultation, it is proposed to legislate in the next Session of Parliament.

That is welcome news. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Labour and Liberal councillors on the Peterborough city council have combined to try to blackmail legal firms by threatening to prevent them contracting for city council business if they have done any work at RAF Molesworth—or even if they are willing to do such work? Is that not a disgraceful abuse of councillors' powers and counter to ratepayers' interests? Should that practice not be made illegal? How soon can we expect action?

I agree with my hon. Friend that such conduct is totally unacceptable. That is why we have put our proposals out for consultation. I look forward to receiving my hon. Friend's support for the legislation in the next Session.

Why do the Secretary of State and his Back-Bench colleagues always want to legislate when local politicians take a decision with which they disagree? Why do they not let local politicians defend such decisions at elections and let local electors make their choice of the policies that they support? Do the Secretary of State and his Back-Bench colleagues act in this way because local Conservatives have no confidence in their campaigning ability?

The hon. Gentleman's proposition is absolutely astonishing. Is the Liberal party defending what Peterborough council has done? If so, let us proclaim throughout the country that that is what we can expect if more Liberal councillors are elected next month.