asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has so far received from citizens of Leicester concerning the rate capping of Leicester city council.
My right hon. Friend has received about 75 representations about the rate capping of Leicester city council from Leicester citizens.
Has the Minister also received this morning 26,000 further representations in a petition presented to his Department on behalf of the citizens of Leicester, most of whom helped to ensure that last week all Labour candidates in the city increased their majorities and votes? Does he not recognise that central Government interference in the affairs of the city is a direct denial of local democracy and is disliked by citizens, however they would normally vote?
It is highly unlikely that the citizens of Leicester dislike rate capping, because Leicester's rate has been cut by one third as a direct result. Last year Leicester received some £9·7 million of block grant. As a direct result of rate capping it will receive £12 million this year. In addition, its urban programme allocation, which I have approved, is £5·4 million this year.
Will my right hon. Friend take not the slightest notice of the petitions, which were phoney and deliberately whipped up by the scaremongering tactics and campaign of the Leicester Labour party, which spent £61,000 last year on an anti-rate capping campaign and which to date has allowed £150,000 for an anti-rate capping campaign? Does he accept that in Leicester people want to be rate capped and that the Conservative vote, in fact, held up?
I thank my hon. Friend for his support. I am sure that the citizens of Leicester object to the use of ratepayers' money for political propaganda because of the way that it has been manipulated. On rate capping in general, I was glad to see that last night Sheffield city council at last faced reality and, against the advice of its leader, set a rate within the limit set by the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—and rejected a deficit budget. I only hope that the remaining——
Order. The question was about Leicester.