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Local Authorities (Discrimination)

Volume 84: debated on Wednesday 30 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, pursuant to the answer of 19 November 1984, Official Report, column 3, he will make a further statement on any proposals that he is considering to prevent local authorities from discriminating against private companies for reasons which have nothing to do with the quality of their work.

[pursuant to his answer, Thursday 24 October 1985, c. 252]: The Government remain very concerned about the misuse of contractual powers by a few local authorities for political purposes. The hon. Member will recall that the Government have given commitments to legislate on this issue but analysis of the recent decision of the House of Lords in the case of Wheeler and Others v. Leicester City Council has led us to reconsider whether such legislation is necessary. Although that case was concerned with conditions imposed by a local authority in pursuance of a specific statutory responsibility, the decision fortifies the view that authorities which discriminate against firms on the basis of irrelevant political considerations do so unlawfully. The Government appreciate the practical difficulties facing a firm wishing to assert its legal rights in this area, but any new legislation would still require action to be taken in the courts by or on behalf of individual companies. It would seem that the law as it stands gives sufficient scope for such action.