Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Can the Minister comment on the balance in his settlement between the money that goes directly in the block grant and the money that goes for special purposes and as a reward for certain kinds of conduct? How is that developing, and what difference does it make to the percentage change?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Kris Hopkins): I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me; I cannot give him the percentage change, but I can give him some clear figures. For example, business rate retention by local authorities alone is some £11 billion, and as the Prime Minister said this morning, should a Conservative Administration be returned at the forthcoming general election, we would hope to increase that to two thirds.
Mr Redwood: The shadow Secretary of State is usually very fair-minded, so does he agree that the largest local authority service is education, which has over the past five years had cash increases and small real increases in spending, and that the biggest local public service is the NHS, as administered locally, which has had real increases as well? Were they not the right priorities and would not his party have shared exactly that priority of protecting health and education?
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): Indeed. If one looks back at the record of the previous Labour Government, one can see that that is precisely what we did. In fact, we increased investment in those two things as that reflects public priorities.
Mr Redwood: Did my hon. Friend notice the continued insult to England? The Opposition say absolutely nothing about allowing England to settle her income tax levels, but they want Scotland to settle theirs. They want Scottish MPs to come down here and help dictate to England our income tax while they Balkanise England and pretend that breaking it up into mock European areas is some substitute for proper devolution.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. The right hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record, but you will stick to local government finance, won’t you, Mr Neill?
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Indeed I will, Madam Deputy Speaker. As we consider the future shape of the United Kingdom, I hope we will have a genuine debate about serious devolution of financial responsibility to local authorities, but that is certainly not what the Labour party’s proposals will achieve.