I have just one brief question to ask the Minister. I am very grateful for his very full reply on Second Stage.
Section 1 is a deceptively simple section. It is an enabling section and the simplest thing about it is the sum mentioned, £1,000 million. Is the Minister really satisfied that the statutory arrangements for transactions of this magnitude between local and central authorities are, at this point in time, adequate? As the Minister pointed out, when the scheme was initiated in 1935, the limit was £5 million.
Although he did not give us the information about the percentage of local government capital expenditure represented by £5 million, it is fairly obvious that at that time the scheme was intended as a sort of deficit financing for local government capital expenditure. We now have the situation that we are told that in 1973-74 the Local Loans Fund met more than 90 per cent of local authority capital expenditure. So we have a situation in which the relationship between the fund and the local authorities has been completely reversed. We have put a 500 horse power engine into a Model T Ford and we are still driving it down the road.
Would the Minister accept that there has been, if only by erosion, a major change in the financial relationship between the central authority and the local authority in matters covered by this Bill? Is he satisfied that the statutory arrangements which were originally devised in 1935 to cover the situation then express the reality of it any longer?