HC Deb 18 November 1920 vol 134 cc2085-7
43. Major Sir KEITH FRASER

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that the Leicester County Council recently passed unanimously a resolution protesting against the practice of Ministers of Departments forcing upon the Council schemes which seriously add to the heavy burden of the rates without previously consulting the Councils concerned; and will he take the necessary steps to comply with their wishes?


asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that resolutions have been passed by the Mountain Ash and Aberdare District Council protesting against non-statutory grants being withdrawn and against further burdens being placed upon local authorities without those local authorities having a voice in the matter, and calling upon the Government to take steps to put an end to extravagance and waste, urging the necessity for retrenchment in public expenditure, and of a reduction of the financial burdens thrust upon local authorities by continuous additional legislation; and whether any action can be taken in this direction?


I am aware that resolutions to the effect indicated have been passed by local authorities, and the Government are fully alive to the importance of economy in local as well as in national administration. As was indicated in the Debate upon the Ministry of Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Grant last Monday, the Government propose to set up a Select Committee to consider in what way control can effectively be exercised in the case of Bills involving expenditure out of local rates.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Select Committee will have a right to examine into all methods of raising money for local purposes, and whether ground landlords have a right to escape taxation for local purposes?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers—


May I first have an answer to my question.


Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that local authorities are complaining of the expenditure forced upon them by the legislation of the Government?


I know. That is an old story—the conflict between local authorities and the Imperial Exchequer. I made full inquiry into that during the time I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were constant demands for further contributions from the Exchequer, and it was always a question whether the taxpayers or the ratepayers should pay. As a matter of fact it comes very largely out of the same pocket. The difficulty is this: If the reference to the Committee is too wide you will not get the Report in time for this particular Bill, and therefore it is far better to circumscribe the reference.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that great corporations like Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff have passed resolutions by enormous majorities in favour of power being given them to impose rates on land values? Will that be considered by the Cabinet as a separate question?


That is an absolutely different question. This is a question of purely Parliamentary procedure, but my hon. Friend is raising one of great magnitude in regard to the subject of taxation.


Is it not a fact that to collect a sovereign for Imperial taxes costs about 11s., where the cost of rate collection is only about 1s. in the £? Would it not be better to leave it to local taxation, therefore?