20. Mr. Robertson
asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the representations of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and other municipal associations in favour of the repeal of the de-rating provisions of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928; and, having regard to the unfair burden that shopkeepers and other ratepayers are bearing, will he take immediate steps to bring these excess profits tax-paying industrial concerns into full rating?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Before this Question and the other Questions addressed to the Minister of Health are answered, Mr. Speaker, may I put a question to the Patronage Secretary about the absence from the Treasury Bench of the Minister of Health, who has just been appointed? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is indisposed, that is another matter, but if he is absent because of other engagements it does seem to me that, so soon after his appointment, it is very desirable that he should attend to answer Questions.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. James Stuart)
I regret to say that the Minister has influenza.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend's predecessor gave him on 4th November.
Is it not a fact that the conditions of distress which de-rating was designed to relieve no longer exist, and is it right that the wives of Service men and 494 small struggling shopkeepers should have to pay full rates while other classes of the community are paying only part of their rates?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I think my hon. Friend might look again at the answer which was given by my right hon. Friend's predecessor about the difficulties of introducing legislation for making any change in the rating of this country at the present time.
Is it not a fact that ever since the war broke out we have been bringing in amending legislation to correct anomalies? Is there any greater anomaly than this one?