§ 25. Mr. Spriggs
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the increased domestic rate demands which many local government authorities are required to make; and if he will make a statement about the future of local government financial structure.
§ 29. Mr. Lipton
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs to what extent rateable values of house property will be increased next year when the new valuation lists come into effect.
§ 32. Mr. Cooper
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what review is at present being undertaken concerning the problems of local government finances.
§ 55. Mr. J. Hynd
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what estimate he has made of the average increase in the rates payable by tenants of domestic properties as a result of the impending re-rating proposals.
§ 64. Mr. J. Griffiths
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he is aware that the continued effect of the transitional and rate deficiency grants under the existing Statute together with the burden of high interest rates have caused an increase in the rate levied by local authorities; and, in order to alleviate this burden, if he will take steps to review the block grant system.
There are two aspects.
Increases in pay and other expenses necessitate increases in the general grant. In a few days I hope to lay an interim order to authorise agreed increased payments before the financial 191 year ends. A further order later will include these increases and others as well and bring them all before the House in one document.
Concern has been expressed at the possible increase in the share of rate burden borne by householders at the revaluation in 1963. I am empowered to make a derating order if necessary, and I have naturally been studying the position with care. I must first make an order for a new scale of deductions from gross to rateable value to take account of current costs of repair. With account taken of these altered scales and of the increased rate-deficiency grants which will result from the revaluation, there is on the draft figures for the country as a whole no likely increase at all in the householders' share of the rates, and consequently no case for a general order. The position in the several county and county borough areas of course varies to some degree. When the study and consultation is complete, I hope to lay a White Paper with detailed figures.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
On a point of order. May I ask whether my Question No. 70 was included in the list, and, if not, why not?
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not hear it included. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's question as to why it was not included.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Will the Minister tell the House whether he has made an estimate of the percentage responsibility of the industrial rate burden which domestic ratepayers will have to bear? In view of the financial difficulties which local government finds itself in, is he prepared to take steps other than those which he has stated? Most of us here and in the country appreciate the good services which we are getting as ratepayers. This has nothing to do with the principle of the services which we receive. What is the Minister prepared to do about the matter?
I have made clear to the House in a preliminary report that as a result of revaluation, and bearing in mind the changed allowance for repairs and the rate deficiency grant, householders as a whole all over the country will not sustain an increased proportion 192 of the rate burden. With regard to the figures concerning the other groups and the breakdown area by area, I ask the House to await the detailed study which is now proceeding and which I will report to the House in full in due course.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Does the Minister realise that Llanelly is facing very great industrial difficulties? There are now 1,000 more unemployed than there were a year ago. For the reasons set out in Question No. 64, householders in Llanelly are faced with a rate increase of 5s. 2d. in the £. The rate is to rise from 26s. to 31s. 2d. This is in a town in which a large proportion of the people are owner-occupiers and are unemployed. What does he propose to do in the meantime to assist towns affected in this way?
The rate deficiency grant is the arrangement approved by Parliament for helping in appropriate circumstances those areas where the rateable value per head of the population is below the average for the country as a whole.
§ Mr. Lipton
Although the right hon. Gentleman tried, not unsuccessfully, to wrap up in a vast mass of verbiage the fact that he has not answered my Question, is it not obvious by now that the domestic ratepayer is in for a very hefty smack in the eye in 1963, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say? The fact that the ratepayer is in for a smack in the eye—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Lipton
Is it not clear that the fact the ratepayer is in for a smack in the eye, as I have suggested, will lead to a very considerable extension of the derating powers to which the Minister attaches so much importance?
I will not compete with the hon. Gentleman in verbiage, but I informed the House—I hope in simple and clear terms—what the first findings are from the valuation by the Inland Revenue. Contrary to expectation, the percentage of the total rate burden borne by householders over the country as a whole will not rise. That is the extent to which I am making a statement today.
§ Mr. Spriggs
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Temple
On a point of order. I was half-way through my supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, when I was interrupted by a point of order. Would it be in order for me to complete my supplementary question?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that I cannot accept so accurate a computation at the beginning of sounds projected at me. In the circumstances, I think that the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) was starting his point of order first.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to that point of order. It has frequently been held that giving notice of an intention to raise a matter on the Adjournment is not, strictly speaking, a point of order at all, though no doubt it is a convenient way of announcing the intention. As in this case the notice was given in the middle of a supplementary question being asked by the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple), would it not be fair, Mr. Speaker, to allow the hon. Member to ask his question?
§ Mr. Speaker
I must act on the impression I get, which will not always be strictly accurate, of what happens first. In this case I thought that the beginning of the notice, although it began with the words, "On a point of order", happened first and I shall have to abide by that, even if I was wrong.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Further to that point of order. Am I mistaken, Mr. Speaker, in believing that you called the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and that he had started his supplementary question?
§ Mr. Speaker
This only goes back to the same point. Whether my calling the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) happened before or after 194 the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) making his appropriate noises, I simply have to exercise my best judgment.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Further to that point of order. The Minister answered a number of Questions together. He asked the permission of the House to do so. Hon. Members whose Questions are amongst that bunch will have no opportunity of asking supplementary questions. In these circumstances, would you not think it desirable to allow them to do so now?
§ Mr. Speaker
This point does not arise, because each of the hon. Members who had Questions down and are present asked a supplementary question.