HC Deb 19 November 1963 vol 684 cc787-9
15. Sir Richard Pilkington

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will make a statement on theprogress of the Allen Committee looking into hardship caused by the recent rate revaluation.

Sir K. Joseph

The Committee has made good progress in analysing the information already available and is treating the whole inquiry as a matter of urgency. Its field survey is now almost complete, but it will take some months to analyse the results, and the Committee has still to receive much of the evidence for which it has asked.

Sir Richard Pilkington

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there are people in real and acute distress over this matter? Will he continue to act as expeditiously as he can in this respect?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, Sir, but my hon. Friend will be aware that the Gracious Speech contained proposals the contents of which, when published, will, I am sure, be examined with interest by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister now saying that he proposes to take no action at all about relieving sufferers from the rating system until this Committee has finally reported?

Sir K. Joseph

No. It is well known, I think, that the Gracious Speech contains some interim proposals, but I stress that they are interim proposals only.

Sir C. Taylor

Will the Bill mentioned in the Gracious Speech be published before the Allen Committee has reported?

Sir K. Joseph

The Bill will be published fairly soon. The Allen Committee's Report will not be available until fairly well on into next year.

20. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Govern- ment and Minister for Welsh Affairs what action he has so far taken to deal with hardship in rate demands arising out of revaluation.

Sir K. Joseph

The Allen Committee has been appointed to assess the impact of rates on householders with special regard to circumstances likely to give rise to hardship. It will be reporting next year. As an interim measure, I shall be introducing a Bill shortly to give a measure of relief to householders suffering hardship as a result of exceptional rate increases.

Dame Irene Ward

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend is in communication with the county councils and county boroughs asking whether they will be prepared to assess hardship under his new Bill? Will he give a firm assurance that in the assessment of this hardship, people living above National Assistance will be eligible—that is to say, people in the range of those living on small fixed incomes, in whom I am particularly interested? May I have that specific assurance now?

Sir K. Joseph

As has traditionally been the case, local authorities are consultedin strict confidence on legislation which might affect them. I deeply deplore it, as I know they would, if any breach of confidence has occurred in this case. As regards the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I must advise her to await the Bill. Obviously, however, since people who benefit from National Assistance are covered already against increases in rates, legislation is bound to deal with the sort of people she has in mind.

Mr. Wade

If and when this much-needed relief is granted, will the cost be borne by other ratepayers in the same local authority district, by ratepayers in the country as a whole or by the Exchequer?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member must wait and see.

Mr. John Hall

My hon. Friend said earlier that he expected the Report of the Allen Committee next year. Can we expect to have it early in the new year? My constituents who have been hard hit by the revaluation are vitally interested in this Report.

Sir K. Joseph

No. There is no hope of an early report from the Allen Committee. My hon. Friend must wait for the interim measure which is proposed.

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