HC Deb 24 November 1964 vol 702 cc1058-60
5. Mr. Channon

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what reforms he proposes in the rating system.

6. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will take action towards relieving ratepayers of part of their rates burden and transferring the cost to the Treasury.

28. Mr. Gower

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he will take to reduce the burden of rates.

33. Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he porposes to take to lessen the burden of rates.

Mr. Crossman

As I stated in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) on 13th November, I would ask hon. Members to await the outcome of the Government's examination of the whole question of local government finance.

Mr. Channon

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when this review is likely to be completed? Will he recognise that there is a very severe problem which greatly varies from area to area and that there are people in certain areas who are hard hit while others in areas where there is a good deal of industry are not hard hit? As many thousands of ratepayers are deeply affected, will the right hon. Gentleman give this matter his urgent attention?

Mr. Crossman

Of course I appreciate the desire for speed which is shown on both sides of the House. I did not observe the same desire for speed when we in Opposition started pressing this matter in 1959, and year after year following that. All I will say now is that this is a very big job. We have been in office for four weeks. We are seriously undertaking it and we mean to do something serious about it, but we have to have time to consider an issue as big as this.

Mr. Gower

As the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues attacked the Conservative Government about rates, did they not then prepare an alternative plan, especially as their criticisms at that time Committee is already with the printers.

Mr. Crossman

The question of how we are to reform local government finance. not only rates, but the whole system of finance, is linked to the question of the reform of local government as a whole. Certainly we came into office with ideas, but at least we have the sense to ascertain the facts. For instance, I have only just received the Allen Report and I presume that the hon. Gentleman would like that Report to be studied before we finally made up our minds.

Mr. George Jeger

In his survey of the rating system, will my right hon. Friend include the subject of drainage rates in rural and semi-rural areas which rather unfairly hit people in areas which are being developed?

Mr. Crossman

I will take account of my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Corfield

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, when he says that we have to find the facts, that in 1959 it was impossible to appreciate what would be the effect of revaluation and bringing all the various hereditaments up to the same current value? Would he not agree that what he said in 1959 has nothing to do with the problem now?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving the reasons why we have to move rather more slowly on these things than some of his hon. Friends want. There are a number of factors to be considered, such as revaluation, and others coming out in the Allen Report. I have also to consult the local authority associations. There is a mass of work to be done and we have been just four weeks in power.

Mr. Shinwell

As a matter of interest and information, can my right hon. Friend say which party brought in the rating and valuation legislation which led to an increased burden on the rates?

20. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will call for interim reports from the two bodies inquiring into the rates and rating system.

Mr. Crossman

The Government are examining the system of local government finance as a whole and I do not think that it would be practicable to reach and publish interim conclusions about rating. The Report of the Allen Committee is already with the printers.

Mr. Digby

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it will take a very long time to print this Report? Could not the House be given the main findings of the Allen Report and could not we have some indication as to how this other inquiry is going along?

Mr. Crossman

I have been trying to trace the other inquiry which the hon. Member mentioned but I cannot find one. As regards the Allen Committee, this inquiry was a major job and I believe I owe it to the Committee and the House to let the House judge the Report as a whole and study it as a whole. To publish a four-page summary would be an insult to the people who have done this basic research on a very important problem.