HC Deb 23 March 1965 vol 709 cc297-8
9. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will assist local authorities to apply the Rating (Interim Relief) Act, 1964, by issuing guidance to them regarding the application of the Act in cases of hardship.

Mr. Crossman

No, Sir. The Report of the Allen Committee underlines the difficulty of giving a satisfactory definition of hardship. For the present at least, we must leave it to rating authorities to reach their own conclusions in the light of local circumstances.

Mr. Farr

A number of local authorities are having great difficulty in working the Rating (Interim Relief) Act, 1964, purely on the question of the definition of hardship. Now that he has the evidence of the Allen Committee before him on this very subject, would it be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to issue a small pamphlet of guidance to local authorities so that they can put this very useful little Act to better work?

Mr. Crossman

Whether the Act was more than a piece of political window-dressing is another question. A little pamphlet to define the Allen Committee"s definition of hardship would be an oversimplification of one of the most abstruse and learned Reports I have ever tried to read. I quote only one sentence from it which shows how difficult it was for the Committee to come to a conclusion: The mass of evidence we have had on hardship makes it clear that this is a relative and subjective concept; we received more expressions of opinion on what hardship is not than on what it is. On that sort of basis, the pamphlet would have to be either rather thin or rather large.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not what the right hon. Gentleman has just said support my hon. Friend"s suggestion that this is a subject on which he could be helpful to local authorities by, whatever the difficulties, helping them on the construction of this provision which, as he will appreciate, is of great importance to a limited number of unfortunate people?

Mr. Crossman

I will consider that, but the greatest help I can give is to hurry on with the reform of the rating system and of local government finance.