HC Deb 01 March 1966 vol 725 cc1068-72
9. Mr. Allason

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the average sum paid by a domestic ratepayer in England and Wales in 1951–52 and in 1964–65, and the average percentage annual increase at compound interest over this period.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)

The average rate payment per domestic hereditament in 1951–52 was approximately £16 8s. and in 1964–65 £32 8s. 5d. The average annual increase at compound interest over this period is about 5.4 per cent.

Mr. Allason

Will the Minister give widespread publicity to that reply in view of the misleading statements which are circulating from some of his hon. Friends and candidates in order to make sure that people get the figures right?

Mr. Crossman

These figures from 1951 are interesting in themselves, but I do not think they are very important. The important figure, if one is serious, would be after revaluation, because they cannot be judged before then. I warn the hon. Member that if we were to take the figures from 1957 onwards the result of compound interest would show a considerable increase.

10. Mr. Well beloved

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give a general estimate of the impact on rates in the Greater London area due to the effect of the London Government Act.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Robert Mellish)

The average increase in rates in Greater London this year was 20 per cent., but my right hon. Friend cannot say exactly how much of this was due to reorganisation. Rising standards of service and some over-estimating were probably contributory factors.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is my hon. Friend aware that the London Government Act, forced through by the Conservative Adminstration, has had a disastrous effect upon the ratepayers of London?

Mr. Mellish

The whole working of the London Government Act is, of course, being watched by the present Government. It is much too early to commit the Minister to any change in the actual structure. It may well be that a future Government will have to look at the question of functions.

Mr. Lipton

Has not the time already come for the Government to stop watching and to do something about London government? One or two undesirable features have already manifested themselves, and, although we know they will be dealt with after the election, may we have an assurance that they will be dealt with after the election?

Mr. Mellish

Yes, but the Government came into power only in October 1964 and already the London Government Act had been implemented to the extent that the London boroughs had been constituted and elections had taken place. The Government felt, and rightly so, that it was quite impossible once again to change this enormous structure. It would be most unfortunate to London if any question were now to be bandied about that somehow the whole of London Government would be put into chaos.

12. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he now proposes to take to alleviate the burden of rate increases which threaten householders.

41. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now take steps, by legislation or otherwise, to increase the general grant to local authorities so as to reduce the burden of rates.

49. Mr. Boston

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he will publish his further proposals on rating reform; when the proposed legislation will be introduced; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Crossman

I would refer the hon. Members to the White Paper presented last Friday.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the Minister aware how delighted we are that he has given in to the pressure of myself and some of my hon. Friends? What is the cost of his proposals? Will he say when he would be prepared to receive a deputation from my constituency concerning rating, about which I wrote to him some time ago?

Mr. Crossman

I am always delighted to give pleasure to the hon. Member, even when the pleasure is caused by my implementing my own ideas. I will certainly consider receiving a deputation from him, although I should like notice of what particularly this one will be about.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in a constituency like South Shields some 3,000 households are likely to benefit from his rent rebate scheme and that we are delighted about it?

Mr. Crossman

Yes. I am aware that now that the rent rebate scheme has been explained its importance is seen. Two million families are benefiting, 75 per cent. of them pensioners. I am also aware that people feel that to pay 25 per cent. of the cost is a burden. That is why we had our second Bill, under which we are derating the domestic ratepayer to the extent of half the annual increase from the rates.

15. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give details of the steps he is taking to alleviate the general increase this year in the burden of local rates.

46. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he proposes to take to help ratepayers unaffected by, and outside the scope of, the Bill now before Parliament, who will be hit by rate rises this spring.

Mr. Crossman

Proposals for four major alleviations of the rating system are on their way to the Statute Book. First, domestic ratepayers are to be derated to the extent on average of about half the usual annual increase in rates. Second, empty property is to be rated. Third, all domestic ratepayers will be able to pay their rates by instalments. Fourth, rate rebates are being provided for 2 million ratepayers of limited means at a cost to the Exchequer of £22 million.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the Minister appreciate that in answering Question No. 15 he is being asked what alleviation it is proposed to grant this year? Does not his Answer, in fact, amount to nothing?

Mr. Crossman

No, it does not. I am curious to notice how the right hon. Gentleman now cannot even listen. This year, from April next, provided that the other place is convenient, there will be in force the Bill to operate the rate rebate scheme, which will give £22 million of Exchequer money distributed to 2 million families This is infinitely more than everything put together that was done during the previous 13 years.

Mr. Braine

Is the Minister aware that his colleague the Minister of Agriculture is seeking to force upon the Essex local authorities a higher proportion of the cost of flood prevention, which will have to be borne by the rates? This is in conflict with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. I do not expect him to give an answer now, but would he care to look into this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I regard that as a different question, but if it is put down I will certainly look into it.