HC Deb 16 December 1970 vol 808 cc1341-2
33. Mr. Kinsey

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further representations he has received concerning the levying of rates on empty property; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Graham Page

My right hon. Friend has received a few representations on this subject, almost equally divided between those for greater stringency and those for greater flexibility than in the existing statutory provisions. We are examining this matter in the current review of local government finance.

Mr. Kinsey

Is my hon. Friend aware that I am delighted with that reply because of the difficulties that local authorities face in dealing with this problem? Authorities are anxious not to hit house building but would like to see flexibility exempting bonus—but they do not want to see void shops and office property in their areas not having rates levied on them. Will he be examining this question of void shops with no fronts to them and the need for a better definition?

Mr. Page

We believe that the locally-elected authorities are the best people to decide whether or not to adopt these procedures in their areas.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable point in drawing a distinction between the two different types of property? Since only 95 councils have used their permissive powers, will he make it compulsory for them to charge full rates and not half-rates?

Mr. Page

No. There is no intention of making this compulsory. As I said, we believe that the local authorities are the best people to judge whether or not this is required in their areas.