HC Deb 05 December 1973 vol 865 cc1236-7
2. Mr. Loughlin

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to recast the rating system.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

I would refer the hon. Member to the provisions of Part II of the Local Government Bill.

Mr. Loughlin

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that his answer is about as useful as a door-knocker on a gravestone? His answer does not in any way relate to the Question. Is he aware that next year every householder will once more be faced with substantial increases in rates and that there will still be 9 million adults who pay no rates at all? Is it not time that we got away from the existing ridiculous notional rent system and began to deal with rates on an equitable basis?

Mr. Page

The hon. Gentleman's Question was whether the Government would recast the rating system. He thinks that Part II of the Local Government Bill is useless. Does he remember that it deals with statutory deductions, improvements, disabled persons, public utilities and rate rebates all recasting the rating system? The Government have decided that rates should be the main source of income for local authorities. That does not rule out any supplementary finance which may be useful in future.

Mr. Denis Howell

Does not the Minister agree that my hon. Friend is quite right in that Part II of the Bill perpetuates a rating system which gives offence to many people? Is he aware that the essence of the matter is that new authorities are being set up in local government, with duplication of administration and tremendous inflation? Can he tell us whether, in the rate support grant negotiations, he will ensure that there is sufficient money available for local authorities to set up new administrations and improve their services without additional mammoth increases on the rates?

Mr. Page

Account is taken of that in the rate support grant negotiations with the local authority associations. My right hon. and learned Friend will be announcing the amounts agreed with the local authorities as quickly as possible. The hon. Gentleman criticises the rating system but offers no alternative solution.

Mr. Loughlin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.