HC Deb 14 March 1973 vol 852 cc1282-4
Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the average payment to be made in rates by the average householder this year; and what were the comparable payments 5, 10 and 15 years previously.

Mr Younger

In 1972–73 the average rate payment by householders, excluding domestic water rate, is estimated to be £61.09; comparable figures for 1967–68, 1962–63 and 1957–58 were £38.90, £29.92 and £25.56 respectively

Mr. Taylor

As these figures show that the average domestic rate payment has more than doubled in 10 years, and as the burden has now become so substantial, does not my hon. Friend agree that the time may be right to have a careful look at a general alternative to the system of rates, which is an unfair system that discriminates unfairly between individuals?

Mr. Younger

I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. We are considering very carefully all the suggestions that have been made to us following the publication of the Green Paper on local government finance. But none of the alternatives seems hopeful at present until the changes in national taxation which we have in mind have been effected.

Regarding the rates burden, this matter has given great concern to us for a very long time. One of the effects of the Housing Finance Act will be to bring, at long last, some relief to ratepayers of the burden they have carried. But although in the last 15 years, according to the figures I have given, the rate burden in Scotland has increased by about 140 per cent., average earnings of male manual workers in the same period increased by over 200 per cent.

Mr. Eadie

In regard to the rate burden, what progress are the Government making in the consideration they are giving to the question whether domestic central heating should come off the rates in order to alleviate that burden for ratepayers?

Mr. Younger

This has been a problem for some time. At present this is not something which we intend to alter. Concerning central heating, the system was improved substantially a few years ago in relation to hardship at that time to people who installed a central heating system.

Mr. Robert Hughes

By how much does the Minister expect the rate burden to increase in the year 1973–74? What steps are being taken to protect the domestic ratepayer during the supposed price freeze?

Mr. Younger

We have indeed taken steps to help the domestic ratepayer on two particular items, one of which I have mentioned—that is, that the rate burden from the housing accounts will be more than halved over the next few years as a result of the Housing Finance Act. We have introduced a new and much more generous consideration for rate rebates, which will help those on low incomes.