HC Deb 29 July 1974 vol 878 cc14-5
11. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the effect on Wales of the increases announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 22nd July.

Mr. John Morris

The combination of doubling the regional employment premium, lowering the value added tax and the added relief to domestic ratepayers will be of real benefit to the Welsh economy, particularly by improving employment opportunities.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Secretary of State aware that these three measures have been widely welcomed throughout Wales, and will he confirm that rate relief extends to water and sewerage charges as well as to the general rate? Will he give an assurance that where repayments are due they will be paid as promptly as possible?

Mr. Morris

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right on the first point. There has been a great welcome throughout Wales for the Chancellor's measures. On the second point, the relief applies to water and sewerage charges. I hope very much, as my hon. Friend indicated earlier, that local authorities will speedily arrange repayment where due to ratepayers who have already paid the charges.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Will the Secretary of State confirm that no assistance has been given to the sorely hit commercial ratepayers and small businesses in Wales? Will he confirm that if the Chancellor's figures are correct the total effect of this economic tinkering in terms of jobs for Wales will not be more than between 300 and 600 jobs by the end of next year? Is that not derisory in comparison with the consequences of runaway inflation and the destruction of confidence stimulated by the Government?

Mr. Morris

I fear that the hon. Member must be living in a different world. On rating relief, those with mixed hereditaments obviously benefit, but business premises and businesses generally will benefit from the doubling of REP where that is applicable.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that while there is dissatisfaction about the water authorities, on the general rate Wales has benefited to a greater extent than other parts of Britain and this should be borne in mind in considering the whole rate question? The fact that REP is to be doubled will be a great contribution to ensuring full employment in the years ahead.

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The increase in REP will bring substantial benefits to Wales. It is estimated that the total benefit will increase from £13 million a year to £26 million a year. On the question of rating assistance, we must add to the help provided in March the assistance being given now. In the March proposals 31 out of 37 districts in Wales benefited, and 14 of the 37 will benefit from the Chancellor's recent proposals.