HC Deb 12 June 1974 vol 874 cc1611-2
19. Mr. Awdry

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a visit to Chippenham in order to discuss the problems of the local ratepayers.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to visit Chippenham; nevertheless, the problems of ratepayers in this type of area will receive full consideration in determining the 1975–76 rate support grant.

Mr. Awdry

Does the Minister not understand that the vast majority of my constituents consider the present rating system unacceptable and grossly unfair? Will he give an assurance that the Government intend to have a major review of the whole system as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Morris

I appreciate the concern of ratepayers in Chippenham at the present level of rates, but the hon. Gentleman can help in this regard by explaining to the people of Chippenham that by increasing the domestic element of the rate support grant from 6p to 13p this Government have made the largest single contribution ever to assist the domestic ratepayer. With regard to a review of the rating system, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are considering the scope for the reform of the rating system generally.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does the Minister recall that his hon. Friend the Minister of State, when speaking in the Adjournment debate on Monday night, said that he doubted whether it would be legal or ultra vires for water authorities to refund charges properly demanded and collected under the collection of charges order".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June 1974; Vol. 874, c. 1381.] That order is Statutory Instrument No. 448. If what was said is so, would it not be a simple matter for the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the statutory instrument and bring in a more satisfactory one, which either inserts in Article 9(2), after "hereditament", the words in receipt of the service or, alternatively, makes provision for a retrospective payment for such hereditaments when they have been identified?

Mr. Morris

As the hon. Lady will observe, the Question on the Order Paper refers to a visit to Chippenham. In this context, if I may comment on the general point which she made, if we were to accept her thesis and solution we would leave the water authorities dry, financially.