HC Deb 18 March 1974 vol 870 cc643-5
6. Sir R. Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will take steps to contain the expenditure of the new Welsh local authorities within reasonable limits, and thus to avoid the need for excessive rates increases.

18. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is aware of the impending rises on the rates in Wales; and whether he has any proposals for relieving the situation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

Levels of expenditure depend primarily on what local authorities themselves decide to spend. The Rate Support Grant Order, laid before the House on 14th March, however, provides for domestic relief of 33.5p in the pound for domestic ratepayers in Wales. This generous settlement means that Wales will get £16 million more by way of rate support grant in 1974–75 than under the previous administration's proposals.

Sir R. Gower

Has the hon. Gentleman noted some exaggerated statements about the level of salaries, and so on, obtaining in the newly formed authorities? Will he comment on this? Will he tell the House what kind of view the Government will take of proposals for the building of new headquarters, and such things?

Mr. Rowlands

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's question is entirely separate. I have noted the first part. This is a matter for the local authorities concerned.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Minister not agree that there will be a sharp increase in the rates in all rural areas, particularly in Wales? Is this not unfair discrimination against rural counties?

Mr. Rowlands

I am afraid that the hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. Except for five cases out of 37 there will be an appreciable improvement in the situation, including Montgomery. Before we came to power Wales was due to receive only £23 million in annual rate support grant. It is now to receive an extra £16 million. That is a generous settlement by any standards.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

Is my hon. Friend aware that while Wales will obviously benefit in total, certain parts of rural Wales have been severely hit as a result of this new policy? Is he aware that two authorities in my area will lose substantial amounts of money? Is he prepared to look at this again?

Mr. Rowlands

I accept that in a few cases—five—there is a reduction, although it is not considerable.

Mr. Peter Thomas

When the hon. Gentleman talks about rates he is of course talking about domestic rates. Will he tell the House what is the percentage increase for the non-domestic rate burden?

Mr. Rowlands

I am not in a position to do that. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman cares to table a Question I shall try to answer it.