HC Deb 21 November 1974 vol 881 cc1518-9
Q3. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a professional expert on the rating system to the Central Policy Review Staff.

Q9. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint to the Central Policy Review Staff an expert on the rating system.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend does not intend to appoint to the Central Policy Review Staff members with responsibility for specific subjects.

Mr. Renton

Is the Lord President aware that the Layfield Committee is meeting only once a fortnight and that long before it reports many householders, on present indications, will be faced with rate demands of up to double what they are paying this year? Is this not a classic example of snail-like progress, or of Rome burning while the Government fiddle?

Mr. Short

No, Sir, I do not accept that at all. The Layfield Committee has a very heavy programme of meetings. It is receiving a great deal of evidence. It is considering one of the most complicated subjects in Britain—a subject which has defeated every Government so far, apart from the plan that we had on the back of an envelope at the last election from the Conservative Party. The committee will report towards the end of next year.

Mr. Gardiner

As ratepayers are likely to have to pay over the odds in order to finance the folly of those local councillors who followed the Lord President's own encouragement in breaking the law on fair rents, will not the Lord President be big enough to express some regret for the pledge that he gave at last year's Labour Party conference to remove all penalties, financial and otherwise, retrospectively?

Mr. Short

We had thought that the hon. Gentleman was trying to improve his image since the recess—he has actually moved his seat in the Chamber—but not so, apparently. I should like to point out two extracts from my speech which I have given to the House before. I said: The NEC cannot possibly advise Labour councillors to act unlawfully. I said at the end Finally, I have got to say that the acceptance of this motion must not be taken by anybody to be an encouragement to any Labour councillors anywhere to act unlawfully.

Mr. Molloy

In this context, will my right hon. Friend address himself to the problem which I and many other hon. Members face when our constituents write to us wanting to know what action can be taken by them to recover money that they lost to an organisation called Court Line? At the time when Court Line was cheating them, many of them believed that this organisation was making a political financial contribution to the Conservative Party. They feel that the Conservative Party ought to have the courage to have a mass collection and at least to pay back my constituents the money that they lost to Court Line.

Mr. Short

My hon. Friend will be pleased to recollect that the Government are dealing with the question of the people who have lost money to that company.

Mr. Channon

As next week will see the announcement of the rate support grant for next year—this question is about rating—will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Government come forward with exceptionally generous provision next week, so that the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House do not have to face a massive rise in rates next year, as they did this year?

Mr. Short

The rates this year were calculated when the previous Government were in office. But certainly, as the hon. Gentleman has said, the negotiations on the global amount of the rate support grant will be concluded in the coming week and my right hon. Friend will be making a statement on this subject.

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