HC Deb 16 January 1978 vol 942 cc6-8
5. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he proposes to take to protect Welsh ratepayers in any changeover to a capital value basis of revaluation.

Mr. Alec Jones

It is our intention that when capital valuation is introduced provision should be made for the phasing-in of any changes in rate bills resulting from the capital value basis. Should extreme cases arise, permanent arrangements to mitigate the effects may be made.

Mr. Anderson

Is my hon. Friend aware that most informed observers in Wales believe that the new basis of valuation could have disastrous effects in the Principality unless there was not just a phasing-in but a permanent protection for Welsh ratepayers? What permanent proposals does the Minister have to protect the totality of Welsh ratepayers?

Mr. Alec Jones

We are aware of the feelings that exist in Wales on this matter. It does not appear that it will be possible to introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to capital valuation during the lifetime of this Parliament. For that reason, and because of representations being made, the Government are to consider the position in the light of the parliamentary situation and in the light of comments which my hon. Friend and others have made on this proposal.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Since in the last part of his answer the Minister is seeking to give the impression that he is re-examining the whole question, may I say that we in the Opposition regard the proposal as retrograde. particularly for Wales? Will not the Minister look at the whole scheme again and consider whether it would not be more sensible to drop it?

Mr. Alec Jones

I have clearly indicated that the Government are considering the proposal in the light of all the developments.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister take on board that areas in which people have second homes—and tourist areas—will be hit very badly by this sort of proposal?

Mr. Alec Jones

Naturally, all those factors will be taken into account.

Mr. Kinnock

Since the rate support grant is the greatest single source of income for the people of Wales from governmental sources, has the Minister made any calculation of what a change in the system might mean in terms of devolution?

Mr. Alec Jones

No, because the question of devolution is not intimately linked to a change in the level of rate support grant. The allocation of a block grant would be at the discretion of the Assembly.

Sir Raymond Gower

In the reconsideration which the Minister says is now taking place, will he and his right hon. and learned Friend take account of the fact that this proposal would appear almost certainly to impinge more harshly upon many ratepayers? Is he aware that what is needed is something that will hurt them less in some circumstances, as the present system is grotesquely unfair in its incidence?

Mr. Alec Jones

I do not think that the domestic ratepayer in Wales would consider that the present system is grotesquely unfair, as the domestic ratepayer in Wales—thanks to this Government—benefits from the domestic element to the extent of 36.5p in the pound as opposed to 18p in England.

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