§ 8. Mr. Greville Janner
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will take steps to end the present arrangement whereby householders who save energy through the installation of insulation or by the installation of solar heating incur additional liability for rates.
§ 14. Mr. Neil Thorne
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, between rate revaluations, he would consider exempting from rating all improvements to domestic property within the curtilage of the building or any third schedule addition, in order to encourage the continuous improvement of the national housing stock.
§ Mr. King
Most new small improvements to domestic property, including energy-saving measures, are already exempt from rating between general revaluations under section 21 of the Local Government Act 1974.
§ Mr. Janner
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many such changes, which are subject to rates, are extremely desirable at a time when we wish to preserve energy? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the United States householders who install such devices and arrangments save tax, yet here they are taxed more? Will the Government do something about that?
§ Mr. Thorne
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is a waste of effort by the district valuers, who have to value every single improvement to establish whether it is more, or less, than £30? In view of the Government's commitment to the improvement, not only of owner-occupied homes but also council dwellings, should not the Government take another look at the matter?
§ Mr. King
The point that my hon. Friend makes is perfectly fair. This is a difficult issue. Resentment is felt by existing ratepayers who have been assessed when others are not assessed under this provision. At the same time, as my hon. Friend rightly says, it is Government policy to encourage improvement whenever possible. There is much feeling that this extra niggle for ratepayers, who are rated on improvements that they make, is a discouragement to such improvement.
§ Mr. Alton
Has the Minister received today representations from the British Association of Insulation Manufacturers? What is his response to its allegation that there will be over-capacity among its firms as a result of the reduction of the 21 per cent. in the amount of money available for insulation in his announcement last week together with the 50 per cent. reduction in the overall amount available for insulation?
Secondly, what assistance will the right hon. Gentleman give [HON. MEMBERS: "One question".]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Hon. Members are quite right, provided they apply the same rule of one question to everyone.
§ Mr. King
The question relates primarily to rating. Some comments in the press today about insulation grants are highly misleading. It is suggested that insulation for council houses is no longer available. This is now covered under a single block. It is open to local autho- 1338 rities, if they so choose, to engage in the largest insulation programme in their history.
§ Mr. Michael Morris
While my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on reviewing insulation, is there not a strong case for a total review of rate surcharge and rate poundage? If we believe in an energy-saving policy, should not the Government be taking a lead?