HC Deb 08 December 1982 vol 33 cc848-50
24. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects that his review of the future of the rating system will be completed.

Mr. King

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Mc William).

Mr. Ross

I apologise for not being here earlier. I suspect that the Minister did not give the answer that I require. When he considers changing the rating system, will he attach greater priority to representations from chambers of commerce and give some relief to hard-pressed commercial and industrial ratepayers, who should have greater priority than domestic ratepayers?

Mr. King

In my earlier reply I said that we were anxious to announce our conclusions as soon as possible. We are aware of the difficult burdens on industry and commerce, not least in a number of Labour-controlled areas where rate increases have been very savage indeed.

Mr. Kaufman

May we have a guarantee that in any review of existing arrangements expenditure of money transferred from housing revenue account to general rate fund will not be treated as surplus to target?

Mr. King

My right hon. Friend will be making a statement on the rate support grant settlement and such matters can be dealt with then.

Mr. Marks

Does not a review suggest that some people will pay more than they do now and that others will pay less? May we have an idea of what route the Minister intends to take?

Mr. King

That is one of the exciting speculations that can occupy the hon. Gentleman until we make our announcement.

Mr. Dobsdon

On a point or order, Mr. Speaker. I should like your guidance about who decides that one question should be taken with another. I understand that it is customary for a Minister to inform hon. Members if he intends to answer two questions together. The Department of the Environment failed to inform me that my question was to be taken with another today. My hon. Friends have experienced the same thing in the past few weeks.

Mr. Heseltine

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Our practice is to inform hon. Members. If there has been a failure to do that I shall investigate immediately.