HC Deb 30 June 1982 vol 26 cc879-80
4. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is now in a position to announce the proposed content and timing of legislation to reform the rating system in Scotland.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Not yet. The diverse public responses to the options set out in the Green Paper merit careful consideration.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend accept that progress should be made towards achieving a much fairer and more equitable form of taxation system in this respect, however much the ratepayers of Lothian region may be delighted with the reduction in rates following the local elections?

Mr. Stewart

I agree with my hon. Friend. The reactions to the Green Paper have reinforced our impression that ratepayers of all classes are anxious for early relief from the rates burden. Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the new Lothian administration's early decision that its ratepayers should benefit from a reduction in expenditure that will lead to an average saving of £43 for every domestic ratepayer.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Minister remember that we were derided when we opposed the Rating and Valuation (Scotland) Order 1982 and suggested that partial revaluation had handicaps? Does he also remember that only on 17 May he was pouring cold water on our doubts? Is he aware that we welcome his repeal of the order and the postponement of partial revaluation? Does he agree that the clear implication of that retreat is that something has gone seriously wrong with the implementation of plans for electoral reform that were easily given in an electoral promise?

Mr. Stewart

Certainly not. My right hon. Friend responded positively to CoSLA's representations and decided not to go ahead with partial revaluation in 1982–83. We shall go ahead instead with full revaluation in 1985–86. That decision demonstrates the seriousness with which my right hon. Friend and I take representations from CoSLA.

Mr. Maclennan

What steps will the Government take to relieve commercial premises of the rate burden?

Mr. Stewart

We have consistently made it clear that proposals for the reform of the rating system will take fully into account the interests of industrial and commercial ratepayers.

Mr. Corrie

Is my hon. Friend aware of the devastating effect that high rates are having on the hotel industry and, therefore, on the tourist industry in Scotland? Does he envisage any relief for that sector of the economy?

Mr. Stewart

I have received representations on that point. We are studying several detailed aspects of the problem.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

For the benefit of hon. Members with short memories, will the Minister repeat his party's pledge about rate reform? Does he agree that the increased unpopularity of rates has been due largely to the inflationary policies of the Government and the reduction of rate support grant?

Mr. Stewart

I reiterate that the specific pledge to abolish domestic rates in one Parliament was given in the Conservative manifesto of 1974—not 1979, which was the election that the Conservatives won. We have made clear our commitment to reforming the rating system in the long term.