HC Deb 06 July 1983 vol 45 cc277-8
19. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment in what respects he intends to seek the improvement of the domestic rating system.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

We shall shortly be giving full details of our proposed rate reforms in a White Paper.

Mr. Knox

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not acceptable for rates to remain the main source of local government revenue for the foreseeable future? Does he agree that the rating system is extremely unfair and requires much more radical reform than he appears to envisage?

Mr. Jenkin

My hon. Friend should await publication of the White Paper to discover the extent to which we are prepared to reform. In addition to our proposals for rate limitation, we propose to extend the availability of payment by instalments to small businesses, to impose an obligation on local authorities to consult business interests, to end rating of empty industrial property, to provide for separate notices for district and county elections and to provide for council tenants separate information on rates. Those changes will help to make the rating system, and local authorities, more accountable to ratepayers. That is what we need.

Mr. Hugh Brown

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Government have shown scandalous disregard for two election commitments to abolish domestic rates? Will the White Paper cover Scotland, although, of course, there will have to be separate legislative proposals?

Mr. Jenkin

The White Paper will cover England and Wales. I should make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that a commitment to abolish rates was not contained in the recent manifesto, nor in the one that preceded it.