HC Deb 22 January 1986 vol 90 cc294-5
6. Mr. Holt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environmet how many parish or town councils raised a rate of 3p or more in the last year for which records are available; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Rumbold

About 1,900 in 1985–86.

Mr. Holt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her answer. Do she and the rest of the Government appreciate that there is no control whatsoever of parish or town council precepts? They can raise any rate they like, rate capping or not, and the district councils have to bill for that. Unless the Government take some form of action shortly, every town and parish council in the country is liable to fall into the hands of a Bernie Grant, a Hatton or a Livingstone, and thereby create absolute mayhem for the Government.

Mrs. Rumbold

I understand my hon. Friend's concern about the potential expenditure of parish councils. I believe that that matter is under discussion and will be part of my right hon. Friend's Green Paper.

Mr. Boyes

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), may I ask what proposals the Government have for ensuring that district councils are not penalised for such expenditure by parish councils, for example those in my area, where the parish councils might spend a total of over £1 million? In future years, will the Minister consider informing district councils of the amount allowed in GREA for parish council precepts?

Mrs. Rumbold

The most effective way of ensuring that parish councils keep down their expenditure can be drawn to the attention of the electorate at the time of an election. I suggest that the ballot box is the most effective way of controlling that expenditure.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that she is aware of the great weight of responsible opinion in my suburban constituency that is hostile to having a framework of parish councils imposed upon it?

Mrs. Rumbold

I note what my hon. Friend has said.