§ 1. Mr. D. E. Thomas
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of the gross earnings of those earning less than £100 per week is, on average, taken up on local authority rates in Wales; and what the figures will be if the Government's proposals in their Green Paper, "Paying for Local Government" are implemented.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)
Only householders are directly liable for domestic rates, and there is no way of knowing the extent to which non-householders, earning or not, contribute to the cost of rates. Comparative information on the basis requested is not therefore available.
§ Mr. Thomas
Does the Secretary of State accept that that is an inadequate and innumerate answer from his Department yet again, because the whole direction of Government policy in this area is to shift the burden to all householders? That is the basis of the poll tax. Does he accept that it is completely illogical to propose to introduce a poll tax without making such comparative information available so that we know that each adult householder in Wales will be substantially worse off as a result?
§ Mr. Edwards
If anything is innumerate, it is the question. We know what the effect on households will be, and we know that the community charge will reduce bills for low-income households. We know that the domestic rate is 7.5 per cent. of the income of households with a net income of £100 or less, and we know that the new community charge will lessen the burden. What we do not know is all the information that the hon. Gentleman wants about single persons, young adults, and so on, who at present do not contribute directly to the rating system.
§ Mr. Raffan
Referring to my right hon. Friend's recent rate support grant announcement, will he confirm that Clwyd, which is making a real and genuine effort to find savings in its budget, will receive a substantial part of the remaining unclaimed grant, as five other county councils in Wales have categorically said that they will not be making savings? Can he give me any idea of how much Clwyd will receive?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am not sure that that arises from the question, but it is certainly true that the pressure on councils to reduce their expenditure remains and that those which have succeeded in cutting their expenditure will get a higher proportion of remaining grant than those which continue to spend at a high level.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my warning that the collection of the community charge—the poll tax—will be difficult? Why did the right hon. Gentleman hand over £13 million to the Welsh counties on 20 February after saying on 17 February that he would not do so? Why did he give in? I remind him of the heading, "Edwards gives in" in the Daily Post of 21 February.
§ Mr. Edwards
I propose to say something on the subject in the debate on Welsh affairs, but the fact of the matter is that at the meeting on Monday I did not say that I would not. I said that if I did the county council should offer some reduction in expenditure. The county council said that it was impossible to reduce expenditure by a single penny. I am glad to say that subsequent to that the Clwyd council, by reducing its expenditure by £1.5 million, showed that it was possible, and it has passed on the benefit to its ratepayers.