HC Deb 17 February 1988 vol 127 cc975-6
16. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the number of people who will pay the poll tax.

Mr. Chope

We expect that 35 million adults in England will be subject to the personal community charge.

Mr. Canavan

Does that figure take account of the number of people who will not register and the number of people who are either unwilling or unable to pay the poll tax? In view of the statement on Monday by Mr. James Thomson, the regional assessor for Fife, that if a sufficient number of people refuse to register it would "choke up the works", and the helpful statement yesterday by the Prime Minister, who said that failure to register on the poll tax register will not in any way affect one's right to vote, does the Minister realise that many people, including myself, will initially refuse to register and pay, and will encourage as many people as possible to do likewise, so that we can scrap these vicious poll tax proposals?

Mr. Chope

The hon. Gentleman should have a word with the Leader of the Opposition if his last remarks are to be taken seriously. Most people will register, and if they do not they will be subject to penalties, so it will not be worth their while not to register.

Mr. Forth

Is it not patently fair that people who are entitled to vote on the one hand, and to the services provided by the local authority on the other, should expect to pay a fair and reasonable share of the costs of these services? Where a tax is the law of the land, is it not reasonable to expect people to pay that tax, and to face the penalties if they do not pay?

Mr. Chope

My hon. Friend is right. We are talking about a community charge that will meet only one quarter of the total cost of local government expenditure. The remainder will be funded by business and by national taxpayers, and the one quarter that will be met by the community charge will not be met by an equal community charge paid by everybody. About 7 million people will be entitled to a rebate, so they will not have to pay the full community charge.

17. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received over the poll tax.

Mr. Ridley

I refer to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon).

Mr. Winnick

Is the Secretary of State aware that I am in a genuine dilemma, in that I oppose this wholly unfair poll tax, yet realise that this crazy scheme will undoubtedly be one of the factors that will help to remove his Administration from office?

Mr. Ridley

I thought that the hon. Gentleman's dilemma was that the Labour co-ordinating committee has stated: When the local council wants to carry out a programme of service expansion local people will no longer be cushioned by increasing business rates and rate support grant. They will want to know that increased expenditure is well spent. That is the view of the Labour party.

Mr. Dykes

Is it completely wise to be the only country in the world giving up some sort of property charge?

Mr. Ridley

I would never claim a monopoly of wisdom, and I am always interested in my hon. Friend's views.