HC Deb 27 July 1988 vol 138 cc394-5
6. Mr. Douglas

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the further advice which his Department is issuing to Scottish poll tax payers in order to facilitate knowledge of exempted categories.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang)

When registration officers send out the notifications in October and November to those whose names are on the register they will also send a supplementary notice detailing all the exemptions. This will enable people who may benefit from the exemptions to approach the registration officer about their entitlement to exemption.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister concede that at this stage there is room for alteration of the exemptions? During the recess, will he suggest that one way to be exempt from payment is to put one's father or mother into a local authority nursing home rather than retain him or her in the family home? Will he promulgate that? In addition, will he say clearly that one of the tricks that the Government have deplored is to remove from the rating system certain fishing owners, at a cost of £1.5 million, while those who desire exemption because of severe mental handicap will have to go through the humiliation of registering that fact, through their offspring, patients or relations, with a general practitioner in order to have it recorded that they are "unfit" to perform civic functions? Does the Minister accept that the whole question of exemptions blows a hole in accountability and that a Government who had one scintilla of Christian conscience would not promote such a piece of legislation?

Mr. Lang

Some of the exemptions remain to be prescribed in regulations, but I see no reason for expecting any of the exemptions, or indeed any of the regulations, to lead to any change in the domestic residential arrangements of any family. The value of the fishing rates concession is equal to one fiftieth of 1 per cent. of total local authority current expenditure.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Has my hon. Friend seen the report in this week's Glasgow Herald, on 22 July, that 12 Scottish Labour Members of Parliament have said publicly that they will not pay the community charge? Therefore, will he give the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), who said in the same edition that there was no split in the Scottish Labour party on that issue, an opportunity to come here and explain how he squares the circle?

Mr. Lang

I have read the article to which my hon. Friend refers. A battle is raging within the Labour party over the community charge, between those who think that they should obey the law and the 12 members of the law-breaking tendency. There is also one special class which embraces the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr.Godman), who intend to obey the law, but whose wife does not. I have to tell him that the joint and several liability provision will cater for that.