HC Deb 25 July 1990 vol 177 cc459-60
17. Mr. Flannery

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has carried out any assessment of the costs to those local authorities which have been charge-capped and have had to issue new community charge bills to each charge payer; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chris Patten

As I made clear in my statement on 3 April 1990 about community charge in England, we estimate that the costs will be about £200,000 per charging authority. I took account of that when I decided the authorities' caps.

Mr. Flannery

Is not it a fact that the Secretary of State, in whatever statements he has made, has never confessed that the Government are in total chaos about the poll tax and wish to God that they had never thought of it? Is not that the reality? If vast numbers of people are facing the bailiffs, and so on, and the chaos that that will produce, why on earth should local authorities now be having to raise an immense extra amount of money with no help from the Government and wondering what in God's name they are going to do? Is not it time that the Government withdrew the poll tax?

Mr. Patten

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first, second and fourth questions is no. The answer to the third question is that local authorities should take some account of the consequences of excessive spending, not least for their community charge payers.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents are incensed that the local authority is refusing to remit to them the whole of the charge cap?

Mr. Patten

I recognise what my hon. Friend has said. It is astonishing, first, that some Labour local authorities are wriggling and squirming to avoid passing on budget reductions to their community charge payers and, secondly, that they have used so much of the community charge payers' money to try to ensure that community charge payers have to pay more. That is what the Labour party means by fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Ron Brown

Surely it is understood that the community charge—[interruption]—that the poll tax is clearly unacceptable to people both north and south of the border. If they refuse to pay, is not it a clear indication of people voting with their feet and with their pockets? Does the Secretary of State agree that if hon. Members say that they are not paying, as I do, they are leading by example? That is certainly important in the coming period.

Mr. Patten

Those Labour Members of Parliament and councillors who say that they will not pay the community charge are loading extra costs on to their own constituents. That is the worst sort of freeloading, and it should be deprecated by every hon. Member. I am sure that it is deprecated by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould).