HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc405-6
4. Mr. Ingram

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met COSLA to discuss the future of local government finance in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

15. Mr. Norman Hogg

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the Convention of Scotland Local Authorities to discuss the poll tax

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Local Government and I met the convention on 8 April to discuss a number of local government finance issues, including the community charge.

I hope to meet the convention again once it is in a position to respond to our consultation paper on the proposed new local taxation system.

Mr. Ingram

Will the Secretary of State tell the House when he changed his mind, and what or who made him change his mind about the poll tax?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that the Government have been considering the funding of local government finance for a long time. We have recognised that the community charge is not operating effectively and has not gained general acceptance in Scotland. Therefore, after a relatively short period of time and after very thorough and careful scrutiny of the options, we have decided on a new local tax which has been announced to the House as to its fundamentals and on which a consultation paper will appear shortly.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Given that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, can we now expect the Secretary of State for Scotland to evangelise Scotland for a property tax, and will he bring Missionary zeal to that work?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman must wait and see what our new tax is all about. The Opposition are worried not that our new proposals will not work but that they will work.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

While I believe that it would be quite wrong for the Secretary of State to speculate in any way on what announcements may be made in the next week or so, does he accept that if we return to a form of property taxation, it is very important that the basis of valuation and revaluation of property is the same north and south of the border?

Mr. Lang

My right hon. Friend makes an important point about valuation and revaluation. It is an issue which we have considered with great care and I hope that he will not be disappointed when the consultation paper is published.

Mr. Maxton

In view of the commitment to the poll tax shown by the hon. Members for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and of their long-standing opposition to any form of property tax, can the Secretary of State tell us whether the two of them will still be Ministers following the announcement next week? Can the Secretary of State guarantee that when he publishes the consultative document next week it will contain figures that I can take to my constituents to tell them exactly how much they will pay under the new tax? Or shall we have to print posters next week to put up around Scotland saying, "Ian, where's your figures?"

Mr. Lang

I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) will be in the Government, not only next week but next year and the year after and the year after that. [Interruption.] And my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton).

The hon. Gentleman asked about figures, but he should consider those relating to the number of different varieties of policies suggested by the Opposition. At the last count there were 67—that makes H. J. Heinz look like a one-product company.