HC Deb 18 March 1991 vol 188 cc11-2
12. Mr. Alan W. Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the impact of the community charge in Wales.

Mr. David Hunt


Mr. Williams

Does the Secretary of State, as one of the Ministers heavily implicated in the introduction of the poll tax, now admit that it was an awful mistake? If, following their review of the poll tax, the Government announce on Thursday that they have decided on its abolition, can the Secretary of State confirm the view of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)—that the process will take three years? Can the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Hunt

I think that that was indeed enough, Mr. Speaker.

I would have more time to consider the hon. Gentleman's views if he followed the example of Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats and came to see me. My invitation to the Labour party is still open. We are conducting a fundamental review of the community charge and we shall announce our conclusions as soon as possible.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the Secretary of State explain why the Government are not prepared to accept the Liberal Democrats' proposal—that there should be a local income tax? Such a tax works perfectly well in many countries in Europe and it would work well in Wales.

Mr. Hunt

I pay tribute to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends for coming to see me and presenting detailed proposals. No final decisions have been made; we are still carefully considering the proposals. However, I still await detailed costed proposals from the Labour party. Indeed, that party has not provided any proposals and I do not believe that it is in a position to do SO.

Mr. Murphy

As he mentioned costs, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, so far, as Secretary of State for Wales, he has spent £10 million to set the poll tax up, £20 million to administer it and £80 million to sweeten it? Is not it true that he might as well have dumped more than £100 million in the Bristol channel? Can he confirm that, this morning, he said that the poll tax, in some form, will continue in Wales, no matter what the Prime Minister wants for the rest of the country?

Mr. Hunt

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his information. I have been very careful not to preview the results of the review, which will be announced in due course. What really has cost the United Kindom dear is the overspending of Labour councils—particularly councils in England. The message from local elections this year will be, "Conservative councils cost you less and give you better services."