HC Deb 22 January 1992 vol 202 cc308-9
12. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received to date about the timing of the abolition of the poll tax.

Mr. Portillo

We have received a number of such representations.

Mr. Canavan

Is not the Minister ashamed to be going into the general election campaign telling electors that they will have to suffer the poll tax for another year or more? Would not it be in the interests of all the people to abolish the poll tax immediately and to reimburse local authorities with additional Government grant as a temporary measure until a much fairer system of local government revenue raising is introduced after Labour wins the general election?

Mr. Portillo

Is not the hon. Gentleman ashamed that he told electors not to pay their community charge bills, and will he now pay the debts of those poor people who listened to his advice before he ran off and left them in the lurch?

Mr. David Shaw

Can my hon. Friend confirm that one benefit of the community charge has been the increased accountability to which it has held left-wing councillors? Will he confirm that after the abolition of the community charge, the new council tax will also increase the accountability of left-wing councillors?

Mr. Portillo

I believe that one reason why the community charge was so fiercely fought by the Opposition parties was precisely because it made clear the connection between spending decisions taken locally and the level of tax to be paid locally. Under the council tax as well there will be a direct relationship between what an authority spends and what it has to charge its people. That is an inescapable reality.

Mr. Blunkett

Can the Minister confirm that on the issue of taxation the greatest incompetence and the biggest waste of public money are inflicted on the people not by the Opposition but by the party that introduced the poll tax? Will he give an absolute assurance that there will be no last-minute gerrymander to prevent poll tax bills going out before the date of the general election?

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who have both raised this topic this afternoon, seem to be uncommonly rattled that the Government will do something to make our election victory even more certain. As I have said time and again, we have made clear the amounts of money available to local government next year. They are generous amounts and they are what the country can afford. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know about the waste of resources in local government, he has only to look at the Lambeths, the Haringeys, the Hackneys and the other councils that have become bywords for waste.

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