HC Deb 21 March 1996 vol 274 cc486-7
9. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to introduce the council tax in Northern Ireland. [20415]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler)

I have no plans to introduce the council tax in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Brown

Given the general acceptability of the council tax in England, Wales and Scotland, is it not a disappointment to hear my right hon. Friend's answer? Why will Northern Ireland be deprived of the benefits of the council tax, which are enjoyed elsewhere in the kingdom?

Sir John Wheeler

There are many differences in the governance of Northern Ireland. The council tax has not been introduced because local government arrangements in the Province are significantly different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why I have no plans to introduce a council tax.

Sir James Molyneaux

As a council tax payer, I have no wish to debate the merits of that innovation, but may I suggest that it might be sensible to give councils in Northern Ireland powers similar to those exercised by their counterparts here in Great Britain and thus make the rating authorities the councils, rather than the Department of the Environment?

Sir John Wheeler

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I can tell him and the House that it is the Government's wish to see established in Northern Ireland political structures that command widespread community support. If, with the help of the right hon. Gentleman's party and others, progress can be made towards that objective, I have no doubt that, in future, councils in Northern Ireland will have an expanded role and responsibilities to go with it.

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