HL Deb 10 December 1974 vol 355 cc531-3

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government:

  1. (a) Whether it was the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when making his Statement on 22nd July 1974 in connection with domestic rate relief (Commons Hansard, col. 1051) that the General Rate should be combined with the water rate before the 60 per cent. relief over the excess 20 per cent. is allowed.
  2. (b) When domestic ratepayers who have no public sewerage disposal services will be relieved of the sewerage charge levied by districts this year on behalf of the new water authorities.


My Lords, the answer to the first part of the noble Lord's Question is, Yes. The answer to the second part is that domestic ratepayers whose properties are not connected to a public sewer will receive relief of 50 per cent. of the general service charge from 1st April next.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for her Answer, may I ask her two further questions? In respect of the first part of my Question, would she not agree that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Statement earlier this year he did not make that matter clear? It has come as a disappointment to ratepayers to find the water rate being amalgamated with the General Rate before obtaining relief. In respect of the second part of my Question, I was aware of the position as stated by the noble Baroness, but I should like to put it to her—


Question !


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she would agree that the 50 per cent. relief—while acceptable and beneficial—does not really achieve the object? Would she agree that the ratepayer who is not connected to main sewerage should not pay the sewerage charge at all?

Baroness BIRK

On the first supplementary question, my Lords, the position is that the amalgamation with the General Rate was generally known. This action to provide relief was considered extremely helpful. On the second question, I cannot possibly agree with the noble Earl's suggestion that this is unfair because the 50 per cent. pays for the protection of rivers and surface water drainings from which all with septic tanks derive some benefit. I would point out that this is the first time that there has been any relief for people with septic tanks given by any Government.


My Lords, as one who campaigned for some thirty years against the iniquities of the rates system, may I ask whether the noble Baroness will give serious consideration to the position of the County Councils Association and to the possibility of a local income tax as a very equitable way of carrying some of the burden of local finance?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, as my noble friend is aware, the Layfield Committee is considering this topic currently. Therefore I can say nothing in that direction until the Committee reports.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she can say if her first reply applies to Scotland as it does to other parts of the United Kingdom?

Baroness BIRK

I think it is doubtful, my Lords, because practically nothing applies to Scotland that applies to anything else! However, may I write to the noble Lord.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to note that while the main drainage for the whole of our village goes through our land—development permission has been given for that purpose—both my house and three of the farm cottages are not on the main drainage system because they are slightly above the level, and yet we have to pay the full rate?

Baroness BIRK

The noble Baroness has my sympathy, my Lords.


My Lords, is it not a fact that at this moment there is a case in progress in which the legality of the Statutory Instrument which puts into operation the sewerage charge is being challenged?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I cannot comment on anything that is in judicial process at the moment.


My Lords, while declaring the same interest in septic tanks as the noble Baroness, may I ask her whether our septic tanks will be cleaned free of charge now that we pay 50 per cent. of the charges?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I think I will have to let the noble Lord know about that position. I do not believe it comes under this particular Question.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she will make it perfectly clear that if a resident has a septic tank, the main drainage system is introduced into the neighbourhood for the first time and the owner of the septic tank declines to join up with the sewerage system at a very heavy cost, the resident will be relieved of part of the rate?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I think that this is something which the resident would have to discuss with the relevant local authority or water authority.

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