HL Deb 09 July 1981 vol 422 cc819-20

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Stedman

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, in the light of discussions in this House on the Local Government, Planning and Land Bill on 9th October 1980, whether negotiations are proceeding with local authority associations on the question of financing of parish councils, and whether any circulars have been sent to local authorities reminding them of their discretionary powers to make grants to parish councils where they have concurrent powers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, we are currently considering representations about parish precepts that have been made to us by the local authority associations. We have not issued any circulars on this subject, which has long been a matter of disagreement, not least because of the significance it has for district authorities' expenditure control.

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer, so far as it goes, following our long discussions on the Local Government Bill. Will he not agree that the parish councils, which are already under stress, are suffering even more financially because of the present financial stringencies under which the districts and other authorities operate? Therefore, will he consider, when he is producing the penny rate rules, which I understand are anticipated later this year, whether he could define the calculation of a penny rate attracted by a parish expenditure—the RSG attracted by a parish expenditure—and try to cure this way of dealing with the concurrent powers, thus making sure that they are operated properly?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, what the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, says is most interesting. I shall gladly look into her suggestion about defining in more detail the penny rate and exactly what it does or does not comprise. Yes, I shall bear very much in mind what she has said. I think she knows that I am by no means unsympathetic to the problems which face the parish councils. On the other hand, there is the great concern of the district councils, which take an opposite point of view; and in this case, as so often in life, one is involved in trying to get a balance in between.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, is it really necessary for the Government to waste time on this revision of the rating system?—because at the last general election they promised to abolish the rating system altogether.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, not for the first time the noble Lord—although always fascinating in the questions he asks—leads the subject very wide of the Question.