HC Deb 20 December 1983 vol 51 cc169-70W
Mr. Amess

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to give business ratepayers statutory rights of access to information and statutory rights of audience in full council meetings during the rate-fixing period.

Mr. Waldegrave

Th Rates Bill, published by my right hon. Friend today, will place a duty on local authorities to consult representatives of industrial and commercial ratepayers. These representatives will have the right to be provided with such information concerning the local authorities' past and proposed expenditure and the financing of that expenditure, as my right hon. Friend will prescribe. The Bill will also require local authorities to have regard to guidance issued by my right hon. Friend as to the timing and form of these consultations.

We are discussing with the local authority associations and business organisations the content of the regulations and code of practice.

Mr. Amess

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to provide for the paying of the business rate levied by district councils by instalments.

Mr. Waldegrave

Yes. The Rates Bill published today by my right hon. Friend will extend the right to pay rates by instalments to all non-domestic ratepayers for 1985–86. Meanwhile my right hon. Friend has also today made an order raising the rateable value limits within which non-domestic ratepayers already have this right, to £10,000 in Greater London and £5,000 outside for 1984–85.

Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he is reviewing his policy on rating non-profit organisations; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what has been determined in the light of the views of the rating of charities and kindred bodies, the Pritchard committee, which came to the conclusion that all charities and non-profit making sports organisations should secure discretionary relief from rates; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he has now studied the paper sent to him by the Central Council of Physical Recreation on the question of rate relief for sports organisations and particularly angling bodies; and what has been his reply.

Mr. Waldegrave

The Pritchard committee reported on the "Rating of Charities and Kindred Bodies" (Cmnd. 831) in1959. All the major recommendations, with the exception of those relating to the provision of rate relief for universities, were accepted and incorporated in the Rating and Valuation Act 1961 and subsequently consolidated in section 40 of the General Rate Act 1967.

Section 40 provides that any hereditament occupied by a charity and wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes shall receive 50 per cent. rate relief. It also enables rating authorities—at their discretion—to give up to 100 per cent. rate relief for various purposes listed in the Act to charities and other organisations which are not established or conducted for profit.

A number of organisations, including the Central Council of Physical Recreation, have made representations seeking mandatory rate relief for sports clubs and other non-profit making organisations. We have considered these carefully, but have no proposals to change rating law in this respect. The arguments which the Pritchard committee advanced in favour of giving local authorities discretion to grant rate relief to non-profit making clubs are still valid. The authority is in the best position to judge the merits of each case. The Central Council of Physical Recreation has received a reply to this effect.