HC Deb 12 March 1992 vol 205 cc649-50W
Mr. Irvine

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to take his capping decisions; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo

On 26 November 1991 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, announced his proposed capping criteria for 1992–93. On 23 January 1992 he reaffirmed that he was minded to adopt those criteria, and they remain his firm intentions for criteria for 1992–93.

However, under the statute my right hon. Friend cannot take his decisions on the criteria to select authorities for capping, and the level of proposed caps for any authority designated, until he has considered authorities' budgets. Information on authorities' budgets must be submitted to the Secretary of State by 8 March in the case of precepting authorities and 18 March in the case of charging authorities.

My right hon. Friend intends to take his capping decisions as soon as is practicable and appropriate after the receipt of budget information. However, such decisions are of a kind which by convention Ministers do not take during an election campaign. My right hon. Friend therefore does not intend to consider these matters until the earliest practical opportunity after the election.

When he comes to take his decisions my right hon. Friend will have regard to all appropriate considerations including the budgets which authorities have set and his provisional criteria. In the light of information on the budgets he will decide on the principles for capping which he should adopt, on which his present intention is set out in the provisional criteria. On the basis of those principles he will designate authorities for capping. For each designated authority he will decide on a proposed cap. The proposed cap which he will set for any designated authority will represent my right hon. Friend's view of the appropriate and achievable level for that authority's budget in the light of all its circumstances.

At that point each authority may accept either its proposed cap, and proceed with re-billing if that is necessary, or challenge the proposed cap seeking that the Secretary of State should vary his proposal as to the amount of the cap. Authorities have 28 days from designation in which to challenge their cap.