asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government upon what basis his new local tax will be assessed.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to her Question on 14th December.
In that reply, the right hon. Gentleman said that the future structure of the local tax would depend on the future structure of local government. When will he bring forward his proposals for that?
I have nothing more to add. We want a thorough investigation into the tax and local government question. All that I said was that the two hang together. In my view, we are unlikely to get a new tax without a radical reform of local government.
Will the Minister's Answer apply to the new proposals for the Tyneside area in view of the fact that the whole place is being blown up and that there will be nothing left of anything?
Great as I believe the effects of boundary reorganisation to be, I do not think that a fair description of what will happen is to call it a total explosion if the Tyneside accepts the proposals which I have tentatively put forward.
I hope that it will not.
There is still some time before what the hon. Lady describes as an explosion will happen. I have made it clear that what we are doing under the existing Boundary Commission must go on.
Does not the Minister's earlier reply mean that, like the Prime Minister, he has not the faintest idea of any alternative tax to rates?
In replying seriously to the right hon. Gentleman, what it means is this. We should face the fact that if we continue, as we must do, to try to make the rates less regressive and remain content with rates as a tax, more and more of the cost will have to be moved to the central Government, and that means a decline in local democracy.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his proposals for a new local tax to replace rating will extend to water rates.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the Question by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on 14th December.
Will the relief for ratepayers with small fixed incomes apply to the increase in water rates particularly caused by the last Budget which will fall very heavily on those least able to bear it?
I will not enter into a semantic debate with the hon. Gentleman, but, in my view, water rates are not technically rates but a charge for a commodity.