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Rating System

Volume 973: debated on Wednesday 14 November 1979

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his review of the present rating system will take into account the problems of commercial and industrial ratepayers, particularly those of small shopkeepers.

Yes, Sir, and in addition we hope to bring forward legislation in this Session to extend domestic rate relief to a wider range of mixed business and domestic properties, and to extend the right to pay rates by instalments to non-domestic ratepayers.

I thank the Minister for that assurance. As the Government have done away with the revaluation ordered by the previous Labour Government, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether, in the review, he will replace the rating system for not only the domestic ratepayer but ratepayers of industrial and commercial premises? Some small shopkeepers are facing problems, and there will be anomalies that will become greater if the revaluation is not to take place.

I understand the concern felt by commercial ratepayers, especially the small shopkeeper, over the substantial increases in rates in recent years. We have made clear our intention to seek the abolition of the domestic rate. I have no further comment at this stage on the wider matters which the hon. Member has raised.

Does my right hon. Friend understand that the cancellation of the revaluation of rating for non-domestic premises—such as commercial and industrial premises—has not only attacked the rating base for the income of local authorities but has created a good deal of uncertainty about local authority policies towards those premises?

My hon. Friend will be aware that even if the revaluation had gone ahead it would not have been implemented before 1982. There will be no immediate change. I understand the concern that is being expressed. We are considering introducing, in legislation shortly to be brought before the House, a partial revaluation power to deal with the uncertainty to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Will the Minister give an assurance that his consideration of domestic and commercial rating will encompass the need to use some basis other than rateable value for the charging of water rates? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the present system is totally inequitable in both the domestic and commercial sectors?

If the rating system is abolished, that will have consequences for the present method of charging for water. That is one of the factors that we shall take into account in our review.