asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest total of representations received by him in respect of his proposals for a community charge in England; what proportion was in favour; and what proportion was against.
A summary of responses to the Green Paper "Paying for Local Government" was placed in the Library on 15 December.
Will the Minister confirm that as recently as last week he told constituents of mine in Lancashire and Yorkshire that his poll tax would increase their family bills by about 15 per cent.? Will he further confirm that that applies especially in the townships of Wigan and Leigh, and especially to those owner-occupiers in lower-priced properties?
I can confirm that all single householders in the hon. Gentleman's constituency will be significantly better off as a result of the introduction of the community charge.
Can my hon. Friend tell us the proportion of people who were in favour of the charge and the proportion who were against?
I do not have the precise proportions, but out of about 600 responses, 390 were in favour of the abolition of the domestic rating system.
Mr. Jack Straw.
Does the hon. Gentleman not want to ask a question?
I showed surprise, Mr. Speaker, because so many hon. Members were rising.First, will the Minister confirm that his suggestion that all single householders will benefit from the poll tax is quite untrue because at the moment single householders on the lowest income pay nothing in rates because they get a full rebate? Under his proposals everybody, however poor, will pay at least 20 per cent. of the poll tax. Secondly, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that his hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government has told constituents in a wide range of Conservative marginal constituencies in the north that in some cases their rate bills will almost double when the poll tax is in operation? In Conservative York it will go up by 25 per cent., in Bradford by 20 per cent., in Grimsby by 17 per cent., in marginal Pendle by 55 per cent., in marginal Hyndburn by 50 per cent. and in Labour Burnley by 90 per cent. Is that what the Conservatives have in mind when they say that they wish to create greater fairness by abolishing the rates?
If the hon. Gentleman looks carefully at the way in which the question that he asks is answered in the Green Paper, he will see that the examples are only examples and will by no means definitely be the resulting figures. The precise resulting figures will depend upon whether the authorities concerned spend wisely.
Mr. John Heddle.
What about other hon. Members?
Order. We are making very slow progress today.