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Rating Reform

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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31.

To ask the right honourable Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what further representations the commissioners have received from clergymen on the effects of poll tax on matters for which he is responsible.

The commissioners have received representations from clergy and church members about the serious financial implications of the proposed community charge for the clergy and the Church generally. The commissioners continue to work closely with the Churches main committee, which has approached Her Majesty's Government on behalf of the major denominations.

When will the right hon. Gentleman, who is speaking on behalf of the Churches, lead an open and public campaign on behalf of Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims against the Government's poll tax, which affects synagogues, temples and churches without discrimination? When will he stop the Government allowing the imposition of VAT on religious works such as the Bible and the Koran? If the right hon. Gentleman refuses to answer me again this month, I will be back next month.

I shall welcome seeing the hon. Gentleman in his usual place. If he gives me regular notice of the question, it will not be difficult for me to answer. I should have corrected him by pointing out that no poll tax has been put on to the statute book, and no community charge has been levied by the Government against any denomination to which he referred. I reiterate my earlier answer, that the Church Commissioners are in correspondence and in contact with the Government about some relief for the churches in respect of the community charge corresponding to the 50 per cent. derating that they enjoy under the existing house rating provisions.