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Rating Reform

Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he proposes to issue any guidance to community charge registration officers on the conduct of door-to-door canvassers, and on the information which they may legitimately request and record.

No. The training of canvassers is a matter for community charges registration officers. The information required to be supplied by responsible persons is set out in the inquiry form and supplementary inquiry form prescribed in schedules 3 and 4 respectively of the Community Charges (Registration) (Scotland) Regulations 1988.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what provision he will make to require community charge registration officers to inform persons liable for a community charge of the identity of the responsible person who has been asked to supply information about them.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether he proposes to publish, or to encourage community charge registration officers to publish, any advice to members of the public who may be considering appealing against designation as responsible persons in terms of section 17(6) of the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 1987, including advice about the evidence which might be considered relevant to such an appeal;(2) whether he proposes to publish any further guidance to community charge registration officers on the consideration which they should take into account in determining whom it would be appropriate to designate as the responsible person in relation to any premises.

Under section 17(6) of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 the responsible person will be either the owner-occupier or tenant-occupier of the premises. In the small number of cases where this might give rise to difficulties, the registration officer may designate any other person to be the responsible person. The provisions of the Act are flexible enough to allow registration officers to arrive at sensible decisions in these cases and it is therefore unlikely that there will be many appeals against designation as a responsible person.The considerations which registration officers will take into account in making any designation, and the evidence which may be relevant to any appeals, will vary according to the circumstances of individual cases. My right hon. and learned Friend does not, therefore, intend to publish any advice or guidance on these matters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he proposes that the amounts of interest payments and surcharges owed in connection with a liability to pay community charge for a back-dated period should be eligible for rebate under the community charge rebate scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to require community charge registration officers not to impose interest charges or surcharges on persons who have arrears or back-dated liability for payment of community charge as a result of release from prison following trial, after a period on remand.

The arrangements for interest to be charged on backdated community charges and for the imposition of surcharges in certain circumstances are laid down in Section 18 of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering whether prisoners on remand should be exempt from the personal community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what powers a non-resident or institutional owner or tenant of premises designated as a responsible person for the provision of information on the occupiers of those premises in terms of section 17(6)(b) of the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 1987 will have to obtain information required by the registration officer; and what penalties the occupiers will incur if they refuse to supply the responsible person with information.

Under section 17(6)(b) of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, either the owner of the premises, the tenant-occupier or, any non-occupancy tenant with a lease for 12 months or more will he the responsible person. Only in the few cases where this might give rise to difficulty will the registration officer designate another person to be the responsible person.A responsible person has no specific powers to require another person resident in the premises to provide information for community charge registration purposes. There are no penalties for refusing to provide the responsible person with information. The information required is however straightforward and it is unlikely that responsible persons will be unable to supply it.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what guidelines his Department will issue to community charge registration officers on the information which they will be able to require the police force to supply them with; and if he will make a statement.

The Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 gives community charges registration officers no powers to require the police to supply them with information.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether community charge registration officers will be able to delegate their powers to door-to-door canvassers employed by local authorities to obtain information from members of the public.

Members of the registration officer's staff may assist with the handling of inquiry forms, but do not have the powers of registration officers. Such powers may be exercised only by the registration officer himself or by any depute registration officer appointed by a regional or islands council under section 12(3) of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987.