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Community Charge Registration (Strathclyde)

Volume 131: debated on Thursday 14 April 1988

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3.59 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the community charge registration procedures at present being followed in Strathclyde region and this morning's court judgment in relation to it."

Against the background of the extremely complex tax that has been imposed and the equally complex registration form that has been put out, it is widely recognised that a great many questions have to be asked and I suspect that that is the reason for allowing 21 days for the form to be completed. In Strathclyde region, however, the registration officer has chosen to use a system in which canvassers leave cards calling for the form to be filled in for collection three days later.

A constituent phoned me last week in deep anxiety. His mother had a stroke some weeks ago and his stepfather is also ill. When he went to see them on Sunday, they were anxious about the form and he helped them to fill it in. As they did not know which of them would be the "responsible person", he properly assisted them, and the form was sent back on Sunday night. Monday was a holiday, but on Tuesday the canvasser returned with the form and the letter but with no answer to their question, although the form drew attention in note No. 1 to their right to ask such questions.

That kind of fear and harassment, as it is perceived, is happening throughout the Strathclyde region. A case was therefore taken to the sheriff court in Glasgow seeking an interim interdict. In her ruling—

In her ruling, the sheriff said that the collection cards had no legal basis whatever and, somewhat bizarrely, she was unable to grant an interdict because they had no statutory force.

For that reason, and because we have only 21 days, it is important that Parliament should pronounce, because for technical reasons a judge could not make a decision on the matter. The matter is specific because it affects not only my constituents but the constituents of every Member in Strathclyde region.

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the community charge registration procedures at present being followed in Strathclyde region and this morning's court judgment in relation to it."

I have listened with interest and concern to what the hon. Gentleman has said on the matter. As he knows, my duty in considering whether to grant a Standing Order No. 20 debate is to decide whether it should receive precedence over the business set down, in this case for this evening. I regret that I cannot find the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.