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Local Government Finance

Volume 171: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received from tenants' organisations in favour of capital value rates.

I am not aware of having received any representations in favour of capital value rates from tenants' organisations or anyone else.

Would not a system of capital value rates be as unfair to those on low incomes as a local income tax would be unwieldy? Is not by far the fairest and most accountable system of local government finance—subject of course to proper implementation—the community charge?

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. The more people understand about capital value rates, the more they despise the proposition.

If three out of four voters in England rejected a local government tax in the general election, and if a body elected—in the main—outside England subsequently ignored that vote and imposed that local government tax only on England, would the Minister describe those of his fellow countrymen who resisted that undemocratic imposition by every peaceful means open to them as shirkers and anarchists? Does he recognise that the danger of anarchy arises when Governments ignore the principle of democratic consent to law, as the Government have done with the poll tax in Scotland?

I do not follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. I am not well read in the principles of anarchy, but my clear recollection is that the question whether there should be a community charge was put fairly and squarely to the electorate at the last general election.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the impact of the uniform business rate on bed-and-breakfast businesses.

The impact of the uniform business rate and the non-domestic revaluation on bed-and-breakfast establishments which are subject to rating will vary among properties and areas of the country in the same way as for other properties. I am pleased to see that businesses as a whole in my hon. Friend's constituency will benefit from an average rate reduction of 45 per cent. in cash terms, without transition, as a result of the new business rate arrangements.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the anxiety about the suggestion of the 100-day rule? Will he examine more closely the problems that it could create? If introduced, it could discourage smaller bed-and-breakfast businesses from operating. That would have a profound effect, and would work against our policy to encourage more tourists to use tourist facilities off-peak.

I have met several hon. Friends to discuss the treatment of bed-and-breakfast accommodation. We are considering the arguments that they and others have put to us.

Will the Minister have a word with the Secretary of State for the Environment? Perhaps they could trot down to Bath together. I have been told that there has been a revolt by the business men and women of that constituency. The result of that and other developments is that we could be recycling the whole Government, not just the Secretary of State for the Environment.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the 10 county councils with the highest percentage overspend over standard spending assessment.

The list is as follows: Derbyshire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Avon—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Northumberland—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Cumbria—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Oxfordshire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Cheshire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Isle of Wight—[HON. MEMBERS: "Liberal."]; Humberside—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]; Nottinghamshire—[HON. MEMBERS "Labour."]; and Lancashire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Labour."]

Does not that send the clearest possible message to the local government electors that Conservative councils cost them less, and that Labour and other Opposition-controlled councils cost them much more?

I could not agree more: everywhere that we look, Labour councils cost the community charge payer more money.

Is the Minister aware that people in the London borough of Barnet who want to go swimming go to the Swiss Cottage baths in the borough of Camden, and that people who want to take their children to one o'clock clubs go to Parliament Hill fields, also in the borough of Camden? It is all very well for Conservative-controlled authorities to keep spending down, but their residents must use the facilities in neighbouring Labour-run boroughs because they are not provided in their own boroughs.

With a Conservative council, one gets not only a lower community charge but better value for money and better services.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, had we not changed the domestic rating system, the spending by the authorities that he mentioned would have given rise to such a huge burden on ratepayers that any Government who failed to get rid of rates would have been rightly and severely criticised?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The Government were the first with the guts to get rid a the iniquitous domestic rating system. We still await the Labour party's statistics for what it proposes in place of the community charge.