To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to alter the help available to people living alone under the council tax.
People living alone are entitled to a 25 per cent. council tax discount. Many will also receive relief to ease the transition from the community charge. Households on low incomes qualify for benefit to offset part or all of their council tax liability.
I thank my hon. Friend for that extremely helpful reply. Can he confirm that when the Local Government Finance Act 1992 was passing through the House, Opposition Members voted against the principle of a discount for those who live alone? Will he further note that many single-person households comprise pensioners? Given the Opposition's alleged concern for pensioners, does he agree that voting against a discount means voting against pensioners' interests?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Labour party made it clear in Committee that it objected in principle to the discount system. Labour Members made it clear that an incoming Labour Government would do away with the discount. Anyone who has a discount for being a single person, whether a pensioner or not, knows that if the Labour party had its way, discounts would be scrapped.
Does the Minister accept that despite what he has said, many elderly pensioners living alone are angry about the situation in which they find themselves? They were told that they would benefit most when rates were abolished, but they paid a lot more under the poll tax. Many of them are now paying even more under the council tax than they were under the poll tax. Will the Government consider introducing a banding lower than band A which would help many single people living alone and others who live in areas where there are many band A properties? In 57 local authorities, more than 50 per cent. of the properties are in band A.
Pensioners must think it a bit rich for a party that did not want to have discounts at all to now act as the pensioners' friend.