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Poll Tax

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the amount of poll tax still outstanding at today's date. [36041]

As at 30 June 1995, the total amount of community charge income which remained uncollected in Scotland was £310.8 million.

Does the Minister know whether Mr. Dick Douglas cleared his poll tax bill before the Government appointed him, or afterwards? That would be interesting to know as Mr. Douglas sat on the Opposition Benches beside me for three or four years saying that he would not pay it. Now that Mr. Douglas has a nice salary, does the Secretary of State intend that he should pay something towards that salary because he encouraged people not to pay the poll tax?

What the hon. Gentleman should consider is that of the £310.8 million of community charge outstanding, £208.8 million relates to Strathclyde. That has come about because of the totally reckless campaign by the Scottish Nationalists and the total inefficiency of the Labour-controlled council in collecting the tax. To put the matter in perspective for the people of Strathclyde, that sum of money as a one-off payment would save £280 on a band-D tax bill and represents 37 per cent. of the total council tax revenue. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try to make sure that the council goes ahead and collects that tax in the interests of the people of Strathclyde.

Mr. Douglas is the chairman of the water customers' council. I am sure that he will look after customers' interests to the best of his ability and I commend my right hon. Friend for making that appointment.

Mr. Dick Douglas was plucked from obscurity, to which he was consigned by the electors, by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Has he or has he not paid the poll tax or is it another example of the Government's double standards? Perhaps it is revealing that the inventor of the poll tax is not answering questions at this point in the Order Paper today. Let me make the obvious point that there would never have been the poll tax—the only and real tartan tax that the people of Scotland have to pay—if we had a Scottish parliament. It would never have passed that legislation. Will the Minister answer the straight question that has been put to him? Mr. Douglas is being paid a high salary to head a quango. He was appointed by the man who invented the poll tax. Has Mr. Douglas paid it?

I really do think that the hon. Gentleman has given a pretty weak performance this afternoon. I hope for his sake that he is successful in the reshuffle within his party today. The one thing that he fails to tell the electorate of Scotland is the taxation that will apply to the people of Scotland should his Scottish parliament come about. He has had questions put to him throughout the summer by the Government and the Conservative party about the income and the revenue for the Scottish parliament. He has failed to answer those questions. Unfortunately, he will cost the Scottish people and that is not in the interests of the Scottish people, the Scottish economy or Scottish business.

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Due to the unsatisfactory reply from the Minister, perhaps I could raise this matter in an Adjournment debate.