On average, the rate poundage may increase by 4 per cent., which represents elevenpence per£of rateable value. This represents an increase to the average ratepayer of about 30s. per annum. Action to reduce the burden of rates will follow the review which we are making of local government finance.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is being characteristically rather unfair today—[HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] I am sorry. I mean that he is being uncharacteristically unfair—it makes a difference—in saying that. He will recall that in the debate on the General Grant Order that we introduced within six weeks or so of our taking office, we made provision of£1 million extra in 1965–66 to start at the beginning of the financial year for this specific purpose. He will also recognise that we have inherited this system from the previous Administration, and that we cannot make changes in it without the fullest possible inquiry. The local authorities financial provisions review has been going on steadily since we came into office, and we shortly hope to have the results which may enable the Government to take decisions which will have an impact, not only in Scotland, but throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor:
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that he is being uncharacteristically misleading in stating that there has been an increase in general grant, observing that the recently announced general grants for 1965–66 and 1966–67 indicate that the Exchequer will be meeting precisely the same proportion of local government expenditure in Scotland as in recent years?
Would he further agree that since this announcement there have been several Government financial policies which have had a serious effect on Scotland, as can be seen from yesterday's appalling news that the Corporation of Glasgow is suspending its house purchase loans scheme?
The hon. Gentleman has a good memory but does not recollect the debate on the General Grant Order which not only increased the amount in 1965–66 in regard to the whole of the General Grant Order but meant an increase by this Government over the amount promised by the previous Administration of £2 million, which is a pretty good implementation of a promise so early in our first year.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take following the finding in paragraph 357 of the Report of the Allen Committee, on the Impact of Rates on Households, that the high level of rates in Scotland subsidises the low level of rents.
Is the Under-Secretary aware that the ratepayers of Scotland feel that they are carrying an excessive burden? Will his right hon. Friend very seriously take into account this clear finding of the committee set up for the specific purpose of inquiring into the impact of rates?
The hon. Gentleman will clearly recognise that this committee was analysing a system established by the previous Administration. Therefore, if any strictures are to be passed on it, hon. Gentlemen opposite must accept their responsibility for creating that system. We are looking not only at the question of local government finance, which is very relevant, but at the question of housing subsidies, and the two together will help us, perhaps, to devise a system better than the Opposition were able to create.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that we have made our policies perfectly clear, and did everything we could to try to restore the balance in Scotland, and that if what he says is now new policy for the party opposite we are delighted to hear it?
I am not aware of anything of the kind. The hon. Gentleman did nothing to change a great deal of the present system of which he complains. For example, in the Housing Acts there was no particular provision to change what he and his right hon. Friends complain about now, 13 years later, which is very unfair of them.