Burden on Ratepayers

Part of Roads – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1967.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes 12:00 am, 13th March 1967

The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) has deployed his case very successfully and it is only courteous to him that I should rise now and not risk missing the opportunity of dealing with the points which he has made.

On these occasions it is customary to congratulate an hon. Member on his success in the Ballot. However, this time I feel a certain amount of commiseration with the hon. Gentleman, because when he went in for the Ballot he was not to know how very successful the Government's policy had been in keeping down rates. He began his speech very fairly with a series of points where the Government had dealt with the problem, saying that it had worked and that rates had not increased in the way that he had feared.

One particular point he dealt with was the share of rates borne by the domestic ratepaper. As he said, probably more than any other hon. Member he was responsible for forcing his party to take into rating the full value of industrial hereditaments.

The position is that whereas in about 1955 the share of the domestic ratepaper was 60 per cent. and in the last year of the Conservative Administration it was 48 per cent., this year it was 47 per cent. and next year it will be about 46 per cent. That shows that we are succeeding in keeping down the share of the domestic ratepayer.

As he acknowledged, one of the reasons has been the all-out effort of local authorities to keep down their expenditure. I should not myself have chosen this moment to have a debate on the subject, in case it looked as if one did not pay full tribute to local authorities of all parties for their wisdom and statesmanship in meeting the national need and doing this. They have done it, and it is something for which the Government are extremely grateful.

In a time when the rate support grant was going forward, we had hon. Members opposite vying with each other in their prophecies of gloom. It was rather like Hexham prophesying its thousands and Chester its tens of thousands. One right hon. Gentleman opposite prophesied that we should see an increase of 10 per cent. However, the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) thought that that was pusillanimous stuff and said that it would be 20 per cent. I have not the complete picture, but it is not my fault that we are having the debate now and have to take the existing picture. As far as we can tell at the moment, general rates are going up by less than 5 per cent., and domestic rates are going up by less than 1 per cent.