Domestic Rates

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th February 1982.

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Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh 12:00 am, 17th February 1982

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, in order to ensure a good response from the public to his invitation to let him have their views on his Green Paper"Alternative to Domestic Rates", he will publish a shorter popular version, which should be both cheaper and more readily available.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at £4. 75 this useful but somewhat slim Green Paper is grossly overpriced and that I and my constituents can buy the complete works of William Shakespeare for rather less? If, as I hope, this useful document is to be discussed, can it not be produced at a lower price?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

"Overpriced" is not an expression that I would use in connection with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), but I understand his concern. We were anxious to see whether it would be possible to produce a shortened version for more widespread distribution, but the issues are complicated and it was difficult to condense them in a way that would be equally valuable to those studying them. I am concerned at the price of such publications, but substantial sums and major interests are involved. Against that background, I do not think that the price is too unreasonable.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Will the Minister explain why, when the Government so much deplore increases in rates, they apparently support increases in rents?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

The payment of rates applies right across the board, although there seems to be some illusion that council tenants do not pay them. The impact of the very high rate increases, which are well in excess of the proposed rent increases, are a major burden for council tenants as well as for industry and commerce.

Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch

Although we do not yet know whether the Green Paper will become a best-seller, or even perhaps a film, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, whatever representations are received, any long-term reform should be such as can be sustained for a long time and not be overturned in five years or so?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

As we have made clear, we are anxious to listen to the widest representations on this important issue. I take note of my hon. Friend's comment.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Widnes

In order to gain that good response, and in view of the earlier reply of his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, will the Government produce the document in cartoon form and publish it inThe Guardian alongside the public opinion poll on council tenants' attitudes to rents?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King Minister of State (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

If anyone wishes to readThe Guardian, I recommendThe Guardian Diary of yesterday.