Rating Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st April 1982.

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Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch 12:00 am, 21st April 1982

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many submissions were received on the Government's Green Paper "Alternatives to Domestic Rates".

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

By Friday 16 April, 875 submissions had been received in my Department. We shall complete our analysis of this response as quickly as we can while ensuring that submissions receive the close and careful attention they deserve. I should like to express the Government's gratitude and thanks to all those who have contributed.

Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch

Is my right hon. Friend yet able to indicate whether a large percentage of those submissions requested a continuance or even an enlargement of the percentage of local authority expenditure that would be met by some locally determined revenue? If they did, will my right hon. Friend undertake, at least as far as possible, to make that a main principle of any reform that the Government may undertake?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I know how much concern my hon. Friend has for that approach to local government finance, but it would be wrong for me so soon after the conclusion of the consultation period to try to anticipate the analysis that is now being made.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Widnes

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how many of those 875 submissions advocated a poll tax instead of or in addition to existing rates? Will he examine carefully the suggestion of a poll tax, which could be wide open to evasion, difficult to administer and more inequitable than the existing rating system?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

A significant number of representations have advocated a poll tax. If the right hon. Gentleman has such firm views, it would have been helpful if his party had responded to my invitation to join in the consultative process, which it refused to do, unlike any other party to which I addressed the invitation.