Rating Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy , Torfaen 12:00 am, 29th February 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent representations he has received from district councils in Wales, and the Committee of Welsh District Councils, on the implementation of the poll tax in Wales.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

My right hon. Friend has received no recent representations.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy , Torfaen

Does the Minister agree that recent proposals which the Association of District Councils in Wales has put before the Government to spread the burden of the poll tax more evenly among the 37 Welsh districts are the only means by which the effect of the tax can be mitigated for the Welsh? Does he agree that his right hon. Friend's most welcome Valley initiative would be to accept the proposal and so ease the burden of this unjust, unfair and unwanted tax?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

The hon. Gentleman knows very well, as he is on the Local Government Finance Bill Standing Committee with me, that the needs element of the grants will take care of the differentiation between the different areas in Wales. As for the rest of his questions, I think that time will have to elapse.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I congratulate my hon. Friend on last week's excellent decision to remove caravan parks from community charge and make them non-domestic rated. This will be most welcome in Wales and will help the tourist industry.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

Indeed, and it proves that it is the Government who are the listening party, not others who make similar claims.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Alyn and Deeside

Will the Minister and the Secretary of State promise to read carefully today's Daily Post, in which a feature article discusses aspects of the poll tax and says that the Duke of Westminster could be £8,000 a year better off, Lady Pilkington could be £2,000 a year better off and Lord Derby could be £7,000 a year better off? Is it not an immoral tax which enables that to happen when ordinary people must contend with increased prescription charges? Is it not time that the Government withdrew the Local Government Finance Bill?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

Not at all. The vast majority of people will benefit from the Bill, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and the least well off will be able to benefit from rebates.

Photo of Mr Keith Raffan Mr Keith Raffan , Delyn

In view of the serious effect that the community charge could have on religious orders which have taken a vow of poverty and have no income of their own, will my hon. Friend do his utmost to ensure that they are exempted?

Will he also consider issuing an explanatory leaflet on the community charge to every household in Wales to counteract the lies in Labour's leaflet, which misleadingly states that if people do not register they will not be able to vote?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

As to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, he will know that the Government are looking into the matter most sympathetically. As to the latter part of his question, I hope that my hon. Friend keeps up his good work in putting the right arguments.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Is the "listening Government" listening to the representations being made about sporting facilities, especially non-commercial sporting facilities, such as indoor squash and tennis courts? Will the Minister assure us that the Government will bring forward an amendment to give a statutory exemption to such facilities, bearing in mind that they are exempting commercial fish farms and open-air sporting facilities?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that that matter is being considered sympathetically.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the community charge does not come to pass there will have to be a general revaluation and that the valleys of south Wales will feel the greatest upward effect from it? Is that not a further special reason why we need the community charge as the only practical and fair reform?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is an ironic effect. A revaluation would often hit poorer areas rather surprisingly, not least because the areas which in 1973 had highly rated assets of garages and central heating, for example, have recently been overtaken by much poorer areas which have recently had the same assets installed, so they would find that their rateable values rose fairly rapidly by comparison.