Rating Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th November 1988.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke 12:00 am, 9th November 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what figures he now has as to the percentage of adults in Scotland who have registered for the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Preliminary indications from community charges registration officers are that the number of people included on the community charges registers, which came into force on 1 October, amount on average to more than 99 per cent. of the adults resident in their areas according to the Registrar General's population figures.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures give the lie to the campaign organised by some Labour Members that the Scottish people should refuse to register? Does my hon. Friend further agree that the figures confirm the good sense of the Scottish people in obeying the law and ignoring the illegal "Stop it" campaign supported by Labour Members?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A very bad example has been set by the Labour party in the matter of law breaking. The Scottish people, however, believe in obeying the law, and attempts by the Labour party to frustrate the compilation of the register have clearly failed.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Does the Minister accept that tomorrow will see one of the first main tests of public opinion on the poll tax in Scotland and that the votes cast in Glasgow, Govan tomorrow will show support for the SNP non-payment campaign and very little support for the Conservative party and the community charge?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I do not accept the hon. Lady's attitude and I await with interest the evidence of the 100,000-strong army of non-payers and law breakers that she intends to recruit to the SNP.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Perth and Kinross

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the people of Scotland on rejecting the blandishments to criminal activity by members of the Labour party and the Scottish National party, with the honourable exception of the shadow Secretary of State? Will my hon. Friend remind the Scottish people that, on average, the community charge will be only £5 per week per head, that if they are sensible enough to vote Tory, for example, in Perth and Kinross, it will be only £4 per week, but that if they are stupid enough to vote Labour it may be anything up to double that amount?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the figures published last week by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I emphasise that those figures are not speculative, but are founded in fact. They reflect the known facts relating to the increase in inflation, which can affect the ceiling on business rates and the distribution and amounts of revenue support grant. As a result, any council spending more than the figure given by my right hon. and learned Friend will be doing so because it is increasing its spending.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

The Minister is simply peddling myths and doing so rather pathetically. Does he accept that at no time has the Labour party advocated non-registration? Our aim has been to build a coalition against the poll tax and we have succeeded remarkably. If the Minister wishes to shrug that off, how does he account for the fact that the poll tax is almost universally unpopular and in vast areas of Scotland his party is now an electoral joke?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

It is plain that the hon. Gentleman is out of touch with the facts. Not only do recent opinion polls show a rise in support for the community charge, but in the past five months there has been a dramatic fall from 31 to 8 per cent. in the number of people intending to follow the blandishments of Labour Members of Parliament not to pay the community charge.