Local Government Finance

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 April 1990.

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Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West 12:00, 25 April 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to announce the final levels at which relevant local authorities have been community charge-capped.

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

The date for announcing final caps will depend in part on how authorities react to the caps that I proposed earlier this month, but I expect the capping process to be finalised in time for all capped authorities to set their new budgets by June or July.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

Does my right hon. Friend find it deplorable that Bristol and Avon are about to waste more community charge payers' money going to court to get the right to spend more community charge payers' money? Is not this a case of heads, charge payers do not win, and tails, they lose?

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I note what my hon. Friend says. I am sure that many of his constituents will raise an eyebrow about what has happened. I cannot comment on any case before the court, but my hon. Friend will be aware that there have been at least five judicial reviews on rate capping and that the local authorities failed to win any of them.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

Has the Secretary of State's attention been drawn to a letter that is being sent out by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to people who write to him about the poll tax, in which he boasts that, when he was Secretary of State for the Environment, he persuaded the Cabinet not to proceed with the poll tax, that he believes that there will have be changes to a system based on the ability to pay and that he intends to take a close interest in the matter? Would not it be a good idea for the Secretary of State to consult his predecessor, who takes the view, shared by many people across the whole political spectrum, that the poll tax is a disaster and cannot continue to operate?

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) intends to take a continuing close interest in the evolution of the community charge. However, I am bound to say that my right hon. Friend's description of what he did when he was in the Cabinet, which I am sure is accurate, is slightly less illuminating than some of the descriptions of how the right hon. Gentleman justified his time in Cabinet.