I welcome the Secretary of State's support for parish councils. Regardless of what he does about other recommendations for Berkshire, will he confirm that the strong recommendation for the creation of a parish council for Newbury will be accepted, in line with the long-standing thoughts of local people?
I shall certainly look at that and also at the difficulty under present legislation, which is that if an ancient town already has some sort of trust council it cannot also have parish council status. Many towns want to keep their historic regalia and historic ways of doing things and have the powers that a parish council may give to them. I am looking to see whether we can find a way around that difficulty.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that some areas do not actively seek parish status and that we should not rush down the road of establishing new parishes unless there is clearly a genuine need for doing so?
I am sure that some places do not look for this status. However, I hope that we shall encourage those other authorities, district and county councils, which in recent months have made clear their desire to work with parishes and give them greater powers— which, of course, is in their remit—to continue down that road after the announcements of the final decisions on local government reorganisation. I should not like any of those who have promised such co-operation during the run-up to the decisions to forget those promises when they have achieved the status that they sought.
Is it the Government's view that a parish council should have the right to levy a precept and that a nation which is a part of the United Kingdom should not have the right to levy a tax?
It is certainly the Government's view that the present arrangements for precepting should continue. However, it is not our view that we should so break up the United Kingdom that there should be tax-levying powers in other parts of it in circumstances in which Members of this House would have no right to ask questions about how those taxes were raised or spent.