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Local Taxation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 4th July 2005.

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Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich 5:04 pm, 4th July 2005

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will not pursue that, as there are points of principle that I do wish to pursue. Any attempt to move back towards a flat rate tax related to the numbers of people living in a household would be a profound mistake, as the country rightly and overwhelmingly rejected the whole ethos of the poll tax that characterised the Conservative party in the 1980s and early 1990s.

One of the curious features of today's debate is the extent to which the two Opposition parties have been vying with each other—something on which other contributors have commented. It is strange that they should attach more importance to the short-term interests of the Cheadle by-election than to the long-term interests of developing a credible system of local government finance for this country, which is what we need. Let me consider some of the serious weaknesses in both their positions before concluding with a few thoughts about what should guide the way forward.

The Conservatives have been advancing the extraordinary proposition that one can have a system of taxation based on property values without the need for revaluation. Mrs. Spelman recognised, I think, that that is completely untenable. She then proceeded to say that they were not totally opposed to revaluation, although the motion in her name and that of the Leader of the Opposition talks about cancelling plans for a council tax revaluation, which indicates pretty clearly that they are opposed to revaluation. She acknowledged that there was a need to take some account of values, but advanced the preposterous suggestion that because of some degree of convergence between property values in different parts of the country, there would currently be no need for a revaluation.