Local Government Finance
§ 6. Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with local government representatives from Wales on the working of the community charge.
§ Mr. Wigley
In view of the enthusiasm that the Secretary of State and his colleagues showed for the candidacy of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) in the recent leadership election, will he tell the House that he wholeheartedly supports the attempts of that right hon. Gentleman to do away with the poll tax, lock, stock and barrel? is he aware of the devastating effect that the tax is having on people on low incomes in Wales? Is he aware that, in respect of a third of those due to pay, the cost of collection will be greater than the sums that the authorities will receive? Can he assure us that the poll tax will be brought to an end at the end of this financial year?
§ Mr. Dickens
Does my right hon. Friend agree that when people in Wales or elsewhere choose not to pay their community charge they are saying that they want someone to pay it on their behalf, and that that is really getting up people's noses? Does my right hon. Friend agree that people should pay their way and that those who are not 6 paying the community charge are the same people who have been in rent arrears and rate arrears in the past? They want everything for nothing. They want someone else to pay for them.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
As a Minister of State at the Department of the Environment the right hon. Gentleman tried to reform the poll tax, but in a recent parliamentary answer he confirmed his belief that the poll tax is fair, as he also said on 15 January. Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the only decent thing to do with the poll tax is to abolish it? As the proud architect of it, does he still support the hated poll tax and does he still support it in Wales?
§ Mr. Hunt
Not only I but the vast majority of people support the principle behind the community charge—that everyone should pay something towards the cost of the local services that they use. As to the future, the hon. Gentleman will know that Labour's proposal is to return to the unjust, inequitable domestic rating system. If he wants to bandy quotations with me, I am quite willing to enter into a contest. The Leader of the Opposition, describing local rates, said:The most unjust of all taxes"—[Interruption] The Opposition do not like that and I do not blame them. The Leader of the Opposition said:The most unjust of all taxes, local rates, take most from those who can afford least.That is what the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) is proposing.
§ Mr. Livsey
To use fading terminology, will the Secretary of State abolish the poll tax at a stroke and replace it with a local income tax based on people's ability to pay, as recommended by the Layfield Committee?
§ Mr. Hunt
The hon. Gentleman will know that when we considered various proposals for local taxation in the Green Paper in the early 1980s, we looked at a number of proposals including local income tax and we concluded that of all the systems then on offer the community charge represented the best, and we then introduced it. However, it is right that, having introduced a new system, we should constantly and continually keep it under review and that is exactly what we propose to do.