Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
It gives me considerable pleasure to be called to speak following the maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris). I know that it is customary for one who follows such a contribution to congratulate the hon. Member who made it. Indeed, it has almost become axiomatic to congratulate a maiden speaker in the most fulsome way. I would normally have congratulated the hon. Gentleman, even though I would have been somewhat hypocrytical, but I know that in this particular instance everybody in the House will agree that the hon. Gentleman's speech was first-class, not only in its content but in the way in which it was delivered. The hon. Gentleman need not worry about the fact that his speech was a little controversial, because the idea that one should never make a controversial maiden speech went out of the window on the day that I made mine. I hope that we shall hear the hon. Gentleman speak often in the House because he obviously has a great contribution to make to our debates. [column 85]
As one of the older guard in the House perhaps I may explain to him the difference between “right hon. Gentlemen” and “right hon. Friends” . One says “Friends” only when referring to one's own party Members; they are only “Friends” to the hon. Gentleman if they are on his side of the House. On the Government side we are just “right hon. Gentlemen” or “hon. Gentlemen” .
Are there no “Friends” among hon. Members on the Labour benches?
I am sorry if I did not make my explanation clear.
I also understand that a Labour Member—the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) made a maiden speech. Although I did not hear it, I am told that it was an excellent speech, and I extend my congratulations to him. I understand that he referred to Middlesbrough and Jackie Charlton. It is a good job he does not have to refer to Coleford United because they are not doing as well as they should. [An Hon. Member: “What about Leeds?” ] Please let us not mention Leeds.
I should like to make my position clear on this order. I know that it is customary for those who speak in opposition to an order of this nature to follow their voice with their vote. There are two reasons why, although I oppose the order, I shall vote for the Government tonight. Nobody on the Labour benches wishes to see the return of the sort of administration that we have just successfully got rid of. Secondly, I understand that there will be confusion unless the order is carried, and that local authorities will find difficulty in securing money at a low rate of interest.
Mr. Jeffrey Archer
Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that if there is brought before the House a subject which he believes to be totally wrong he will vote with his own side just to keep them in power?
No. I am not. If the hon. Gentleman had been here long enough he would have known that there is no reason whatever for him to pose that kind of question to me.
I am afraid that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environ[column 86]ment is guilty of instant government. In the final part of his speech he said that this year he would be undertaking a thorough review of the grant system. If that is the situation, and if there has not been time to collect all the information required to make an objective appreciation of the position, then surely there is no reason why he should not have applied the system proposed by the Conservative administration.
It is not good enough simply to look at the receipts in various areas. I appreciate that as a result of this revision some urban areas will be substantial losers. In the rural areas we must relate the rates payable in respect of services to the people living in an area.
As a result of the revaluation in my constituency, particularly in the Forest of Dean, there has been an increase of 30 per cent. in the rate burden. I notice the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on the back bench. Why he should be there I do not know. It was he who answered my Adjournment debate on the rating system and rating revaluation and who admitted that the Forest of Dean was harder hit than most other areas in the country. As a result of the revision almost all my constituency will have to pay a substantial increase over and above that which would have been due had the system remained unchanged. Householders in the Forest of Dean are having to pay a rates increase of 70 per cent. in addition to the increase of 30 per cent. due under revaluation, and they will be not only resentful of the revision but in some instances on a borderline.
The cost of housing in the area has gone up enormously. It may be that a substantial number of people will not be entitled to rate rebate but will have committed themselves almost to the hilt with mortgage repayments and they may find themselves near to insolvency.
I want a complete review of the whole rating system. It may have been all very well in old Elizabethan days to have a rating system based upon a notional rent, but today it is a complete and utter nonsense.
May I remind the Minister of some of the problems of the rural areas? My house has the septic tank system because there is no sewerage in the village. In urban areas the cost of sewerage is borne [column 87]by the rates. If I lived in an urban area I should automatically get my sewerage provided out of the rates, but because I live in a rural area I have to pay to have my septic tank emptied. It costs £7.70—admittedly, only once a year. I get a £2 rebate from my local authority and I have to pay the balance. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Members for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) may think it is funny. I am using myself as an example, but my constituents also have to pay this sum.
Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Does my hon. Friend not realise that it would cost more than the amount he has referred to to have sewerage provided out of the rates?
No. I am afraid my hon. Friend has not the slightest knowledge of the economics of these matters.
Part of my constituency borders on Wales. The fantastic situation arises that Wales will benefit from a substantial rates grant and yet people living just over the border in my constituency will be liable to pay much more.
There is something wrong with the situation created by this revision. I charge my right hon. Friend with failing to face up to his full responsibility of taking his time in examining the rating system. It is no use saying that a review is under way this year when rates have to be paid within the next two months. If he is having a review it should be comprehensive, not concerned merely with the grant system. It should deal with the whole principle of the notional rent.