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Mr. Hunt : Having had the privilege of being Government Deputy Chief Whip for two years, I do not recognise the meaning of the word "trouble" with my right

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hon. and hon. Friends. From time to time, we may have genuine disagreements, but we are united, especially about the unfairness of the present rating system and the importance of the new one. Concern was rightly expressed about how the community charge should be introduced.

I heard 12 speeches from start to finish. Although I disagree with many of the points made by Labour Members, I congratulate all hon. Members who participated in a good debate. Having sat for some time on the Select Committee considering the televising of Parliament, I think that a debate such as today's will do the House much credit when it is televised in the autumn.

Labour Members have not spoken to their motion, nor have they proved a word of it. It says that the community charge is unfair, bureaucratic and difficult to collect. Those allegations would be serious had Labour Members substantiated them, but they have not. Labour Members have been unable to prove their case. Thanks to some clever speeches from Conservative Members, Labour Members have been forced on to the defensive-- [Interruption.] Those who are shouting loudest have been most noticeable by their absence from the debate. Labour Members have been forced on to the defensive because they have been unable to defend an alternative policy that changes every day. The Labour party has been unable to control Labour Members who advocate illegal action ; we heard two speeches of that nature from Labour Members this afternoon.

Perhaps the most serious allegation made against the new arrangements is that of unfairness. The only way that Labour Members can begin to substantiate that charge is by deliberately not taking into account the generous rebate system that we have built into the new arrangements. I have much time and respect for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I remember that he celebrated my appointment as Whip on the Finance Bill by leading for the Opposition on that Bill, which lasted longer than any previous Finance Bill. I came to know the hon. Gentleman reasonably well, and I believe him to be a fair man. Being a fair man, he will recognise that those little words at the end of his press release which say that he left out of his calculations rate rebates or community charge rebates in reaching his conclusions, throw his calculations into disrepute.

Mr. Rooker : The only way that one can compare like with like is to use unrebated figures. It is not possible for any hon. Member to ask a local authority, "What are the rates for a road net of rebate?" That is private information. I argued that the same would apply if one compared rebated figures, but that information is not available because it is confidential. When it is, I shall do the same exercise.

Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman has shot his own fox. He said that, when comparing the effect of rebates, he failed to take into account the fact that the rebate system that we are proposing is far more generous than the present one, and he knows that.

Dr. Cunningham rose --

Mr. Hunt : Let me deal with the hon. Member for Perry Barr.

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The hon. Member for Perry Barr said that the community charge is unfair, but I contend that it is much fairer than the domestic rating system. When the community charge is fully implemented, 58 per cent. of households--over 11 million adults--will gain ; 83 per cent. of single-pension households will pay less in community charge than they pay in rates ; and 75 per cent. of other single-adult

households--widows and one-parent families--will gain. On average, the community charge will cost less than domestic rates for all income bands below £200 a week.

Dr. Cunningham : How can it be fairer to make people who pay nothing because their earnings are low pay a minimum of at least 20 per cent. of the charge?

Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman ignores income support. When considering the overall impact of the community charge, we must not pick and choose. Labour Members already have the relevant information.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), who made a typically robust defence of the community charge, said that people must pay something for the local services they use, but that the community charge must not be artificially high. A number of hon. Members mentioned the safety net. We shall consider carefully what they said, but I emphasise that the purpose of the safety net is to phase in the new system over a relatively short period, so that those who lose have an opportunity to adjust to the new circumstances. Gainers will receive a substantial part of their gain in the first year, but they cannot receive all their gain if areas facing sharp increases are to be given time to adjust.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North suggested that the taxpayer--the Exchequer--should pay for the safety net. The proposals announced last week for next year's grant settlement envisage an 8.5 per cent. increase in the amount to be provided from Government grants and business rates. I believe that to be a fair and reasonable increase in Exchequer support. But we shall listen and consider : this is a matter of balance and it cannot be solved by throwing money at it.

Mr. Nellist : I have a question in two parts for the Minister. The first is about rebates. Is he aware that in Coventry, for example, where the poll tax will be £315, according to official Government figures, a single person aged under 25 will receive no rebate if he or she takes home more than £61 a week? Secondly, since when has the business rate been part of Exchequer contributions to local authority spending?

Mr. Hunt : Again, the hon. Gentleman has totally missed the point-- [Interruption.] Far more serious was the speech he made earlier in the debate, in which he advocated support for illegality. How can the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) expect one day to become a Minister of the Crown without condemning the intemperate words used by his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South East (Mr. Nellist)?

The policy of the Opposition changes day by day. When they have a policy, let them come to the House and seek support for it. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the motion and support the amendment.

Question put , That the original words stand part of the Question :--

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The House divided : Ayes 211, Noes 304.

Division No. 320] [7.1 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Coleman, Donald

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Crowther, Stan

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Dr John

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dewar, Donald

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Duffy, A. E. P.

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Foster, Derek

Fraser, John

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)

George, Bruce

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gould, Bryan

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Haynes, Frank

Healey, Rt Hon Denis

Heffer, Eric S.

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Janner, Greville

Johnston, Sir Russell

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Kennedy, Charles

Kilfedder, James

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Kirkwood, Archy

Leadbitter, Ted

Leighton, Ron

Litherland, Robert

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Loyden, Eddie

McAllion, John

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum A.

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

McKelvey, William

McLeish, Henry

Maclennan, Robert

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Martlew, Eric

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michael, Alun

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Morgan, Rhodri

Morley, Elliot

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)

Mowlam, Marjorie

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Nellist, Dave

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

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