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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I should not have to intervene in an Adjournment debate, but there has been far too much sedentary comment on both sides of the House. The Minister should be heard.

Phil Hope: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We are prepared to use our capping powers on any authority, including police and fire authorities, if that proves necessary. We will decide on the criteria in the light of authorities' budget decisions.

I share the hon. Gentleman's worries about unreasonably high council tax increases, so we are taking steps to help individual council tax payers directly. Unfortunately, not all those who are entitled to help with their council tax bills are claiming that benefit. Local authorities have a statutory duty to promote the take-up of council tax benefit, and we are actively pursuing new ways of supporting them.

The Department for Work and Pensions is planning to launch a campaign to raise awareness of council tax benefit and encourage take-up by potential beneficiaries. We especially want to ensure that the 1.9 million pensioners who will gain more council tax benefit on the introduction of pension credit will get the extra help to which they are entitled. Furthermore, the DWP is revising and streamlining the process for claiming housing and council tax benefit and pension credit. We have also removed the restriction on people living in houses with high council tax bands from claiming council tax benefit at the full rate.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about the census. We have announced that we will do an amending report for 2003–04. We are allowed to make only one amending report for the financial year, which will take place within the statutory time scale allowed. That means that it must take place before the end of the 2004–05 financial year because we have only one chance—

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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