§ Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners)
The Church Commissioners have worked closely with the churches main committee, which has made representations to Her Majesty's Government on behalf of all the major 14 denominations. Those representations have emphasised the loss of charitable relief on domestic rates and the serious financial implications of the proposed community charge for the churches.
§ Mr. Allen
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Church Commissioners to congratulate the Government on doing what many thought was impossible — uniting Jew, Hindu, Muslim and Christian under one banner against the threat of this unjust poll tax on their churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and all places of worship? Will he also make representations to ensure that the Bible, the Koran, and other religious works will not be hit by the VAT which the Government will allow to be imposed on all written documents?
§ Mr. Alison
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman prepared his supplementary question before he heard my reply. If he had waited he would have learnt that the churches main committee is consulting the Government to see whether some relief can be made available to the churches. The hon. Gentleman's supplementary, which he composed in advance of my reply, is therefore redundant.
§ Mr. Forth
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the staff and others involved in the churches have a vote in local authority matters and enjoy the services provided by local authorities in a measure equal to other citizens? Does he therefore agree that it is only equitable and just that all people in a local authority area should be able to vote and should pay their share?
§ Mr. Alison
That is a very fair comment. Clergy do not pay domestic rates and they will not pay the community charge. The community charge will be paid on their behalf by the churches, and that is one of the reasons why we are consulting the Government.