§ 12. Mr. Canavan
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the cost to date of introducing, administering and collecting the poll tax, including the cost of Government-initiated relief schemes, broken down by year.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robin Squire)
The cost of preparing for the community charge was about £270 million. The cost of administering and collecting the community charge each year has been about £500 million, or between £12 and £15 per charge payer. Relief schemes do not add to overall public expenditure. However, they have ensured that the burden of local taxation has been reduced to 15 per cent. of local government spending.
§ Mr. Canavan
Will the Minister tell us the whole truth and admit that the Government had squandered more than £14 billion on the poll tax before eventually being forced to admit that it was all a terrible mistake? Does the Minister realise that if local government representatives were guilty of such irresponsible waste of public money they would undoubtedly be surcharged and banned from office for many years? Why not surcharge and ban from office all those Ministers who were responsible for the poll tax?
§ Mr. Squire
The hon. Member makes a bogus and entirely false point. He has become something of a phaneromaniac when it comes to the poll tax. You will know, Madam Speaker, that that is someone who has a compulsion to keep picking at something and returning to it. If one leaves it alone, it sometimes gets better—and something better is coming in: it is called the council tax. Above all, the hon. Gentleman is not best placed to ask questions about the costs of administering the poll tax, given his early appearance as a poll tax rebel, which would have encouraged thousands of others to push up the cost of collecting that tax.
§ Mr. Riddick
Does my hon. Friend agree that many of my constituents and many people in this country are thankful to the Government for introducing the relief schemes that have helped to reduce poll tax bills? Were not those relief schemes introduced as a direct response to the incompetence and profligacy of Labour councils throughout the nation?