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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that counting chickens is a hazardous occupation?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, we all do it from time to time with various degrees of success.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the House will be very glad to hear that the Government have not prejudged the issue of the public inquiry into the fifth terminal for London Airport. Can we be assured that, in reaching a final judgment on the issue, they will bear in mind the need for an airports policy which encompasses the whole of the United Kingdom and which builds on the strength of developing international airports in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow to ensure that the whole of the United Kingdom is served by the airports that we have available to us?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the airports policy of Her Majesty's Government is one thing; a planning application is another. When my right honourable friend determines the planning application, he will address his mind to the substance of that application.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, is it not the case that, as a generality at Heathrow, the slot space availability is just about at saturation point? In this regard we are addressing the question of fewer executive, smaller jets and more of the large passenger carrying jets.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not think that we are necessarily addressing that. What is being addressed is whether there should be a fifth terminal at London Airport and all that goes with that. All those matters will be considered. The point which my noble friend makes may be one such matter, but it certainly is not the only one.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that it is not only air traffic movements that we have to consider? We must consider also ground traffic. Can the noble Earl give me an assurance—

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: No.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, gets better at heckling with every day that goes by. He is improving with age.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: Like good wine.

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will the noble Earl give me an assurance that the objectors—and in particular, the individual objectors—will be properly financed in putting their case to the public inquiry, which I believe will be a very long and expensive one?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it is for everyone to pay the costs of the inquiry. The costs of running the inquiry are likely to be £2 million or £3 million. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is concerned about roads, access and so on. I should point out that there are four or five major inquiries taking place under this whole umbrella: the Heathrow Express—the train from Paddington to Heathrow—which comes under the Transport and Works Act; the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Terminal 5, which is under the Transport and Works Act; and the Highway Agency, which is promoting the spur off the M.25 for Terminal 5. There is also the delightful prospect of moving the sewage farm from Perry Oaks to Iver. All those matters must be considered.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that Stansted is an excellent airport which is under-used and which does not have the traffic problems created at Heathrow? All those matters should be kept very firmly in mind as the inquiry proceeds along its tortuous way. The original proposal, which it is hoped will be changed, provided for the M.25 to become 14 lanes but those lanes would finish up on the M.4 which has four lanes. That would cause traffic paralysis in that part of the world. Let us hope that there will be no fifth terminal but perhaps a greater use of a very fine airport.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it seems to me that the points which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, makes should be addressed properly to the inquiry. I have no doubt that he is one of the 11,011 objectors but the others do not have the privilege of having a seat in your Lordships' House which gives the noble Lord the opportunity to publicise this matter, as he has done.

Granny Flats: Council Tax

3.15 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to reverse the recent court decision that an additional liability to pay council tax can arise where accommodation is provided in private homes for elderly relatives.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, as I made clear in answering my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes on 26th June, we shall consider carefully this decision when the transcript becomes available. However, on present information there seems no need to amend the guidance which was issued to listing officers of the Valuation Office Agency.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that characteristically cautious reply. Is it the Government's intention not to allow the development of

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a rule that council tax is payable additionally where people public-spiritedly or generously accommodate their elderly relatives?

Lord Henley: My Lords, every case depends on its facts. One must look at the individual accommodation and decide whether it is a separate and self-contained unit and therefore liable for council tax. As to whether the overall burden on the individual family is increased, I dealt with that when I last answered this question. In many cases it is possible that by rating or assessing separately the two premises so that the main house has a reduced banding the liability for the other property will rest with the elderly relative living in it who might, if of few means, be entitled to benefit, and benefit at 100 per cent.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, does the Minister recall that when we last discussed this matter on 26th June, I asked what would be the position in respect of capital gains tax given that the Inland Revenue defines granny flats as separate properties for the purposes of council tax? The noble Lord, Lord Henley, seemed to be rather confused about that at that time. Will he make it clearer for us? If the separate granny flat is not defined as part of the householder's principal residence, will it not be liable for capital gains tax? As well as paying council tax on the granny flat, the householder will have to pay capital gains tax—a Conservative double-whammy against the elderly?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as I made clear last time, the assessment as regards council tax has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is a separate property for the purposes of capital gains tax. Therefore, as on the last occasion, the noble Lord's question has nothing to do with the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, as vice-president of the Royal British Legion, the most honourable position I have ever had, I receive letters from many people who say that they are experiencing great difficulty finding over £1,000 a month which it costs to keep their elderly relatives, who fought in the 1914-18 war, in private nursing homes. I do not ask the Minister for an assurance but will he give me at least a hope that that situation will be examined so that we honour those men who were very severely wounded in the First World War? Their relatives cannot afford to keep them in those homes. I ask that something be done to acknowledge the contribution they made when they were young men fighting for their country.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with his usual passion on behalf of those whom he represents and those to whom we owe so much. The Question on the Order Paper does not relate strictly to that matter but I shall pass on the remarks of the noble Lord to my appropriate colleagues.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, when I asked the Question on 26th June I told the noble Lord that there were newspaper reports which stated that to be self-contained, the unit or flat did not even need to have a toilet or other facilities. In reply the Minister said that he considered that those were rumours in the newspapers. Since that time has he had an opportunity

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to check whether that is correct and that a property cannot be ruled to be self-contained unless it is literally a property into which one may enter, close the door and live entirely separately?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as I believe I made clear to my noble friend on that occasion, we considered the press articles to be somewhat alarming and misleading. I want to make it quite clear that under the guidance issued by the Valuation Office Agency, separate bandings will apply only where a unit has all the necessary facilities; that is, living space, washing and cooking facilities and WC.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister indicate that the Government are watching carefully the outcome of similar cases? Can he also confirm that the Government are aware of a very real danger that duplication of council tax is to be the reward that people get for housing elderly relatives?

Lord Henley: My Lords, again, I believe I made it clear on the earlier occasion that if we felt there was a genuine disincentive to people to look after their elderly relatives, obviously that would be something we would look at. For the various reasons that I explained, I honestly do not believe that there is such a disincentive. However, if it was felt that there was, that would be something we would consider.


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