HC Deb 03 March 1836 vol 31 cc1179-81
Mr. Poulett Scrope

moved for leave to bring in a Bill to provide for the levy of the Poor-rate and Highway-rate in all the parishes of England and Wales upon a uniform system of valuation and assessment. There existed great discrepancies, as every body knew, in the valuation not alone of different districts and boroughs, but also between the valuations in different parishes of the same district and borough. He would read several extracts from the Reports of the Poor-Law Commissioners, in order to prove the correctness of his assertion. He might be asked what was the cause of these discrepancies, and the consequent injustice they entailed upon some portions of the population of the country; but he did not know, unless it were the system of jockeying which took place between parish and parish, To remedy these evils, he proposed two simple enactments in the measure he prayed for leave to introduce to the House. The first was, that the poor-rate and highway rates should be levied on the real, and not on the assumed, value of property. The second, that there should be a primary appeal allowed to the Bench of Magistrates at Petty Sessions, which should be held several times a year for that purpose. He did not think that the new valuation would require any great expense to effect it, and he was certain it would be productive of the happiest results to all concerned. There would no longer be the inconvenience and injustice resulting from arbitrary and incongruous levies on the parishioners, nor would there be any continuance of that petty and harassing legislation, and appeals to Quarter Sessions which now prevailed. The overseers would speedily and effectively a range ail these matters, by acting on the principle of equal assessment, embodied in the Bill which he now begged leave to bring in.

Captain Pechell

denied the evil effects which the hon. Member attributed to the working of the present system, and appealed to the state of the county of Sussex for the sufficiency of the present mode of valuation when properly acted on.

Lord John Russell

thought, that great advantage was likely to be derived from the Bill. At the same time he must say, that he contemplated some difficulties as likely to arise in making estimates of the real value of property by the local authorities, and he could not, in consequence, pledge himself to give it his unqualified sanction; but he trusted no opposition would be offered in the present stage.

Sir Robert Peel

called the attention of the House to one of the most serious consequences of the existing mode of levying parish-rates. The hon. Mover had, with much justice, complained of the great inequality of assessments amongst parishioners, and also stated the anomaly existing between separate parishes in the same county, some being assessed at three-fifths of the entire value, some four-fifths, and some at the whole value. This perhaps would signify little between individuals of the same parish, if they were fairly assessed by any fractional amount deemed necessary, whatever it was; but it might be very material to the same individuals and the parish at large, when (heir rates were compared with other parishes, as a rule for the exercise of other than mere parochial privileges. He would beg to ask the noble Lord, whether under the Municipal Corporations' Act the qualifications of those who claimed to vote for Councillors were estimated at the real value of their houses or interest therein, or at the amount of the actual rate paid? Whether, for instance (the amount of the qualification to Vote for a councillor being 15l.), it would suffice to have paid the parochial and nominal rate of two-thirds— that is, 10l.—to so entitle him? His opinion was, that whatever the real value actually was found to be, they ought to allow the parishioner the benefit of it in exercising his right to vote as a corporator, otherwise the most wide-spread injustice would inevitably ensue from the various and arbitrary modes of nominal valuation adopted throughout the country.

Lord John Russell

said, that this objection had struck him at the time, and he had felt some difficulty as to the working of the Bill on account of it. He had in consequence subsequently referred the point to the Law Officers of the Crown, and their decision was, that the Bill must be interpreted to refer to the amount of the actual value paid by the individual as appeared on the books, and not the real value of the house or property out of which they voted. He himself thought that this construction of the law threw a great hardship on the inhabitants who happened to be assessed nominally lower than their neighbours of an adjoining parish. But in the Bill now before the House it was proposed, as a better remedy than meddling with the Municipal Corporation Bill, to take steps to attain the real value of property in parishes, and the real amount a man was entitled to vote for, and thus all existing anomaly and injustice would be effectually done away with.

Mr. Baines

advocated the justice and expediency of the measure. He knew parishes where the rate was only one-eighth of the real value. A man residing therein would require to be possessed of eight times the value of property of another in a neighbouring parish, where the entire amount of property was assessed, to enable him to vote on an equality in corporate affairs.

Leave was given to bring in the Bill.