HC Deb 21 February 1859 vol 152 cc672-4

said, that he rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to abolish general exemptions from local assessments. The Bill was founded upon the recommendation of the Select Committee appointed last year, and the grievance which it sought to remedy was obvious. In many places a large number of buildings had been erected which did not contribute towards parochial rating. The exceptions consisted of three classes; the first, being based upon the prerogative of the Crown, the second upon statutes, and the third upon non-beneficial occupation. He did not propose in any way to interfere with the first exemption; nor was any such interference recommended by the Select Committee. He should maintain the exemption of churches and other places of public worship, burial grounds, turnpike tolls and highways, Royal parks, and Palaces under the management of the Board of Works; in addition to which there would be a clause in the Bill enacting that none of its provisions should apply to exemptions contained in any private or local Act of Parliament. Much the largest class of exemptions comprised those which came under the head of non-beneficial occupations. All buildings, such as those which were held by the Admiralty, the War Office, the Woods and Forests, and the Office of Works, were included under this head, not because they were the property of Her Majesty, but because they were not held by any person who could be said to have a beneficial occupation of them. He proposed, therefore, to abolish this kind of exemption, inasmuch as it was found to press with undue hardship upon many towns in which Government works were situated. The House would probably be astonished at hearing that the value of the property of that description amounted to above £2,000,000; though what the annual assessment might be would depend upon the difference of rating in various places. He thought, however, it was but fair to say that he estimated the annual loss to the public revenue at £250,000, taking the average assessment at 2s. 6d. in the pound. But although they must expect that additional burden to be thrown on the income of the country the different localities might fairly say that they had, up to the present time, been bearing a charge which ought to have been thrown upon the nation at large. The opinion of the Committee was unanimous on the subject and he was convinced that the Bill was conformable to the true principles of rating, and he therefore hoped it would receive favourable attention and be allowed to pass into a law.


expressed his obligations to the right hon. Gentleman for introducing the Bill, which included, as he understood. the whole of the recommendations of the Select Committee upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had adverted to the charge which the proposed alteration would place upon the nation; but if it were a considerable charge to the nation how much more grievous must that charge have been felt by particular localities? It must be remembered, however, that, after all, it was not an additional charge upon the country, but a mere equitable distribution of the existing charge.


said, that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have been directed more particularly to Government establishments. He wished to know if he intended to carry out the recommendations of the Committee with respect to the rating of museums, hospitals, and other public buildings, to which he had not alluded in his speech proposing the Bill?


said, he also wished to inquire whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed making the buildings comprised in the term "non-beneficial occupations" liable to all parochial rates, or to the poor rates alone?


said, he wished to ask if the Bill extended to Ireland?


said, that the word rate in the Bill was, by the interpretation clause, to be construed as meaning every local rate and assessment. Every rate, therefore, would be included in this Bill. It was also intended to comprehend all that class of public buildings and institutions alluded to by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. John Locke). It exactly followed the recommendations of the Committee, and would extend to Ireland.


said, he felt much satisfaction in agreeing with the introduction of this Bill.


said, he also fully concurred in the principle of the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to abolish General Exemption from Local Rates (Queen's Recommendation signified), ordered to be brought in by Mr. SOTHERON-ESTCOURT and Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE.

Bill presented, and read 1o.