HC Deb 20 June 1860 vol 159 cc740-3

Order for Second Reading read.


, on moving the second reading of this Bill, stated that its object was to amend the Valuation Act, which had been passed in 1854. That Act only provided for the gross value, and the present Bill sought to amend it in providing that the net value should also be found, in order that all assessments should be made on it. He regretted that he had not seen the Bill of the Home Secretary in reference to the valuation of England and Wales, but he believed there could be no objection to this measure.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that there were clauses in the Bill to which great exception must be taken. He considered that if the Bill were passed, great confusion in the mode of valuation in Scotland would be introduced.


said, this Bill was one of considerable importance, as its operation would affect the interests of all persons resident in Scotland, and alter the basis of the present valuation of property with reference to all local taxes, or at any rate a part of them, and in that indirect manner the Bill would have a bearing upon the Parliamentary and other franchises. So far as he understood the statement of the hon. Gentleman, it was this:—The Scotch Valuation Bill established a basis which was different from that established by the English law, namely, a gross rental as opposed to a net rental, without the deductions specified in the second section of the Bill. Those deductions were allowed by the English law, and the Bill which he (Sir George Lewis) intended to introduce, and which would shortly be in the hands of Members, merely recognized the existing law, and introduced no new principle with regard to valuation. This Bill sought to alter the law as fixed by the Act at present in force in Scotland, and substituted a rateable value with deductions, instead of a rateable value identical with the gross rental. He was not prepared to say that such an alteration might not be desirable; but he wished to point out to the House that all those changes with regard to the incidents of taxation, affected existing interests, and gave rise to a great difference of opinion. In the absence of the Lord Advocate, he felt great diffidence in expressing any opinion upon the subject. He thought it would be more satisfactory to the House, before coming to any decision, that they should hear any opinion which he might have to express upon, the matter. If the House should agree to the second reading, he trusted it would be understood that upon the Motion for going into Committee it would be open to the Lord Advocate to express an opinion unfavourable to the Bill, in case he should have formed one.


said, the objections taken to this Bill were well-founded. He thought the Bill would introduce great confusion into the present mode of valuation in Scot- land, which he believed was to be much commended. The proposed mode of assessment would involve many disputes which might be avoided by taking the gross valuation. Under the mode of assessment which the Bill would introduce a man might be a voter one year and yet have no right to a vote the next year. He believed that the Bill would only tend to introduce confusion and difficulty, and he therefore moved that it be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words, 'upon this day three months.'


seconded the Amendment, because it did not appear that any hardship had arisen from the present mode of valuing, to which people were accustomed, and no grounds had been shown for making this change. The effect of the Bill would be to disfranchise hundreds of electors throughout Scotland, as was stated in a petition that he had presented from the town council of Ayr, and in that town alone he believed a hundred would be disfranchised by it. The existing arrangement worked very well, and it was unnecessary to disturb it.


said, the general object of the Bill was to introduce a general principle of valuation in Scotland, and as he believed they were all willing to establish that principle, he hoped they would assent to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Lewis) read the Bill a second time, and consider its principles, and amend its detailt in Committee.


(who was by this time in his place) said, that when the Valuations Bill of 1854 was under consideration, the Select Committee, including the late Mr. Hume, took much trouble with the question whether the assessable value, or the gross value, should be adopted, and it was found impossible to frame a schedule of deductions for repairs, insurance, and other expenses of property, besides rates and taxes. That idea was therefore abandoned, and the gross value was taken as the only practicable scheme. But the hon. and learned Gentleman now proposed to re-open the whole question, and so far from his Bill producing uniformity, it would produce discrepancies all over the country, if an attempt were to be made by the local authorities to estimate the probable average annual amount of those charges. The result would be that they must either have a special estimate of the annual cost of repairs for each property, which would be too cumbrous and laborious to be attempted, or else the new valuation would be a mere assemblage of averages, none of which would correctly give the real value. The effect of such a system might also be to exclude from the election roll some men whose qualifications entitled them to be placed upon it. It was true that in Ireland a system of net valuation existed, but there it was carried out by a Government Board on an uniform system, whereas it would be left by this Bill before the House to the Commissioners of Supply in each place. In his opinion the gross valuation was practically the more useful system of the two, the actual rent paid being taken as a basis for it. One clause of the Bill, relative to the valuation of crops, might perhaps not be objectionable; but as the present system worked, upon the whole, to the benefit of the country, it was better to leave it as it stood.


, in reply, denied that the Bill proposed to introduce any new principles. The Valuation Bill was only Drought in in 1854, and it introduced a very erroneous system—a system so erroneous, indeed, that it could not be carried out under the Bill itself. He maintained that the principle of his Bill, which was to assess on the net value, was the only fair and just one. It prevailed in Ireland, and was about to be adopted for England. The present system was peculiarly hard on railways, which were assessed on gross value in the parishes through which their lines passed, and great litigation was the consequence in order to secure a fair deduction for maintenance of the way. He would suggest that they should agree to the second reading of the Bill, and postpone the Committee until they had been made aware of the provisions of the English Bill, which the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary was about to introduce. If the principle of that Bill proved to be assessment on net value, then let the principle be also applied to Scotland; if it were not, then the House could reject the present Bill.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 116: Majority 47.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.