HC Deb 08 July 1868 vol 193 cc848-53

Order for Committee read.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (All Mines to be rated).


, who had given Notice of his intention to move a series of new clauses, proposed the omission of all the words after "sixty-eight" down to the end of that clause, in order to insert the words "the occupier of every mine in England and Wales producing coal, clay, stone, salt, or ore, shall be rated in respect thereof for the relief of the poor.''


suggested, that as the proposals of the hon. Member were more in the nature of an alternative Bill than of Amendments, it would be most convenient to take the discussion upon them at once as a whole; and then, if the hon. Gentleman succeeded in carrying the first of them on a division, that decision might be accepted as a decision upon them all.


said, he wished seriously to call the attention of the Government to the great importance of that measure. Its object, which was generally approved, was the rating of certain property which had hitherto been exempt from rating. But now it also proposed to make serious alterations in the manner of rating coal mines, which were already subject to rates; and he thought a question of that great importance ought not to be embodied in the Bill without due notice to the whole country. It affected not simply the coal owners, who might as a body be in favour of the change, as it would give them a considerable relief; but it likewise affected the interest of all other classes of ratepayers. Therefore, although he certainly did not wish to oppose the further progress of a Bill to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Percy Wyndham) had devoted so much time and pains, he thought it would be more acceptable, both to the hon. Member himself and also to the House generally, that they should receive from Her Majesty's Government an assurance that they would take up the whole question as regarded coal mines and other mines in a future Session.


said, he for one had come to the conclusion that the only way of dealing fairly with the question of rating was to do away with all exemptions. His hon. Friend would, he might add, in his opinion, do well not to press his Bill this Session. The subject was one on which he could not take it upon himself to legislate now; indeed, it belonged to another Department of the Government; but he confessed he should like to see the whole question of exemptions dealt with in one Bill.


said, he believed that the House was pretty well agreed that mines should be rated; and the only remaining question was, on what principle the rating should be assessed. His own opinion was that all mines should be rated upon the same principle as coal mines; and he thought a simple enactment might be passed declaring that the words "coal mines" in the statute of Elizabeth should be held to include all mines. As to the course which the Government were prepared to take in the matter he could give no definite promise. All he could say was that his Department would give it due consideration during the Recess; and he should be very glad if he were enabled to introduce a measure dealing with it next Session.


said, that there were no two parishes in England in which mines were rated on the same principle.


said, he could not help thinking that the House had all the information on the subject that was necessary to enable it to legislate upon it with advantage. The Bill did not interfere in the least with the principle on which coal mines were rated. It simply proposed to obviate the complaints that mines were rated in the most contradictory manner. The real question before the Committee, he believed, was whether the word "occupier" should be inserted in the clause; and he was opposed to that being done, because it was necessary to retain the provision that the owner might by agreement pay the rate. In Derbyshire alone there were between fifty and sixty mines, the royalty on which did not exceed 5s.; and if it were made compulsory that the occupier should be rated great inconvenience in that county would be the result.


said he thought the proceedings of the Committee would be facilitated if it were decided that the Bill should hare nothing to do with coal mines.


contended that the proposition for a deduction of 33 per cent was one which ought to be thoroughly considered by the House before it was adopted. He did not think it had been so considered, and his hon. Friend would in his opinion act wisely in withdrawing, at all events, that part of the clause.


said, he would suggest that, as there seemed to be so much difficulty with respect to the assessing of coal mines, it would be well that the portion of the Bill relating to it should be withdrawn, to be re-introduced next Session in a better form by the Government. In Lancashire three or four different plans of assessment prevailed, and it would be desirable that one uniform system should be established.


said, he wished to point out that mining in Cornwall was at present in a depressed condition, and that if this principle of rating were applied there it would greatly aggravate the distress. The copper mines among others should be very tenderly dealt with.


said, he objected to the application of a particular mode of rating to particular descriptions of property. He thought that all property liable to pay poor rates should be rated according to the general system, and that it would be inexpedient to lay down a special principle with regard to the assessment of mines. All that was necessary was a short clause to abolish the exemption from rating which had hitherto existed in favour of certain underground property, by declaring that every description of mines, not liable to be rated to local rates, should in future be liable to such rates. The general law would then take effect. Another question for consideration was whether, if the law under which persons held leases of property at a fixed rent was suddenly changed, it would be right that they should bear the whole burden of a new rate. He suggested that, in rating for the first time property which was never before rated, it would be only a just provision to divide the payment of the new rate between the landlord and lessee. He conceived that the enactment of two such provisions as he had just mentioned was all that was necessary.


said, he was glad that many difficulties had been cleared away—difficulties which arose chiefly from the variety of absurd conditions under which mining operations were carried on. But that House would make a great mistake if they laid down fixed modes of assessing mines. As a representative of a large coal district, he had always felt that there was very great injustice in the exemption of other forms of mining from the payment of rates, and he was prepared to accept the principle that all mines should be liable to be rated. He believed that the effect of rating mines would in many cases be to shut them; but the question was whether it would not be charitable to do so, because at present they were being worked at a loss. The coal trade of the North had agreed that if the deduction of 33⅓ per cent in their favour suggested by the Valuation Committee of last year were allowed they would consent to be placed in the same category as all other mines.


said, he regretted that the question of rating woods and plantations had not been dealt with in the Bill.


protested against this wholesale system of rating mines, the country having received no sufficient notice that such a measure was to be brought forward. The subject was much too important to be handled by a private Member. In his opinion the Government ought to take the matter into their own hands. He would recommend that the assessment of coal mines should be dealt with by a special Bill, to be introduced by the Government next Session.

COLONEL GRAY moved that the Chairman report Progress, as the discussion appeared unlikely to lead to any result.


said, he would vote for no measure that would transfer the rate from the owner to the occupier.


said, that everyone who had spoken appeared to be in favour of the principle of the Bill, but as he did not wish that at that period of the Session some measure on the subject should be delayed in passing through the House, he suggested that hon. Members having Amendments to propose should not press them, but allow the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) to move his Amendment, in favour of which he should give his vote, or he might run the chance of losing the Bill altogether.


declined to withdraw his Amendment.


said, that if the Committee agreed to that Amendment he would immediately after propose the one he had already described to the House.

Motion to report Progress withdrawn.

Amendment agreed to.

MR. AYRTON moved the addition of words to make all mines not now rated liable to be rated. They would be rated by the application of the ordinary law of rating.

Page 1, line 11, Amendment proposed, After the word "sixty-eight," to add the words "any description of Mines in England and Wales not now liable to be rated to the rates for the relief of the poor and other local rates shall be liable to be rated to such rates."—(Mr. Ayrton.)


opposed the Amendment. He was very much afraid that profits would be rated.


also opposed the Amendment. Although he was quite willing that mines should be rated, those in Cornwall were in an exceptional condition.


said, he could not understand the peculiar exceptional character of the Cornish mines. If they were exhausted or nearly so, the Assessment Committee would prove the fact, or it would be their duty to ascertain it.


said, all the mines that would be rated under this clause would be rated upon the principle at present adopted, all the circumstances being considered. The measure of the rate would be the value of the mine—that was to say, what could be got as a reasonable rent for a certain number of years. It would have no reference to profits.


said, he thought the Amendment was fraught with danger.


said, he thought that the occupier should be rated.


said, the question as to the mode of rating arose more properly upon the succeeding clauses of the Bill.


said, that nothing could be more absurd than the notion about mines being rated on profits. In his part of the country the only consideration with the Assessment Committee was the rent that a tenant would give from year to year.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 119, Noes 6: Majority 113.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.


said, that in consequence of the acceptance of his Amendment the other clauses of the Bill were rendered unnecessary or inapplicable. The only question that remained was as to the proportion of the rate to be paid by the landlord. This was a matter of considerable importance, and it would be better to report Progress and bring up a well-considered clause on the Report.


staled that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), in conjunction with himself, would propose a clause on the bringing up of the Report to settle the proportion of the rates to be paid by the landlord and the tenant.

Remaining Clauses struck out.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Friday, and to be printed. [Bill 221.]