HC Deb 21 March 1879 vol 244 cc1481-90

(1.) Assessment Committee.

Clause 3 (Appointment of assessment committee) agreed to.

Clause 4 (Constitution and powers of assessment committee) agreed to.

Clause 5 (Clerk and expenses of assessment committee).


said, that in the absence of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Brise), who had put down on the Paper an Amendment to that clause, he would ask permission to move it in his place. He proposed, in page 2, line 19, after "guardians," to leave out "or with the sanction of the Local Government Board," and to insert the words? "if unable or unwilling to serve." He had no objection to the Amendment with that addition.


said, he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board how far he intended to proceed with the Bill that evening? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), who took great interest in the measure, had left the House under the impression that the Bill would not be proceeded with that evening. He believed that other hon. Members had also left under similar circumstances.


said, that he saw no reason why the Bill should not be proceeded with that evening.


said, that there were several Amendments on the Paper on clauses prior to that upon which the right hon. Member for the City of London proposed an Amendment. He did not wish to throw any unnecessary obstacles in the way; but he thought it must be evident to everyone in the House that the Bill was not expected to come on that evening. He had no doubt that many hon. Members would have been present had they had any idea that it was to be considered. He should therefore suggest to the Government the propriety of reporting Progress as early as possible.


said, it had been evident from the first meeting of the House that evening that this Bill was very likely to be reached. The first 16 clauses of the measure went through Committee last year, and he thought there could be no objection to their now being passed.


inquired how many clauses the right hon. Gentleman proposed to pass that evening?


said, that if the hon. Member had any objection, he could wait until the clause to which they applied came under discussion.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

(2.) Making of Valuation Lid.

Clause 6 (Making of valuation list by overseers).


said, he had to move, in page 2, line 31, after "shall," to insert "annually." His object in doing so was simplythis—he thought that the plan proposed by the Bill for having a valuation of property in each county and borough made quinquennially, and then having a supplementary list annually, would in practice be wholly illusory, and would not secure that uniform valuation of property which it was the object of this Bill to establish. Although it might not appear so to hon. Members who had only been accustomed to the system in use in England at the present time, and who were without experience of the valuation system in Scotland, yet it was clear, from the results obtained in Scotland, that the valuation could not be uniform unless it was annual. Like many other hon. Members, he had been under the impression that this Bill would not come on that night, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer having said that it would not be taken at an unreasonable hour. He would ask whether it was not then an unreasonable hour?


said, that he had stated it would be taken at a reasonable time.


was sure that if the subject of discussion had been one that the right hon. Gentleman felt strongly about, as many hon. Members did, he would not have considered that a reasonable hour to commence the discussion. It was an unreasonable thing, in his opinion, to commence a discussion at that time upon an Amendment which involved an important principle. His Amendment was to the effect that an annual valuation was necessary, and he should give figures to show that, in the county with which he was connected, during the 12 years preceding the introduction of the present annual system of valuation, the rental of that county had only increased by £ 11,000; but that, in the very first year after the Valuation Act came into operation in Scotland, the rental increased £34,000. There was no use in a system of valuation which practically made a valuation take place only once in 10 years. As evidence of the necessity of an annual valuation, he would adduce the case of Glasgow. There were 2,000 new houses erected there in the course of the year, and during the same period there were upwards of 30,000 changes of occupiers. Of what use, then, would a revised valuation list once in five years be? Unfortunately, he had not the figures with him relating to the county with which he was best acquainted, for he did not think that the Bill would come on that evening. From them he could have submitted to the Committee sufficient evidence to prove that unless a valuation was annual, uniformity and accuracy could never be secured. The right hon. Gentleman's proposition was that a valuation should only take place once every five years. He thought that system would be wholly useless to secure a uniform valuation. As he had already mentioned to the Committee, in the county to which he had referred the rental increased only by £11,000 during the 12 years preceding the operation of the Valuation Act in Scotland. But during the next 12 years, it increased by £100,000, and after 25 years' experience, by at least another £100,000. It would be seen that this great increase did not arise by reason of new buildings having been erected. The figures which he had prepared on this subject, but which he had not then with him, showed what part of the increase was due to an improved rental derived from house property, and what part of the increase was due to increase in rent by the improvement of land. Speaking entirely from recollection, he thought he was correct in saying that not one-third of the increase in the county arose from the improvement in the rental of house property; and if that were the case in the county to which he referred, there was not a county in England in which a similar process was not going on. If the right hon. Gentleman would do him the favour to look at the evidence which he had placed before him, he would find that the facts were as he had stated, although no impression seemed to have been produced upon the right hon. Gentleman by their consideration. He did not see how it was possible to have a uniform and ac- curate system of valuation, if the lists were only revised at the periods provided by the Bill. He did not think that an annual system of valuation would add greatly to the expense if once established. He therefore begged to move that the word "annually" be inserted in the clause.


could assure the hon. Gentleman that he had fully considered the statement of increased values, and entirely admitted the accuracy of the facts and figures to which he alluded. But something must be allowed for the difference between the system in this country and that in Scotland. They were adopting a new system in England, and there seemed no reason for an annual valuation, as a valuation once in five years was found to answer very well in the Metropolis. He had reasons for believing that a valuation every year would be considered a troublesome burden in England; and he could not, therefore, consistently with his duty, recommend the Committee to adopt it. The hon. Gentleman had said that the system worked very well in Scotland. That might be, although it was true there were objections to it even there; but still he did not think it right that it should be introduced into England. In the Metropolis, they had found the proposed system of valuation to work exceedingly well. Nothing could be more satisfactory than its working, and he did not think it left anything to be desired. If that were the case, therefore, there was no reason why the system should not be found to work equally well in the rest of the country. He would also draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fact, that they provided by the Bill for an annual revision of the list, and they had a supplementary valuation. Under these circumstances, he was satisfied that the scheme proposed by the Bill would work well, and do substantial justice. He could therefore see no reason for altering it. It had not come to his knowledge that an annual valuation was desired in any part of England; and if there had been a necessity for such a thing, some hon. Member from England would probably have brought forward the matter.


observed, that the right hon. Gentleman very truly said there had been no desire expressed in England for an annual system of valuation. If, however, his arguments were sufficient to show that no other system valuation could secure a uniform and equitable mode of valuation, he should have thought it desirable that the people of England should be made familiar with the system. It was also said that the increase in the Metropolis had been quite as great as could be reasonably expected. That statement seemed to assume that the increase had been commensurate with the improvement of the property. It did not follow that a valuation so conducted was either uniform, or kept pace with the increase in the value of property. The matter seemed to him to be of so great importance that he should divide upon the Amendment. He did not think that the clause should be allowed to stand as it was, and that the period provided by the Bill for making valuations was not a proper one.


said, there were great objections in that House to copying any good thing from Scotland. He had no doubt that the annual system of valuation was the best, and he thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to adopt it, for the result of the system would certainly be to put the finances of the country in a much better condition. He was sure that the system which had been found to work so well in Scotland would work equally well in England, and the result arrived at would be that there would be uniformity of valuation between Scotland and England. As the matter stood, it was unfair to Scotland to have an annual valuation, while it did not take place in England, for, by means of it, she bore an unfair share in the taxation of the Empire. He believed that the Amendment of his hon. Friend ought to be adopted.


thought the difficulty into which the Committee had been put by this Bill coming on unexpectedly was quite apparent. It was only necessary to look at both sides of the House, to show that Members who took great interest in these matters did not expect the Bill to come on that evening, and were not in their places. The hon. Member spoke with a great deal of authority as to the practice in Scotland; but the Committee ought to know what was the opinion of hon. Members from England as to the de- sirability of an annual system of valuation. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read),and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), would certainly have been present if they had had the slightest expectation that the Bill would be taken. He was sure that the Committee would have been glad to have known their opinions on the subject. If the Government persisted in going on with the Bill at that hour, he thought they should be satisfied with its having got into Committee, and look upon it as an unexpected piece of good fortune that the hon. Member for South Norfolk did not move his Amendment. He should suggest that the Government should postpone the consideration of the Bill until it could be properly discussed.


denied that the Bill had been taken unexpectedly. So far as the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) was concerned, he had already arranged with him what should be done as regarded his Amendment, and it had been agreed that the Amendment should be brought on at another stage. With regard to the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), he had had every opportunity of knowing that the Bill might be taken that evening. He could not consent to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay), and he thought the Committee would not consent to have such an annual valuation as he proposed. If the hon. Member were determined to raise the question which he had next upon the Paper, he was willing that the Bill should be postponed till another time. All he wanted to do then was to pass the clauses which had gone through Committee last year. With respect to the observation of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), he could only say that he had no wish to press the matter, or to hurry discussion in the absence of hon. Members.


said, that one good reason why the Bill should not be proceeded with that night was that it was not in the hands of hon. Members. As it was not expected to come on copies had not been furnished them, and they could not be procured. He thought, however, that the proposal of the Government was reasonable— namely, to take only on that occasion the clauses which were agreed to last year.


said, that the suggestions of hon. Members from Scotland, as well as from other parts of the United Kingdom, were always listened to with great attention in the discussion of English affairs. Still they would not know so well as English Members what measures would be precisely suited to this country. With regard to the question of an annual valuation, he might, from his personal knowledge, say that he was sure that in the populous districts of England an annual valuation would be found intolerable.


observed, that the arrangement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was with the hon. Member for South Leicestershire alone; but the question raised by him affected not only other hon. Members, but the whole country, and they were entitled to be considered before his proposal was withdrawn.


pointed out that the Question under consideration was the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk.


said, that he was not surprised that the right hon. Member for Bradford thought the Government had had sufficient good fortune in bringing the Bill into Committee. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman did not wish the Government to have any good fortune at all. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that it was not reasonable to bring the Bill on at this hour. All the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated was that the Bill should not be taken at an unreasonable hour. He would challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show that either he or his Government would have considered half-past 11 an unreasonable hour to enter upon the discussion of such a measure as this. It must be admitted that this was a most important question, and no doubt many hon. Members had been taken by surprise by reason of its now coming on; but the House of Commons was itself a House of surprises, and it could not be told one day from another what would come on, and if hon. Members who took a particular interest in a Bill were not present when it came on, surely it was most unjust to blame the Government for their absence.


observed, that as the hon. Gentleman opposite had appealed to him, he would state his opinion that this was not a reasonable time for bringing on the Bill. A very important question was involved, and by bringing on the matter at that hour the injury was felt, perhaps, more upon the Government than upon the Opposition side of the House. A great many Members on the Government side of the House took an interest in the matter, and were not there because they did not understand that the Bill would be reached. He ventured again to urge upon the Government to be satisfied with passing the Bill into Committee, without pressing it on in the absence of the hon. Members for South Norfolk and South Leicestershire, and of many other hon. Members who took a great interest in the question. He might add that he did not make these remarks out of any wish to obstruct the action of the Government.


repeated that the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, whose Amendment related to Clause 8, was willing to take the discussion upon it at another time. With reference to the hon. Member for South Norfolk, if he wished to raise any discussion upon the matter, he should be afforded facilities for so doing.


said, that after the expression of opinion from his right hon. Friend, he did not feel disposed to divide the Committee upon the Amendment. At first, he thought that it was so important a question that he should not have felt satisfied without taking the opinion of the Committee upon it; but after the desire expressed by English Members to adopt anything good from the law of Scotland, he did not feel disposed to press the matter upon them at this time. For many years past it had been the endeavour of Englishmen to bring the law of England into harmony with that of Scotland, and this was one point upon which he had been desirous that the law of England should be assimilated as nearly as possible to that of Scotland. At the same time, he had no desire to ignore the sentiments of the people of England, and he would now ask leave to withdraw the Motion he had made. He would take advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to report Progress, as the next Amendment standing in his name was one upon which considerable discussion would ensue.


remarked, that it was an injustice to Scotland that there should be an annual system of valuation there and not in England. A large portion of the revenue raised under the valuation roll was applied for Imperial purposes. It was therefore clear that, considering the yearly increase on heritages in England was very great, and if the valuation was only made every five years, Scotland would suffer injustice by throwing into the Imperial purse the increase every year, while England valued only once in five years.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

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