HC Deb 19 May 1879 vol 246 cc783-8

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


said, he strongly objected to the progress of this Bill, for, as he read it, its principles were entirely opposed to those rules of valuation now in force in England.


replied that the matter was very easily explained. Section 37 of the Poor Law Act of 1845 provided for a particular mode of valuation and assessment. In 1854, the Valuation Act for Scotland was passed, and that had since been amended by several Statutes, which provided a general mode of valuation, on which all local taxes other than poor rates were now levied in Scotland. But certain Railway and other Companies assessed under the Act of 1845 were in the habit of disputing the valuation of their undertakings for the purposes of the poor rate, and the result had been to lead to much litigation and expense. The only object of the Bill was to do away with this exceptional legislative enactment, which had proved most expensive and detrimental, and to allow these properties to be assessed on the same basis as all others. Whether it was necessary to amend the present Valuation Act was another question, into which he would not now enter. His only object was to remove the expense and anomaly at present created by the difference between the two Acts.


said, in England properties were first assessed on their actual rent, or annual value, and subsequently, according to their nature, were subjected to certain deductions, so as to bring out the actual rateable value. In Scotland, although the same principle had been enacted by the Legislature, it had never been carried out with the same care and precision as in England. The last Report on this subject recommended that the system pursued in Scotland should be assimilated to the system pursued in England. Of course, he was aware that it would save money and trouble not to carry out the English system; but it was the only scientific means by which they could arrive at the true rateable value; and unless the Government really proposed to have one system in Scotland and another in England, he could not understand how they could expect this Bill to pass. After hearing the explanation of the Lord Advocate, he was more than ever convinced that the Bill was an undesirable one, and, therefore, he would move to report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. J. G. Hubbard.)


said, that in every county and in every borough in Scotland there was an annual valuation roll made out, according to the terms of which all taxes were to be levied, and the electoral roll was made up. That was found to be a safe and speedy and cheap form of obtaining the valuation upon which taxes should be levied. But there was one single exception to that system—the poor rate was not levied upon that valuation. The Poor Law Boards throughout Scotland, who were intrusted with the compilation of the roll for the purposes of the poor rate, had found that Railway Companies had caused them a great deal of trouble and expense, and they were most anxious to adopt the ordinary valuation roll as the basis of assessment for the poor rate. If the general system were to be altered, that must be done by an amendment of the Act of 1854. By opposing the present Bill, the right hon. Member for the City of London insisted upon the Parochial Boards being involved in litigation and expense, instead of taking the course which they wished to pursue. In 1870 a Select Committee of that House reported in favour of that which was now proposed to be done by this Bill—namely, that the anomaly should be abolished between two different valuations existing together for the purpose of taxation. There was no question raised here except whether the anomaly that now existed should continue in force, and whether there should be a separate valuation for a single local rate which was the occasion of difficulty and expense to the ratepayer.


said, that last year several deputations came up from Parochial Boards in Scotland, and they assured many of the Scotch Members that this clause to which the learned Lord Advocate had referred was the subject of a great many conflicts with the Railway Companies in Scotland, and that they were very anxious that this Bill should pass. As there was great unanimity in this matter, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment.


said, that this was a most important matter. The principle of these deductions was well established. It was recognized that there should be a deduction of 5 per cent from the gross annual rental in the case of land; whereas in the case of houses they were subject to 20 per cent deduction. If this system were abolished, house property would suffer to the extent of 15 per cent. If the deduction were allowed to be abolished in Scotland, it would be said that, in justice and common sense, the same rule must be applied to valuation in England. If the Lord Advocate would insert the 37th clause of the Act of 1854, he would not object to the Bill; for he quite admitted that railways and canals were of an exceptional character, and required exceptional treatment. He objected to any treatment of houses and canals different to the system which was being pursued in the Valuation Bill for England now before the House. He could see no reason why they should pass in the same Session two Bills—one regulating the valuation of land and houses in England, and subjecting them to the deductions of from 5 to 20 per cent in order to arrive at their rateable value, while in Scotland the same thing should not be done.


observed, that in Scotland they desired to get rid of the anomaly of the local rates being levied on two different valuations, as it was found to be a great practical inconvenience. It was to remove that anomaly—in the desirability of which all parties were agreed—that the present Bill was introduced.


remarked, that all Scotch Members were agreed as to the desirability of this Bill becoming law.


said, that the Scottish people were very amenable to reason in questions of taxation, and he did not think there was any desire on their part to bear an undue share of burdens. But for several years past the Parochial Boards and the ratepayers throughout the country had experienced great difficulty and inconvenience from having a separate basis of assessment for the poor rate; and they had come to the conclusion that it cost them a good deal more out of pocket to keep up the two valuation rolls than it would to put the poor rate upon the same footing as their other local taxes.


wished to take an opportunity of saying that he did not consider that, because a Bill was brought in for Scotland affirming a certain principle, it at all followed that the same principle was to be introduced into England. He liked Scotch Members to settle their own affairs in their own way; in England, they had always worked on a different system, and they considered that they had done so with good reason. In rating houses and land, they had held that if they were to rate them upon the gross value an injustice would be committed. House property, it was felt, required deductions from the gross rental, which did not apply in the case of land. And in the Bill now before the House for the valuation of land in England was laid down a scale which made a considerable difference between the deductions in the case of lands and the deductions in the case of houses. He thought it was right that when the English Bill came on for discussion Scotch Members would do them the justice to allow them to manage their business in their own manner.


said, this was a question affecting the increase of taxation in Scotland, and if the principle of the Bill now before the Committee were adopted the same arguments would be applied to England. If Scotland was to be dealt with absolutely separate from England, and was not to be taken as a precedent, he should have nothing to say; but he saw now, plainly, that in giving their sanction to this arrangement they were permitting an argument to be raised against themselves for the application of the same principle to England. It would be said that "what you have done for Scotland you cannot say is wrong in England, and you must collect your Queen's taxes upon the gross annual value, instead of upon the rateable net value upon which they ought to be levied." For these reasons, he should press his Amendment, unless the Government postponed the consideration of the Bill until the English Valuation Bill was brought on.

Motion negatived.

Clauses 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Repeal of s. 37 of 8 & 9 Vict. c. 83, and s. 3 of 30 & 31 Vict, c. 80).


said, that this clause was one in which a proper equitable provision ought to be inserted. There was no doubt that assessments ought to be made upon the rateable value, and that proper deductions ought to be made in accordance with a scale. It was the laziness of the Scotch which prevented their adopting the scale recommended by Parliamentary Committees. He, therefore, begged to propose that it be inserted in that part of the Bill.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 9 (Amendment of 37 & 38 Vict. c. 20).

SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY moved, in page 3, line 26, to leave out from "if," inclusive, to end of clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

SIR WINDHAM ANSTRUTHER moved, in page 3, after Clause 8, to insert the following clause:—

(As to ascertaining the annual value of mines and minerals.)

"The yearly rent or value of all mines and minerals and of the works connected therewith shall be ascertained in manner following (that is to say): all surface and underground works, shafts and adits, engines, machinery, plant, tramways, private railways, canals, and railway sidings connecting such mines with any railway or canal constructed or maintained under the authority of any Act of Parliament, or with any public river by which such minerals are conveyed, or with any works at which such minerals are manufactured; and all land and buildings (not being dwelling-houses or workshops) occupied in connection with and for the purposes of such mines and minerals, shall be regarded as part of such mines and minerals and included in the valuation thereof, and the yearly rent or value of such mines and minerals including as aforesaid shall be calculated in each year at the rate of per cent, of the lordship paid for the quantity of minerals gotten from such mines in the immediately preceding year, or (where such minerals are not let) of the fair letting value thereof in the same parish."

He said that railways were increasing, whereas mines were always decreasing in value. For that reason, he proposed the insertion of this clause; and he proposed to insert 25 per cent of the lordship paid for the minerals as the criterion of the yearly rent. The clause was in accordance with the principle which had been adopted with regard to railways, and evidence was given before the Select Committee on the Valuation of Lands and Assessments Bill of 1870, which made out a stronger case for relieving mines than railways.


said, that he could not accept this clause, which would make an entire change in the system of rating. In the case of railways they were compelled to resort to a very artificial system of valuation, for they were obliged to value them in a very special manner, because they were situate in a great many parishes. So they had resorted to the system of taking the railways as a whole; and, after making proper deductions for the expenses of working, they had assessed the annual value of the railway, and then they divided the amount so found amongst the different parishes through which the railways ran according to mileage. That, no doubt, was an artificial system; but they had been compelled to adopt it for want of a better. He did not think there was any reason for adopting the same principle with regard to mines; for, if they did, in all similar eases—such as iron-works and other descriptions of property—artificial systems would have to be adopted which would make wholesale changes upon the Act. Railways were rated exceptionally under Clause 37 of the Act of 1854.

Amendment negatived.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.