HC Deb 03 February 1881 vol 258 cc59-60

asked the President of the Local Government Board, If his attention has been called to an Appeal Case heard in the Court of Exchequer on 28th November 1879 (The Overseers of the Parish of St. Werburgh, Derby, Appellants, and Henry Hutchinson, Respondent), when a decision was given that an outgoing tenant leaving premises before the expiration of the period for which a poor rate is made, and is not followed by an incoming tenant, but the premises remaining unoccupied during the remainder of the period, is liable for the full amount of the rate; whether he is aware that, in consequence of this decision, the Poor Law Auditors in various parts of the Country are compelling overseers to collect the full amount levied under the circumstances; and, seeing that the sixteenth section of "The Poor Rate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869,"was intended to remedy this anomaly, he is prepared to take steps for the removal of the injustice referred to?


My attention has been called to this case; but I am not aware to what extent, if any, the auditors are requiring overseers to collect the full rates from outgoing occupiers. In those cases where there is a liability' to pay the full rate it is incumbent on the overseers to collect the amount; and if they neglect to do so, it is the duty of the auditors to surcharge the overseers with the deficiency. It has been the law ever since the Statute of Elizabeth that a poor rate becomes due immediately after it is allowed by the Justices; and as it is made to cover prospective expenditure during the estimated period, overseers would be involved in serious difficulty if they could not recover the full amount from the occupier, who might otherwise allege that he was about to quit and claim to pay part of the rate only. Section 16 of the Poor Bate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869, was not intended to meet the particular case referred to. The intention was not to protect the ratepayers, but to protect the parish by enabling the overseers, in cases where an outgoing tenant had failed to pay the full rate, to recover a proportionate part from an incoming tenant, or where the premises were unoccupied when the rate was made and become occupied afterwards. At present, it is doubtful whether an outgoing tenant can recover any part of a rate which he has paid from an incoming occupier, and to this extent the law may need amendment; otherwise, in the interest of the ratepayers as a body, there would seem to be good reason why the existing law should be maintained.