HC Deb 30 April 1896 vol 40 cc221-3
* SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I wish to ask the President of the Local Government Board a Question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether the amount of the grant from the Exchequer in respect of rates on agricultural lands in limited to one-half of the present amount of the existing rates; and, secondly, if that be so, and if in the future existing rates are raised, upon whom will the burden devolve of making up the deficiency in respect of the one-half of such increase from which the occupier of agricultural land will be relieved, and to which the Exchequer will not contribute?


In reply to the first Question of the right hon. Gentleman, I have to state that the amount of the grant will be limited to one-half of the amount of the rates determined by the Local Government Board to have been raised on agricultural lands during the last financial year before the passing of the Bill. In answer to his second Question, I have to state that to any future increase of these rates the occupier of agricultural land will pay one-half of the rate in the pound payable in respect of other properties. ["Hear, hear!"]


Who is to pay the other half?


If there is any increase beyond the present amount of rates, the increase will fall on land as well as on houses, but in a different proportion.


I do not quite understand the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. Let me take the case of a rural union where the ratable value of the agricultural land is 80 per cent. of the ratable value of the whole union. Supposing in the future the Local Government Board requires that union to build a new workhouse, or to add to the existing buildings, are we to understand that of the new rates to defray the cost of the new buildings, agricultural land would pay 40 per cent., and that the other 60 per cent. of the new rate would have to be contributed by the small houses of the villagers and artisans?

SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House a Question with reference to the Motion which stands upon the Paper in his name relating to the suspension of the 12 o'clock Rule to-night—namely, whether, considering the large number of hon. Members of the House who desire to discuss this important matter, he thinks that it would be possible or proper for the discussion upon such an important subject to be conducted after 12 o'clock?


The right hon. Gentleman asks me whether I think it possible or proper that the discussion upon the Agricultural Rating Bill should be conducted after 12 o'clock to-night. I myself should hope that the House will conclude that discussion before 12 o'clock. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "Oh!" and laughter.] If the House does not do that, I think there is no valid reason against the Debate continuing after 12 o'clock. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Bill, though, no doubt, an important Bill, is one on which there is not very much to be said on either one side or the other. [Opposition laughter.] I mean the arguments, however important, may be and have been compressed by most speakers into a comparatively small compass. I do not see any reason why those arguments should be repeated more than a certain number of times. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] So far as I am able to judge by the precedents which govern our proceedings, and may be supposed to govern our proceedings in such cases, the Debate may well conclude at 12 o'clock or soon after.