HC Deb 21 May 1896 vol 41 cc134-42

(1.) Where any spending authority require in any half year or other period to raise from two or more parishes a sum by a rate to which this Act applies, they shall, in determining the net amount to be raised, deduct the sum issuable to them in respect of the said rate on account of their share of the annual grant for the said half year or other period, and the net amount after that deduction shall, where it would otherwise he raised in proportion to the rateable value, be raised in proportion to the assessable value of those parishes.

(2.) For the purposes of this Act the assessable value of a parish shall be the rateable value thereof reduced by an amount equal to one half of the rateable value of the agricultural land in the parish.


said, that perhaps some one would explain the meaning and object of this clause, because at first sight it appeared to be unintelligible. He read the text of the first part of the clause, which provides that where a spending authority requires to raise from two or more parishes a sum by a rate to which the Act applies, they shall— In determining the net amount to be raised deduct the sum issuable to them in respect of the said rate on account of their share of the annual grants for the said half year or other period, and the net amount after that deduction shall, where it would otherwise be raised in proportion to the rateable value, be raised in proportion to the assessable value of those parishes. [Opposition laughter.] He supposed the words had some definite meaning, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would assist their intellects by explaining the object of the clause and how it was to be worked.


said, perhaps it would be more in order if the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's interesting Question were postponed until the clause was put as a whole.


moved to insert, after the words "net amount to be so raised," the words, "from each separate parish." He believed that under the clause, where there were many parishes in one union, the board of guardians would issue a precept in respect of poor rate or rural sanitary rate upon each parish; the amount raised would be aggregated and divided between the whole of the parishes. Thus individual parishes would receive no benefit. There had been much costly litigation between parish and parish on this question. It should be made clear whether each parish would receive benefit under the first section, or whether it would be divided among many parishes.


said, he could not accept the Amendment, because the clause related entirely to the contribution from each parish. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, he would explain that for the purpose of the section the assessable value of a parish was to be the rateable value thereof, reduced by an amount equal to one-half of the rateable value of the agricultural land in the parish. The clause dealt with cases where large contributions to the rate were required from more than one parish. Where that was so and the sum to be called for from each parish was to be determined, the total estimated expenditure would be distributed on the basis of assessable value instead of rateable value. The reason was that if rateable value were the basis of the contribution, they would be calling for a larger sum in the case of a parish with a large proportion of agricultural land than the parish ought to pay. The assessable value was the proper basis, for the reason that under that arrangement the fact that agricultural land would pay one-half the rate on houses was to be taken into account.


said, that the clause provided perfectly for the case where the rate was levied on the parish as a whole, but there was nothing to prevent the rate being levied directly by the spending authorities on the individual occupiers. The consequence was that while the clause divided the proportions fairly between several parishes, taking each parish as a whole, it did not divide the proportions fairly between the ratepayers of the same parish. He suggested that the clause should be withdrawn and reconsidered.


said, that the President of the Local Government Board had not answered his specific question. That was, whether, under the clause as it stood, the payment made under the second sub-section would, in any given union, go into hotch-pot, or to be paid to each separate parish in proportion to the amount which they had paid.


said, that the effect of the clause would be to distribute the burden fairly between the different parishes according to the relief which was to be given to them. The spending authority was the body to which the Treasury handed over its contribution. If the spending authority wished to raise, say, £2,000, and received £200 from the Treasury, there would remain £1,800 to be raised. Therefore the earlier part of the clause provided that the Treasury contribution should be deducted from the amount to be raised. The second part of the clause distributed the £1,800 fairly between the parishes, having regard to the relief which the Act gave to each. The rateable value would be the value of all the hereditaments in the parish—both agricultural land and buildings. The assessable value was defined to be the rateable value reduced by one-half the rateable value of the agricultural land in the parish. Supposing the case of a parish with a rateable value of £500 in agricultural land and another with a rateable value of £500 in buildings. The total rateable value would be £1,000. The assessable value would be £500 in buildings and £250 in agricultural land, or a total of £750. Consequently the £1,800 which the spending authority wished to raise would be distributed between the two parishes upon the assessable value. If the proportion of agricultural land in all the parishes within the jurisdiction of the spending authority were the same, it would not matter whether rateable value or assessable value were taken. But inasmuch as the proportion of agricultural land and buildings would vary, the clause provided that each parish should contribute according to its assessable value. The clause exactly carried out the object which the hon. Member for Carnarvon had in view, and his Amendment if accepted would defeat that object.


said that he must thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the courteous way in which he had given his view of the effect of the clause, but he was still doubtful whether that view was correct. If the hon. and learned Gentleman were correct in his interpretation of the clause, all he could say was that until now he did know how thoroughly bad it was. Certainly, the hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation made the clause worse from the point of view of an urban representative. He must press his Amendment to a Division.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 85 Noes, 222.—(Division List, No. 173.)


moved to leave out the words "when it would otherwise be raised in proportion to the rateable value."


said, the direct effect of the Amendment, if it were passed, would be that instead of the parish in which there was a large quantity of agricultural land, and which, therefore, needed relief, getting the benefit of the grant, it would get no more than the parish which consisted entirely of buildings. The whole object of the clause was to insure that the distribution of the grant should be according to the extent to which the parish was entitled to relief, and the Amendment would defeat the purpose which the hon. Member had apparently in view. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, that he would submit a case to the Committee. Take parish A and parish B, in both of which the rates were £100. In parish A £80 came from agricultural land and £20 from other property, whereas in parish B £20 came from agricultural land and £80 from other property. In parish A the Government would contribute £40 and in parish B £10, £50 in all. But £150 had still to be found, and how was that sum to be got from parish A and parish B? Under this section the sum would not be raised in equal proportions, but in proportion to the assessable value of the two parishes. The assessable value of the one parish being less than the assessable value of the other, the occupiers of the first would have to pay £50 only, whilst the occupiers of the other would have to find £100. It was hard that in the parish which had only received £10 from the Government the occupiers should have to contribute more than the occupiers of the parish that had received £40.


said, that there was a fallacy in the arguments of hon. Members opposite. They assumed that the grant made by the Exchequer would be made to each parish, but it would not be made to each parish but to the spending authority having jurisdiction over several parishes. The only reasonable way to distribute the sum to which the observations of hon. Members were directed was according to assessable value, that was, according to the amount of agricultural land which was entitled to relief under this Act.


said, the effect of that would be that when any grant was required, it would be raised in accordance with the assessable value, and therefore there would have to be a double contribution for house property.


said, the fallacy of the Solicitor General rested in this, that he said the grant would go to the spending authority. That was not in the Bill. It would go to the occupiers of land in accordance with the number of occupiers of land in each parish.


said, it went to the spending authority under the second clause of the Bill.


Yes, but in respect of the number of the occupiers of agricultural land.


said, it was quite plain there was a difference of legal opinion as to the meaning of this clause. They did not want to see parishes in litigation on a clause of this kind, and it seemed to him that the great object of the Government ought to be to make the clause so perfectly clear that it would be quite impossible for any litigation on any question to arise. His suggestion was that the Government should consider the clause again before Report, and, if necessary, to bring up a fresh clause which would put the matter beyond all doubt.


said, the Government were of opinion that the clause was perfectly clear as it was, but he was quite willing to say—he did not think he could do otherwise in courtesy—that they would, before the Report stage, consider the matter again and go over it most carefully.


said, the Solicitor General had not replied to his observations. He was of opinion that there was no provision in the clause for the original rate being levied.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."

The Committee divided—Ayes 214, Noes 79.—(Division List, No. 174.)

On the question, "That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill,"


moved to omit the words "Reduced by an amount equal to one-half of the rateable value of the agricultural land in the parish."


refused to accept the Amendment.


moved the rejection of the clause. He said that the clause was absolutely unnecessary and that the purpose of the Bill would be better effected without it. It simply mystified the whole subject. Parishes would go into litigation on the subject.

Question put, "That clause 3 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided.—Ayes 211, Noes 78.—(Division List, No. 175.)


moved "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."


said it was impossible for the Government to accept the Motion. What remained of the Bill chiefly related to the machinery of the Measure. The part of the Bill involving questions of principle had been disposed of, and it was the general wish of the House that they should finish the Bill that night.


said that all the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman against the Motion were reasons in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman said that only those portions of the Bill were left about which there could not be much Debate. That was really a reason why the Debate should be adjourned, more especially as the House had to meet again at 12 o'clock. The Leader of the House had already reduced the House to such a physical condition that one of the clerks had fainted from exhaustion.


said the right hon. Gentleman intended to ask the House to sit until their Bill was finished. That was, of course, a very laudable intention, but Leaders of the House before had started an all-night sitting, and yet not been able to carry out their intentions. They had now obtained three clauses of a Bill which consisted of 10 clauses. These three clauses had been discussed for about a week, and the right hon. Gentleman fancied that a few hours after a quarter past one were sufficient to pass the other seven clauses. The right hon. Gentleman was master of many legions, and he thought that, although he had got all the time of the House, and had had more late sittings than in any previous Session, he was going to drive the House of Commons into passing this Measure. All the Opposition could do was to oppose as far as they could such an intention. They intended that a Bill of this character, requiring, as it did, most careful and elaborate consideration, should not be pressed forward at such an hour of the morning when everyone knew it was quite impossible that freshness of mind could be given to it. The right hon. Gentleman could not say that any time had been wasted on the Bill. [Ministerial laughter.] Of course that was entirely a matter of opinion. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House thought that time was being wasted, he had, in the Closure, a weapon in his hand which he had not scrupled to use. He also appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to consent to the Motion for the adjournment out of consideration for the officials of the House. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed, but when he told them that one of the clerks taking the last Division had had to be carried out in a fainting condition they would admit this was no laughing matter. The official in question was unable to perform his duties in consequence of the lateness of the hour. He hoped, in these circumstances, that the hon. Member would persist in his Motion.


said, that he also hoped that the hon. Member would go to a Division upon his Motion for the adjournment of the Debate. He himself had been in that House since three o'clock, and it was then nearly half-past one o'clock. It was most unfair that this intolerable strain should be laid upon hon. Members. Under the present Administration the House had been called upon, to sit up into the small hours of the morning more frequently than under any previous Government, while the weapon of the Closure had been most ruthlessly made use of. He supposed that it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to call upon hon. Members to sit up all night. Not only had the Closure been made use of in an unheard of fashion, but the Twelve o'clock Rule had been suspended with great frequence. In former years the Twelve o'clock Rule had been suspended only in the case of Debates of great importance, or towards the end of the Session; but now it was a matter of course to suspend it two or three times a week.


said he rose in the interests of peace. The Government could not force a Bill of this kind through, and if they did they would only have a prolonged and bitter Debate on the Report stage. Although he disliked this Bill, he sincerely desired to see it passed in a decent and proper way. He had voted with the Government on the last one or two occasions, but he felt they would do no good to the Bill by pressing it on at this rate against feeling which was growing stronger and stronger. They had now got three clauses, and the fourth clause, which was largely a machinery clause, would not, he thought, take very long to consider, and he suggested as an alternative to the present Motion, that the Government should allow the Committee to report progress after the fourth clause had been passed. He felt sure that this course would really save time.


said it had been said that they had got through three clauses, but he desired to remind the House that on each of the three clauses the Government had undertaken a solemn pledge that they would reconsider important matters. It was necessary, therefore, that the Government's intentions in regard to these matters should be printed, in order that both sides might see whether these pledges, which had been arrived at on a mutual understanding, were being carried out.


rose to continue the Debate, but his remarks were inaudible owing to ironical Opposition cheers and cries of "Divide!"


rose, and was received with cheers, counter-cheers, and cries of" Divide!"

MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

claimed to move, "That the Question be now put." [Opposition cries of "Oh!"]

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 208; Noes, 81.—(Division List, No. 176.)

Question put accordingly, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 80; Noes, 207.—(Division List, No. 177.)

Clause 4,—