HC Deb 31 May 1897 vol 49 cc1610-1

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in the Parish of Hackney the rate collectors, acting under directions of the Board of Inland Revenue, are, under 53 Vict. cap. 8, s. 26, requiring owners of houses who have obtained exemption from rates under that Act to furnish a fresh certificate of the medical officer of health before continuing the exemption so acquired, notwithstanding that no change whatever has taken place in the circumstances of such houses as regards valuation, accommodation, or otherwise, but merely on the ground that a new quinquennial valuation has been made for London; whether he will take steps to enable owners to continue in receipt of the benefits of the Act, as provided by the Act, without being required to obtain such fresh certificate; whether he is aware that the medical officers of health are not remunerated for the services rendered by them in granting such certificates, and are consequently unwilling to execute these duties and owners consequently find it difficult to get the benefits of the Act; and whether he will take steps to render the operation of the Act more easily available to the public?


Section 26 of the Act, 53 Viet. cap. 8, does not exempt for all time the premises (Artisans' Dwellings) to which it applies. It provides that the assessment to the House Duty shall be discharged by the local Commissioners on production of a medical officer's certificate to the effect that the house is so constructed as to afford suitable accommodation for each of the families inhabiting it, and that due provision is made for their sanitary requirements. The assessment is made annually, and therefore a certificate ought strictly to be produced annually. It is not, however, the practice to require a fresh certificate except on the occasion of a new quinquennial valuation. The hon. Member assumes that no change has taken place in the accommodation or the sanitary provision necessary for the various families inhabiting such a house, but it is evident that structural alterations might be made, and that even if no change in that respect took place, the question of suitable accommodation and sanitary provision must depend upon the number and size of the families, which are constantly changing. As regards cases where no change of any kind has taken place, it is possible that, owing to the advance of medical science, a tenement might be condemned to-day which would formerly have been passed as sanitary, but I do not see how it could be seriously contended that the privileges of the Act, which are expressly limited to sanitary tenements, could be extended to cover such a case.