HC Deb 20 August 1909 vol 9 cc1727-33

Every assessing authority as aforesaid entitled to impose assessments in the burgh, shall allow to owners deductions from such assesments as may by law be properly chargeable upon occupiers of dwelling-houses and are by this Act leviable on owners thereof, to cover cost of collection and risk of loss, on such scale, or where expedient on such varying scales, as shall be fixed by the sheriff, after hearing parties, on the petition of any such authority, and such assessments after deduction shall be recoverable from such owners, along with any penalty which may have become exigible thereon, in the same manner as provided for under existing Acts with respect to the recovery of assess- ments from owners. The decision of the sheriff shall be final. The non-payment by an owner of any such assessment shall not affect the right of any occupier of the dwelling-house in respect of which the assessment has not been paid by the owner to be registered as a voter or to vote at any Parliamentary or other election. Owners shall have relief against occupiers of dwelling-houses for the full amount of such assessments, without deduction, if and in so far as such assessment may by law be properly chargeable upon such occupiers, but such assessments shall only be recoverable by such owners from the occupiers along with payments of rent, as such payments are fixed by the terms of let, and shall be paid by the occupiers only in amounts proportionate to the period for which rent is paid: Provided that such owners shall have the same claims and remedies for recovery from the occupiers of assessments and rent, as for the recovery of rent alone.

Amendment made: To leave out the words "such assessments as may by law be properly chargeable upon occupiers of dwelling-houses, and are by this Act leviable on owners thereof," and to insert "all assessments levied in terms of the immediately preceding section."—[Mr. Ure.]

Mr. WATT moved, after the word "be" ["as shall be fixed by the sheriff"], to insert the words "failing agreement."

The effect of this Amendment will be, of course, to enable the two authorities, without going before the sheriff to fix rates of collection, an opportunity of coming to an agreement. The Commission which sat on this question in Scotland suggested that the parties should have an opportunity of coming to an agreement, and I am surprised that the Lord Advocate, who is well known to be of a peaceable and non-litigious disposition, should prevent the parties from having this opportunity of fixing among themselves the percentage which will govern the collection of these rates.


I beg to second the Amendment.


It appears to me that this Amendment would be prejudicial in its effect, and therefore I cannot accept it.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: To leave out the words "hearing parties" ["as shall be fixed by the sheriff, after hearing parties"] and to insert the words "due inquiry."— [Mr. Ure.]


I hope that the Lord Advocate will not insist upon inserting the words "due inquiry." There might be what the sheriff would regard as due inquiry without calling the parties before him at all.


I have substituted these words in deference to an argument which was used upstairs by the hon. and learned Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Clyde), who pointed out that the leaving of the words "after hearing parties" in the Clause would be a source of litigation, and of having appeals running through the whole of the courts.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out the word "final" ["The decision of the sheriff shall be final"] and to insert the words "shall be subject to appeal at the instance of any owner interested to either division of the Court of Session." I hope the Lord Advocate will see his way to accept this Amendment. It is based on a recommendation in the Report of the Departmental Committee. This question of compounding allowances to owners may involve a considerable amount of money, and I think there ought to be the right of appeal.


The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that the Departmental Committee recommended that there should foe the right of appeal, and really I have not a strong view one way or another. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that we have no provision in this Bill for the sheriff hearing parties and keeping a note of the evidence. It is impossible to bring questions like these before an appellate court for trial, where you have no note of the evidence taken before the court of first instance. I would recommend my right hon. Friend not to press the Amendment, because it would necessitate a number of new provisions for taking notes of evidence before there could be an appeal.


This is a matter of legal procedure, and the questions which will arise should not require prolonged litigation. The sheriff will be called on in his public and responsible capacity, and I am quite sure that the confidence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Scott-Dickson) in him will be shared by almost everyone. The sheriff is an impartial and competent authority to settle matters, and there should be no further power to enter into litigous proceedings. I might further point out that an appeal is allowed in the course of five years.

Sir F. BANBURY moved in Clause 13, after the word "election"["Parliamentary or other election"], to insert the words "Provided that any occupier who shall have failed before the twentieth day of June in any year to pay to the owner of any dwelling-house occupied by him during the year ending on the fifteenth day of May preceding any assessment which such owner was entitled to recover from him during the currency of that year under the provisions of this Act, or who shall have been exempted from payment of any burgh rate during the currency of that year, shall ipso facto be disqualified from being registered as a voter or to vote at any Parliamentary or other election. It shall be the duty of every owner to whom any occupier shall have failed to pay any assessment as aforesaid, on or before the thirtieth day of June in each year, to forward to the collector of the assessing authority a statement of the names and addresses of all such defaulting occupiers, and the collector shall, along with a list of the occupiers who have been exempted from payment of any assessment during the currency of that year, forthwith: forward such statement to the assessor, who shall proceed in the manner directed by Section twenty-eight of the Town Councils (Scotland) Act, 1900."

The object of the Amendment is plain on the face of it; that is to say, that the old system in Scotland shall continue, that where an occupier has not paid his rates he shall be disfranchised. If the Lord Advocate will accept this Amendment there would be nothing to prevent him next year bringing in a franchise Bill for Scotland if he desires. The Amendment would not interfere in any way with the new provisions as to house-letting in Scotland or the question of compounding of rates. All it would do is to leave in the position in which it now is the question of the franchise in burghs in Scotland. I would appeal to the Lord Advocate to accept this Amendment. I am sure that he does not mean to introduce a franchise clause into this Bill, and if the other objects of this Bill are attained, I think that he might not object to this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment. I think that it goes even further than the hon. Baronet has indicated. It is to secure that a compounder who has not paid his rates shall be brought into the same position as one who is rated in his own name and does not pay his rates. Why should a compounder be made specially privileged and not deprived of the franchise when he does not pay, when a man who is rated in his own name and fails to pay is disfranchised?


It is because we desire that this Bill should not be a franchise Bill that we cannot accept this Amendment.


I should like to know whether my hon. Friends are right or wrong in saying that the effect of this

would be that a compounder will be entitled to vote, though he does not pay his rates?


The rates are paid, that is quite clear.


As I understand my hon. Friend that is not clear. The rates are paid by the landlord, and if the compounding ratepayer does not pay the landlord he will never be disfranchised The compounding ratepayer, under this Amendment, if he did not pay the landlord, would not be entitled to the franchise.


This Amendment merely proposes that where the landlord has paid the rates, and the occupier has not paid the landlord, the occupier shall not be entitled to the vote.


We leave the law exactly as it stands.


The franchise law passed in 1832 was that all householders in boroughs who paid an annual rental of £10 were entitled to the vote. Then came the amended law in 1868, that in all boroughs householders were entitled to vote contingent upon payment of the poor rate. But it was an express condition that this should be in addition to, and not in substitution of, the Franchise of 1832, and consequently all persons who occupied houses of over £10 a year were entitled to the franchise, whether they paid the poor rate or whether they did not. Payment of the poor rate only affects those who occupy houses of under £10 annual rent. Therefore, the law in Scotland is left exactly as it was.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 17; Noes, 80.

Division No. 489.] AYES. [4.25 p.m.
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Forster, Henry William Randies, Sir John Scurrah
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Gretton, John Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Hamilton, Marquess of Tuke, Sir John Batty
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott- Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Hills, J. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir F. Banbury and Sir H. Cralk.
Fell, Arthur Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Fletcher, J. S. Morpeth, Viscount
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Burns, Rt. Hon. John Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Byles, William Pollard Crooks, William
Barnard, E. B. Cleland, J. W. Cross, Alexander
Barnes, G. N. Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Cooper, G. J. Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Brunner, J. F. L, (Lancs., Leigh) Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Erskine, David C
Esslemont, George Birnie Jowett, F. W. Rees, J. D.
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Kekewich, Sir George Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Everett, R. Lacey Kelley, George D. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Faber, G. H. (Boston) Laidlaw, Robert Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.
Falconer, J. Lament, Norman Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Fenwick, Charles Lyell, Charles Henry Sears, J. E
Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Seddon, J.
Gibson, J. P. Mackarness, Frederic C. Sloan, Thomas Henry
Gill, A. H. M'Callum, John M. Steadman, W. C.
Glendinning, R. G. M'Micking, Major G. Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Griffith, Ellis J. Mallet, Charles E. Sutherland, J. E.
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Marnham, F. J. Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Myer, Horatio Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Haworth, Arthur A. Nicholls, George Waring, Walter
Hazleton, Richard O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Watt, Henry A.
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Grady, J. White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Henry, Charles S. 0 Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Hon. S.) O'Malley, William Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Hobart, Sir Robert Parker, James (Halifax)
Hyde, Clarendon G. Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain Norton and Mr. Fuller.
Idris, T. H. W. Pullar, Sir Robert

Amendment made: To leave out the words "if and in so far as such assessments may by law be properly chargeable upon such occupiers."—[Mr. Ure.]